Cora Diamond and the Moral Imagination


  • Christopher Cordner University of Melbourne
  • Andrew Gleeson Flinders University


ethics, Diamond Cora, literature, moral imagination, Wittgenstein Ludwig, Moyal-Sharrock Daniele


Over several decades, Cora Diamond has articulated a distinctive way of thinking about ethics. Prompted by a recent critique of Diamond, we elucidate some of the main themes of her work, and reveal their power to reconfigure and deepen moral philosophy. In concluding, we suggest that Diamond’s moral philosophical practice can be seen as one plausible way of fleshing out what Wittgenstein might have meant by his dictum that “ethics is transcendental”.

Author Biographies

Christopher Cordner, University of Melbourne

Christopher Cordner is Associate Professor of Philosophy in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Ethical Encounter: the depth of moral meaning and of many articles, mostly but not only in ethics, in philosophical journals. He was also a member of the Australian Heath Ethics Committee for nine years, providing advice to the Australian Federal Health Minister on ethical issues in health and health research.

Andrew Gleeson, Flinders University

Andrew Gleeson studied philosophy at the University of Adelaide and took his PhD from the Australian National University. After two years as a post-doctoral fellow at Rhodes University in South Africa he taught philosophy at the Brisbane Campus of the Australian Catholic University, the University of Adelaide, and, since 2011, at the Flinders University of South Australia. Originally a philosopher of mind – which he still teaches – he now researches mainly in moral philosophy and philosophy of religion. His book A Frightening Love: Recasting the Problem of Evil was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.


Diamond, Cora, 1990. “How Many Legs?”. In: Raimond Gaita, ed., Value and Understanding: Essays for Peter Winch. London: Routledge, pp. 149-178.

Diamond, Cora, 1991a. “Ethics, Imagination and the Method of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus”. In: R. Heinrich and H. Vetter, eds., Bilder der Philosophie: Reflexionen uber das Bildliche und die phantasie. Vienna: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, pp. 55-90.

Diamond, Cora, 1991b. “Introduction II: Wittgenstein and Metaphysics”, pp. 13-38; “‘Anything but Argument?’”, pp. 291-308; “Missing the Adventure”, pp. 309-318; “Having a Rough Story About What Moral Philosophy Is”, pp. 367-381. In: Cora Diamond The Realistic Spirit: Wittgenstein, Philosophy, and the Mind. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.

Diamond, Cora, 1993. “Martha Nussbaum and the Need for Novels”. Philosophical Investigations 16 (2), pp. 128-153.

Diamond, Cora, 1996a “‘We Are Perpetually Moralists’: Iris Murdoch, Fact, and Value”. In: M. Antonaccio and W. Schweiker, eds., Iris Murdoch and the Search for Human Goodness. University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London, pp. 79-109.

Diamond, Cora, 1996b. “Wittgenstein, Mathematics, and Ethics: Resisting the Attractions of Realism”. In: H. Sluga and D. Stern, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 226-260.

Gaita, Raimond, 1991. Good and Evil: An Absolute Conception. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Keats, John, 1819. “Letter to George and Georgiana Keats, Feb 14 – May 3rd”. In: F. Page, ed., Letters of John Keats. London: Oxford University Press, 1954.

McMahan, Jeff, 2005. “Our Fellow Creatures”, The Journal of Ethics 9(3/4), pp. 353-380.

Moyal-Sharrock, Danièle, 2012. “Cora Diamond and the Ethical Imagination”. British Journal of Aesthetics 52(3), pp. 223-240.

O’Neill, Onora, 1980. Review of Stephen Clark, The Moral Status of Animals. The Journal of Philosophy 77(7), pp. 440-446.

O’Neill, Onora, 1986. “The Power of Example”, Philosophy 61(Jan), pp. 5-29.

Pleasants, Nigel, 2008. “Wittgenstein, Ethics and Basic Moral Certainty”, Inquiry 51(3), pp. 241-267.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 1961. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Übersetzt von D. F. Pears und B. F. McGuinness. International Library of Philosophy and Scientific Method. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 1965. “A Lecture on Ethics”. In: “Wittgenstein’s Lecture on Ethics”. In: The Philosophical Review 74, S. 3–12 (Ithaca, USA, 1965).