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Volume 48 • Number 2

April 2011



Wittgenstein’s Ethical Nonnaturalism: An Interpretation of Tractatus 6.41­47 and the “Lecture on Ethics”

by Owen Flanagan

Wittgenstein writes:
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, sec. 6.421. It
is clear that ethics cannot be expressed.
E thics is transcendental.
(Ethics and æsthetics are one.)

This, and other similarly cryptic entries in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (hereafter TLP) 6.41­47 lead Russell to write this in his otherwise laudatory introduction to the work:

Mr. Wittgenstein manages to say a good deal about what cannot be said, thus suggesting to the skeptical reader the possibility there may be some loophole through a hierarchy of languages, or by some other exit. The whole subject of ethics, for example, is placed by Mr. Wittgenstein in the mystical, inexpressible region. Nevertheless he is capable of conveying his ethical opinions. His defence would be that what he calls the mystical can be shown, although it cannot be said. It may be that this defense is adequate, but for my part, I confess that it leaves me with a certain sense of intellectual discomfort. (TLP 1922, p. 18).

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ISSN: 2152-1123