R. M. Hare

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Richard Mervyn Hare (21 March 1919 - 29 January 2002) was a British philosopher and Professor at the University of Oxford and University of Florida. His meta-ethical theories, particularly prescriptivism, were influential during the second half of the twentieth century. Hare was a preference utilitarian.


  • The rules of moral reasoning are, basically, two, corresponding to the two features of moral judgment...When we are trying, in a concrete case, to decide what we ought to do, what we are looking for...is an action to which we can commit ourselves (prescriptively) but which we are at the same time prepared to accept as exemplifying a principle of action to be prescribed for others in like circumstances (universalizability)...[I]f we cannot universalize the principle, it cannot become an ‘ought’.
    • Freedom and Reason, 1965, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 89-90
  • ...what the principle of utility requires of me is to do for each man affected by my actions what I wish were done for me in the hypothetical circumstances that I were in precisely his situation; and, if my actions affect more than one man...to do what I wish, all in all, to be done for me in the hypothetical circumstances that I occupied all their situations...
    • Ethical theory and utilitarianism, 1982, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 26
  • [In the bilateral case]...if I have full knowledge of the other person's preferences, I shall myself have acquired preferences equal to his regarding what should be done to me were I in his situation; and these are the preferences which are now conflicting with my original prescription. So we have in effect not an interpersonal conflict of preferences or prescriptions, but an intrapersonal one; both of the conflicting preferences are mine...Multilateral cases now present less difficulty than at first appeared. For in them too the interpersonal conflicts...will reduce themselves, given full knowledge of the preferences of others, to intrapersonal ones.
    • Moral Thinking, 1981, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 110
  • It is said that the prescription to keep all black people in subjection is formally universal, and internally consistent, and so is not ruled out by the Categorical Imperative. But the point is: can somebody who has fully represented to himself the situation of black people who are kept in subjection go on willing that they should be so treated? For if he has fully represented this to himself, he will have formed a preference that he should not be so treated if he is a black person; and this is inconsistent with the universal form of the proposed maxim. There is of course the problem of the fanatical black-hater who is prepared to prescribe that the maxim should be followed even if he himself were a black person. I have discussed the case of this fanatic at length in my books...and I think I have shown that my theory can deal with him. At any rate the Kantian move can be used in arguments with ordinary non‐fanatical people.
    • Sorting Out Ethics, 2000, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 135
  • I had a strange dream, or half-waking vision, not long ago. I found myself at the top of a mountain in the mist, feeling very pleased with myself, not just for having climbed the mountain, but for having achieved my life’s ambition, to find a way of answering moral questions rationally. But as I was preening myself on this achievement, the mist began to clear, and I saw that I was surrounded on the mountain top by the graves of all those other philosophers, great and small, who had had the same ambition, and thought they had achieved it. And I have come to see, reflecting on my dream, that, ever since, the hard-working philosophical worms had been nibbling away at their systems and showing that the achievement was an illusion.
    • A Philosophical Autobiography, 2002, p. 269

Quotes about R. M. Hare[edit]

I have mentioned three of Hare's achievements in moral philosophy: restoring reason to moral argument, distinguishing intuitive and critical levels of moral thinking, and pioneering the development of practical or applied ethics.
  • he [Hare] was never afraid to ask the most controversial questions, such as What is Wrong with Slavery? and his answers were always enlightening. (Indeed, that particular paper is one that he was able to write with an authority that few others could possess, since, as he notes, he had in a manner of speaking been a slave, when as a prisoner of the Japanese he worked on the Burma railway.)
  • He [Hare] was thus, however exacting his standards, a most positive figure as a mentor, giving of himself in discussion in a manner that could be opinionated but was also self-forgetful...He was concerned about the case against eating meat; but his eventual virtual vegetarianism was rather caused, he said, by gardening than by argument. Some of his dislikes were distinctive: the music of Beethoven (which he came to find superficial), wearing socks (which he ascribed to commercialism), drinking coffee (which he said affected his temper), travelling by train (which caused him anxiety), giving and receiving presents (when the recipient best knows what he wants)...He had the courage, though not the extravagance, to be an eccentric.
  • What makes Hare arguably unique, though at the same time closer in approach to Kant than to the utilitarians whose ally he became, was that he combined this insistence upon the ineluctability of individual choice with an optimistic view of the possibilities of making choices rationally...What reconciles these two features of moral thinking, in his view, is nothing other than the logic of the practical “ought”.

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about: