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CEPPA Talk – Kieran Setiya (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

October 15, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Title: ‘What is Morality?’

Abstract: In “Modern Moral Philosophy,” Anscombe argued that the moral vocabulary does not correspond to any concept of Aristotelian ethics, that it derives from a confused response to the ethics of divine of command, and that it is literally meaningless. This essay contends that Anscombe was wrong. Morality corresponds to Aristotle’s general sense of “justice,” which is complete virtue in relation to another. But Anscombe’s question remains: what is it for an action to be morally wrong, not merely something one should not do? The answer is not that wrongness warrants blame or that an action is wrong when it wrongs another person, but that an action is morally wrong when it is something one should not do that one has no right to do. In the absence of rights, Anscombe’s question has no answer.