Wittgenstein and Ethics: A Discussion with Reference to On Certainty

  • Alice Crary


This chapter may seem to be in the perilous position of lacking a subjectmatter. ‘What does Wittgenstein have to teach us about ethics?’ someone might well ask. Certainly Wittgenstein never offers a separate philosophical treatment of ethics in the way in which he offers such treatments of, say, logic, mathematics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychology and so on. Moreover, although there are many remarks, sprinkled throughout his writings, which it is natural to describe as broaching ethical topics, it doesn’t seem reasonable to construe these remarks, even considered all together, as achieving the status of a serious contribution to ethics – or at least not as long as ethics is conceived, along familiar philosophical lines, as a discipline concerned with a particular ‘region’ of discourse. After all, in a fair number of these remarks, Wittgenstein invites us – in a manner that seems to fly in the face of a philosophically familiar conception of ethics – to think of the ethical as a dimension of all our modes of thought and talk. And in others, he invites us – in a manner that seems at least detached from such a conception – to think of the interest and difficulty of philosophy as he practises it in ethical terms.


Moral Judgement Moral Concept Narrow Conception Linguistic Practice Ethical Topic 
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© Alice Crary 2005

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  • Alice Crary

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