Logic and the basis of ethics : a critical evaluation with respect to the naturalistic fallacy : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Philosophy at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Arthur Prior (1914-1969) was a New Zealand philosopher who worked primarily on Logic and is often referred to as the father of tense logic. In 1949, while lecturing at Canterbury University in Christchurch, New Zealand, Prior published Logic and the Basis of Ethics, in which he developed a historical background of the 'issue' as he called it of describing character and conduct by using ethical predicates. Prior believed that when one attempts to describe character and conduct using terms such as 'good' and 'bad' one will likely resort to giving a definition of those terms to support their use in a situation, and then one will be guilty of fallacious reasoning since those terms are indefinable. Prior makes reference to almost fifty philosophers and others over the course of about one hundred pages, but spends more time on G. E. Moore and Ralph Cudworth than many of the others he covers. In this thesis I will critically evaluate Prior's arguments in Logic and the Basis of Ethics, in particular those that relate to Moore, Cudworth, and the naturalistic fallacy. There is a long-standing debate about the naturalistic fallacy because while some argue that it is obviously a fallacy, others argue that it is not a fallacy at all, thus the aim in this thesis will be to consider whether Prior's arguments regarding the naturalistic fallacy are confused and to illustrate the nature of the scholarly controversy.