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The Philosopher's Attack on Morality

  • William K. Frankena (a1)


Morality has been getting a great deal of looking at in recent years by philosophers, theologians, psychologists, social scientists, journalists, and novelists, as well as by people, especially students, women, and young people, on the street. Much of this investigation has been aimed at redesigning morality or developing a ‘new morality’, and some of it at doing away with morality entirely and replacing it with something else, with the something elses ranging all the way from love, through religion, sincerity, authenticity, and doing one's own thing, to selfishness. New-moralism and amoralism seem to be widespread, the first often being seen as an antidote to the second. At any rate, many are convinced that morality, at least modern morality, Christian or non-Christian, has been based on a mistake, or on a number of mistakes, though there are different views about what these are. Among others, moral philosophers have also been looking at morality, especially in the form of an inquiry into its definition, meaning, or nature, and into its logic, categories, and justification, but usually with some aloofness from the fray, thinking of themselves rather as elucidating morality than as revising or replacing it, leaving the driving to others, or taking for granted that morality is essentially sound as it stands, though sometimes defending it or at least studying the logic of the question ‘Why should I be moral?’



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1 Philosophy, 27, 1952, pp. 311328.

2 ‘Morality and Art’, Proc. Brit. Academy, LVI, 1970, pp. 3, 16.

3 See her ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’, Philosophy, 33, 1958, pp. 119.

4 Op. cit., and ‘Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives’, Philosophical Reveiw LXXXI, 1972, pp. 305316.

5 Essays on the Moral Concepts (London: Macmillan, 1972), p. 93.

6 Cf. Phil. Rev., LXXXI, 314f.

7 Cf. op. cit., 315; Proc. Brit. Acad., LVI, 13.

8 Proc. Brit. Acad., LVI, 4. I assume that she has in mind dangers and benefits for others as well as for an agent himself.

9 Phil. Rev., LXXXI, 309, 315; ‘Moral Arguments’, Mind, 67, 1958, pp.

10 See my ‘Under What Net?’, Philosophy, 48, 1973.

11 See Rails, Anthony, ‘The Game of Life’, Philosophical Quarterly, 16, 1966, p. 24.

12 Cf. Phil. Rev., LXXXI, 309ff.; Proc. Brit.Acad., LVI, 13ff.

13 Proc. Brit. Acad., LVI, 14f.

14 Proc. Brit Acad., LVI, 15. Italics and bracketed portions mine.

The Philosopher's Attack on Morality

  • William K. Frankena (a1)


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