Morals, meaning and truth in Wittgenstein and Brandom

Jordi Fairhurst
Universidad de las Islas Baleares, Spain |

Received: 08-June-2018 | Accepted: 18-June-2019 | Published: 30-June-2019
Disputatio [Jun. 2019], Vol. 8, No. 9, pp. 00-00 | DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3376637
Article | [EN] | Full Text | Statistics | Copyright Notice [es] | Vol. 8 No. 9

How to cite this article:
Fairhurst, Jordi (2019). «Morals, meaning and truth in Wittgenstein and Brandom». Disputatio. Philosophical Research Bulletin 8, no. 9: pp. 00–00.

Abstract | The aim of this paper is twofold. Firstly, it analyses the similarities that stem from Wittgenstein’s (Philosophical Investigations (1953)) and Brandom’s (Making it Explicit (1994)) commitment to pragmatics in the philosophy of language to account for moral utterances. That is, the study of the meaning of moral utterances is carried out resorting to the study of the acts being performed in producing or exhibiting these utterances. Both authors offer, therefore, a pragmatic solution in order to account for the meaning of our moral vocabulary and discursive practices. Secondly, it argues that both approaches lead to differing understandings of the role of “truth” and “falsity” in moral discourse. On the one hand, Wittgenstein’s remarks on ethics demonstrate a dismissive attitude towards the notions of truth and falsity in moral discourse. On the other hand, Brandom seems to be committed to a weak version of moral cognitivism: he takes assertions (which express beliefs, i.e. doxastic commitments) as the fundamental linguistic activity in the game of giving and asking for reasons and provides an anaphoric theory of truth to account for “truth” and “falsity” in our discourse. Additionally, it analyses how these differences bear on the Frege–Geach problem.
Keywords |
Morals · Truth · Meaning · Pragmatics.

Moral, significado y verdad en Wittgenstein y Brandoms

Resumen | El objetivo de este trabajo es doble: En primer lugar analiza las similitudes originadas de los compromisos de Wittgenstein (Investigaciones Filosóficas (1953)) y de Brandom (Making it Explicit (1994)) con el pragmatismo en la filosofía de lenguaje para dar cuenta de los pronunciamientos morales. Esto quiere decir, la investigación del significado de pronunciamientos morales se realiza con recurso al estudio de los actos que se realizan al producir o mostrar estos pronunciamientos. Ambos autores ofrecen, por tanto, una solución pragmática para dar cuenta del significado de nuestro vocabulario moral y de nuestras prácticas discursivas. El trabajo arguye en segundo lugar que ambos planteamientos llegan a entendimientos diferentes del papel de «verdad» y «falsedad» en el discurso moral. Por una parte, los comentarios de Wittgenstein sobre ética demuestran una actitud desdeñosa hacia las nociones de verdad y falsedad en el discurso moral. Brandom, por otra parte, parece estar comprometido con una versión débil de cognitivismo moral: el entiende que afirmaciones (que expresan creencias, es decir, compromisos doxásticos) como la actividad lingüística fundamental en el juego de dar y pedir razones, y ofrece una teoría anafórica de la verdad para dar cuenta de «verdad» y «falsedad» en nuestro discurso. Este trabajo analiza además el efecto de estas diferencias sobre el problema Frege-Geach.
Palabras Clave | Moral · Verdad · Significado · Pragmatismo.


Acero, Juan José and Villanueva, Neftalí (2012). «Wittgenstein’s Anti–descriptivism». Proceedings of the VII Conference of the Spanish Society for Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science, edited by Concha Martínez Vidal, José L. Falguera, José M. Sagüillo, Víctor M. Verdejo, M. Pereira-Fariña: pp. 102–108. Santiago de Compostela: Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, 2012.

Bar–on, Dorit (2004). Speaking My Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/0199276285.001.0001.

Bar–on, Dorit and Douglas C. Long (2001). «Avowals and First–Person Privilege». Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, vol. 62: pp. 311–335. doi: 10.2307/2653701.

Brandom, Robert B. (1994). Making it Explicit. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Brandom, Robert B. (1997). «From Truth to Semantics: A Path through ‘Making it Explicit’». Philosophical Issues, vol. 8: pp. 141–154. doi: 10.2307/1523001.

Brandom, Robert B. (2001). Articulating Reasons. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Brandom, Robert B. (2013). «Global anti–representationalism?». In Expressivism, Pragmatism and Representationalism, edited by Huw Price: pp. 85–111. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511842498.007.

Christensen, Anne–Marie Søndergaard (2011). «Wittgenstein and Ethics». In The Oxford Handbook of Wittgenstein edited by Marie McGinn and Oskari Kuusela: pp. 796–818. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199287505.003.0036.

De Mesel, Benjamin (2018). The Later Wittgenstein and Moral Philosophy. Switzerland: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-97619-8.

Diamond, Cora (1989). «Rules: Looking in the Right Place». In Wittgenstein: Attention to Particulars, edited by Dewi Zephaniah. Phillips and Peter Winch: pp. 12–34. London: Macmillan.

Diamond, Cora (1996) «Wittgenstein, mathematics, and ethics: Resisting the attractions of realism». In Hans D. Sluga & David G. Stern (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 226–260.

Fogelin, Robert J. (1976). Wittgenstein. London: Routledge.

Fogelin, Robert J. (1996). «Wittgenstein’s Critique of Philosophy». In The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein, edited by Hans D. Sluga and David G. Stern: pp. 34–58. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CCOL0521460255.002.

Frege, Gottlob (1879). «Begriffschrift». In From Frege to Gödel. A source book on mathematical logic, 1879–1931, edited by Jean van Heijenoort: pp. 1–82. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967.

Geach, Peter Thomas (1965). «Assertion». The Philosophical Review, vol. 74, no. 4: pp. 449–465. Doi:

Glock, Hans–Johann (1996). A Wittgenstein Dictionary. Oxford: Blackwell. doi: 10.1002/9781405164634.

Glock, Hans–Johann (2015). «Wittgensteinian Anti–Anti Realism: One ‘Anti’ Too Many?». Ethical Perspectives, vol. 22, no. 1: pp. 99–129. doi: 10.2143/EP.22.1.3073459.

Grover, Dorothy L., Joseph L. Jr. Camp and Nuel D. Jr. Belnap (1975). «A Prosentential Theory of Truth». Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition, vol. 27 no. 2: pp. 73–125. doi: 10.1007/BF01209340.

Hacker, Peter Michael Stephan (2005). «Of Knowledge and of Knowing that Someone is in Pain». In Wittgenstein: The Philosopher and his Works, edited by Alois Pichler and Simo Säätelä: pp. 203–235. Bergen: The Wittgenstein Archives and the University of Bergen.

Loobuyck, Patrick (2005). «Wittgenstein and the shift from noncognitivism to cognitivism in Ethics». Metaphilosophy, vol. 36, no. 3: pp. 381–399. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9973.2005.00375.x.

Lovibond, Sabina (1983). Realism and Imagination in Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell.

Malcolm, Norman (1986). Nothing is Hidden: Wittgenstein’s Criticism of his Early Thought. Oxford: Blackwell.

McDowell, John (2009). «How Not to Read Philosophical Investigations: Brandom’s Wittgenstein». In The Engaged Intellect: Philosophical Essays: pp. 96–114. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Rhees, Rush (1965). «III. Some Developments in Wittgenstein’s View of Ethics». The Philosophical Review, vol. 74, no. 1: pp. 17–26. doi: 10.2307/2183528.

Sellars, Wilfrid (1956). Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Van Roojen, Mark (2017). «Moral Cognitivism vs. Non–Cognitivism». In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford: Stanford University.–cognitivism.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1929–1930). Philosophical Remarks. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980a.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1945–1947). Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Volume 1. Oxford: Blackwell, 1980b.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1953). Philosophical Investigations [PI]. Tr. G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1967). Zettel. Oxford: Blackwell.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1979). Wittgenstein’s Lectures, Cambridge 193235. Oxford: Blackwell.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2009). Philosophical Investigations. Tr. G.E.M. Anscombe, P.M.S. Hacker, Joachim Schulte. West–Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig, Rush Rhees and Gabriel Citron (ed.) (2015). «Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Conversations with Rush Rhees (1939–50): From the Notes of Rush Rhees». Mind, vol. 124, no. 493: pp. 1–71. doi: 10.1093/mind/fzu200.

© The author(s) 2019. This work, published by Disputatio [], is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License [BY–NC–ND]. The copy, distribution and public communication of this work will be according to the copyright notice. For inquiries and permissions, please email: