I
[Ge|Mr] Chairman, Ladies & Gentlemen!

     
Before I begin to speak about
my subject proper let me say a few intro-
ductory words. I feel there that I will be have very great
difficulties in communicating the thoughts
which I want to communicate, to you
& I want to mention some of these
difficulties because I think that <this>
they can may possibly thereby be diminished ˇthem. The
first I will mention — but ¿which is I believe¿
¿¿ by no means the greatest — is that, as
you, know English is not my native
language & my expression will therefore
not be as clear & precise as it would
be desirable when one has something
very difficult to communicate. Please
help me in my task of making myself
understood by ¿abstracting¿ overlooking as much
as possible ¿from¿ the faults against the
English grammar which will constanty
occur in my speech. The second difficul-
ty which I will mention is ¿t¿ seams to
me to be by far more serious & to ex-
plane it I must tell you why I have
chosen the subject which I have
chosen. W<h>en your former secretary
honourd me by asking me to read
a paper to your society the first
thought that came in<to> my head was
that I would certainly do it
& the second was this: I said to
myself that [I|i]f I hade the opportu-
nity of talking to a room full of

II
people that I would use this oppor-
tunity to say something that comes
from my heart & not to [ill|mis]use
the time that I was give to speak
to you
[to|by] either explan<ing> some
scientific matter to you which to
be propperly explained wou<l>d needs a
course of lectures or an audience
specialy trained in one particular line of
thought & that I would still less
[ill|mis]use this oppotunity of speaking to you by giving you
a popular lecture, say on logic,
which would serve to make you
believe that you understand a
thing w<h>ich as a matter of fact
you dont understand (& which it is
not a bit neccessary that you
should) & to gratifie the very lowest
of modern desires viz. the superficial
curiosity about the latest discoveries
of physicists, psychologists & logicians scientists
I decided — I say — that I should
use this opportunity to speak to
you about not as a logician, still
less as a cross between a scientist
& a journalist but as a human
being to human beings who tries to
tell his fellow other human beings something
they which some of them might possibly find
usefull, I say usefull not interesting.
The third and last difficulty I will
mention is one that applies to adheres
to most philosophical subjects
ˇexplanations & it is this that it ¿¿ sometimes
is almost impossible to explain a

III

matter in such a way that the hearer at
once sees the ways roads he is lead & the
[E|e]nd goal to which it leads. That is to say
it so very often happens that
the hearer thinks <>I understand
perfectly what he is saying says but
what on earth is he driving at<> or
else that he sees what one is
dr<i>ving at & <t>hinks „that's all very well
by how is he going to get there”.
This perhaps is the gravest diff-
cultie & all I [k|c]an do is to ˇask you to be
patient & to hope that in the end we
will see bothe the [R|r]o[de|ad] & where
it leeds to. — Now let me begin.

     
My subject is Ethics & I will
adopt the definition or explanation
which Prof. Moore has given in his
Pricipia Ethica. He says there which is: Ethics
is the General Enquiry into what
is good. I will just modifie this
slightly & say Ethics is the general
enquiry into what is valuabl<e>. I do
this because I want to include in my
Notion of Ethic<s>s also what is common
ly understood to belong to the sub-
ject matter of Aesthetics. The reason
for this will perhaps get cl<e>ar
later on.

     
Now let me point out first
of all that in our Definition of Ethics
I might have substituted many
other words for the word valuable.
And I will enumerate some of
them which seem to me to be

IV
synonyms so far ˇat any rate as th<e>i<r>s meaning is
important to us and by enumerating
them I want to produce the same
sort of effect that Gallstone pro-
duced when he copied a number of
different faces on the same photo-
graphic plate in order to get the
picture of the typical features
they all have in comon. And
as by looking at shewing to you such a photo
you can I could make you see what is the typical,
say, chinese face so if you look
as it where through all the
synonyms which I will place
one behind the other before in front of you
you will see which feature common
to them all I want you to look
at in each of them. Now there is the word
valuable or value or the word good
taken in a slighly wider sense perhaps


     
Now instead of saying Ethics is the
Enquiry int what is valuable I
might have said it is the Enquiry into
what is of absolute importance or into
what is the meaning of life or into what
makes life worth living. And now you
And if you hold all th[o|e]se Expressions
together as value, good, great, ˇRight, sense of
life, that what makes life worth living,
worth etc you will I believe see
what it is I['m| am] concerned with.

     
Now the first thing I want you to
notice about all these expressions
is that they can all be used in two

V.
very different senses: I will call them
the relat<i>ve & the absolutec ˇor ethical meaning use.
The relative use of these words is their
use relative to some predetermined
end. When I say this is a good piano
I mean it comes up to a certain
standart ˇof tone etc. which I have fixed & which
I conceive as its purpose. It has
only sense to say that a piano
is good if you have previously
fixed what sort of qualities a
piano must have to deserve that
name. And the same a<p>plies when
I say that a man is a good
piano player or a good golf player
or that a road is good etc. In¿¿ all such
[C|c]ases good simply means: coming
up to a certan standard which
I have previously fixed. The same
applies to the word important in the
ordinary relative sense which is

the relative sense. In this sense
we say something is important for
a certain purpose. The same ap<p>lies
to wright. The right ro[de|ad] is that
which leeds to the place I want
to go to it is right relativly
to the desired End. In this relative
sense the words value, good,
importance etc. are easily understood
& pesent no geat problems.

     
Now in Ethics
these same words are used aparently
in an entirely different sense. Supposing
I could play the piano & one of you

6
a great conn[a|o]isseur of pianoplaying
heard me & said, Well your playing
pretty badly & suppose I answerd,
him: I know I'm playing badly
but I dont want to play any
better. All the connaisseur could
say would be well then that's all
right, & there would be an end to
the discussion. The connaisseur would
have judged me by certain stan-
darts which he could ˇif neccessary explain & I
would aggree that he had ranked
me wrightly. Now take another case
suppose I had told one of you a
preposterous ly & this man came to
me & said look here you have
behaved like a beast. & now I
were to answer [I|Y]es I know I ¿¿behaved
badly but then I didnt want
to behave ˇany better. [C|W]ould he then say
ththen thats all right? Obviously
not.
He would say well you ought
to want to behave better. The
difference was that this man was making
an absolute ethical judgment whereas the
other connaisseur made a relative
judgment.

     
Now the essence of this
difference seems to me to be obviously
this: Every judgment of relative value,
goodnes, importance etc. can be is a
simple statement of facts & can be
put in such a form that it looses all
appearance of a judgment of value.
Instead of saying this is the right

7
road I can say equaly well this is
the road that leeds me to where
I want to go. This is a good piano-
player simly means that he can
play peaces of a certain degree of
complicatedness in a certain definable
way. To say the [V|v]iolor has a good
voice means it has a Tone agreable
to the ear & so on. Now what I
wish to contend is this that although
all relative judgment can be shewn
to be statements of facts no
statement of fact can ever be or
imply what we call an absolute
that is ethical judgment.

     
Let
me explain this like this: Suppose
that one of you or I was an omnicient
person who therefore knew all the
movements of all the bodies in the wo[r|l]d,
dead or alive who further knew & could describe all
the states of minds of all human
beings that ever were & suppose that
this omnicient person wrote all
he knew, that is everything that
is to be known, in a big book. Then
this book would contain the whole
description of the world. And what
I want to say is that this book
would ˇthen not contain anything that
we [c|w]ould call an absolute ethical
judjment of value or anything that
would ˇdirectly [e|i]mply such a judgment. It
would of course contain all
relat<i>ve judgments of value as for

8 IV
instance that so & so is a good ˇor a bad runner
for it would contain the fact
that he ran so many yards the distance of 1 mile
in so many seconds minutes & seconds.
The book would ˇof course contain all possible
true scientific propositions & in fact
all A significant ˇ& true propositions that
can be made.

     
Now what I wish to
say is that all facts are as it
were on the same level that there
is no such thing as absolute impor-
tance or unimportance in them & that
therefore in the same way all propositions
are on the same level that there
are no propositions which are in any
absolute sense sublime, important or ˇon the other hand
trivial. Now perhaps some of you will
agree to that & be reminded of
Hamlet's words ---. Dut this again
could lead to misunderstanding. What
Hamlet says seems to imply that good
& bad are not qualities of the world
[a|o]utside us but a<t>tributes of our states
of mind. But what I mean is that
the state of mind to so far as we mean
by that a fact which we cann describe
is in no ethical sense good or bad.

     
If for instance in our world book ˇwe read the description of an
appalling murder is described in all the
details physical & psychological psychical that is
with all the pains & anguish the victim
had to endure with all the studied cruelty
of the murderer the ˇmere description of
facts ˇpysical & psychical will contain nothing of

9
what which we [w|c]ould say that this is an
ethical proposition. The event murder
will be on exactly the same level
as any other event for instance the
falling of a stone. Certainly the
reading of this description might
cause us pains or rage or any other
emotions or we might read about
the pain or rage caused by this
murder in other people when they
got to know it but there will simply
be facts facts & fa<c>ts but no
Ethics. —

     
And now I must say
that if I contemplate what
Ethics realy would have to be if
there were such a science ˇthis: seems to
me quite obvious. It seems to me
quite obvious that nothing we could
ever think or say should be the
thing. That we can<n>'t write a ˇscientific book
the subject matter of which was is
intrinsically sublime, above all other
sujecti matte<r>s
. I can only describe
my feeling by the metaphor that
if a man could write a book about
Ethics which realy was a book
on Ethics this would with an
explosion destroy all the other
books in the world. Our words used
as we use them in science are vesels
capable only to contain & convey
meaning & sense, natural meaning
& sense. Ethics if it is anything
must be is supernatural & our words

10
will only express facts as a teacup
will only hold a teacup full
of water & <if> I was to empty pour out a gallon
over it.

     
I said that so far as
facts & propositions are concerned
there is only relative value &
relative good, right etc. And let
me, before I go on, illustrate this
by a rather obvious example: The
right road is the road which leads
to an ˇabitrarily predetermined end & it is
quite clear to us all that a road
apart from such a predetermined
gool
it has no sense in ordinary
life to talk about the a right
road apart from such a predetermined
end, that there is no such thing as the
right wroad. Now let us see what
we could possibly mean by such an the
expression the ˇabsolutely wright road. I think
it would be the road which everybody
if he sees it would with logical
necessity have to go or be ashamed
for of not going. Generaly speaking, the
Absolute good, if it is a describable
state of affairs, would be one that
everybody irrespective independent of his tasts
and inclinations would necessarily
go or feel guilty for not bring about
or feel guilty for not bringing about.
And I want to say that such a state
of afairs is a Chimer[e|a]. — <No state of affairs contains has the coercive power in itself> Then what do
all of us who are, like myself, still
tempted to use such phrases Expressions as

11
abo[s|l]ute good, absolute value etc what
have they in mind & what do we try
to express?

     
Now whenever I try
to make this clear to m[e|y]self it is
natural that I should try to
recall what use I in which cases
I would particularly certainly use
these expressions & I am then in
the situation in which you would
be if for instance I were to
give you a lecture, say, on the psyco-
logy of pleasure. What you would
do then would be to try and recall
some typical situation in which you
allways felt pleasure, for, bearing
this situation in mind, you all which
I would have to say to you about
pleasure would become concrete &,
as it where, controlabel. One man
would for instance chuse as his stock
example of pleasure the sensation whic
he has when taking a walk on a fime
summers morning & or any ˇsome such occasion. Now
in this situation I am if I want to
fix my mind on what I mean by absolute
or ethical value. And there in my case
it allways happens that the idea of one
particular experience presents itself
to m[e|y] ˇmind which therefore is for me in a
sense the experience par ex<c>elence &
this is the reason why in talking to you now
I <(>will always<)> referr to this experience
particularly
I am using this it as my first
& foremost example (As I have said this

12
is realy a personal matter & others
would find other examples more
striking) The experience the which
I'm talking about
I will describe
this experience in order if possible
to make you recall to your minds
the same or similar experiences
so that we may have a common
ground for our investigation. Now the
best way of describing this my experience
is to say that when I have it I
wonder at the existence of the
world. And I am then inclined to use
such a phrase like as <>how extraordinary
that anything should exist<>, or “how extra-
ordinary that the world should exist”.
I will mention an other experience strait
away which I also know & which others
of you might be aquainted with & this
is what one might call the experience
of feeling absolutely safe. I mean
the state in which one says to onesself
I am safe nothing can happen to injure me
whatever happens.

     
Now let me consider
these experiences because they exhibit
I believe the very characteristics we
want to get clear about. Now there the
first thing I have to say is that the
verbal expression which we give to
these experiences is nonsense! If
I say I wonder at the existence of
the world I am misusing language.
Let me explain this: It has a perfectly
good and and inteligible sense to say

13
that I wonder at something being the
case. I We all understand what
it means when I say that I wonder
at a dog which is bigger than any <…> dog
I have ever seen before or at any
other thing which in the common sense
of the word is „extraordinary”. In every
such case I wonder ab something being
the case which I could conceive not
to be the case. I wonder at the size
of t<h>is dog because I could conceive
of a dog of another namely the ordinay
size at which I would not wonder.
To [I|s]ay I wonder at such & such
being the case has only sense if
I can immagine it not to be the case.
In this sense one can wonder at the
existence of say a house when one sees it &
hasnt seen visited it for many years & has
immagined that it had been pulled down
in the meantime. But it is nonsense
to say that I wonder at the exis-
tence of the world because I cannot
immagine it not existing. I could
of course wonder at the world round me
being as it is. For instance if I
had th[i|e]s experience ˇof wonder while looking
into the blue sky I could wonder
at the sky being blue as opposed
to the case where its clouded. But
that's not what I mean. I am wonde-
ring at the sky being whatever it
is. One might be tempted to say
that what I am wondering at is a
tautologie namely at the sky being blue
or not being blue. But then its just

14
that its nonsense to say that one
wonders at a tautolog[ie|y]. The verbal
expression do whith it what I may
remains nonsense & I think it
is essential that it should do
so.

     
Now the same applies to that
other experience which I have mentioned
the experience of being safe absolute
safety. We all know what it means
in ordinary life to be safe. I am
sa¿¿fe in my rooms when I cannt be
run over by an Omnibus. I am safe
if I have had whooping cough once
& cannt therefore have it again. That is to be
safe essentialy means that it is
phys<i>cally impossible improbable that certain
things should happen to me, & therefore
its nonsense to say that I am safe
whatever happens. Again it is a
misuse of the word safe as the other ˇexample
was a misuse of the word existence.

     
Now I want to impress on you that
a certain characteristic misuse
of language runs through all
ethical & religious expressions. I can
perhaps best describe it in this way:
When it has become clear to one that
there is amongst significant propositions
no such thing as a judgment of
absolute value the first thought I
believe is that all ethical & religious
propositions are realy only similes &
that['s| is] what they realy seem to be. It
seems that when we are using the
word right in an ethical sense although

15
what we mean is not what we mean ˇby right when
we say this is the right road to
Granchester its something similar &
when we say this is a good fellow
we dont mean it in the same sense
as when we say he is a good football-
player but there is some similar<ity>
And when we say th[is|e] Life of this
man was valuable we dont mean
it in the same sense as when we say
this piece of ju[w|v]elry is valuable but
there se[a|e]ms to be some sort of
connection.

     
Now all religious terms & notions
seem in this sense to be used as
simil[ei|e]s or alegorical. For when we
speak of God & that he sees & hears
everything & when we pra kneel & pray to
him it is seems obvious that all our terms
& actions are part of a big great & elaborate alegory
which represents him as a human being
of great power whose grace we try to
win etc etc. Now this simile also
extends over the two experiences which
I have described above in fac[k|t]t the
first of them wondering at the existence
of the world is I believe exactly what
we are ref people were referring to when
they said that God had created the
World & the the experience of absolute
safety is described by saying that
we are safe under Gods protektion.
A third experience which belongs
to this realm is the experience of
feeling guilty & again that was described

16
by the p<h>rase that God disaprooves of our
conduct. Now the three experiences
which I have mentioned

     
I have said
that whenever we describe ethical
or religious experiences we seem to
use language only to make up similes.
N But a simile must be the simile
for something & if I can express a
fact by means of a simile I must
also be able to drop the simile and
to explain the facts without it. Now
what happens to us in this case is
that as soon as we try to drop the
simile & try to state simply the facts
that stand behind them We find
that there are no such facts. And so
what at first appeard to be similes
now seems to be mere nonsense.

     
Now the three experiences which I
mentioned before (and I could have
added many some more) seem to those
who have experienced them ˇfor instance to me to
have some in some sense an intrinsic
<an> absolute value. But when I say
they are experiences surely they are
facts, they have taken place then &
there, lasted a certain definite time
& consequently are describable. And so, from
what I said some minutes ago I must
admit it is nonsense to say that
they have absolute value. And here
I [am|ha]ve at arrived at the main point of
this paper & it is the paradox for
I know not how to call it
that <an experience>

17
a fact should have an absolute value.
And I will make the point still more
acute by saying, that ˇan experience a fact schould
have a supernatural value.

     
Now the
way I would be tempted at first
to meet this paradox is this: Let
me consider again the Experience of
wondering at existence & let me des
cribe it in a slighly different way: We all
know what in ordinary life would
be called a mira[kal|cle]: It obviously is
simply an event which the like of which
we have never yet seen. Now suppose
such an event happened. Take the case
that one of you suddenly grew a lions
head & began to roaring certainly thats
as extraordinary a thing as I can

[There is nothing either good or bad but
thinking makes it so]

immagine. Now whenever we would have
recovered from our surprise what
I would suggest is to fech a physiolo
gist & have the case scientifically
investigated & if it were not for being afraid
of hurting him I'lld have him vivisected.
And where would the miracle have
gone to, for it is clear that looking
at it in this way everything miraculous
has disappeared unless what we
mean by miraculous is merely that
a fact¿¿ has not jet been explanied
by science wh<i>ch again means ˇmerely th[t|a]t

18
we have hitherto failed to group this
fact with others in a scientific
system. But [t|T]his means that it
has no sense to say „scien[s|c]e has
prooved that there are no mira[k|c]les”.
No: the scientific way of looking
at a fact is not the way to look at
it as a miracle. For immagine whatever
fact you may, it is not in itself a
miracle in the absolute sense & there
[ar|on]e is in itself not not more or less
mira[k|c]uleus than the other. I heard ↺once
[in|a] preacher in a Cambridge Church say
that of course there were still mira[k|c]les
happening only look at the tiny little
seed from which a trees grows. But
is this more is wrong for is this more
mira[k|c]ul[e|o]us than that a stone falls
or in fact any thing which happens
whatever happens! Again we see that
we have used the term miracle in
a relative & an absolute sense. In
the rolative sense it simply meant
a hitherto unknown kind of event.
well that's a trivial meaning. But
when we are tempted to use it in
what I would like to [k|c]all a deep
meaning sense then it means we want it to mean
that we wonder at it not bec[o|a]use of
its the rarity of what has happened the event but
because what has happened has happened
whatever has happened. And here we have
the misuse of the word „to wonder” which
we talked about previously. —

     
In fact

19
what I then called to wonder at
the existence of the world I
might have equaly well described
by saying to regard to as the experience of look<ing> ˇ<…> at
existens as a mira[k|c]le. Now I am
tempted to say that the ˇright expres-
sion in language for the miracle
of the existence of the world is the
miracle of the existence of language
but this would not account for
a fact being important the absolute
importance of
but what <…>
does it mean to notice that this
miracle some times & not at other times?
For of course the expression „miracle
at the
For all I have said by
shifting the expression of the miraculous
from [i|a]n expression by means of
language to the expression by
the existence of language, all
I have said is again that we
can not express what we want to
express & that all we say about it
is remaines nonsense.

     
Now the answer
to all this will se[a|e]m ˇperfectly clear to
may of you. You will say: Well if certain
experiences constantly tempt us to
attribute a quality to them which we
call absolute or¿¿ ethical value &
importance this simply shows that
by these words we do|not mean nonsense
¿☐☐¿ that after all what we mean by
saying that an experience has absolute
value is just a fact [&|l]ike other facts

20
& that is to say that my contention
in the beginning of this paper when I
said that no describable fact
could ˇever be or imply an absolute judgment
was wrong. Now when this is urged
against me I say <(>immediately<)> see perfectly
clearly
as it where in a flash of light,
not only that no description that
could I can think of would do
to describe significantly these
experiences, but that I would
reject every explanation that
anybody could possibly suggest ˇab initio
on the ground of its significance.

     
That is to say: I see now that
these nonsensical expressions were
not nonsensical bec[o|a]use I had not
jet found the significant explana
tion expression but that there nonsensi
cality was there very essence
for all I wanted to do with them was just
to go beyond the world & that
is to say beyond language.

     
But
this is just ¿¿mpossible. My <w>hole
tendency ˇ& as I believe the tendency of all those who ever tried to talk or write about Ethics & religion was to run against the
boundar[y|ie]s of language. This running
against the walls of our cage is
perfectly, absolutely, hopeless<.> & still
I feel respect for it & <…> would not ˇfor my life
ridicul it. I will sum up.
I therefore believe
that so far as Ethics springs from the
desire to sa express say something about the ultimat
ultimate meaning of life, the absolute good,
the absolute important it can be no

21
science, that is to say what it
sa<i>ys does not add to our knowledge
in any sense. But it is a document
which I of a tendency in the human
mind which I person<a>ly cannot help
respecting deeply & I would not
for my life ridicul it.





























     
of scientific expression they are a
misuse of language in fact they are
nonsense. The word to wonder has
of course a good sense which we all
understand if it means to wonder at
a certain state of things to wonder
that such & such is the case. It
has a good & clear sense to say
that I wonder at some unusually
dressed man as I have neve seen
before or at some strange sound etc. etc.
It is also clear what it means to
w[a|o]nder at the existence of say a
building which you had thought
had been pulled down long ago
for here it has a meaning to say
I did not think that this building
still existed or to say that it does
exist. On On the other hand its nonsense
ˇ& not a prop at all to say that colour & sound
exists & for this reason its nonsense
to say that I wonder at their
existence. Now the correct wright expression
of what we mean when we say that
colour & sound etc. exist is not a
proposition at all but realy the
vocabulary









     
<Galstonsche Photogr.
Sense of life,
what makes life worth living
Worth. Value, importance>
Ethic is the enquiry into what
is good.
  Ethic is the enquiry into what
is valuable.
  Ethic is if anything the natural
science of value.
  Distinction between relative & abso-
lute value. Examples.
  Statements of relat<i>ve value, goodness
or importance are statement of
facts which are in no way problematic.
   [K|C]ontrast to judgments of absolute
value. Att<i>tude of the Judge to the
judged.
  No Statement of fact is or implies
an absolute judgment.
  Science & the whole realm of
propositions contains no absolute
no ethical judgment.
  Still let us investigate such absolute
judgments & that we can only do by
investigating the cases where we are
tempted to make absolute judgements.
  I will describe an experience which I allways must think about when I want to know what I mean by <…> abso
lute importance. The experience of won
dering at the world at the Existence of the World.
  Let us analyse this verbal expres
sion of my experience. It is nonsense.
  Expression of existence & possibility