The Language of Morals

R. M. Hare

Published in print March 1963 | ISBN: 9780198810773
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597619 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Language of Morals

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This book about ethics is, according to the author, an exercise in the logical study of the language of morals. In it, Hare presents his own brand of non‐cognitivism, generally referred to as ‘prescriptivism’. According to prescriptivism, value‐words have both descriptive and prescriptive meaning. The function of the former is to convey information about the objects the words are applied to, and the function of the latter is to commend a certain kind of object in its class. Hare begins his argument with a general discussion of the logic of imperatives (Part I) and then turns to an analysis of ‘good’ and ‘ought’ (Parts II–III), showing that the logic of such value‐words is parallel to the logic of imperatives. Imperatives and value‐judgements are thus both instances of prescriptive language, which are distinct from, and cannot be reduced to, descriptive language.

Keywords: ethics; Richard Hare; imperatives; moral judgement; moral language; moral philosophy; moral terms; non‐cognitivism; prescriptivism; value‐judgement; value‐words

Book.  208 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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Table of Contents

Inference in The Language of Morals


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