The foundations of humanity

In N. Ann Davis, Richard Keshen & Jeff McMahan (eds.), Ethics and humanity: themes from the philosophy of Jonathan Glover. New York: Oxford University Press (2010)
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Abstract

This chapter concerns the metaethical foundations of Jonathan Glover's project in Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century. It begins by outlining both Glover's doubts about so‐called external reasons for action and his notion that ethics can be grounded in ‘self‐creation’. A distinction is drawn between nihilism about reasons, and a narrow version of externalism according to which there are reasons to act grounded in self‐creation. A mathematical analogy is used to suggest that the metaphysical and epistemological implications of externalism about reasons may be less worrying than Glover believes. The deep disagreement that persists in ethics, however, does require us often to suspend judgment. The chapter ends by suggesting that, by Glover's own lights, we should think that certain components of common sense morality, such as the acts and omissions doctrine, are significantly more harmful than the ‘monsters inside us’.

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