Epilogue: Contemporary Utilitarianism
Since Moore’s Principia Ethica moral philosophy, at least in Britain and to a large extent in the English-speaking world, has passed through three phases. In the first Moore’s own combination of a consequentialist theory of right action with an intuitionist account of the indefinable property of goodness prevailed. Because of its definition of rightness in terms of consequences it was sometimes called ‘ideal utilitarianism’. But, given the strenuousness of Moore’s opposition to hedonism, the label is less naturally applicable to him than to the position of Rashdall, set out in his thorough and judicious Theory of Good and Evil (1907), a book superior to Moore’s by reason of its author’s notably greater capacity to understand, and, indeed, actual knowledge of, the history of ethical speculation. Rashdall includes pleasure, along with knowledge and virtue, among the ideal ends of conduct. The Moorean view was given a brilliantly concise expression in Russell’s ‘The Elements of Ethics’ (four essays first published in 1910 and brought together in his Philosophical Essays of that year).
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