Cavell’s Challenge. Cynicism and Moral Realism in Light of the Later Wittgenstein

  • Cecilie Eriksen

Abstract

Legitimacy challenges are part of human societies. Whenever we recognise a person, law, ideal or institution as authoritative, questions can be raised about their legitimacy. Why follow this law? Why strive to honour this moral ideal? If such questions are repeatedly raised, they pose an undermining threat to the authorities in question. This is good if the challenged law or ideal is harmful, but problematic, if it is beneficial. Where the first kind of legitimacy challenges are raised by ethical pioneers and moral critics, the last kind are posed by cynics, who disregard the demands of law and morality when they conflict with their interests. The threat to human society caused by cynicism is part of the reason why philosophers since Plato have sought to address and rid society of it.This article discusses how philosophy can deal with cynicism. It does so by firstly looking at how Anthony Holiday defends a moral realist theory and disproves ‘the theory of cynicism’ as well as tries to subvert real life cynics. Secondly, the work of the later Wittgenstein is used to discuss Holiday’s approach, finding it to some extent wanting in both its theoretical and practical aims.Lastly, inspired by Stanley Cavell’s thinking it is suggested that cynicism calls for not only problem solving and problem dissolving, but also something we might call reconciliation.

References

Barney, R. (2017): Callicles and Thrasymachus. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/callicles-thrasymachus/>.

Brock, S. (2013): Wittgenstein as a philosopher of culture: Taking steps in Cavell’s Universe. Paper presented at the Institute of Theology, Aar-hus University, Denmark.

Bronzo, S. (2012): The Resolute Reading and Its Critics. An Introduction to the Literature. Wittgenstein-Studien, 3(1), 45-79.

Cavell, S. (1989): This yet Unapproachable America - Lectures after Emerson after Wittgenstein. Albuquerque: Living Batch Press.

Christensen, A. (2003). Wittgensteins etik. Slagmark, 38: 125-142.

Christensen, A. S. (2011). Wittgenstein and Ethics. In O. Kuusela & M. McGinn (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Wittgenstein. Oxford: Oxford Uni-versity Press.

Conant, J. (2011). Wittgenstein’s Methods. In O. Kuusela & M. McGinn (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Wittgenstein. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Copleston, F.S.J. (1993): A History of Philosophy, Volume 1, Greece and Rome. New York: Doubleday.

Crary, A. (2000): Introduction. In A. Crary & R. Read (Eds.), The New Witt-genstein (pp. 1-18). London: Routledge

De Mesel, B. (2015): Moral Arguments and the Denial of Moral Certainties. In C. Kanzian, J. Mitterer & K. Neges (Eds.), Realism Relativism Con-structivism: Contributions of the 38th International Wittgenstein Symposium, Austria: Ontos Verlag.

Diamond, C. (1999): Wittgenstein, Mathematics, and Ethics: Resisting the Attractions of Realism. In H. Sluga & D. G. Stern. The Cambridge Com-panion to Wittgenstein (pp. 226-261). Cambridge University Press.

Fink, H. (2007): Om komplementariteten mellem den etiske fordring og alle personlige og sociale fordringer. In: David Bugge and P.A. Sørensen (eds.), Livtag med den etiske fordring. Aarhus: Klim.

Hanfling, O. (2003). Learning about Right and Wrong: Ethics and Lan-guage. Philosophy, Vol. 78 (303), 25-41.

Hem, M. (2013): Måske kan jeg blive diktator. Aarhus: Klim.

Herman, J. (2015). On Moral Certainty, Justification and Practice: A Wittgensteini-an Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan.

Holiday, A. (1989): Moral Powers: Normative Necessity in Language and History. London: Routledge.

Joyce, R. (2016). Moral Anti-Realism. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition). Retrieved from: https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/moral-anti-realism/

Kierkegaard, S. (1994): Synspunktet for min Forfatter-Virksomhed. In: Sam-lede Værker Bind 18 & 19. København: Gyldendal.

Moyal-Sharrock, D. (2009): Introduction. Philosophia 37: 557-562.

Moyal-Sharrock, D. (2004): Understanding Wittgenstein’s On Certainty. New York: Palgrave Macmillian.

Murdoch, Iris (1999): The Idea of Perfection, On ‘God’ and ‘Good’, The Sovereignty of Good over all Other Concepts. In: Peter Conradi (Ed.), Existentialists and Mystics. New York: Penguin Books.

Plato (1987): The Republic. London: Penguin Books.

Pleasants, N. (2008): Wittgenstein, Ethics and Basic Moral Certainty. In-quiry, 51(3), 241-267.

Shafer-Landau, R. and Cuneo, T. (2007): Foundations of Ethics – An Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing

Wittgenstein, L. (1991): Bemerkungen über die Grundlagen der Mathematik. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Wittgenstein, L. (1993): A Lecture on Ethics. Philosophical Occasions 1912-1951. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

Wittgenstein, L. (1995): Philosophische Untersuchungen. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Wittgenstein, L. (1997): Über Gewissheit. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Published
2018-06-07
How to Cite
Eriksen, C. (2018). Cavell’s Challenge. Cynicism and Moral Realism in Light of the Later Wittgenstein. Res Cogitans, 13(2). Retrieved from https://tidsskrift.dk/res_cogitans/article/view/106198