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G. E. Moore (1873 – 1958) was an English Analytic philosopher of Common Sense. Everything is what it is and not another thing.

G. E. Moore

G. E. Moore when a young man

G. E. Moore

G. E. Moore, English philosopher of Common Sense

Sources of quotations: WikiQuoteGoodReads, BrainyQuotes, Fullerton, The Refutation of Idealism, YouTube,


Quotations from G. E. Moore

By far the most valuable things, which we know or can imagine, are certain states of consciousness, which may roughly be described as the pleasures of human intercourse and the enjoyment of beautiful objects. No one, probably, who has asked himself the question, has ever doubted that personal affection and the appreciation of what is beautiful in Art of Nature, are good in themselves; nor, if we consider strictly what things are worth having purely for their own sakes, does it appear probable that any one will think that anything else has nearly so much value as the things which are included under these two heads.

I can prove now, for instance, that two human hands exist. How? By holding up my two hands, and saying, as I make a certain gesture with the right hand, “Here is one hand,” and adding, as I make a certain gesture with the left, “and here is another.” And if, by doing this, I have proved ipso facto the existence of external things, you will all see that I can also do it now in numbers of other ways: there is no need to multiply examples.

It is raining but I don’t believe that it is.

One of the statements presenting what has become known as “Moore’s paradox“, from a famous lecture concerning logical inconsistency in 1942, as quoted in Reason in Theory and Practice (1969) by Roy Edgley, p. 71; in which he also stated “It is not raining, but I believe that it is.” These sentences are not logically contradictory, and yet it seems that no one could make a true assertion by sincerely speaking them. It is reported that Ludwig Wittgenstein, on hearing of Moore’s lecture, went to Moore’s house in the middle of the night to ask him to repeat it, and considered the problems presented by it Moore’s greatest contributions to philosophy.

The hours I spend with you I look upon as sort of a perfumed garden, a dim twilight, and a fountain singing to it. You and you alone make me feel that I am alive. Other men it is said have seen angels, but I have seen thee and thou art enough.

All moral laws are merely statements that certain kinds of actions will have good effects.

Clarity is not enough.

I do not think that the world or the sciences would ever have suggested to me any philosophical problems.

What has suggested philosophical problems to me is things which other philosophers have said about the world or the sciences.

Russell:  “I have never but once succeeded in making him tell a lie and that was by subterfuge.  “‘Moore’ I said ‘do you always speak the truth?’  ‘No’ he replied.  I believe this to be the only lie he has ever told.”

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.  No one, probably, who has asked himself the question, has ever doubted that personal affection and the appreciation of what is beautiful in Art or Nature, are good in themselves; nor, if we consider strictly what things are worth having purely for their own sakes, does it appear probable that any one will think that anything else has nearly so great a value as the things which are included under these two heads.

Idealism in all its forms depends, as we have seen, upon a transition, at some stage, from the necessary structure of thought, or the necessary conditions of knowledge, to necessary features of reality.

G.J. Warnock is most insightful on that: “It would also, I believe, be historically improper to give the impression that Idealism perished of refutation.  It is true that some of Bradley’s fundamental views, such as his doctrine of ‘internal relations’ or his theory of truth, were subjected to destructive criticism.  But metaphysical systems do not yield, as a rule, to frontal attack.  Their odd property of being demonstrable only, so to speak, from within confers on them also a high resistance to attack from outside.  The onslaughts of critics to whom, as likely as not, their strange tenets are very nearly unintelligible are apt to seem, to those entrenched inside, mis-directed or irrelevant.  Such systems are more vulnerable to ennui than to disproof.  They are citadels, much shot at perhaps but never taken by storm, which are quietly discovered one day to be no longer inhabited.  The way in which an influential philosopher may undermine the empire of his predecessors consists, one may say, chiefly in his providing his contemporaries with other interests.”

There exists at present a living human body, which is my body.  This body was born at a certain time in the past, and has existed continuously ever since, though not without undergoing changes; it was, for instance, much smaller when it was born, and for some time afterwards, than it is now.  Ever since it was born, it has been either in contact with or not far from the surface of the earth; and at every moment since it was born, there have also existed many other things….I am a human being, and I have, at different times since my body was born, had many different experiences, of many different kinds: e.g. I have often perceived both my own body and others things which formed part of its environment, including other human bodies…

The strange thing is that philosophers should have been able to hold sincerely, as part of their philosophical creed, propositions inconsistent with what they themselves knew to be true; and yet, so far as I can make out, this has really frequently happened.

Analysis is introduced here to be contrasted with seeking the truth of various propositions.  Philosophy, rather, has the aim of seeking the analysis of propositions.

I can now prove, for instance, that two human hands exist.  How?  By holding up my two hands, and saying as I make a certain gesture with the right hand, ‘Here is one hand’, and adding as I make a certain gesture with the left, ‘and here is another’.


COMMENTS on Quotations from G.E. Moore

“Everything is what it is and not another thing.” (Derived from Butler?) One must wonder if that quotation is a sensible statement. The problem arises when the observer changes his position and the observed item changes appearance. Is the observed thing different when viewed from a different perspective, or only the observer and his location in time and space and mental setting?

The way in which an influential philosopher may undermine the empire of his predecessors consists, one may say, chiefly in his providing his contemporaries with other interests. (Derived from Warnock?) This statement makes philosophy appear to be a passing entertainment, serving no function other than occupying the minds of people with nothing better to do with their time; and yet some of these ideas have more staying power, such as Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am,” or “Stand out of my Sun, you are blocking the only thing which you can not give,” by Diogenes

Clarity is not enough. To that we must agree, but if there is to be dialogue with value there must be clarity of transfer of thoughts. Compare the clarity to that of eyeglasses: if the glass is covered with dirt there is no clarity and little or no transfer of reliable information, and if if the glass is clear but the view is totally lacking light there is once again no information, or if there is no information to be seen, once again perfect clarity isn’t useful. Clarity is not enough, but it is essential if new and useful ideas are to be communicated.


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