Political Reason: Morality and the Public Sphere by Allyn Fives (auth.)

By Allyn Fives (auth.)

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By Allyn Fives (auth.)

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In Wittgenstein’s later work, the notion of ‘language games’ plays a central role in his attempt to show both that there is no universal system of rationality and also that being rational is a matter of knowing the different rules suited to their own ‘language game’ (1953: §54). To reason well is to know how to play the rules of the game, Wittgenstein concludes, and this is the case whether the ‘game’ is chess or whether it is instead politics. If ‘anyone utters a sentence and means or understands it he is operating a calculus according to definite rules’, Wittgenstein argues (ibid.

What they have done is call into question each of the various components of ‘the function of man’ argument: they have questioned theses about human nature, they have thrown into doubt the very notion of a human telos, traditional accounts of moral virtue and rules of right action have been reconceptualized and/or revised, and finally the logic of arguments that infer moral conclusions in part at least from non-moral premises has been put under scrutiny. 3 Hume criticized philosophers he believed to have ‘drawn disgrace upon philosophy itself’: Principles taken upon trust, consequences lamely deduced from them, want of coherence in the parts, and of evidence in the whole, these are everywhere to be met with in the systems of the most eminent philosophers, and seem to have drawn disgrace upon philosophy itself.

9, 1142b 29ff). Exercising the virtue of practical wisdom may well lead to success as a participant in some one activity or in pursuit of some one good (say the good of a sport or of an occupation). However, practical wisdom must contribute to what is an end 18 Political Reason in the unqualified sense, namely, human flourishing. As Philippa Foot has noted, virtues are related ‘only to good ends’ and ‘to human life in general’, rather than to the ends of particular activities (1978: 5). And so it follows that excelling as an artist, for instance, is no guarantee that one will lead a good life.

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