Wittgenstein, Ethics, and the Limits of Sense

Edmund Dain

Abstract



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 simply 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 that there can be no ethical propositions. That argument has its basis in the simple thought that value is not arbitrary or accidental, and part of the point of the paper is to show how thinking through what is involved in that thought leads to a radically alternative conception of the possibilities open to ethical thinking.

Keywords


philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; 20th century philosophy; ethics; nonsense; Tractatus logico-philosophicus; proposition

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