Antitheory and Edification: Williams and Kierkegaard on Some Possibilities for Philosophy

International Philosophical Quarterly 52 (4):471-486 (2012)
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Abstract

This paper shows the remarkable compatibility of the thought of Bernard Williams and Søren Kierkegaard regarding what Williams would call the “limits” of philosophical ethics and practice. In different ways both Williams and Kierkegaard critique a reductionist conception of the ethical life, its obligations, and the prescriptions that ethical theories make based upon such conceptions. Additionally, the high level of reflectiveness in their respective societies worries both. For Williams the concern is an epistemological one, whereas for Kierkegaard the issue is moral. Upon juxtaposing their thought in these areas, I show how Kierkegaard extends the concerns that he shares with Williams by demonstrating a wider vision of what philosophical ethics can and should do.

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