Hare on the Logic of Moral Discourse

Gary E. Varner

in Personhood, Ethics, and Animal Cognition

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199758784
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949465 | DOI:
Hare on the Logic of Moral Discourse

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Hare argues that all moral thinking is ultimately utilitarian, because moral judgements have three logical properties that, taken together, force us to think like utilitarians. At the same time, he argues that good utilitarian reasons for not using explicitly utilitarian thinking in most normal, day-to-day situations. For these reasons, Hare’s is a two level version of utilitarianism: it embraces, in addition to explicitly utilitarian thinking at what Hare calls “the critical level,” what he calls “intuitive level” thinking for normal, day-to-day decision making. This chapter focuses on the logical properties of critical level thinking: universalizability, overridingness, and (in Hare’s special sense) prescriptivity, and Hare’s argument that these three properties together force us to think like utilitarians. I give both an informal proof this, based on the familiar golden rule and a formal proof based on a Harean analysis of the three properties, and I respond to two key objections.

Keywords: utilitarianism; R.M. Hare; moral thinking

Chapter.  10271 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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