Chapter 6. "The Objectivity of Moral Judgements" by G. E. Moore

Table of Contents
Ideas of Interest from Ethics
The Reading Selection from Ethics
Related Ideas
Topics Worth Investigating

G. E. Moore, Universitá di Pavia

About the author…

G. E. Moore was a Fellow of the British Academy, Professor of Mental Philosophy and Logic at Trinity College, Cambridge, and editor of the philosophy and psychology journal Mind. Bertrand Russell, a colleague, wrote about Moore's reputation for honesty, "I have never but once succeeded in making him tell a lie, and that was by a subterfuge. 'Moore,' I said, 'do you always speak the truth?' 'No,' he replied. I believe this to be the only lie he ever told."

About the work…

In his Ethics,[1] G. E. Moore clarifies in conversational style whether "good" and "right" have any common characteristics. His arguments are easy to understand, if the reader is willing to follow the natural flow of the rather long sentences. Moore is such a clear and careful writer that he is almost always better understood when he is read slowly and patiently. The central purpose of his Ethics was to draw attention to some confusions in utilitarianism. In this short selection from Chapter II, Moore argues against ethical relativism based on an emotive theory or consensus gentium.

Ideas of Interest from Ethics

  1. The emotive theory of ethics bases rightness and wrongness on emotions. Explain Moore's characterization of the theory.

  2. Explain how the two steps Moore describes indicate that the emotive theory of ethics is inconsistent: (1) his argument from emotivism and (2) his argument from moral progress.

  3. Explain how personal feelings as to moral approval and disapproval in different persons might not be contradictory.

  4. Explain Moore's argument against relativism based on the meanings of the words "right" and "wrong."

  5. Why is ethics not sociologically based according to Moore? I.e., why is not ethics based on measures of social approval?

  6. What is Moore's argument that ethics is not based upon what most people think?



G. E. Moore. "The Objectivity of Moral Judgments" in Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1912.