Journal Review - Incoherence of the moral "ought", an analysis of a paper by Elizabeth Anscombe entitled, 'Modern Moral Philosophy.'

Essay by Robert FishUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, November 1995

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The Incoherence of the Moral 'Ought,' a journal article by Duncan Richter, is an analysis of a paper by Elizabeth Anscombe entitled, 'Modern Moral Philosophy.' In this analysis, Mr. Richter is only concerned about Anscombe's second thesis, which states as follows:

The concepts of moral obligation and moral duty (what is morally right and morally wrong, and the moral sense of 'ought,' ought to be jettisoned if this is psychologically possible; because they are survivals, or derivatives from survivals, from an earlier conception of ethics which no longer generally survives and are only harmful without it.

According to this thesis, Mr. Richter builds his thesis into five parts. Part one summarizes Elizabeth Anscombe's research according to her second thesis. Anscombe's objection is to limit the use of such words as 'ought,' 'should,' 'needs' and 'most.' She asserts that there are two uses for such words, being either ordinary or objectionable.

In the ordinary sense of the specific case, 'ought,' the word is indispensable. The meaning of this sense of the word is that if one 'ought' to do something, then without doing so, such a result will minimize happiness for a certain person. Conversely, the objectionable sense of the word is the 'moral sense' in which 'a verdict is implied on the notion in question without support of a conceptual framework to make the notion of such a verdict coherent.' In other words, this seems to infer that implications to legality of any sort, whether it be the government or divine law, are objectionable to Anscombe and therefore should be eradicated from our terminology.

In parts two and three, Mr. Richter presents criticisms of the thesis based on Kurt Baier and Peter Winch, respectively. Kurt Baier seems to be less interesting on Mr. Richter's list of priority to...