Category Archives: R. M. Hare

R. M. Hare

Objection might be taken to the claim that there could be a ‘bare sensation’ of pain which was not disliked. What, it might be asked, would such an experience be like? Can we imagine such an experience? I think that I can not only imagine it, but have had it; but I shall return to this question later. Here I shall just make the obvious point that we cannot conclude, from the fact that something surpasses our imagination, that it cannot happen. I cannot myself imagine what the electric torture would be like; but that does not take away the possibility that it might be inflicted on me. It would be more relevant if it could be established that no sense could be given to the expression ‘experience which is like pain except for not being disliked.’ But that is precisely the question at issue, and this whole paper is an attempt to see what sense can be given to such an expression.

R. M. Hare, ‘Pain and Evil’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, supp. vol. 38 (1964), p. 95

R. M. Hare

It is indeed rather mysterious that critics of utilitarianism, some of whom lay great weight on the ‘right to equal concern and respect’ which all people have, should object when utilitarians show this equal concern by giving equal weight to the equal interests of everybody, a precept which leads straight to Bentham’s formula and to utilitarianism itself.

R. M. Hare, ‘Rights, Utility, and Universalization: Reply to J. L. Mackie’, in R. G. Frey (ed.) Utility and Rights, Oxford, 1985, p. 107

R. M. Hare

In these days of intense academic competition, which is supposed to keep us all on our toes, one has to publish or be damned; and for advancing one’s career it is more important that what one publishes should be new, than that it should be true.

R. M. Hare, ‘Methods of Bioethics: Some Defective Proposals’, in L. W. Sumner and Joseph Boyle (eds.), Philosophical Perspectives on Bioethics, Toronto, 1996, p. 18

R. M. Hare

[T]here have been several important books about [distributive justice], notably Rawls’s book, and also that of Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia. He works at Harvard too, and it is curious that two people with such a similar background should produce books which politically are poles apart. It shows that we can’t depend on people’s intuitions agreeing.

R. M. Hare, ‘Dialogue with R. M. Hare’, in Brian Magee, Men of Ideas, London, 1978, p. 160

R. M. Hare

The intuitions which many moral philosophers regard as the final court of appeal are the result of their upbringing—i.e. of the fact that just these level-1 principles were accepted by those who most influenced them. In discussing abortion, we ought to be doing some level-2 thinking; it is therefore quite futile to appeal to those level-1 intuitions that we happen to have acquired. It is a question, not of what our intuitions are, but of what they ought to be.

R. M. Hare, ‘Abortion and the Golden Rule’, in Essays on Bioethics, Oxford, 1999, chap. 10

R. M. Hare

Another argument commonly used against aggregationism is also hard to understand (Rawls, A Theory of Justice, p. 27). This is the objection that utilitarianism “does not take seriously the distinction between persons”. To explain this objection: it is said that, if we claim that there is a duty to promote maximal preference satisfaction regardless of its distribution, we are treating a great interest of one as of less weight than the lesser interests of a great many, provided that the latter add up in aggregate to more than the former. For example, if I can save five patients moderate pain at the cost of not saving one patient severe pain, I should do so if the interests of the five in the relief of their pain is greater in aggregate than the interest of the one in the relief of his (or hers).

But to think in the way that utilitarians have to think about this kind of example is not to ignore the difference between persons. Why should anybody want to say this? Utilitarians are perfectly well aware that A, B and C in my example are different persons people. They are not blind. All they are doing is trying to do justice between the interests of these people. It is hard to see how else one could do this except by showing them all equal respect, and that, as we have seen, leads straight to aggregationism.

R. M. Hare, in Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer (eds.), A Companion to Bioethics, Oxford, 1998, p. 83