Nigel Pleasants
University of Exeter
Alice Crary claims that “the standard view of the bearing of Wittgenstein's philosophy on ethics” is dominated by “inviolability interpretations”, which often underlie conservative readings of Wittgenstein. Crary says that such interpretations are “especially marked in connection with On Certainty”, where Wittgenstein is represented as holding that “our linguistic practices are immune to rational criticism, or inviolable”. Crary's own conception of the bearing of Wittgenstein's philosophy on ethics, which I call the “intrinsically-ethical reading”, derives from the influential New Wittgenstein school of exegesis, and is also espoused by James Edwards, Cora Diamond, and Stephen Mulhall. To my eyes, intrinsically-ethical readings present a peculiar picture of ethics, which I endeavour to expose in Part I of the paper. In Part II I present a reading of On Certainty that Crary would call an “inviolability interpretation”, defend it against New Wittgensteinian critiques, and show that this kind of reading has nothing to do with ethical or political conservatism. I go on to show how Wittgenstein's observations on the manner in which we can neither question nor affirm certain states of affairs that are fundamental to our epistemic practices can be fruitfully extended to ethics. Doing so sheds light on the phenomenon that I call “basic moral certainty”, which constitutes the foundation of our ethical practices, and the scaffolding or framework of moral perception, inquiry, and judgement. The nature and significance of basic moral certainty will be illustrated through consideration of the strangeness of philosophers' attempts at explaining the wrongness of killing.
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DOI 10.1080/00201740802120673
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References found in this work BETA

Principia Ethica.George Edward Moore - 1903 - Dover Publications.
On Certainty (Ed. Anscombe and von Wright).Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1969 - New York and London: Harper Torchbooks.
Tractatus logico-philosophicus.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1922 - Filosoficky Casopis 52:336-341.
Principia Ethica.G. E. Moore - 1903 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 13 (3):7-9.

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Citations of this work BETA

Virtue Ethics and Particularism.Constantine Sandis - 2021 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 95 (1):205-232.
Wittgenstein and Basic Moral Certainty.Nigel Pleasants - 2009 - Philosophia 37 (4):669-679.
Epicureanism and the Wrongness of Killing.Tim Burkhardt - 2020 - The Journal of Ethics 24 (2):177-192.
Epicurus, Death, and the Wrongness of Killing.Mikel Burley - 2010 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 53 (1):68-86.

View all 14 citations / Add more citations

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