By Thomas Hurka

Thomas Hurka offers the 1st complete ancient research of an enormous strand within the improvement of contemporary ethical philosophy. His topic is a sequence of British moral theorists from the past due 19th century to the mid-twentieth century, who shared key assumptions that made them a unified and specific tuition. The best-known of them are Henry Sidgwick, G. E. Moore, and W. D. Ross; others contain Hastings Rashdall, H. A. Prichard, C. D. wide, and A. C. Ewing. They disagreed on a few very important subject matters, in particular in normative ethics. therefore a few have been consequentialists and others deontologists: Sidgwick notion merely excitement is sweet whereas others emphasised perfectionist items akin to wisdom, aesthetic appreciation, and advantage. yet all have been non-naturalists and intuitionists in metaethics, keeping that ethical decisions might be objectively real, have a particular subject-matter, and are recognized through direct perception. in addition they had related perspectives approximately how moral idea should still continue and what are proper arguments in it; their disagreements as a result happened on universal ground.

Hurka recovers the heritage of this under-appreciated team through exhibiting what its contributors concept, how they inspired one another, and the way their principles replaced via time. He additionally identifies the shared assumptions that made their college unified and exact, and assesses their contributions significantly, either after they debated one another and after they agreed. one in every of his subject matters is that that their basic method of ethics used to be extra fruitful philosophically than many better-known ones of either prior and later instances.

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Additional info for British Ethical Theorists from Sidgwick to Ewing

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20 Ross and Carritt thought we normally take our aesthetic judgements to ascribe to objects a property independent of anyone’s feelings, but held that since there is no such property, our judgements are false (RG 128n; ‘MP’ 132, 141). Ross’s analysis was therefore not of a concept we do use but of one we should use if we want our aesthetic claims to be true. Ewing saw beauty as involving a distinct kind of non-natural fittingness, as in the harmonious fitting together of the elements of a work of art (DG 172–3; ST 94–5).

8 It treats the hypothetical imperative not as a conditional with an imperative consequent but as an imperative to make a conditional true, as in ‘Make it the case that (if you want above all to get rich, you murder your uncle)’, which is equivalent to ‘Make it the case that (either you do not want above all to get rich or you murder your uncle)’. This reading does not have Ross’s unwanted implication. From the psychological fact that you want above all to get rich it does not follow that you ought to murder your uncle; if doing that is wrong, what follows is that you should stop wanting above all to get rich.

Many and even most of the ‘oughts’ they recognized, for example about keeping promises and benefiting others, are ones everyone calls ‘moral’. This was especially true for Prichard and Ross, who thought what is commonly called the prudential duty to promote your own happiness is not a duty at all. More importantly, the school shared Kant’s view that moral ‘oughts’ are distinctively categorical, prescribing acts not as means to some end you may desire but regardless of your desires. Since those among them who recognized ‘oughts’ concerning your happiness thought they too are categorical—recall Sidgwick’s remark about ‘a manifest obligation’—they had reason to call them ‘moral’.

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