WHO ARE WE TO JUDGE?

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Ronald Stade

Abstract

Moral issues can be considered from three vantage points: the first is prescriptive, the second descriptive and the third ascriptive. The prescriptive view claims that certain principles ought to guide human behaviour. The descriptive view is a ‘view from nowhere’. It can be found in the historical and social-scientific study of morality. The ascriptive perspective hypothesises that certain human qualities, a fairness instinct for example, provide the bedrock for morality. What is the relationship between the three perspectives on morality? Can either (or some or all) of them supply a moral voice and vision for anthropology? Or is there something in their very coexistence that could carry forward the anthropological engagement with morality?

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Working papers