Two Concepts of Morality

Philosophy 41 (155):19 - 33 (1966)
It is a surprising fact that moral philosophers have rarely examined the distinction between what I shall call ‘positive’ or ‘social’ morality on the one hand and ‘autonomous’ or ‘individual’ morality on the other. Accordingly, conceptual and moral issues of the greatest importance have been neglected. The distinction is, I take it, recognised by Hegel, when he contrasts Sittlichkeit with Moralität . However, the rival sides who give a conceptual or a moral preference to one concept over the other rarely come to grips with one another, and the deep conflicts between them are concealed instead of being brought out into the open. Only in Burke's diatribe against Rousseau, Bradley's critique of Sidgwick , Hobhouse's crusade against Bosanquet , Prichard's attack on Green , Hart's criticism of Hare , and above all in Oakeshott's onslaught on Rationalism do we get a glimpse of one of the main issues of moral philosophy and of morality. For just as we have two concepts, so we have two moral conceptual schemes, each of which gives a central place to one concept at the expense of the other. Those who suppose that morality is or ought to be wholly or mainly a social concept may recommend submission to a tradition. Those, on the other hand, who suppose morality to be primarily an individual or independent concept will recommend independent decisions. I want in this paper, firstly, to explain the differences between the two concepts, secondly, to show that neither of them is conceptually illegitimate or degenerate, and lastly, to determine what place, if any, each ought to have in a rational morality
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