Talk:R. M. Hare

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Corrected assertion that Hare's influence was in the first half of 20th century. Hare left university in the early 40s and served in WWII. I am pretty sure that his first published article was in 1949. His most famous and influential work, The Language of Morals, was first published in 1952, after which he became well known among philosophers icut4you.

Added some biographical stuff, info on influences, on Kant and differences therefrom. Most importantly, made point that Hare does not subscribe to a principle of utility in formulating ethical rules...though he is willing to take utility into account in making a universal prescription. This is a critical difference between Hare and many other utilitarians. icut4u 01:51, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Deleted section on relativism. It is simply false to claim that he did not believe that morality was subject to universal standards of truth. He thought it was very much true that certain norms were uniquely rational, and this was a fact subject to starndards of logic. What he didn't believe is that the norms themselves were true, but that's because he didn't believe that they were propositions. This has nothing to do with relativism. And the later claim in the relativism paragraph that he thought morality was subject to the universal standards of logic belies the claim here. If someone wants to add something on his view that prescriptivism was a form of non-cognitivism, do so, but do not confuse this with relativism.--ScottForschler (talk) 21:12, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Peter Singer[edit]

"Peter Singer, known for his work in animal liberation, was also a student of Hare's, and has explicitly adopted some elements of Hare's thought, though not his doctrine of universal prescriptivism."


"While Hare was primarily interested in meta-ethics, some have used his universal prescriptivism in applied ethics. For example, Peter Singer uses it as a means of judging conduct."

Hare on universal properties of psychological states[edit]

Slim, in answer to your query, Hare demands that we examine the universal properties of the relevant facts of a circumstance, including mental states/perspectives of others, such that it would apply to different situations sharing the same relevant universal properties. He wanted to make it clear that it wasn't simply looking at things from the other person's perspective "in their shoes," as it were, but taking into account the aspects of his perspective that would apply to all other circumstances where the relevant facts were the same. He thought Kant himself suggests as much, and believed many Kant scholars missed this point. Keep in mind, however, that Hare, unlike Kant, wanted specificity in the maxim we will. Sorting out Ethics, Hare wrote, "If we have to will our maximms as universal laws, we have to will that they should be observed in all situations resembling one another in the universal features specificed in the maxim. These features will include features of the psychological states of the people in the situations. For example, if we are speaking of victims of torture, the fact that they badly want the torture to stop is a feature of their psychological states, and therefore of their situations. We have then to will that our maxims should be observed whatever indidivuals were in these states, even ourselves." Hope this helps.icut4u

In each case, however, one cannot simply put oneself in another's shoes, as it were, one must also adopt the universal properties of the perspectives of the other person. Universal prescriptivism, thus, leads to preference utilitarianism.

Hi IC, I have two problems with the sentence. (1) It's a long time since I read Hare, and so I don't recall how far he goes in saying we have to take on board the preferences of another when we put ourselves in their shoes; and (2) what is meant by "adopting the universal properties of the perspectives" of another, as opposed to simply adopting their perspectives? Do you mean "this torture victim wants X" becomes "everyone in this position wants X" or "everyone in this position with these preferences wants X? SlimVirgin (talk) 00:21, July 17, 2005 (UTC)

I think you've come close to it. The torture victim wants the torture to end because it causes him to suffer, and that (the suffering) is the universal property that in like situations, everyone would want to avoid. So it's not just the particular form of suffering, its the relevant feature of the circumstance that can be applied to other situations in which anyone could find herself. So, the suffering one might experience on the rack is something one would also want to avoid in the Chinese water torture. Hare says in SOE: "All we have to do is to treat all cases having the same universal properties, however specific, including cases in which individuals change roles, and which therefore we might find ourselves in the position of victim." (my italics). So, it's not exactly taking on their specific preferences or perspectives, but the universal properties of their preferences or perspectives. He is looking to apply the same maxim to situations where the same essential facts apply, if you see what I mean.icut4u


There is no list of his works? Someone should add this.

All or some agents[edit]

"He believed that formal features of moral discourse could be used to show that correct moral reasoning will lead most moral agents to a form of preference utilitarianism." Is this really correct? From what I've understood, in Moral Language, Hare sought to show that he no longer had the problem with not being able to convince all (open-minded) people that his theory was correct. That is, even the fanatics would be forced to concede. Am I right or wrong? Popperipopp 17:00, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

My recollection is that in his earlier work (Moral Language, Freedom and Reason) Hare conceded that the fanatic needn't concede, but that in Moral Thinking he thought that the intuitive plausibility of a "Principle of Prudence" would show that the fanatic must concede.
Hence I'm wondering if the relativism section is just slightly misleading; in his later work, Hare continued to deny that moral discourse was subject to objective standards of truth, yet that it is subject to objective standards of a different but very parallel sort. There's no trace of relativism left there.--ScottForschler (talk) 12:13, 3 May 2008 (UTC)


Recently, someone made the addition of Hare to the list of Christian Philosophers. A quick read of a non-wikipedia bio did not mention this. Can anyone cite a reference on this? Pjwerner (talk) 02:09, 25 October 2008 (UTC)

I'd be rather surprised if he was Christian. I'm deleting it, in absence of any reference. David Olivier (talk) 11:37, 26 October 2008 (UTC)
He did identify himself as a Christian, though rarely discussed this in his works beyond occasional references to the fact that he thought that true Christian moralit (and indeed, the true spirit of all moral judgments and respectable moral systems) boiled down to the golden rule, which in turn he thought supported a version of utilitarianism. I'm not sure why you would think he wasn't a Christian. He wrote one essay called 'Euthanasia: A Christian View', which along with other possibly relet essays can be found in his 1992 Essays on Religion and Education (Oxford: Oxford University Press). For this reason I'm reverting to the earlier classification.--ScottForschler (talk) 19:51, 29 October 2008 (UTC)

"I would be rather surprised if he was a Christian?" (...) No... I don't agree. I think the negation is correct, that is... I would be surprised if he was not a Christian... I never met the gentleman, but did read some of his philosophy, and knew his family. I believe, Mr. Olivier, that the proper position is, given the fact that Dr. R. M. Hare wrote numerous philosophical articles involving Christianity (more so from an applied perspective), that, without evidence to the contrary, he should be classified as a Christian Philosopher, and for two reasons. I believe he was a Christian, and that his broad ethical, and metaethical, theories, while not directly a result of theological thinking, could have an important effect on such. John G. Lewis (talk) 19:55, 19 March 2013 (UTC) One additional reason that he should be classed with Christian Philosophers, as well as with Ethicists, is that his son, Dr. John E. Hare, now a theologian and philosopher at Yale, did follow in his father's footsteps, and to an extent did use and elaborate on, his father's metaethical reflections. John G. Lewis (talk) 21:22, 20 March 2013 (UTC)

Parable of the lunatic?[edit]

Today's featured article on the problem of religious language mentions Hare's parable of the lunatic, which does not appear to be discussed in this article. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about the topic to make much of a contribution here. Any help available? jxm (talk) 13:54, 12 September 2014 (UTC)