G. E. Moore Additional Biography


(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

Moore was professor of mental philosophy and logic at Cambridge (1925-1939) and editor of the philosophical journal Mind (1921-1947). In ethics, he thought it quite important to distinguish two questions: “What ought to be?” (or “What is good in itself?”) and “What ought we to do?” The first question can be subdivided: “What is the nature of goodness?” and “What things possess the property of goodness?” Regarding the nature of goodness, Moore was a nonnaturalist. He maintained that the term “good” stands for a basic or ultimate property that could not be defined in terms of anything else. Every attempt to define the good in terms of something else commits what Moore called “the naturalistic fallacy.” Indeed, even to assume that “good” “must denote some real property of things” is to make this same mistake. With regard to the question “What things are good?” Moore is an intuitionist. The answer to this question is self-evident, but only in some defeasible sense. Finally, the question of morally obligatory conduct “can only be answered by considering what effects our actions will have.” Thus, Moore was a consequentialist, though not of the egoistic or hedonistic utilitarian variety. For him, an action is right if it is, among all alternative actions, most productive of the nonnatural property “goodness.” Moore was a severe critic of all forms of ethical subjectivism, including emotivism.


(Survey of World Philosophers)

Article abstract: With his meticulous and uncompromising analytic technique, Moore helped lead the movement away from the dominance of idealism, establishing analytic philosophy as a major methodology in modern philosophical thought.

Early Life

George Edward Moore was born November 4, 1873, the fifth of eight children, in Upper Norwood, a suburb of London. His father, Daniel Moore, was a medical doctor; his mother, the former Henrietta Sturge, a member of a prominent Quaker family. The Moore home was situated down the hill from the Crystal Cathedral, a landmark of protomodern architecture and symbol of nineteenth century faith in progress through science, technology, and trade—an...

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