Identifying Goodness

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (1):93 - 109 (2012)
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The paper reconstructs Moore's Open Question Argument (OQA) and discusses its rise and fall. There are three basic objections to the OQA: Geach's point, that Moore presupposes that ?good? is a predicative adjective (whereas it is in fact attributive); Lewy's point, that it leads straight to the Paradox of Analysis; and Durrant's point that even if 'good' is not synonymous with any naturalistic predicate, goodness might be synthetically identical with a naturalistic property. As against Geach, I argue that 'good' has both predicative and attributive uses and that in moral contexts it is difficult to give a naturalistic account of the attributive 'good'. To deal with Lewy, I reformulate the OQA. But the bulk of the paper is devoted to Durrant's objection. I argue that the post-Moorean programme of looking for synthetic identities between moral and naturalistic properties is either redundant or impossible. For it can be carried through only if 'good' expresses an empirical concept, in which case it is redundant since naturalism is true. But 'good' does not express an empirical concept (a point proved by the reformulated OQA). Hence synthetic naturalism is impossible. I discuss direct reference as a possible way out for the synthetic naturalist and conclude that it will not work. The OQA may be a bit battered but it works after a fashion.

Author's Profile

Charles R. Pigden
University of Otago


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