Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Poverty games

I've been meaning to post something on poverty for months, so here goes. I have taught a course called Poverty and Human Capability just once, so I'm no expert, and even that course was team-taught with an economist friend of mine, so I really only taught half of it. Our original plan was for me to teach the first half of the course, looking at questions of definition and giving an introduction to distributive justice. Colleagues at Washington & Lee University with more experience, though, suggested that the political philosophy part would go better if we first taught students about the causes of poverty. They would then be less likely to blame the poor (for alleged laziness or whatever) and to take seriously the idea that others might have a responsibility to do something to help. So we split the course into four quarters: definitions of poverty, causes of poverty, distributive justice, and possible solutions to poverty. It went well, but I think now that maybe causes of poverty should come first. That might sound odd, but the most interesting definition of poverty is based on the capabilities approach developed by Amartya Sen and defended in Martha Nussbaum's Creating Capabilities. And that book is best read after you have read some Rawls and some utilitarian philosophy. So actually the best order seems to be: causes of poverty, ideas about distributive justice, definitions of poverty, solutions to poverty. Between the last two parts I intend next semester also to include a look at how the USA is doing in terms of the development of capability, based on The Measure of America.

That site has some nice tools, including a well-o-meter, which lets you measure your own level of human development (I scored about 8.5 out of 10). There is something questionable about poverty-based games (the apparently defunct Chickens in choppers had a post once making a somewhat similar point, as I recall), but perhaps they have educational value. Here are some more that I have found: -- a game designed to educate people about what it is like to be poor in the USA$FILE/teachphil_2011_0034_0001_0021_0036.pdf -- an article about using Second Life to teach social justice and Rawls -- compares your income with that of other people around the world -- provides a quiz on how much of a bubble you live in (is aimed primarily at white Americans) -- giving-to-charity games -- a rich and interactive website making the case that you should give to help the poor in other countries

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ordinary language philosophy and the democracy of the dead

There's something democratic (at least in flavour) about ordinary language philosophy, and tradition is what Chesterton called the democracy of the dead. Both come to mind when I read J.E.H. Smith saying this:
I am more convinced than ever that what some guy who happens to be alive right now, and employed by a university to tell us what he happens to think about, e.g., whether there is a hard problem of consciousness or not, can be of next to no interest for our understanding of the philosophical question in question. The truth is I don't think it's very grown-up, intellectually, to set about actually trying to answer questions like these, at least in the way we are used to seeing philosophers try to answer them. In this respect, I am sympathetic to the approach of experimental philosophy, even if I have not yet been able to convince any experimental philosophers that I'm on their side. Like them, I think the more sophisticated and fruitful approach to questions like, e.g., whether the mind is distinct from the body, is not try to answer them directly, but to somehow take a survey of the range of possible positions human beings take up on the question. Now, the experimental philosophers today think it is enough to survey their contemporaries, by methods borrowed mostly from psychology. I'm starting to think that what we need to do is, so to speak, to survey the past, using methods adapted from archeology, historical linguistics, and evolutionary biology, and recently applied with impressive results in unlikely fields such as comparative literature.
Can I blame my cold for not being able to think about this (or much of anything else)? Anyway, if you have thoughts on what Smith says, feel free to tell me what to make of it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Was Wittgenstein sexist?

If you care, you should read this post and comments on it over at Philosophy, lit, etc. It's got me, praymont, and Tommi Uschanov (who quotes me saying things I would not have known I ever wrote if he hadn't mentioned my name). Interesting stuff.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Karl Marx, top red

Virtual Philosopher links Marx with Manchester United here. It's not such a crazy idea, even if it is clearly intended only as a joke. Anyway, in case you don't get the joke (Karl Marx: Glory, glory, man united!), here's the song:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Philosophical journalism

If you saw Brian Leiter's take on it then you might have avoided Freeman Dyson's review of Why Does the World Exist?, as I did. But then you would have missed some gems. Dyson tells us that he read the Tractatus when he was in high school, and that:
Wittgenstein, unlike Heidegger, did not establish an ism. He wrote very little, and everything that he wrote was simple and clear.
Books don't get much simpler than the Tractatus!

He also tells this story:
Finally, toward the end of my time in Cambridge, I ventured to speak to him. I told him I had enjoyed reading the Tractatus, and I asked him whether he still held the same views that he had expressed twenty-eight years earlier. He remained silent for a long time and then said, “Which newspaper do you represent?” I told him I was a student and not a journalist, but he never answered my question.
I hope that's true.

(Incidentally, searching for Wittgenstein on philosophical journalism led me to this essay by Esa Saarinen and T. P. Uschanov, which I don't remember seeing before. Looks interesting.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

At Oxford he fell in with vegetarians...

This is a good read on Peter Singer. The author, James Franklin, quotes Singer:
In thinking about this matter we should put aside feelings based on the small, helpless and—sometimes—cute appearance of human infants. To think that the lives of infants are of special value because infants are small and cute is on a par with thinking that a baby seal, with its soft white fur coat and large round eyes, deserves greater protection than a whale [gorilla in the second edition], which lacks these attributes. If we can put aside these emotionally moving but strictly irrelevant aspects of the killing of a baby we can see that the grounds for not killing persons do not apply to newborn infants. 
It is odd to think that we could put aside emotionally moving aspects of an act when considering that act. Can we just turn off our emotions? (Obviously we can to some extent, but there are limits to what we can do, not to mention the limits to what we should do.) 'Cute' suggests appealing, which suggests some kind of value, surely. How can you recognize that something is cute and simultaneously disregard this cuteness? One way might be to recognize that the thing is considered to be cute by others, but that isn't what I'm talking about. Another objection relates to people. If two people are drowning and I cannot save both at once, surely I should not save the cute one first just because s/he is cute? That's right, I shouldn't. But that's because other things are so much more important, including how horrible it would be if life and death decisions were made on the basis of looks. How horrible for the ugly or plain, so small and helpless, so to speak, in their lack of cutenesss.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

But if you could just see the beauty, these things I could never describe...

Stephen Law writes:
I don’t wish to deny there is value in engaging in meditation, yoga, and so on. It may well be that those who engage in such practices gain some valuable insights into themselves and the human condition as a result. Certainly, there may be some positive psychological effects, such as a lasting sense of peace and contentment, from determinedly engaging in such activities over a long period of time, effects that will undoubtedly by magnified by the accompanying thought that what they are becoming attuned to is ‘God’.
But the claim that they have thereby become attuned to some sort of ‘sacred reality’ is dubious to say the least. Surely, given our understanding of human psychology, by far the best explanation of what people experience after having engaged in religious practice with dedication over long periods of time is not that they have become attuned to some sort of ineffable transcendence, but that they have succeeded in altering their own psychology by fairly well-understood mechanisms common to both the religious and nonreligious spheres, and that they have then mistakenly interpreted this alteration as their becoming attuned to such a reality.
What would be the right interpretation then? They have altered their psychology in such a way that...what? They are inclined to say that they have become attuned to some sort of ineffable transcendence? Law seems (and I should emphasize the seems, because I am kind of putting words in his mouth here) to think that people who have religious experiences are either attuned to a higher reality or else deluded. He doesn't raise the question (here--the article is based on part of a book, which I haven't read) of what "ineffable transcendence" might mean. But if we don't know what it means--and surely the way Law talks about it suggests that he doesn't pretend to know--then how can we be sure that it is or is not real? I don't mean, "Maybe it's real." I mean that it seems like a mistake to deny the reality of a something-I-know-not-what.

As I have mentioned before, I have had these experiences, and it didn't take meditation, yoga, or fasting. I believe they are common. But they are hard to describe. Something like a feeling of peace, oneness, etc. A sense that everything is good, the world is beautiful, and there is really nothing to worry about. I used to smoke, and more than once I have had this kind of feeling when I went outside for a smoke at night, looking at the moon (and I was smoking cigarettes, not something that would make me stoned). It's pretty common, I'm sure, but it's also profound. I remember those moments years later, and at the time I might have said that I felt the presence of God. I wouldn't put it that way now, but it also makes no sense to me to suggest that the feeling was an illusion of some kind. An illusion of what? I didn't really feel that all was one? I didn't really feel safe? Yes I did. Was the oneness or safety perhaps illusory? Well of course it wasn't literal. That's why people talk about spiritual or mystical or religious experiences, not remarkable physical discoveries. But why not talk about becoming attuned to a reality or to God? Why can't having such an experience be what people mean by "becoming attuned to God"?

I wouldn't go so far as to say that talk of becoming attuned to some sort of sacred reality is nonsense, but if it is close enough that Law calls it "dubious to say the least" then he surely ought to consider the possibility that he doesn't understand such talk. His strategy appears to be to assume he knows what it means and then to reject it in the grounds that what it claims is so obviously false. Of course people do make false claims. Even obviously false ones. But it's not very charitable to assume that this is what they are doing when they say things that you find odd.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The gospel of exactness

Wittgenstein Day-by-Day tells us:
Friday October 11th, 1912: The Cambridge University Michaelmas term begins. 
Russell’s paper ‘The Essence of Religion’ had recently appeared in the October issue of *The Hibbert Journal* ( LW has read it and detests it, and this leads to the first of a number of painful talks with Russell, LW’s mood now being more fierce and critical than formerly (McGuinness, p.108). Russell writes to Ottoline that LW feels that Russell had, in this article, betrayed ‘the gospel of exactness’. Russell’s impression is that LW thinks he had ‘wantonly used words vaguely’ and that ‘such things are too intimate for print’. Russell also records that he minds LW’s negative reaction ‘very much’, since he half agreed with him (McGuinness, p.109).
This seems relevant to my feeling that Wittgenstein would have been against much, or even all, work in moral philosophy. Even if it's possible to avoid the vagueness he apparently detested, there is still the problem of things too intimate for print. Of course this is very early in Wittgenstein's career, but I don't know how much his view of such things changed.

And if his main objection to Wittgensteinian moral (or related) philosophy would have been that it dealt with material too intimate for print, then this does not seem to detract from its being Wittgensteinian.    

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ethics and language

Two thoughts that I want to explore, if only briefly at first: is saying that ethics is too big to be a branch of philosophy like saying that language is too big for there to be such a thing as philosophy of language?, and have I repeatedly ignored Lars Hertzberg's point about the significance of language in ethical disagreement? The two questions are related, as both have to do with significance (which is a nicely ambiguous term here, capable of meaning both importance and meaning).

Here's what Lars says:
...there might be clarificatory work to be done concerning the significance of the expressions we use in reflecting on human attitudes and actions, even if we (sometimes) disagree on their application.
If you're wondering exactly what 'significance' means here, the preceding paragraph helps: ethical discourse the point of our remarks may often depend precisely on our disagreeing on the application of words; what holds our discourse together, on the other hand, is the degree to which, even so, we agree on the *significance* of a given description: *if* this were murder, *then*...  
So 'significance' means not quite meaning or importance but implication (which is related to both). And Lars's suggestion is that there might be clarificatory work to be done concerning the implications of the expressions we use in reflecting on human attitudes and actions. For example (if I understand correctly), if abortion really is murdering babies then this would suggest that abortion-providers deserve life in prison or possibly even the death penalty. And women who seek abortion would seem to deserve to be treated like people who try to hire contract killers. Some people (claim to) find such reasoning compelling, but for most people, I think, it is more like a reductio than an argument for rounding up large numbers of women and doctors. This kind of thing might lead those who say that abortion is murder to choose a different description, or to explain more carefully what they mean. This is the kind of work that Ronald Dworkin does (or tries to do on behalf of others) in Life's Dominion, and I think it can have great value.

'Significance' might also be taken as 'meaning,' so that we might inquire into, or try to clarify, the meaning of words like 'rights,'  'obligation,' and 'happiness.' I don't know whether Lars had that in mind, but I can see it being worthwhile. But given that we do so often disagree on the application of words like these I don't know where clarification would end and propaganda begin. Bentham's claim that talk of natural rights is nonsense on stilts strikes me as interestingly both conceptual analysis and political propaganda. Rightly or not, and interestingly or not, I think that Wittgenstein believed in avoiding this kind of thing. (Or did he? Was his desire to put a stop to all the claptrap about ethics not political in some sense, a desire to engage in a sort of culture war, or at least to bring about a cultural change?)

It's this entanglement of disagreement with (the most obviously) ethical concepts that makes philosophizing about them different from analyzing or clarifying uses of other kinds of words. But I suppose the difference is one of degree, so if I say you can't do Wittgensteinian work in ethics then the question arises where should we draw the line? I'd rather not make such a statement, but there is a problem here, I think, and I'd like to at least point it out or gesture toward it.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fearful symmetry

Someone or other has suggested that Blake's "fearful symmetry" refers not to the two halves of the tiger but to the correspondence between the tiger and its creator. That is certainly suggested by the couplet: "Did he smile his work to see?/ Did he who made the Lamb make thee?" Wittgenstein seems to have had a somewhat similar idea. Anne-Marie Christensen provides this translation of a passage from MS 136 (dated 1948):
We learn the meaning, the use of words in particular circumstances...Do I here have to state all of the circumstances? Does it not suffice that I say: "These concepts do not work here any longer"? (Just as we cannot use the moral concepts of a being that has created the hippopotamus and the crocodile.)
I don't have anything to say about this, but it's a wonderful thought.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Nothing to be said?

          This insistence on the irrelevance of theory to ethics could lead us to assume that Wittgenstein argues against all philosophical investigations of ethics - an assumption that would cause trouble for the interpreter of his remarks on ethics (and, for example, cut this chapter rather short). Some commentators have argued in favor of this conclusion (especially Richter 1996), but there are convincing reasons to resist it. What we find Wittgenstein opposing is a particular form of moral philosophy with a particular purpose, namely that of building a moral theory, and this accords with his general view of the goal of philosophical activity as 'elucidations', 'clarification', or a 'perspicuous representation of our use of language' (TLP 4.112; BT sec. 86; see also TLP 6.54 and PI §122). In his critique of moral philosophy, Wittgenstein does not express reservations about the possibility of reflecting on ordinary ethical discussions or of elucidating ethically significant uses of words, and the claim that he has no such reservations finds support in the fact that Wittgenstein's own remarks on ethics are not restricted to the critique of moral philosophy. 
This is from Christensen, p. 797. [Etiquette-related update: I have met Anne-Marie Christensen a couple of times, so should I call her by her first name as I would in real life? Or, since people reading this are unlikely to have met her, should I be more formal? I don't want to be coldly formal or condescendingly familiar. Maybe she will be so annoyed by this post that cold formality becomes the only option. (I hope not.)]  I want not so much to defend my 1996 position as to reconsider it in the light of her objection. The issue once seemed fairly simple to me, then I started to think I had simply got it all wrong, but now it seems difficult. It's this difficulty that I want to explore.

It might help to go step by step. So:
This insistence on the irrelevance of theory to ethics could lead us to assume that Wittgenstein argues against all philosophical investigations of ethics - an assumption that would cause trouble for the interpreter of his remarks on ethics (and, for example, cut this chapter rather short).
I don't think so, because I don't think that interpreting a philosopher's remarks or writing an account of a philosopher's views is itself philosophy. Many philosophers would agree with that, but others, with whom I'm likely to be in sympathy, would consider it naive. One often has to do philosophy, to evaluate arguments  for instance, when interpreting, in order to apply the principle of charity. But Wittgenstein did not present a lot of arguments of that kind, and philosophy as he understands it does not, it seems to me, include textual interpretation or summary. His later philosophical method involves such activities as assembling grammatical reminders and imagining possible uses of language that strange tribes might make. Interpreting Wittgenstein is a different kind of activity, it seems to me.

What we find Wittgenstein opposing is a particular form of moral philosophy with a particular purpose, namely that of building a moral theory, and this accords with his general view of the goal of philosophical activity as 'elucidations', 'clarification', or a 'perspicuous representation of our use of language'
I agree with this. The last part is the hardest part:
In his critique of moral philosophy, Wittgenstein does not express reservations about the possibility of reflecting on ordinary ethical discussions or of elucidating ethically significant uses of words, and the claim that he has no such reservations finds support in the fact that Wittgenstein's own remarks on ethics are not restricted to the critique of moral philosophy.
I agree that Wittgenstein does not express reservations about the possibility of reflecting on ordinary ethical discussions, and that Wittgenstein's own remarks on ethics are not restricted to the critique of moral philosophy. Even here, though, I'm not sure about the phrase "remarks on ethics." Of course if by "ethics" we mean moral philosophy then Wittgenstein's remarks on ethics are restricted to the critique of moral philosophy. When does he ever discuss it without censure? But that would be an obviously unfair 'criticism' to make. It clearly isn't what Christensen means. The problem is that it is not all that clear to me what she does mean, what we should understand as "Wittgenstein's own remarks on ethics." If ethics means something like how to live then just about everything he ever said or wrote could be treated as a remark of his on ethics. Christensen herself brings this out (when she observes that ethics is not a particular area of life, for instance), and there is evidence for it in such remarks of his as that he was thinking about both logic and his sins (in a conversation with Russell, in which Russell had asked him which of the two he was thinking about) and that he saw every problem from a religious point of view. There are two aspects to this point: according to a certain Wittgensteinian view (associated with Cora Diamond and Iris Murdoch especially) ethics is a facet of everything we do, say, or think, it is not something that applies to or covers only certain kinds of actions (say, those that benefit or harm others) or kinds of sentences (say, those involving words or concepts such as goodness or duty); secondly, (and this is part of the point of my paper "Wittgenstein's Ethics") Wittgenstein himself provides as good an example as any of how this can be, which makes his remarks in particular likely to have ethical significance.  

That might seem (and be) confused. If everything has an ethical aspect, how can this have anything to do with Wittgenstein in particular? The point is this. Everything can have ethical significance, and Wittgenstein appears to have been acutely aware of this and to have lived accordingly, which makes his life a rich source of examples to illustrate the point that everything can have ethical significance. He shunned ornament and luxury (in later life at any rate), seeing what kind of cups to drink from or what (not whose!) bed to sleep in as moral issues. He wanted to eat the same thing every day when staying with Norman Malcolm, again for ethical reasons. He believed in doing and saying things the right way. He cared deeply and passionately about just about everything he did and said (he tended to take things very seriously) and he cared about this caring. Attention to particulars and going the bloody hard way were central to his ethics, to his outlook on the world, to his view of how to live. It is the possibility of this kind of ethic that makes everything potentially a matter for ethics. If I doze in front of the television all weekend this might seem to have nothing to do with ethics (I am not wronging anyone, for instance) but Wittgenstein might well have disapproved. (As might Peter Singer.) So my action is a possible object of moral judgment. This is even more so if I ought to be somewhere else or doing something else. Perhaps I am complacently dozing while someone who needs my help is struggling. Perhaps I am dozing rather than attending a wedding or funeral that others think I should be at. And there is much more to ethics than judgment, as Murdoch, Diamond, and Alice Crary have brought out. As I recall, Bouwsma (implicitly) quotes Wittgenstein as saying, "Is Dewey dead yet? He ought to be." Is that a remark on ethics? It isn't about moral philosophy, but if the remark expresses a condemnation (I'm back to judgment again!) of Dewey's views then it seems to have ethical significance. But Wittgenstein's whole thought is suffused with ethical concern. So all his remarks really have such significance to some degree. Or so I'm inclined to believe.   

Which brings me to "elucidating ethically significant uses of words." What are these uses and how are they to be elucidated? It is not the words themselves that make their use ethically significant. "Pass the milk, please" is not normally ethically significant (although vegans might differ, of course). But it could be. It could be said in order to change the subject away from something controversial, or as a way of pointedly ignoring what someone else has just said. ("If you don't let me marry him I'll kill myself!" "Pass the milk, please.") Any words could be used in ethically significant ways, or just about any, it seems to me. 

Maybe I should distinguish a few points about the scope of ethics that I have not really distinguished above:
  1. Language is flexible enough that we can use it in ethically significant ways without having to use any particular set of words or phrases, so all language is potentially ethically significant
  2. On some ethical views (standard versions of deontology, for instance), ethics forbids certain things but allows others, leaving many of these other things not good but ethically neutral, whereas other kinds of ethical view (standard versions of consequentialism, say) apply to everything, so that every act and every omission is potentially subject to moral judgment--this is one sense in which ethics might be said to be global, universal, or ubiquitous
  3. Other ethical views (e.g. virtue ethics) care about not only what is done but the way it is done, and might therefore judge not only actions and decisions but also reactions, emotions, thoughts, and so on--this is another sense in which ethics might be said to be global, etc.
  4. Finally, ethics can be thought to be about more than judgments of what is right and wrong. It can apply to perception, so that it can be an ethical failing not to notice something. This might seem to come down to a judgment that such failure is wrong, but (perhaps because we are all limited when it comes to sensitivity and perception) it sometimes seems better to talk about better and worse than right and wrong in such matters. Relative insensitivity need not be judged wrong for it to be seen to be less than ideal. (It might even be wrong, unduly harsh, to judge it wrong.) If this all seems very obscure, think of issues of equality involving men and women, straight people and gay people, human beings and animals, people of different ethnicities, and so on. If I am generally pretty sympathetic to members of some other group but not as sympathetic as I should be am I wrong? Where on the scale of sensitivity do we draw the line between right (or acceptable) and wrong? There might be a wrong part of the spectrum, but the terms 'right' and 'wrong' seem too crude to be useful here. And if ethics is not only about judgments and the judge-able, if it covers also what is assessable as more or less good, then, once again, it has a broader scope than might be thought.    
I think two points follow. One is that we cannot identify ethically significant uses of language just by looking at the vocabulary involved. The other is that how we do identify such uses will depend on our own ethics. Are we (merely) judgmental or something more (or something else)? Are we virtue ethicists or do we focus only on actions? Do we recognize a sphere of action that is neither moral nor immoral, or not? And these need not be the only questions worth asking here. If we cannot identify ethically significant uses of language without applying controversial ethical standards, then we cannot philosophize about such uses of language in a way that everyone can be expected to agree on. (See PI 128 for why I think this matters as far as Wittgensteinian philosophy goes: "If one tried to advance theses in philosophy, it would never be possible to debate them, because everyone would agree to them.") Unless we stick to non-controversial examples, that is, examples that are uncontroversially ethically significant. They might be controversial in other ways, e.g. with regard to what to make of them. For instance, it is uncontroversial that abortion is ethically significant, but whether it is ever acceptable is controversial. So perhaps a Wittgensteinian ethicist might elucidate the use of words in a sentence like "Abortion is wrong." This would be meta-ethics, of course. (It is what I meant when I referred, no doubt confusingly and confusedly, in my last post to "the philosophy of ethics" as opposed to ethics itself.)

So for now that's my conclusion. Wittgensteinian philosophy can accommodate meta-ethics but not what I think of as ethics proper. I still have doubts though. Hasn't Paul Johnston done a good job of showing that the distinction between meta-ethics and ethics (or normative theory) breaks down? I need to re-read his work. I ought to have some sort of view on Anscombe at my fingertips, but not teaching what you do research on can be a problem sometimes. I don't remember my own work, let alone other people's. As I recall, though, Anscombe's critique of the concept of moral obligation as meaningless is bound up with her own moral views. My suspicion is that it would not be possible to do work in meta-ethics that was actually useful, that provided clarification where it was needed, without taking some kind of moral stand.

But maybe that is always the case in philosophy. In which case maybe it's only possible in some sense to do Wittgensteinian philosophy with people with whom one agrees. Then the philosopher would have to be a member of a kind of thought community. And that doesn't sound right. I think the Wittgensteinian philosopher is supposed to be more like a therapist, asking questions to guide someone else to clarity, out of the fly-bottle, and not proposing or defending this or that belief, and hence not really speaking for herself. Whether this can be done in meta-ethics seems doubtful, but it would help to look at some examples. That could be food for a future blog post. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wittgenstein and Ethics

I've just read Anne-Marie Christensen's "Wittgenstein and Ethics," and it's full of riches. It's tempting to go through the whole thing like a professor who wants to comment on each point that catches her attention, but I'll try to focus on the question whether Wittgenstein thought of ethics as belonging to philosophy.

On p. 796 Christensen quotes Wittgenstein saying that "What is ethical cannot be taught." She points out that this is reminiscent of Tractatus 4.112, where Wittgenstein says that philosophy is not a subject but an activity. Her view is that "an investigation of Wittgenstein's remarks on ethics does not present a theory of ethics; rather, it clarifies what it is we do when we use words with an ethical point and elucidates the characteristic features of such a use" (p. 797). I agree with the theory part, but I find myself asking what is it that we do when we use words with an ethical point? What are the characteristic features of such a use?

According to Wittgenstein, Christensen argues, ethics is "an active perspective or attitude" that structures one's view of the world in a particular way "because it concerns the world as a place in which one has to live" (p. 798). This sounds right, but it is a very broad view. Christensen immediately refers, in fact, to "the ubiquitous character of this conception," referring to Cora Diamond's work. And at the foot of the same page Christensen says that, "Our ethical attitude [...] is not just a particular view of the world; it encompasses our entire way of relating to and acting in particular circumstances." This sounds like a good description of ethics, but it doesn't seem like a definition. Something that encompasses our entire way of acting sounds like life, or at least something too big to be part of philosophy. It sounds bigger than philosophy. Christensen says  (bottom of p. 799) that Wittgenstein places ethics within the question of the meaning of life, but that he does not try to answer this question; "instead, he is simply showing us how it arises, namely in any attempt to live a human life" (p. 800). I don't know what to think about this. I don't know how one would show that ethics (or anything else) arises in any attempt to live a human life. One could try to argue that it necessarily must do so, but that doesn't sound like Wittgenstein. Or one could try to show that it just does arise in every human life, but that sounds too empirical (and too time-consuming to be practical). But I don't mean this as more than an objection, a point that might usefully be clarified. I don't mean it as an attempted refutation of Christensen's position. In fact I think she is at least partly right (and maybe completely right). Perhaps the truth is that Wittgenstein does not try to show how or that ethics arises in any attempt to live a human life but that he believes it does (and perhaps shows that he believes so in various remarks).

Some ammunition for the view that Wittgenstein did not think of ethics as belonging to philosophy appears on p. 807, where Christensen quotes Moore quoting Wittgenstein talking about reasons "not only in Ethics, but also in Philosophy" (this from lectures given 1930-33). The implication is that ethics is something other than philosophy. What else might it be? On pp. 809-810 she says that "the defining characteristic of ethics in Wittgenstein's view [is] the fact that it is essentially personal." And:
The essentially personal side of ethics means that ethics concerns everything that people actually find ethically relevant or absolutely good, and what this is may vary immensely from person to person. In this way, Wittgenstein again criticizes the idea that ethics is a particular area of life or the world that we talk about [p. 811]
Philosophy, though, is a particular area of  life or the world that we talk about, at least as Wittgenstein sees it, isn't it? Which would suggest that ethics is not a part of philosophy, even if philosophy is part of ethics. Although I might be being simplistic here. Maybe ethics belongs to philosophy in the sense that one can philosophize about ethics, or about ethical sentences. Diamond might object to this suggestion that "ethical sentences" doesn't pick out any identifiable set of sentences. Wittgenstein talks about what he calls "ethical sentences" (e.g. "That is good!" and "You must do this!"), but should he? Of course he can, but if our goal is to show how ethics arises in our lives, then it seems it would be a mistake to look only at sentences like this. As Christensen quotes Wittgenstein saying of a suit, the main way you show that you think it is good is by wearing it repeatedly. If we want to understand ethics we should look at what we do, not a particular class of sentences. Especially since we often do not use the obviously ethical words when speaking about ethical matters, just as we often don't use words like 'beautiful' when speaking about aesthetic matters. Karl Kraus makes an ethical point when he titles a poem about a submarine's sinking a ship in 43 seconds "With Stopwatch in Hand." (Who thought to time the sinking? What attitude did they thereby show towards the people on the ship?) There is no need there for words like 'good' and 'ought'.

But that itself, the last couple of sentences of mine, is a kind of reminder about how we use words in connection with ethics. So it would (or at least could) count as philosophy in Wittgenstein's book. In that sense I think he would accept that ethics belongs to philosophy. Perhaps the thing to say is that ethics does not belong to philosophy but that the philosophy of ethics does.

I'm still not sure though. If ethics is essentially personal then can we really philosophize about it? In response to my last post Reshef said (in reference to philosophy and the kind of problems it deals with):
1) the kind of pseudo problems we have in mind, I think, don't seem to me mere personal problems--personal conditions. We all naturally share them. (For otherwise we would not be able to do philosophy together.)

2) what causes those problems is not something that is unique to us. They are caused by the very form of our life, as it were. (If this makes sense.)
Are there problems of this sort that arise in connection with ethics? Would the urge to construct a theory of ethics or a decision-procedure be such a problem? Maybe so. But the personal nature of ethics would surely make it hard to assemble reminders with which everyone could be expected to agree (even harder than doing so in other areas of philosophy). I also wonder about how we should read Wittgenstein's remarks on ethics. Should we treat them as philosophical or purely personal? Or does that distinction not really work?