Ethics without Ontology by Hilary Putnam

By Hilary Putnam

During this short e-book essentially the most exotic residing American philosophers takes up the query of no matter if moral judgments can safely be thought of objective--a query that has vexed philosophers during the last century. the efforts of philosophers from the Enlightenment during the 20th century, Putnam lines the ways that moral difficulties come up in a ancient context. Hilary Putnam's imperative obstacle is ontology--indeed, the very inspiration of ontology because the department of philosophy involved in what (ultimately) exists. Reviewing what he deems the disastrous effects of ontology's impression on analytic philosophy--in specific, the contortions it imposes upon debates in regards to the target of moral judgments--Putnam proposes forsaking the very proposal of ontology. He argues persuasively that the try to supply an ontological rationalization of the objectivity of both arithmetic or ethics is, in reality, an try and supply justifications which are extraneous to arithmetic and ethics--and is hence deeply misguided.


Hilary Putnam is among the so much unusual dwelling American philosophers, a thinker whose writings have performed a lot to form the time table of analytic philosophy during the last 40 years. a lot of the curiosity of this ebook lies within the means that it illustrates, with unmistakable readability, how serious a critic of mainstream analytic philosophy Putnam has turn into. (Michael Williams, Professor of Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University)

Hilary Putnam's ebook, Ethics with out Ontology, is written with all his traditional readability and verve. It crystallises a few universal subject matters of his paintings in very readable shape. (Christopher Cordner Philosophical Investigations 2007-01-01)

Putnam provokes us in precisely the best way philosophy should...[He] doesn't provide a fine-tuning of a selected method of particular theories. He provocatively heralds a brand new enlightenment in any such means that would no doubt spark criticisms from those that denounce to any extent further enlightenment in want of skeptical outlooks. Putnam has provided a practicable replacement to the 2 dominant, even though well-worn, philosophical hobbies of our day. (Eric Thomas Weber magazine of price Inquiry 2007-12-01)

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Aristotle too was on my list. Although Aristotle was turned into a universalist (or “cosmopolitan”) thinker by the Stoics and later philosophers, I myself do not ªnd in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, wonderful as that book is, a clear concern with universal community. 14 There are tensions between the concern of Levinasian ethics, which is situational in the extreme, and the concerns of Kant and Aristotle. Levinas’s thought experiment is always to imagine myself confronted with one single suffering human being, ignoring for the moment the likelihood that I am already under obligation to many other human beings.

But both are deºationists. , minds and their sensations)—and they spawned both reductionist and eliminationist versions of, respectively, materialism and idealism. When in the last of these four lectures I present an obituary on the project of Ontology, it will be an obituary on all of these versions, the deºationary as well as the inºationary. In place of Ontology (note the capital “O”), I shall be defending what one might call pragmatic pluralism, the recognition that it is no accident that in everyday language we employ many different kinds of discourses, discourses subject to different standards and possessing different sorts of applications, with different logical and grammatical fea- 22 E T H I C S W I T H O U T O N TO LO GY tures—different “language games” in Wittgenstein’s sense— no accident because it is an illusion that there could be just one sort of language game which could be sufªcient for the description of all of reality!

And Levinas is right to remind us that even if the ethical person acts in accordance with the Categorical Imperative, her focus is not on the Kantian principle as an abstract rule, but on the particular other person she is trying to help. Most ethicists, however, down to the present day, still opt for one or another of the concerns I have listed, or perhaps opt simply for the Utilitarian concern with maximizing pleasure (the greatest pleasure of the greatest number for the longest period of time, or some successor to that formula) and try either to deny the ethical signiªcance of the other 28 E T H I C S W I T H O U T O N TO LO GY concerns or else to reduce them to their favorite concern.

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