Can Ethics Be Without Ontology? Wittgenstein and Putnam

Philosophia 47 (4):1215-1225 (2019)

Rajakishore Nath
Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay
Putnam has given a different twist to the ethical issues in his philosophical writing on ethics. In his book on ‘Ethics Without Ontology,’ he has given the different interpretation to the ethical issues. Putnam states that there is no ‘ontology’ in ethics. For him, there is nothing wrong with ethics, rather there is something wrong with metaphysics. The ethics cannot be justified from a non-ethical standpoint of view. In this way, Putnam challenges both inflationary ontological ethics and deflationary ontological ethics and he bids goodbye to all varieties of ontologies. This idea of ethics goes against the possibility of Vedanta, Buddhism, Aristotelian metaphysics, Platonic forms, Islam, Kantian category, Levinas’s ‘being’, and Heidegger’s ontology. He replaced ‘ethical ontology’ with that of pragmatic pluralism: the recognition that we employ in our everyday lives different kinds of discourses, discourses subject to different standards and possessing different sorts of applications that all contribute to the description of reality. Putnam is right in many of his criticisms of metaphysical ethics, but it is not clear how he can avoid the idea of absolute values, which are transcendental as proposed by Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein accepts both aspects of ethical life, i.e., transcendental and empirical. I shall try to show that we have every reason to accept Wittgenstein’s view that there is ontology in ethics.
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DOI 10.1007/s11406-018-0035-1
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References found in this work BETA

Tractatus logico-philosophicus.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1922 - Filosoficky Casopis 52:336-341.
Essays in Quasi-Realism.James C. Klagge & Simon Blackburn - 1995 - Philosophical Review 104 (1):139.
Culture and Value.Ludwig Wittgenstein, G. von Wright, Heikki Nyman & Peter Winch - 1982 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 44 (3):562-562.
Ethics Without Ontology.Hilary Putnam - 2004 - Philosophical Review 115 (4):533-535.

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