Preface

The function of moral philosophy—or at any rate the hope with which I study it—is that of helping us to think better about moral questions by exposing the logical structure of the language in which this thought is expressed. When I wrote my first book, which was a study of the chief moral words, I had no more than a dim notion of what account of moral reasoning would develop out of this study—only the conviction that, if it were well done, our understanding of moral questions would be increased. In the years since, this hope has not proved entirely vain; and, although I am still far from clear on many matters, I think it worth while to publish this progress report, if only to enlist the help of others in becoming clearer.

My views have been the subject of a great deal of controversy; but any reader who is looking in this book for a full-scale rebuttal of my critics will be disappointed. I did, indeed, in preparation for writing it, draft about fifty pages of polemical matter in answer to the most widely canvassed objections; but, having thus convinced myself that they could be answered, I came to feel that the answers to them were less exciting than the positive things which I had to say, and possibly of less durable interest; I therefore put them aside, to appear elsewhere. I have profited greatly from these discussions; but I am obstinate enough to believe that, though they have added much to what I thought before, they have not taken much away.

There will be found, therefore, in this book, only passing allusions to these wrangles. Lest they should be thought to be directed at the views of particular people, I must make clear that, in all cases except where names are mentioned, the

-v-

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Freedom and Reason
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Freedom and Reason iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents viii
  • Part I Describing and Prescribing 1
  • 2 Descriptive Meaning 7
  • 3 Principles 30
  • 4 'Ought' and 'Can' 51
  • 5 Backsliding 67
  • Part II Moral Reasoning 86
  • 7 Utilitarianism 112
  • 8 Ideals 137
  • 9 Toleration and Fanaticism 157
  • Part III from Theory to Practice 186
  • 11 a Practical Example 203
  • Index 225
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