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Speaker: Dr Rachael Wiseman, Durham University
Social and Political Sciences Seminar Series
One of the difficulties one comes up against when considering the concept of integrity, is the unliveability of the lives of moral exemplars. If we don’t want to give up all our worldly belongings, leave our families, eschew pleasure and comfort, or go and fight in the resistance, does that leave us compromised and corrupted? If so, shouldn’t we stop worrying about integrity and adopt a more pragmatic — more realistic — outlook?
The suggestion Dr Wiseman wants to extract from Anscombe’s work on ethics and religion is that the thought that integrity is unliveable is itself a kind of corruption, precisely because it leads to the sort of attitude just described. Anscombe insisted that it is practicable to live a life of integrity which is also a quite ordinary life of family, work, friends, politics and compromise. To see this, she thought, we need to return to an older—Hebrew-Christian—conception of ethics, in which morality does not create obligations and duties but rather places limits and restrictions on what is permissible to do. Limiting one’s possibilities for acting well, she thought, does not mean adopting standards that only the morally exceptional could meet.
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