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Luck, Value, and CommitmentThemes From the Ethics of Bernard Williams$
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Ulrike Heuer and Gerald Lang

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199599325

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199599325.001.0001

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Theory versus Anti-theory in Ethics

Theory versus Anti-theory in Ethics

(p.19) 1 Theory versus Anti-theory in Ethics
Luck, Value, and Commitment

Brad Hooker

Oxford University Press

Bernard Williams influentially attacked ethical theory. This chapter assesses arguments for the ‘anti-theory’ position in ethics, including mainly arguments put forward by Williams but also arguments put forward by others. The chapter begins by discussing what is supposed to be theory in ethics, what ethical intuitions are taken to be by those involved in the theory versus anti-theory debate. Then the paper responds to all of the following objections to ethical theory. Ethical theory is mistaken to prize principles, mistaken to prize rationalism, and mistaken to presume or prize foundational unity. Ethical theory is mistaken to presume morality is deeply impartial, mistaken to presume to tell agents how to deliberate, mistaken to presume or prize ethical codifiability, mistaken to presume value commensurability, and mistaken to eliminate ethical dilemmas.

Keywords:   ethical theory, ethical intuition, principles, impartiality, ethical pluralism, consequentialism, deontology, decision procedure, codifiability, Bernard Williams

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