The Semantics of "Good" in Nowell-Smith's Thought

Document Type : The Quarterly Jornal


1 Associate Professor, Zanjan University

2 MA student:


One of the most important issues in metaethics is the meaning of "Good". There are different cognitive and non-cognitive theories regarding this issue. Nowell-Smith, the contemporary British philosopher, believes that the meaning of Good is not anything other than its uses in different contexts. "Good" is a genus and multi-functional word. We have to notice the different contexts of using "Good" to know its meanings. He divides the uses of "good" into two sections: 1) two main uses of "good" for choice and advice and 2) six other uses of it for praising and applauding, commanding, verdicts and appraisals, efficiency, skill and description. Dividing the words into (A), (G) and (D) words, Nowell-Smith believes that "Good" can be used as an emotional word for expressing interest and as an ought word for expressing an action being apt to do or choice. He criticizes other ethical theories because of reducing the functions of "good" to a single case. He believes that "good" has two functions at least in one of its uses. For example, the sentence of "Justice is good" could be used to advise justice to others or command it to them or praise it or encourage people to do that or other things.


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