Paolo Babbiotti

Through the Examples. Bernard Williams’ Philosophical Style

  • Abstract

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Keywords: Bernard Williams, Morality, Examples, Philosophical Style.

The aim of this paper is to present one aspect of Bernard Williams’ philosophical style, namely his typical way of using examples. After giving a description of the Williamsian vision of morality, this paper investigates Williams’ choice of detailed, realistic, living examples. Examples, imaginary cases and above all counterexamples belong, of course, to the analytic philosopher’s toolbox; however, one can see how in Williams the use of examples is particular and sui generis. The paper focuses primarily on the examples of George and Jim, collected in Utilitarianism: For and Against (1973), which are thought of as a critique of J.J.C. Smart’s intervention in favor of utilitarianism (who uses much more abstract and stylized examples instead).

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