The Role of God and the Definition of Good

  • Paul J. Olscamp
Part of the Archives Internationales D’histoire Des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 33)


A “definist” in ethics is a person who believes that “ought” can be defined in terms of “is”. For example, one might hold that “we ought to do X” means that “Society requires us to do X”. There are obviously many sorts of these theories, all variations of the same theme. Naturalism of all varieties, and intuitionism, are two classes of definist theories. “Theological definism” is a theory which holds that the facts in terms of which the basic moral concepts are defined are facts about God or some divine being. I believe that Berkeley held premises which imply what we would now classify as a version of theological definism. In this chapter, I shall try to support this thesis, and I shall also criticize Berkeley’s views on the subject. I shall also briefly examine the meanings of the basic moral terms for him, and try to relate them.


Natural World Moral Philosophy Moral Goodness Primary Quality General Happiness 
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  1. 34.
    Sillem, E. A. George Berkeley and the Proofs for the Existence of God, Longman’s Green and Co., London (1957) ( PEG )Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1969

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  • Paul J. Olscamp

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