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R. M. Hare (Richard Mervyn Hare) Biography

(1919– ), (Richard Mervyn Hare), The Language of Morals, Freedom and Reason, Moral Thinking

moral philosophy ethical essays

British moral philosopher, born at Backwell near Bristol, educated at Balliol College, Oxford. He became an officer in the Royal Artillery in 1940 and was held prisoner-of-war by the Japanese from 1942 to 1945. In 1950 he began his academic career as a fellow and tutor of Balliol College; he was White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford between 1966 and 1983, when he was appointed Graduate Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of Florida. He is widely regarded as one of the most important British philosophers of the post-war decades. The Language of Morals (1952), Freedom and Reason (1963), and Moral Thinking (1981) contain the main expositions of his moral philosophy, which began as an extension of G. E. Moore's critique of ethical naturalism and centres on the doctrine of ‘universal prescriptivism’. Hare argues that moral evaluations are of an essentially imperative nature but are only valid as such if they are applicable in every case; he uses the expressions ‘universalizability’, and ‘prescriptivity’ to establish the basic conditions of moral judgement. Hare is a leading contemporary utilitarian in his belief that moral philosophy can be socially influential if it succeeds in its chief task of elucidating the meaning and implications of ethical terminologies. His deep concern with clarity of definition leads him to deprecate the citing of illustrative instances from literature in philosophical writing, a practice he views as tending towards obscurity. Among his other publications are Essays on the Moral Concepts (1971), Applications of Moral Philosophy (1972), Essays in Ethical Theory (1989), and Essays on Political Morality (1989).

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