Tuesday, June 2, 2015


    Usually ethics is cast in terms of actions, where the focus is on correct behavior. Even if that focus is the case, I would like to focus on words rather than actions. Actions speak louder than words, yes. But, perhaps, looking into words will preserve correct action, if the focus was fixed on the form of how correct speech is to be formed for those seeking to live rightly.

    Now Wittgenstein said that his Tractatus was essentially ethical, even though the publication has propositions that are mainly not about ethics, but how words capture states of affairs. Through the picture theory of meaning, he proposed a way of how propositions show the logical way they work within the framework of logical space.

   From correct modes of speech, we can follow correct behavior. This will cover speech acts such as suggesting action as well as informatory discourse that is the bulk of speech. One overall element suggested from the Book of the Courtier is that speech should have sprezzatura, a quality that shows one did not put a lot of effort to make it happen. This rhetoric would stand out by how it is performed.

   So if it could be suggested that how words should be used is not through its content but its form, in this context through the speaker's way of speaking, what is lost?  We have lost focus on how actions are performed to concentrate on words. And we are not looking to what is said but how something is said. From all of this winnowing, can how words are said serve as a guide to an ethical outlook?

    If we borrow another proposition from the Tractatus: Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same (6.421), we can take this criterion and say that it severs as a way to evaluate how pleasing speech is, which is in essence rhetoric. So, perhaps, the justifications for behavior can be evaluated by how pleasing they are. What this does is take the proper subject of ethics, behavior, and evaluate it through the way those actions are defended. I will say more on this latter.

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