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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: June 2012

7 - Ethics and politics


This chapter discusses the role of ethics and politics within the analytic tradition. The main purpose is to criticize certain views about what analytic philosophy amounts to. As in the case of history, however, conceptions of analytic philosophy relating to ethics and politics cut across some of the parameters along which I have distinguished conceptions of philosophy in the last two chapters. The idea that analytic philosophy is characterized by the exclusion of moral philosophy and political theory constitutes a topical conception, and will be dismissed in section 1. In addition, there are two doctrinal conceptions relating to ethics and politics. These areas have occasioned two conflicting prejudices. On the one hand, many continental philosophers and members of the political intelligentsia believe that analytic philosophy shirks ethical and political commitments and hence inclines to being apolitical and conservative. Conversely, many proponents of analytic philosophy regard it as a progressive or liberal political force. For most participants in this debate, epithets like ‘apolitical’ and ‘conservative’ tend to carry negative connotations and epithets like ‘progressive’ or ‘liberal’ positive ones. I am no exception, and I shall not disguise my disapproval of extreme views on both the right and the left. Nevertheless, my aim is not to defend a partisan political line, but to question the idea that analytic philosophy is intrinsically linked to any particular ethical or political outlook.