Elizabeth Anscombe's paper ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’ 1 seems clearly to have failed in its task. Kurt Baier describes the paper as ‘widely discussed and much admired’ 2 and Peter Winch has called one of its three theses ‘enormously influential’ 3 within moral philosophy.
In this paper I contrast some widespread ideas about what Wittgenstein said about religious belief with statements Wittgenstein made about his purposes and method in doing philosophy, in order to argue that he did not hold the views commonly attributed to him. These allegedly Wittgensteinian doctrines in fact essentialize religion in a very un-Wittgensteinian way. A truly Wittgensteinian philosophy of religion can only be a personal process, and there can be no part in it for generalized hypotheses or conclusions about (...) religion in general. Why is it that in this case I seem to be missing the entire point?1. (shrink)
This second edition of Historical Dictionary of Wittgenstein's Philosophy covers the history of this philosophy through a chronology, an introductory essay, and an extensive bibliography. The dictionary section has over 300 cross-referenced entries on every aspect of his work.
Philosophy certainly has connections with science but it is not itself a science. Nor is it literature. But it is related to literature in a way that excessive emphasis on science can obscure. In this paper I defend the rather old-fashioned view that philosophy is essentially linguistic. I also argue, less conventionally, that there is an unavoidable personal aspect to at least some philosophical problems, and in answering them we must speak for ourselves without being able to count on every (...) other speaker of our language agreeing with us or even understanding what we say. Where the rules of our language are not set we must, so to speak, make them up for ourselves as we go. In this way philosophy requires the kind of linguistic creativity more often associated with poetical kinds of literature. Drawing on the work of Cora Diamond and Alice Crary, I argue that philosophy should be regarded as, not identical with, but continuous with poetry. (shrink)
The idea that there is such a thing as Wittgensteinian foundationalism is a provocative one for two reasons. For one thing, Wittgenstein is widely regarded as an anti-foundationalist. For another, the very word `foundationalism' sounds like the name of a theory, and Wittgenstein famously opposed the advancing of theories and theses in philosophy. Nonetheless, in his book Moore and Wittgenstein on Certainty, Avrum Stroll has argued that Wittgenstein does indeed develop a foundationalist view in his final work, On Certainty. On (...) this basis, Stroll goes on to argue against a number of contemporary views, including forms of relativism and scientism. In what follows I will examine what Stroll calls Wittgenstein's foundationalism (in Section 1) and argue that Stroll's reading of Wittgenstein, though original and interesting, is misguided in important ways and so cannot be used against the views he opposes (in Section 2). Finally, in Section 3, I offer a brief summary of the reading of Wittgenstein that I recommend. (shrink)
The relevance of Wittgenstein for ethics depends on which Wittgenstein we mean. I argue that we should distinguish not only between Wittgenstein's personal opinions and his philosophy, but also, within his philosophical work, between broadly methodological remarks and what Wittgenstein might call genuinely philosophical remarks (which are not about philosophy but try to bring clarity to the mind bewitched by language). Wittgenstein's personal opinions will be considered irrelevant by most philosophers (although I try to show that they are not as (...) crazy as some people might think), and his philosophical remarks consist only of what he calls ?boring truisms?. It is to his methodology, therefore, that we might expect philosophers to look for ethical implications. If that methodology is well conceived, though, it should be ethically neutral. I argue that it is neutral in this way, that Wittgensteinian philosophy says nothing about ethics, but that its proper use will not likely leave our philosophical beliefs about ethics unscathed. (shrink)
Anscombe's Moral Philosophy is an accessible introduction to Elizabeth Anscombe's work on ethics. It also offers a critique of her views on such diverse subjects as the bombing of Hiroshima, same-sex marriage, consequentialism, moral obligation, and intention.
There are intriguing hints in the works of Stanley Cavell and Stephen Mulhall of a possible connection between ethics and Wittgenstein’s remarks on private language, which are concerned with expressions of Empfindungen: feelings or sensations. The point of this paper is to make the case explicitly for seeing such a connection. What the point of that is I will address at the end of the paper. If Mulhall and Cavell both know their Wittgenstein and choose their words carefully, which I (...) will take as given, then the (to me) irresistible inference is that they see a connection between Wittgenstein’s thoughts on ethics and his thoughts on private language. Yet this connection has not, as far as I know, been made explicit. Can it be? Should it be? These are my questions. Even if no one ever intended a connection between the “Lecture on Ethics” and the remarks on private language, those remarks do at least touch on issues raised in the lecture, and it is worth thinking about what the author of those remarks would say about the lecture. So in this paper I summarize the “Lecture on Ethics” (in part I), look at the private language remarks themselves (in part II), and then apply some ideas from these remarks to the “Lecture on Ethics” in part III. My conclusion will be that Wittgenstein’s later remarks are largely consistent with his earlier ones, the main difference being that some of what he first called nonsense he later called secondary meaning. One result of this change is that attempts to express the feelings that Wittgenstein regards as fundamental to ethics, aesthetics, and religion are first treated as doomed to result in nonsense but later as risky. Like cries of pain, they might or might not find a sympathetic audience. (shrink)
In a debate between tolerance and intolerance one is disinclined to side with intolerance. Nevertheless that, in a sense, is what I want to do in this paper. The particular debate I have in mind is the old one between H.L.A. Hart and Patrick Devlin about the legal enforcement of moral values.1 It should be noted, though, that the issue has by no means been settled in the minds of many people. The proposed repeal of the British law prohibiting the (...) promotion of homosexuality “could destroy Scottish society,” according to Mazhar Malik of Glasgow’s Ethnic Community Resource Centre, echoing Devlin’s concern from the 1960s.2 In what follows I will first sketch and defend, partially, what I take to be Devlin’s communitarian argument and then attempt to explain what is wrong with it and how this should affect our estimation of the proper relation between law and morals. I will argue that at least some private ‘immorality’ can be defended without recourse to the liberal belief in a morally private sphere. In part I I look at the kind of communitarianism that can be found in Devlin’s work, in part II I support this reading of Devlin and expand on it by looking at some important passages from his work, and in part III I consider the reasons why his argument does not support legislation against gay sex, and, in fact, could be used to defend gay rights. (shrink)
The A to Z of Wittgenstein's Philosophy is intended for anyone who wants to know more about the philosophy and the life of this enigmatic thinker. The book contains an introductory overview of his life and work, a timeline of the major relevant events in and after his life, an extensive bibliography, and, above all, an A-Z of ideas, people, and places that have been involved in his philosophy and its reception. The dictionary is written with no particular agenda and (...) includes entries on philosophers who influenced Wittgenstein, those he influenced in turn, and some of the main figures in contemporary Wittgenstein scholarship. Suggestions for further reading are also included, as well as a guide to the literature on Wittgenstein and a bibliography broken down by subject area. (shrink)
The subject of this paper is not Wittgensteinian ethics but Wittgenstein’s own ethical beliefs, specifically as these are revealed in the so-called Koder diaries. While the Koder Diaries, also known as Manuscript 183, do contain the kind of thing that one would expect to find in a diary (e.g. accounts of travel and personal relationships), they also contain more obviously philosophical remarks, sometimes as reflections on these personal remarks. Wittgenstein’s diaries illustrate well a point that Iris Murdoch has emphasized, that (...) a person’s inner life can have an ethical dimension not necessarily directly related to overt action or to other people. The kind of ethical concern that we see in these diaries is one with what we might call global implications. Not in the sense that they might affect the whole planet but in the sense that, for Wittgenstein (or anyone else involved in such struggles or deliberations), they might affect every aspect of his life in the way that a religious conversion might change one’s whole life. This ethical ubiquity is another idea that Murdoch has brought to attention. (shrink)