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A Sceptical Theory of Morality and Law


James Allan

A Sceptical Theory of Morality and Law aims ultimately to cast light on some contentious issues in the philosophy of law, including the nature of rights and of judicial interpretation. The answers one gives, however, rest on the moral theory one finds most convincing. The first part of this book gives a sustained defence of a sceptical moral theory owing much to the views of David Hume. That version of scepticism is then relied upon in the author's discussion of law and legal theory.


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Concluding Remarks 223


Concluding Remarks A guiding precept throughout this book has been Fuller's warning that all too frequently thinking about law leaves morality unexamined. My thinking about law in Part B, in general about interpretation, rights, and the relation to morality, and involving critiques of Dworkin and of Gewirth, has depended upon and followed on from an acceptance of a second-order moral scepticism of a notably Humean flavour. Having started with an inquiry into the scope, types and powers of reason I concluded that Hume was correct. Human reason is inert. It cannot alone motivate action. Rather it is with feeling, sentiment, preference, passion and desire that the cause of action must be found. This verdict led me to reject reason-based moralities, be they objectivist moralities propounding 'real', non- contingent, mind-independent values or versions alleging some sort of logically necessary connection between human attributes and values. Instead I embraced a subjectivist, sentimentalist view of morality. I clung to this sceptical Humean view despite attempts to draw an analogy with secondary qualities- to suggest that values too have an objective, mind-independent component as well as being filtered, interpreted and constructed by people- and despite second-order moral scepticism's admitted inconsistency with the normal, ordinary meaning and usage of moral language and thought. It is more likely people are mistaken than that there are real, objective, mind- independent values. To support that calculation of likelihoods I turned to the task of offering an account, in causal, natural terms, of how virtues and core morality arise...

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