16 November 2004

Bernard Williams (1929-2003) on the Hazards of Moral Philosophy

Writing about moral philosophy should be a hazardous business, not just for the reasons attendant on writing about any difficult subject, or writing about anything, but for two special reasons. The first is that one is likely to reveal the limitations and inadequacies of one’s own perceptions more directly than in, at least, other parts of philosophy. The second is that one could run the risk, if one were taken seriously, of misleading people about matters of importance. While few writers on the subject have avoided the first hazard, very many have avoided the second, either by making it impossible to take them seriously, or by refusing to write about anything of importance, or both.

(Bernard Williams, Morality: An Introduction to Ethics [New York: Harper & Row, 1972], ix)

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