[SydPhil] REMINDER: SHAPE talk: Nathaniel Coleman Fri March 1 10.30am Phil Common Rm, USYD

David Macarthur david.macarthur at sydney.edu.au
Thu Feb 28 14:07:57 AEDT 2013

The first SHAPE talk of the year will be this Friday 1st March, 10:30–12:00 in the Philosophy Common Room (University of Sydney).

Presenter: Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Doctoral candidate)
Flinders University of South Australia (Honorary Visiting Research Fellow)
University of Sydney (Research Affiliate)

Title: 'What is wrong with [R.M. Hare's arguments against] slavery'

In his article, What is Wrong with Slavery (http://www.utilitarian.net/hare/by/1979----.pdf), Richard Mervyn Hare—'the greatest utilitarian of this century' (Crisp 2001) and, from 1966 to 1983, occupant of the White's Chair of Moral Philosophy (which the University of Oxford describes as 'perhaps the most prestigious chair of moral philosophy in the world', see http://goo.gl/9dRM9)—advanced a 'landmark' (Darwish 2009: 99), 'enlightening' (Singer 2002: 316), 'decisive...', 'full and persuasive' (Shaw 1999: 122; 1995: 51n19) philosophical argument against slavery.
Hare's argument has been generally accepted by philosophers. This is clear from the fact that, although it was published in 1979, in an early volume of the journal Philosophy & Public Affairs—which, '[f]or over thirty years', according to Onora O'Neill, 'has set the standard for combining good writing, rigorous philosophical argument and serious political and social engagement'—Hare's article has received no detailed, published, critical response from another philosopher. S. R. L. Clark (1985) is critical, but superficial; Rawls (1994) is superficial and unpublished. I plan to publish just such a detailed critical response.
My critical response will be detailed, in that it will carefully distinguish among, and respond separately to, each of the three distinct arguments against slavery that Hare advances, in his article:
1. an argument from disutility: Slavery is wrong, because it produces misery.
2. an argument from inconsistency: Slavery is wrong, because it treats unequally the equal interests of the free and the enslaved person.
3. an argument from authority: Slavery is wrong, because R. M. Hare said so.
Needless to say, I think that each of Hare's three arguments fails.


Dr. David Macarthur
Senior Lecturer & UG Coordinator
Philosophy Department
University of Sydney, 2006, Australia
Ph: +61-2-9351-3193

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