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All Ethical Language Is Prescriptive

‘all ethical language is prescriptive’The idea of ethical language being prescriptive stems from the ideas and theory of R.M.Hare who was greatly influenced by Kant and his idea of universalisability. Hare suggested that all ethical language is prescriptive and that the fundamental role of ethical language it to express what ought to be done by everyone. Hare supported A.J.Ayer’s emotivism theory – that when we make a moral statement we are just expressing our own attitude – but he also believed that we are additionally stating what we believe other people should do. He suggested that such prescriptions are moral because they are universal, meaning they should be followed by everyone when faced with a moral dilemma; they set up a form of guidelines and standards by which everyone should conform to. In his book, Freedom and Reason, Hare states that we should aim to ‘find lines of conduct which we can prescribe universally’ and that these lines of conduct ‘should seek to maximise satisfactions’. For Hare, this idea of universal prescriptivism is superior to other ethical theories such as naturalism and intuitionism as prescriptivism not only allows ethical statements to make a descriptive statement about whether something is morally good or bad, but also allows us to prescribe these statements to others making it more applicable and collective.One of the problems that some philosophers have with Hare’s non-cognitivist theory of prescriptivism is that Hare offers no solution to the question of whose prescriptions to follow and he doesn’t offer a valid reason for following one person’s prescriptions as opposed to another’s and this then causes issues for some, as there is then a conflict over whose prescriptions are more valued or are morally ‘right’. Furthermore, there is no way of assuring that these morals are universal, as one person’s prescriptions may be different from another’s. Hare responded to this criticism in his book ‘Freedom and Reason’ and…


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