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Minding the Gap: Bernard Williams and David Hume on Living an Ethical Life

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Bernard Williams is frequently supposed to be an ethical Humean, due especially to his work on ‘internal’ reasons. In fact Williams’s work after his famous article ‘Internal and External Reasons’ constitutes a profound shift away from Hume’s ethical outlook. Whereas Hume offered a reconciling project whereby our ethical practices could be self-validating without reference to external justificatory foundations, Williams’s later work was increasingly skeptical of any such possibility. I conclude by suggesting reasons for thinking Williams was correct, a finding which should be of concern for anybody engaged in the study of ethics.

Affiliations: 1: King’s College, Cambridge,


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