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Anscombe, G. E. M.. Modern Moral Philosophy
1958, Philosophy 33(124): 1-19
Added by: Anne-Marie McCallion

Summary: The author presents and defends three theses: (1) “the first is that it is not profitable for us at present to do moral philosophy; that should be laid aside at any rate until we have an adequate philosophy of psychology.” (2) “the second is that the concepts of obligation, And duty… And of what is morally right and wrong, And of the moral sense of ‘ought’, Ought to be jettisoned if this is psychologically possible….” (3) “the third thesis is that the differences between the well-Known English writers on moral philosophy from Sidgwick to the present day are of little importance.”

Comment: This text offers an advanced-level criticism of the dominant normative ethical theories of the 20th century (namely consequentialism and deontology). Since this is a seminal text, it would be suitable for history of philosophy courses, moral philosophy courses (especially sections pertaining to Aristotelian or Neo-Aristotelian Virtue ethics). It does require rudimentary knowledge of Consequentialism and Deontology and as such would be best utilised in second or third year undergraduate (or postgraduate) courses.

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