To Think for Oneself—Philosophy as the Unravelling of Moral Responsibility



The main aim of the paper is to try to show how I see Wittgenstein’s (“later”) philosophy and its focus on clarity of thought to be essentially pointing towards the notion of personal responsibility. Two interconnected features in will be discussed. First I will draw attention to the so-called “destructive” nature of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, trying to show that its central contribution to clarity of thought lies in its ability to expose our temptation to misunderstand and hence our personal involvement and responsibility for it. From here I turn to a discussion on the famous notion of “bringing words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use”. Here also, the issue of personal responsibility becomes essential. The main claim will be that while “bringing words back to the everyday” is closely related to conventions, it is only via an elucidation of the interpersonal moral dynamics underpinning those very conventions that clarity can be reached. After this I attempt to characterise, as an example, how the notion of philosophy as the unravelling of moral responsibility is both present and absent in Raimond Gaita’s reflections on goodness and evil, and how the absence is characterised by an externalisation of personal responsibility to a picture of reality. In the end, I will come with some concluding remarks on how I see the sense of the paper qualifying the notion of “teaching to philosophise”.


Responsibility Moral dynamics Evil Communality Externalisation 



I would like to thank Ella and Georg Ehrnrooth Foundation and Emil Aaltonen Foundation for financial support enabling the research for this paper.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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