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Chastity Honor Barte Dr. Zosimo E.

2013 - 44897 Philo 171
The Archimedean Point
Bernard Williams, in his book Ethics and the limits of Philosophy, stressed in the second
chapter about the dilemma of giving the ethical skeptic may it be a relativist or amoralist, the
justification of moral philosophy. This justification, however, ought to be done in a standpoint
perhaps preferably outside ethical considerations a point which regards these considerations
objectively. This standpoint is the Archimedean point, which if ever does exist, could be used to
validate our ideas of morality. I believe that the Archimedean point is our viewpoint which
orients us in certain beliefs and / or principles in life. In this paper, I would like to present my
reflection on the so called Archimedean point after I have finished defining it using the
information I have gathered including the class discussion and in which I would also like to
present my idea about the subject matter further explaining my own understanding which I have
stated above. Although truthfully, I have not fully grasped the full idea of the Archimedean point,
I shall try to justify my personal interpretation about it.
What is the Archimedean point exactly? I have found quite a variety of definitions in my
undertaking. First would be Williams in which it is a point of leverage in the idea of rational
Another definition would be that the Archimedean point is a point 'outside' from which a
different, perhaps objective or 'true' picture of something is obtainable. It might be a view of time
from outside time, a view of science from elsewhere, a view of spatial reality from nowhere.

Another definition would be that it is the place where we stand, to move the world, so to speak.

Furthermore, the previous idea was supported by the authors examples such as that for religious

Williams, p. 28
The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (2 rev ed.)
people, their standpoint would be faith faith which grounds them and gives them a place to
stand on, from which to move their world. The final definition I would like to note would be the
definition during class discussions which it was defined as the point of transformation, a point
which brings change. From the all the definitions I have gathered, I can perhaps sum it up as an
objective viewpoint in which when one is to judge something she is to look at the subject
outside in order to avoid biases. It can, perhaps, make her realize matters which she had never
seen from another persons opinion which may have led to the definition of Archimedean point
as a transformational point.
Then, how do I personally understand (perhaps define would be much stricter a word
however since I have not fully come to comprehend the term myself) the Archimedean point? I
believe that the Archimedean point is our viewpoint which orients us in certain beliefs and / or
principles in life. How so? Although I am a Roman Catholic, I am nothing close to religious as
my fellow believers and so I may not take a transcendent standpoint the same as Christian
philosophy. However, in my little time on this world, I have gathered quite a few principles and
beliefs in which I have lived accordingly. These principles I use as spectacles in a way I look
through life though these frames. I believe that each and every one of us have different
spectacles we use to look at the apparent world.
If I compare to the definition I have concluded in the data I have gathered where the
Archimedean point is an objective viewpoint in which when one is to judge something she is to
look at the subject outside in order to avoid biases , one can ask perhaps how am I to look
outside and how am I able to avoid biases? I cannot deny the fact that perhaps I am at err in
this point for how am I able to do those when I am looking through a pair of spectacles?
Spectacles which would sort through with the use of my principles and beliefs? Wouldnt it
actually be bias? Wouldnt the spectacles cloud my judgment or do they actually make
everything clearer? The Archimedean point maybe a point which was not meant to be looked at
by the self but by the self outside which means looking at life not even through my own
senses the noumenal world. The spectacles I am talking about, however, are not definite. In a
way, I may be able to replace them. I may, perhaps, borrow your spectacles. I am also able to
change my own pair, for just as a tangible pair of glasses may get cracked, broken or lost through
time, so as my spectacles of life. When one person goes through life, she would encounter
different experiences, and that one thing would always remain constant change. A change in
attitude perhaps, a change in her outlook toward life, a change in beliefs which could cause her
to become better or worse a person she once was. However, I still cannot change the fact that I
am looking with my own eyes. I am unable to change the fact that there would be even the
slightest bias in my judgment. These biases as a result of my own principles and beliefs,
whatever way I try to deny it may seem impossible for me to avoid the personal.
In summary, the Archimedean point is an objective perspective where one looks at things
outside may it be outside the society she dwells on or outside her own preferences, to view
things without biases. In which case, Bernard Williams had offered this as a course of action so
as to deal with the ethical skeptics. In my case however, I am still not able to reach a true
Archimedean point free from personal preference. Whether I am to find that point someday or
not, to become the ideal actor, the ideal observer, the ideal sympathizer, and the ideal proprietor

would be worthy a goal.

Gauthier, David. Morals by Agreement. 1987.