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  • Cited by 51
  • Print publication year: 1973
  • Online publication date: December 2009

11 - Ethical consistency


I shall not attempt any discussion of ethical consistency in general. I shall consider one question that is near the centre of that topic: the nature of moral conflict. I shall bring out some characteristics of moral conflict that have bearing, as I think, on logical or philosophical questions about the structure of moral thought and language. I shall centre my remarks about moral conflict on certain comparisons between this sort of conflict, conflicts of beliefs, and conflicts of desires; I shall start, in fact, by considering the latter two sorts of conflict, that of beliefs very briefly, that of desires at rather greater length, since it is both more pertinent and more complicated.

Some of what I have to say may seem too psychological. In one respect, I make no apology for this; in another, I do. I do not, in as much as I think that a neglect of moral psychology and in particular of the rôle of emotion in morality has distorted and made unrealistic a good deal of recent discussion; having disposed of emotivism as a theory of the moral judgement, philosophers have perhaps tended to put the emotions on one side as at most contingent, and therefore philosophically uninteresting, concomitants to other things which are regarded as alone essential. This must surely be wrong: to me, at least, the question of what emotions a man feels in various circumstances seems to have a good deal to do, for instance, with whether he is an admirable human being or not.