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The approach to moral theory especially associated with Hare, that assimilates moral commitment to the giving or accepting of a command. Difference of moral opinion is then modelled upon the giving of conflicting commands, and inconsistency in moral thought is assimilated to the giving of commands not all of which can possibly be obeyed. In Hare's development, ethical judgements differ from simple prescriptions by the commitment to universality that they embody: thus whilst I may command you to smoke and someone else not to smoke, if I go into the ethical mode and say that you ought not to smoke, I am committed to supposing that anybody else in a relevantly similar position ought not to smoke. Hare's later development of this idea moves him towards utilitarianism as the critical level of moral thinking, disguised in everyday life by the more ordinary and less systematic commitments we tend to make. Critics have concentrated upon various differences between ethical commitment and command, including the problem that, whilst accepting a command seems tantamount to setting oneself to obey it, accepting an ethical verdict is, unfortunately, consistent with refusing to be bound by it. The belief that utilitarianism is somehow implicit in the logic of moral concepts has also been vigorously contested. See also agent-centred morality, akrasia, integrity, virtue ethics.

Subjects: Philosophy

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