Page:Principia Ethica 1922.djvu/157

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real must, for that reason alone, be truly good. But more commonly it appears to be held that the real must be good because it possesses certain characters. And we may, I think, reduce the first kind of assertion to no more than this. When it is asserted that the real must be good, because it is real, it is commonly also held that this is only because, in order to be real, it must be of a certain kind. The reasoning by which it is thought that a metaphysical enquiry can give an ethical conclusion is of the following form. From a consideration of what it is to be real, we can infer that what is real must have certain supersensible properties: but to have those properties is identical with being good—it is the very meaning of the word: it follows therefore that what has these properties is good: and from a consideration of what it is to be real, we can again infer what it is that has these properties. It is plain that, if such reasoning were correct, any answer which could be given to the question ‘What is good in itself?’ could be arrived at by a purely metaphysical discussion and by that alone. Just as, when Mill supposed that ‘to be good’ meant ‘to be desired,’ the question ‘What is good?’ could be and must be answered solely by an empirical investigation of the question what was desired; so here, if to be good means to have some supersensible property, the ethical question can and must be answered by a metaphysical enquiry into the question, What has this property? What, then, remains to be done in order to destroy the plausibility of Metaphysical Ethics, is to express the chief errors which seem to have led metaphysicians to suppose that to be good means to possess some supersensible property.

73. What, then, are the chief reasons which have made it seem plausible to maintain that to be good must mean to possess some supersensible property or to be related to some supersensible reality?

We may, first of all, notice one, which seems to have had some influence in causing the view that good must be defined by some such property, although it does not suggest any particular property as the one required. This reason lies in the supposition that the proposition ‘This is good’ or ‘This would be good, if it existed’ must, in a certain respect, be of the