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Encyclopedia > R.M. Hare
R.M. Hare
R.M. Hare

Richard Mervyn Hare (March 21, 1919January 29, 2002) was an English moral philosopher, who held the post of White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford from 1966 until 1983. His meta-ethical theories were influential during the second half of the twentieth century. Image File history File links This work is copyrighted. ... March 21 is the 80th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (81st in leap years). ... 1919 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... January 29 is the 29th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 2002(MMII) is a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Ethics is a general term for what is often described as the science (study) of morality. In philosophy, ethical behavior is that which is good or right. ... The University of Oxford, located in the city of Oxford, England, is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. ... In philosophy, meta-ethics is that branch of ethics which seeks to understand the nature of ethical sentences, statements, attitudes and evaluations. ... (19th century - 20th century - 21st century - more centuries) Decades: 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s As a means of recording the passage of time, the 20th century was that century which lasted from 1901–2000 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar (1900–1999 in the...


Some of Hare's students, such as Brian McGuinness and Bernard Williams went on to become well-known philosophers. Perhaps best known outside philosophical circles, Peter Singer, known for his work in animal liberation, was also a student of Hare's, and has explicitly adopted many elements of Hare's thought. Sir Bernard Arthur Owen Williams (September 21, 1929 – June 10, 2003) was an English moral philosopher, noted by The Times as the most brilliant and most important British moral philosopher of his time. ... Philosophy is a discipline or field of study involving the investigation, analysis, and development of ideas at a general, abstract, or fundamental level. ... Prof. ... Animal Liberation is a work by Peter Singer, a famous vegan ethicist. ...

Contents


Biography

Hare was born in Backwell, Somerset. He attended Rugby School in Warwickshire, followed in 1937 by Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Greats (Classics). Although he was a pacifist, he volunteered for service in the Royal Artillery and was taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese from the fall of Singapore in 1942 to the end of the Second World War. This experience had a lasting impact on Hare's philosophical views, particularly his view that moral philosophy has an obligation to help people live their lives as moral beings (King 2004). His earliest work in philosophy, which has never been published, dates from this period, and in it, he tried to develop a system that might "serve as a guide to life in the harshest conditions," according to The Independent. [1] A view of Rugby School from the rear, including the playing field, where according to legend Rugby football was invented Rugby School, located in the town of Rugby in Warwickshire, is one of the oldest public schools in the United Kingdom and is perhaps one of the top co-educational... College name Balliol College Named after John de Balliol Established 1263 Sister College St Johns Master Andrew Graham JCR President Triona Giblin Undergraduates 403 Graduates 228 Homepage Boatclub Balliol College, founded in 1263, is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. ... Literae Humaniores is the name given to the study of Classics at some universities. ... Pacifism is opposition to war. ... The Royal Regiment of Artillery, generally known as the Royal Artillery (RA), is, despite its name, a corps of the British Army It is made up of a number of regiments. ... Geneva Convention definition A prisoner of war (POW) is a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine who is imprisoned by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict. ... Mushroom cloud from the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki rising 18 km into the air. ... The Independent is a British compact newspaper published by Tony OReillys Independent News & Media. ...


He returned to Oxford after the war, and in 1947, married Catherine Verney, a marriage that produced one son and three daughters. (Hare's son, John Hare, is also a philosopher.) He was elected fellow and tutor in philosophy at Balliol from 1947–1996; honorary fellow at Balliol from 1974-2002; and was appointed Wilde Lecturer in Natural Religion, 1963–66; and White's Professor of Moral Philosophy, 1966–1983, which accompanied a move to Corpus Christi. He left Oxford in 1983 to become Graduate Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of Florida at Gainseville, a post he held until 1994. John E. Hare is a classicist, ethicist, and currently Professor of Philosophical Theology at Yale Divinity School. ... College name Corpus Christi College Named after Corpus Christi, Body of Christ Established 1517 Sister College Corpus Christi College President Sir Tim Lankester JCR President David Holtam Undergraduates 239 Graduates 126 Homepage Corpus Christi College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. ... University of Florida State University System of Florida FAMU FAU FGCU FIU FSU NCF UCF UF UNF USF UWF The University of Florida, or UF, is a public university located in Gainesville, Florida. ...


He died in Ewelme, Oxfordshire on January 29, 2002 after suffering a series of strokes. Oxfordshire (abbreviated Oxon, from Latin Oxonia) is a county in South East England, bordering on Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire. ... January 29 is the 29th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 2002(MMII) is a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... A stroke or cerebrovascular accident (CVA) occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is suddenly interrupted by occlusion (an ischemic stroke- approximately 90% of strokes), by hemorrhage (a hemorrhagic stroke - less than 10% of strokes) or other causes. ...


Influences

A product of his time, Hare was greatly influenced by the emotivism of A.J. Ayer and Charles L. Stevenson, the ordinary language philosophy of J.L. Austin, the later philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, utilitarianism, and Immanuel Kant. Non-cognitivism is the meta-ethical view that ethical statements (such as Killing is wrong) do not assert propositions; that is to say, they do not express factual claims or beliefs and therefore are neither true nor false (they are not truth-apt). ... Sir Alfred Jules Ayer (October 29, 1910 - June 27, 1989), better known as simply A. J. Ayer (and called Freddie by friends), was a British philosopher. ... Charles Leslie Stevenson (1908-1979) was an American philosopher primarily concerned with ethics, philosophy of language, and meaning. ... John Langshaw Austin (March 28, 1911 - February 8, 1960) was a philosopher of language, who developed much of the current theory of speech acts. ... Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), pictured here in 1930, made influential contributions to logic and the philosophy of language, critically examining the task of conventional philosophy and its relation to the nature of language. ... Utilitarianism (from the Latin utilis, useful) is a theory of ethics based on quantitative maximization of some good for society or humanity. ... Immanuel Kant (April 22, 1724 – February 12, 1804) was a German philosopher and scientist (astrophysics, mathematics, geography, anthropology) from East Prussia, generally regarded as one of Western societys and modern Europes most influential thinkers and the last major philosopher of the Enlightenment. ...


Hare held that ethical rules should not be based on a principle of utility, though he took into account utilitarian considerations. This distinguishes him from classical utilitarians like Jeremy Bentham. Indeed, Hare is as much a Kantian as he is a utilitarian, as he makes clear in his book, Sorting Out Ethics. Jeremy Bentham (IPA: ) (15 February 1748 – 6 June 1832) was an English gentleman, jurist, philosopher, eccentric, and legal and social reformer. ...


Universal prescriptivism

In a series of books, especially The Language of Morals, Freedom and Reason, and Moral Thinking, Hare gave shape to a theory that he called universal prescriptivism. According to this, moral terms such as 'good', 'ought' and 'right' have two logical or semantic properties: universalizability and prescriptivity. By the former, he meant that moral judgments must identify the situation they describe according to a finite set of universal terms, excluding proper names, but not definite descriptions. By the latter, he meant moral agents must perform those acts they consider themselves to have an obligation to perform whenever they are physically and psychologically able to do so. In other words, he argued that it made no sense for someone to say, sincerely: "I ought to do X," and then fail to do X. This was identified as a major flaw in Hare's system, as it appeared to take no account of akrasia, or weakness of the will. A philosophy of modified Kantianism, originated by R. M. Hare, who believes that our moral judgments should be of the form I ought to do X in Y situation, whenever all of the relevant, universal properties of the facts that obtain in any similar situation are the same. ... The concept of universalizability is one which was set out by the 19th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant as part of his work, the Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals. ... Prescriptivity is a term used in meta-ethics to describe a feature of moral theories. ... A proper name [is] a word that answers the purpose of showing what thing it is that we are talking about writes John Stuart Mill in A System of Logic (1. ... A definite description is a denoting phrase in the form of the X where X is a noun-phrase or a singular common noun that picks out a specific individual or object. ... Akrasia (from Greek, literally bad mixture) is the state of acting against ones better judgement. ...


Hare noted that the combination of universalizability and prescriptivity leads to a certain form of consequentialism, namely, preference utilitarianism. Consequentialism is the belief that what ultimately matters in evaluating actions or policies of action are the consequences that result from choosing one action or policy rather than the alternative. ... Preference utilitarianism is a particular variant of utilitarianism which defines utility in terms of preference satisfaction. ...


Example

An example of Hare's argument would be this:


Supposing you require a large sum of money, and you ask a friend to lend it to you. She refuses. You claim that it is wrong for her to refuse. 'Wrong' is a moral term, so, according to Hare, you must abide by its logical properties. The first property, universalizability, demands that you formulate a description of the situation using only universal terms. So you say:

Whenever I ask a friend for a large sum of money, it is wrong for her to refuse to give it to me.

But this violates the universalizability requirement, insofar as the description contains the terms 'I' and 'me,' which do not designate a universal property, but denote an individual instead. So you try again:

Whenever someone asks a friend for a large sum of money, it is wrong for her to refuse the request.

This new description satisfies the universalizability requirement, because all its terms are universal. Now your description must also satisfy the second requirement, that of prescriptivity. That is, you must determine whether you are willing to act on the universal formulation.


At first, you might argue that it does not apply to you. If you consider it wrong for your friend to refuse to lend you a large sum of money, it is your friend, not you, who should be acting accordingly.


However — and here is where the two properties combine and the philosophically interesting results appear — universalizability requires that the same judgment be made, and prescriptivity that the same action be taken, irrespective of your particular position in the situation. In other words, just as you had to deprive the description of its particular (non-universal) terms, it is now impossible for you to exclude yourself from the possibility of being in the situation that your friend was in. According to universalizability, if you were not the one asking for money, but the one who was being asked, the same moral judgment — that whenever someone asks a friend for a large sum of money, it is wrong for her to refuse the request — ought to apply; and, according to the rule of prescriptivity, you would have to act accordingly.


If you were not prepared to act accordingly, you would be violating this rule; and in fact you wouldn't be uttering a moral judgment at all, according to Hare.


To re-enter the moral discourse, you would have to modify your original judgment so that, once universalized, you would still be able to act in the way it would ask you to act. By a series of universal conjectures and prescriptive refutations — akin to philosopher Karl Popper's falsificationism (see Freedom and Reason, chapter 4) — you would eventually arrive at the right moral judgment, which would be the one you would prefer in all the possible situations. Karl Popper Sir Karl Raimund Popper (July 28, 1902 – September 17, 1994), was an Austrian-born philosopher of science. ... This page discusses how a theory or assertion is falsifiable (disprovable opp: verifiable), rather than the non-philosophical use of falsification, meaning counterfeiting. ...


In each case, however, one cannot simply put oneself in another's shoes, as it were, one must also adopt the universal properties of the perspectives of the other person. Universal prescriptivism, thus, leads to preference utilitarianism. And so, according to Hare, does Kantianism: to demand, as Kant's first formulation of the categorical imperative does, that you could will that your maxim be a universal law, is to ask the moral agent to prescribe the judgment that she could accept were she in any of the positions involved, which of course is exactly Hare's point. Immanuel Kant (April 22, 1724 – February 12, 1804) was a German philosopher and scientist (astrophysics, mathematics, geography, anthropology) from East Prussia, generally regarded as one of Western societys and modern Europes most influential thinkers and the last major philosopher of the Enlightenment. ... The categorical imperative is the philosophical concept central to the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant and to modern deontological ethics. ...


Importance of specificity

Hare departs from Kant's view that only the most general maxims of conduct be used (for example, "do not steal"), but the consequences ignored, when applying the categorical imperative. To ignore consequences leads to absurdity: for example, that it would be wrong to steal a terrorist's plans to blow up a nuclear facility. All the specific facts of a circumstance must be considered, and these include probable consequences. They also include the relevant, universal properties of the facts: for example, the psychological states of those involved.


Hare in applied ethics

While Hare was primarily interested in meta-ethics, some have used his universal prescriptivism in applied ethics. For example, Michael E. Berumen uses it to evaluate exceptions to certain moral rules, and Peter Singer uses it as a means of judging conduct, though, unlike Hare, Singer seems to base his system on a principle of utility. Michael E. Berumen (born 1952) is a philosopher and a Southern California businessman. ... Prof. ...


References

  • Hare, R.M. The Language of Morals. 1952
  • King, P.J. One Hundred Philosophers. Barrons, 2004
  • Obituary, The Independent, February 6, 2002

Further reading

  • R. M. Hare. Resources on Hare, including writings by and about him.
  • R. M. Hare. Risorse in lingua italiana

 
 

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