Modern Moral Philosophy  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

"Modern Moral Philosophy" is an influential article on moral philosophy by G. E. M. Anscombe, originally published in the journal Philosophy, vol. 33, no. 124 (January 1958).

The article has influenced the emergence of contemporary virtue ethics, especially through the work of Alasdair MacIntyre. Notably, the term "consequentialism" was first defined in this paper to describe what she saw as the central error of certain moral theories, such as those propounded by Mill and Sidgwick.


The author presents three theses:

  1. "It is not profitable for us at present to do moral philosophy; that should be laid aside at any rate until we have an adequate philosophy of psychology, in which we are conspicuously lacking."
  2. "Concepts of obligation, and duty — moral obligation and moral duty, that is to say — and of what is morally right and wrong, and of 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."
  3. "The differences between the well-known English writers on moral philosophy from Sidgwick to the present day are of little importance."


John Wardle argued that Anscombe misrepresented Henry Sidgwick's understanding of the concept of humility when she concludes that it is "a species of untruthfulness".

See also

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