What does Wittgenstein’s idea of a ‘Form of

What does Wittgenstein ‘s thought of a ‘Form of Life ‘ tell us about our moral beliefs?

Wittgenstein is one of those rare philosophers to hold worked out two powerful but opposed philosophical systems in his life-time. Here I refer to his early work, climaxing in theTractus-Logico-Philosophicusand his ulterior work, best represented by thePhilosophic Investigations ( henceforth PI ). In theTractatus, Wittgenstein held an essentialist position of linguistic communication harmonizing to which the bounds of significance are established by the logical signifier of the proposition. The ulterior Wittgenstein rejects the essentialist position of linguistic communication in favour of a pragmatist position of linguistic communication. On this position, it is our existent patterns of linguistic communication usage that provide the necessity background for rule-following.

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In theTractatusWittgenstein was committed to the thought that there is ‘something concealed ‘ in our ordinary linguistic communication, that can be wholly clarified, by a concluding analysis into a individual wholly resolved signifier of every look, which would derive us our “ existent end ” — a province of complete exactitude. In thePiWittgenstein starts off by rejecting his theses inTractatusthat linguistic communication has some kernel. Language for Wittgenstein is an activity, it is matter-of-fact, and it is in its ‘use ‘ that linguistic communication has any map. Wittgenstein is clearly adopting a ‘use theory ‘ of linguistic communication, for him linguistic communication is what it does ; it is non standing on a foundation instead it is a system of conventional marks. Language is ever created by a society ; it has an built-in societal map, to pass on. Thus it follows that there can non be an single or private linguistic communication, in order to pass on one must follow regulations and standards established by a group. Harmonizing to Wittgenstein linguistic communication is an activity a ‘form of life ‘ and so has a societal foundation.

The most of import constructs in Wittgenstein ‘s ulterior doctrine are of language-game and signifiers of life, both are inexorably connected to one another. A language-game is an activity that involves spoken ( or written ) words. These words have a natural topographic point in the activity ; it is this topographic point, the function they play in the activity that makes them intend what they mean. Wittgenstein is reasoning against the general preparation that linguistic communication is made of names that every word has a definite significance fixed one time for all, against this Wittgenstein is stating that “the significance of a word is in its usage in the language”( PI, 43[ 1 ]) .This means that linguistic communication has no indispensable nucleus in which significance of the word is located and which is so common to everyone, instead linguistic communication is dynamic, the significance is non located in the word but it is determined by its use which a society or a group has come to hold upon. The construct of language-game points to merely to this phenomenon that linguistic communication is conventional in nature, it has a societal foundation with regulations and imposts refering to different groups and societies, therefore there can be infinite figure of linguistic communication games.

The construct of language-game is polar for understanding Wittgenstein doctrine. By language-game Wittgenstein means a set of regulation governed marks with matching actions used by a peculiar group, establishment or society. This as we have seen makes linguistic communication a societal phenomenon and that’s what Wittgenstein means by ‘form of life ‘ . The language-game is ever embedded in what he calls the ‘forms of life ‘ . A ‘form of life ‘ can be anything to a society, civilization, group, establishment, subject or a faith. It is the ‘form of life ‘ which devises a peculiar language-game with its ain regulations and intending which further incite actions. As Wittgenstein says“the term ‘language-game’ is meant to convey into prominence the fact that the speech production of linguistic communication is portion of an activity, or of a ‘form of life’.” ( PI, 23 )Wittgenstein is clearly stating that a language-game is a non itself a signifier of life but a portion of it. The lingual symbols we use and exchange are dependent upon a peculiar signifier of life in which it operates.

Here we can see the construct of language-game points to the regulation regulating character of linguistic communication, the analogy between game and linguistic communication is rather apparent, much like ‘games ‘ linguistic communication plants by following regulations of a peculiar language-game, these regulations are socially formed, they are embedded in establishments, imposts, and manner of making things. To be portion of a language-game agencies following certain regulations, it is portion of what we do, we who live this life signifier. Wittgenstein says that there can non be farther justification for regulation following, this is “merely what I do( PI, 217 ) ,play these language-games, turn up in these imposts. There comes a point where account and justification for acting in a certain manner come to an terminal, as Wittgenstein says“ When I obey a regulation, I do non take, I obey the regulation blindly. ( PI, 219 )

Customss, pattern, the activities make up a ‘form of life ‘ which is farther dependant on civilization, context, history. We worlds give value to things, we are the step of things, and it is the human understanding that makes things true. As Wittgenstein says“ understanding is required “ non merely in definitions but besides ( fagot as this may sound ) in judgements ” ( PI 242 ) .It is we in a sense that all our moral, ethical values and steps are conventional ; they are all depended on imposts, utilizations of linguistic communication, and signifiers of life. We can clearly see that Wittgenstein adopting a relativistic position of ‘forms of life ‘ and our beliefs in moral and ethical judgements. Wittgenstein as we have discussed has an anti-essentialist position of linguistic communication, justification has its bounds and there comes a point where I can merely expose my signifier of life, the language-game I play. This is what I do, how I live, the manner I understand, average things and follow regulations ; this is my signifier of life. Therefore there are different ‘forms of life ‘ and different language-games, and statements in favour of one of thempresupposethe criterions of statement and grounds feature of that really signifier of life, so grounds do non acquire a clasp on a different signifier of life with different criterions and regulations of concluding. Science and faith are different signifiers of life holding different language-games, though some actions and words may be similar, but they have wholly different use and intent, in add-on they have different sort of certainty. Wittgenstein is non proposing that these two signifiers of life can non pass on, they can on some degree, but they have different intents.

It is now apparent what Wittgenstein’s thought of language-game and signifier of life Tells us about our moral beliefs. Moral beliefs are portion of a language-game embedded in a signifier of life. We believe certain things are true because we have agreed upon them, the moral beliefs are merely these truths, being portion of a signifier of life is how we act. Thus my moral beliefs can be different from Lashkar-e-Taibas say ethical motives beliefs of a folk life in Amazon forest, but that is non to state that my beliefs are any truer than theirs, as Wittgenstein puts it“At the foundation of tenable beliefs lies belief that is non well-founded”[ 2 ].There can be certainty but to an extent, there can non be an absolute nonsubjective certainty. Our life consists in “being content to accept many things.” This is Wittgenstein holds a hard realisation ; we keep desiring to inquire the same old why-questions, can’t we yearn to inquire,someway warrant our signifier of life?No says Wittgenstein, because it isgroundless, it is merely “what we do” . And whatwemake may non be whattheymake. Philosophy can non delve deeper than patterns and imposts that define our signifier of life. We do hold certainties but they are baseless.


  1. Wittgenstein, Ludwig.On Certainty, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe and D. Paul, ( Oxford: Blackwell, 1969 )
  1. Wittgenstein, Ludwig.Philosophic Probes, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe ( New York: The Macmillan Company, 1958 )
  1. Norman, Malcolm.Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958 )
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