The concept of the form of life has its roots in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, particularly in the work of Aristotle. As Alessia Ricciardi argues, the notion acquires a crucial new significance in the reflections on modernity offered by an important genealogy of European poets, critics, and philosophers that includes Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Simmel, Benjamin, and Wittgenstein.
Ricciardi’s lecture focuses on the critical role played by the modern reinterpretation of the idea of the form of life in Michel Foucault’s late works of philosophy and Giorgio Agamben’s critique of the contemporary condition of "homo sacer". Her analysis is guided by two specific concerns. The first is to determine the importance of the Foucauldian notion of a form of life for the anthropology or philosophy of the contemporary, while recognizing that the notion itself requires further definition. The second is to situate Agamben’s thinking in relationship to a cultural context in Italy that originates with Pier Paolo Pasolini’s reflections on the anthropological mutation of the 1970s and encompasses more recent exploration of the new forms of life of post-Fordism. To what extent, she aks, is the concern with forms of life productive for a philosophy centered on biopolitics? To what extent is it a distraction?