'We all know what good means'.

Essay by salak November 2005

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Ethical naturalism as advocated by G.E.Moore, is also an example of a consequentiality meta- ethical theory. Consequentiality derives notions of what is right or wrong from what is good or bad. For example of an ethical pluralist too, since he states that there are many good things which are good, which have intrinsic value. Another example of consequentiality ethics is utilitarianism, which states that only good thing is pleasure and the only bad thing is pain. It follows that the right action is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.

In contrast a meta-ethics in which what is good is derived from what is right is called a deontological theory. The principle example of a deontologist is Kant, who advocates a system of life based on what he calls the categorical imperative, which in a simple form may be stated as the rule, 'do unto others as you would be done by'.

Ethics is concerned with what is right or wrong, and with what is good and bad. Meta-ethics is concerned with explaining how our ethical sentiments arise from metaphysical 'facts' about the nature of our existence. Examples of complete meta-ethical systems are those of Plato and Hume. Plato seeks to enlighten our understanding of morality by showing us that we are fallen beings. Hume seeks to enlighten our understanding of morality by showing us that we are information processing machines.

Hare (a prescriptivist) produce an argument against naturalism something like this: To commit to a naturalistic utilitarian position is to define value (and therefore good) in terms of brain states. But having done this, to then say that "happiness is valuable", as would "happiness is good" - in neither case would we be commending happiness, which is something (Hare maintains) a utilitarian would want to do. All we...