Tuesday, June 15



Satori first arose as a quest to find GOD but later became synonymous with enlightenment. Wisdom in Zen Buddhism is facilitated by the use of Koans during meditation. Koans are paradoxical statements or parables or questions that need not have a logical answer. The idea is for the student to abandon any preconceived ideas and instead rely on intuitive responses from meditating about the question, paradox or parable to achieve an enlightened response. 

Although Buddhism is correctly regarded as non theistic nevertheless the quest for enlightenment might also be regarded as seeking to experience the unknowable as a quest to find GOD.    

In fact the conclusion that the absolute truth cannot be known remains true for the followers of all of the world’s great religions. The fact they are wrapped up in rational theology reveals a particular truth as seen from that perspective.

All religions express a particular truth, but from different perspectives to achieve a greater good in a universal collective consciousness. Understanding this perspective is essential for the future of religion.     

Thursday, June 10

Hume and Moore

Dr Gary Cox opens up G.E. Moore’s ethics, and his open question argument invites plenty of discussion as contained in the latest issue of Philosophy Now.

He introduces the idea in philosophy there are those who believe exclusively in the principle of the underlying facts to determine what is right or wrong and those who don’t. One of the foremost of thinkers with strong views against a sole reliance on the facts is David Hume (1711-1776).   A brief introduction is as follows:  

Hume’s position in ethics, which is based on his empiricist theory of the mind, is best known for asserting four theses:  Reason alone cannot be a motive to the will, but rather is the “slave of the passions”.  Moral distinctions are not derived from reason.  Moral distinctions are derived from the moral sentiments: feelings of approval (esteem, praise) and disapproval (blame) felt by spectators who contemplate a character trait or action. While some virtues and vices are natural, others, including justice, are artificial.

Cohon, Rachel, "Hume's Moral Philosophy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (fall 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/hume-moral/>.

Hume introduces the idea of the naturalistic fallacy; based on a false assumption something that happens naturally must be ethical. An example is incest which occurs amongst animals but only brings feelings of repugnancy when observed amongst humans. In contrast acts of kindness and honesty stirs up our emotions that gain cognitive approval. Hence Hume argues morality is not simply a matter of reason but of approval communicated through the senses in accord with our desires and volition.  

Hume further notes there is no legitimate way to move from a statement of observable facts to a statement of moral values: in short, that it is impossible to get an ought from an is. This idea has come to be known as Hume’s Lawthe is-ought problem, or the is-ought gap. Page 25 April- May Philosophy Now 2021.

Interestingly enough Hume’s view on morality is similar to those of Frederick Nietzsche who considered it absurd to apply one moral code to everyone. In his essay entitled ‘Good and Evil’ Nietzsche talks about bad conscience where one is prone to inhibit instincts for aggression to turn them inward upon ourselves.

He wanted to return to antiquity and the free spirits of the Homeric Greeks. This is the old world of appeal because it relies on instinctiveness and an inherent freedom, of inner lights and life affirmation to exemplify the joyful here and now. It encompasses aristocratic ideals that are not subject to the mediocrity of democratic governance, nor the whims of others or societal pressure.        

However the question arises as to how practical is it to rely on this noble spirit and instinctiveness?

By instinctiveness Nietzsche doesn’t use the word as in nature. Rather, that which makes us human and allows us to intuitively avoid becoming slaves within one ideology. For Nietzsche personally there was also a crisis in his faith as he believed all religions were unable to provide the truth. That truth he believed was that it is the responsibility of humanity who must discern for themselves what is true and good. The point is of course such terms and his values are never clearly defined nor does he ever pinpoint any system of governance he envisages. Rather all we have is his vision of the overman and his accompanying works. 


But Cox introduces to a more practical application concerning the work of GE Moore (1873- 1958) who championed the work of Hume and aimed his criticism against moral system based on Hume’s naturalistic fallacy to argue against utilitarism.  The error Moore saw in the work of Utilitarian Philosophers such as Bentham and Mills was to equate pleasure with good.  Moore saw through such statements as open ended so that the answer always remains open to debate and can never be closed.    


Moore suggested an intuitive intellect or moral faculty that relate to human beings that inform us in relation to matters of ethics.

His views have held up over time and provides a valuable contributor to lively ongoing debates. I think they provide plenty of food for thought and discussion, He was to modify his views in later life that are summed up by Cox.

The beauty of a beautiful statue, painting, woman, man, house, bridge or mountain, requires a combination of natural properties, because without its natural properties the beautiful thing would not exist. However, the beauty of a thing is not one of its natural properties, but is instead a non-natural property that transcends the natural properties. In the same way, according to Moore, the non-natural property of goodness transcends the natural objects, emotions, actions, attitudes, and habits that we hold to be most valuable and broadly describe as ‘good’.

It is perhaps ironic that after developing to the full Hume’s insight vis-à-vis the naturalistic fallacy, Moore ends up endorsing a rather exotic metaphysics of non-natural properties existing in a supersensible dimension intuited by some higher intellectual faculty. Hume, who in his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) condemns all metaphysical writings as

containing ‘nothing but sophistry and illusion’ which ought to be ‘consigned to the flames’, would not approve at all!

Towards the end of Principia Ethica, Moore advocates a variant of utilitarianism called ideal utilitarianism. Intrinsic value, he says, does not belong to pleasure or even to happiness, as classical utilitarians maintain, but to the consciousness of beauty and friendship. He argues that of all things in life, consciousness of beauty and consciousness of friendship are the most valuable, worth having purely for their own sakes and not merely for the sake of something else. These things are not synonymous with goodness, but they are the highest goods, in the sense of being the most valuable things in life and, therefore, the things that should be pursued and promoted above all else. Consciousness of beauty and consciousness of friendship are the ends to which all else should be a means.

Conclusion Page 26 Philosophy Now April / May 2021.


Mostly we don’t need a judge or the law to distinguish what is right or wrong accept that our views are also shaped by our culture and environment. I am not sure about a greater good but I do think his idea of the importance of consciousness of beauty and friendship rates highly (if not the top of the tree) in our existence. Even in the judicial world where hard evidence is cited as the persuader those facts are in turn swayed by our intuitive feelings at the time. Imagine trying someone for a very serious offence based purely on the facts so that one is left with no involvement with anyone other than to read the respective narratives and rebuttals.