A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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b) The resurgence of the concept of value

1) Confusion between good and value

However, if we read the text of the Principia Ethica carefully, we realise that there is one concept that Moore constantly substitutes for "good" as being absolutely equivalent: value.
This can be seen first of all in the preface to the book: I have tried to shew exactly what it is that we ask about a thing, when we ask whether it ought to exist for its own sake, is good in itself or has intrinsic value 1.

Moore identifies two concepts here: "good in itself" and "intrinsic value". Note that he does not bother to justify this. This is crucial: why does Moore, who is so careful to justify each of his ideas, who scrupulously examines the meaning of the words he uses, resulting in incessant and sometimes laborious distinctions, make this identification without a single line of explanation (either here or in the other extracts we are going to examine)?

The only plausible reason seems to be the following (which can be broken down into two parts):

First of all, this good/value identity is not a synthetic identity, because any synthetic identity requires justification. If I establish a link between two different concepts (such as 'dwarf' and 'rich'), I have to show where this link comes from, which arises surprisingly at the very heart of the separation. But if the identity is analytical, purely tautological, if I replace a word with a synonym, then the operation can be carried out immediately, carelessly, nonchalantly.

Secondly, if Moore can afford such a rapid substitution, it is because it must seem obvious to him. Where does this obviousness come from? There are two possible solutions, both of which can be accepted at the same time.

It may be that this identity is accepted by common sense and conveyed by ordinary English language. In other words, everyday English common sense at the beginning of the twentieth century used 'good' and 'value', one for the other. Moore allows himself to be carried along by this English tradition, which is rooted in common language.
In fact, he proclaims his interest in this doxa-based language, taking care to specify that he will use the word 'good' in the sense in which it is ordinarily used: My business is solely with that object or idea, which I hold, rightly or wrongly, that the word [Good] is generally used to stand for. What I want to discover is the nature of that object or idea 2.

This can also be explained by the idea that moral philosophy as a whole has, in the course of its history, made such an identification, claiming to think of values on the basis of the concept of "good". The problem of values then becomes, from its very emergence, the question of the 'sovereign good', the 'summum bonum', the 'ariston agathon'.

1. Ibid., preface
2. Ibid., chap. 1, §6