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Principia Ethica (Philosophical Classics)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  858 ratings  ·  32 reviews
First published in 1903, this volume revolutionized philosophy and forever altered the direction of ethical studies. It clarifies some of moral philosophy's most common confusions and redefines the science's terminology. 6 chapters explore: the subject matter of ethics, naturalistic ethics, hedonism, metaphysical ethics, ethics in relation to conduct, and the ideal.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 30th 2004 by Dover Publications (first published 1903)
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May 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Back at the dawn of the twentieth century, Bertrand Russell was telling folks to smarten up and learn to think analytically. Well, the general population thought nothing much about the kerfuffle that he was making at Oxbridge...

But a young fellow philosopher decided he might as well make it his business to analyse GOODNESS out of existence. WHY, for Goodness’ Sake?

Can you imagine trying to do that today, when we’re desperately clinging to simple values of decency in a world gone nuts with evil,
When I was pursuing my undergraduate degree, a professor of mine lamented that philosophers only ever read Chapter 1 of J.L. Mackie’s Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong. Chapter 1 contains the articulation and defense of Mackie’s Error Theory of morals, which is the only part that anyone ever talks about. The rest of the book, in which he seeks to refute competing theories and to elaborate his own moral system, is paid little to no attention.

Something very similar can be said of Moore. If student
Ali Reda
Mar 12, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
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.
All ethical questions fall under one or other of three classes:
1) What is good?
2) What things are good in themselves or has an intrinsic value?
3) What kind of actions ought we to perform or what is
Randal Samstag
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Principia Ethica (PE) was first published in 1903 and it is still in print today. I would think that there is hardly an introductory university course in ethics that could do without some mention of it. Moore says in the preface that the book is intended to sort two kinds of questions. “The two questions may be expressed, the first in the form: What kind of things ought to exist for their own sakes? the second in the form: What kind of actions ought we to perform?” In this preface he says the “O ...more
Josh Friedlander
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, ethics
The continental/analytical divide, which has split philosophy for around the past hundred years, is less a debate than a division of labour. Continental philosophers, liberated by Kant from the need to ground their intuitions empirically, have taken on the grand mantle of philosophy of old: metaphysics, aesthetics, history. Analyticals, mostly concentrated in the Anglophone world, have preferred to focus on more modest fields, mostly of modern provenance: philosophy of language, mathematics and ...more
Jan 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
One good point need not make a book.
Jan 11, 2019 rated it liked it
In meta-ethics, the search for the ultimate foundation of morals, there are a few names which instantaneously ring a bell. Plato saw meta-ethics in the contemplation of the mind of the abstract Idea of Good – to be abstracted from everyday (imperfect) manifestations of good and bad. Ethics was, according to Plato, founded in rationalism. This was also the idea of René Descartes and Immanuel Kant – both claimed that the principles of ethics can be known a priori, without any recourse to experienc ...more
Richard Newton
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Moore's book, regarded as one of the classics on ethics, is probably mostly known nowadays for one short, but important, section in the first chapter. Here Moore introduces the much debated "naturalist fallacy". Chapter 1 also explains Moore's views on "organic wholes", which is helpful.

It's an interesting book from the ideas perspective, clearly written and fairly accessible. It is a little dull in writing style (not unusual for philosophy books to be fair) and I found it repetitive. I think a
Feb 20, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
G.E. Moore is the father of analytic philosophy, which is why you shouldn't read this book. It is basically a 200-page treatise on ethics that fails to actually give a definition of "the good" (since Moore believes it to be a simple concept that is beyond definition) and instead only outlines the ways in which one must define the realm of ethics. My favorite part is when he is debunking the Darwinists and says that evolution is a "temporary historical process" and therefore "more evolved" does n ...more
Joshua Stein
Jun 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Moore's Principia is considered a classic in the field of meta-ethics in the early 20th century. It has all of the unfortunate hallmarks of the intellectually rich British philosophy of that era: It is terribly dry, superficial in its understanding of scientific concepts which had barely been borne, and not self-conscious in rehashing its historical situation with respect to the ideas that clearly inform it.

The critique of ethical naturalism that Moore raises in the book is largely seen today as
Dr. A
Sep 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Read this and reviews of other classics in Western Philosophy on the History page of (a thinkPhilosophy Production).

This is a key work by one of the founders of the contemporary Analytic tradition in Philosophy. In this best loved work, Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore argues for a common sense approach to ethics that is given the name of “ethical naturalism.”

In "ethical naturalism," ethical decisions are based not on idealized or abstract principles, like some n
Mar 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
G.E. Moore is a British philosopher in the worst sense, and this book of his is characteristically boring to the point of being offensive to the reader. The most insightful part of this book is the incredibly NOT insightful realization "good" does not literally mean "utility", "hedonism", "jammy-dodgers", etc. After attempting to slog through this mess, I gained a real appreciation of Wittgenstein's contempt of Moore as a person who can make it far in life with absolutely no intelligence whatsoe ...more
Bernard M.
Moore is obviously a very careful and precise writer, but towards the end of the book, I was rather fatigued by his effort. There are lots of statements such as "The object would no more have the beauty it has, without its specific qualities, than without those that are generic; and the generic qualities,  by themselves, would fail, as completely, to give beauty, as those which are specific." The book is not primarily about art, but somehow I thought the application of his approach to something ...more
Adrián Sánchez
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: filosofía, etica
Contiene una fuerte crítica a la ética naturalista basada principalmente en la falacia naturalista, falacia que viene por el hecho de que al no poder definir lo que es bueno, no se pueden concluir valores morales de hechos naturales que por lo general no son morales, para el autor se pueden descubrir valores morales a través de la intuición y el sentido común, realizando comparaciones de lo que tienen en común varios juicios éticos.
Adrian Schroeder
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
In itself a revolutionary approach to ethics to build from scratch and logic. Unfortunately, he gets lost in applying his logic and loses the thoroughness of the first chapters. Further, there are some grave misunderstandings of Kant's principles and Nietzsche's worldview which undermine the credibility of his own proposal. Freely after Nietsche: "Utilitarians are only concerned with british happiness for the british people: comfort and a seat in parliament."
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For it is the business of Ethics, I must insist, not only to obtain true results, but also to find valid reasons for them. The direct object of Ethics is knowledge and not practice; and any one who uses the naturalistic fallacy has certainly not fulfilled this first object, however correct his practical principles may be.
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
I had to read this book for school. Although I think that the points it made were invaluable (good is good, our duty is to achieve the greatest total possible good), it was SO difficult to understand. I would read pages over and over again trying to understand what it was that I just read.
Jul 04, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Mientras ordenaba algunas notas se me ocurrió que me facilitaría mucho las cosas encontrar un straw man de los críticos del hedonismo. Poco después, leyendo esa Wikipedia de la nada que es la Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, encontré lo que parecía un candidato idoneo. Las referencias a G.E. Moore del artículo sobre la historia del utilitarismo señalaban a argumentos risibles con esa reverencia a los ancestros típica de las instituciones moribundas, así que bajé su Principia Ethica. Imaginab ...more
Aug 07, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have so many mixed feelings about this book. If I really need to sum it up: good content, horrible delivery. His first chapter is fairly easy to understand. His chapter railing against evolution is interesting but not enough to captivate. His chapter on hedonism is wonderful! The only remaining chapters are the Ideal world, which was okay. He says the ideal world would be, not some perfect utopia, but which is the best possible alternative. That was the last chapter but the second to last chap ...more
Feb 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
G.E. Moore was a member of the Bloomsbury Group. He is one of the fathers of the British Analytic Philosophy school along with Russell and Whitehead. Bertrand Russell has nothing but high praise for G.E. Moore. Analytic Philosophy's principle criticism is that there has been little progress in philosophy since Plato because philosophers have been asking the wrong questions. They have been asking questions that cannot be answered with the logical methods of philosophy. Moore is highly critical of ...more
Dec 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Moore's talent seems to be in eviscerating the arguments of other philosophers. I was less than impressed with the last chapter where he moved towards making his own positive arguments toward the foundation of ethics.

I listened to it, from librivox:

A great book of philosophy to listen to because he is extremely meticulous and clear as he progresses through his arguments, which is appreciated.

Overall, an excellent book and I'm glad I finally digested it be
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I can't honestly say I understood most of Mr. Moore's analysis, but the main argument that most ethical theories have committed the naturalistic fallacy was very well elaborated. His critique of evolutionists, utilitarians, hedonists, and separately metaphysical ethics were clear-cut and convincing. Less convincing were his own theories on the organic whole. The last chapter especially seems too strongly dependent on possibly outdated psychology and general observation rather than rigorous analy ...more
Justin Allen
Jun 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Really good book, one of my top philosophy books for sure and is a must read for any others into this sort of subject.
Jul 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An excellent, and classic book in metaethics. This book is notorious for (1) a defense of realism in metaethics, via (2) the open-question argument. Moore shaped the field.
Apr 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
I found the first chapter to be entirely fascinating, but a lot of this book felt like wasted space. The first chapter is at least worth a read, and the chapter on hedonism is good as well.
Sep 01, 2008 added it
Shelves: textbooks
Phil 469
Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
charming little analytical philosophy text. am not a true believer in this school, 'course, but it does have its rigors and uses.
Aug 27, 2009 is currently reading it
Struggling through this for my Philosophy class on Ethics. So's a very difficult read. As my Professor would say, "Clear as mud."
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intuition of good and the influence of Bloomsbury led me here. I found a lot to like and still do.
Marylynne Sitko
rated it liked it
Mar 03, 2018
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George Edward "G. E." Moore OM, FBA was philosopher, one of the founders of the analytic tradition along with Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and (before them) Gottlob Frege. With Russell, he led the turn away from idealism in British philosophy, and became well known for his advocacy of common sense concepts, his contributions to ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics, and "his exceptional ...more

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