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Moore, George Edward (1873–1958)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD046-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

G.E. Moore was one of the most influential British philosophers of the twentieth century. His early writings are renowned for his rejection of idealist metaphysics and his insistence upon the irreducibility of ethical values, and his later work is equally famous for his defence of common sense and his conception of philosophical analysis. He spent most of his career in Cambridge, where he was a friend and colleague of Russell, Ramsey and Wittgenstein.

The best-known thesis of Moore’s early treatise on ethics,Principia Ethica (1903), is that there is a fallacy – the ‘naturalistic fallacy’ – in almost all previous ethical theories. The fallacy is supposed to arise from any attempt to provide a definition of ethical values. The validity of Moore’s arguments is much disputed, but many philosophers still hold that Moore was right to reject the possibility of a reductive definition of ethical values. The book is also renowned for Moore’s affirmation of the pre-eminence of the values of Art and Love.

Moore’s later writings concern the nature of the external world and the extent of our knowledge of it. In opposition to idealist doubts about its reality and sceptical doubts concerning our knowledge of it, Moore defends ‘common sense’ by emphasizing the depth of our commitment to our familiar beliefs and criticizing the arguments of those who question them. But although he insists upon the truth of our familiar beliefs, he is remarkably open-minded concerning their ‘analysis’, which is intended to clarify the facts in which their truth consists.

Citing this article:
Baldwin, Thomas. Moore, George Edward (1873–1958), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD046-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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