Ideal Observer Theory

Ideal observer theory purports to give the meanings of ethical terms or to provide normative standards by showing what judgments an ideal observer would make and what reactions an ideal observer would have. There are many different versions of the theory. Other ethical theories employ aspects of ideal observer theory as well. The most notable of ideal observer theories is that of Roderick Firth, but Adam Smith offers one of the first versions. Others who employ aspects of ideal observer theory include Richard Hare, in his discussion of the archangel as part of his two-tiered theory of moral thinking, and John Stuart Mill, in his use of the benevolent spectator as part of the explanation of utilitarianism. However, Hare’s archangel and Mill’s benevolent spectator are ...

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