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Principia Ethica (Philosophical Classics)

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First published in 1903, this volume revolutionized philosophy and forever altered the direction of ethical studies. It clarifies some of moral philosophy's most common confusions and redefines the science's terminology. 6 chapters explore: the subject matter of ethics, naturalistic ethics, hedonism, metaphysical ethics, ethics in relation to conduct, and the ideal.


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First published in 1903, this volume revolutionized philosophy and forever altered the direction of ethical studies. It clarifies some of moral philosophy's most common confusions and redefines the science's terminology. 6 chapters explore: the subject matter of ethics, naturalistic ethics, hedonism, metaphysical ethics, ethics in relation to conduct, and the ideal.

30 review for Principia Ethica (Philosophical Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Fergus

    Back at the dawn of the twentieth century, Bertrand Russell was telling folks to smarten up and learn to think analytically. Well, the general population thought nothing much about the kerfuffle that he was making at Oxbridge... But a young fellow philosopher decided he might as well make it his business to analyse Goodness out of existence. Can you imagine trying to do that today, when we’re desperately clinging to simple values of decency in a world of evil, amidst its relentless toll of lost Back at the dawn of the twentieth century, Bertrand Russell was telling folks to smarten up and learn to think analytically. Well, the general population thought nothing much about the kerfuffle that he was making at Oxbridge... But a young fellow philosopher decided he might as well make it his business to analyse Goodness out of existence. Can you imagine trying to do that today, when we’re desperately clinging to simple values of decency in a world of evil, amidst its relentless toll of lost illusions? You’d be dismissed as just another crank with an axe to grind! The philosopher’s name was G.E. Moore. And this is the Great Book that proves Goodness is an illusion. 1903: it was the dawn of the Twentieth Century and youthful philosophical students had grown fed up with the elder statesmen of Victorian Absolute Idealism. So they opened the windows of their minds, and took their inspiration from the fresh air of the New Physics and radical continental philosophical thinking for a new way of looking at things. G.E.Moore was such as these, and he had envisioned an ethical statement which his fellow Young Turks could call their own: it was to be called, with a Latin flourish, The Principles of Ethics - Principia Ethica. The young Moore liked to frequent Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s relaxed Bloomsbury property, for their garden parties would attract a who’s-who of progressive London thinkers. As well as Moore and his fellow philosopher Bertrand Russell, those glittering soirées would attract various luminaries - from the economist John Maynard Keynes and belle-lettrist Lytton Strachey to the junior rising star T.S. Eliot - reserved and aloof as he always was at such free-wheeling functions. On the latter point, Leonard Woolf recalled in his memoirs a stroll with the great poet from which Woolf took a break in the bushes to relieve himself. Eliot, the eternal Prufock, was aghast! The funny thing about Moore’s new book on ethics - as he probably confided to his Bloomsbury confrères - is that according to him there were in fact from henceforth to be no more principles, but a free life in which ethics were no longer any big deal. That blessed metaphysical saint, Spinoza, author of the classic bible on ethics, must have turned over in his grave! Moore’s book was to sell like wildfire, though, and make him famous. But as Prometheus found out, there’s a price to be paid for stealing fire from the gods. And goodness from the hearts of ordinary people. And Moore’s later freewheeling ways were to cause him regret. He soon sank into a classic Slough of Despond. It was Virginia Woolf, in her diaries, who tells us from that point of instant fame there followed a period of rapid decline in Moore’s life - morally and professionally - while his friend Bertrand Russell kept advancing to further glories, especially as his philosophical tomes gave way to fast-selling books on pop psychology for Everyman. After a while, Moore’s output diminished and he wandered into relative obscurity, except in academic circles. A little freedom can be a dangerous thing - especially for those with a staid Victorian upbringing. He should have stuck to his roots. In his now-lesser stature we probably will never know if he found hope and his sense of bien-être again. In anonymous circumstances such as those, we may pose, and answer the ironical question as Auden did: Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd - Had anything been wrong We should certainly have heard!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Utility

    When I was pursuing my undergraduate degree, a professor of mine lamented that philosophers only ever read Chapter 1 of J.L. Mackie’s Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, which contains the articulation and defence of Mackie’s Error Theory of morals. The rest of the book, in which he seeks to refute competing theories and to elaborate his own moral system, is paid little to no attention. Something very similar may be said of Moore. If we read him at all, we read the first chapter of Principia When I was pursuing my undergraduate degree, a professor of mine lamented that philosophers only ever read Chapter 1 of J.L. Mackie’s Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, which contains the articulation and defence of Mackie’s Error Theory of morals. The rest of the book, in which he seeks to refute competing theories and to elaborate his own moral system, is paid little to no attention. Something very similar may be said of Moore. If we read him at all, we read the first chapter of Principia Ethica, where he presents all of his most important ideas: the Naturalistic Fallacy, the Intuitionist theory of ethics, and the theory of Organic Wholes. More likely than not, however, we do not read him at all, but merely read about his Intuitionism in meta-ethics textbooks, next to such other relics as Emotivism and Prescriptivism. This is perhaps understandable. Most of what is essential to Principia Ethica is contained in ch. 1, and much of the rest can be dismissed as filler. Moore dedicates an inordinate amount of space to his refutations of Evolutionary Ethics, Hedonism, and “Metaphysical Ethics”, several of which are ridden with uncharitable readings of such pivotal figures as Kant, Mill, and Sidgwick. However, the final two chapters do much to clarify Moore's position and to concretize his method, and lack of attention to these accounts for several of the more common mischaracterizations of his thought. Indeed, not only is there a kind of plausibility to Moore’s Intuitionism, but I believe it to be in very great part correct. Perhaps the most biggest obstacle to recognizing this is Moore's claim that goodness is a non-natural property that is perceived via intuition, which has posed at once the metaphysical challenge of explaining the existence of such a dubious entity as "goodness" and the epistemological problem of giving an account of how we come to know it. These questions, however, arise from the letter of Moore's argument, i.e. from his unfortunate choice of terminology, and not from its spirit. Moore's basic point, the intuitive obviousness of which has largely been occluded by later philosophical developments, is that there is are certain kinds of experiences — the appreciation of art, the integration in a community, the contemplation of ideas, what have you — are inherently worth pursuing, i.e. worth choosing for their own sake, quite apart from anything else. This terminology already dissipates the most frequently cited criticism of Moore, namely that, if goodness were merely a property, then judgments about it could not be inherently motivating. For to say that something is worth pursuing just is to say that it "counts" toward action. If I am not mistaken, this also dispels both the metaphysical and the epistemological worries. What is claimed is no more complex than the idea that certain states that are available to beings who have evolved like us — agony, elation, anxiety, peacefulness, etc. — count toward either pursuit or avoidance Understood in this way, Moore's Intuitionism is a theory of the good. Moore does attempt to supplement this with a more or less utilitarian theory of the right; however, this is somewhat less convincing than Kantian models based on the construction of a "moral point of view" from which interests may be universalized (e.g. in R.M. Hare, John Rawls, and Jürgen Habermas). But even from the point of view of the theory of justice, the philosophical gains of this (admittedly somewhat anachronistic) reading of Moore are enormous insofar as they provide a base level to universalization procedures that is deeper than arbitrary preferences (as, arguably, they are in the three aforementioned authors). This also gives us a way to shed some light on cultural difference without reducing it either to the arbitrariness of different incommensurable forms of life or to the scientistic rigidity of functionalist readings. From a (psuedo-) Moorean point of view, vultural customs and traditions may be understood at once as formations centred around certain kinds of goods and as modes of access to those goods. This permits a realist reading of Heidegger's notion of world disclosure: certain kinds of practices and self-understandings make accessible some subset of the range of goods available to beings who have evolved like us. There can be no Principia Ethica is a flawed book. Nonetheless, its influence can be felt in some of the more recent work by such authors as Derek Parfit and John McDowell, and with good reason. Though certainly not salvageable as is, the book possesses more than enough potential to warrant the recent "return to Moorean roots" in meta-ethics", and more than enough also to warrant the attention of any serious student of ethical theory.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ali Reda

    It appears to me that in Ethics, as in all other philosophical studies, the difficulties and disagreements, of which its history is full, are mainly due to a very simple cause: namely to the attempt to answer questions, without first discovering precisely what question it is which you desire to answer.All ethical questions fall under one or other of three classes: 1) What is good? 2) What things are good in themselves or has an intrinsic value? 3) What kind of actions ought we to perform or what is It appears to me that in Ethics, as in all other philosophical studies, the difficulties and disagreements, of which its history is full, are mainly due to a very simple cause: namely to the attempt to answer questions, without first discovering precisely what question it is which you desire to answer.All ethical questions fall under one or other of three classes: 1) What is good? 2) What things are good in themselves or has an intrinsic value? 3) What kind of actions ought we to perform or what is the right action to do? (Practical Ethics) A great part of the vast disagreements prevalent in Ethics is to be attributed to failure in analysis and in differentiation between the 3 questions. Unless we know what good means, unless we know what is meant by that notion in itself, as distinct from what is meant by any other notion: 1) We shall not be able to tell when we are dealing with Good and when we are dealing with something else, which is perhaps like it in some aspects, but not the same. 2) We can never know on what evidence an ethical proposition rests. We cannot favor one judgment that this or that is good, or be against another judgment that this or that is bad. By the use of conceptions which involve both that of intrinsic value and that of causal relation, as if they involved intrinsic value only, philosophers found in answering questions 2 and 3, an adequate definition of Ethics and not that they are defined by the fact that they predicate a single unique objective concept. This what Moore calls the "Naturalistic Fallacy", i.e equating a property with a thing that has a relation to this property, ex. this property possess the thing (Good possess pleasure so Good is pleasure) or equating a means with a property as an end (an action which is a means to pleasure is Good so Good is pleasure). Accordingly we face two problems with Philosophers' ethical systems: 1) Confusing Question 1 with Question 2 in which the casual relation is "Possession" 2) Confusing Question 1 with Question 3 in which the causal relation is "means" The source of this confusion, is that Good is undefinable. Good is a simple notion, just as yellow is a simple notion; that it isn't composed of any parts, which we can substitute for it in our minds when we are thinking of it because they are the ultimate terms of reference to which whatever is capable of definition must be defined, there is no relevant evidence whatever which can be cited from any other truth, except themselves alone. Therefore, we cannot define "good" by explaining it in other words, we can only point to an action or a thing and say "That is good." It can only be shown. We can only show a sighted person a piece of yellow paper and say "That is yellow." So just as you cannot explain "what yellow is" to anyone who does not already know what a color is, you cannot also explain what good is. So Good is self-evident. By saying that a proposition is self-evident, we mean emphatically that its appearing so to us, is not the reason why it is true: for we mean that it has absolutely no reason. Consider yellow, for example. We may try to define it, by describing its physical equivalent; we may state what kind of light-vibrations must stimulate the normal eye, in order that we may perceive it. But a moment’s reflection is sufficient to show that those light-vibrations are not themselves what we mean by yellow. They are not what we perceive. The most we can be entitled to say of those vibrations is that they are what corresponds in space to the yellow which we actually perceive.And there must be an indefinite number of such undefinable terms; since we cannot define anything except by an analysis, which when carried as far as it will go, refers us to something, which is simply different from anything else, and which by that ultimate difference explains the peculiarity of the whole which we are defining: for every whole contains some parts which are common to other wholes also.Every one does in fact understand the question "Is this good"? When he thinks of it, his state of mind is different from what it would be, were he asked Is this pleasant, or desired, or approved? It has a distinct meaning for him, even though he may not recognize in what respect it is distinct.Moore proposes a method to know what degree of value a thing has in itself, is that we should see it as if it existed in absolute isolation, stripped of all its usual accompaniments. He then discusses a few concepts that show the mistakes of the philosophers whose ethical statements fall in the category of the first problem. Organic Unity It has just been said that what has intrinsic value is the existence of the whole, and that this includes the existence of the part; and from this it would seem a natural inference that the existence of the part has intrinsic value. But the inference would be as false as if we were to conclude that, because the number of two stones was two, each of the stones was also two or in reverse all the parts of a picture may be meaningless unless they are put together thus makes the whole meaningful. We may admit, indeed, that when a particular thing is a part of a whole, it does possess a predicate which it would not otherwise possess, that it is a part of the whole. Thus, to take a typical example, if an arm be cut off from the human body, we still call it an arm. Yet an arm, when it is a part of the body, undoubtedly differs from a dead arm. So in considering the different degrees in which things themselves possess a property, we have to take account of the fact that a whole may possess it in a degree different from that which is obtained by summing the degrees in which its parts possess it. This what Moore calls the principle of Organic Unity. I'll give an example related to Theodicy, courage and compassion seem to involve essentially a cognition of something evil or ugly. In the case of courage the object of the cognition may be any kind of evil; in the case of compassion, the proper object is pain. These virtues involve a hatred of what is evil or ugly and if so, there are admirable things, which may be lost, if there were no cognition of evil. Once we recognize the principle of organic unities, any objection to this conclusion, founded on the supposed fact that the other elements of such states have no value in themselves, must disappear. It might be the case that the existence of evil was necessary, not merely as a means, but analytically, to the existence of the greatest good. But we have no reason to think that this is the case in any instance whatever. So the right action entails the suppression of some evil impulse, is necessary to explain the plausibility of the view that virtue consists in the control of passion by reason. Accordingly, the truth seems to be that, whenever a strong moral emotion is excited by the idea of rightness, this emotion is accompanied by a vague cognition of the kind of evils usually suppressed or avoided by the actions which most frequently occur to us as instances of duty; and that the emotion is directed towards this evil quality. We may, conclude that the specific moral emotion owes almost all its intrinsic value to the fact that it includes a cognition of evils accompanied by a hatred of them. The Open Question ArgumentFor it is the business of Ethics, I must insist, not only to obtain true results, but also to find valid reasons for them. The direct object of Ethics is knowledge and not practice; and any one who uses the naturalistic fallacy has certainly not fulfilled this first object, however correct his practical principles may be.Moore proposed a test, to see whether goodness is identical to X, he called it The Open Question Argument which depends on our common sense and that Good is self-evident.X is not identical to goodness if the question, “Is X good?” is open.Applying it in a few examples: The question, “Is pleasure good?” is open and meaningful. It makes sense to wonder about this. The question, “Is pleasure pleasure?” seems settled and pointless. It doesn't make sense to wonder about this; the answer is trivially “yes.” For a complete analysis of the book, visit this link.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Randal Samstag

    Principia Ethica (PE) was first published in 1903 and it is still in print today. I would think that there is hardly an introductory university course in ethics that could do without some mention of it. Moore says in the preface that the book is intended to sort two kinds of questions. “The two questions may be expressed, the first in the form: What kind of things ought to exist for their own sakes? the second in the form: What kind of actions ought we to perform?” In this preface he says the “ Principia Ethica (PE) was first published in 1903 and it is still in print today. I would think that there is hardly an introductory university course in ethics that could do without some mention of it. Moore says in the preface that the book is intended to sort two kinds of questions. “The two questions may be expressed, the first in the form: What kind of things ought to exist for their own sakes? the second in the form: What kind of actions ought we to perform?” In this preface he says the “One main object of this book may, then, be expressed by slightly changing one of Kant’s famous titles. I have endeavored to write a ‘Prolegomena' to any future Ethics that can possibly pretend to be scientific.” It is interesting that he expresses hopes at a “scientific” Ethics, for most modern proponents of “scientific” ethics (like Sam Harris) are proponents of some version of the utilitarianism that Moore attacked savagely in PE. PE is divided into six chapters and it is convenient to discuss the book under subheadings provided by these chapters. The Subject Matter of Ethics The first chapter of PE sets out Moore’s famous answer to the question, “What is good?” His answer is that “good” is indefinable or simple: “for if by definition be meant the analysis of an object of thought, only complex objects can be defined.” He says “Propositions about the good are all of them synthetic and never analytic; and that is plainly no trivial matter. And the same thing may be expressed more popularly, by saying that, if I am right, then nobody can foist upon us such axioms as the ‘Pleasure is the only good’ or that ‘The good is the desired’ on the pretense that this is ‘the very meaning of the word.’” Moore claims that if good is a simple notion “just as ‘yellow’ is a simple notion” this means that you cannot explain to anyone who already doesn’t know it what the word means. One can explain to someone what a chimera is but in doing so one is describing a complex notion, but the parts of which this complex notion are composed cannot be broken down any further. When told that a chimera is a an animal with a lioness’s head and body and a goat’s head growing from the middle of its back with a snake in place of a tail, you have to already know what a lioness, goat, and snake are. And if “good” is indefinable, then to try to define it by saying that it has this property or that is to commit what Moore called the “naturalistic fallacy.”(NF) Moore defines it thus: “It may be true that all things which are good are also something else, just as it is true that all things which are yellow produce a certain kind of vibration in the light. And it is a fact, that Ethics aims at discovering what are those other properties belonging to all things which are good. But far too many philosophers have thought that when they named these other properties that they were actually defining good; that these properties, in fact, were simply not ‘other’ but absolutely and entirely the same with goodness. This view I propose to call the ‘naturalistic fallacy’ and of it I shall now endeavour to dispense. “(PE, p. 10) He considers two example contenders for the definition of “good”: 1) good is pleasure or 2) good is that which is desired. In the first case the person claiming this is saying that the object of his desire is not pleasure, he contradicts himself directly. “If good is defined as something else, it is then impossible either to prove that any other definition is wrong or even to deny such a definition.” In the other case, he says “the discussion is after all a verbal one. When A says ‘Good means pleasant’ and B says ‘Good means desired.’ They may merely wish to assert that most people have used the word for what is pleasant and for what is desired respectively.” Only this is not an “ethical” discussion, according to Moore. The other well-known topic taken up in Chapter I is Moore’s take on Hegel’s “organic whole” or “organic unity”. Moore insists that “in considering the different degrees in which things themselves possess this property (goodness), we have to take into account of the fact that a whole may possess it in a degree different from that which is obtained by summing the degrees in which its parts possess it.” (PE, p. 36) What he means by this is taken up in his last chapter. Naturalistic Ethics In his second chapter Moore takes on those ethical theories that he feels commit his NF. These include Stoic Ethics, for they declared ethics to be the task of discovering a ‘life according to nature.” He defers his (brief) discussion of the Stoics and their metaphysical ethics to Chapter IV, however. In this chapter Moore bores in on Herbert Spencer’s “Evolutionistic Ethics” (in The Data of Ethics) for ridicule. Evolutionistic ethics in his mind defines the good as that which is "natural" and for that reason, is “therefore certainly fallacious”; that is, not included in the category of ethical knowledge according to Moore’s definition. He derides Spencer for “’constantly’ using the term ‘more evolved’ as equivalent to ‘higher.’” He is not sure whether to criticize Spencer as an evolutionistic ethicist or as a hedonist. But when Spencer says that ”‘virtue’ cannot ‘be defined otherwise than in terms of happiness’” Moore declares him therefore guilty of the NF. Hedonism Moore has a separate chapter for Hedonism, which he sees as a special case of the NF. Here he credits Henry Sidgwick (a fellow Apostle) for “clearly recognizing that by ‘good’ we do mean something unanalysable” and who “has alone been led thereby to emphasise the fact that, if Hedonism be true, its claims to be so must be rested solely on its self-evidence – that we must maintain ‘Pleasure is the sole good’ to be a mere intuition.” His refutation of Hedonism he explains as follows: “In fact, my justification for supposing that I shall have refuted historical Hedonism, if I refute the proposition ‘Nothing is good but pleasure’ is that although Hedonists have rarely stated their principle in this form and though its truth, in this form, will certainly not follow from their arguments, yet their ethical method will follow logically from nothing else.” (PE, p. 61) Among the group of Hedonists he includes Aristippus, founder of the Cyrenaic school and follower of Socrates, the Epicureans, and the Utilitarians: Bentham, Mill, Spencer, and Sidgwick. His method of refuting Mill is to take his quotes like “we have not only all the proof which the case admits of, but all which it is possible to require, that happiness is a good: that each person’s happiness is a good to that person, and that the general happiness, therefore, a good to the aggregate of all persons” and then convict him of NF. So, even though Mill has not said that happiness is the sole good, Moore, regardless convicts him of NF: he has “attempted to establish the identity of good with the desired, by confusing the proper sense of ‘desirable,’ in which it denotes that which it is good to desire, with the sense which it would bear if it were analogous to such words as ‘visible.’” Having finished with Mill, in his mind, he moves on to Sidgwick. He maintains that Sidgwick has seen the inconsistency between the Hedonistic principle that “Pleasure is the sole good” and that one pleasure may be better than another. Yet, he still chooses “Pleasure alone is good as an end.” His case against Hedonism ultimately rests on Socrates’s discussion with Protarchus in the Philebus. Socrates gets Protarchus to admit that although he has maintained that to “live your whole life in the enjoyment of the greatest pleasures” is his doctrine, he is speechless when Socrates explains that intelligence, memory, knowledge, and wisdom would be excluded from such a life. Metaphysical Ethics In this chapter Moore moves on to the Stoics, Spinoza, and Kant. “They all imply, and many of them expressly hold, that ethical truths follow logically from metaphysical truths – that Ethics should be based on Metaphysics.” He defines metaphysics as a “profession to prove the truth about non-natural existents. I define ‘metaphysical,’ therefore, by a reference to supersensible reality; although I think that the only non-natural objects, about which it as succeeded in obtaining truth, are objects which do not exist at all.” The Stoics, for example, asserted that a life in accordance with Nature was perfect. But they did not mean “Nature” as Moore defines it, but “something supersensible which they inferred to exist, and which they held to be perfectly good.” He deals likewise with Spinoza’s Absolute Substance and ‘intellectual love’ of God and with Kant’s “Kingdom of ends” which is ideal. And with modern writers “who tell us that the final and perfect end is to realize our true selves.” (PE, p. 113) But, remarkably, Moore indicts the metaphysical ethicists of NF: “They . . . imply, as I said, that this ethical proposition follows from some proposition which is metaphysical: that the question ‘What is real?’ has some logical bearing upon the question ‘What is good?’ It was for this reason that I described ‘Metaphysical Ethics in Chapter II as based upon the NF.” He ends up maintaining that, just like being good is not just experiencing pleasure, being good is not identical with being willed (a la Kant) or felt in a certain way. Perhaps it is the right place here to bring up Bernard Williams’s comment that “It is hard to think of any other widely used phrase in the history of philosophy that is such a spectacular misnomer” as the NF (Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, p. 121). Williams says the NF is not in Moore’s usage a mistake in inference as opposed to what “in Moore’s view was an error, or else simple redefining the word.” To be fair to Moore, he often finds mistakes in inference (most commonly by reductio) in the arguments of his opponents. But there is something to Williams’s quarrel that when Moore argues by induction or points out inconsistencies in deduction he is never alive to the irony as old as Sextus Empiricus that neither induction nor deduction can be defended as anything more than conventional argument, even though Moore at one point says, “it follows from the meaning of good and bad, that such propositions are all of them, in Kant’s phrase, ‘synthetic’: they all must be simply accepted or rejected, which cannot be logically deduced from any other proposition.” And we know this, not just from Sextus Empiricus, but also from Moore’s bête noir, J.S. Mill. Ethics in Relation to Conduct Moore’s fifth chapter in PE is devoted to exploring the question of “What ought we to do?” He says that this question “can only be answered by an entirely new question – the question what things are related as causes to that which is good in itself.” He says that the job here is to determine what conduct is good as a means to good results. This is the question of practical ethics. His first conclusion is that “Intuitionism is mistaken since no proposition with regard to duty is self-evident.” His hope here is not to identify good means with certainty, but with a high degree of probability. His appeal here is often to "Common Sense." He finds that virtues are not to be defined as dispositions that are good in themselves, but as dispositions to perform actions that are "generally" good as a means. Finally, he finds that virtue consists in the "conscientiousness" that is the disposition not to act in certain cases until we believe that our action is right. The value of this feeling has been emphasized by Christian theology, but it “is certainly not, as Kant would lead us to think, either the sole thing of value, or always good as a means.” The Ideal The last chapter of PE seems to have been the only chapter read seriously by the artists and aesthetes of the Bloomsbury group. It is here that Moore finds that the "ideal" state of affairs is that which is “generally good in itself.” Here he finds in personal affection and aesthetic enjoyment “by far the greatest goods with which we are acquainted.” He here argues for the value of knowledge and of the intrinsic superiority of knowledge based on reality, as opposed to an imagined reality. He finds that “cognition of material qualities, and even their existence, is an essential constituent of the Ideal or Summum Bonum.” The book ends with a consideration of 1) unmixed goods, 2) evils, and 3)mixed goods. At this point, a weary reader may be excused for wondering if the whole chapter doesn’t fall under the category of the famous NF! And if so, just which ethical theory doesn't. Proof of an External World This consideration of the philosophy of GE Moore can’t end without his most famous quote, from his above named paper: “I can prove now, for instance, that two human hands exist. How? By holding up my two hands, and saying, as I make a certain gesture with the right hand, 'Here is one hand', and adding, as I make a certain gesture with the left, 'and here is another'. “ This paper comes from the end of Moore’s long and distinguished career as the King of Cambridge. Perhaps he had just gotten tired of all the wrangling, as have I.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Josh Friedlander

    The continental/analytical divide, which has split philosophy for around the past hundred years, is less a debate than a division of labour. Continental philosophers, liberated by Kant from the need to ground their intuitions empirically, have taken on the grand mantle of philosophy of old: metaphysics, aesthetics, history. Analyticals, mostly concentrated in the Anglophone world, have preferred to focus on more modest fields, mostly of modern provenance: philosophy of language, mathematics and The continental/analytical divide, which has split philosophy for around the past hundred years, is less a debate than a division of labour. Continental philosophers, liberated by Kant from the need to ground their intuitions empirically, have taken on the grand mantle of philosophy of old: metaphysics, aesthetics, history. Analyticals, mostly concentrated in the Anglophone world, have preferred to focus on more modest fields, mostly of modern provenance: philosophy of language, mathematics and science; and formal logic. (The one exception might be Analytical philosophy of mind, which goes back to Descartes and Leibniz, and has antecedents in Classical Philosophy.) G.E. Moore sits firmly in the second camp, but ambitiously attempts to reclaim the field of ethics to the analytical fold. To do so, he begins by clearing up a lot of the incorrect notions which had accumulated in the field, including hedonism, utilitarianism, and Kantian ethics. Pretty much every serious study of ethics has at some point fallen back on an appeal to nature or the like. Moore calls this the "naturalistic fallacy". Having dismissed all of the rest, he attempts a positive construction of what might be defined as good, and thus as desirable. And here is where he stumbles. Freely admitting that much work remains, Moore (himself known for his high ethical character, incidentally) struggles to define exactly what we might consider good, and on what basis. Especially in the field of aesthetics, his own judgments seem to veer dangerously close to the naturalistic fallacy. The assumption that some virtues are inherently good, while tempting, does seem to need more formal grounding. The strength of this book is in its thorough and clear examination - and repudiation - of most of the previous ethical theories to gain currency in the Western world. But the spectre of Postmodernism haunts this book: as logical positivism crumbled to dust by mid-century, Continentals would turn to moral relativism, while Analyticals would withdraw from the field altogether. Neutral moral judgments, seen as intuitive to most of us as children, aren't nearly as simple as they appear.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    One good point need not make a book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Xander

    In meta-ethics, the search for the ultimate foundation of morals, there are a few names which instantaneously ring a bell. Plato saw meta-ethics in the contemplation of the mind of the abstract Idea of Good – to be abstracted from everyday (imperfect) manifestations of good and bad. Ethics was, according to Plato, founded in rationalism. This was also the idea of René Descartes and Immanuel Kant – both claimed that the principles of ethics can be known a priori, without any recourse to In meta-ethics, the search for the ultimate foundation of morals, there are a few names which instantaneously ring a bell. Plato saw meta-ethics in the contemplation of the mind of the abstract Idea of Good – to be abstracted from everyday (imperfect) manifestations of good and bad. Ethics was, according to Plato, founded in rationalism. This was also the idea of René Descartes and Immanuel Kant – both claimed that the principles of ethics can be known a priori, without any recourse to experience (i.e. sensation and perception). Just by doubting we can find the self-evident truths; once we have found these principles, we can apply logic (i.e. deduction) to derive new certain truths from these. But in Britain, there has, ever since the seventeenth century, a totally different, opposing view. This is the view as propagated by people like John Locke, David Hume and Adam Smith, which is called empiricism, and says that knowledge ultimately derives from experience. There is no understanding without experience – sheer logic can only discover what is already present in the principles, no new knowledge can be gathered without our senses. In short: rationalism claims knowledge is transcendental, supernatural and can only be known through reasoning; empiricism claims knowledge can only be known through experience. This is what Immanuel Kant meant when he claimed “understanding without experience is empty; experience without understanding is blind” – Kant saw the flaws in both systems and tried to square the circle. But Kant’s system led to a whole new kind of morality. According to Kant, certain concepts, such as Free Will, God and the immortal Soul, are not part of the world as our senses represent it to us; those concepts are part of the transcendental world which is inaccessible to our senses and can only be slightly discovered through the use of reason (i.e. Kant’s synthetic a priori judgements). This then leads to an autonomous Ethics: the Free Will is unbound by the restrictions and limitations of this world, and can because of its freedom, discover the Moral Law. Good is following this Moral Law, and the Free Will cannot do anything but follow this moral code. This is an ethics that is characterized as intentionalism – why I do something is much more important than the consequences of my deeds: if I respect the moral law then I do good, no matter the consequences. After Kant, Hegel came along and perverted Kant’s system of epistemology as well as his ethics and created a delusional world is Ideas as the only real entities. He even saw history as a development of a World-Historical Idea. Around the same time that Hegel poisoned the minds of his students with his absurd metaphysical babbling, in Britain there arose an opposing tradition which focused on the consequences of one’s actions as a yardstick for goodness. Good is what brings the greatest happiness of the greatest number. This consequentialist ethics is called utilitarianism, since it measures the goodness of our actions by the utility of these actions to….to whom exactly? Some claimed the individual himself, which is called Egoism (or selfishness); others claimed society as a whole. But utilitarians were not able to explain the incompleteness of their system of ethics: who includes this society – is it our family? Our city? Our nation? Our race? The world population? And who is included – is it those currently living? Or the next generation as well? Or maybe even later generations? And how do we weigh all these different interests? In short: utilitarianism seeks its principles in human pleasure, but is not able to explain why pleasure is the principle and not some other (combination of) thing(s) as well as how we weigh all the different interests of those involved to acquire a practical guideline for us to follow. Autonomous morality is much more practical (it’s not for nothing Kant called it “praktischen Vernunft”), but leaves aside the consequences of our actions and in that sense is an ethics not rooted in reality of everyday life. Then, at the end of the nineteenth century British moral philosopher G.E. Moore came along and decided to do away with all the philosophical disputes. In his Principia Ethica (1903), he decides investigate the foundations of ethics and end all the philosophical nonsense. According to Moore, philosophers have hitherto tried to answer the wrong questions – or rather more accurately: have failed to ask the questions and have instead rushed to explain what good and bad are. Very unphilosophical. To understand where Moore’s coming from, one has to remind oneself that Moore is part of the British tradition called analytical philosophy that became famous in the twentieth century and which was a reaction against the road continental philosophy was taking: ever wilder speculations about ever more abstract notions – starting with Hegel’s Absolute Idea and ending in Nietzsche’s nihilism. Philosophy simply wasn’t the ‘philos sophia’ – love of wisdom – anymore. So analytically minded philosophers decided to leave the pursuit of natural knowledge to the emerging sciences of the day, and occupy themselves with analysing these scientific findings, looking for a foundation of science (ultimately mathematics) in logic, and interpreting and integrating these scientific discoveries into a consistent and coherent worldview. One important characteristic of the analytic school is the careful investigation of philosophical disputes; another important characteristic is the formulation of precise and well-formulated questions; and one more important characteristic is the modest attitude in answering these questions. Often, analytical philosophers occupy themselves solely with clarifying current notions and ideas, while shunning answering any of these questions – the philosopher as a linguistic therapist, so to speak. And what does the therapist in question cure? Fallacious thinking. By linguistic analysis, these philosophers try to show how our fallacious ways of thinking lead us to pose meaningless questions and/or come up with inadequate and invalid answers to meaningful questions. So what has this to do with Moore and his Principia Ethica? Moore wants to find the real principles of ethics. To do this, he has (1) to pose the right questions and to (2) explain how all of his predecessors were wrong. If he manages both, he will have clarified a lot in the field of Ethics – which is amazing in and of itself. Does he manage? First of all, Moore sees Ethics being concerned with three distinct questions: 1. What is Good in itself? 2. What things are good? 3. How should we conduct ourselves? These questions are all important, but they aren’t all alike. The question ‘What is Good in itself?’ looks for Good as something that is, without being rooted in reality. In other words: the question cannot be answered by having recourse to experience, i.e. empirical science. The answer is an intuition – the ‘knowing’ of the mind that it has stumbled on a self-evident truth. A truth that cannot be explained in terms of something else. The second question ‘What things are good?’ is the question of what the predicate ‘good’ means. Things are objects in reality and can be studied as such. Empirical science can study objects and discover causal relationships between different objects. This actually means that a part of Ethics, the part that is non-intuitionistic, has to occupy itself with the real world and has to be modelled as a natural science. For Moore, Ethics is a synthetic science, discovering new knowledge through experience – intuitions cannot lead anywhere, since they aren’t grounded in objective reality. The bridge between supernatural and natural can only be bridged through causality, which is a concept that can only be understood in terms of real objects. (A problem Kant’s system couldn’t deal with.) The last question ‘How should we conduct ourselves?’ is a practical question. It is a question of conduct: what should we do and what shouldn’t we do? Practical Ethics is a branch of Ethics, but it should be noted that the answers to this question should be grounded in the answer to the second question (What things are good?). For Moore, an act can only be good as means to an end; the end being ‘Good’. This literally means there is no such things as good deeds for good deeds’ sake – exit Kant’s autonomy. Alright, but how were Moore’s predecessors mistaken, exactly? Moore sees two different types of Ethics as developed within the history of philosophy: hedonism and metaphysical. Hedonism can be subdivided into hedonism proper (the pursuit of pleasure) and evolutionism (the pursuit of biological fitness). Hedonistic Ethics is founded in the pleasure-principle. Human beings want to experience pleasure and avoid pain, hence Pleasure becomes an ethical principle. Good is what brings Pleasure. This tradition goes back to ancient Greece (Epicureanism), but Moore focuses on the utilitarian approach as propagated by British philosophers John Stuart Mill and Henry Sidgwick. Good is the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Evolutionism on the other hand, is inspired by Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Organisms vary on a wide array of characteristics; all organisms are part of the same environment; resulting in variations in fitness, as in fit between organism and environment. Some organisms are more adapted to survival and reproduction than others, resulting in extinction, over geological time, of all those who are (relatively) less adapted. Evolution is historical development; Man is one specie of many; hence, Man is also subject to evolution. An ethics based on evolution then draws the implication that Good is what’s good for the survival of the individual or species – there have been many different views on this. More mainly focuses on Herbert Spencer, who claimed (in summary) that increasing the population means increasing the capacity for pleasure, hence propagation of the species is good. But according to Moore, both hedonism proper and evolution succumb to a fundamental error. This is Moore (infamous) ‘naturalistic fallacy’. It might very well be that human beings seek pleasure and that some things promote pleasure more than others; just as it might well be that more human beings means more capacity for experiencing pleasure; but both statements are factual claims about the real world. In and of itself they don’t contain any ethical statement. Drawing ethical implications from these factual claims is logically impossible. Why? Because ‘good’ as a predicate refers to the intuition of Good. An intuition that exists, but not as a real object in the world. Saying Pleasure is good, means that a human experience (fact) contains some part of the intuition ‘good’ (no fact). In David Hume’s words: “you can’t get an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’.” Also, according to Moore, utilitarianism is incapable of showing why Pleasure is the sole good and not some other good or any combination of goods. And whether utilitarianism should be Egoistic, good is pursuing my pleasure, or Utilitarian proper, good is pursuing the good of (all/some/who?). Exit Mill, Spencer and Sidgwick. Now, metaphysical ethics avoid some of the problems of hedonistic ethics, because it searches for ethical principles not in the real world but in a transcendental realm. Good is rooted in some other world: a hereafter, a transcendental world, etc. But then again, it suffers from the same naturalistic fallacy while introducing its own specific unsurmountable problems. Metaphysical ethics claims Good exists supernaturally and concludes from this that goodness in this world exists. This is, again, deriving an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. It doesn’t follow that a supernatural existence of Good has moral implications for this world. For example, Kant claimed that Free Will exists supernaturally and that the Freedom of this Will consists in discovering and following the Moral Law as an autonomous object. This can be perfectly true (how we can possibly know such a thing is another question) but it doesn’t follow from this that this implies something for me, in this real world. So again, we stumble upon the naturalist fallacy, it’s just that this time the predicate ’good’ refers not to this world (Pleasure) but to another world. Again it is supposed that Good (as intuition) exists because the thing which is good exists (as experience). If Kant says Good is what the Will wills, he derives an ethical statement (Good) from an empirical statement (I will something). In other words: the object of a cognition (for example Good) isn’t the same as the cognition of an object (me). A problem peculiar to metaphysical ethics, which utilitarianism doesn’t have, is the question how a supernatural world can have any ethical meaning for me in this world. If there is a hereafter, then life will start only in this transcendental world, what does this life matter? This is not simplistic nit-picking on Moore’s part, it is a fundamental problem. If the supernatural world is the real world, then ethics becomes literally meaningless, because it refers to an unreal world. If Christians and Muslims believe the hereafter to be the real world and this world only a passage or a test, then it becomes unexplainable how this-worldly ethical rules refer to reality at all. So, now Moore has answered the questions ‘What is Good?’ (an intuition) and has refuted utilitarianism (Spencer, Mill, Sidgwick) and autonomous ethics (Kant), he still has to offer his own answers to the remaining questions ‘What things are good?’ and ‘How should we conduct ourselves?’ According to Moore, the question of ‘What things are good?’ should be rephrased as ‘What is the nature of the predicate peculiar to Ethics?’ and ‘What kinds of things possess this predicate, and in what degree?’ Once we have answered this, the question ‘How should we conduct ourselves?’ becomes easy to answer. In the last chapter, Moore offers an answer by asking: ‘What things are such that, if they existed by themselves, in absolute isolation, we should judge their existence to be good?’ The isolation-element is important, since Moore states that things can be composed of different parts and the value of the whole is not identical with the sum of its parts. Also, if there are multiple things that contain goodness, ‘what comparative value seems to attach to the isolated existence of each?’ Things that possess intrinsic value, and are consequently ‘good’ derive this value both from the common character of kind of thing it is as well as the specific character of that particular thing. This means, for example, that our consciousness of the thing and our emotional attitude towards the thing are both included in the intrinsic value of the object. In general, personal affections and beautiful objects are the only two good things that exist. Based on this, Moore distinguishes three types of things: 1. Unmixed goods. This is our love of beautiful things and our love of good persons. 2. Evils. This is our love of the evil and ugly, our hatred of the good and beautiful, and our consciousness of pain. 3. Mixed goods. Things that include some element that is evil or ugly. This distinction tackles both the kinds of things question as well as the in what degree question. We now know what Good is and what things are good – all that’s left is to develop a practical ethics: how should we conduct ourselves? In this sense, Moore is a utilitarian: we have public and private duties only insofar as our actions promote the pleasures of human intercourse and/or the enjoyment of beautiful objects. This means our consciousness of these things, not the bare things themselves. Virtue only exists as long as these duties exist; fulfilling these duties literally is virtue. Moore even claims these two complex things (personal affection and beauty) are the sole criterion with which to measure social progress. Sounds vague? That’s true. Moore admits that this is as close as we can come within practical ethics. We have to account for both personal affection and beauty in the near-future. We don’t have any information about the future; we can only conduct ourselves in the here and now and can only reckon to a (very limited) limit with the future. Also, Moore finds himself in another trouble spot. If he claims the goal of his Principia Ethica, and ethics as an empirical science, is to discover “which of a given set of alternatives is the best means to procure the most good in the near-future?” he has to specify whose good. In this sense, he succumbs to the same ambiguity as the utilitarians did: am I the criterion here? Or rather, is a group of human beings, of which I am a member, the criterion? But then, which group? But to give Moore his due credit: he does state (multiple times) in the last two chapters that his analysis of current ethics and his clarification of the true ethical questions is the sole purpose of his book. His own attempts at constructing a practical ethics is an attempt, and a preliminary attempt at that. So, while stating that “consciousness of beauty” is “the fundamental truth of Moral Philosophy” (p. 189), he also states that his own attempt at a positive ethics (as in positing something and not falsifying something) is just a stepping stone to a more fundamental and coherent ethics of the future. My own view on this is simple. Moore lays bare the flaws in all ethical system developed up to 1903 and should be credited for this. His own attempt at constructing an ethical system fails for the same reasons as did the systems of his predecessors. Moore tries to found ethics in the real world – empirical science – but he still falls prey to the theoretical-practical divide. It’s one thing to assert personal affection and beautiful objects are ethical principles, but it’s a whole other thing to translate this into everyday life. One person’s good can be another person’s ugly, and vice versa . The most important lesson I take away from Principia Ethica is that philosophers should stop founding ethics in analytical, a priori notions. Analytical statements are empty without real-world experience. Ethics deals with human conduct and should be synthetic, based on human experience, as such. Moore’s attempt to construct ethics as an empirical science is commendable. Also, the book is such a strong argument in favour of analytic philosophy. I can’t seem to wrap my head around continental philosophers like Edmund Husserl or Martin Heidegger, and it frustrates me tremendously. I honestly don't see the meaning in their arguments. But every time I pick up a book of analytic philosophers like Bertrand Russell, Hans Reichenbach, and now G.E. Moore, my understanding of the subjects dealt with deepens tremendously. It is absolutely beautiful how these bright minds are able to do away with long-standing philosophical discussions by distinguishing between meaningful and meaningless questions, clarify difficult concepts, and offering a whole new way to look at former problems. I think I’ll stick to the other side of the ocean from now on…

  8. 5 out of 5

    adam

    G.E. Moore is the father of analytic philosophy, which is why you shouldn't read this book. It is basically a 200-page treatise on ethics that fails to actually give a definition of "the good" (since Moore believes it to be a simple concept that is beyond definition) and instead only outlines the ways in which one must define the realm of ethics. My favorite part is when he is debunking the Darwinists and says that evolution is a "temporary historical process" and therefore "more evolved" does G.E. Moore is the father of analytic philosophy, which is why you shouldn't read this book. It is basically a 200-page treatise on ethics that fails to actually give a definition of "the good" (since Moore believes it to be a simple concept that is beyond definition) and instead only outlines the ways in which one must define the realm of ethics. My favorite part is when he is debunking the Darwinists and says that evolution is a "temporary historical process" and therefore "more evolved" does not mean "better." This is one of those highly influential books that is better left unread.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Stein

    Moore's Principia is considered a classic in the field of meta-ethics in the early 20th century. It has all of the unfortunate hallmarks of the intellectually rich British philosophy of that era: It is terribly dry, superficial in its understanding of scientific concepts which had barely been borne, and not self-conscious in rehashing its historical situation with respect to the ideas that clearly inform it. The critique of ethical naturalism that Moore raises in the book is largely seen today as Moore's Principia is considered a classic in the field of meta-ethics in the early 20th century. It has all of the unfortunate hallmarks of the intellectually rich British philosophy of that era: It is terribly dry, superficial in its understanding of scientific concepts which had barely been borne, and not self-conscious in rehashing its historical situation with respect to the ideas that clearly inform it. The critique of ethical naturalism that Moore raises in the book is largely seen today as a non-sequitur, as there are plenty of non-naturalists who maintain the sort of utilitarianism developed by Sidgwick. As Moore's primary interlocutor, having some familiarity with Sidgwick is important, but even a passing familiarity will get the job done, as what Moore does discuss he quotes extensively at length. There are a number of problems with Moore's positions, but that doesn't make for a bad piece of philosophy. Lots of mistaken pieces of philosophy have turned out to be tremendously important. That seems to have been true for Moore and many others who took his hard-line position on meta-ethics. His attacks on Sidgwick turn out to be reasonably salient, but Sidgwick's utilitarianism seems to have survived, though in a somewhat different form. Though Moore's non-naturalism in meta-ethics is still being debated, it is probably the most important concept presented in the book; in fact, that is probably the reason that it is still being debated. The metaphysical grounding for ethics is something that really gets a lot of engines rolling and Moore has provided a lot of support for secular ethics, in part inadvertantly, by helping to reformulate the non-naturalism of Hume that seems to have permeated the British philosophical tradition. The book is a solid and important read for those who are interested in early 20th century philosophy, particularly ethics; because it is historically dated, though, it is hard to argue for its importance for someone studying, for example, contemporary ethics. It just isn't going to be of much use to those getting into the contemporary conversation, compared to modern ethicists. Someone interested in ethics is probably better off focussing on contemporary ethicists.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dr. A

    --- Read this and reviews of other classics in Western Philosophy on the History page of www.BestPhilosophyBooks.org (a thinkPhilosophy Production). --- This is a key work by one of the founders of the contemporary Analytic tradition in Philosophy. In this best loved work, Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore argues for a common sense approach to ethics that is given the name of “ethical naturalism.” In "ethical naturalism," ethical decisions are based not on idealized or abstract principles, like some --- Read this and reviews of other classics in Western Philosophy on the History page of www.BestPhilosophyBooks.org (a thinkPhilosophy Production). --- This is a key work by one of the founders of the contemporary Analytic tradition in Philosophy. In this best loved work, Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore argues for a common sense approach to ethics that is given the name of “ethical naturalism.” In "ethical naturalism," ethical decisions are based not on idealized or abstract principles, like some notion of the “good” (which Moore argues is not definable), but by a number of objectively determined values that are context dependent. For example, one might make a decision in a given context based on what is good in terms of aesthetics or beauty; on social norms (for example, of friendship); or on what is known to be true. In short, the right thing to do is what will produce the most good, but how goodness is determined varies. His argument is as compelling as it is easy to follow and absorb, and his work has been very influential on the likes of 20th Century philosophers like Bertrand Russell and pragmatist Ludwig Wittgenstein. --- Read this and reviews of other classics in Western Philosophy on the History page of www.BestPhilosophyBooks.org (a thinkPhilosophy Production). ---

  11. 5 out of 5

    J

    G.E. Moore is a British philosopher in the worst sense, and this book of his is characteristically boring to the point of being offensive to the reader. The most insightful part of this book is the incredibly NOT insightful realization "good" does not literally mean "utility", "hedonism", "jammy-dodgers", etc. After attempting to slog through this mess, I gained a real appreciation of Wittgenstein's contempt of Moore as a person who can make it far in life with absolutely no intelligence G.E. Moore is a British philosopher in the worst sense, and this book of his is characteristically boring to the point of being offensive to the reader. The most insightful part of this book is the incredibly NOT insightful realization "good" does not literally mean "utility", "hedonism", "jammy-dodgers", etc. After attempting to slog through this mess, I gained a real appreciation of Wittgenstein's contempt of Moore as a person who can make it far in life with absolutely no intelligence whatsoever. If you want to read English philosophy that doesn't suck, I'd go with Hume or Ayer, the former being somewhat entertaining, and Ayer because he's one of the few British philosophers of the past centuries with anything worthwhile to say.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Richard Newton

    Moore's book, regarded as one of the classics on ethics, is probably mostly known nowadays for one short, but important, section in the first chapter. Here Moore introduces the much debated "naturalist fallacy". Chapter 1 also explains Moore's views on "organic wholes", which is helpful. It's an interesting book from the ideas perspective, clearly written and fairly accessible. It is a little dull in writing style (not unusual for philosophy books to be fair) and I found it repetitive. I think Moore's book, regarded as one of the classics on ethics, is probably mostly known nowadays for one short, but important, section in the first chapter. Here Moore introduces the much debated "naturalist fallacy". Chapter 1 also explains Moore's views on "organic wholes", which is helpful. It's an interesting book from the ideas perspective, clearly written and fairly accessible. It is a little dull in writing style (not unusual for philosophy books to be fair) and I found it repetitive. I think an author writing this in the present era would have tried to complete it in half the number of pages. At times it reads like a period piece, as it was written in 1903. This is a shame as most of the chapters still have relevance to anyone studying ethics, with the exception of chapter 2 which seems mostly to be an attack on Herbert Spencer. Does anyone read the once famous Spencer anymore? I suspect practically no one. Moore's analysis and rejection of Hedonism in chapter 3 still has much to value. Chapter 5 has some helpful thoughts, but could be stated in a much more condensed way. I can't say anyone needs to read this book anymore as most of the important contents have been absorbed into later ethicists thinking, but it is still and influential book, and worth a go if you have the time.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Adrián Sánchez

    Contiene una fuerte crítica a la ética naturalista basada principalmente en la falacia naturalista, falacia que viene por el hecho de que al no poder definir lo que es bueno, no se pueden concluir valores morales de hechos naturales que por lo general no son morales, para el autor se pueden descubrir valores morales a través de la intuición y el sentido común, realizando comparaciones de lo que tienen en común varios juicios éticos.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Adrian Schroeder

    In itself a revolutionary approach to ethics to build from scratch and logic. Unfortunately, he gets lost in applying his logic and loses the thoroughness of the first chapters. Further, there are some grave misunderstandings of Kant's principles and Nietzsche's worldview which undermine the credibility of his own proposal. Freely after Nietsche: "Utilitarians are only concerned with british happiness for the british people: comfort and a seat in parliament."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ross

    For it is the business of Ethics, I must insist, not only to obtain true results, but also to find valid reasons for them. The direct object of Ethics is knowledge and not practice; and any one who uses the naturalistic fallacy has certainly not fulfilled this first object, however correct his practical principles may be.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ruthie

    I had to read this book for school. Although I think that the points it made were invaluable (good is good, our duty is to achieve the greatest total possible good), it was SO difficult to understand. I would read pages over and over again trying to understand what it was that I just read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cutenerd scraped an O OWL in Charms

    Incredible.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Esteban

    Mientras ordenaba algunas notas se me ocurrió que me facilitaría mucho las cosas encontrar un straw man de los críticos del hedonismo. Poco después, leyendo esa Wikipedia de la nada que es la Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, encontré lo que parecía un candidato idoneo. Las referencias a G.E. Moore del artículo sobre la historia del utilitarismo señalaban a argumentos risibles con esa reverencia a los ancestros típica de las instituciones moribundas, así que bajé su Principia Ethica. Mientras ordenaba algunas notas se me ocurrió que me facilitaría mucho las cosas encontrar un straw man de los críticos del hedonismo. Poco después, leyendo esa Wikipedia de la nada que es la Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, encontré lo que parecía un candidato idoneo. Las referencias a G.E. Moore del artículo sobre la historia del utilitarismo señalaban a argumentos risibles con esa reverencia a los ancestros típica de las instituciones moribundas, así que bajé su Principia Ethica. Imaginaba encontrarme con un ejemplo típico de la pedantería y la mediocridad de la filosofía analítica. Estaba equivocado. Era algo mucho peor. El énfasis en la forma, la obsesión por fijar límites que no contienen nada, el empobrecimiento de todo lo sustantivo, el olvido ya no de lo orgánico, sino de lo existente. "Estás solo en el mundo, pero pedís un alambrado". Moore representa un nivel muy inferior del colapso de un hombre en sí mismo que un censor como Veblen o un frustrado como Ruskin. Moore es un pequeño Urizen. Moore es un niño-anciano agobiado por el mundo. Moore es un ejemplo de como se filosofa en el Ulro. Su profunda estupidez no fue un accidente, sino un rasgo necesario de su condición.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

    I have so many mixed feelings about this book. If I really need to sum it up: good content, horrible delivery. His first chapter is fairly easy to understand. His chapter railing against evolution is interesting but not enough to captivate. His chapter on hedonism is wonderful! The only remaining chapters are the Ideal world, which was okay. He says the ideal world would be, not some perfect utopia, but which is the best possible alternative. That was the last chapter but the second to last I have so many mixed feelings about this book. If I really need to sum it up: good content, horrible delivery. His first chapter is fairly easy to understand. His chapter railing against evolution is interesting but not enough to captivate. His chapter on hedonism is wonderful! The only remaining chapters are the Ideal world, which was okay. He says the ideal world would be, not some perfect utopia, but which is the best possible alternative. That was the last chapter but the second to last chapter is about duties and means to ends. Like I said, the best summarization of this book is that its content is great but the delivery is not so great. He's repetitive and uses commas quite often. Some of his points he does NOT reiterate despite his repetition in other parts (which I guess can be taken as a good or bad thing). It goes very well with Huemer's Ethical Intuitionism as a meta-ethical theory.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    G.E. Moore was a member of the Bloomsbury Group. He is one of the fathers of the British Analytic Philosophy school along with Russell and Whitehead. Bertrand Russell has nothing but high praise for G.E. Moore. Analytic Philosophy's principle criticism is that there has been little progress in philosophy since Plato because philosophers have been asking the wrong questions. They have been asking questions that cannot be answered with the logical methods of philosophy. Moore is highly critical of G.E. Moore was a member of the Bloomsbury Group. He is one of the fathers of the British Analytic Philosophy school along with Russell and Whitehead. Bertrand Russell has nothing but high praise for G.E. Moore. Analytic Philosophy's principle criticism is that there has been little progress in philosophy since Plato because philosophers have been asking the wrong questions. They have been asking questions that cannot be answered with the logical methods of philosophy. Moore is highly critical of Idealists and Utilitarians when it comes to ethics. He explodes Kant and Bentham/Mill. He beings laying a foundation for an analytic ethics, but doesn't complete a system of ethics in this volume unfortunately.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    Moore's talent seems to be in eviscerating the arguments of other philosophers. I was less than impressed with the last chapter where he moved towards making his own positive arguments toward the foundation of ethics. I listened to it, from librivox: http://librivox.org/principia-ethica-... A great book of philosophy to listen to because he is extremely meticulous and clear as he progresses through his arguments, which is appreciated. Overall, an excellent book and I'm glad I finally digested it Moore's talent seems to be in eviscerating the arguments of other philosophers. I was less than impressed with the last chapter where he moved towards making his own positive arguments toward the foundation of ethics. I listened to it, from librivox: http://librivox.org/principia-ethica-... A great book of philosophy to listen to because he is extremely meticulous and clear as he progresses through his arguments, which is appreciated. Overall, an excellent book and I'm glad I finally digested it because it's been on my wish list for yeeeeeaaars.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sergio

    I can't honestly say I understood most of Mr. Moore's analysis, but the main argument that most ethical theories have committed the naturalistic fallacy was very well elaborated. His critique of evolutionists, utilitarians, hedonists, and separately metaphysical ethics were clear-cut and convincing. Less convincing were his own theories on the organic whole. The last chapter especially seems too strongly dependent on possibly outdated psychology and general observation rather than rigorous I can't honestly say I understood most of Mr. Moore's analysis, but the main argument that most ethical theories have committed the naturalistic fallacy was very well elaborated. His critique of evolutionists, utilitarians, hedonists, and separately metaphysical ethics were clear-cut and convincing. Less convincing were his own theories on the organic whole. The last chapter especially seems too strongly dependent on possibly outdated psychology and general observation rather than rigorous analysis.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Justin Allen

    Really good book, one of my top philosophy books for sure and is a must read for any others into this sort of subject.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    An excellent, and classic book in metaethics. This book is notorious for (1) a defense of realism in metaethics, via (2) the open-question argument. Moore shaped the field.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    I found the first chapter to be entirely fascinating, but a lot of this book felt like wasted space. The first chapter is at least worth a read, and the chapter on hedonism is good as well.

  26. 5 out of 5

    TJ

    Phil 469

  27. 4 out of 5

    sologdin

    charming little analytical philosophy text. am not a true believer in this school, 'course, but it does have its rigors and uses.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Struggling through this for my Philosophy class on Ethics. So far...it's a very difficult read. As my Professor would say, "Clear as mud."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gavin

    Intuition of good and the influence of Bloomsbury led me here. I found a lot to like and still do.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marylynne Sitko

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