Entanglement and Non-Ontology: How Putnam clarifies the link between aesthetic and ethical value.

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In this article we consider Putnam’s project of an “ethics without ontology,” focusing on some of its crucial aspects, namely, the entanglement of fact and value and the idea of forming and “imaginatively identifying” with a “particular evaluative outlook.” We use that approach to shed light on the issue of value objectivity. Putnam’s “pragmatist enlightenment” suggests a way of abandoning the traditional project of grounding ethics and aesthetics on metaphysics, preserving the idea of realism and objectivity about values. Ethical and aesthetic discriminations may be contextually specific and depend on the responses and the socially embedded experience of observers, but they are brought about by certain features of reality, far more complex than a domain of “objects” that would “correspond” to values. With our eyes set on these aspects, we draw important lessons for the project of a joint approach to aesthetic and ethical value, taking seriously the pervading entanglement of both, as suggested by the way we are able to apply the so-called thick concepts. This provides us with the outline of a contextualist approach to aesthetics that draws on Putnam’s project for ethics. We conclude by suggesting that a fruitful way of pursuing this connection could be found in co-opting resources from virtue ethics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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