Philosophical Quarterly 40 (159):129-154 (1990)

Charles R. Pigden
University of Otago
In his celebrated 'Good and Evil' (l956) Professor Geach argues as against the non-naturalists that ‘good’ is attributive and that the predicative 'good', as used by Moore, is senseless.. 'Good' when properly used is attributive. 'There is no such thing as being just good or bad, [that is, no predicative 'good'] there is only being a good or bad so and so'. On the other hand, Geach insists, as against non-cognitivists, that good-judgments are entirely 'descriptive'. By a consideration of what it is to be an A, we can determine what it is to be a good A, even where the ‘A’ in question is ‘human being’. These battles are fought on behalf of naturalism, indeed, of an up-to-date Aristotelianism. Geach plans to 'pass' from the 'purely descriptive' man to good/bad man, and from human act to good/bad human act. I argue: (l) That the predicative 'good' does have a genuine sense and that it is a mistake to suppose that ‘good’ is a purely attributive adjective. This does not entail that the predicative good (as used by Moore) denotes a non-natural property, but his mistake, if any is metaphysical or ontological not conceptual. (2) That the attributive 'good' cannot be used to generate a naturalistic ethic. It is difficult to extract a set of biologically based requirements out of human nature that are a) reasonably specific; b) rationally binding or at least highly persuasive; and c) morally credible. On the way I protest against Geach’s tendency to try to win arguments by affecting not to understand things. My views to some extent anticipate those of Kraut in *Against Absolute Goodness*.
Keywords Geach  Good  Meta-Ethics  Naturalism (in Ethics)  Aristotle  Attributive  Virtue Ethics
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.2307/2219807
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

After Virtue.A. MacIntyre - 1981 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 46 (1):169-171.
Modern Moral Philosophy.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1958 - Philosophy 33 (124):1 - 19.
Needs, Values, Truth.David Wiggins - 1990 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 180 (1):106-106.
On Brute Facts.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1957 - Analysis 18 (3):69 - 72.

View all 13 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

In Defence of Good Simpliciter.Richard Rowland - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (5):1371-1391.
Is Anything Just Plain Good?Mahrad Almotahari & Adam Hosein - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (6):1485-1508.
On Locating Value in Making Moral Progress.Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen - 2017 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (1):137-152.
Identifying Goodness.Charles R. Pigden - 2012 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (1):93 - 109.
Reasons as the Unity Among the Varieties of Goodness.Richard Rowland - 2015 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 96 (3):n/a-n/a.

View all 13 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
571 ( #12,121 of 2,446,556 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
18 ( #39,383 of 2,446,556 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes