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Keywords:

  • Wittgenstein;
  • rule-following;
  • moral particularism;
  • principles;
  • reasons

Abstract

Moral particularists have seen Wittgenstein as a close ally. One of the main reasons for this is that particularists such as Jonathan Dancy and John McDowell have argued that Wittgenstein's so-called “rule-following considerations” (RFCs) provide support for their skepticism about the existence and/or role of rules and principles in ethics. In this paper, I show that while Wittgenstein's RFCs challenge the notion that competence with language, i.e., the ability to apply concepts properly, is like mechanically following a rule, he does not reject the idea that there are rules that govern proper use of language. I then argue that while the RFCs may, at best, support a weak form of particularism that denies that moral competence is dependent on an explicit grasp of rules, they do not support a stronger version of particularism that denies that there are any true rules or principles in ethics.