Ethics and Humanity: Themes from the Philosophy of Jonathan Glover

Ethics and Humanity: Themes from the Philosophy of Jonathan Glover

Ethics and Humanity: Themes from the Philosophy of Jonathan Glover

Ethics and Humanity: Themes from the Philosophy of Jonathan Glover


This Volume collects essays on issues addressed in the work of the distinguished philosopher and ethicist Jonathan Glover, who was previously a fellow and tutor in philosophy at New College, Oxford, and who currently teaches ethics at King's College London. His books include Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century (1999).


This volume honors Jonathan Glover, whose writing and influence as a teacher have greatly contributed to the growth of applied ethics over the past forty years.

Even before Glover entered Oxford in 1960, he identified himself with the philosophical tradition that traces its origins to David Hume, J. S. Mill, and Bertrand Russell. a vital role of philosophy in this tradition is to understand ethics in purely secular terms. It is also characteristic of these philosophers that they wrote for, and successfully reached, a wide public.

The lectures of H. L. A. Hart supporting legal rights for gays, which Glover attended as an undergraduate, consolidated his commitment to the kind of philosophy he wanted to write. Later, “the stimulating and demanding standards” of A. J. Ayer, his graduate supervisor, were an important influence, not least on Glover’s lucid philosophical prose: try to find a redundant word or a slack sentence in a Gloverian paragraph.

Glover’s ideas on moral responsibility, abortion, euthanasia, war, genetic engineering, adoption policies for same-sex couples, and genocide have influenced both academic and public debate. Running through his work is the view that moral practices and beliefs are to be judged in terms of their consequences for human well-being. Glover has sought to undermine doctrines and intuitions, however sanctified by tradition or conventional wisdom, which obscure the way our actions cause harm. At the same time, he has emphasized the centrality to human life of values such as self-creation, autonomy, imagination, spontaneity, respect for human dignity, friendship, and love. in weighing and balancing these diverse values, Glover’s writing achieves an exemplary richness and subtlety. These virtues are manifest in his recent book about the atrocities of the last century, Humanity: a Moral History of the 20th Century. the chapters that follow are connected in one way or another with the themes of that book, and many developed directly from reflections on it.

As Alan Ryan’s essay testifies, Glover was a memorable undergraduate tutor at New College, Oxford. As a number of the other contributions testify, including those of the three editors, Glover has also influenced generations of graduate students. in the late 1960s and through the 1970s . . .

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