Doing Good by Splitting Hairs? Analytic Philosophy and Applied Ethics

Journal of Applied Philosophy 28 (3):225-240 (2011)
This article explores the connections between analytic philosophy and applied ethics — both historical and substantive. Historically speaking, applied ethics is a child of analytic philosophy. It arose as the result of two factors in the 1960s: the re-emergence of normative ethics on the one hand, and urgent social and political challenges on the other. But is there a significant substantive link between applied ethics and analytic philosophy? I argue that applied ethics inherited important ‘analytic’ ideals such as clarity and argumentative rigour. At the same time these ideals are not the exclusive preserve of analytic philosophy and applied ethics. Moreover, they are under threat from various trends within applied ethics. In this context I rebut the allegation that the anti-revisionist reliance on pre-theoretical moral judgements (aka ‘intuitions’) is less rational than their revisionist dismissal. The article ends with a plea for an analytic approach within applied ethics
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