I just have to say this: G. E. Moore makes philosophy seem so annoyingly simple.
In the selection, “The Subject-Matter of Ethics,” Moore proposes that good is fundamentally undefinable. In considering definitions of good, Moore refutes an appeal to semantics and the common useage of the word “good,” stating that he instead wants to know the property or thing to which “good” refers. Likewise, he does not ask what things have the property of being good, or “the good,” (p. 52) but what the property “good” is in of itself.
Moore believes that there are certain foundational properties or entities that are completely simple; namely, that they cannot be reduced to any further properties or components (unlike a horse or a Chimera). Moore considers an example with the color yellow: while yellow can be described in terms of wavelengths and retinas, yellow is a basic perception that cannot be broken up into any more basic parts. Likewise, good is a property that is completely basic, and therefore undefineable (because, according to Moore, a definition “states what are the parts which invariably compose a certain whole” (p.53)). Therefore, any naturalist attempt to define “good” in terms of more basic concepts, such as pleasure or desire, will fail, as he considers for the last half of the selection.
I have to admit, I agree largely with Moore. However, I am slightly uncertain as to what his ultimate “project” is. By making “good” undefinable, is Moore precluding meta-ethics as a legitimate field of study? If “good” is a simple (and, implicitly, unanalyzable) concept, then it seems that the only valid subject matter are the things which are good, which Moore seems to take as the enterprise of ethics (p. 52, second column). Or is Moore simply “cleaning house,” and doing away with muddled and blurred concepts, such as thinking that good and pleasure are related? Perhaps Moore is instead saving the enterprise of meta-ethics from unclear ideas.
I think I probably side with the first interpretation, but I’m open to other thoughts. So what do y’all think?