Co-operation and human values: a study of moral reasoning

New York: St. Martin's Press (1981)
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I shall be dealing, throughout this book, with a set of related problems: the relationship between morality and reasoning in general, the way in which moral reasoning is properly to be carried on, and why morality is not arbitrary. The solutions to these problems come out of the same train of argument. Morality is not arbitrary, I shall argue, because the acceptance of certain qualities of character as virtues and the rejection of others as vices is forced on us by the co-operative basis of human life. The co-operation in human life is unavoidable; the alternative is a literal Hobbesian state of nature, and that is impossible. It is not that co-operation between people is a good thing or even a very good thing; it is simply unavoidable in human life, and it is impossible unless the qualities of character counted as virtues are encouraged and are at least fairly common. The possibility of human life presupposes a theory of human nature, and working out that theory of human nature is the main job of moral philosophy. These virtues or qualities of character or attitudes lead us towards a theory of reasons. A person with a sense of justice is a person inclined to accept certain sorts of facts as reasons for acting, and if the virtues are presupposed by human life then the acceptance of those sorts of facts as reasons for acting is presupposed by human life. A condition of the life of reasoning beings (a more accurate term here than 'human beings') is that moral reasons are reasons for acting and are at the very basis of reasoning. And from this it follows that properly conducted moral reasoning is ultimately guided by the virtues rather than ultimately guided by a set of rules.


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