“‘What Is Ethical Cannot be Taught’ – Understanding Moral Theories as Descriptions of Moral Grammar”

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


This chapter develops a Wittgenstein-inspired idea of moral theories as descriptions of particular forms of moral grammar. In opening, Wittgenstein’s critique of philosophical theories is presented and tied to two contemporary forms of criticism raised against moral theory, leading to the suggestion that our current understanding of moral theory can be revised along Wittgensteinian lines by seeing moral theories as descriptive. However, the main suggestion of the article is inspired by Wittgenstein’s notion of grammar as a tool in philosophical elucidation, and two different ways of interpreting this notion are considered. The first interpretation is used to develop a conception of moral theories as descriptions of morally relevant uses of language, moral grammars, but as this conception does not fully meet the challenges that we face in moral philosophy, this leads to the suggestion, inspired by the second interpretation, that such general descriptions of grammar should be supplemented with grammatical investigations of particular moral problems. In closing, the question of the relation between the developed view of moral philosophy and Wittgenstein’s view of philosophy is investigated.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWittgenstein’s Moral Thought
EditorsReshef Agam-Segal, Edmund Dain
Number of pages26
Place of PublicationNew York
Publication date2018
ISBN (Print)9781138745063
ISBN (Electronic)9781315180762
Publication statusPublished - 2018
SeriesRoutledge Studies in Ethics and Moral Theory


Dive into the research topics of '“‘What Is Ethical Cannot be Taught’ – Understanding Moral Theories as Descriptions of Moral Grammar”'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this