Chapter IV: Metaphysical Ethics.

§ 69.

But this bearing upon practical Ethics, such as it is, is not what is commonly meant when it is maintained that Ethics must be based on Metaphysics. It is not the assertion of this relation which I have taken to be characteristic of Metaphysical Ethics. What metaphysical writers commonly maintain is not merely that Metaphysics can help us to decide what the effects of our actions will be, but that it can tell us which among possible effects will be good and which will be bad. They profess that Metaphysics is a necessary basis for an answer to that other and primary ethical question: What ought to be? What is good in itself? That no truth about what is real can have any logical bearing upon the answer to this question has been proved in Chapter I. To suppose that it has, implies the naturalistic fallacy. All that remains for us to do is, therefore, to expose the main errors which seem to have lent plausibility to this fallacy in its metaphysical form. If we ask: What bearing can Metaphysics have upon the question, What is good? the only possible answer is: Obviously and absolutely none. We can only hope to enforce conviction that this answer is the only true one by answering the question: Why has it been supposed to have such a bearing? We shall find that metaphysical writers seem to have failed to distinguish the primary ethical question: What is good? from various other questions; and to point out these distinctions will serve to confirm the view that their profession to base Ethics on Metaphysics is solely due to confusion. (§ 69 ¶ 1)