Anscombe on the Sources of Normativity
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[T]here are, of course, a great many things whose existence does depend on human linguistic practice. The dependence is in many cases an unproblematic and trivial fact. But in others it is not trivial—it touches the nerve of great philosophical problems. The cases I have in mind are three: namely rules, rights and promises.1
Currently, Elizabeth Anscombe’s account of first-personal knowledge and her theory of action attract much attention. Other aspects of her extensive work remain mostly unknown. One such hidden treasure is her metaethics. The main reason why this has gone unnoticed, I believe, is that Anscombe never set it out in a systematic fashion. I reconstruct Anscombe’s theory from her various writings, and I put it in a contemporary context. I hope to make a strong case for her theory. Even readers who will find that they do not agree with Anscombe, however, might still be interested in the puzzles that she raises.
KeywordsVirtue Ethic Great Good Moral Realism Emphasis Original Human Good
I am deeply grateful to Ulf Hlobil and Michael Thompson, who both commented on at least a dozen versions of this paper. Without these intense discussions, I would never have been able to put together the many fascinating pieces of Anscombe’s thought. I furthermore profited much from the comments of the editor-in-chief, John Hacker-Wright, and from an anonymous reviewer. I thank Stanford University’s McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society for funding my research during this time.