Eliminating Ethics: Wittgenstein, Ethics and the Limits of Sense

Philosophical Topics 42 (1):1-11 (2014)
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This paper is about what might be called the philosophical tradition of ethics, and Wittgenstein’s opposition or hostility to that tradition. My aim will be to argue that ethics, or a large part of what we think of as ethics, is nonsense, and in doing so I shall be developing the line of argument that I take to lie behind Wittgenstein’s claim in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus that there can be no ethical propositions. That argument has its basis in the simple thought that value is not arbitrary or accidental, and what I shall show is how thinking through what is involved in that thought leads to a radically different conception of the possibilities open to ethical thinking than that which is assumed within the prevailing conception of ethics today.



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Edmund Dain
Providence College

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