Do either Wittgenstein or Nietzsche offer us ways to elude the philosophical problem of morality?
Wittgenstein took the view in his early and late works that there can be no talk about ethical values
and whether they exist, or how we should define "good", but this does not mean there is no ethics. In
the Tractatushe says that value "must lie outside the whole sphere of what happens and is the case".
The only things we can talk about with our propositions are states of affairs in the world which are
facts, and ethics lies beyond this. He thinks that the best approach to ethics is to say nothing about it.
Of course, we do make value judgements and moral statements all the time, but these are false
propositions. Moral understanding cannot be put into words, but makes itself "manifest".
How morality makes itself manifest becomes clearer in his later work, Philosophical Investigations.
When we are moved by someone who cries out, we are moved by more than the cry . Wittgenstein
says "a cry, which cannot be called a description, which is more primitive than any description, for all
that serves as a description of inner life." It is because we have an attitude towards others as more
than merely behavioural beings that we are able to have a moral attitude. One might think this could
be put into the proposition that "I believe that he is a feeling creature and there is emotion behind the
behavioural cry", but Wittgenstein would say this is not so. We do not "believe" that someone is
suffering pain, for instance. We can't be brought to see it, or persuaded any more than we can be
brought to see or persuaded that a human is not a robot. Wittgenstein says "I am not of the opinion
that he has a soul".
So when Wittgenstein said in the Tractatusthat "When the answer cannot be put into words, neither
can the question be put into words" he seems to think that we cannot formulate or answer problems
of morality. Of course, moral philosophy is all about raising and answering questions, but this is
simply not to see morality as he does. If we have the right attitude to others, we supposedly don't
need to talk of principles and values.
Nietzsche also leaves moral discussions standing much as they always have.
Iris Murdoch in Metaphysics as a Guide to Moralshas described Nietzsche as "demonic" as if he was
completely outside morality but he was not a nihilist and didn't want to destroy morality. The idea of
the Superman, a person outside the "herd morality", gives rise to the view that Nietzsche saw the
ideal moral man as beyond ordinary moral values, but this is the sort of person he thought was
needed to initiate a new morality by creating new values.
Nietzsche hated traditional moral values such as rational Kantianism and religion. To live within the
bounds of rational principles, or to live this life with the afterlife in view as regulating one's behaviour
is not to have a will to that which is life-preserving and life-advancing. Nietzsche was passionate
about morality and he wanted it to be grounded in the will and drives of humanity (examples being
domination and power). He didn't attempt to elude the problems of morality, but tried to establish the
view that morality should be subjective — "man posits the realm of goodness" — rather than based
upon prescribed principles. This does dispute the notion that there can be objective moral truths, but
Nietzsche thought our relationship to the world cannot be separated from our "desires and passions".
This is not an answer to moral problems, since desires, passions and the will are not necessarily
altruistic. In Beyond Good and EvilNietzsche names the virtues as "courage, insight, sympathy,
solitude" and this can't be the last word on virtues!