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

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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Anscombe, G. Elizabeth M., , . Modern Moral Philosophy
1958, Philosophy 33(124): 1-19.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Abstract: I will begin by stating three theses which I present in this paper. 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, in which we are conspicuously lacking. The second is that the concepts of obligation, and duty – moral obligation and moral duty, that is to say – and of what is morally right and wrong, and of the moral sense of “ought,” ought to be jettisoned if this is psychologically possible; because they are survivals, or derivatives from survivals, from an earlier conception of ethics which no longer generally survives, and are only harmful without it. My third thesis is that the differences between the wellknown English writers on moral philosophy from Sidgwick to the present day are of little importance.

Comment: Classic text which raises key problems for any theory of moral obligation. Very short, although also very dense. Could be a core reading, or a futher reading to provide important background.

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Heinzelmann, Nora, , . Deontology defended
2018, Synthese 195 (12):5197–5216
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Björn Freter

Abstract: Empirical research into moral decision-making is often taken to have normative implications. For instance, in his recent book, Greene (2013) relies on empirical findings to establish utilitarianism as a superior normative ethical theory. Kantian ethics, and deontological ethics more generally, is a rival view that Greene attacks. At the heart of Greene’s argument against deontology is the claim that deontological moral judgments are the product of certain emotions and not of reason. Deontological ethics is a mere rationalization of these emotions. Accordingly Greene maintains that deontology should be abandoned. This paper is a defense of deontological ethical theory. It argues that Greene’s argument against deontology needs further support. Greene’s empirical evidence is open to alternative interpretations. In particular, it is not clear that Greene’s characterization of alarm-like emotions that are relative to culture and personal experience is empirically tenable. Moreover, it is implausible that such emotions produce specifically deontological judgments. A rival sentimentalist view, according to which all moral judgments are determined by emotion, is at least as plausible given the empirical evidence and independently supported by philosophical theory. I therefore call for an improvement of Greene’s argument.

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