Sympathy: A philosophical analysis
Palgrave Macmillan, $132 hb, 163 pp
In 1958 Oxford philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, whose demolition of C.S. Lewis in a Union debate a few years earlier was said to have driven that colleague to fiction, turned her sights on a bigger target: modern moral philosophy. The then-dominant notions of obligation and duty ‘ought to be jettisoned’, she declared, as they make no sense in the absence of a lawgiver, or at least of some external source of value, and these days their presence is no longer assumed. But ‘If there is no God,’ said Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, ‘then anything is permitted.’ If reason, religion and utility can’t field our moral questions, what tells us to not lie and steal?