Pendlebury alleges that abstraction and rationalization have had a strong and malign influence on normative moral philosophy in the 20th century.
Criticizing writers such as Hare, Rawls and Scanlon for pursuing a conception of moral philosophy that bears little resemblance to the way in which human beings actually think and conduct themselves, Pendlebury, instead, suggests a 'Virtue Ethics' inspired by Hegel's and Aristotle's accounts of action as a corrective to this trend, showing that moral activity is historically and socially based and must address the formed character of individual agents. This trend, which began with the responses by Locke, Hume and Kant to Descartes' Meditations, rendered moral philosophy individualistic and psychologistic in contrast to Aristotle and Hegel's claim that man is essentially a social creature.
Pendlebury argues that this should be the starting point of any account and understanding of morality which roots the concept of will in the practical activity involved in being a member of an ethical community rather than an abstract metaphysical entity that is supposedly in the possession of individuals. In providing a critique of modern moral philosophy from this perspective, Pendlebury's line of enquiry lends much support to 'Virtue Ethics' as exemplified in the work of Hursthouse and Slote, while taking a more combative approach with those with whom he disputes.
In doing so he shows that serious considerations of continental philosophy highlights the richness of moral activity absent from 'analytical' tradition which for so long has been bent on marginalizing it.