G.E. Moore’s insights

The following quotation is extracted from Principia Ethica (1903), Chapter III:

“Accordingly a consideration of Mill’s view that some pleasures are superior to others in quality brings out one point which may ‘help to determine the intellect’ with regard to the intuition “Pleasure is the only good”. For it brings out the fact that if you say ‘pleasure’, you must mean ‘pleasure’: you must mean some one thing common to all different ‘pleasures’, some one thing, which may exist in different degrees, but which cannot differ in kind. I have pointed out that, if you say, as Mill does, that quality of pleasure is to be taken into account, then you are no longer holding that pleasure alone is good as an end, since you imply that something else, something which is not present in all pleasures, is also good as an end […] If we do really mean ‘Pleasure alone is good as an end’, then we must agree with Bentham that ‘Quantity of pleasure being equal, pushpin is as good as poetry’. To have thus dismissed Mill’s reference to quality of pleasure, is therefore to have made one step in the desired direction. The reader will now no longer be prevented from agreeing with me, by any idea that the hedonistic principle ‘Pleasure alone is good as an end’ is consistent with the view that one pleasure may be of a better quality than another. These two views, we have seen, are contradictory to one another. We must choose between them: and if we choose the latter, then we must give up the principle of Hedonism”


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