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Moral ThinkingIts Levels, Method, and Point$
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R. M. Hare

Print publication date: 1981

Print ISBN-13: 9780198246602

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198246609.001.0001

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Descriptivism and the Error Theory

Descriptivism and the Error Theory

(p.65) 4 Descriptivism and the Error Theory
Moral Thinking

R. M. Hare

Oxford University Press

Hare explicates descriptivism and J. L. Mackie's error theory and explains what is wrong with them with respect to moral disagreement and the prescriptive force of moral terms. The meaning of moral words, and their logic, lead us to believe that moral judgements are universal or universalizable prescriptions that are either overriding or related to overriding principles. When ordinary people use moral words, they are not intending to ascribe objective prescriptive properties to action. They are, in fact, intending to ascribe ordinary descriptive properties like the property of being, or the breaking of a promise. However, as a result of this state of affairs, individuals can very easily fall into the conceptual error of thinking that there are objective prescriptive properties. Hare seeks to show why philosophers make this mistake.

Keywords:   descriptivism, error theory, J. L. Mackie, moral judgement, morality

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