Chapter

Morality through Thick and Thin: A Critical Notice of Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy *

Samuel Scheffler

in Boundaries and Allegiances

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780199257676
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600197 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199257671.003.0012
 Morality through Thick and Thin: A Critical Notice of Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy *

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In Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, Bernard Williams criticizes the ‘morality system’ and the associated philosophical enterprise of constructing ethical theories. Williams argues that we would be better off replacing the ‘thin’ concepts favoured by the morality system and its theorists, concepts such as ‘right’ and ‘good’, with ‘thick’ concepts of the sort that were prevalent in the ethical thought of ancient Greece, such as ‘courage’ and ‘treachery’. In this critical essay, Scheffler presents several arguments against Williams's view; among them is the argument that the distinction between thick and thin concepts is not a clear one, and that the elimination of ethical theory would leave Williams without adequate conceptual resources to engage in the kind of social criticism that he himself regards as necessary.

Keywords: ethical theory; ethics; Greece; morality system; social criticism; thick concepts; thin concepts; Bernard Williams

Chapter.  9642 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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