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R. M. Hare
R. M. Hare was an English moral philosopher who developed his meta-ethical theory of universal prescriptivism. He was influenced by the emotivism of A. J. Ayer and C. L. Stevenson, utilitarianism and Immanuel Kant.[2] His approach to meta-ethics was hybrid in nature, because although he held that ethical rules should not be based on utilitarianism, he did take into account utilitarian considerations. One of the main concepts of Kant that Hare embraced was universalizability, although unlike Kant he was a consequentialist.[3]


Hare’s theory, like Ayer’s and Stevenson’s, was non-cognitivist as he also denied that moral utterances describe anything, including our emotions or attitudes. According to Hare, moral judgments express universal prescriptions. What did he mean by universal prescriptions? Simply that a moral utterance serves as a prescribed course of conduct for anyone. The universal aspect of Hare’s theory is found in the fact that the prescription must apply to ANYONE, even the prescriber.[4] The universalizability of this theory does not only link to Kant’s categorical imperative but also to the Golden Rule – do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Definition
Non-cognitivism is the meta-ethical view that ethical sentences or utterances do not express propositions and thus cannot be true or false which means that the cognitivism claim that “moral judgments are capable of being objectively true, because they describe some feature of the world” is being denied.[5]

Universalizability is determined by how applicable a moral rule is to all similarly situated individuals.[6] The implication is one should always be willing to have everyone else who might find themselves in a similar situation prescribe to the same universal prescriptions, including the ones in which one is on the “receiving” or “losing” end.[7]

Universal Prescriptivism
This is the meta-ethical view which claims that moral judgments function as forms of commands that are universal, rather than expressing propositions.[8]

According to Hare, anyone who makes a moral utterance is trying to answer the question “What shall I do – period?”[9] Universal prescriptions are to tell us directly what to do, and in Hare’s view are fully universal and cannot be overridden by other prescriptions such as law, professional codes etc.[10]

In this theory, Hare embraced reasoning in establishing moral conclusions like Stevenson. He encourages us to use reasoning in testing our moral prescriptions based on our willingness to accept the logical implications of our universal prescriptions.[11]


Example:
Moral utterance: I think driving on the left side of the road is wrong
Universal prescription: Do not drive on the left side of the road

Using Hare’s test, the above universal prescription cannot be accepted rationally because then that means countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia are all morally wrong which makes no sense. It cannot be accepted because it does not apply in all driving situations that driving on the left is wrong. This can only be a law or traffic code in countries like the United States and Canada.
Challenges
  1. Consequentialism. Unlike Kant’s deontological stance, Hare is a consequentialist; this means prescriptivism which is meant to be universal is made based on the consequences’ of an individual’s conduct. This can work against the universalizability component.
  2. Weakness of will – simply knowing what is right is not enough to motivate people to do right. This argument is made against prescriptivism because of the parameters of prescriptivism which being consequentialist has to take the individual with all their limitations into consideration.[12]
  3. Ignoring external causes of prescriptive reactions. This is a general argument against non-cognitivism.[13] For example, if Charlie says “Pauline is a rude person,” there must be things Pauline does that makes her come off as rude such as rolling her eyes when she is being spoken to or shouting other people down when they are trying to say something. These external causes make Charlie come to this prescription and describe a situation happening in the world.


[1] http://badassphilosophers.tumblr.com/post/24872642706/rm-hare
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._M._Hare
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._M._Hare
[4] Waluchow, W. J. (2003). The Dimensions of Ethics: An Introduction to Ethical Theory. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press Ltd. pp. 61-63

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-cognitivism
[6] http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/u.ht

[7] Waluchow, W. J. (2003). The Dimensions of Ethics: An Introduction to Ethical Theory. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press Ltd. pp. 61-63

[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_prescriptivism
[9] Waluchow, W. J. (2003). The Dimensions of Ethics: An Introduction to Ethical Theory. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press Ltd. pp. 61-63

[10] Waluchow, W. J. (2003). The Dimensions of Ethics: An Introduction to Ethical Theory. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press Ltd. pp. 61-63

[11] Waluchow, W. J. (2003). The Dimensions of Ethics: An Introduction to Ethical Theory. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press Ltd. pp. 61-63

[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_prescriptivism
[13] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-cognitivism