Morality and Our Complicated Form of Life

Morality and Our Complicated Form of Life: Feminist Wittgensteinian Metaethics

PEG O’CONNOR
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/j.ctt7v5nd
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Morality and Our Complicated Form of Life
    Book Description:

    Moral philosophy, like much of philosophy generally, has been bedeviled by an obsession with seeking secure epistemological foundations and with dichotomies between mind and body, fact and value, subjectivity and objectivity, nature and normativity. These are still alive today in the realism-versus-antirealism debates in ethics. Peg O'Connor draws inspiration from the later Wittgenstein's philosophy to sidestep these pitfalls and develop a new approach to the grounding of ethics (i.e., metaethics) that looks to the interconnected nature of social practices, most especially those that Wittgenstein called “language games.” These language games provide structure and stability to our moral lives while they permit the flexibility to accommodate change in moral understandings and attitudes. To this end, O'Connor deploys new metaphors from architecture and knitting to describe her approach as “felted stabilism,” which locates morality in a large set of overlapping and crisscrossing language games such as engaging in moral inquiry, seeking justifications for our beliefs and actions, formulating reasons for actions, making judgments, disagreeing with other people or dissenting from dominant norms, manifesting moral understandings, and taking and assigning responsibility.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05494-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. PROLEGOMENON TO ANY FUTURE FEMINIST METAETHICS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. 1 FEMINIST WITTGENSTEINIAN METAETHICS? REVISING THE BIG BOOK
    (pp. 1-22)

    To many ethicists, “feminist metaethics” sounds odd. Yes, they may agree that feminists have made many significant contributions in normative and applied ethics. Feminist normative ethics has played a vital role in ethics; it has named, challenged, and corrected a long, pervasive history of male biases. These biases show up in a multitude of ways and have fortified certain canonical concepts such as impartiality and universality. Feminists have challenged the terms of traditional debates and categories by identifying and rejecting problematic assumptions. For example, feminist analyses have argued convincingly against an atomistic sense of self and the accompanying expectations for...

  7. 2 DOES THE FABRIC OF THE WORLD INCLUDE MORAL PROPERTIES? REALIST/ANTIREALIST DEBATES
    (pp. 23-42)

    In this chapter, I examine the state of affairs in the realist/antirealist debates about metaethical issues. I focus attention on J. L. Mackie’sEthicsbecause it is a canonical text that clearly articulates many of the standing concerns of these debates. I also examine a set of exchanges between Gilbert Harman, who is a moral antirealist and relativist, and Nicholas Sturgeon, an ethical naturalist. While there have been many philosophers engaged with metaethical questions, my goal in this chapter is not to provide a comprehensive or exhaustive overview of these issues. My goals are more humble: to identify some of...

  8. 3 NEITHER A REALIST NOR AN ANTIREALIST BE
    (pp. 43-60)

    In the previous chapter, I raised issue with the particular forms of moral antirealism advocated by Gilbert Harman and J. L. Mackie and the moral realism advanced by Nicholas Sturgeon. As different as these positions are, I showed that they share important assumptions about naturalism, causality, necessity, and the appropriateness of scientific expectations and methods for ethics. The short version of the naturalist’s argument is:

    1. The natural world is normatively inert.

    2. Normativity must come from without.

    3. We introduce normativity to the natural world.

    4. If we introduce it, then it is contingent and could be otherwise.

    5. If...

  9. 4 FELTED CONTEXTUALISM: HETEROGENEOUS STABILITY
    (pp. 61-88)

    Rejecting the nature/normativity dualism and the accompanying philosophical theses of realism and antirealism makes it incumbent on me to offer something in their place. How can I describe the world in a way that highlights the myriad ways in which all the elements of our world are imbricated and mutually constitutive, dependent, and enmeshed? I thought about some of Wittgenstein’s ways of describing things as mishmash (mathematics), hurly-burly, weaves, or patterns, though none of these satisfied me. Other language I considered and discarded included entanglement, networks, and entwinement. These seemed too hard to depict. And then I fixed on the...

  10. 5 NORMATIVITY AND GRAMMAR
    (pp. 89-112)

    If we reframe our inquiries along the lines I have been suggesting—rejecting a world/language dualism, shifting the focus away from an ontological conception of moral properties, rejecting the metaphysical theses of realism and antirealism, and challenging the context independence of necessity—and instead start from a felted stable world of practices and language-games as I described in the previous chapter, then we have different ways to frame questions about normativity. I will argue that normativity has its life in practices and language-games, which make up our shared felted world. It is only within practices that the distinction between correctness...

  11. 6 PHILOSOPHICAL RAGS AND MICE: CHANGING THE SUBJECT IN MORAL EPISTEMOLOGY
    (pp. 113-136)

    As I have been arguing throughout this book, at least one set of debates in metaethics has been overly concerned with the metaphysical and epistemological status of moralproperties. As I have attempted to show throughout, this focus is overly narrow, and it brackets as unimportant or as philosophically uninteresting all that I argue makes morality what it is. It certainly casts aside everything that makes moral inquiry understood in a fairly narrow sense: as the acting on moral reasons or in recognition of moral features as possible. So, too, does this narrow focus cast aside much of what makes...

  12. 7 STABILITY AND OBJECTIVITY: THE FELTED WORLD
    (pp. 137-168)

    Admittedly, the final chapter in a book on metaethics is perhaps an odd place to ask about the point of morality. Shouldn’t that have come sooner? Nevertheless, I ask it here in the context of a discussion of relativism and moral disagreement. One significant assumption that regularly appears in otherwise very different positions is that the point of morality is to adjudicate conflict. Morality has its source in conflict and discord. One need look no further than Thomas Hobbes to see one of the clearest and frankest expositions of this view. This same assumption extends to contemporary moral theorists as...

  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 169-172)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 173-178)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 179-179)