Distinguished philosopher and supporter of Humanism
“… our moral outlook is not a purely rationalist affair, but is rooted in experiences and in relationships with people we care about.”
Jonathan Glover was born in 1941 and educated at Tonbridge School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He has taught philosophy at New College, Oxford and currently teaches ethics at King’s College London. His interests include applied ethics, global ethics and ethical issues in psychiatry; in 1989 the European Commission appointed him to head a panel on embryo research in Europe.
Jonathan Glover has written several books on ethics which support a broadly humanist perspective: consequentialist, but also giving some weight to individual autonomy, and rejecting the idea of the absolute sanctity of life. Causing Death and Saving Lives (1977) discusses practical moral questions of life and death: abortion, infanticide, suicide, euthanasia, choices between people, capital punishment, and war. In Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century (1999), Glover considers the psychological factors that predispose us to commit barbaric acts, and suggests how man-made moral traditions and the cultivation of moral imagination can work to restrain us from violence and selfishness.
In 2008 he gave Humanists UK/Humanist Philosophers Group Bentham Lecture, on “Terrorism, Torture and Human Rights”. He argued that while human rights remain a philosophically awkward concept, there is nevertheless good reason to prohibit torture. You can watch a video of the lecture here.
Jonathan Glover’s own website, a fascinating collection of essays, interviews, quotations, insights…