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G. E. MOORE'S THE ELEMENTS OF ETHICS S. P. ROSENBAUM G. E. Moore's Principia Ethica (1903) has a fair claim to be called the most influential book on ethics published in this century. No modern work has so profoundly affected both philosophy and literature, at least in English-speaking countries. Many of the questions raised in Principia Ethica are still being actively thought about by philosophers, and the values maintained by Moore are embodied in the works of E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, and others. In his autobiography Moore says that the essential outline of Principia Ethica was developed during a course of lectures he gave in London in 1898.' A typescript of these lectures, including some brief marginal comments apparently by Bertrand Russell and a printed syllabus of the lectures, has recently come to light. An account of these lectures, which Moore entitled The Elements of Ethics, should be of interest to the understanding of Moore's thought and thus to the history of modern British philosophy and literature. The most concise way to give sum an account is to reproduce the syllabus for the lectures. Through the very kind permission of Mrs. G. E. Moore the syllabus is reproduced below. A xerox copy of the typescript has, again with Mrs. Moore's generous consent, been deposited in the library of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, where the Bertrand Russell archives are also preserved? As an introduction to the syllabus it should be helpful to know the circumstances surrOlmding the lectures, the principal ways in which the lectures depart from the intentions stated in the syllabus, and the most significant similarities and differences between The Elements of Ethics and Principia Ethica. I In the autumn of 1898 G. E. Moore was awarded a six-year priz,e fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge, that allowed him to live in college on a small stipend; no duties were attached to the fellowship and no work was required of the fellow. Moore had been working two years for the fellowship with a dissertation on Kant. His original dissertation on Kant's ethics had not won the fellowship in 1897 but after Volume XXXVUI, Number 3, April 1969 C. E. MOORE'S The Elements of Ethics 215 changing the direction of the dissertation to consider what Kant meant by "Reason" Moore was elected a fellow the next year. In April 1898, he published in Mind his first substantial article, "Freedom," which was taken from his first dissertation. In April 1899, he published, again in Mind, his second important articie, "The Nature of Judgment," which he took from his second dissertation and which marked the beginnings of his - and English philosophy's - shift away from idealism to realism. Between the publication of these two articles he delivered his lectures on ethics. When he began them in October; he was twenty-five years old. Moore's autobiographical account of the lectures, written about forty years later, explains some of the connections between the lectures he gave at the beginning of his fellowship and the book he wrote at the end of it: I was asked to give two courses of lectures at the Passmore Edwards Settlement in London. Each course was of ten lectures - one every weeki and the first course was on Kant's ethics, and the second on Ethics simply. On these occasions I wrote out each lecture complete, and merely read what J had written; and after each lecture there was some opportunity for questions and discussion from my audience, which was never a large one. It was in writing the course on Ethics that J developed the main outline of Principia Ethica; but Principia was almost entirely a new, and was a much longer, work, and the latter part of those six years was mainly occupied in writing it. I found this an extremely troublesome business. I write very slowly and with great difficulty and I constantly found that I had to rewrite what I had written, because there was something wrong with it. Of course, even after all this alteration, there still remained an immense deal that was wrong with it; but I did not see that clearly at...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 214-232
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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