‘Good’ can be described from three views:
Objectivist point of view
One main philosopher who defended the objectivist point of view was George Edward (G.E.) Moore. In his book Principia Ethica, Moore discussed the definition of the word ‘good’. With this book he influenced the philosophers who came after him. The objectivist point of view is naturalism i.e. (what moral law predictates, usually from the natural law). In defining the word ‘good’, G.E. Moore attacks the objectivist point of view. He criticizes the naturalistic point of view. Moore, an intuitionist (meaning he is someone who decides if something is good or wrong by reflecting on his own, without anyone explaining to him) disagreed that good could be explained objectively. Moore criticised Utilitiarians as they were emotivists, i.e. depending on feelings. Thus they defined ‘good’ according to feelings. So good = pleasure. Thus utilitarians do not judge whether an action is good or bad by the quality of the action but by the consequence of the effects. Moore also criticised Christian morality, because these reason an action is good because it pleases God. He said, something is not defined as good because it pleases someone else. Moore invented an interesting term called ‘The Naturalistic fallacy’. Naturalistic fallacy, according to Moore, is to define a term, in this case ‘good’ by means of something which is a state of fact. To explain ‘good’ in terms of pleasure, is committing a Naturalistic fallacy. His reasoning is as thus: if something gives me pleasure, and thus because of this feeling, I say it is good; I conclude, since it is good, then I ought to do it – this is a wrong conclusion. ‘Is’ is a statement of fact, while ‘ought’ is a moral statement. Moore was an intuitionist. Moore says that the word ‘good’ is not defined by its natural qualities (the qualities which are natural to something and which describe the object e.g. a red, juicy strawberry. If someone is asked why the strawberry is good, his answer will be, ‘because it is red and juicy’ thus defining ‘good’ by its natural qualities). For Moore, good is good and cannot be defined. The objectivists say that moral terms are explained by means of natural qualities. Objectivism is the view that the claims of ethics are objectively true. They are not relative to subject or culture. A term is defined as thus because it is as thus. So good is good not because of feelings or situations, the definition of which would be from a subjectivist point of view, giving rise to relativism. ‘Good’ is defined as thus, because the actions showing good are inscribed in us in the natural law. So according to objectivists, ‘good’ is described by its natural qualities. Naturalism, which the objectivists used, is a term which interprets the word as it is standing for natural characteristics. This may be misleading as good might stand for a quality of pleasure or for something to be desired, and this is not always right. Something pleasurable may in actual fact be wrong. One argument against naturalism, which the objectivists use, is that attribution (is) is confused with identity (ought). ‘Is’ is a statement of fact, while ‘ought’ is a moral statement. These (‘is’ and ‘ought’) are sometimes confused. Thus if something is pleasurable, thus it is good, thus it ought to be done, is (1) a wrong definition of ‘good’, (2) a wrong assumption as not all pleasures are good. One cannot equate good with solely pleasure. Moore goes deeper. In defining a word, he tried to split it into simpler terms. According to Moore, ‘good’ cannot be split into any simpler terms as it is already in the simplest term. So Moore’s philosophy states that ‘good’ is ‘good’. ‘Good’ is indefinable.
Subjectivist point of view
Subjectivism means that what is right or wrong is defined from...