From The Philosophy of C. D. Broad, ed. P. Schilpp, Tudor Publishing Company, (New York, 1959). Repr. in 1971c and in 1971d.

Broad's Approach to Moral Philosophy

R. M. Hare

When, as a student beginning moral philosophy, I first read Five Types of Ethical Theory (then as now one of the most-used textbooks in the subject), I remember being scandalised, as were many of my contemporaries, by its concluding passage:

We can no more learn to act rightly by appealing to the ethical theory of right action than we can play golf well by appealing to the mathematical theory of the flight of the golf-ball. The interest of ethics is thus almost wholly theoretical, as is the interest of the mathematical theory of golf or of billiards. And yet it may have a certain slight practical application. It may lead us to look out for certain systematic faults which we should not otherwise have suspected; and, once we are on the look out for them, we may learn to correct them. But in the main the old saying is true: Non in dialectica complacuit Deo salvum facere populum suum. Not that this is any objection to dialectic. For salvation is not everything; and to try to understand in outline what one solves ambulando and in detail is quite good fun for those people who like that sort of thing.1
We had just returned from a war during which we had been personally confronted with a number of moral questions which did not admit of an easy answer. Many of us hoped that philosophy might be of assistance to us in answering these questions. Indeed, that was what made us study this subject, rather than others more obviously relevant to practical problems. We were no doubt wrong to object to Broad just because his idea of fun differed from our own. But could it be that when people found the money to pay the stipends of philosophical professors, their main object was to enable these professors to amuse themselves?

The dislike of a priggish undergraduate for his prescribed reading may seem a matter of no importance; yet I have mentioned it because it is one of the purposes of this paper to show how unjust, in many respects, this criticism was. It was founded upon ignorance -- ignorance of both the historical and the logical reasons which had led Broad to write in this way. It is worth while to examine these reasons; for moral philosophers have often found themselves subjected to criticism of this sort, especially in the present century. The criticism takes many forms, but the cause of the dissatisfaction is usually the same. I shall endeavour to show that the tendency in modern ethics which has provoked this dissatisfaction owes its origin to the work of the intuitionist school, of which Broad is an able representative. This fact should be obvious to anyone who has understood what has been happening in ethics during the past fifty years; but it is worth while to draw attention to it, since it is commonly thought that more recent writers are to blame for the tendency.

A proper treatment of the problem requires a survey of the development of philosophers' views on the point at issue during the first half of this century, together with an attempt to set the question in its true light. Since both these tasks will take me some distance away from Broad's own writings, I wish to explain that my object in this paper is not directly to discuss (let alone to criticise) what little he has written about the scope of moral philosophy. It might indeed be said that on this, as on other questions, Broad has been very chary of expounding his own views; his fame rests on his admirably clear discussion and criticism of the views of others. But since his writings give evidence of a consistent attitude to this question; and since the attitude is a widely-held one and the question itself of fundamental importance, this seems too good an opportunity to miss of raising the question, and thus compelling Broad, in his reply, to say, more fully than he has done, what he thinks about it.

* * * * *

In a volume devoted to Broad's philosophy, a historical survey of recent developments might appropriately have started with Sidgwick; but for reasons of space I shall not go so far back. I shall start with Moore. I do not know whether, when Moore wrote 'The direct object of ethics is knowledge and not practice', he was consciously controverting Aristotle's equally famous remark on the same subject;2 but it may fairly be said that the publication of Principia Ethica in 1903 marks a great break with tradition, and the beginning of a new way of thinking about this question -- as about so many others. This is not to say that the distinction which Moore made between ethical theory and moral judgement had not been made before in ethics; it was made, in different words, by Socrates.3 But it owes to Moore its prominence in recent ethics. The distinction is that between two questions, both of which might be expressed by the words 'What is good?' This question might, says Moore, be taken as meaning 'What (sorts of) things are good?'; but it might be taken as meaning 'How is "good" to be defined?'4 And though Moore included under the name 'ethics' attempts to answer both these questions, he regarded the latter question as prior and treated it in the first half of his book; and it was his attempt to answer it (an attempt whose results were startlingly negative) which has provided the stimulus to nearly every important development in ethics from that day to this.

It has recently been suggested by Dr Raphael5 that, while recent moral philosophers have, with a one-sidedness which he condemns, concentrated on the question which Moore treated first in his book, the second half of the book was what counted most 'outside the circle of professional philosophers'. Lord Keynes and the Bloomsbury group are instanced in support of this contention. But what inspired Keynes and his friends were not just Moore's opinions about what things were good, treated simply as opinions -- as such they were not perhaps strikingly distinctive. It is quite clear from Keynes's Memoirs that the reason why Moore was treated as a prophet was not merely that he propounded certain value-judgements (though these value-judgements did inspire them), but also that he had important new things to say about the nature of value-judgements and the way they are made. And Moore's doctrine about method was the direct outcome of his refutation of naturalism.6

As Keynes's biographer puts it,

The doctrine of indefinability has the consequence that decisions about what is good depend on direct intuition in each particular case. The interpretation given in Oxford to this consequence was widely different from that in Cambridge. In Oxford -- no doubt owing partly to the special attention paid to Aristotle's Ethics -- great reliance was placed on what may be called traditional morality, embodying the intuitions of wise men through the ages. In Cambridge the doctrine of intuition was interpreted -- anyhow by those disciples who were to be for many years the intimate intellectual companions of Keynes -- as giving fairly complete licence to judge all things anew.7
'How did we know (says Keynes himself) what states of mind were good? This was a matter of direct inspection, or direct unanalysable intuition about which it was useless and impossible to argue.'8 Yet Keynes and his friends did argue; and their arguments were of a sort which is in one respect strikingly similar to those employed in the most recent philosophical discussions in Oxford about ethical questions. Moore's disciples used the methods of linguistic analysis (of which Moore has a good claim to be called the modern inventor) in order to clarify evaluative questions. This was the only form argument could take, since once the issues were clarified, there was no further place for argument. 'We spent our time (says Keynes) trying to discover precisely what questions we were asking, confident in the faith that, if only we could ask precise questions, everyone would know the answer.'9 And of these arguments he says, 'It was a method of discovery by the instrument of impeccable grammar and an unambiguous dictionary. "What exactly do you mean?" was the phrase most frequently on our lips.'10 Thus, in deciding a question of value, argument (traditionally the province of moral philosophers) was confined to the elucidation of terms. Once these were understood there was nothing left to argue about; the individual had to make his own judgements of value, and, provided that the verbal elucidation had been done properly, individuals would not (so it was thought) disagree. It was only this pious hope which distinguished this kind of intuitionism from the most extreme form of subjectivism -- and this should remind us that these two doctrines, superficially so different, are not in fact very dissimilar.

Keynes also says that, preoccupied with this intoxicating business of evaluating personal experiences under the powerful illumination provided by the analysis of meaning, they paid scant attention to what Moore had to say about morals, in the narrow sense in which it means 'our attitude towards the outside world'. 'There was one chapter in the Principia', he says, 'of which we took not the slightest notice', namely the chapter called 'Ethics in Relation to Conduct'.11 This disrespect towards morals led the outside world -- even including D. H. Lawrence, whose actual evaluations were not so far removed as were conventional people's from those of Moore's disciples -- to regard the group with suspicion, in the same way, and for the same reasons, as it has suspected the disciples of some later philosophers who have insisted on the distinction which Moore made current. What, according to Keynes, repelled Lawrence was 'this thin rationalism . . . joined to libertinism and comprehensive irreverence'.12

* * * * *

The implications of the new division of moral philosophy made by Moore became very apparent nine years later, when Prichard (the first of the Oxford School of intuitionists referred to by Mr Harrod) published his famous article 'Does Moral Philosophy Rest on a Mistake?' The article concludes with the following statement:

If we do doubt whether there is really an obligation to originate A in a situation B, the remedy lies not in any process of general thinking, but in getting face to face with a particular instance of the situation B, and then directly appreciating the obligation to originate A in that situation.13

By 'general thinking' Prichard seems to have meant the sort of thinking which had occupied the greater part of many books on moral philosophy up to his day. These books consisted of a number of different sorts of discussion, not always clearly distinguished by their authors;14 Moore had pointed the way to a proper classification of these different elements in moral philosophy -- a classification which, when insisted on, seemed to make certain of the elements irrelevant to certain others. A typical work of moral philosophy of the old type contains three main kinds of observation. First, there are statements of fact about how things stand in the world -- in particular, statements about what sorts of actions will have what sorts of results. Secondly, we have statements about the nature of the concepts used in moral thinking, or, as a modern would put it, about the meaning or function or use of moral words. Thirdly, the books generally conclude with some statements of moral principle which are held by the author to have been established by what has gone before.

Now Hume, in a well-known passage, which Prichard echoes in this same article, had shown the impropriety of the direct passage from the first of these three kinds of statement to the third.15 But many moral philosophers (including perhaps Hume himself) seem to have supposed that the second kind of statement could help us out of this difficulty; that discoveries about the nature of goodness, obligation, etc., could somehow provide a bridge over the gulf between factual statement and moral principle. Moore's exposure of the 'naturalistic fallacy', extended by Prichard to cover 'ought' as well as 'good', seemed to have put this approach to the subject out of court once for all. The way to settle moral problems, when all the necessary fact-finding had been done, was by intuition. The study of the moral concepts, or the attempt to analyse moral terms, did indeed need undertaking; but its results were purely negative, and its sole use was to proclaim that they were negative, in order to prevent the unwary from falling into naturalistic errors. And since both Moore and Prichard had proclaimed this in clear tones, it is not surprising that, when Broad came on the scene, there seemed to be not much scope for the traditional sort of moral philosophy -- the sort which claimed to be able to reach conclusions of moral principle.

* * * * *

This explains very clearly the feature of Broad's book which, as an undergraduate, I found unattractive. It too consists of three elements, but they are not the same three as I mentioned above. To mention first the element which occupies least space, there are some moral observations, many of them very wise, and all expressed with admirable clarity and pungency. These are to be found scattered throughout Five Types. They are not, however, represented as the results of any peculiarly philosophical enquiry; in so far as Broad judges moral issues, his tendency is to judge them as a man, not as philosophy professor. This is much to his credit, and makes the judgements themselves more valuable than they might otherwise have been.16 But the separation between ethical theory and moral judgement is in FTET almost complete.

The second element in FTET consists of analytical studies of the various moral concepts, together with an accurate and painstaking classification of the different theories which might be held about the meaning of moral judgements and their epistemological status. The third element consists of historical studies of particular philosophers, whose views are dissected and displayed in terms of the aforementioned classification. It is perhaps not unfair to say that only by including this valuable historical matter was Broad able to fill a book about moral philosophy -- so attenuated had the subject become through the work of his predecessors.

The history of moral philosophy in the years when Broad's own thought was developing not merely explains, but in large measure justifies, his approach to the subject. For although there were ambiguities in Moore's presentation of his argument against naturalism, and although few people nowadays would accept an intuitionism of the type advocated by Prichard, yet the facts about the nature of moral discourse that led these writers to the views which I have described are indeed facts; and they do indeed render impossible of fulfilment the traditional programme of moral philosophers, that of using logical considerations, arising out of the meanings of the moral words, to get them from an 'is' to an 'ought'. And Broad, by refusing to engage in these traditional endeavours and devoting himself instead to enquiries of a historical and analytical kind, was showing himself an honest man. He has never joined the ranks of those who, not liking the effects of the distinction made by Moore, seek to blur it -- a thing which it is easy enough to do if, deliberately or by reason of an ocular defect, the subject is put sufficiently out of focus. I must therefore admit that my juvenile irritation at Broad's remarks was entirely unjustified. Yet there remains with me a certain dissatisfaction, not with Broad, but with the state of the subject. Since dissatisfaction of this sort has been voiced recently in more than one quarter, it may not be inapposite to discuss its cause; by this means I may perhaps draw Broad himself into the debate.

* * * * *

It is still frequently said of present-day moral philosophy that it has become 'impoverished' by concentrating on the analysis of concepts. I take this word from a broadcast talk by Mr J. W. N. Watkins. As I have indicated, those who make this kind of attack upon recent writers do not often go back far enough in their search for whipping-boys. The distinction between the analysis of moral concepts and the actual propounding of moral judgements is implicit in the work of Moore, and its consequences are plain for all to see in the work of the intuitionist school. Yet sometimes writers, who do not like the way moral philosophy is done at the present time, attribute this distinction, and the ethical method which it suggests, to a more recent school of ethical writers, of whom Professor Ayer is the most controversial representative. To see how this accusation has come to be so misdirected is not irrelevant to the study of Broad's philosophy, since it is evident from his writings that, unlike some intuitionists who were not in the thick of the controversy at Cambridge, he took the new developments of the twenties and thirties seriously enough to understand them; and, although he did not accept the new ideas, they had a considerable impact on his thought.1 The predicament in which these new developments had placed the moral philosopher provides an additional explanation of Broad's attitude to the subject.

I am not well enough versed in the recent history of ethics to be able to identify with assurance the first clear statement in modern times of what came to be known as the Emotive theory. If we ignore such earlier hints as that to be found in Berkeley's Principles,18 and consider only the theory as recently maintained, we can trace it back, in a clearly formulated shape, at least as far as Ogden and Richards's Meaning of Meaning (1923).19 By 1925 Ramsey was able to write: 'Most of us would agree that the objectivity of good was a thing we had settled and dismissed with the existence of God. Theology and Absolute Ethics are two famous subjects which we have realized to have no real objects.'20 It is surprising, therefore, that Ayer's own Language, Truth and Logic, which appeared more than ten years later, created such a stir, and is still the principal butt of those who wish to attack the theory. The explanation is that the chapter in that book devoted to ethics is a masterpiece of philosophical writing, whose clarity, sharpness and earnestness could rouse even the most dogmatic from their slumbers; and that it was written in Oxford, where philosophers had been sleeping longer and more deeply, and therefore more resented being woken up.

Ayer, however, stepped so easily into the leadership of the new school in England that it is to the common criticisms of his views, and his replies to them, that we must look if we are to understand the present state of the subject. The most important thing, historically, to notice about Ayer is his enormous debt to Moore. The general debt of the emotivists to Moore, and the close relation of their views to his, has been recognised by Professor Stevenson, and half-acknowledged by Moore himself.21 But very striking confirmations of this debt are to be found in the pages of Language, Truth and Logic. If Moore had not written Principia Ethica, any philosopher of an empiricist turn of mind who espoused, like Ayer, a verificationist theory of meaning would have been drawn irresistibly to some form of ethical naturalism, whether of a psychological kind which maintains that moral judgements are statements that the speaker, or that people in general, have certain feelings, or of some kind which holds that they are statements about non-psychological empirical fact. But Ayer had understood Moore well enough not to take either of these ways out; and the brilliantly clear statement of the impossibility of naturalism which Language, Truth and Logic contains is nothing but a refinement of Moore's argument.22 Even when he turns to criticise Moore, Ayer reveals his debt to him by the seriousness with which he takes Moore's arguments; but the clearest and neatest indication of the relation between the two philosophers is in the following two passages, the first from Principle Ethica and the second from Language, Truth and Logic:

In fact, if it is not the case that 'good' denotes something simple and indefinable, only two alternatives are possible: either it is a complex, a given whole, about the correct analysis of which there may be disagreement; or else it means nothing at all, and there is no such subject as ethics.23

Having upheld our theory against the only criticism which appeared to threaten it (Moore's), we may now use it to define the nature of all ethical enquiries. We find that ethical philosophy consists simply in saying that ethical concepts are pseudo-concepts and therefore unanalysable.24

Moore thought that he had disposed of one of the possibilities which he lists -- that what 'good' denotes is a complex (naturalism); and with this conclusion Ayer agrees. Yet in the years since Principia Ethica Moore's own suggestion, that it was a simple indefinable non-natural quality (intuitionism), had ceased to satisfy anybody; and Moore himself has since confessed (in 1942) that 'in Principia I did not give any tenable explanation of what I meant by saying that "good" was not a natural property'.25 These two possibilities excluded, only the third seemed to Ayer to be open; and he seized it with relish.

The continuity of ethics in the present century is therefore much greater than has sometimes been thought by those who looked at developments from too close quarters. The two results of Moore's work which are important for our purpose may be summed up as follows: he established that it was impossible, by studying the nature, function or analysis of moral concepts, to build a logical bridge between factual premisses and moral conclusions; and he showed that our moral judgements are the result of something which we have to do for ourselves, and which cannot be done for us or forced on us by appeal to any definition or empirical observation. Whether we call this something an intuition, as did the earlier writers, or a feeling of approval, as did the later, is a question of small relative importance, resting on a verbal distinction which nobody has ever succeeded in making clear. Intuitionists and emotivists are on the same side in this at any rate, that they make it difficult to see much direct connection between ethical theory and moral judgement. Broad lies precisely on the dividing-line between these two schools -- superficially so different but actually so closely related; and that is why I am doing my utmost to elicit from him, in his reply, a statement of his present views about this question.

* * * * *

In order to indicate some of the possible moves, it is useful to consider how Ayer has fared in answering his critics. The first criticism which was made was that his views on ethics were morally damnable, in that they were an encouragement to all who read them to stop caring about morality and live as they pleased. The accusation of libertinism was not new, as we have seen. To this Ayer's reply has always been:

I am not saying that morals are trivial or unimportant, or that people ought not to bother with them. For this would itself be a judgment of value, which I have not made and do not wish to make. And even if I did wish to make it, it would have no logical connection with my theory. For the theory is entirely on the level of analysis; it is an attempt to show what people are doing when they make moral judgments; it is not a set of suggestions as to what moral judgments they are to make. All moral theories, intuitionist, naturalistic, objectivist, emotive, and the rest, are neutral as regards actual conduct. To speak technically, they belong to the field of meta-ethics, not ethics proper.26

Ayer here rebuts the charge that his theory entails depraved moral views by saying that it entails no one moral view rather than another. Ayer is quite right to claim here that this is true, not only of his own theory but of intuitionism too; in this respect, as we have seen, there is no difference between the two theories.

In using this defence, however, against the accusation that he is a corrupting moral influence, Ayer lays himself open to another attack. If ethical theories are neutral as regards actual conduct -- if judgements of value can have no logical connection with such a theory -- then what is the point of ethics? This is, as I have said, a question which is frequently asked, not only about Ayer's work, but about that of other ethical writers of the present time; I have more than once been asked it myself, in a somewhat hostile spirit. It is a question which anyone must face who holds that ethics is concerned with the analysis of moral concepts.

It might be replied to this accusation that ethics, like any branch of learning, should be pursued for its own sake. The ethical philosopher is in the same position as the pure mathematician, or the Hebrew scholar; his discoveries may turn out to have a practical use, but this ought not to be his concern. Ethics is a branch of logic, and has many points of intimate contact with other branches of that subject. It is at least as important to study the logic of words like 'ought' as it is to study that of words like 'all'; and since in fact the different branches of logic illuminate one another, the logician has very good reason to study any sort of word that interests him. Moreover, unless philosophy is going to be given up altogether, logic must surely be allowed to survive; and if logic, then the branch of logic called ethics.

This reply, however, is not much more likely to satisfy some of the attackers than is Broad's own reply that ethics is 'fun'. For not only do many people take to ethics just because they think that they will learn something which will help them in making moral decisions; they take to philosophy itself because ethics is part of philosophy, and cannot be understood without studying the whole subject. In the eyes of these people (who include many, though not all, of the great philosophers) ethics cannot be justified merely because it is part and parcel of philosophy, since the justification of philosophy itself is that its study is of value to ethics. Some people may be happy to go on sorting out philosophical perplexities without worrying about whether they are doing any service to their fellow men. But it may be doubted whether the subject would ever have got started if it had not been thought to have more relevance to men's needs than that. To this it might be retorted that chemistry would never have got started if people had not hoped to enrich themselves by turning base metals into gold; and that it is no slur on philosophy to say that the first incentive to its pursuit was a false hope of finding an alchemy that would extract evaluative conclusions from factual premisses. But chemistry has at least become useful; whereas it is often said that ethics has now lost whatever use it formerly had.

Be this as it may, the defence of ethics which we have been considering is not the only possible one. It may be said that ethics clarifies moral issues by bringing out the exact use of the words used in discussing them, and thus guarding against verbal confusions. This claim also excites a good deal of antipathy. For most people think that they know well enough how to use the moral words, until the philosopher gets at them; the philosopher, it is said, increases rather than diminishes the confusion. This kind of thing was said of Socrates when he pressed his paralysing demand for an analysis of moral concepts, and it is said today.27 It is also said that in fact ethical philosophers have not, by analysis, succeeded in clearing up any perplexities about moral questions that really perplex people.

To this it might be replied that to feel quite clear about the use of the moral words may be a sign of the most radical confusion about them. Meno, in the dialogue bearing his name to which I have just referred, felt quite clear that he knew what virtue was; but his attempts to say what it was show how little he understood what sort of concept he was trying to define. Certainty about the use of moral words is often a sign of dogmatism; and the extreme kind of dogmatism is naturalism, the view that our own moral views are true in virtue of the very meanings of words. The analytical study of concepts like 'good' has at least this negative effect, that it may show people that they really have to make up their own minds about questions of value, and cannot have these questions answered for them by definition. And this is no small gain.

* * * * *

But few people really think that their moral problems can be solved, in the last resort, by anyone but themselves. They do not need a philosopher to tell them this. What they want the philosopher to do is to give them some assistance in solving those problems. And when it is seen that this assistance cannot take the form of showing that certain answers to the problems are true by definition, they will ask what form the assistance is going to take.

To this question I can only suggest the answer that has satisfied me, and ask Professor Broad whether he agrees with it. I took to moral philosophy because I was perplexed about moral problems; and I am quite satisfied that the study of the logical function of the moral words has considerably reduced my perplexity. I now know a great deal better (though I am far from knowing with clear certainty) what I am doing when I am asking a moral question; and this makes it a great deal easier to answer the question. Moral issues, as anyone can observe who watches how they present themselves in real life, come to us as a confused mixture of questions of fact and questions of value, together with a large element of questions concerning the meanings of words. In the more difficult cases we cannot begin to answer these questions till we have established to which of these classes they belong. Everyday moral discussions are full of confusions between questions of fact, requiring empirical investigation, questions of definition, requiring an agreement on how to use words, and questions of value, requiring evaluative decisions. It is often not impossible to answer these various sorts of questions, once we have sorted them out; and ethics is a training in doing this.

This, however, is not the only contribution of ethics to the solution of moral problems. It has also a more positive role. For it may be that once we know what we mean by calling a question a moral question, we shall stop wanting to answer it in certain ways. But this I most emphatically do not mean that, as some writers have seemed to maintain, moral conclusions of substance can be derived by means of some quasi-logic from factual premisses in virtue of a definition of the word 'moral'.28 This would be nothing but a highly sophisticated form of naturalism. What I intend may be illustrated by an example. I think that it can be maintained, by means of logical considerations alone resting on the meaning of the expression 'morally wrong', that what is not morally wrong for me to do in this situation is not morally wrong for anyone to do in a similar situation. The word 'similar' is here to be taken to mean that whatever qualitative predicates can be truthfully applied to one situation can be truthfully applied to the other; and 'qualitative' is to be taken as excluding overt or implicit use of singular terms and also of evaluative terms in the predicate. This statement is not sufficiently precise, but it will do for my present purpose.29 Now the statement that I have just made is not a statement of substance; it is logically compatible with absolutely any single act being either wrong, or not wrong. No synthetic judgement follows from the statement; if true, it is analytically so in virtue of the meaning of the words 'morally wrong'. But if I am asking whether a certain act which I am contemplating is morally wrong or not, this analytic statement may be of considerable import to me. For if I realise that the judgement, that it is not morally wrong for me to do this act to a certain man, entails the judgement that it would not be wrong for someone else to do a similar act to me, were the situation similar, then I may feel disinclined to say that it is not morally wrong; I may feel inclined, rather, to say that it is morally wrong. And so I may eliminate from the alternatives offered to my choice a possibility that was previously open.

I say 'I may feel inclined'. Whether I do feel inclined will depend on two conditions. The first is that I have sufficient imagination to visualise myself in the position of the other man. The second is that I am averse to suffering that experience which I imagine myself suffering, were I in the other man's place. So we have, in all, three conditions which determine my inclination to say that a certain act would be wrong. The first is, that I should understand the word 'wrong' sufficiently to know that its use is governed by the principle which I enunciated in the preceding paragraph. The second is, that I should have sufficient imagination. The third is, that I should have certain likes and dislikes of certain experiences. It is to be noticed that none of these conditions presupposes any previous moral opinions of substance on my part; so that the argument which I have used does not rely upon any suppressed moral premisses. It is also to be remarked that, though I have stated these distinctions in terms which have a psychological ring, an exact statement of them would reveal my contentions to be analytic.

Broad, in discussing Kant, deals with this question in greater detail than I have had the space to do.30 I do not know whether the above statement of the case carries the argument a step further than he does. I have some hope that a restatement of Kant's doctrine on these lines might go some way to meeting Broad's objections to it, and make unnecessary the introduction of moral intuitions to deal with the difficulties which Broad finds. Kant would certainly have objected to my restatement, because it makes a moral decision depend on inclination; yet I do not myself find this objectionable; for I am not defining 'wrong' in terms of inclinations, but only saying what would in fact incline me to say that a certain act was wrong.

I do not, however, wish to defend this thesis here; I am not unaware of certain possible objections to it, objections to which, however, there are possible answers. I have introduced the thesis only as an illustration of the sort of bearing which an ethical theory, in the restricted sense of a theory concerning the analysis of moral terms, may have on moral decisions. In this example, ethics bears on morals in two ways. The first is by making the sort of suggestion which I have made in the two preceding paragraphs -- a suggestion that the conditions which determine a person, given that he knows the facts of the case, to come to a certain moral decision can be divided into three classes, viz. understanding the meaning of words, imagination, and likes and dislikes. The second is by establishing, by the methods of logical analysis, that the words 'morally wrong' have such a meaning that the statement which I said was analytic is in fact analytic. Whether or not the piece of ethical theory which I have just put forward is tenable, the question 'Is it tenable?' has clearly a bearing on moral problems.

It is obvious that the discussion of the two ethical issues which I have just mentioned will bring a great deal of philosophy with it. The first one will involve us in a great variety of questions concerning the philosophy of mind: 'Does it make sense to speak of imagining oneself in another's position?', 'What is an inclination?', and so on. The second will lead us into the middle of a tangle of related logical questions -- questions which are the lineal descendants of some of the most important problems of metaphysics -- questions concerning the principle of individuation, the difference between things and qualities, and the identity of indiscernibles. Thus ethics is studied because it has a bearing on morals, and metaphysics and the philosophy of mind because they have a bearing on ethics -- though in neither case are these the only reasons. Broad may therefore have been over-modest when he made so small a claim for the practical utility of ethical studies. At any rate, I should like to ask him whether he is now prepared to go a little further.

I reach, therefore, the following conclusions concerning Broad's approach to moral philosophy:

  • Broad's inclination to understate the bearing of ethical studies on moral questions is the historical result of the work of Moore, as extended by Prichard, and carried still further by the emotivists.
  • This tendency is implicit in intuitionism, and is not to be laid at the door of post-intuitionist writers.
  • Intuitionists and post-intuitionists are right in holding that no definition or analysis of moral terms can enable us logically to derive a moral conclusion from factual premisses.
  • Both they and their opponents, however, are wrong if they suppose that ethical studies, as understood by intuitionists and post-intuitionists, can have no, or negligible, importance for moral questions.


    1 FTET, p. 285.

    2 G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica, p. 20; Aristotle, Eth. Nic. p. 1103 b 27. It now (1971) seems to me that the usual interpretation of this passage, which is assumed in the text, is mistaken. It means, rather, 'For we are enquiring what goodness is, not for the (mere) sake of knowing it, but in order that we may (by using this knowledge) become good'. For Aristotle, as for Moore, the direct object of ethics was knowledge, its ultimate object practice. This interpretation is neatly supported by the fact that, one and a half pages further on, he resumes his enquiry in the identical terms: 'After these preliminaries, we have to enquire what goodness is.'

    3 See, for example, Plato, Euthyphro, 6 d.

    4 Moore, op. cit., pp. 3-5.

    5 In an unpublished paper, 'Recent Oxford Contributions to Ethics', read to the Oxford colloquium on Contemporary British Philosophy, 1955.

    6 I shall use the term 'naturalism' to cover any theory which is refutable by the argument which Moore used, or a recognisable reformulation of that argument: that is, roughly, any theory which treats an evaluative expression as equivalent to a descriptive expression. I have given my own reformulation of Moore's argument in Language of Morals, chap. 5.

    7 R. F. Harrod, Life of M. Keynes, p. 77.

    8 Keynes, Two Memoirs, p. 84.

    9 Op. cit., p. 89. Moore's remarks on p. 6 of Principia Ethica might seem to conflict with Keynes's description of his method; he there says that his business is not with 'proper usage, as defined by custom'. The truth is that neither Moore nor analysts of the generation which succeeded him are tied, as lexicographers are, to the actual current usage of words (though these may guide them). Their only concern is that, however words are being used, it should be explained how they are being used. But this is not to be taken as a licence to evade the discussion and elucidation of problematical concepts by the subterfuge of substituting for them concepts which do not raise the same problems; see my Language of Morals, pp. 91 ff. The transition from 'words' to 'concepts' is here crucial.

    10 Op. cit., p. 88.

    11 Op. cit., p. 82; Moore, Principia Ethica, chap. 5.

    12 Op. cit., pp. 75 f, 78, 98, 103.

    13 Moral Obligation, p. 17.

    14 Kant's question is perhaps here pertinent: 'whether it would not be better for the whole of this learned industry if those accustomed to purvey, in accordance with the public taste, a mixture of the empirical and the rational in various proportions unknown to themselves -- the self-styled "creative thinkers" as opposed to the "hair-splitters" who attend to the pure rational part - were to be warned against carrying on at once two jobs very different in their technique, each perhaps requiring a special talent and the combination of both in one person producing mere bunglers!' (Groundwork, iv; H. J. Paton's translation, p. 56). Kant objected not so much to the same person doing both jobs (he did himself) but to doing them 'at once'. The force of Kant's warning is not weakened by the discovery that there are, not two, but at least three jobs.

    15 Hume, Treatise III, I, i, last para.; Prichard, op. cit., p. 4.

    16 For an example of a judgement by Broad on a specific moral issue, see the devastating comparison between the personal morals of Sidgwick and Green in FTET, pp. 12 and 144. Some later papers contain very penetrating applications of ethical theory to moral problems, and perhaps indicate a change of attitude since Five Types. See especially the last two papers in Ethics and the History of Philosophy.

    17 See especially Broad's discussion in Ar. Soc, xxxiv (1933-4) 249 ff. of the views of Duncan-Jones.

    18 Principles of Human Knowledge, Intro. 20.

    19 See especially p. 125. The theory or something very like it was developed much earlier by certain Scandinavian philosophers, the most important of whom, Hagerstrom, has recently been translated by Broad. See also H. Ofstad's article in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, XII (1951) 42 ff.

    20 F. P. Ramsey, Foundations of Mathematics, p. 288, referred to by Ayer, Philosophical Essays, p. 231.

    21 The Philosophy of G. E. Moore, ed. P. A. Schilpp, pp. 546 f. Cf. C. L. Stevenson, Ethics and Language, pp. 272 f.

    22 Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic, 2nd ed., pp. 104 f.

    23 Moore, op. cit., p. 15.

    24 Ayer, op. cit., p. 112. Ayer's later writings show more moderate views.

    25 The Philosophy of G. E. Moore (Schilpp), p. 58a.

    26 Ayer, Philosophical Essays, p. 245.

    27 See, for example, Meno, 79 e ff.

    28 For a criticism of a theory of this sort, see my review of Professor Toulmin's Reason in Ethics in Philosophical Quarterly, 1 (1951) 37a ff.

    29 I have tried to state this thesis more clearly, and to defend it, in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, LV (1954-5) 297 ff. (reprinted in my Essays on The Moral Concepts (forthcoming)); and I have given an example of the practical effect of the thesis in The Listener, LIV (1955) 651 f.; see also the essay 'Peace', in my Applications of Moral Philosophy (forthcoming), and Freedom and Reason.

    30 Broad, FTET, pp. 123-31.