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Introduction to Ethics Lecture 8 Moore’s Non-naturalism By David Kelsey.

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1 Introduction to Ethics Lecture 8 Moore’s Non-naturalism By David Kelsey

2 Non-naturalism G.E. Moore was a non-naturalist. –Non-naturalist’s deny that ethical properties like ‘Good’ are identical or reducible or definable in terms of some natural property such as pleasure. Instead, Good is: –Un-analyzable –Simple –sui generis

3 Moore against Naturalism Moore famously argued against Naturalism: –In particular Moore argued against Definitional Naturalism: –This is the view that Good is reducible to some natural property like pleasure. Moore’s critique of Naturalism was a critique of the naturalistic method: –The Naturalistic method is just how the Naturalist arrives at his conclusion that good is to be identified with some natural property. A natural property is something of or in nature… –Moore uses his very famous Open Question argument to attack the Naturalistic Method.

4 The Definition Moore aims to find Moore first sets out to find a definition of Good. –The definition of Good Moore wants is of a particular kind. He doesn’t want a definition of ‘The Good’, that which is good. (section 9) He wants a definition of Good. It’s an adjective. The good is everything to which the adjective (Good) is applied… –The definition Moore wants states: “the real nature of the object…denoted by a word” (section 7) what are the parts of a whole (section 8) how those parts are composed together & how the parts are all arranged in definite relations to each other. Horse Example: –A horse is composed in a certain manner: it has four legs, a head, a heart, a liver, etc., etc. –All of the parts of a horse are arranged in definite relations to one another: the teeth, mouth, nose, & ears all compose the head, etc., etc. (section 8) –For Moore, it isn’t possible to define ‘Good’ in such a way.

5 Moore’s positive thesis about Good For Moore, Good is: –Just as yellow is. Both are simple concepts, I.e. have no parts. “…yellow and good, we say, are not complex: they are notions of that simple kind, out of which definitions are composed and with which the power of further defining ceases.” (section 7) –Good isn’t composed of any parts which we can substitute for it in our minds when we are thinking of it. –You cannot explain to anyone who doesn’t already know it, what Yellow is. So to for Good… –So Yellow and Good are simple notions... –They are the terms out of which other definitions are composed…

6 Moore on Good Further explanation of Good: –Good is “one of those innumerable objects of thought which are themselves incapable of definition, because they are the ultimate terms by reference to which whatever is capable of definition must be defined. That there must be an indefinite number of such terms is obvious…since we cannot define anything except by 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…” (section 10)

7 The Naturalistic fallacy Moore thought is was a mistake in reasoning, a fallacy, to think that Good is identical to some natural property. –Natural properties are those of the natural sciences or of psychology. The Naturalistic Fallacy: –We commit this fallacy when we think that some natural property such as pleasure is absolutely and entirely the same with goodness. To think that one has defined Good when she has found all those other properties that belong to all things which are good is to commit the Naturalistic fallacy... It may be true that all things which are good are something else, for instance pleasure, but this doesn’t mean that Good is identical to these other things. –It is to confuse good, which isn’t in the same sense a natural object, with any natural object whatsoever.

8 The Open Question Argument Moore’s attack on the Naturalistic Method came in the form of the Open Question Argument. –You might also say this is Moore’s argument that the Naturalistic Fallacy is in fact a fallacy. The Open Question Argument: –Moore says, take any naturalistic definition of Good you like, good = df X and it will always be a meaningful question to ask ‘But is X good?’

9 Moore on Naturalistic definitions of ‘Good’ Moore speaking about Naturalistic definitions: –“whatever definition be offered, it may be always asked, with significance, of the complex so defined, whether it is itself good.” (Section 13) “When they say “Pleasure is good,” we cannot believe that they merely mean “Pleasure is pleasure” and nothing more than that.” (section 11) –Example: Say we define Good as that which is pleasant. Now consider the following 2 questions: –Is pleasure after all good? –Is pleasure pleasant? They are both equally intelligible. Thus, pleasure and good are not the same thing…

10 Desiring to Desire A second example we get in section 13 –Say we define Good as that which we desire to desire. –Say we consider A to be good so we consider it to be one of the things which we desire to desire. –We can still ask of A though: is it good to desire to desire A? –But the following questions don’t mean the same thing: Is the desire to desire A one of the things which we desire to desire? Is it good to desire to desire A?

11 The Open Question again The open question and its proof: –In Moore’s words “But whoever will attentively consider with himself what is actually before his mind when he asks the question ‘Is pleasure (or whatever it may be) after all good?” can easily satisfy himself that he is not merely wondering whether pleasure is pleasant.” (section 11) –Good has a distinct meaning from any natural property: And “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 recognise in what respect it is distinct.” (section 13) –We all know ‘Good’. We all refer to it. Picture it in our minds. “Whenever he thinks of ‘intrinsic value,’ or ‘intrinsic worth’ or says that a thing ‘ought to exist,’ he has before his mind the unique object--the unique property of things--which I mean by ‘good.’” (13)

12 Problems for the Open Question Argument If the Open Question argument is valid it proves way too much: –The open question shows way too much. It proves conceptual analysis is impossible. This is because according to the open question argument: any analysis that is true cannot be informative. This is because if the analysis is informative then it will always be an open meaningful question whether the analysis is the same as what it defines. –To be informative: To be informative an analysis must seem intelligible. To be informative it cannot be trivial. If a definition is informative It offers something new. –Take any definition you like: X =df Y. This cannot be informative because Y is always contained within X. So there is an inconsistency in being both contained in a concept and offering something informative about it.

13 The Naturalistic fallacy is question begging Moore’s charge that Naturalists commit the Naturalistic fallacy begs the Question: –Moore needs to prove that ‘Good’ is non-natural, simple, indefinable & sui generis before he can charge the Naturalists with the Naturalistic fallacy. –And yet Moore seems to give little argument that Good is non-natural. –Moore tells us to appeal to our intuition to see that Good is a distinct property from any naturalistic property. “…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 recognise in what respect it is distinct.” (13) “Whenever he thinks of ‘intrinsic value,’ or ‘intrinsic worth,’ or says that a thing ‘ought to exist,’ he has before his mind the unique object…which I mean by ‘good’.” (13)

14 The ambiguity of evaluative terms Is Good ambiguous or vague: –Maybe it is always intelligible to ask ‘But is X Good?’ (for any naturalistic term X which we try to define Good as) because of the inherent ambiguity of the term ‘Good’. –So it might be intelligible to ask ‘Is X good?’ because when we ask it we cannot keep the inherent ambiguity of good out of our mind.


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