Introduction to George Edward Moore

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Reply Wed 23 Sep, 2009 12:19 am
George Edward Moore
The Other Founder of Analytic Philosophy
(1873 - 1958)

G.E. Moore was born in London, England in 1873. After schooling at Dulwich College, Moore began his almost life-long association with Cambridge University, and Trinity College in particular in 1892. There he studied classical literature and philosophy and was recognized for his studies in 1898. Many of his teachers and studies were of British Idealists, most notably J.M.E. McTaggart and Francis Bradley, but later, with his colleague Bertrand Russell, turned against them to form a new type of philosophical thinking, which is exemplified in his first book Prinicipia Ethica published in 1903. After this book, he became one of the leading ethicists and was invited to lecture as several universities, some of which were in North America, teaching in Princeton, Columbia, among others. Moore died in Cambridge, England in 1958.

Instead of constructing a philosophical system like Kant, Hegel, and the British Idealists had done or explore moral concepts and truths from an existent and concrete viewpoint like Kierkegaard had done, Moore attempts to analyze and dissect the fundamental ethical questions before trying to answer them. "How does one define good? What are the virtues? What do we mean by duty and right?" are types of questions Moore asks. Once we have a true definition of good, valid answers can be given to questions like "Who is good?" As Moore writes, "The difficulties and problems in the history of ethics are due to a simple cause: attempting to answer questions without discovering what question you are answering... if this attempt was made, many of the most glaring difficulties and disagreements in philosophy would disappear."

In regards to the good, he replies, "[it] is the most fundamental questions in all Ethics ... its definition is the most essential point ... unless this first question be fully understood, and its true answer fully recognized, the rest of Ethics is as good as useless from the point of view of systematic knowledge." Moore, for his part, believed that good is something substantial, just as the colour red is. Good exists as a real property apart from human consciousness and desires. But his problem is that good is intrinsic, unchanging, and absolute. One can imagine a non-red apple, like a green apple, or that we change the property of an object so it no longer carries that property or carries it in a greater or lesser degree. Good, however, cannot change, so that an object which possesses the property good, must necessarily possess it to the equal degree as another object which also possesses the property.

However, Moore doesn't really answer what good actually is, because the concept of "good" is unanalyzable and thus indefinable. He then offers his naturalistic fallacy instead which is committed when philosophers attempt to define good in terms of natural properties. Future ethical theories, for Moore, must avoid the fallacy in order for Ethics to move forward.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 23 Sep, 2009 07:28 am
@Victor Eremita,
Moore may be the most neglected philosopher of the 20th century. He had a first rate mind, and was a first rate philosopher. To read him carefully is an education in how philosophizing should be done. He writes, in his autobiography, that philosophy probably would not have interested him if it had not been for his curiosity about why philosophers said the strange things (and wrong things) they said (like that time is unreal). He was the great philosopher of commonsense.

I am very glad you saw fit to put him on this thread.
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Fri 25 Sep, 2009 06:46 am
@Victor Eremita,
Moore is not as neglected or as underrated as C.D. Broad is. Keen mind, and yet just about forgotten.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 25 Sep, 2009 07:10 am
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita;93486 wrote:
Moore is not as neglected or as underrated as C.D. Broad is. Keen mind, and yet just about forgotten.


Yes. Broad was very good. But Moore was an original. Both are underrated and neglected.
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Fri 25 Sep, 2009 12:29 pm
@kennethamy,
Thanks for pointing me toward two authors/philosophers that I was not aware of. Moore sounds like someone who would interest me in particular. I'll have to pursue both.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 25 Sep, 2009 06:29 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan;93587 wrote:
Thanks for pointing me toward two authors/philosophers that I was not aware of. Moore sounds like someone who would interest me in particular. I'll have to pursue both.


You won't be sorry. Read, for instance, Moore's, The Defense of Commonsense.It may be on the 'Net. Or his, Refutation of Idealism.
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Mon 28 Sep, 2009 03:04 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;93648 wrote:
You won't be sorry. Read, for instance, Moore's, The Defense of Commonsense.It may be on the 'Net. Or his, Refutation of Idealism.


I've managed to find both these essays and print them out. I'm looking forward to reading them. Thanks for the direction.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 28 Sep, 2009 05:12 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan;94121 wrote:
I've managed to find both these essays and print them out. I'm looking forward to reading them. Thanks for the direction.


Good. Sensible philosophy may not be as exciting as nonsense, but it has its merits. I'll be glad to discuss either essay with you if you like.
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Mon 28 Sep, 2009 05:41 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;94134 wrote:
Good. Sensible philosophy may not be as exciting as nonsense, but it has its merits. I'll be glad to discuss either essay with you if you like.


Thanks. Odds are I'll take you up on that, as I'm certain I'll have questions. I'm hoping to finish reading S. Morris Engle's With Good Reason over the next night or two, and then be able to spend some time with A Defense of Common Sense, and Refutation of Idealism.

Which would you recommend be read first?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 28 Sep, 2009 06:09 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan;94137 wrote:
Thanks. Odds are I'll take you up on that, as I'm certain I'll have questions. I'm hoping to finish reading S. Morris Engle's With Good Reason over the next night or two, and then be able to spend some time with A Defense of Common Sense, and Refutation of Idealism.

Which would you recommend be read first?


The Defense of Commonsense.
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 01:08 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;94134 wrote:
Sensible philosophy may not be as exciting as nonsense, but it has its merits.


Well, French philosophers after Sartre have some good ideas, but yeah for the most part it's exciting nonsense! Whoozaa!
 
mickalos
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 05:20 am
@Victor Eremita,
Proof of an External World is quite a fun article. Hand-flappingly fun. A good response to scepticism, too.

One of my favourite philosophical tales involves Moore. In 1929 Wittgenstein returned to Cambridge and submitted the Tractatus as his thesis for his DPhil, being examined by Russell and Moore. Moore's report supposedly reads (according to Ayer's biography of Wittgenstein), "It is my personal opinion that Mr Wittgenstein's thesis is a work of genius; but, be that as it may, it is certainly well up to the standard required for the Cambridge degree of Doctor of Philosophy." Catty.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 05:57 am
@mickalos,
mickalos;94221 wrote:
Proof of an External World is quite a fun article. Hand-flappingly fun. A good response to scepticism, too.

One of my favourite philosophical tales involves Moore. In 1929 Wittgenstein returned to Cambridge and submitted the Tractatus as his thesis for his DPhil, being examined by Russell and Moore. Moore's report supposedly reads (according to Ayer's biography of Wittgenstein), "It is my personal opinion that Mr Wittgenstein's thesis is a work of genius; but, be that as it may, it is certainly well up to the standard required for the Cambridge degree of Doctor of Philosophy." Catty.


Yes. Should not have forgotten, Proof of the External World. Thanks. That should be at the top of the list. And is so famous. Some people hate it. One person called it, "Anti-intellectual, and anti-philosophical".

---------- Post added 09-29-2009 at 07:59 AM ----------

Victor Eremita;94208 wrote:
Well, French philosophers after Sartre have some good ideas, but yeah for the most part it's exciting nonsense! Whoozaa!


Except for Sartre, after Descartes, the lights went out in France.
 
Emil
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 06:32 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;93648 wrote:
You won't be sorry. Read, for instance, Moore's, The Defense of Commonsense.It may be on the 'Net. Or his, Refutation of Idealism.


Indefinite article, not definite. :p

"A Defence of Common Sense", G. E. Moore

"THE REFUTATION OF IDEALISM", G. E. Moore

Both of them are on the net, as you see. Smile

Of course, not to be neglected either, the always good:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on G. E. Moore.
 
mickalos
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 01:43 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;94228 wrote:
Yes. Should not have forgotten, Proof of the External World. Thanks. That should be at the top of the list. And is so famous. Some people hate it. One person called it, "Anti-intellectual, and anti-philosophical".


Yeah, it was on the reading list for the second philosophy essay I ever wrote and I remember absolutely trashing it for being lazy and unconvincing. It probably doesn't help that it comes just after Descartes on the reading lists of most philosophy students, who are easily taken in by scepticism, because it is quite simple and convincing. I think it's best to think of Moore's argument as being a response to the sceptic, but not a response for the sceptic, because the first thing most people do as they are reading it, having just read the Meditations, is to deny Moore's knowledge of his premises. Then he waits right until the end to make his main point, "I can know things, which I cannot prove", without really elaborating.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 02:22 pm
@mickalos,
mickalos;94301 wrote:
Yeah, it was on the reading list for the second philosophy essay I ever wrote and I remember absolutely trashing it for being lazy and unconvincing. It probably doesn't help that it comes just after Descartes on the reading lists of most philosophy students, who are easily taken in by scepticism, because it is quite simple and convincing. I think it's best to think of Moore's argument as being a response to the sceptic, but not a response for the sceptic, because the first thing most people do as they are reading it, having just read the Meditations, is to deny Moore's knowledge of his premises. Then he waits right until the end to make his main point, "I can know things, which I cannot prove", without really elaborating.



But does Moore claim that he knows he has a hand? As far as I recall (it has been a long time since I have read the essay) he simply claims he has a hand that he has a hand, and waves his hand. It is very like Johnson's, "Thus I refute Berkeley" while kicking a stone. As for the claim that one can know things one cannot prove, a lot depends on what that means. I think that justification is a necessary condition for knowledge.
 
Emil
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 03:08 pm
@Victor Eremita,
I searched for "Proof of an external world" on the net and found this and this. The first seems to be incomplete. I cannot copy text from the second as it is a bad scan. Google's HTML version of the second ain't useful either.

And Gutenberg does not have any G. E. Moore texts.

So it seems that there is no luck with this. Too bad it would be nice if we made a nice PDF version of all three articles. I would host it on my site. I can still make a PDF of the other two.

If you're afraid of direct links, then don't follow the first two links above.
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 05:48 pm
@Emil,
Emil;94314 wrote:
I searched for "Proof of an external world" on the net and found this and this. The first seems to be incomplete. I cannot copy text from the second as it is a bad scan. Google's HTML version of the second ain't useful either.

And Gutenberg does not have any G. E. Moore texts.

So it seems that there is no luck with this. Too bad it would be nice if we made a nice PDF version of all three articles. I would host it on my site. I can still make a PDF of the other two.

If you're afraid of direct links, then don't follow the first two links above.


Emil,

I have PDF's I made of "Defense . . ", "Refutation," and the complete (as far as I know) "Principia Ethica." If you're interested, let me know, and I can send them to you for hosting on your site. All are in the Public Domain, so no worries there.

Send me a PM and I can email you the files or whatever.
 
mickalos
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 07:06 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;94307 wrote:
But does Moore claim that he knows he has a hand? As far as I recall (it has been a long time since I have read the essay) he simply claims he has a hand that he has a hand, and waves his hand. It is very like Johnson's, "Thus I refute Berkeley" while kicking a stone. As for the claim that one can know things one cannot prove, a lot depends on what that means. I think that justification is a necessary condition for knowledge.


He definitely claims to know "here is a hand". He says he does a number of times in the article, and his three criteria for a 'rigourous proof' are:
1) The premises ('Here is a hand' *gesture*) are different from the conclusion
2) The conclusion follows from the premises
3) The premises are known and not simply believed

I don't doubt that Moore would agree that justification is a necessary condition for knowledge, otherwise it's just lucky guessing, but it all comes down to what you mean by justification. Moore isn't asking that "here is a hand" be accepted on faith, in fact, he explicitly rejects that idea. I think he's saying that "here is a hand" is so fundamental and certain that it's immune to sceptical doubt, the only proof of it we need is him to gesture with his hands. I think he elaborates on this in A Defence of Common Sense, but I haven't read it so I can't be sure. I certainly think that if Moore was waving his hands about, shouting "Here is a hand" that I would be justified in believing him.

I think it's fairly demonstrable that we can know things without proving them. I know a number of mathematical theorems, and I know that they have been proved, but I would not be able to prove them, and even if you showed me proofs of them it's unlikely that I would understand them.

Quote:
I searched for "Proof of an external world" on the net and found this and this. The first seems to be incomplete. I cannot copy text from the second as it is a bad scan. Google's HTML version of the second ain't useful either.

And Gutenberg does not have any G. E. Moore texts.

So it seems that there is no luck with this. Too bad it would be nice if we made a nice PDF version of all three articles. I would host it on my site. I can still make a PDF of the other two.

If you're afraid of direct links, then don't follow the first two links above.

You're not missing anything in the abridged version, all the important points are there.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 1 Oct, 2009 05:56 pm
@mickalos,
mickalos;94345 wrote:
He definitely claims to know "here is a hand". He says he does a number of times in the article, and his three criteria for a 'rigourous proof' are:
1) The premises ('Here is a hand' *gesture*) are different from the conclusion
2) The conclusion follows from the premises
3) The premises are known and not simply believed

I don't doubt that Moore would agree that justification is a necessary condition for knowledge, otherwise it's just lucky guessing, but it all comes down to what you mean by justification. Moore isn't asking that "here is a hand" be accepted on faith, in fact, he explicitly rejects that idea. I think he's saying that "here is a hand" is so fundamental and certain that it's immune to sceptical doubt, the only proof of it we need is him to gesture with his hands. I think he elaborates on this in A Defence of Common Sense, but I haven't read it so I can't be sure. I certainly think that if Moore was waving his hands about, shouting "Here is a hand" that I would be justified in believing him.

I think it's fairly demonstrable that we can know things without proving them. I know a number of mathematical theorems, and I know that they have been proved, but I would not be able to prove them, and even if you showed me proofs of them it's unlikely that I would understand them.


You're not missing anything in the abridged version, all the important points are there.


I have not (as I admitted) read the paper for a long time, so I am prepared to believe that Moore claims to know that he has a hand if you say he does.

As for justification: It seems to me that if you know that there is a proof of a mathematical theorem, then then is a justification for knowing that the mathematical theorem is true. I know that the Earth is round, but I don't know how to prove it. But my justification for knowing that the Earth is round, is that I know that scientists believe it is true. That is an argument from authority, but it seems to me that it is a sound argument from authority.
 
 

 
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