Seminar on Immanuel Kant [1958]


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Therefore one of those central questions, which will be discussed in the course, is: 1. What is the meaning of words like "good" and "bad", used in ethical language? Does one mean, that doing so is useful, or that it is altruistic, or that is fair?


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Further questions, to be discussed in the course, are: 2. Are moral judgements apt to be justified, e. If so, how far a moral judgment's justification can reach? But it is not possible to verify the proposition b : In our times, the inequal global distribution of wealth is far beyond the permissible limit. Proposition a states an objective fact, whereas b expresses a mere subjective evaluation, though that evaluation might be widely spread.


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  • What are just laws, and what is the relationship between law and morality? Is freedom of a person, though presupposed by criminal law and morality, nevertheless an illusion? These questions will be partly discussed with reference to seminal authors within the western philosophical tradition among else Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Immanuel Kant.

    Moore asserted that philosophical arguments can suffer from a confusion between the use of a term in a particular argument and the definition of that term in all arguments. He named this confusion the naturalistic fallacy. For example, an ethical argument may claim that if a thing has certain properties, then that thing is 'good.

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    Other theorists may argue that 'complex' things are 'good' things. Moore contends that even if such arguments are correct, they do not provide definitions for the term 'good. It can only be shown and grasped. Any attempt to define it X is good if it has property Y will simply shift the problem Why is Y-ness good in the first place? The argument hinges on the nature of statements such as "Anything that is pleasant is also good" and the possibility of asking questions such as "Is it good that x is pleasant?

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    Moore concludes from this that any analysis of value is bound to fail. In other words, if value could be analysed, then such questions and statements would be trivial and obvious. Since they are anything but trivial and obvious, value must be indefinable. Critics of Moore's arguments sometimes claim that he is appealing to general puzzles concerning analysis cf. The argument clearly depends on the assumption that if "good" were definable, it would be an analytic truth about "good," an assumption many contemporary moral realists like Richard Boyd and Peter Railton reject. Other responses appeal to the Fregean distinction between sense and reference , allowing that value concepts are special and sui generis , but insisting that value properties are nothing but natural properties this strategy is similar to that taken by non-reductive materialists in philosophy of mind.

    Moore contended that goodness cannot be analysed in terms of any other property. In Principia Ethica , he writes:. Therefore, we cannot define "good" by explaining it in other words. We can only point to an action or a thing and say "That is good.

    We can only show a sighted person a piece of yellow paper or a yellow scrap of cloth and say "That is yellow. In addition to categorising "good" as indefinable, Moore also emphasized that it is a non-natural property. This means that it cannot be empirically or scientifically tested or verified - it is not within the bounds of "natural science". As a result of his view, he has often been described by later writers as an advocate of ethical intuitionism. Moore, however, wished to distinguish his view from the views usually described as "Intuitionist" when Principia Ethica was written:.

    In order to express the fact that ethical propositions of my first class [propositions about what is good as an end in itself] are incapable of proof or disproof, I have sometimes followed Sidgwick's usage in calling them 'Intuitions. Sidgwick himself seems never to have been clearly aware of the immense importance of the difference which distinguishes his Intuitionism from the common doctrine, which has generally been called by that name. The Intuitionist proper is distinguished by maintaining that propositions of my second class—propositions which assert that a certain action is right or a duty —are incapable of proof or disproof by any enquiry into the results of such actions.

    Moore distinguished his view from the view of deontological intuitionists, who held that "intuitions" could determine questions about what actions are right or required by duty.

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    On Moore's view, "intuitions" revealed not the rightness or wrongness of specific actions, but only what things were good in themselves, as ends to be pursued. One of the most important parts of Moore's philosophical development was his break from the idealism that dominated British philosophy as represented in the works of his former teachers F. Bradley and John McTaggart , and his defence of what he regarded as a "common sense" form of realism. In his essay " A Defence of Common Sense ", he argued against idealism and scepticism toward the external world, on the grounds that they could not give reasons to accept that their metaphysical premises were more plausible than the reasons we have to accept the common sense claims about our knowledge of the world, which sceptics and idealists must deny.

    He famously put the point into dramatic relief with his essay "Proof of an External World", in which he gave a common sense argument against scepticism by raising his right hand and saying "Here is one hand," and then raising his left and saying "And here is another," then concluding that there are at least two external objects in the world, and therefore that he knows by this argument that an external world exists.

    Not surprisingly, not everyone inclined to sceptical doubts found Moore's method of argument entirely convincing; Moore, however, defends his argument on the grounds that sceptical arguments seem invariably to require an appeal to "philosophical intuitions" that we have considerably less reason to accept than we have for the common sense claims that they supposedly refute.

    In addition to fueling Moore's own work, the "Here is one hand" argument also deeply influenced Wittgenstein , who spent his last years working out a new approach to Moore's argument in the remarks that were published posthumously as On Certainty. Moore is also remembered for drawing attention to the peculiar inconsistency involved in uttering a sentence such as "It is raining but I do not believe it is raining. The puzzle arises because it seems impossible for anyone to consistently assert such a sentence; but there doesn't seem to be any logical contradiction between "It is raining" and "I don't believe that it is raining.

    In addition to Moore's own work on the paradox, the puzzle also inspired a great deal of work by Ludwig Wittgenstein , who described the paradox as the most impressive philosophical insight that Moore had ever introduced.

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    It is said that when Wittgenstein first heard this paradox one evening which Moore had earlier stated in a lecture , he rushed round to Moore's lodgings, got him out of bed and insisted that Moore repeat the entire lecture to him. Moore's description of the principle of organic unity is extremely straightforward; nonetheless, and a variant on a pattern that began with Aristotle:. According to Moore, a moral actor cannot survey the "goodness" inherent in the various parts of a situation, assign a value to each of them, and then generate a sum in order to get an idea of its total value. A moral scenario is a complex assembly of parts, and its total value is often created by the relations between those parts, and not by their individual value.

    The organic metaphor is thus very appropriate: biological organisms seem to have emergent properties which cannot be found anywhere in their individual parts. For example, a human brain seems to exhibit a capacity for thought when none of its neurons exhibit any such capacity. In the same way, a moral scenario can have a value far greater than the sum of its component parts.

    To understand the application of the organic principle to questions of value, it is perhaps best to consider Moore's primary example, that of a consciousness experiencing a beautiful object. To see how the principle works, a thinker engages in "reflective isolation", the act of isolating a given concept in a kind of null-context and determining its intrinsic value.

    In our example, we can easily see that per sui , beautiful objects and consciousnesses are not particularly valuable things. They might have some value, but when we consider the total value of a consciousness experiencing a beautiful object, it seems to exceed the simple sum of these values Principia From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. British philosopher. For the cofounder of Intel, see Gordon Moore. Evelyn Nursing Home, Cambridge , England. Ethics Epistemology. Naturalistic fallacy Moore's paradox Paradox of analysis Open-question argument " Here is one hand " Transparency of consciousness [1] [2].

    Bertrand Russell Ludwig Wittgenstein W. Ross J. Braithwaite [5].

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    Main article: Naturalistic fallacy. Main article: Open-question argument. Main article: Here is one hand. Moore, " The Refutation of Idealism " , p.

    Clarendon Press, , p. Preston, Aaron.

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