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

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. It 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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