Volume 96, Issue 1, Winter 2022
Alex Plato, Jonathan Reibsamen
The Five Characters at Essay’s End: Re-examining Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy”
Anscombe ends her seminal 1958 essay “Modern Moral Philosophy” with a presentation of five characters, each answering an ancient (and contemporary) question as to “whether one might ever need to commit injustice, or whether it won’t be the best thing to do?” Her fifth character is the execrated consequentialist who “shows a corrupt mind.” But who are the first four characters? Do they “show a mind”? And what precisely is the significance (if any) of her presenting those five just then? In this paper, we interpret Anscombe’s essay with an eye to making sense of her character presentation. We argue that the first four characters can be seen to embody the chief negative and positive doctrines of the essay and to thereby represent and charter a pluralistic school of anti-consequentialist ethics. The upshot is something exegetically interesting yet of broader philosophical importance.