forms of life

forms of life

the multiplicity of circumscribed language-embedded social practices which, according to WITTGENSTEIN (1953), characterize social life. The socially-located and conventional character of all languages is emphasized by Wittgenstein. In this interpretation of the nature and limits of language, all ‘descriptions’ and accounts, and hence all SOCIAL ACTION, are relative to language and to the social contexts in which a particular language is used. In a strict sense, there is nothing that can be said outside the language and context, hence translations are problematic.

One consequence of Wittgensteins view has been to encourage those forms of philosophy and social science which tend towards a ‘relativistic’ conception of social studies. It also had a seminal influence on the construction of modern LINGUISTIC PHILOSOPHY, which has emphasized the need for analysis of the many particular uses of language (see also SPEECH ACTS).

In sociology, the concept lends support to the notion that the main task of the discipline should be the MEANINGFUL UNDERSTANDING AND EXPLANATION of the distinctive beliefs and practices of particular societies or social movements (see WINCH), and an ‘empathic’ understanding of historical societies (compare COLLINGWOOD).

Related to the above, the concept has also been important in arguments for a ‘discontinuous’ view of scientific change. Thus both KUHN's and FEYERABEND's conception of SCIENTIFIC PARADIGM, and associated conceptions such as INCOMMENSURABILITY, draw explicitly on Wittgensteins notion of forms of life. One of the best ways of describing what a scientific paradigm involves is that it is a ‘form of life’. See also TRUTH, RELATIVISM; compare GADAMER, HERMENEUTICS, FUSION OF HORIZONS.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in classic literature ?
Everything, however, passed satisfactorily by a lazy and fascinating transition into the sphere of art, that is, into the beautiful forms of life, lying ready, largely stolen from the poets and novelists and adapted to all sorts of needs and uses.
This fundamental subject of Natural Selection will be treated at some length in the fourth chapter; and we shall then see how Natural Selection almost inevitably causes much Extinction of the less improved forms of life and induces what I have called Divergence of Character.
As they drew nearer and could distinguish details, the effect of the earth with its minute objects and colours and different forms of life was overwhelming after four weeks of the sea, and kept them silent.
In the back of his brain loitered a fleeting sense of familiarity with all that he saw, yet he could not connect any of the various forms of life, animate and inanimate, which had fallen within the range of his vision since he had emerged from the darkness of the pits of Opar, with any particular event of the past.
It is their very voracity that keeps their numbers down to a point which permits other forms of life to persist, for even in the season of love the great males often turn upon their own mates and devour them, while both males and females occasionally devour their young.
Many forms of life came and went upon the Tree of Life, but still all were attached to the parent plant by stems of varying lengths.
On the earth, satellite of a star speeding through space, living things had arisen under the influence of conditions which were part of the planet's history; and as there had been a beginning of life upon it so, under the influence of other conditions, there would be an end: man, no more significant than other forms of life, had come not as the climax of creation but as a physical reaction to the environment.
Above us the pendent world revolved upon its axis, filling me especially--and Dian to an almost equal state--with wonder and insatiable curiosity as to what strange forms of life existed among the hills and valleys and along the seas and rivers, which we could plainly see.
It was a strength we are wont to associate with things primitive, with wild animals, and the creatures we imagine our tree-dwelling prototypes to have been--a strength savage, ferocious, alive in itself, the essence of life in that it is the potency of motion, the elemental stuff itself out of which the many forms of life have been moulded; in short, that which writhes in the body of a snake when the head is cut off, and the snake, as a snake, is dead, or which lingers in the shapeless lump of turtle-meat and recoils and quivers from the prod of a finger.
Among all these icy moons, perhaps the most interesting is Titan, as it can actually be hospitable to two forms of life, one as we know it on Earth, and a theoretical kind that we have not yet seen before.
He told Parliament's Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee that when visiting the Australian landmark in the 1950s he had "the extraordinary experience of diving on the reef and suddenly seeing this multitude of fantastic beautiful forms of life."
Leiyu boasts at least 286 forms of life in the intertidal zone based on the research, among which 40 forms have never before been recorded in Taiwan.