Page:Ethics (Moore 1912).djvu/31

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.


be clearly understood that, when, in what follows, I speak of all the actions which the agent could have done, or all those open to him under the circumstances, I shall mean only all those which he could have done, if he had chosen.

Understanding this, then, we may state the first principle which our theory lays down quite briefly by saying: “A voluntary action is right, whenever and only when no other action possible to the agent under the circumstances would have caused more pleasure; in all other cases, it is wrong.” This is its answer to the questions: What characteristic is there which belongs to all voluntary actions which are right, and only to those among them which are right? and what characteristic is there which belongs to all those which are wrong, and only to those which are wrong? But it also asked the very same questions with regard to two other classes of voluntary actions—those which ought or ought not to be done, and those which it is our duty to do or not to do. And its answer to the question concerning these conceptions differs from its answer to the ques-