Dewey and Moore on the Science of Ethics

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  • John Dewey and G.E. Moore were the moral lions of two competing philosophical schools, who did not cooperate, correspond, or regularly meet. Dewey, a founder of classic American Pragmatism devoted his mature philosophy to naturalizing neo- Hegelian ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics to eliminate dualisms between the right and the good, the knower and the known, experience and reality. Moore was just as devotedly rebuilding those distinctions on a neo-realist foundation. So different did their aims and methods once seem that it was with difficulty (if at all) that the followers of one could credit the other with practicing 'philosophy' at all, let alone philosophy worthy of attention. None would have supposed that the views of either could be illuminated by study of the other. Thus the coincidence of both men publishing in 1903 what were to prove seminal works of their respective moral philosophies, Moore's Principia Ethicaznà Dewey's \"The Logical Conditions of a Scientific Treatment of Morality,\"1 has not received any particular comment. But with the benefit of hindsight, we recognize that the distinctions which so impressed their followers were often simply variations on common themes. In the case of Moore's Principia and Dewey's \"Scientific Treatment of Morality,\" the texts are variations on one theme in particular: the problem of reconciling scientific and moral knowledge in such a way as to justify the autonomy of moral inquiry.

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    © 1997 Indiana University Press. This article was published as \"Jennifer Welchman. Dewey and Moore on the Science of Ethics. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society Vol. 33, No. 2 (Spring, 1997), pp. 392-409.\" No part of it may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted, or distributed in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photographic, or otherwise, without the prior permission of Indiana University Press. For education reuse, please contact the Copyright Clearance Center <>. For all other permissions, contact IU Press at <>.
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    • Welchman, J. (1997). Dewey and Moore on the Science of Ethics. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, 33(2), 392-409.
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