University of Kansas, Fall 2002
Philosophy 880: Topics in Ethics

Class notes: Hare

The following notes correspond roughly to what we cover, including at least a portion of what I put on the board or the screen, in class. In places they may be more or less comprehensive than what we actually cover in class, and should not be taken as a substitute for your own observations and records of what goes on in class.

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  1. chapters 1–3
    1. chapter 1
      1. an introductory chapter, not really devoted to the “levels” of moral thinking (despite its inclusion in part I of the book)
      2. In this chapter we find Hare introducing three methodological points that shape Hare’s entire project
        1. The fundamental principle of Hare’s method of dealing with moral questions is to study the meanings (including the logical properties) of the words in which they are expressed (p. 2.8).
        2. Hare’s work is both normative-ethical and meta-ethical: he is a firm believer in grounding a normative-ethical theory on meta-ethical foundations (p. 5.5, p. 20.2).
        3. Hare entirely disavows appeals to intuition (p. 7.3).
    2. Chapters 2 and 3 are two of Hare’s three chapters on “levels of moral thinking,” the critical and the intuitive
      1. the possibility of moral conflicts at the intuitive level, but not at the critical level (ch. 2)
      2. the epistemological priority of the critical level (p. 46.4); the critical level as “governor” of the intuitive level (ch. 3)
  2. chapters 4–6
    1. chapter 4: “Descriptivism and the Error Theory”
      1. What is descriptivism?
      2. What is wrong with it?
        1. moral disagreement
        2. commendatory/condemnatory/prescriptive force of moral words
      3. What is supposed to be the connection between descriptivism and the levels of moral thinking? (Why is this chapter in part I of the book?) (pp. 81.9–82.3?)
    2. chapter 5: “Another’s Sorrow”
      1. p. 94.3–7 (and for all of section 5.3): the argument from knowing to preferring
      2. p. 104.6–8: which preferences count in rational decision-making
    3. chapter 6: “Universalization”
      1. p. 108.8: what follows from universalizability
      2. p. 110.5: aggregating multiple persons’ preferences
      3. conflict of interest, unanimity of moral judgment
      4. p. 115.6: the gist of the argument restated
  3. chapters 7–9
    1. chapter 7: “Interpersonal Comparison”
      1. p. 117.8: the problem of “the interpersonal comparison of degrees or strengths of preference
      2. the nature of the problem
        1. p. 118.2: not just a problem for utilitarianism
        2. p. 121.8: no big problem at the intuitive level
        3. p. 122.6: when the archangel’s superior knowledge is needed
      3. ordinal vs. cardinal
        1. p. 123.3: which involved
        2. p. 124.3: a viable method of cardinalization?
      4. interpersonal to intrapersonal
        1. p. 128.2: "reduce comparisons between other people’s preferences to comparisons between our own”
        2. pp. 128.8–129.4: an example
    2. chapter 8: “Loyalty and Evil Desires”
      1. pp. 130.7ff: counter-examples and replies
        1. p. 131.7: levels of moral thinking and admissible examples
        2. p. 133.5: agents’ knowledge for intuitive-level examples
        3. p. 134.7: no appeal to intuition allowed for critical-level examples
      2. §§ 8.3–5: loyalty
      3. §§ 8.6–8: evil desires
    3. chapter 9: “Rights and Justice”
      1. rights
        1. § 9.2: reduction of “rights” talk to “obligations” talk
        2. § 9.3: focus on questions of moral rights and obligations, not legal rights and obligations
        3. § 9.4: handling “obligations” talk within the structure already developed
          1. p. 152.4: locating ‘obligation’ relative to ‘ought’ and ‘must’
          2. p. 153.7: how to handle the question of obligations and rights
        4. § 9.5: superiority of two-level method to intuitionist one
      2. justice
        1. § 9.6–7: treatment of this like that of rights
        2. § 9.8: egalitarianism
        3. § 9.9: liberty
  4. chapters 10–12
    1. chapter 10: “Fanaticism and Amoralism”
      1. p. 169.6: subject of chapters 10 and 11—why engage in moral thinking?
      2. p. 176.2: the “impure” fanatic
      3. p. 176.4: the “pure” fanatic
        1. p. 179.3: prescriptions as expressions of preferences
        2. p. 180.2: the logical possibility of the fanatic’s preferences’ “winning”
        3. p. 181.5–9: the two options for the “pure” fanatic
      4. p. 183.4–8: the amoralist
        1. p. 185.1–5: inconsistency of selective amoralism
        2. p. 186.3: logical consistency of universal (unselective) amoralism
        3. p. 186.5: how the Hare’s problem with the amoralist results from his non-descriptivism
    2. chapter 11: “Prudence, Morality and Supererogation”
      1. pp. 188–189: three related objections
        1. Hare’s arguments have no force against someone who declines to use the moral words.
        2. Hare’s arguments have no force against someone who declines to make moral judgments other than ones of indifference.
        3. Hare’s arguments have no force against someone who declines to act on his (non-indifferent) moral judgments.
      2. pp. 189–190: Hare rejects the third objection but admits that the first two need to be dealt with.
      3. §§ 11.2–5: considerable practical coincidence between morality and prudence
      4. §§ 11.6–8
        1. pp. 199.8–200.5: multiple sub-levels of intuitive thinking (including not just society-wide principles but also person-specific principles)
        2. p. 201.1: role-specific principles
        3. p. 203.2: the three sub-levels reviewed
    3. chapter 12: “Objectivity and Rationality”
      1. §§ 12.1–3: objectivity
        1. objectivism vs. subjectivism and descriptivism vs. non-descriptivism
        2. p. 213.8: dispensing with a certain kind of meta-ethical inquiry
      2. §§ 12.4–9: rationality
        1. p. 218.5: what rationality in thinking about morality consists of
        2. § 12.6: one respect in which Hare’s theory is non-descriptivist: admission of the consistency of amoralism
        3. § 12.7: a second respect in which Hare’s theory is non-descriptivist: the prescriptive element in the notion of one person’s (personally) identifying with another
        4. § 12.8: a third respect in which Hare’s theory is non-descriptivist: the role of the agent’s own preferences (in addition to others’ preferences)
  5. Williams and Hare
    1. Williams, “The Structure of Hare’s Theory”
      1. p. 186.3: It is only because of the prescriptions found at the critical level that the intuitive level even exists as a distinct level of thinking from the critical level.
      2. p. 188.3: Hare’s two-level approach can be separated from his meta-ethical views.
      3. pp. 188.5–189.3: three ways the levels can work in practice
        1. different levels for different people
        2. different levels at different times
        3. different levels at the same time
      4. pp. 189.6–190.5: Williams’s main objection
        1. p. 189.6: not that there is a problem with all kinds of two-level or reflective thinking
        2. p. 189.8: rather, that there is a problem with two-level thinking in which the thoughts at the two levels do not agree
          1. p. 190.3: not that it’s psychologically impossible
          2. p. 190.4–5: rather, that it’s “not stable under reflection”—a claim “about what is involved in effective and adequate reflection”
      5. p. 191.5: Williams’s proposed alternatives
        1. “rules of thumb”
        2. “direct utilitarianism applied to a limited constituency of beneficiaries”
      6. p. 195.3: restatement of main objection
    2. Hare, “Comments on Williams”
      1. p. 289.3: reply to main objection
      2. a puzzle
        1. p. 291.3: “it can be predicted . . .”
        2. p. 291.6: “opinions . . . which critical thinking . . . would recommend”
      3. p. 293.2: reply to restatement of main objection