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Morality and Our Complicated Form of Life

Feminist Wittgensteinian Metaethics

Peg O'Connor

Publication Year: 2008

Moral philosophy, like much of philosophy generally, has been bedeviled by an obsession with seeking secure epistemological foundations and with dichotomies between mind and body, fact and value, subjectivity and objectivity, nature and normativity. These are still alive today in the realism-versus-antirealism debates in ethics. Peg O'Connor draws inspiration from the later Wittgenstein's philosophy to sidestep these pitfalls and develop a new approach to the grounding of ethics (i.e., metaethics) that looks to the interconnected nature of social practices, most especially those that Wittgenstein called “language games.” These language games provide structure and stability to our moral lives while they permit the flexibility to accommodate change in moral understandings and attitudes. To this end, O'Connor deploys new metaphors from architecture and knitting to describe her approach as “felted stabilism,” which locates morality in a large set of overlapping and crisscrossing language games such as engaging in moral inquiry, seeking justifications for our beliefs and actions, formulating reasons for actions, making judgments, disagreeing with other people or dissenting from dominant norms, manifesting moral understandings, and taking and assigning responsibility.

Published by: Penn State University Press

Front Cover

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

I know that some believe that philosophy is a solitary activity, best done in a small room where one can have Big Thoughts. There’s a paradox here; I just know it. Because of my inability to sit still inside for extended periods of time, this has never been my experience. I get too antsy. More important for me, philosophy is a collaborative activity. ...

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Prolegomenon to Any Future Feminist Metaethics

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pp. ix-xii

As a kid at the movies, I always loved the previews of coming attractions. That may help to explain why I like a preface that gives a good snapshot of the upcoming main arguments. To that end, my purpose in this work is to effect a change of the dominant metaphor in metaethics. In metaethics, as well as in epistemology, foundation is the metaphor around which theory turns. ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xiii-xiv

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1. Feminist Wittgensteinian Metaethics? Revising the Big Book

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pp. 1-22

To many ethicists, ‘‘feminist metaethics’’ sounds odd. Yes, they may agree that feminists have made many significant contributions in normative and applied ethics. Feminist normative ethics has played a vital role in ethics; it has named, challenged, and corrected a long, pervasive history of male biases. ...

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2. Does the Fabric of the World Include Moral Properties? Realist/Antirealist Debates

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pp. 23-42

In this chapter, I examine the state of affairs in the realist/antirealist debates about metaethical issues. I focus attention on J. L. Mackie’s Ethics because it is a canonical text that clearly articulates many of the standing concerns of these debates. I also examine a set of exchanges between Gilbert Harman, ...

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3. Neither a Realist nor an Antirealist Be

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pp. 43-60

In the previous chapter, I raised issue with the particular forms of moral antirealism advocated by Gilbert Harman and J. L. Mackie and the moral realism advanced by Nicholas Sturgeon. As different as these positions are, I showed that they share important assumptions about naturalism, causality, necessity, ...

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4. Felted Contextualism: Heterogeneous Stability

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pp. 61-88

Rejecting the nature/normativity dualism and the accompanying philosophical theses of realism and antirealism makes it incumbent on me to offer something in their place. How can I describe the world in a way that highlights the myriad ways in which all the elements of our world are imbricated and mutually constitutive, dependent, and enmeshed? ...

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5. Normativity and Grammar

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pp. 89-112

If we reframe our inquiries along the lines I have been suggesting— rejecting a world/language dualism, shifting the focus away from an ontological conception of moral properties, rejecting the metaphysical theses of realism and antirealism, and challenging the context independence of necessity ...

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6. Philosophical Rags and Mice: Changing the Subject in Moral Epistemology

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pp. 113-136

As I have been arguing throughout this book, at least one set of debates in metaethics has been overly concerned with the metaphysical and epistemological status of moral properties. As I have attempted to show throughout, this focus is overly narrow, and it brackets as unimportant or as philosophically uninteresting all that I argue makes morality what it is. ...

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7. Stability and Objectivity: The Felted World

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pp. 137-168

Admittedly, the final chapter in a book on metaethics is perhaps an odd place to ask about the point of morality. Shouldn’t that have come sooner? Nevertheless, I ask it here in the context of a discussion of relativism and moral disagreement. One significant assumption that regularly appears in otherwise very different positions is that the point of morality is to adjudicate conflict. ...


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pp. 169-172


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pp. 173-178

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271053226
E-ISBN-10: 0271053224
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271033792
Print-ISBN-10: 0271033797

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2008