Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 12 (5):539-553 (2008)

In this paper I discuss the viability of the claim that at least some forms of moral theory are harmful for sound moral thought and practice. This claim was put forward by e.g. Elisabeth Anscombe ( 1981 ( 1958 )) and by Annette Baier, Peter Winch, D.Z Phillips and Bernard Williams in the 1970’s–1980’s. To this day aspects of it have found resonance in both post-Wittgensteinian and virtue ethical quarters. The criticism has on one hand contributed to a substantial change and broadening of the scope of analytic moral philosophy. On the other hand it is, at least in its most strongly anti-theoretical formulations, now broadly considered outdated and—to the extent that it is still defended—insensitive to the changes that have occurred within the field in the last 20–30 years. The task of this paper is to relocate the anti-theoretical critique into the field of analytic ethics today.
Keywords Philosophy   Ontology   Political Philosophy   Ethics
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2009
DOI 10.1007/s10677-008-9141-7
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,579
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory.Alasdair C. MacIntyre - 1983 - University of Notre Dame Press.
Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy.Bernard Williams - 1985 - Harvard University Press.
Ethics Without Principles.Jonathan Dancy - 2004 - Oxford University Press.
On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford University Press.

View all 34 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Whence the Demand for Ethical Theory?Damian Cueni & Matthieu Queloz - 2021 - American Philosophical Quarterly 58 (2):135–46.
How We Decide in Moral Situations.David Kaspar - 2015 - Philosophy 90 (1):59-81.
Reflection and the Individual in Williams’ Humanistic Philosophy.Lorenzo Greco - 2013 - In Alexandra Perry & Chris Herrera (eds.), The Moral Philosophy of Bernard Williams. Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 26-39.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

An Ethics Grounded in Metaphysics.Piotr Boltuc - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 30:5-10.
Nature Ethics Without Theory.Joseph Mellon - 1989 - Dissertation, University of Oregon
Morality and the Good Life.Thomas L. Carson & Paul K. Moser (eds.) - 1997 - Oxford University Press.
Anti-Theory in Ethics and Moral Conservatism.Stanley G. Clarke & Evan Simpson (eds.) - 1989 - State University of New York Press.
Alasdair MacIntyre Vs. Pragmatic Liberalism.Thaddeus J. Kozinski - 2008 - Telos: Critical Theory of the Contemporary 2008 (143):7-21.
Moral Theory: An Introduction.Mark Timmons - 2001 - Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
The Harmful Influence of Decision Theory on Ethics.Sven Ove Hansson - 2010 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 13 (5):585-593.


Added to PP index

Total views
150 ( #73,321 of 2,461,991 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #223,153 of 2,461,991 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes