, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 1215–1225 | Cite as

Can Ethics Be Without Ontology? Wittgenstein and Putnam

  • Rajakishore NathEmail author


Putnam has given a different twist to the ethical issues in his philosophical writing on ethics. In his book on ‘Ethics Without Ontology,’ he has given the different interpretation to the ethical issues. Putnam states that there is no ‘ontology’ in ethics. For him, there is nothing wrong with ethics, rather there is something wrong with metaphysics. The ethics cannot be justified from a non-ethical standpoint of view. In this way, Putnam challenges both inflationary ontological ethics and deflationary ontological ethics and he bids goodbye to all varieties of ontologies. This idea of ethics goes against the possibility of Vedanta, Buddhism, Aristotelian metaphysics, Platonic forms, Islam, Kantian category, Levinas’s ‘being’, and Heidegger’s ontology. He replaced ‘ethical ontology’ with that of pragmatic pluralism: the recognition that we employ in our everyday lives different kinds of discourses, discourses subject to different standards and possessing different sorts of applications that all contribute to the description of reality. Putnam is right in many of his criticisms of metaphysical ethics, but it is not clear how he can avoid the idea of absolute values, which are transcendental as proposed by Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein accepts both aspects of ethical life, i.e., transcendental and empirical. I shall try to show that we have every reason to accept Wittgenstein’s view that there is ontology in ethics.


Ethics Values Facts Pragmatism Ontology Metaphysics Wittgenstein And Putnam 



I would like to express my special thanks to Professor P. R. Bhat, Emeritus Fellow, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay, India, for his valuable academic suggestions on my paper.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Humanities and Social SciencesIIT BombayMumbaiIndia

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