Wittgenstein on Realism, Ethics and Aesthetics

Mario Brandhorst


This paper discusses some of the few but most interesting passages in which the
later Wittgenstein discusses ethical language. As I will try to show, these
passages are best read as suggesting an antirealist view of ethics. In order to
support that interpretation, I consider passages from the 1938 lectures on
aesthetics. They oppose aesthetic realism, and there are some further references
to ethics, in particular to Moore. Rejecting realism, Wittgenstein seems to
endorse a broadly expressivist interpretation of moral language, joined with a
modest conception of truth. As the lectures on aesthetics show, there is room
for further, more refined antirealist interpretations. Critical intentions are,
however, primary: What unites his views on ethics and aesthetics is an
uncompromising opposition to the realist idea that what is good, admirable or
beautiful is so independently of the rules that we “laid down”.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; ethics; aesthetics; realism; anti-realism; objectivity; correspondence; expressivism; physical theory

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