Logic and the Basis of Ethics

Logic and the Basis of Ethics

Logic and the Basis of Ethics

Logic and the Basis of Ethics

Excerpt

The aim of the present series of studies is to clarify a certain issue in moral philosophy. The issue is, roughly, this: We all sometimes describe conduct and character (and perhaps other things; but we shall not here be concerned with other things) as 'good' or 'bad', or as 'right' or 'wrong'. Some hold that there is nothing out of the ordinary about what these words refer to--that they either merely express the feelings of the person using them, or refer to some 'naturar characteristic of the objects to which they are applied, such as their conduciveness or otherwise to biological survival. Those who take such a view are generally called 'naturalists'. Others hold that ethical predicates--words like 'good' and 'evil', 'right' and 'wrong'--represent qualities which are sui generis, in a category on their own, different from all 'natural' qualities. These others we may call, in the meantime, anti- naturalists.

I aim to clarify this issue, not to settle it; and in my view one of the main factors which have made the issue obscure is the illusion of some anti-naturalists that purely logical considerations can settle it. These writers have claimed, in other words, that the anti-naturalist position is capable of proof; a claim which I think it is quite impossible to make good, and which has only served to make it more difficult to understand what the anti-naturalist position is. Being an anti-naturalist myself, I regard this as unfortunate. Naturalists, at the same time, have contributed their share to the confusion by plain inconsistency, usually by trying to combine their naturalism with uses of moral terms which only the opposite position could justify. But while the present work is directed in part against such inconsistency, it is not directed against naturalism as such--I have attempted here to consider the issue purely as a logician, and to suggest to . . .

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