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38. Moore


Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631219088.2002.00043.x


Moore's first writings concerned the foundations of E thics (chapter 6) , in particular, K ant 's (chapter 32) ethical theory. Moore argued that Kant (1724–1804) was wrong to suppose that the fundamental principles of ethics have any special connection with human reason or the W ill (p. 734). Instead, they concern questions of value which are as objective and mind-independent as any ordinary matter of fact. Generalizing from this rejection of an idealist foundation for ethics, Moore is equally critical of empiricist theories which suggest that questions of value can be resolved by reference to ‘nature’, including H uman nature ( chapter 35 ). In opposition to both idealism and empiricism, therefore, Moore proposed in his famous ethical treatise Principia Ethica ( Moore 1903 ) that the fundamental truths of ethics have a status comparable to the truths of arithmetic: they are abstract necessary truths concerning the intrinsic value of states of affairs. In support of this thesis, he maintained that there is a fallacy, the ‘naturalistic fallacy’, in all theories which seek to resolve questions of value by defining values in terms of further facts, such as facts concerning human nature. His main argument for this charge was that any supposed definition of goodness, which he took to be the fundamental value, can be seen to be incorrect when we see that it incorporates a substantive ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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