Wittgenstein’s Conception of Moral Universality

Lumberto Mendoza


In contemporary ethical theorizing, Wittgenstein is categorized as a
particularist (O Neill 1996). Moral claims are reached and advanced not in terms
of abstract universal principles but in terms of acquired sensitivities to the
requirements of particular situations. Because of this, his position is taken to
have the same limitations that come with relativism. These include
arbitrariness, self refutation and outright endorsement of evil practices. The
paper argues that this reading is mistaken. Though Wittgenstein emphasized
flexibility and variability, there are passages in his later work which allow
for a notion of moral universality that escapes the limitations of relativism.
Wittgenstein’s moral position cannot simply be assimilated with existing forms
of ethical relativism and moral objectivism.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; ethics; moral universality; rule-following; indeterminacy; form of life

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