GEORGE EDWARD "G. E." MOORE OM FBA (/mɔər, mʊər/ ; 4 November
1873 – 24 October 1958) was an English philosopher. He was, with
* 1 Life
* 2 Philosophy
* 2.1.1 The naturalistic fallacy * 2.1.2 Open-question argument * 2.1.3 Good as indefinable * 2.1.4 Good as a non-natural property * 2.1.5 Moral knowledge
* 2.2 Proof of an external world * 2.3 Moore\'s paradox * 2.4 Organic wholes
* 3 Bibliography * 4 References * 5 Further reading * 6 External links
Moore was born in
He was educated at
Moore is best known today for his defence of ethical non-naturalism ,
his emphasis on common sense in philosophical method, and the paradox
that bears his name . He was admired by and influential among other
philosophers, and also by the
He was president of the Aristotelian Societyfrom 1918-19.
G. E. Moore
_ The title page of Principia Ethica_
His influential work _ Principia Ethica_ is one of the main inspirations of the movement against ethical naturalism (see ethical non-naturalism ) and is partly responsible for the twentieth-century concern with meta-ethics .
The Naturalistic Fallacy
Main article: Naturalistic fallacy
Moore asserted that philosophical arguments can suffer from a confusion between the use of a term in a particular argument and the definition of that term (in all arguments). He named this confusion the naturalistic fallacy . For example, an ethical argument may claim that if a thing has certain properties, then that thing is 'good.' A hedonist may argue that 'pleasant' things are 'good' things. Other theorists may argue that 'complex' things are 'good' things. Moore contends that even if such arguments are correct, they do not provide definitions for the term 'good.' The property of 'goodness' cannot be defined. It can only be shown and grasped. Any attempt to define it (X is good if it has property Y) will simply shift the problem (Why is Y-ness good in the first place?).
Main article: Open-question argument
Moore's argument for the indefinability of "good" (and thus for the fallaciousness of the "naturalistic fallacy") is often called the open-question argument ; it is presented in §13 of _Principia Ethica_. The argument hinges on the nature of statements such as "Anything that is pleasant is also good" and the possibility of asking questions such as "Is it _good_ that x is pleasant?" According to Moore, these questions are _open_ and these statements are _significant_; and they will remain so no matter what is substituted for "pleasure". Moore concludes from this that any analysis of value is bound to fail. In other words, if value could be analysed, then such questions and statements would be trivial and obvious. Since they are anything but trivial and obvious, value must be indefinable.
Critics of Moore's arguments sometimes claim that he is appealing to general puzzles concerning analysis (cf. the paradox of analysis ), rather than revealing anything special about value. The argument clearly depends on the assumption that if "good" were definable, it would be an analytic truth about "good," an assumption many contemporary moral realists like Richard Boydand Peter Railton reject. Other responses appeal to the Fregean distinction between sense and reference , allowing that value concepts are special and _sui generis_, but insisting that value properties are nothing but natural properties (this strategy is similar to that taken by non-reductive materialists in philosophy of mind ).
Good As Indefinable
Moore contended that goodness cannot be analysed in terms of any
other property. In _Principia Ethica,_ he writes: It may be true that
all things which are good are also something else, just as it is true
that all things which are yellow produce a certain kind of vibration
in the light. And it is a fact, that
Therefore, we cannot define "good" by explaining it in other words. We can only point to an _action_ or a _thing_ and say "That is good." Similarly, we cannot describe to a person born totally blind exactly what yellow is. We can only show a sighted person a piece of yellow paper or a yellow scrap of cloth and say "That is yellow."
Good As A Non-natural Property
In addition to categorising "good" as indefinable, Moore also emphasized that it is a non-natural property. This means that it cannot be empirically or scientifically tested or verified - it is not within the bounds of "natural science".
Moore argued that once arguments based on the naturalistic fallacy had been discarded, questions of intrinsic goodness could only be settled by appeal to what he (following Sidgwick ) called "moral intuitions:" self-evident propositions which recommend themselves to moral reflection, but which are not susceptible to either direct proof or disproof (PE § 45). As a result of his view, he has often been described by later writers as an advocate of ethical intuitionism . Moore, however, wished to distinguish his view from the views usually described as "Intuitionist" when _Principia Ethica_ was written:
In order to express the fact that ethical propositions of my _first_ class are incapable of proof or disproof, I have sometimes followed Sidgwick's usage in calling them 'Intuitions.' But I beg that it may be noticed that I am not an 'Intuitionist,’ in the ordinary sense of the term. Sidgwick himself seems never to have been clearly aware of the immense importance of the difference which distinguishes his Intuitionism from the common doctrine, which has generally been called by that name. The Intuitionist proper is distinguished by maintaining that propositions of my _second_ class—propositions which assert that a certain action is _right_ or a _duty_—are incapable of proof or disproof by any enquiry into the results of such actions. I, on the contrary, am no less anxious to maintain that propositions of _this_ kind are _not_ 'Intuitions,’ than to maintain that propositions of my _first_ class _are_ Intuitions. — G. E. Moore, _Principia Ethica_, Preface ¶ 5
Moore distinguished his view from the view of deontological intuitionists, who held that "intuitions" could determine questions about what _actions_ are right or required by duty . Moore, as a consequentialist , argued that "duties" and moral rules could be determined by investigating the _effects_ of particular actions or kinds of actions (PE § 89), and so were matters for empirical investigation rather than direct objects of intuition (PE § 90). On Moore's view, "intuitions" revealed not the rightness or wrongness of specific actions, but only what things were good in themselves, as _ends to be pursued_.
PROOF OF AN EXTERNAL WORLD
Main article: Here is one hand
One of the most important parts of Moore's philosophical development was his break from the idealism that dominated British philosophy (as represented in the works of his former teachers F. H. Bradleyand John McTaggart ), and his defence of what he regarded as a "common sense" form of realism . In his 1925 essay " A Defence of Common Sense", he argued against idealism and scepticism toward the external world, on the grounds that they could not give reasons to accept that their metaphysical premises were more plausible than the reasons we have to accept the common sense claims about our knowledge of the world, which sceptics and idealists must deny. He famously put the point into dramatic relief with his 1939 essay "Proof of an External World", in which he gave a common sense argument against scepticism by raising his right hand and saying "Here is one hand," and then raising his left and saying "And here is another," then concluding that there are at least two external objects in the world, and therefore that he knows (by this argument) that an external world exists. Not surprisingly, not everyone inclined to sceptical doubts found Moore's method of argument entirely convincing; Moore, however, defends his argument on the grounds that sceptical arguments seem invariably to require an appeal to "philosophical intuitions" that we have considerably less reason to accept than we have for the common sense claims that they supposedly refute. (In addition to fueling Moore's own work, the "Here is one hand" argument also deeply influenced Wittgenstein , who spent his last years working out a new approach to Moore's argument in the remarks that were published posthumously as _ On Certainty_.)
Moore is also remembered for drawing attention to the peculiar inconsistency involved in uttering a sentence such as "It is raining but I do not believe it is raining."—a puzzle which is now commonly called "Moore\'s paradox ." The puzzle arises because it seems impossible for anyone to consistently _assert_ such a sentence; but there doesn't seem to be any _logical contradiction_ between "It is raining" and "I don't believe that it is raining." because the former is a statement about the weather and the latter a statement about a person's belief about the weather, and it is perfectly logically possible that it may rain whilst a person does not believe that it is raining.
In addition to Moore's own work on the paradox, the puzzle also
inspired a great deal of work by
Moore’s description of the principle of organic unity is extremely straightforward; nonetheless, and a variant on a pattern that began with Aristotle: The value of a whole must not be assumed to be the same as the sum of the values of its parts (Principia, § 18).
According to Moore, a moral actor cannot survey the "goodness" inherent in the various parts of a situation, assign a value to each of them, and then generate a sum in order to get an idea of its total value. A moral scenario is a complex assembly of parts, and its total value is often created by the relations between those parts, and not by their individual value. The organic metaphor is thus very appropriate: biological organisms seem to have emergent properties which cannot be found anywhere in their individual parts. For example, a human brain seems to exhibit a capacity for thought when none of its neurons exhibit any such capacity. In the same way, a moral scenario can have a value far greater than the sum of its component parts.
To understand the application of the organic principle to questions of value, it is perhaps best to consider Moore’s primary example, that of a consciousness experiencing a beautiful object. To see how the principle works, a thinker engages in "reflective isolation", the act of isolating a given concept in a kind of null-context and determining its intrinsic value. In our example, we can easily see that per _sui_, beautiful objects and consciousnesses are not particularly valuable things. They might have some value, but when we consider the total value of a consciousness experiencing a beautiful object, it seems to exceed the simple sum of these values (Principia 18:2).
_ Gravestone of philosopher G. E. Moore, OM and wife Dorothy Moore
* G. E. Moore, The Nature of Judgment_ (1899)
* G. E. Moore, _Principia Ethica_ (1903)
* G. E. Moore, Review of Franz Brentano\'s _The Origin of the
* G. E. Moore, "Philosophical Studies" (1922)
* G. E. Moore, _The Conception of Intrinsic Value_ * G. E. Moore, _The Nature of Moral Philosophy_
* G. E. Moore, _Are the Characteristics of Things Universal or
* G. E. Moore, _A Defence of Common Sense_ (1925)
G. E. Moore
* G. E. Moore, "Some Main Problems of Philosophy" (1953)
* G. E. Moore, _Propositions_
* Margin Notes by
G. E. Moore
* ^ Maria van der Schaar, _G. F. Stout and the Psychological
Origins of Analytic Philosophy_, Springer, 2013, p. viii.
* ^ Alice Ambrose, Morris Lazerowitz (eds.), _G. E. Moore: Essays
in Retrospect, Volume 3_, Psychology Press, 2004, pp. 17ff.
* ^ "Moore, George Edward". Preston, Aaron. Internet Encyclopedia.
Iep.utm.edu. 30 December 2005. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
* ^ Levy, Paul (1979). _Moore: G.E. Moore and the Cambridge
Apostles_. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. pp. 28–30. ISBN
* ^ Eminent Old Alleynians : Academe at dulwich.org.uk, accessed 24
* ^ Baldwin, Tom (26 March 2004). "George Edward Moore". _Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy_. Center for the Study of Language and
* Levy, Paul (1979). _Moore: G.E. Moore and the
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