Wittgenstein, Meta-Ethics and the Subject Matter of Moral Philosophy

Ethical Perspectives 22 (1):69-98 (2015)
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Several authors claim that, according to Wittgenstein, ethics has no particular subject matter and that, consequently, there is and can be no such thing as meta-ethics. These authors argue that, for Wittgenstein, a sentence’s belonging to ethics is a classification by use rather than by subject matter and that ethics is a pervasive dimension of life rather than a distinguishable region or strand of it. In this article, I will critically examine the reasons and arguments given for these claims. In my view, a Wittgensteinian perspective does not exclude the possibilities of doing meta-ethics and of there being a particular subject matter of moral philosophy. These alleged impossibilities are not the distinguishing marks of Wittgensteinian moral philosophy. What distinguishes Wittgensteinian moral philosophy from traditional moral philosophy is, rather, its emphasis on alternative ways of thinking about the subject matter of moral philosophy.

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References found in this work

Philosophical Investigations.Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein - 1953 - New York, NY, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Philosophical investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein & G. E. M. Anscombe - 1953 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 161:124-124.
Lecture on Ethics.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 2014 - Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Edited by Edoardo Zamuner.
Culture and Value.L. Wittgenstein - 1982 - Critica 14 (41):93-96.
Culture and Value.Ludwig Wittgenstein, G. von Wright, Heikki Nyman & Peter Winch - 1982 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 44 (3):562-562.

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