CFP: CFP Synthese: Wittgenstein and moral deep disagreements

Submission deadline: March 31, 2024

Topic areas


Suppose we engage in a discussion about the morality of abortion. During our conversation we offer arguments and evidence to support our claims about the topic. Unfortunately, our argumentative exchanges are ineffective because there is not enough shared background to mutually appreciate our respective arguments and evidence. At this point it becomes apparent that our disagreement is not just a clash of beliefs: it is something deeper. We may be in a systematic and persistent disagreement rooted in contrary worldviews, where there seems to be no mutually recognized method of resolution because we reason and analyze evidence using different frameworks or principles. These peculiar disagreements are what philosophers have called deep disagreements. Deep disagreements are central to our life, plaguing our interactions with people pertaining to different cultures, societies, and social groups. Philosophers working on ethics and metaethics have paid long attention to moral disagreements, as they have the potential to challenge the ideas of moral progress and moral realism. However, little attention has been paid to moral deep disagreements. Because many disagreements in ethics could be thought of as deep disagreements, it is worthy of our attention how the study of deep disagreements can help us understand disagreements in the moral realm and their possible ramifications.

Since its inception (Fogelin, 1985) research on deep disagreements has relied heavily on the thought of Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Inspired by Wittgenstein’s last work, On Certainty, many authors take deep disagreements to involve clashes between hinge propositions or commitments the parties hold (Pritchard 2018, 2021, Ranalli 2020). Other philosophers have taken inspiration from other works of Wittgenstein to think of deep disagreements as involving different forms of life (Fogelin 1985), language games (Godden & Brenner 2010), or pictures (Lavorerio 2021). Moreover, over the last decade philosophers have explored Wittgenstein’s work to illustrate how his insights and methods can contribute and be advantageous to existing debates in meta-ethics and moral philosophy. For example, Fairhurst (2019; Forthcoming), Hermann (2015), Laves (2020a; 2020b; Forthcoming), and Pleasants (2008a; 2008b; 2009; 2015) have discussed the possibility of extending Wittgenstein’s insights in On Certainty to develop the idea of moral hinges to better explain how moral epistemic practices function. Other philosophers have set out to explore the meta-ethical implications of Wittgenstein’s later work to shed some light on the ontological, semantic and epistemological presuppositions and commitments of moral disagreements (Christensen 2011; Fairhurst 2022; Kuusela 2018; Forthcoming; McDowell 1998).

It seems clear, thus, that Wittgenstein’s oeuvre has the potential to inspire and inform our conceptions of deep disagreements and moral issues. However, despite increasing interest in the study of these topics from a Wittgensteinian perspective, there hasn’t been much work on what Wittgenstein’s thought could add to our understanding of moral deep disagreements in particular. This special issue aims to address this knowledge gap by gathering philosophers working at the intersection of Wittgensteinian philosophy, deep disagreements and moral philosophy to discuss moral deep disagreements from a Wittgensteinian perspective. Topics include, but are not limited to:

1) What are moral deep disagreements and do they display distinctive characteristics?

2) What theories ought to be developed to explain the epistemology of moral deep disagreements?

3) What are the meta-ethical implications of moral deep disagreements for, say, moral realism or moral relativism?

4) What are the ethical implications of moral deep disagreements for moral progress?

5) Can we develop strategies to enable constructive dialogue and/or resolve moral deep disagreements?

For further information, please contact ideally all of us: [email protected] & [email protected]

We particularly encourage members of underrepresented groups in philosophy to submit, including, but not limited to: women and non-normative gender identities, non-white philosophers, philosophers working outside the Anglo-speaking world, students and grad students. The deadline for submissions is March 31st, 2024

Papers should be submitted via the Synthese’s editorial manager at: When the system asks you to “Choose Article Type”, please scroll down in the pull-down menu to choose this special issue: “T.C.: Wittgenstein and Moral Deep Disagreements”. When preparing your paper, please read the journal’s ‘Instructions for authors’ at

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