Wittgenstein and Ethics

Anne‐Marie S. Christensen

in The Oxford Handbook of Wittgenstein

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199287505
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Wittgenstein and Ethics

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  • History of Western Philosophy



Ludwig Wittgenstein is very critical of philosophers' attempts at discussing ethics, especially all attempts at developing forms of ethical theory. In his critique of moral philosophy, Wittgenstein does not express reservations about the possibility of reflecting on ordinary ethical discussions or of elucidating ethically significant uses of words. In Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein's remarks on ethics are made in the very last part of the book, following sections on logic, mathematics, and natural science. Wittgenstein describes ethics in a way that is very similar to his description of logic. In addition, he thinks that ethics shows up as a condition of the world tied to the life of the subject, but does not provide us with any concrete description of the form of ethical normativity. The investigations of the Philosophical Investigations and On Certainty provide us with a context in which to place Wittgenstein's specific descriptions of ethical language use, but they do not help us elucidate the defining characteristic of ethics in Wittgenstein's view.

Keywords: Ludwig Wittgenstein; ethics; moral philosophy; Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; logic; ethical normativity; On Certainty; Philosophical Investigations; language use

Article.  12848 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy

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