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Volume 10, 1984

Jack Temkin
Pages 567-571

Singer, Moore, and the Metaphysics of Morals

In this paper, I argue that Marcus G. Singer’s attack on Actual Consequence Utilitarianism, as held by G.E. Moore, is inconclusive. Singer contends that Moore’s view is incoherent because it cannot provide a criterion of moral rightness and wrongness. Singer makes the historical claim that Moore intended his theory to provide such a criterion and the philosophical claim that any moral theory must provide such a criterion. I contend that Singer’s historical claim is false. While Moore uses the terms ‘criterion’ and ‘test’ in connection with his moral theory, an examination of Moore’s use of the terms shows that this notion does not involve the verifiability that is at the heart of Singer’s understanding of ‘criterion’. I then argue that Singer’s claim that moral judgments be verified begs the question against Moore’s realism. I argue that Singer must either reject semantic realism in general or give up the view that moral judgments are objectively true or false.

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