Putnam, Ethics, Ontology

Hi Friends,

   I’ll be reading Putnam’s relatively new book, Ethics without Ontology over the next month, and will post summaries and commentaries on each chapter here.  My goal is to post on a chapter a week.  My first post will be on the Introduction, and will appear tomorrow.  To give you a feel for what the book promises to be about, I’m reproducing the Amazon.com blurb here:

"In this brief book one of the most distinguished living American
philosophers takes up the question of whether ethical judgments can
properly be considered objective–a question that has vexed
philosophers over the past century. Looking at the efforts of
philosophers from the Enlightenment through the twentieth century,
Putnam traces the ways in which ethical problems arise in a historical
context. Hilary Putnam’s central concern is ontology–indeed, the very
idea of ontology as the division of philosophy concerned with what
(ultimately) exists. Reviewing what he deems the disastrous
consequences of ontology’s influence on analytic philosophy–in
particular, the contortions it imposes upon debates about the objective
of ethical judgments–Putnam proposes abandoning the very idea of
ontology. He argues persuasively that the attempt to provide an
ontological explanation of the objectivity of either mathematics or
ethics is, in fact, an attempt to provide justifications that are
extraneous to mathematics and ethics–and is thus deeply misguided."

The book looks interesting.  If anyone else is interested in reading along, feel free to use the comments to discuss your interpretations of the texts.

3 Replies to “Putnam, Ethics, Ontology

  1. I guess everything old is new again. Sorry about that guys… I’m a little embarrassed. But I’m going to march forward anyways…

  2. Kris,
    No need for that — the previous post drew a few comments, but I for one am still interested in Putnam’s views and would like to return to these issues.

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