Language and Form(s) of Life

November 5, 2020 - January 28, 2021

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Universität Bonn (PhD)
Universität Bonn
Universität Bonn

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The Colloquium for French philosophy, organized by doctorate students of the University of Bonn and the IZPH, takes place online this semester on Zoom. Here is the list of the talks (Times in Bonn, Germany):

Marta Cassina, Christos Kalpakidis and Mehdi Parsa: "Introduction to the Topic", 05/11/2020, 16-18

Jose Fernandez: "Spiritual Excerses and Language Games: The Influence of Wittgenstein's Philosophy of Language on Pierre Hadot", 19/11/2020, 16-18

Giulia Visintini: "From Rule to Habitus: Wittgenstein's Legacy in Bourdieu's Gender Studies", 26/11/2020, 16-18

Soroush Seyedi: "Life without Essence: Biopolitics and the Power of Immanence", 03/12/2020, 16-18

Alexander Couture Mingheras: "Pre-reflective Consciousness and Pre-prereflective Life: on the True Subject of Language", 10/12/2020, 16-18

Andrea Di Gesu: "Uses of Wittgenstein: the Notion of Form of Life in Contemporary French Philosophy", 14/01/2021, 16-18

Oscar Palacios: "Life's Glitch and Excess of Language: Badiou's Concept of the Event", 28/01/2021, 16-18


The Life of Language, the Language of Life

La vie est forme et la forme est le mode de la vie

(Henri Focillon, Vie des formes)

The philosophical investigation on the relationship between language and life plays a pivotal role in the French-speaking philosophy of the 20th century. The problem of language, and the related question of “form”, is currently of great interest in various theoretical disciplines, especially when it comes to describing, qualifying and evaluating life. On the other hand, the lexicon of life has overcome the epistemological limits of biological naturalism or any metaphysical definition, and has penetrated the logical categories so deeply that today it looks almost naive to refer exclusively to the rules and determining structures of (a) language, without thinking, at the same time, about the everyday historical, political and mobile background of the processes or the “modes of use” through which life expresses itself, and the rules and norms are continuously reflected and questioned.

The insight into this “inseparability” of language and life first emerged from an originally philosophical constellation of authors on linguistics, anthropology, historical epistemology, life sciences, social sciences, literary theory, psychoanalysis and critical political discourse. From the reception of Wittgenstein's philosophy of language, which coined the term “Lebensform”, to Canguilhem's and Deleuze's discussions on Bergson's “creative evolution”; from the philosophy of “askesis” in Hadot and Foucault, whereby the subject becomes a kind of “laboratory”, and is constructed and disciplined by self-forming activities and practices, to the sociology of Bourdieu's “habitus”; from the new ethic stressing the plurality of “ways of life” to the biopolitical readings of power, life in contemporary French philosophy is mainly interpreted as “engagement de formes” and language is viewed as “forme de la/de vie”.

What is it then for human life when “natural reactions”, gestures and practice, which serve as dynamic elements of society, ethics and politics, can no longer be distinguished from the form of an internal “grammar”? And what about a theory if it seems to work out completely in life? We will deal with these and other questions about the inter-dependence of language and life in their variable formulations in the course of the coming semester.

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November 30, 2020, 4:00am CET

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