The Ideal-G. E. Moore 1903

Chapter VI: The Ideal

Principia Ethica-G. E. Moore 1903

§ 110.
The title of this chapter is ambiguous. When we call a state of things ideal we may mean three distinct things, which have only this in common: that we always do mean to assert, of the state of things in question, not only that it is good in itself, but that it is good in itself in a much higher degree than many other things. The first of these meanings of ideal is (1) that to which the phrase The Ideal is most properly confined. By this is meant the best state of things conceivable, the Summum Bonum or Absolute Good. It is in this sense that a right conception of Heaven would be a right conception of the Ideal: we mean by the Ideal a state of things which would be absolutely perfect. But this conception may be quite clearly distinguished from a second, namely, (2) that of the best possible state of things in this world. This second conception may be identified with that which has frequently figured in philosophy as the Human Good, or the ultimate end towards which our action should be directed. It is in this sense that Utopias are said to be Ideals. the constructor of an Utopia may suppose many things to be possible, which are in fact impossible; but he always assumes that some things, at least, are rendered impossible by natural laws, and hence his construction differs essentially from one which may disregard all natural laws, however certainly established. At all events the question What is the best state of things which we could possibly bring about? is quite distinct from the question What would be the best state of things conceivable? But, thirdly, we may mean by calling a state of things ideal merely (3) that it is good in itself in a high degree. And it is obvious that the question what things are ideal in this sense is one which must be answered before we can pretend to settle what is the Absolute or the Human Good. It is with the Ideal, in this third sense, that this chapter will be principally concerned. Its main object is to arrive at some positive answer to the fundamental question of Ethics—the question: What things are goods or ends in themselves? To this question we have hitherto obtained only a negative answer: the answer that pleasure is certainly not the sole good.

Continue Reading

Ethics in Relation to Conduct-G. E. Moore 1903

Chapter V: Ethics in Relation to Conduct

§ 86.
In the present chapter we have again to take a great step in ethical method. My discussion hitherto has fallen under two main heads. Under the first, I tried to shew what good—the adjective good—means. This appeared to be the first point to be settled in any treatment of Ethics, that should aim at being systematic. It is necessary we should know this, should know what good means, before we can go on to consider what is good—what things or qualities are good. It is necessary we should know it for two reasons. The first reason is that good is the notion upon which all Ethics depends. We cannot hope to understand what we mean, when we say that this is good or that is good, until we understand quite clearly, not only what this is or that is (which the natural sciences and philosophy can tell us) but also what is meant by calling them good, a matter which is reserved for Ethics only. Unless we are quite clear on this point, our ethical reasoning will be always apt to be fallacious. We shall think that we are proving that a thing is good, when we are really only proving that it is something else; since 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, we shall not be able to tell when we are dealing with it and when we are dealing with something else, which is perhaps like it, but yet not the same. And the second reason why we should settle first of all this question What good means? is a reason of method. It is this, that we can never know on what evidence an ethical proposition rests, until we know the nature of the notion which makes the proposition ethical. We cannot tell what is possible, by way of proof, in favour of one judgment that This or that is good, or against another judgment That this or that is bad, until we have recognised what the nature of such propositions must always be. In fact, it follows from the meaning of good and bad, that such propositions are all of them, in Kant’s phrase, synthetic: they all must rest in the end upon some proposition which must be simply accepted or rejected, which cannot be logically deduced from any other proposition. This result, which follows from our first investigation, may be otherwise expressed by saying that the fundamental principles of Ethics must be self-evident. But I am anxious that this expression should not be misunderstood. The expression self-evident means properly that the proposition so called is evident or true, by itself alone; that it is not an inference from some proposition other than itself.

Continue Reading

Metaphysical Ethics-G. E. Moore 1903

Chapter IV: Metaphysical Ethics

Principia Ethica-G. E. Moore 1903

§ 66.
In this chapter I propose to deal with a type of ethical theory which is exemplified in the ethical views of the Stoics, of Spinoza, of Kant, and especially of a number of modern writers, whose views in this respect are mainly due to the influence of Hegel. These ethical theories have this in common, that they use some metaphysical proposition as a ground for inferring some fundamental proposition of Ethics. They all imply, and many of them expressly hold, that ethical truths follow logically from metaphysical truths—that Ethics should be based on Metaphysics. And the result is that they all describe the Supreme Good in metaphysical terms.

Continue Reading

Hedonism-G. E. Moore 1903

Chapter III: Hedonism

Principia Ethica-G. E. Moore 1903

§ 36.
In this chapter we have to deal with what is perhaps the most famous and the most widely held of all ethical principles—the principle that nothing is good but pleasure. My chief reason for treating of this principle in this place is, as I said, that Hedonism appears in the main to be a form of Naturalistic Ethics: in other words, that pleasure has been so generally held to be the sole good, is almost entirely due to the fact that it has seemed to be somehow involved in the definition of good—to be pointed out by the very meaning of the word. If this is so, then the prevalence of Hedonism has been mainly due to what I have called the naturalistic fallacy—the failure to distinguish clearly that unique and indefinable quality which we mean by good. And that it is so, we have very strong evidence in the fact that, of all hedonistic writers, Prof. Sidgwick alone has clearly recognised that by good we do mean something unanalysable, and 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 mere intuition. It appeared to Prof. Sidgwick as a new discovery that what he calls the method of Intuitionism must be retained as valid alongside of, and indeed as the foundation of, what he calls the alternative methods of Utilitarianism and Egoism. And that it was a new discovery can hardly be doubted. In previous Hedonists we find no clear and consistent recognition of the fact that their fundamental proposition involves the assumption that a certain unique predicate can be directly seen to belong to pleasure alone among existents: they do not emphasise, as they could hardly have failed to have done had they perceived it, how utterly independent of all other truths this truth must be.

Continue Reading

Naturalistic Ethics-G. E. Moore 1903

Chapter II: Naturalistic Ethics

Principia Ethica-G. E. Moore 1903

§ 24.
It results from the conclusions of Chapter I, that all ethical questions fall under one or other of three classes. The first class contains but one question—the question What is the nature of that peculiar predicate, the relation of which to other things constitutes the object of all other ethical investigations? or, in other words, What is meant by good? This first question I have already attempted to answer. The peculiar predicate, by reference to which the sphere of Ethics must be defined, is simple, unanalysable, indefinable. There remain two classes questions with regard to the relation of this predicate to other things. We may ask either (1) To what things and in what degree does this predicate directly attach? What things are good in themselves? or (2) By what means shall we be able to make what exist in the world as good as possible? What causal relations hold between what is best in itself and other causal relations hold between what is best in itself and other things?

Continue Reading

The Subject-Matter of Ethics- G. E. Moore 1903

Chapter I: The Subject-Matter of Ethics

Principia Ethica-G. E. Moore 1903

§ 1.
It is very easy to point out some among our every-day judgments, with the truth of which Ethics is undoubtedly concerned. Whenever we say, So and so is a good man, or That fellow is a villain; whenever we ask What ought I to do? or Is it wrong for me to do like this?; whenever we hazard such remarks as Temperance is a virtue and drunkenness a vice—it is undoubtedly the business of Ethics to discuss such questions and such statements; to argue what is the true answer when we ask what it is right to do, and to give reasons for thinking that our statements about the character of persons or the morality of actions are true or false. In the vast majority of cases, where we make statements involving any of the terms virtue, vice, duty, right, ought, good, bad, we are making ethical judgments; and if we wish to discuss their truth, we shall be discussing a point of Ethics.

Continue Reading

Principia Ethica-G. E. Moore 1903


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. I do not know how far this source of error would be done away, if philosophers would try to discover what question they were asking, before they set about to answer it; for the work of analysis and distinction is often very difficult: we may often fail to make the necessary discovery, even though we make a definite attempt to do so. But I am inclined to think that in many cases a resolute attempt would be sufficient to ensure success; so that, if only this attempt were made, many of the most glaring difficulties and disagreements in philosophy would disappear. At all events, philosophers seem, in general, not to make the attempt; and whether in consequence of this omission or not, they are constantly endeavouring to prove that Yes or No will answer questions, to which neither answer is correct, owing to the fact that what they have before their minds is not one question, but several, to some of which the true answer is No, to others Yes.

Continue Reading

Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights – 2005

The General Conference,

Conscious of the unique capacity of human beings to reflect upon their own existence and on their environment, to perceive injustice, to avoid danger, to assume responsibility, to seek cooperation and to exhibit the moral sense that gives expression to ethical principles,

Reflecting on the rapid developments in science and technology, which increasingly affect our understanding of life and life itself, resulting in a strong demand for a global response to the ethical implications of such developments,

Recognizing that ethical issues raised by the rapid advances in science and their technological applications should be examined with due respect to the dignity of the human person and universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Continue Reading

Lambeth Deliberation on Contraceptives

Lambeth on Contraceptives
By Charles Gore, D.D., D.C.L., LL. D.
Bishop of Oxford
London: Mowbray, 1930

 I The Resolution 15 of the Lambeth Conference

SOME years ago I published a pamphlet on The Prevention of Conception, which has been quite recently reprinted. I had hoped that I might now remain silent on the subject, but the recent action of the Lambeth Conference, giving a restricted sanction to the use of preventives of conception, constrains me to publish a reasoned protest against what seems to me to be a disastrous abandonment of the position that the Conference of 1920 took up.

Continue Reading

Lecture On Professional ethics

 BY R.Venkataramani

Senior Advocate- Supreme Court

1. Keep the following in mind:

• That a democratically elected body of people will legislate, draw policies and implement them in accordance with constitutional scheme. This is fundamental to rule of law. In political dialogue we may call it an open society where governance is transparent and rights are protected.

• There is an increasing perception that the legal profession now stands in danger of losing the soul.[Anthony Kronman, The Lost Lawyer (Cambridge, M.A. Harward University Press, 1993), p.1]. That the feature of professionalism is uncertain. [Andrew Boon and Jennifer Levin, The Ethics and Conduct of Lawyers in England and Wales, 2nd edn. (Oxford: Hart Publishing 2008, p. 56).

• That there is increasing commercialization of work of lawyers as the legal profession is tending to sell its services rather than rendering services. [“I have heard Indian friends of my own, themselves distinguished lawyers, deplore in no uncertain terms this lowering of standards; and it seems clear that once cause of it at least is the great overcrowing of the profession and the struggle for existence among its less fortunate members, since the weaker brethren are thereby exposed to temptation which they are not always able to resist. This is a matter which affects the public, as well as the profession itself: for diminution in the respect, felt for lawyers as a whole, must affect prejudicially the whole administration of justice. “Maurice Gwyer – 1944 Foreword to 2nd edn Professional Conduct and Advocacy – K. Krishnaswami Aiyar].

Continue Reading