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Chapter IV and much, much Moore…

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 19 years ago, in 2005, on the World Wide Web.

This is old news, but I was too busy packing for my temporary relocation to upstate New York to put a post up about it at the time: the transcription of G. E. Moore’s Principia Ethica proceeds apace, and this time I have not one, but three milestones to announce (!):

  1. Chapter III, Moore’s extended treatment of hedonism, which I mentioned around the time I was halfway through with it, is now completely transcribed. I’d already finished Moore’s dissection of naturalistic hedonism (that is, hedonism supported by the naturalistic fallacy, as in, for example, Mill’s Utilitarianism); the new passages carry on with Moore’s discussion of Sidgwick and intuitionistic hedonism (that is, hedonism supported by an appeal to ethical intuitions). I think this actually contains some of the best material in all of Moore’s work — including one of my favorite arguments in all of philosophy, the Two Planets argument against ethical hedonism. (It may seem like an intuition-pump, but it’s a beautiful intuition-pump. And also, actually, a successful one: many people worry that he’s just begging the question, but I’d argue that Moore completely refutes hedonism, and that the argument ought to be convincing whether your intuitions about the planets line up with Moore’s or not. Maybe I’ll go into the reasons why here a bit later.)

  2. Chapter IV, Moore’s discussion of what he calls Metaphysical Ethics, is also completely transcribed. This is one of the chapters where Moore’s partisan aims come through a bit more clearly than you might hope; the goal is honorable enough — to show that his British Idealist contemporaries are actually guilty of the same sort of fallacy that constitutes the naturalistic fallacy when used by naturalists, and that the fallacy is no less fallacious when good is reduced to some set of supernatural properties rather than some set of natural properties — but the effort to count some coup against British Idealists who cited their Continental predecessors ends up in a very weak bit of criticism against Kant, who never did anything to deserve it. (Unfortunately, this would not be the last time that this happened to Kant — and especially not to Hegel — among the Analytics.) Still, the chapter is well worth reading, and on somewhat firmer ground when Moore is doing philosophy (i.e., when he examines the conceptual contours of the doctrines he sets out) than when he is doing scholarship (i.e., when he starts making claims about where those doctrines came from).

  3. Finally, you may notice a technical change that I took a few days off from transcribing to implement: the text of the documents is now stored in machine-readable feeds and processed by a PHP script that I wrote for the purpose. Aside from some minor aesthetic improvements I made along the way, the main upshot of this for you is that you can now read and cite the text not only by chapter, but also by individual section (as I did above when I cited §50) or even by ranges of sections (such as, for example, the characterization of the naturalistic fallacy and the Open Question Argument in §§10–13). Of course, you can still read chapter-by-chapter if you prefer.

Next up is the transcription of Chapter V, Moore’s discussion of right and wrong conduct; a bit of the work has already begun and I’m trying to keep along at a steady clip of at least one passage per day. How well I’m able to keep up with that depends on how hectic my work schedule turns out to be; but if you’re interested in keeping up with the process, and happen to have an Atom/RSS newsreader handy, you can do so by subscribing to the Atom feed for Chapter V.

Let me know about any typos that you spot. Read; cite; enjoy!

2 replies to Chapter IV and much, much Moore… Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. Discussed at www.radgeek.com

    Geekery Today:

    Moore summer reading

    Two things that you ought to know if you ever want to teach for CTY are: (1) it’s a thrilling, challenging, wonderful experience that changes…

· September 2005 ·

  1. Discussed at www.radgeek.com

    Geekery Today:

    Insert silly pun on G. E. Moore’s last name here: Principia Ethica and Ethics are available in full online

    I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, but other projects (some of them tangentially related, others not) delayed the happy announcement…

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