Anscombe on `ought'

Philosophical Quarterly 38 (150):20-41 (1988)
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n ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’ Anscombe argues that the moral ‘ought’ should be abandoned as the senseless survivor from a defunct conceptual scheme. I argue 1) That even if the moral ‘ought’ derives its meaning from a Divine Law conception of ethics it does not follow that it cannot sensibly survive the Death of God. 2) That anyway Anscombe is mistaken since ancestors of the emphatic moral ‘ought’ predate the system of Christian Divine Law from which the moral ‘ought’ supposedly derives its meaning (Cicero in particular subscribed to something like the modern conception of a duty which seems to be a generalization of the duties attendant on particular roles). 3) That if the moral ‘ought’ derived its meaning from embodying Gods’ commands then the two should have been equated in the minds of true believers. This was not the case. 4) That Anscombe is absurdly wrong in supposing that Protestant moralists had abandoned a Divine Law conception of ethics. 5) That the virtue-based ought-free Aristotelian alternative suggested by Anscombe is unworkable since the basic idea is that it pays in terms of human flourishing to be good (which means inter alia being just). Since it is pretty obvious that there are plenty of good people who don’t flourish and flourishing people who are not good, the neo-Aristotelian program has gradually undergone a degenerating problem-shift: either the pay-off is deferred to the hereafter or being good is incorporated into the pay-off. 6) That there is a certain amount of sophistry in selling the neo-Aristotelian virtues. Since the unjust person is simply somebody who is NOT systematically just, you cannot prove that it pays to be just by arguing that it is a mistake to be systematically UNjust. So too for many of the other virtues.
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