G E Moore

The British philosopher and friend of Bertrand Russell, George E Moore influenced a whole generation of Cambridge graduates, including E M Forster and members of the Bloomsbury group. In Principia Ethica, he explored the idea that goodness is a quality one can experience intuitively, and a fundamental concept that cannot be defined in terms of anything else. So he would not have agreed with the Utilitarians who defined goodness in terms of happiness and pain, or with the religions which defined it in terms of duty to God. Moore thought that friendship and aesthetic enjoyment were the best examples of goodness, an idea that many non-religious people would agree with.

Moore described himself as an “infidel”, thinking that there was no evidence for God’s existence (but also that there was no evidence for his non-existence), and was a president of the Ethical Union (the predecessor of Humanists UK) in its early days.

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