Workshop international « Rules, Forms of Life, and the Law » (19-20 jan. 2018)


GDRI Forms of Life

Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne

Institut des sciences juridique et philosophique de la Sorbonne UMR 8103

Centre de philosophie contemporaine de la Sorbonne


January 19-20, 2018

Centre Panthéon, 12 Place du Panthéon, salle 216, 2e étage


Conception and organization : Estelle Ferrarese, Sandra Laugier




January 19, 2018

9h15-9h30 Welcome


9h30-12h30 Panel 1: What a Rule Is

9h30-10h15 Albert Ogien (CNRS, IMM) « Forms of Life and Non-Law »

10h15-11h Christian Martin (Universität München), « How to conceive of rules and laws such as to do justice to the fact that the basic way in which thinking animals live their lives precedes rules and laws? »

11h-11h15 Break

11h15-12h Sandra Laugier (ISJPS) « Forms of life vs. Rules»


14h00-17h30 Panel 2 : Rules, Normativity, and Life

Chair Estelle Ferrarese (Université de Picardie, CURAPP)

14h00-14h45 Alicia-Dorothy Mornington (ISJPS), « Forms of life and the limits of law : the case of voluntary cannibalism »

14h45-15h30 Vanessa Nurock (EPIDAPO, Los Angeles), « Moral experiments, rules and forms of life : from marbles to moral machines »

15h30-15h45 Break

15h45 -16h30 Loic Azoulai (Sciences Po), « Law is not free from its Forms (of life) »

16h30-17h15 Rahel Jaeggi (Humboldt Universität), « The Normativity of Forms of Life »



January 20, 2018


9h30-12h30 Panel 3 : Law and Forms of Life

Chair Jing Xie (Fudan University, Shanghai)

9h30-10h15 Anna Zielinska (Université de Lorraine), « Human Rights as Forms of Life »

10h15-11h David Zapero (Universität Bonn), « The Moral Constraint and the Moral Life »

11h-11h15 Break

11h15-12h Veronica Corcodel (Sciences Po), « The Legal Construction of Migrant Forms of Life: Calais as a Space of Contested Suspension »


14h-17h30 Panel 4 : The Legal, the Normal, and the Pathological

Chair  Daniele Lorenzini (Facultés Saint Louis, Bruxelles)

14h-14h45 Julie Mazaleigue (CNRS, ISJPS) « Legal norms and the limits of the pathological »

14h45-15h30 Silver Bronzo (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscou) « Pasolini on culture, forms of life, and moral progress »

15h30-15h45 Break

15h45-16h30 Hanna Eklund (Sciences Po), « Law and the nationalist form of life »

16h30-17h15 Piergiorgio Donatelli (La Sapienza) : « Civilization and Forms of life »






In the growing literature on forms of life, the importance given to practice and use makes the idea of the rule primary, something that is notably very present in the influential works of Wittgenstein and Agamben.

Ordinary language philosophy transforms the question of common and shared language into that of our form of life in language, which is the sharing not only of social structures but of all that constitutes the fabric and textures of human existences and activities. Hence the central role of the following passage from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations in the development of the concept of form of life: “It is what human beings say that is true and false; and they agree in the language they use. That is not agreement in opinions but in form of life.” (Wittgenstein, PI §241)

It is crucial that for Wittgenstein we agree in and not on language; we agree in form of life prior to any convention, contract, law, or rule. In what ways can the concept of form of life or lifeform (as Cavell proposes to translate Lebensform) be seen as an alternative to the concept of rules? Does it call for a redefinition of ordinary usage and rules in terms of lifeforms – the biological, vertical sense of life, crossing the horizontal, social sense of form of life ?

Rules do not envisage particular acts but rather outline a norm that refers to life in its entirety, “as a whole” (Veena Das). To speak of a form of life is to focus on the force lodged in manners, styles, ways of being. It brings together in the form of a single spectre manners of eating, reproducing, of clothing oneself, of dying, even of possessing an art, along with institutions. How can we conceive then of the force of the law? What are its specific properties? In what ways does it shape and create a form of life?

According to Agamben, the rule is not only distinct from the law: it is opposed to it. In particular, a rule cannot be understood, interpreted or judged outside of the limits of its context and its use. Furthermore, a use exists only as a sort of limit point at which “explanations and justifications stop”. Up to what point is this distinction significant?

How can we conceive of the contribution made by the law and by institutions to democracy, precisely insofar as the law and institutions persist in respecting rigid procedural forms in their very insensitivity to the intensity — one might say to the inhabitation — of a practice, in their resistance to informal rules, in their (relative) recursive closure with respect to their context?

These are the questions we aim to discuss by bringing together the various contemporary traditions involved in rethinking the articulations of law, rules, and life.

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