G. E. Moore’s Ethics. Good as Intrinsic Value

Author: Marzano, Michela
An important and critical analysis of Moore’s conception of good and right is examined. It aims to show how contemporary moral philosophy is still concerned with intrinsic value, at least insofar as the concepts of good and bad lie at the heart of ethics: they are at work when we assess whether a person is virtuous or vicious, an act is right or wrong, a decision defensible or indefensible, a goal desirable or undesirable.


“G.E. Moore’s ethical theory is usually remembered and studied these days because of Moore’s denunciation of ethical naturalism on the ground that it involves a fallacy, ‘the naturalistic fallacy’ which, according to Moore, is inherent in all positions of this kind. But Michela Marzano invites us to turn away from this over-familiar theme and attend to a different element of Moore’s theory, his theory of intrinsic value. By doing so, she shows, we gain a much better perspective on Moore’s ethics and its relationship to his metaphysics … [For] a proper grasp of Moore’s conception of intrinsic value, … Marzano’s book is an indispensable guide.” – (From the Commendatory Preface) Professor Thomas Baldwin, University of York

“Moore’s ethics remains one of the most fascinating attempts to single out the very specificity of ethical insight and reasoning. Whereas some of his theses, like the open argument question, have given rise to an extensive array of philosophical literature, the problem of intrinsic value and its relation to the other elements of Moore’s moral philosophy had not yet attracted a similar attention. Michela Marzano’s book closes the gap in a way, which certainly will stimulate new research and discussion. This clearly structured, carefully written and rigorously argued study seeks to show, not only that intrinsic value is not reducible to natural properties, but that it is not reducible to practical reason either. The author shows the way to extremely intriguing questions such as how exactly we single out what bears intrinsic value, how we may elaborate our judgements in these matters, how we may integrate such judgements and ethical considerations – and she always proposes very interesting solutions. Written in English by an Italian scholar, this dense book is an excellent contribution to Moore scholarship, thoroughly learned and unfolding the originality and complexity of the themes with which Moore struggled throughout his lifetime, bringing to light to their richness and situating them in the context of the most actual philosophical discussion. It is an important contribution to moral philosophy, unfolding difficult issues and taking ideas without hiding behind sheer philological analysis.” – Professor Otto Pfersmann, University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne

“Dr. Marzano’s book offers an important and critical analysis of Moore’s conception of good and right and shows how Moore’s position is able to anticipate many contemporary debates about supervenience, by proposing a form of asymmetrical and not biconditional type of natural / non natural relation. The central thesis of Dr. Marzano’s book is that the concept of intrinsic value (or good in itself) is that which Moore is primarily concerned with. In this sense, she shows that Moore was the first philosopher who theorised the possibility of a third moral view between reductionism and dualism, a view capable of guaranteeing autonomy to Ethics and at the same time of saving the existence of a link between Ethics and the natural world … [This book’s] strength is both the innovative way to consider Moore’s ethical theory and the capability the author has to manage with a widely researched project.” – Jean-Paul Amann, College de France

Table of Contents

1 The Objects of the Universe: natural and non-natural
2 Intrinsic properties and intrinsic nature
3 Intrinsic value and naturalistic fallacy
4 Ought to be and ought to do: from good to right