Richard Mervyn Hare (21 March 1919 in Backwell, Somerset – 29 January 2002 in Ewelme, Oxfordshire) was an English moral philosopher who held the post of White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford from 1966 until 1983. He subsequently taught for a number of years at the University of Florida. His meta-ethical theories were influential during the second half of the twentieth century.
Hare is best known for his development of prescriptivism as a meta-ethical theory. He believed that formal features of moral discourse could be used to show that correct moral reasoning will lead most agents to a form of preference utilitarianism.
Some of Hare's students, such as Brian McGuinness and Bernard Williams, went on to become well-known philosophers. Peter Singer, known for his involvement with the animal liberation movement, was also a student of Hare's, and has explicitly adopted some elements of Hare's thought, though not his doctrine of universal prescriptivism.
Richard Hare was born in Backwell, Somerset. He attended Rugby School in Warwickshire, followed in 1937 by Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Greats (Classics). Although he was a pacifist, he volunteered for service in the Royal Artillery and was taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese from the fall of Singapore in 1942 to the end of the Second World War. This experience had a lasting impact on Hare's philosophical views, particularly his view that moral philosophy has an obligation to help people live their lives as moral beings (King 2004). His earliest work in philosophy, which has never been published, dates from this period, and in it, he tried to develop a system that might "serve as a guide to life in the harshest conditions," according to The Independent.
He returned to Oxford after the war, and in 1947, married Catherine Verney, a marriage that produced a son and three daughters. (Hare's son, John E. Hare, is also a philosopher.) He was elected fellow and tutor in philosophy at Balliol from 1947–1996; honorary fellow at Balliol from 1974–2002; and was appointed Wilde Lecturer in Natural Religion, 1963–66; and White's Professor of Moral Philosophy, 1966–1983, which accompanied a move to Corpus Christi. He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1972 to 1973. He left Oxford in 1983 to become Graduate Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of Florida at Gainseville, a post he held until 1994.
He died in Ewelme, Oxfordshire on 29 January 2002 after suffering a series of strokes.