Life and Death of Signs and Pictures: Wittgenstein on Living Pictures and Forms of Life

Sabine Plaud


A major difference between the early and the later Wittgenstein is commonly assumed
to lie in a renouncement to the so-called “picture-theory” of language. Yet, even
after the 30’s, Wittgenstein maintains a strong connection between propositions and
pictures, by asserting that “the picture should be the more direct language”. The
paper focuses on one given feature held in common both by pictures and linguistic
signs, namely their conditions of life. Pictures as well as signs are regarded by
Wittgenstein as living organisms, unable to stay alive unless they integrate an
organic system: a language, a form of life. The Philosophical Investigations’ claim
is that “[e]very sign by itself seems dead”: in this respect, pictures
are very similar to signs, since an isolated picture also loses any kind of vitality
or significance.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; sign; picture; form of life; picture theory; diagram

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