Richard Marshall in 3:AM Magazine:
Ralph Wedgwood is a philosopher who asks questions related to ethics and epistemology. His great-great-great-great uncle was Charles Darwin. Here he discusses the nature of metaethics and why the best-known approaches dissatisfy him, how normativity is to be fitted into a naturalistic framework, his ‘moderate naturalism’, why normativity raises issues of semantics, metaphysics and epistemology, what makes ‘ought’ statements true or false, how we know the real normative components of actuality, how to defend Normative Judgment Internalism, the normativity of rationality, degrees of rational thinking, how he defends his view from various objections, why ‘reasons’ talk is more complicated than many philosophers have assumed, whether rationality is a kind of value and the point of being guided by internal norms. As late summer brings us heatwaves, freshen up on this cool distillation …
3:AM: What made you become a philosopher?
Ralph Wedgwood: I didn’t study philosophy as an undergraduate: I studied Classics and Modern Language (German and Greek) instead. At school, I particularly enjoyed learning foreign languages, including Latin and ancient Greek, and I loved learning about history, literature and culture. However, while I was an undergraduate at Oxford, I had friends who were studying philosophy (for example, Alexander Bird, who is now a Professor of Philosophy at Bristol), and I spent a lot of time talking to them. I also encountered philosophy as part of my studies of German and Greek – in particular, Plato and the Presocratics on the Greek side, and Schiller, Kant, and Nietzsche on the German side. But fundamentally, I just got gripped by the central question of ethics, which Socrates poses so insistently: How should we live? While this is the central question of ethics, in my view answering this question also involves epistemology – since to know how we should live, we need to understand what we should believe, and how we should form and revise our beliefs in response to experience and reflection; and the question as I see it also involves the theory of rational choice or decision—since to know how we should live, we need to understand how we should make choices or decisions, and how we should revise our plans or intentions as we acquire new information over time.
There were many reasons why this question gripped me.