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Winch and Wittgenstein on moral harm and absolute safety


This paper examines Wittgenstein’s conception of absolute safety in the light of two potential problems exposed by Winch. These are that, firstly: even if someone’s life has been virtuous so far, the contingency of its remaining so until death vitiates the claim that the virtuous person cannot be harmed; and secondly: when voiced from a first-person standpoint, the claim to be absolutely safe due to one’s virtuousness appears hubristic and self-undermining. I argue that Wittgenstein’s mystical conception of safety, unlike some others, requires no claim about one’s own virtue and hence can be construed as avoiding these problems.

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Correspondence to Mikel Burley.

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Burley, M. Winch and Wittgenstein on moral harm and absolute safety. Int J Philos Relig 67, 81–94 (2010).

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  • Wittgenstein, Ludwig
  • Winch, Peter
  • Absolute safety
  • Moral harm
  • Ethics
  • Mysticism