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From Meta-Ethics to Ethics

An Overview of R. M. Hare’s Moral Philosophy


Eleni M. Kalokairinou

This book brings out the way in which the twentieth century philosopher R. M. Hare has attempted to break the deadlock to which his contemporary moral theories had been led, i.e. irrationalism and relativism. Taking his point of departure from these theories, he suggests that the logical rules we reach from the linguistic analysis of moral language can have implications on the normative level, which in their form are in agreement with the principle of utility. So he differs from his contemporary philosophers because he argues that we engage in moral philosophy with a view to clarifying and solving the practical problems we face in life. In this sense he is an ardent defender of the practical relevance of philosophy. Hare’s moral account is closely analyzed in this book and his main theses are tested not only for internal coherence but also for their capacity to resist all rational criticism.


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1. Hare's predecessors 5


1. Hare's Predecessors 1.1 Introduction There is no doubt that Universal Prescriptivism is the most influential moral theory not only in Britain but also in many English-speaking countries. For the last sixty to sixty-five years nothing has been written on the subject of moral philosophy which is not either an appraisal or a criticism or more rarely a con- tribution to this theory. Either as an adherent or as a critic of Hare's Universal Prescriptivism one has to admit that Hare remains the central figure around which all contemporary moral controversy revolves. However, it would be no good for somebody who wishes to concentrate upon and study his moral phi- losophy to just turn to him and delve into his works without paying due attention to the theories and ideas which were prevailing when he wrote. For philosophi- cal theories, like all kinds of theories and ideas, do not just appear within a so- cial and cultural vacuum but constitute part of a whole development of ideas, a process whose origins are as old as the origins of human race. Instead, what is required by any would-be examiner of Hare's moral philosophy is to set his moral theory in context, to try to see it not as an independent theory which sprang out of nothing but as a complex of ideas already implicitly present and dispersed in other philosophical theories awaiting for their eventual coherent combination and evolution. This implies that he has to look to the moral theories which...

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