Wrongness and Harm
I am going in this paper to address myself to the question of the relation between my own ethical views, together with the theory of moral argument which I have tried to found upon them, and some apparently opposing ethical views which have been popular recently. It can hardly fail to strike anybody who reads the writings of the two sides in this dispute that there is much in common between them. I am referring not merely to canons of what counts as cogent philosophical argument, such as Oxford colleagues might be expected to share with each other but not, say, with a typical Indian philosopher of the old school; but, more specifically, to certain similarities between the contents of our views about the basis of morality, which keep on cropping up in spite of the apparent opposition between our ethical theories. This common element might be described as in a broad sense utilitarian, because all of us are founding our moral judgements upon the consequences, by way of good or harm to people’s interests, that are likely to follow from alternative courses of action. This common element distinguishes both of the parties from those other philosophers who use the term ‘consequentialist’ as a pejorative label. Our ethical theories (that is, our views about the logical character and analysis of the moral concepts) seem at first sight very different; but the normative moral views to which they lead us appear to be in important respects similar.
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