Bertrand Russell’s Understanding of Moral PhilosophyJune 26, 2021
While writing on moral philosophy, Russell did not consider moral issues to fall within the realm of philosophy itself, as he understood it.
Russell was initially influenced by Moore’s Principia Ethica. He thought that moral facts were objective and could be known through a kind of intuition. Like Moore, he argued that moral terms (the good) cannot be reduced to natural properties, and that it is an illusion to try to do so.
Over time, his ideas on this subject changed. He began to give right to Hume’s views on this subject. He began to think that moral terms were related to subjective values and therefore could not be verified as factual truths. Russell’s views on this subject influenced the views of some of the logical positivists on moral philosophy. It was especially decisive in Ayer’s development of emotionalist and anti-cognitive views.
On the other hand, Russell’s own views took a slightly different course from the logical positivists. Russell thought moral considerations were meaningful and open to public debate, contrary to what Ayer thought. Similar to Hume, he argued that reason should be subject to moral considerations.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook