G. E. Moore

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G. E. Moore
1914 George Edward Moore (cropped).jpg
Born
George Edward Moore

(1873-11-04)4 November 1873
Hastings Lodge, Victoria Road, Dulwich Wood Park, Upper Norwood, London
Died24 October 1958(1958-10-24) (aged 84)
Evelyn Nursing Home, Cambridge, England
Other names
  • "Moore" (colleagues)
  • "Bill" (family)
Education Trinity College, Cambridge
(BA, 1896)
Spouse(s)Dorothy Ely
Era
Region Western philosophy
School Analytic philosophy
Main interests
Philosophy of language
Notable ideas

George Edward Moore OM FBA (4 November 1873 – 24 October 1958) was an English philosopher. He was, with Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and (before them) Gottlob Frege, one of the founders of the analytic tradition in philosophy. Along with Russell, he led the turn away from idealism in British philosophy, and became well known for his advocacy of common sense concepts, his contributions to ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics, and "his exceptional personality and moral character". [6] He was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, highly influential among (though not a member of) the Bloomsbury Group, and the editor of the influential journal Mind . He was elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1918. He was a member of the Cambridge Apostles, the intellectual secret society, from 1894 to 1901, and the Cambridge University Moral Sciences Club.

Fellow of the British Academy award granted by the British Academy to leading academics for their distinction in the humanities and social sciences

Fellowship of the British Academy (FBA) is an award granted by the British Academy to leading academics for their distinction in the humanities and social sciences. There are three kinds of fellowship:

  1. Fellows, for scholars resident in the United Kingdom
  2. Corresponding Fellows, for scholars not resident in the UK
  3. Honorary Fellows, an honorary academic title
Bertrand Russell British philosopher, mathematician, historian, writer, and activist

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, essayist, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate. At various points in his life, Russell considered himself a liberal, a socialist and a pacifist, although he also confessed that his sceptical nature had led him to feel that he had "never been any of these things, in any profound sense." Russell was born in Monmouthshire into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in the United Kingdom.

Ludwig Wittgenstein Austrian-British philosopher

Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language.

Contents

Life

Moore was born in Upper Norwood, Croydon, Greater London, on 4 November 1873, the middle child of seven of Dr Daniel Moore and Henrietta Sturge. His grandfather was the author Dr George Moore. His eldest brother was Thomas Sturge Moore, a poet, writer and engraver. [7] [8] [9]

Upper Norwood area of South London within the London Boroughs of Bromley, Croydon and Lambeth

Upper Norwood is an area of south-east London within the London Boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth and Southwark. It is north of Croydon and is synonymous with the Crystal Palace area.

Dr. George Moore MD (1803–1880) was a physician and British Israelite.

Thomas Sturge Moore British playwright, poet and artist

Thomas Sturge Moore was an English poet, author and artist.

He was educated at Dulwich College [10] and in 1892 went up to Trinity College, Cambridge to study classics and moral sciences. [11] He became a Fellow of Trinity in 1898, and went on to hold the University of Cambridge chair of Mental Philosophy and Logic, from 1925 to 1939.

Dulwich College independent school for boys in Dulwich, southeast London, England

Dulwich College is a 2–19 independent, boarding school for boys in Dulwich, London, England. It was founded in 1619 by Edward Alleyn, an Elizabethan actor, with the original purpose of educating 12 poor scholars as the foundation of 'God's Gift'. Admission by examination is mainly into years 3, 7, 9, and 12 to the Junior, Lower, Middle and Upper Schools into which the college is divided. It is a member of both the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference and the Eton Group.

Trinity College, Cambridge constituent college of the University of Cambridge in England

Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge in England. With around 600 undergraduates, 300 graduates, and over 180 fellows, it is the largest college in either of the Oxbridge universities by number of undergraduates. In terms of total student numbers, it is second only to Homerton College, Cambridge.

Classics Study of the culture of (mainly) Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome

Classics or classical studies is the study of classical antiquity. It encompasses the study of the Greco-Roman world, particularly of its languages and literature but also of Greco-Roman philosophy, history, and archaeology. Traditionally in the West, the study of the Greek and Roman classics is considered one of the cornerstones of the humanities and a fundamental element of a rounded education. The study of classics has therefore traditionally been a cornerstone of a typical elite education.

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 Bloomsbury Group, but is (unlike his colleague Russell) mostly unknown today outside of academic philosophy. Moore's essays are known for their clear, circumspect writing style, and for his methodical and patient approach to philosophical problems. He was critical of modern philosophy for its lack of progress, which he believed was in stark contrast to the dramatic advances in the natural sciences since the Renaissance. Among Moore's most famous works are his book Principia Ethica , [12] and his essays, "The Refutation of Idealism", "A Defence of Common Sense", and "A Proof of the External World".

Ethical non-naturalism is the meta-ethical view which claims that:

  1. Ethical sentences express propositions.
  2. Some such propositions are true.
  3. Those propositions are made true by objective features of the world, independent of human opinion.
  4. These moral features of the world are not reducible to any set of non-moral features.
Common sense set of widely accepted beliefs

Common sense is sound practical judgment concerning everyday matters, or a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge that is shared by nearly all people. The first type of common sense, good sense, can be described as "the knack for seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done." The second type is sometimes described as folk wisdom, "signifying unreflective knowledge not reliant on specialized training or deliberative thought." The two types are intertwined, as the person who has common sense is in touch with common-sense ideas, which emerge from the lived experiences of those commonsensical enough to perceive them.

Moore's paradox concerns the apparent absurdity involved in asserting a first-person present-tense sentence such as, "It's raining, but I don't believe that it is raining" or "It's raining but I believe that it is not raining." The first author to note this apparent absurdity was G. E. Moore. These 'Moorean' sentences, as they have become known, are paradoxical in that while they appear absurd, they nevertheless:

  1. Can be true,
  2. Are (logically) consistent, and moreover
  3. Are not (obviously) contradictions.

He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1918-19. [13]

The Aristotelian Society for the Systematic Study of Philosophy, more generally known as the Aristotelian Society, was founded at a meeting on 19 April 1880, at 17 Bloomsbury Square.

Paul Levy wrote in Moore: G. E. Moore and the Cambridge Apostles (1979) that Moore was an important member of the secretive Cambridge Apostles.

Paul Levy (journalist) American journalist

Paul Levy is a US/British author and journalist. He lives with his wife, Penelope Marcus, and children in Oxfordshire and London, UK.

The Cambridge Apostles is an intellectual society at the University of Cambridge founded in 1820 by George Tomlinson, a Cambridge student who went on to become the first Bishop of Gibraltar.

G. E. Moore died on 24 October 1958; he was cremated at Cambridge Crematorium on 28 October 1958 and his ashes interred at the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge; his wife, Dorothy Ely (1892-1977) was buried there. Together they had two sons, the poet Nicholas Moore and the composer Timothy Moore. [14] [15]

Philosophy

Ethics

The title page of Principia Ethica Principia Ethica title page.png
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. [16]

The 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?).

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 Boyd and 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 Ethics aims at discovering what are those other properties belonging to all things which are good. But far too many philosophers have thought that when they named those other properties they were actually defining good; that these properties, in fact, were simply not "other," but absolutely and entirely the same with goodness. (§ 10 ¶ 3)

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".

Moral knowledge

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 [propositions about what is good as an end in itself] 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

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. Bradley and 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's paradox

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 Ludwig Wittgenstein, who described the paradox as the most impressive philosophical insight that Moore had ever introduced. It is said that when Wittgenstein first heard this paradox one evening (which Moore had earlier stated in a lecture), he rushed round to Moore's lodgings, got him out of bed and insisted that Moore repeat the entire lecture to him.

Organic wholes

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).

Works

Gravestone of philosopher G. E. Moore and wife Dorothy Moore Grave of philosopher G.E. Moore - geograph.org.uk - 382503.jpg
Gravestone of philosopher G. E. Moore and wife Dorothy Moore

Related Research Articles

Ethical naturalism is the meta-ethical view which claims that:

  1. Ethical sentences express propositions.
  2. Some such propositions are true.
  3. Those propositions are made true by objective features of the world, independent of human opinion.
  4. These moral features of the world are reducible to some set of non-moral features

In logic, the law of excluded middle states that for any proposition, either that proposition is true or its negation is true. It is one of the so called three laws of thought, along with the law of noncontradiction, and the law of identity. The law of excluded middle is logically equivalent to the law of noncontradiction by De Morgan's laws. However, no system of logic is built on just these laws, and none of these laws provide inference rules, such as modus ponens or De Morgan's laws.

Meta-ethics is the branch of ethics that seeks to understand the nature of ethical properties, statements, attitudes, and judgments. Meta-ethics is one of the three branches of ethics generally studied by philosophers, the others being normative ethics and applied ethics.

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In philosophical ethics, the term naturalistic fallacy was introduced by British philosopher G. E. Moore in his 1903 book Principia Ethica. Moore argues it would be fallacious to explain that which is good reductively, in terms of natural properties such as pleasant or desirable.

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Moral realism is the position that ethical sentences express propositions that refer to objective features of the world, some of which may be true to the extent that they report those features accurately. This makes moral realism a non-nihilist form of ethical cognitivism with an ontological orientation, standing in opposition to all forms of moral anti-realism and moral skepticism, including ethical subjectivism, error theory ; and non-cognitivism. Within moral realism, the two main subdivisions are ethical naturalism and ethical non-naturalism.

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The open-question argument is a philosophical argument put forward by British philosopher G. E. Moore in §13 of Principia Ethica (1903), to refute the equating of the property of goodness with some non-moral property, X, whether naturalistic or supernatural. That is, Moore's argument attempts to show that no moral property is identical to a natural property. The argument takes the form of syllogistic modus tollens:

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Harold Arthur Prichard (1871–1947), usually cited as H. A. Prichard, was an English philosopher. He was born in London in 1871, the eldest child of Walter Stennett Prichard and his wife Lucy. Harold Prichard was a scholar of Clifton College from where he won a scholarship to New College, Oxford, to study mathematics. But after taking First Class honours in mathematical moderations in 1891, he studied Greats taking First Class Honours in 1894. He also played tennis for Oxford against Cambridge. On leaving Oxford he spent a brief period working for a firm of solicitors in London, before returning to Oxford where he spent the rest of his life, first as Fellow of Hertford College (1895–98) and then of Trinity College (1898–1924). He took early retirement from Trinity in 1924 on grounds of ill health, but recovered and was elected White's Professor of Moral Philosophy in 1928 and became a fellow of Corpus Christi College. He retired in 1937.

<i>Principia Ethica</i> philosophical book

Principia Ethica is a 1903 book by the British philosopher G. E. Moore, in which the author insists on the indefinability of "good" and provides an exposition of the naturalistic fallacy. Principia Ethica was influential, and Moore's arguments were long regarded as path-breaking advances in moral philosophy, though they have been seen as less impressive and durable than his contributions in other fields.

Here is one hand is an epistemological argument created by George Edward Moore in reaction against philosophical skepticism and in support of common sense.

Moral sense theory is a theory in moral epistemology and meta-ethics concerning the discovery of moral truths. Moral sense theory typically holds that distinctions between morality and immorality are discovered by emotional responses to experience. Some take it to be primarily a view about the nature of moral facts or moral beliefs —this form of the view more often goes by the name "sentimentalism". Others take the view to be primarily about the nature of justifying moral beliefs —this form of the view more often goes by the name "moral sense theory". However, some theorists take the view to be one which claims that both moral facts and how one comes to be justified in believing them are necessarily bound up with human emotions.

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References

  1. G. E. Moore, "The Refutation of Idealism" (1903), p. 37.
  2. Robert Hanna, Kant, Science, and Human Nature. Clarendon Press, 2006, p. 60.
  3. James Ward (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  4. Maria van der Schaar, G. F. Stout and the Psychological Origins of Analytic Philosophy, Springer, 2013, p. viii.
  5. Alice Ambrose, Morris Lazerowitz (eds.), G. E. Moore: Essays in Retrospect, Volume 3, Psychology Press, 2004, p. 25.
  6. "Moore, George Edward". Preston, Aaron. Internet Encyclopedia. Iep.utm.edu. 30 December 2005. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  7. Levy, Paul (1979). Moore: G.E. Moore and the Cambridge Apostles. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. pp. 28–30. ISBN   0297775766.
  8. Eminent Old Alleynians : Academe Archived 25 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine at dulwich.org.uk, accessed 24 February 2009
  9. Baldwin, Tom (26 March 2004). "George Edward Moore". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI), Stanford University. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  10. Hodges, S, (1981), God's Gift: A Living History of Dulwich College, pages 87-88, (Heinemann: London)
  11. "Moore, George Edward (MR892GE)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  12. Moore, G. E. (1903). Principia Ethica. Cambridge: University Press. ISBN   0879754982 . Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  13. The Aristotelian Society – The Council
  14. Yau, John (11 January 2015). "Nicholas Moore, Touched by Poetic Genius". Hyperallergic . Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  15. Marshall, Nicholas (10 March 2003). "Timothy Moore". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  16. Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). "Metaethics". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy . by Geoff Sayre-McCord.

Further reading