G.E. Moore

(4 November 1873 – 24 October 1958)

George E Moore was a distinguished and influential English philosopher.

A friend of Bertrand Russell, influenced a whole generation of Cambridge graduates, including E.M. Forster and members of the Bloomsbury group.

In Principia Ethica, he explored the idea that goodness is a quality one can experience intuitively, and a fundamental concept that cannot be defined in terms of anything else. So he would not have agreed with Utilitarian philosophers who defined goodness in terms of maximising happiness and minimising pain. Nor with the religions which defined it in terms of duty to God.

Moore thought that friendship and aesthetic enjoyment were the best examples of goodness, an idea that many non-religious people would agree with.

Moore described himself as an “infidel”, thinking that there was no evidence for God’s existence (but also that there was no evidence for his non-existence), and was a president of the Ethical Union (the predecessor of the British Humanist Association) in its early days.

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