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Moral Philosopher R.M. Hare Dies

February 17, 2002

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LONDON (AP) _ Richard Mervyn Hare, an influential philosopher who believed passionately that there are rational justifications for behaving morally, has died at the age of 82.

Hare died Jan. 29 at his home near Oxford, his family said. The cause of death was not announced.

Hare, a longtime professor of philosophy at Oxford University, was an advocate of prescriptivism, arguing that moral beliefs can be defended through objective reasoning.

He outlined his ideas _ which rejected the notion that moral statements are simply expressions of emotion _ in books including ``The Language of Morals″ in 1952 and ``Freedom and Reason,″ published in 1963.

Prescriptivism _ so called because Hare held that moral judgments prescribe specific, universal courses of action _ was influential through the 1950s and 1960s. It later fell from fashion, but Hare never wavered; his life’s ambition, he said, was to find a way of answering moral questions rationally.

``Philosophers, like poets and gardeners, are born, not made,″ Hare once said, and he took moral philosophy seriously from an early age. When World War II broke out he struggled with whether to join the army or become a pacifist, finally enlisting in the Royal Artillery.

Captured after the fall of Singapore in 1942, Hare spent three years as a Japanese prisoner of war and was among the forced laborers who built the notorious Thai-Burma Railway. Throughout his time as a prisoner, he kept a diary of philosophical writings.

After the war Hare taught at Oxford and was a research professor at the University of Florida at Gainesville between 1983 and 1994.

In later life he applied his philosophy to practical problems, including those of bioethics.

Hare is survived by his wife, Catherine, four children and six grandchildren. A funeral service was held on Feb. 7 at St. Mary’s Church, Ewelme.

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