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Human Life and Self-consciousness. The Idea of ‘Our’ Form of Life in Hegel and Wittgenstein

From the book Language, Form(s) of Life, and Logic

  • Andrea Kern


The source of the normative structure that a human individual finds herself entrenched in is found in her ‘immersion in a form of life’, something which results from her having been brought up in it. All sympathetic readers of Hegel and Wittgenstein make use of this idea in one way or another. Yet despite much controversy over the status of this appeal to a ‘form of life’ most interpreters who want to stress the significance of ‘education’ in accounting for a certain kind of normativity think that it is the role of education to transform an individual whose activities do not yet manifest a consciousness of rules or norms that guide and orient her life into an individual whose activities do so. I will argue that neither Hegel nor Wittgenstein held such a view. According to them, the logical role of the ideas of self-consciousness and rationality is to depict a formal feature of a form of life, which its individual bearers, qua being bearers of this form of life, cannot fail to exhibit. Most interpreters think that, if there is a naturalism to be found in Hegel and Wittgenstein, then it can only be a naturalism of second nature. I will argue that this account misunderstands its own motivating insight: that the presence of self-consciousness has a ‘metaphysical’ significance. The sense in which self-consciousness is part of a human being’s second nature, I will argue, presupposes that it is part of its first nature as well.

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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