How Language Gives Birth to Ethics

Public lectures by Philip Pettit

Two lectures by Philip Pettit (Princeton University / Australian National University):

If the natural world contains no moral properties, how can we human beings find our moral bearings? How can we claim to identify features that make various actions or arrangements morally desirable, various agents or agencies fit to be held morally responsible?

30. Mai: Lecture 1 - "Reports, avowals and pledges"                  

Might a society of mutually reliant creatures like us use language only for exchanging reports about the world and their attitudes? Not likely. The desire to be taken as credible and reliable interlocutors would push them inevitably into practices of avowing and pledging their attitudes. Where reports are cheap, avowals and pledges are more expensive and more credible; they allow fewer excuses for failing to live up to them.

31. Mai: Lecture 2 - "Desirability and responsibility" 

The perspective internal to practices of avowal, in particular the avowal of desire, would make patterns available to such agents that correspond to our idea of desirable options. And the perspective internal to practices of pledging would make patterns available to them that correspond to our idea of agents who are fit to be held responsible for their choices.

Venue: Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Westend Campus, Hörsaalzentrum Building, room HZ3, Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 5, 60323 Frankfurt am Main

Further information