Moore, G. E.
Moore, G. E. 1873-1958
(Full name George Edward Moore) English philosopher and editor.
With Bertrand Russell, Moore is considered one of the two most important English philosophers of the first half of the twentieth century. Moore, Russell, and Austrian-born Ludwig Wittgenstein constituted the influential trio of analytical and phenomenological philosophers residing at Cambridge's Trinity College. From their respective academic positions, the philosophers formulated the tenets of New Realism, derived in part from German phenomenologist Alexius Meinong's theory of objects, which postulated the difference between objectives and objects. Moore also concerned himself with moral philosophy, as evidenced by his major work Principia Ethica. In this work Moore expressed that, in attempting to define the concept of good, an individual commits the "naturalistic fallacy," which is the assumption that good is capable of being defined inasmuch as definitions require their objects to comprise parts, but good abjures definition because of its simple nature. The work is also notable for its impact on the Bloomsbury Group, which included Moore, Clive Bell, Desmond MacCarthy, John Maynard Keynes, Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf, and E. M. Forster.
Moore was born in Upper Norwood, an affluent suburb of London, the fifth of eight children. In 1892 he was awarded an academic scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he met classmate Bertrand Russell. The two men were to share ideas and inspire each other throughout their respective careers. Moore completed his degree and earned a fellowship prize for his essay on Immanuel Kant's views on ethics. The prize enabled him to spend the next six years reading philosophy and formulating the ideas that became Principia Ethica. A sizeable inheritance afforded Moore the opportunity to spend the next several years refining his philosophy. In 1911 Cambridge installed him as a professor of psychology. In 1925 he was made Professor of Philosophy, a position he held until his retirement in 1939. Moore took over as editor of the philosophical journal Mind in 1921. After his retirement and through the duration of World War II, Moore lectured in the United States.
Moore's essay "Refutation of Idealism" appeared in a 1903 issue of Mind. This essay is credited as the opening salvo of the British New Realism, a branch of philosophy with which Bertrand Russell was closely aligned. New Realism responded to the metaphysical idealism advocated by F. H. Bradley and George Berkeley, which maintained that, as Berkeley wrote, "To be is to be perceived," meaning an object's existence depends upon its being perceived. Berkeley used the fact that objects persist in their being even when creatures are not present to perceive them to postulate the existence of God, a supreme being who perceives all objects at all times, thus ensuring their continued existence. Moore's argument, echoing that of Meinong. was that common sense (i.e. objectivity) provided proof positive that objects exist whether or not a being is present to perceive them. In other words, New Realism distinguishes between the act of awareness and the object of awareness. Supporting this argument, in his essay "A Defense of Common Sense," Moore employed "two distinct elements, one which I call consciousness, and the other which I call the object of consciousness." In this essay Moore proposed that there is no basis for the belief that physical reality relies on mental reality; nor is there an inherent causality between physical reality and mental perception. In "A Defense of Common Sense" Moore also argued that the true function of philosophy lay in its analysis of reality, not its definition of it. For example, when it is said that the sky is blue, the veracity of the comment cannot be denied because common sense tells the listener that the statement is true. Philosophy exists to analyze such true statements because listeners' understanding that a statement is true does not necessarily imply that they understand the speaker's full meaning. In Principia Ethica Moore continued to emphasize reason over idealism, but allowed that individuals should enjoy every experience through the cultivation of friendships and a thorough appreciation of the arts: "By far the most valuable things, which we know or can imagine, are certain states of consciousness, which may be roughly described as the pleasures of human intercourse and the enjoyment of beautiful objects," which became the credo of The Bloomsbury Group.
Principia Ethica (philosophy) 1903; revised 1922
Ethics (philosophy) 1912
Philosophical Studies (philosophy) 1922
The Philosophy of G. E. Moore (philosophy) 1942
Some Main Problems of Philosophy (philosophy) 1953
Philosophical Papers (philosophy) 1959
Commonplace Book 1919-1935 (philosophy) 1967
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SOURCE: "Certain Features in Moore's Ethical Doctrines," in The Philosophy of G. E. Moore, edited by Paul Arthur Schlipp, Northwestern University, 1942, pp. 41-68.
[In the following essay, Broad, the author of the "Compound Theory of Materialistic Emergency, " argues against the validity of Moore's Principia Ethica.]
From the many topics in Moore's ethical writings which might profitably be discussed I am going to choose two in the present paper. They are (1) his attempted refutation of Ethical Egoism, and (2) his distinction between "Natural" and "Non-natural" characteristics, and his doctrine that the word "good" (in one very important use of it) is a name for a certain non-natural characteristic.
(I) ETHICAL EGOISM
I shall begin by defining three opposed terms, viz., "Ethical Egoism," "Ethical Neutralism," and "Ethical Altruism." The second of these is the doctrine which Moore accepts in Principia Ethica; the other two are extreme deviations from it in opposite directions. It will therefore be best to start with ethical neutralism.
The neutralist theory is that no-one has any special duty to himself as such, and that no-one has any special duty to others as such. The fundamental duty of each of us is simply to maximise, so far as he can, the balance of good over bad experiences throughout the whole...
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SOURCE: "Moore's 'The Refutation of Idealism'," in The Philosophy of G. E. Moore, edited by Paul Arthur Schlipp, Northwestern University, 1942, pp. 225-52.
[In the following essay, Ducasse challenges Moore's belief that esse (to be) is not necessarily percipi (to be perceived).]
Professor Moore's "The Refutation of Idealism," published in 1903, is still one of the most famous articles written in philosophy since the turn of the century. Its acute and searching criticism of the proposition that esse is percipi has been widely held to have finally proved its falsity and thus to have robbed of their basis the idealistic philosophies which in one way or another had been built upon it. It is true that in the preface to his Philosophical Studies—in which the article was reprinted in 1922—Professor Moore writes that "this paper now appears to me to be very confused, as well as to embody a good many down-right mistakes." These, however, are not specified, and, since he does not repudiate the article as a whole, it may be presumed that he still adheres at least to its essential contention. In any case, because of the influence the wide acceptance of its argument has had on the course of subsequent philosophical thought, the article as published is now a classic and commensurate in importance with the celebrated proposition it attacks. This is enough to justify a critical examination of it...
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SOURCE: "George Edward Moore," in Knowledge and Certainty: Essays and Lectures, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1963, pp. 163-86.
[In the following essay, Malcolm recalls his personal interaction with Moore, finding him less imaginative than Bertrand Russell and less profound than Ludwig Wittgenstein but admiring his essay "Defence of Common Sense. "]
I should like to say something about the character of G. E. Moore, the man and philosopher, whom I knew for the last twenty years of his life. He was a very gentle and sweet-natured human being, as anyone acquainted with him would testify. For one thing, he had a wonderful way with children. When he read or told a story or explained something to a child, the scene was so delightful that the adults within hearing were enthralled, as well as the child. He liked to spend time with children. To one son, Moore gave a music lesson every day from his third year until he went away to prep school; and that son is now a music teacher and composer. Moore loved to sing and play the piano. He also took great joy in flowers and plants, and was anxious to learn their names.
Moore was himself a childlike person. One thing that contributed to this quality in him was an extreme modesty. It was as if the thought had never occurred to Moore that he was an eminent philosopher. I recall that once when lecturing before a small class he had...
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SOURCE: "Fact, Value, and Nonnatural Predication," in Ought, Reasons, and Morality: The Collected Papers of W. D. Falk, Cornell University Press, 1986, pp. 99-122.
[In the following essay, Falk attempts to clarify Moore's distinction between "good" and natural properties.]
Twentieth-century views on value are broadly divided between non-naturalism and noncognitivism. The choice is between saying that 'x is good' ('is good as such', 'good to experience', 'have', 'behold', 'ought to be', 'ought to be done') asserts some fact or truth, but one which is knowable only in some extraordinary and unique way; and saying that 'x is good', and so forth, does not primarily assert anything at all, but is a way of speaking commendingly or directively. These are opposed views, but they share a common bond. They agree that if 'x is good', and so on, stated any fact or truth, it could only be one ascertainable by some nonsensuous apprehension. What is taken to be ruled out, as involving the patent error of committing the naturalistic fallacy, is that 'x is good' could be making a truth-claim which, for confirmation, turned in any way on the testimony of sense, or feeling, or of a reviewer's responses of favor or disfavor. Intuitionism and noncognitivism, of one sort or other, are thus presented as the only serious alternatives.
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SOURCE: "Liberator, Up to a Point," in The New York Review of Books, Vol. 34, March 26, 1987, pp. 37-9.
[In the following review of Tom Regan's Bloomsbury Prophet: G. E. Moore and the Development of His Moral Philosophy and a collection of Moore's early essays, Hampshire agrees with Regan's assessment that Moore's methodology was Platonic. ]
G. E. Moore was a dominant figure in British philosophy from 1903 until his death at eighty-five in 1958. In 1958 many British philosophers would have named Russell, Wittgenstein, and Moore as the three great Englishspeaking philosophers of the twentieth century. During the last twenty-five years Moore has slowly ceased to be at the center of interest in the way Russell and Wittgenstein are, except for the early chapters of his still famous book on moral philosophy, Principia Ethica, first published in 1903.
Tom Regan, a professor of philosophy at North Carolina State University, argues that the true significance of this book, and of Moore himself, have been largely misinterpreted by academic commentators. They have studied him as the founding father of that peculiar and productive movement in the recent history of thought, the philosophy of ordinary language. They have overlooked, Regan argues, the history of his early moral beliefs and metaphysical doubts and despairs, from which the argument of Principia Ethica developed....
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SOURCE: "Moore's Paradox, Sincerity Conditions, and Epistemic Qualification," in On Being and Saying: Essays for Richard Cartwright, edited by Judith Jarvis Thomson, The MIT Press, 1987, pp. 133-50.
[In the following essay, Caton attempts an epistemological examination of Moore's paradox.]
This is not a scholarly paper on Moore's paradox. Many of the points I make have been made by others (long ago in some cases), and I hope they will acquiesce in my putting them in the present context without further acknowledgment. I want to suggest in this paper that a Moore paradox of the statemental type has to do with epistemic force rather than merely with sincerity conditions of illocutionary acts (if with them at all). Although something like a sufficient condition for an utterance to be odd in the Moore-paradoxical way will emerge, I do not try to say what conditions it is necessary to have to have a paradox of this type. The main reason for this is that the original paradigms primarily dealt with in connection with Moore's paradox have involved two forms of sentence that are (supposedly) suited for making statements, viz.
(A) p, but I don't believe that p
(B) Not-p, but I believe that p
although it is...
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SOURCE: A review of 'Principia Ethica', in Ethics, Vol. 98, No. 3, April, 1988, pp. 582-84.
[In the following review, Klagge confesses to disagreeing with Moore's theories but commends Regan for explaining them more clearly than Moore.]
G. E. Moore's Principia Ethica was the culmination of nearly a decade of personal turmoil and philosophical progress. Through the books under review, Tom Regan hopes to force a reconsideration of Principia Ethica, and of Moore, by attending to this decade. He should be successful.
This task was begun by Paul Levy in Moore: G. E. Moore and the Cambridge Apostles (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1979), but Levy is not a philosopher. Regan is a very good philosopher, and he illuminates very many philosophical issues ignored or obscured by Levy. Just as translations are best done by native speakers of the readers' language, so philosophers are best served by biographical work done by other philosophers.
Moore suffered great personal turmoil because of his inability to see religious belief as rational. Regan recounts Moore's pilgrimage from the melancholy of religious unbelief to the sense of meaningfulness gained through belief in the intrinsic value of beauty and friendship. Art and morality provide the consolation of religion without its existential commitments. Principia Ethica becomes Moore's defense of...
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SOURCE: "Reductionism in Ethics and Science: A Contemporary Look at G. E. Moore's Open-Question Argument," in American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 3, July, 1988, pp. 197-213.
[In the following essay, Ball argues that Moore's "open-question " against ethical naturalism is flawed but, ultimately, valid.]
The so-called "open question" argument is an argument against a general meta-ethical theory, or group of theories, known as ethical naturalism, according to which statements about what is morally right or wrong are reducible or equivalent in meaning to certain statements about empirical facts of nature. The standard objection to Moore's argument is that it is question-begging or circular. While this objection is currently accepted by ethicists, it has been recently objected that Moore's argument is in fact logically invalid, since it would yield inaccurate results if applied to established reductionist identities in science. Part I of the present essay examines, and rejects, the version of this objection given by Gilbert Harman. Part II examines, and again rejects, Putnam's version of the objection, which relies also on an analogy to science but goes on to apply Kripke's theory in philosophy of language. Part III attempts to show that the analogy between ethics and science, assumed by both Harman and Putnam, is incorrect. Finally, Part IV formulates and defends an interpretation of Moore's...
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SOURCE: "G. E. Moore's Table and Chair in 'To The Lighthouse'," in Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 15, No. 1, Summer, 1988, pp. 161-68.
[In the following excerpt, Steinberg examines elements of Moore's philosophy in the text of Virginia Woolf's novel To the Lighthouse.]
Over the years critics have argued that Virginia Woolf s fiction echoes the philosophy of, variously, Henri Bergson, Plato, G. E. Moore, John McTaggart, Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and C. G. Jung. Since many of these men professed widely differing philosophies, the only conclusion that can be drawn from all of these mutually contradictory claims and counterclaims is that, in her novels, Virginia Woolf does not espouse, adhere to, instantiate, or even reflect the ideas of any particular philosopher or philosophy.1
In her writing, Virginia Woolf treats philosophy gingerly. In A Room of One's Own, for example, after encouraging women "to write books of travel and adventure, and research and scholarship, and history and biography, and criticism and philosophy and science," she comments, "Thus when I ask you to write more books I am urging you to do what will be for your good and for the good of the world at large. How to justify this instinct or belief I do not know, for philosophic words, if one has not been educated at a university, are apt to play one false." Virginia Woolf, of...
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SOURCE: "G. E. Moore and Philosphers's Paradoxes," in Studies in the Way of Words, Harvard University Press, 1989, pp. 154-70.
[In the following essay, Grice applies Moore's paradoxes to other philosophical questions.]
I shall begin by discussing two linked parts of Moore's philosophy, one of which is his method of dealing with certain philosophical paradoxes, the other his attitude toward Common Sense. These are particularly characteristic elements in Moore's thought and have exerted great influence upon, and yet at the same time perplexed other British philosophers. Later in this paper I shall pass from explicit discussion of Moore's views to a consideration of ways of treating philosophical paradoxes which might properly be deemed to be either interpretations or developments of Moore's own position.
First, Moore's way of dealing with philosopher's paradoxes. By "philosopher's paradoxes" I mean (roughly) the kind of philosophical utterances which a layman might be expected to find at first absurd, shocking, and repugnant. Malcolm1 gives a number of examples of such paradoxes and in each case specifies the kind of reason or proof which he thinks Moore would offer to justify his rejection of these paradoxical statements; Moore, moreover, in his "Reply to My Critics" in the same volume, gives his approval, with one qualification, to Malcolm's procedure. I quote three of...
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SOURCE: "Forster and Moore," in Inconvenient Fictions: Literature and the Limits of Theory, Yale University Press, 1991, pp. 98-122.
[In the following excerpt, Harrison examines the influence of Moore's philosophy on the writings of Bloomsbury author E. M. Forster.]
The influence of Moore on the young Forster is vouched for by Leonard Woolf: 'That is the point: under the surface all six of us, Desmond, Lytton, Saxon, Morgan, Maynard and I, had been permanently inoculated with Moore and Moorism. . . .'1 The search for traces of Moorism in the novels, however, has turned up relatively little. P. N. Furbank in his Life (1977) is skeptical about even the likelihood of literary gold in these bleak philosophical uplands: 'Too much has been made of the influence of G. E. Moore on him, for he never read Moore; but the epigraph to Moore's Principia Ethica, "Everything is what it is, and not another thing", hits off his own idea of the Cambridge "truth".'2 Respect for truth and for Reality—for the hardness and solidity of the actual—are certainly to be gained from reading Moore, and no doubt these things are part of what Forster and his friends did gain from him. Woolf again: 'The main things which Moore instilled deep into our minds and characters were his peculiar passion for truth, for clarity and common sense, and a passionate belief in certain...
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SOURCE: "Moore's Paradox Revisited," in Synthese, Vol. 87, No. 1, April, 1991, pp. 295-309.
[In the following essay, Linville and Ring apply Ludwig Wittgenstein's principles to Moore's paradox.]
Wittgenstein "once remarked that the only work of Moore's that greatly impressed him was his discovery of the peculiar kind of nonsense involved in such a sentence as, e.g., 'It is raining but I don't believe it'".1 Present practice is to refer to the difficulties generated by sentences of this form, as well as to sentences of the form "I believe that p but not p", as "Moore's paradox".2 Despite Wittgenstein's great reputation and regard for the importance of Moore's "discovery", little interest has been generated in the topic. And yet, central issues in epistemology and the philosophy of language are involved in the resolution of this paradox. Since this is not generally appreciated, we begin our discussion by establishing what some of those important issues are, thereby crediting Wittgenstein's assessment of the importance of the paradox. Then, we develop an account of the aberrant nature of Moore's sentences (hereafter labelled "MS") that is indebted to Wittgenstein, and which challenges the assumptions that motivate the standard form of discussion of these sentences initiated by Moore.
Moore says "such a thing as ' went to the pictures last Tuesday, but I...
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SOURCE: "Moore and Shusterman on Organic Wholes," in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 49, No. 1, Winter, 1991, pp. 63-73.
[In the following essay, Leddy examines Moore's refutation of idealism in light of the contemporary debate between analytic philosophy and deconstruction.]
It is natural in periods of crisis in a paradigm to turn back to the founders in an effort to think carefully through the reasons for the founding of the movement. The origins of analytic philosophy can be found partly in G. E. Moore's objections to the idealism of the British Hegelians, e.g., Bradley and McTaggart. The debate between Moore and these idealists is particularly interesting when we consider recent comparisons that have been drawn by Rorty and others between 19th century idealism and 20th century textualism.1 Richard Shusterman has recently reopened the debate by considering the opposing views of such continental philosophers as Derrida and Nehamas and analytic philosophers concerning the concept of organic unity.2 He has made the interesting observation that although Derrida has opposed organic unity as a principle of aesthetic value he is committed to a more radical form of organic unity that asserts the interconnectedness of everything in the world. Shusterman also attributes this more radical organicism to Nehamas and, through Nehamas's interpretation of Nietzsche, to...
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SOURCE: "Bloomsbury Revisited: Flipping through the Albums," in Virginia Woolf: Themes and Variations, Pace University Press, 1993, pp. 329-37.
[In the following essay, Jacobsen examines Virginia Woolf's Moorean analysis in her letters and diaries of love and friendship, based on the Bloomsbury Group's understanding of Moore's Principia Etnica.]
I discuss here primarily Virginia Woolf's 1918-1919 Diary, but her Letters led me to look into whether she practiced a conscious ethic of friendship growing out of the philosophy of G. E. Moore. Virginia's letters are prized for the affection and attention shown the writers and artists of Bloomsbury. Woolf wittily sustains Lytton Strachey in the bleak years of writer's block. She helps organize a fund to enable T. S. Eliot to quit work at Lloyd's Bank. She supports the value alike of the painting and nurturing motherhood of Vanessa Bell, and affirms the specialness of each nephew and niece from the moment they go away to school through affectionate private jokes. Woolf confirms the value of the personalities and serious work of writer Vita Sackville-West and elderly composer Ethel Smyth, teasing them about how passionately she desires their presences long after her romances with them have waned.
G. E. Moore'sPrincipia Ethica in 1903 codified an ethic which placed on friendship a premium unusual in formal ethical systems....
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SOURCE: "Moore's Paradox: A Wittgensteinian Approach," in Mind, Vol. 103, No. 409, January, 1994, pp. 5-24.
[In the following essay, Heal advances the thesis that Moore's paradox makes more sense when approached with Wittgenstein's theory.]
"I believe that it is raining but it isn't." It would be perfectly absurd, claimed Moore, to say this or its like. But why? After all, it is clearly possible that I should believe that it is raining when it is not, that others should realise and remark on the error I make. Why should my doing so myself be somehow absurd?
My aim in this paper is to suggest that Wittgenstein's approach to this issue has much to recommend it and that seeing its attraction might provide an entry point to understanding the nature of Wittgenstein's later philosophy of mind. A proper account of that is clearly beyond the scope of this paper and moreover could not be given without treating those issues of meaning and metaphysics which Wittgenstein discusses in the early part of the Investigations, before he moves on to reflect on psychological concepts. So my object is to consider some features of the paradox in detail but only to gesture in the direction of the larger topics, in a way that may at least make it seem worthwhile to look into them further.1
The next section outlines the paradox slightly more...
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Gilcher, Edwin. Supplement to a Bibliography of George Moore. Westport, Conn.: Meckler, 1987, 95 p.
Corrects errors from the 1971 Moore bibliography and includes articles and books published since 1970.
Langenfeld, Robert. George Moore: An Annotated Secondary Bibliography of Writings about Him. New York: AMS Press, 1987, 531 p.
Contains detailed annotations of Moore's letters and articles.
Levy, Paul. Moore: G. E. Moore and the Cambridge Apostles. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, 335 P.
Focuses on Moore's development as a philosopher and his early years at Cambridge.
Baldwin, Thomas. G. E. Moore. London and New York: Routledge, 1990, 337 p.
Overview of Moore's early philosophy and lengthy analysis of his later writings, contrasting Moore's ideas with the philosophical teachings of Bertrand Russell.
Hill, John. The Ethics of G. E. Moore: A New Interpretation. The Netherlands: Van Gorcum 1976, 144 P.
Draws a connection between morality and Moore's writings on ethics, claiming that Moore brought the two concepts together in his famous explanation of the undefinable "good."
Klemke, E. D. The Epistemology of G. E. Moore....
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