Chapter

Assessing Hare’s Theory

Gary E. Varner

in Personhood, Ethics, and Animal Cognition

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199758784
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949465 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199758784.003.0004
Assessing Hare’s Theory

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This chapter provides a summary assessment of Hare’s theory, both as an empirical account of actual human moral thinking and as a normative theory of how we ought to think and act. The chapter argues that the empirical adequacy of Hare’s theory is bolstered by its ability to explain the diversity of moral views and by the ubiquity of the golden rule, and the chapter defends its normative adequacy by responding in detail to a range of objections. One objection concerns the inability of people to simultaneously employ both explicitly utilitarian thinking and a system of nonutilitarian intuitive level rules, but the chapter points to recent empirical research suggesting that they do exactly that. The other objections are variations on the claim that the theory leads to counter intuitive conclusions on a range of cases, but the chapter shows how Hare can give plausible responses to the full range of these cases.

Keywords: utilitarianism; R.M. Hare; moral thinking; golden rule; evolution

Chapter.  15226 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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