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In the first half of the twentieth century noncognitivism was the predominant metaethical point of view in analytical philosophy. This perspective came under critical scrutiny as early as the late 1950s, and by the 1970s its authority began to be undermined. For various reasons cognitivist theories began to be put forward with confidence. Different philosophers tried ways to restore the role of reason in ethics. This shift in the philosophical climate was influenced by—or was at least in accordance with—the thought of the later Wittgenstein. In particular, this article will consider the relevance of Wittgenstein for cognitivist views, such as that of S. Toulmin, relativists like G. Harman, and British moral realists like S. Lovibond and J. McDowell. In fact, Wittgenstein is one of the founding fathers of antifoundationalism. He gives us the hopeful insight that the end of foundationalism does not necessarily imply the end of moral philosophy but must be considered a new start of it.

Keywords: Wittgenstein; antifoundationalism; history of metaethics; noncognitivism-cognitivism

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9973.2005.00375.x

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Ghent University, Blandijnberg 2, b-9000 Ghent, Belgium , Email: patrick.loobuyck@ugent.be

Publication date: April 1, 2005

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