Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

J. L. Mackie

John Leslie Mackie (1917-1981) was a philosopher, originally from Sydney, Australia. From 1967 until his death, he was a fellow of University College, Oxford. He was in 1974 elected a fellow of the British Academy.

Table of contents
1 Interests and character
2 Life
3 Publications
4 Other reading

Interests and character

Mackie was well known for his contributions to the field of meta-ethics, where he took the position of moral skepticism, arguing against the objective existence of right and wrong on fundamental grounds concerning what kinds of things those must be, if they exist.

He was also well known for vigorously defending atheism, and arguing that the problem of evil made untenable the main monotheistic religions. Other areas to which he made significant contributions include the nature of causal relationships, and of conditional statements describing them.

John Mackie was a fundamentally pleasant man. He is said to have been capable of expressing total disagreement in such a genial way that the person being addressed might mistake the comment for a compliment. This personal style may be exemplified well by the following words from Mackie's preface to his Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong:

I am nowhere mainly concerned to refute any individual writer. I believe that all those to whom I have referred, even those with whom I disagree most strongly, have contributed significantly to our understanding of ethics: where I have quoted their actual words, it is because they have presented views or arguments more clearly or more forcefully than I could put them myself.



Other reading