Chapter II: Naturalistic Ethics.

§ 35.

In this chapter I have begun the criticism of certain ethical views, which seem to owe their influence mainly to the naturalistic fallacy—the fallacy which consists in identifying the simple notion which we mean by good with some other notion. They are views which profess to tell us what is good in itself; and my criticism of them is mainly directed (1) to bring out the negative result, that we have no reason to suppose that which they declare to be the sole good, really to be so, (2) to illustrate further the positive result, already established in Chapter I, that the fundamental principles of Ethics must be synthetic propositions, declaring what things, and in what degree, possess a simple and unanalysable property which may be called intrinsic value or goodness. The chapter began (1) by dividing the views to be criticised into (a) those which, supposing good to be defined by reference to some supersensible reality, conclude that the sole good is to be found in such a reality, and may therefore be called Metaphysical, (b) those which assign a similar position to some natural object, and may therefore be called Naturalistic. Of naturalistic views, that which regards pleasure as the sole good has received far the fullest and most serious treatment and was therefore reserved for Chapter III: all other forms of Naturalism may be first dismissed, by taking typical examples (24—26). (2) As typical of naturalistic views, other than Hedonism, there was first taken the popular commendation of what is natural: it was pointed out that by natural there might here be meant either normal or necessary, and that neither the normal nor the necessary could be seriously supposed to be either always good or the only good things (27—28). (3) But a more important type, because on which claims to be capable of system, is to be found in Evolutionistic Ethics. The influence of the fallacious opinion that to be better means to be more evolved was illustrated by an examination of Mr Herbert Spencer’s Ethics; and it was pointed out that, but for the influence of this opinion, Evolution could hardly have been supposed to have any important bearing upon Ethics (29—34). (§ 35 ¶ 1)