Monday September 28, 2009
-essay is due October 16
Meta-Ethics: the study of what we are doing when we make judgments of what is right and
wrong. Ex. How can we know that telling the truth is right and breaking promises is wrong? It is
not the study of what is right/wrong or good/bad (this is called normative ethics)
GE Moore-provides a view about meta-ethics, commonly know as non-naturalist moral
realism or non-naturalism.
2 elements of non-naturalism:
1)moral judgments are objectively true or false and can be known to be true or false. In the
same way that mathematical claims are true.
-Moore assumes that moral judgments can be objectively true (first sentence of the reading,
similar assumptions on 111 and 114). He thinks there are true judgments of the form, x is good.
Similar to saying that “this lecture hall has two levels”, has the same grammatical form as saying
happiness is good.
2) Autonomy of ethics thesis: Moral properties are not part of the physical world, they are a
separate kind of property. You cannot derive an “ought” from an “is”. Moral judgments are an
entirely distinct kind of truth, separate from any other kind of truth and can’t be derived from
scientific truths. You can know everything that is the case in the natural world, but you won’t
know from that what ought to be the case.
Ex. Happiness is good. John is feeling happy, therefore he is in a good state. In order for this to
be a truth, it has to be the case that happiness in general is a good thing. It doesn’t follow that
the good follows just from the fact that he is feeling happiness, it also needs to follow from the
moral claim that happiness is good.
Moore mostly talks about the good in his article, believes it to be the central moral concept. He
thinks that to say an action is right is equivalent in saying that it will promote the most good
possible. He realized that his arguments about why goodness is not equivalent to any natural
property, also show that rightness can’t be defined in terms of goodness. He also realized that
the arguments he made could be made about right just as much about goodness.
He thinks other philosophers support the naturalistic fallacy, confusing the property of goodness
with scientific/natural properties. Ex. can’t find the number 2, in itself, in space in time, but it has
a kind of existence outside of space in time, in a similar way that goodness does.
Moore’s central thesis about goodness is that it is indefinable. On pages 113-114, when he says
that good is indefinable, he doesn’t mean that THE GOOD is indefinable. By the good, he
means the things that are good. It might be that pleasure is a part of the good, anything
pleasant is also good.