Surveyable Representations, the "Lecture on Ethics", and Moral Philosophy

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Benjamin De Mesel


I argue that it is possible and useful for moral philosophy to provide surveyable representations (as the later Wittgenstein understands the concept) of moral vocabulary. I proceed in four steps. First, I present two dominant interpretations of the concept “surveyable representation”. Second, I use these interpretations as a background against which I present my own interpretation. Third, I use my interpretation to support the claim that Wittgenstein’s “Lecture on Ethics” counts as an example of a surveyable representation. I conclude that, since the lecture qualifies as a surveyable representation, it is possible to provide surveyable representations of moral vocabulary. Fourth, I argue that it is useful for contemporary moral philosophy to provide surveyable representations, because it may help to dissolve problems in current debates. I provide an example of such a debate, namely, the debate between cognitivists and non-cognivitists.
Author Biography

Benjamin De Mesel, KU Leuven

Benjamin De Mesel (1982) is a Ph.D. Fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO). He works at the Centre for Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy, KU Leuven, Belgium. He investigates the possibility of applying Wittgensteinian methods to problems in (meta)ethics. His recent publications include “Moral Modesty, Moral Judgment and Moral Advice. A Wittgensteinian Approach”, International Journal of Philosophy and Theology 75 (1), pp. 20-37. and “De semantische uniformiteit van het morele. Over een vooronderstelling in de hedendaagse metaethiek” (“The Semantic Uniformity of Morality. On an Assumption in Contemporary Metaethics”), forthcoming in Tijdschrift voor Filosofie.


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