R.M. Hare (1919-2002) was an English moral philosopher. He argued that evaluative terms are essentially prescriptive and universalizable. Moral reasoning does not, he thought, involve inferring from certain matters of fact to what one should do. Instead, one begins with a moral judgment and, considering what it implies (according to the rules of prescriptivity and universalizability), sees whether it should be thrown out. While this sounds like an abstract picture of moral reasoning, Hare was no stranger to extreme circumstances calling for extreme grit and integrity. A.W. Price writes,
When war broke out, he characteristically volunteered for service in the Royal Artillery, and circumvented the results of a medical test in order to be permitted active service overseas. He was eventually put on a ship for India in autumn 1940. He had a year (which he described as one of the happiest of his life) training Punjabi soldiers, and enjoying some adventures (twice finding his own way back through the jungle, once after losing his guns to the Japanese). He was finally taken prisoner when Singapore fell in February 1942. He then suffered a long march up the River Kwai to near the Three Pagodas Pass, with a group of officers whose task was to work as coolies building the railway from Siam into Burma…. He was eventually imprisoned with fellow officers in Singapore, whence he was released after exactly three and a half years when the war ended.
While on leave in 1940, he wrote twenty pages setting out ‘my philosophy’. When Singapore fell, he looted a ledger from Changi jail, and started writing a monograph called ‘An Essay in Monism’. He carried this on his back during the march, and completed it just before being released.
In the postscript to “An Essay in Monism,” Hare wrote, coyly:
There are circumstances - and I have had my fill of them - in which one becomes absolutely convinced of the contemptibility of the human race in general, and of the supreme importance of oneself in particular.
Sources: Wikipedia, “Richard Mervyn Hare” (A.W. Price), R.M. Hare: A Memorial Address (John Hare)