About this topic
Summary "Anti-theory" is a label often applied to a group of ethical philosophers who, despite substantial disagreements in other areas, possess a shared skepticism towards the aspirations of moral theory.  They share a sense that moral theories--in virtue of trying to reduce all moral considerations to a very small set of general values or principles--cannot do justice to the complexity, particularity or "messiness" of ordinary life.  Insofar as moral theories aim to produce sets of reasons for action which aspire to rational authority over the lives of individual decision-makers, the anti-theorist claims that the moral theory must fail, and they will often (though, not always) point to some absurd or counterintuitive implication of a moral theory in support of that claim.
Key works The anti-theory movement is usually traced to Elizabeth Anscombe's seminal critique of modern moral philosophy in Anscombe 1958.  Following her, Foot 1958 and Winch 1965 offered arguments against the idea of a moral theory as it was then concieved.  Bernard Williams was by far the most influential and dedicated anti-theorist, see Williams 1981, Williams 1985, Smart & Williams 1973, and Williams & Nagel 1976.  Other important contributions to the genre include Wolf 1982, Stocker 1976 and Chapter 1 of MacIntyre 2007.
Introductions Clarke 1987
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1 — 50 / 113
  1. added 2018-03-05
    Wittgenstein’s Moral Thought.Reshef Agam-Segal & Edmund Dain (eds.) - 2018 - Routledge.
    This book offers a radical reappraisal of the nature and significance of Wittgenstein’s thought about ethics from a variety of different perspectives. The book includes essays on Wittgenstein’s early remarks on ethics in the _Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus,_ on his 1929 "Lecture on Ethics", and on various aspects of Wittgenstein’s later views on ethics in the _Philosophical Investigations_ and elsewhere. Together, the essays in this volume provide a comprehensive assessment of Wittgenstein’s moral thought throughout his work, its continuity and development between his (...)
  2. added 2018-03-05
    Wittgenstein’s Moral Thought.Edmund Dain - 2018 - In Reshef Agam-Segal & Edmund Dain (eds.), Wittgenstein's Moral Thought. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 9-35.
  3. added 2018-02-08
    Review of Slote, Michael, The Ethics of Care and Empathy, London: Routledge, 2007, Pp. Xiv + 133, £17.99. [REVIEW]Elinor Mason - 2009 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (2):352-354.
  4. added 2017-11-17
    ‘What Is Ethical Cannot Be Taught’ – Understanding Moral Theories as Descriptions of Moral Grammar”.Anne-Marie Soendergaard Christensen - 2018 - In Reshef Agam-Segal & Edmund Dain (eds.), Wittgenstein’s Moral Thought. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 175-199.
    Traditionally, the development of moral theories has been considered one of the main aims of moral philosophy. In contrast, Wittgenstein was very critical of the use of theories both in philosophy in general and in moral philosophy in particular, and philosophers inspired by his philosophy have become some of the most prominent critics of both particular, contemporary moral theories and the idea of moral theory as such. Nonetheless, this article aims to show how Wittgenstein’s later philosophy offers us resources for (...)
  5. added 2017-02-15
    Minding the Gap: Bernard Williams and David Hume on Living an Ethical Life.Paul Sagar - 2013 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 10 (4):615-638.
    Bernard Williams is frequently supposed to be an ethical Humean, due especially to his work on ‘internal’ reasons. In fact Williams’s work after his famous article ‘Internal and External Reasons’ constitutes a profound shift away from Hume’s ethical outlook. Whereas Hume offered a reconciling project whereby our ethical practices could be self-validating without reference to external justificatory foundations, Williams’s later work was increasingly skeptical of any such possibility. I conclude by suggesting reasons for thinking Williams was correct, a finding which (...)
  6. added 2017-02-07
    Book Review:Making Sense of Humanity and Other Philosophical Essays, 1982-1993. Bernard Williams. [REVIEW]Martha Nussbaum - 1997 - Ethics 107 (3):526-.
  7. added 2017-02-07
    Book Review:World, Mind, and Ethics: Essays in Honor of Bernard Williams. J. E. J. Altham, Ross Harrison. [REVIEW]G. W. Harris - 1997 - Ethics 107 (2):351-.
  8. added 2017-01-31
    Theory Vs Anti-Theory in Ethics.Brad Hooker - unknown
  9. added 2017-01-22
    Making Sense of Humanity.Bernard Williams (ed.) - 1995 - Cambridge University Press.
    This new volume of philosophical papers by Bernard Williams is divided into three sections: the first Action, Freedom, Responsibility, the second Philosophy, Evolution and the Human Sciences; in which appears the essay which gives the collection its title; and the third Ethics, which contains essays closely related to his 1983 book Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. Like the two earlier volumes of Williams's papers published by Cambridge University Press, Problems of the Self and Moral Luck, this volume will be (...)
  10. added 2017-01-21
    Integrity and Ordinary Morality.Alex Rajczi - 2007 - American Philosophical Quarterly 44 (1):15-27.
    Consequentialism is enticing, and yet it also seems overly demanding. As a result, many non-consequentialists try to explain why we aren’t required to maximize the good. One explanation is the Integrity Explanation: we aren’t required to maximize the good because morality must make room for us to pursue the projects we value most deeply. Some people hope that the Integrity Explanation will not just explain why consequentialism is false, but simultaneously vindicate the common-sense permission to generally refrain from promoting the (...)
  11. added 2017-01-21
    The Deflation of Moral Philosophy:Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. Bernard Williams.Susan Wolf - 1987 - Ethics 97 (4):821-.
  12. added 2017-01-19
    Williams on Ethics, Knowledge, and Reflection.Adrian Moore - 2003 - Philosophy 78 (3):337-354.
    The author begins with an outline of Bernard William's moral philosophy, within which he locates William's notorious doctrine that reflection can destroy ethical knowledge. He then gives a partial defence of this doctrine, exploiting an analogy between ethical judgements and tensed judgements. The basic idea is that what the passage of time does for the latter, reflection can do for the former: namely, prevent the re-adoption of an abandoned point of view (an ethical point of view in the one case, (...)
  13. added 2017-01-17
    World, Mind and Ethics, Essays on the Ethical Philosophy of Bernard Williams.Making Sense of Humanity and Other Philosophical Papers, 1982-1993. [REVIEW]John Skorupski, J. E. J. Altham, Ross Harrison & Bernard Williams - 1997 - Philosophical Review 106 (4):579.
  14. added 2017-01-17
    World, Mind and Ethics, Essays on the Ethical Philosophy of Bernard Williams.Bernard Williams - 1995
  15. added 2017-01-15
    Reading Bernard Williams.Daniel Callcut (ed.) - 2008 - Routledge.
    When Bernard Williams died in 2003, the Times newspaper hailed him ‘as the greatest moral philosopher of his generation’. This outstanding collection of specially commissioned new essays on Williams's work is essential reading for anyone interested in Williams, ethics and moral philosophy and philosophy in general. _Reading Bernard Williams_ examines the astonishing scope of his philosophy from metaphysics and philosophy of mind to ethics, political philosophy and the history of philosophy. An international line up of outstanding contributors discuss, amongst others, (...)
  16. added 2017-01-15
    Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy.Bernard Williams - 1986 - Routledge.
    With a new foreword by Jonathan Lear 'Remarkably lively and enjoyable…It is a very rich book, containing excellent descriptions of a variety of moral theories, and innumerable and often witty observations on topics encountered on the way.' -_ Times Literary Supplement_ Bernard Williams was one of the greatest philosophers of his generation. Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy is not only widely acknowledged to be his most important book, but also hailed a contemporary classic of moral philosophy. Drawing on the (...)
  17. added 2017-01-15
    Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy.Bernard Williams - 1985 - Routledge.
    By the time of his death in 2003, Bernard Williams was one of the greatest philosophers of his generation. _Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy _is not only widely acknowledged to be his most important book, but also hailed a contemporary classic of moral philosophy. Presenting a sustained critique of moral theory from Kant onwards, Williams reorients ethical theory towards ‘truth, truthfulness and the meaning of an individual life’. He explores and reflects upon the most difficult problems in contemporary philosophy (...)
  18. added 2017-01-14
    Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy.Bernard Williams - 2015 - Routledge.
    With a new foreword by Jonathan Lear 'Remarkably lively and enjoyable…It is a very rich book, containing excellent descriptions of a variety of moral theories, and innumerable and often witty observations on topics encountered on the way.' -_ Times Literary Supplement_ Bernard Williams was one of the greatest philosophers of his generation. Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy is not only widely acknowledged to be his most important book, but also hailed a contemporary classic of moral philosophy. Drawing on the (...)
  19. added 2016-12-12
    What Does the Frame Problem Tell Us About Moral Normativity?Terry Horgan & Mark Timmons - 2009 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 12 (1):25-51.
    Within cognitive science, mental processing is often construed as computation over mental representations—i.e., as the manipulation and transformation of mental representations in accordance with rules of the kind expressible in the form of a computer program. This foundational approach has encountered a long-standing, persistently recalcitrant, problem often called the frame problem; it is sometimes called the relevance problem. In this paper we describe the frame problem and certain of its apparent morals concerning human cognition, and we argue that these morals (...)
  20. added 2016-12-12
    World, Mind, and Ethics: Essays on the Ethical Philosophy of Bernard Williams.J. E. J. Altham & Ross Harrison (eds.) - 1995 - Cambridge University Press.
    Bernard Williams is one of the most influential figures in ethical theory, where he has set a considerable part of the current agenda. In this collection a distinguished international team of philosophers who have been stimulated by Williams's work give responses to it. The topics covered include equality; consistency; comparisons between science and ethics; integrity; moral reasons; the moral system; and moral knowledge. Williams himself provides a substantial reply, which shows both the directions of his own thought and also his (...)
  21. added 2016-12-08
    Moral Sentimentalism.Michael Slote - 2010 - Oxford University Press USA.
    There has been a good deal of interest in moral sentimentalism in recent years, but most of that interest has been exclusively either in meta-ethical questions or in normative issues about caring or benevolence. The present book seeks to offer a systematically unified picture of both sorts of topics by making central use of the notion of empathy. The hope is that such an approach will give sentimentalism a "second chance" against the ethical rationalism that has typically dominated the landscape (...)
  22. added 2016-12-08
    Is Moral Theory Harmful in Practice?—Relocating Anti-Theory in Contemporary Ethics.Nora Hämäläinen - 2009 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 12 (5):539-553.
    In this paper I discuss the viability of the claim that at least some forms of moral theory are harmful for sound moral thought and practice. This claim was put forward by e.g. Elisabeth Anscombe ( 1981 ( 1958 )) and by Annette Baier, Peter Winch, D.Z Phillips and Bernard Williams in the 1970’s–1980’s. To this day aspects of it have found resonance in both post-Wittgensteinian and virtue ethical quarters. The criticism has on one hand contributed to a substantial change (...)
  23. added 2016-12-08
    Sacrifices, Aspirations and Morality: Williams Reconsidered.Lisa Rivera - 2007 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (1):69-87.
    When a person gives up an end of crucial importance to her in order to promote a moral aim, we regard her as having made a moral sacrifice. The paper analyzes these sacrifices in light of some of Bernard Williams’ objections to Kantian and Utilitarian accounts of them. Williams argues that an implausible consequence of these theories is that that we are expected to sacrifice projects that make our lives worth living and contribute to our integrity. Williams’ arguments about integrity (...)
  24. added 2016-12-08
    Integrity and Demandingness.Timothy Chappell - 2007 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (3):255-265.
    I discuss Bernard Williams’ ‘integrity objection’ – his version of the demandingness objection to unreasonably demanding ‘extremist’ moral theories such as consequentialism – and argue that it is best understood as presupposing the internal reasons thesis. However, since the internal reasons thesis is questionable, so is Williams’ integrity objection. I propose an alternative way of bringing out the unreasonableness of extremism, based on the notion of the agent’s autonomy, and show how an objection to this proposal can be outflanked by (...)
  25. added 2016-12-08
    The Contradictions of Modern Moral Philosophy: Ethics After Wittgenstein.Dr Paul Johnston & Paul Johnston - 1999 - Routledge.
    _The Contradictions of Modern Moral Philosophy_ is a highly original and radical critique of contemporary moral theory. Paul Johnston demonstrates that much recent moral philosophy is confused about the fundamental issue of whether there are correct moral judgements. He shows that the standard modern approaches to ethics cannot justify - or even make much sense of - traditional moral beliefs. Applied rigorously, these approaches suggest that we should reject ethics as a set of outdated and misguided claims. Rather than facing (...)
  26. added 2016-01-18
    “How Encounters with Values Generate Demandingness”, in Michael Kuehler and Marcel van Ackeren, The Limits of Obligation, Routledge.Sophie Grace Chappell - 2015 - In Michael Kuehler and Marcel van Ackeren (ed.), The Limits of Obligation, Routledge. Routledge.
    I talk about the relation between the direct encounters with values that I take to be a key part of ordinary moral phenomenology, and the well-worn topic of demandingness. I suggest that an ethical philosophy based on (inter alia) such encounters sheds interesting light on some familiar problems.
  27. added 2015-11-17
    Bernard Williams, Vergogna e necessità (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2007). [REVIEW]Lorenzo Greco - 2008 - Rivista di Filosofia 99 (2):352-54.
  28. added 2015-11-03
    Knowing What to Do: Imagination, Virtue, and Platonism in Ethics.Timothy Chappell - 2013 - Oxford University Press.
    Timothy Chappell develops a picture of what philosophical ethics can be like, once set aside from conventional moral theory. His question is 'How are we to know what to do?', and the answer he defends is 'By developing our moral imaginations'--a key part of human excellence, which plays many roles in our practical and evaluative lives.
  29. added 2015-08-06
    Intuition, Theory, and Anti-Theory in Ethics.Sophie Grace Chappell (ed.) - 2015 - Oxford University Press.
    What form, or forms, might ethical knowledge take? In particular, can ethical knowledge take the form either of moral theory, or of moral intuition? If it can, should it? A team of experts explore these central questions for ethics, and present a diverse range of perspectives on the discussion.
  30. added 2015-08-06
    Theory Vs. Anti-Theory in Ethics: A Misconceived Conflict.Nick Fotion - 2014 - Oup Usa.
    This book argues that theory formation in ethics might be, but does not have to be, grand; local and weaker theories can also be effective. Indeed, theory formation is far more varied than theorists and anti-theorists imagine it to be.
  31. added 2015-04-05
    Bernard Williams and the End of Morality.Daniel John Callcut - 2003 - Dissertation, The Johns Hopkins University
    My dissertation has two main aims. The first is to show how some of the central parts of Bernard Williams' conception of ethics fit together. The second is to criticize and develop Williams' thought and, by doing so, to illustrate why it offers such an important and fruitful starting point for contemporary moral philosophy. ;Much of the importance of Williams' work stems from his rich and ambivalent engagement with moral skepticism. His work forcefully engages both with philosophical and wider cultural (...)
  32. added 2015-04-05
    Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. [REVIEW]E. Bond - 1985 - Philosophy in Review 5:480-484.
  33. added 2015-04-04
    Williams, Ethics, and Morality.Shaun Yip Wah Chan - 1997 - Dissertation, Queen's University at Kingston (Canada)
    This thesis considers Bernard Williams's critique of moral philosophy. ;First, I examine Williams's claim that there are no ethical theories which can provide an objective grounding or foundation for ethics. I focus on his discussion of ethical realism and ethical naturalism. Ethical realism holds that the objective foundation of ethical truths and knowledge rests on their mirroring or representing an ethical reality independent of us. Whereas ethical naturalism holds that ethical truths and knowledge are embedded in forms of ethical life (...)
  34. added 2015-04-04
    WILLIAMS, B.: "Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy". [REVIEW]J. Howes - 1987 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 65:221.
  35. added 2015-04-04
    Williams, B., "Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy". [REVIEW]John Mcdowell - 1986 - Mind 95:377.
  36. added 2015-04-04
    WILLIAMS, Bernard and MONTEFIORE, Alan.-"British Analytical Philosophy". [REVIEW]Russell Grice - 1968 - Philosophy 43:166.
  37. added 2015-03-25
    Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy by Bernard Williams. [REVIEW]Thomas Nagel - 1986 - Journal of Philosophy 83 (6):351-360.
  38. added 2015-03-24
    Reply to Bernard Williams"Philosophy as a Humanistic".Hilary Putnam - 2001 - Philosophy 76:605.
  39. added 2015-03-23
    La Notion de «Conflit Moral» Selon Bernard Williams.J. -M. Therrien - 1998 - Philosopher: revue pour tous 21:45-78.
  40. added 2015-03-23
    JEJ Altham and Ross Harrison Eds., World, Mind, and Ethics: Essays on the Ethical Philosophy of Bernard Williams Reviewed By.David Glidden - 1996 - Philosophy in Review 16 (4):231-236.
  41. added 2015-03-23
    Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy Reviewed By.E. J. Bond - 1985 - Philosophy in Review 5 (10):480-484.
  42. added 2015-03-22
    Mark P. Jenkins, Bernard Williams, in de Reeks Philosophy Now, Acumen, Chesham, 2006 [Book Review].Katrien Schaubroeck - 2007 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 69 (3):593-594.
  43. added 2015-03-22
    Bernard Williams (1929–2003).Matej Sušnik - 2003 - Prolegomena 2 (2):262-264.
  44. added 2015-03-20
    Art and the ‘Morality System’: The Case of Don Giovanni.Genia Schönbaumsfeld - 2015 - European Journal of Philosophy 23 (4):1025-1043.
    Mozart's great opera, Don Giovanni, poses a number of significant philosophical and aesthetic challenges, and yet it remains, for the most part, little discussed by contemporary philosophers. A notable exception to this is Bernard Williams's important paper, ‘Don Juan as an Idea’, which contains an illuminating discussion of Kierkegaard's ground-breaking interpretation of the opera, ‘The Immediate Erotic Stages or the Musical-Erotic’, in Either/Or. Kierkegaard's pseudonymous author's approach here is, in some respects, reminiscent of a currently rather fashionable narrative-inspired moral philosophy, (...)
  45. added 2015-03-20
    The Moral Philosophy of Bernard Williams.Alexandra Perry & Chris Herrera (eds.) - 2013 - Cambridge Scholars Press.
  46. added 2015-03-19
    Luck, Value, and Commitment: Themes From the Ethics of Bernard Williams.Heuer and Lang (ed.) - 2011
  47. added 2015-03-19
    World, Mind and Ethics, Essays on the Ethical Philosophy of Bernard Williams.John Skorupski - 1997 - Philosophical Review 106 (4):579-582.
  48. added 2015-03-18
    Ethics and the Limits of Bernard Williams.Hugo Meynell - 2000 - International Philosophical Quarterly 40 (3):351-366.
    Williams's views on the following topics are expounded and criticized: the disanalogy between ethics and science; foundations of ethics in psychology; the self-disposability of the conscious subject; the bearings on one another of ethics and religion; the bogey of obligation; and the relevance of Greek philosophy. It is maintained that ethical arguments have a closer analogy with those of science than Williams will admit, though it is conceded that some moral questions are probably in principle incapable of being settled due (...)
  49. added 2015-03-17
    Psychoanalysis and the Idea of a Moral Psychology: Memorial to Bernard Williams' Philosophy.Jonathan Lear - 2004 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 47 (5):515 – 522.
  50. added 2015-03-17
    Bernard Williams 1929–2003 Moral Philosophy Brought Down to Earth.Christopher Cordner - 2003 - Sophia 42 (2):149-150.
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