Moore opened up new issues for consideration and altered the focus of
Moore believed that the task of the ethical philosopher is to conduct a “general
inquiry into what is good.”This seems reasonably straightforward, down to earth,
and useful. If you know what good or goodness is, and if you know what things are
good, then you also know what proper conduct is, right? This, at any rate, is what
Moore maintained, because he believed that the morally right act is the one that
produces the greatest amount of good
In an influential book, The Right and the Good (1930), W. D. Ross (1877–1970)
defined his purpose as “to examine the nature, relations, and implications of three
conceptions which appear to be fundamental in ethics—those of ‘right,’ ‘good’ in
general, and ‘morally good.’”
Moore, as we noted, believed that that which alone makes right actions right is
that they produce more good than alternative actions do. This seems reasonable
enough, does it not? If a course of action is right, it must be because it is more productive
of good than are alternative courses of action. But Ross disagreed. Certainly,
he wrote, it is right and morally obligatory and our duty (these expressions
all mean the same, for Ross) to bring into existence as many good things as possible.
But the production of maximum good is not the only thing that makes an act
right: we have other duties than to bring about good results.
For example, it is your duty to keep promises, Ross said.What makes it right
for you to do what you have promised to do is not that your doing it will produce
more good, as Moore thought, but simply the fact that you promised to do it.
Ross’s views are similar in this regard to those of Kant. Kant, too, proposed a
duty-based moral philosophy and was committed to the idea that our moral duty
is self-evident. A duty-based moral philosophy is known as a... [continues]
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