Modern Western Philosophy the Philosophy of G. E. Moore for Competitive Exams

Get unlimited access to the best preparation resource for competitive exams : get questions, notes, tests, video lectures and more- for all subjects of your exam.

Philosophy of G. E. Moore

Complete Video at - The Philosophy of G. E. Moore - Modern Western Philosophy (Philosophy)


  • Moore was an analyst and propounded his philosophical ideas in the form of detailed philosophical pieces theorising on a unitary theme or an idea (one single) .
  • The way of doing philosophy according to Moore is to examine and discuss an idea in exclusion from all the other things and avoid mixing up of one idea with another.
  • In other words, he always treated a single idea and not a bunch of ideas together, he analysed a single idea from all possible ways, exhausting it from all directions and all possible angles.
  • This process in philosophy is called analysis, and Moore was an analyst.
  • He wrote a number of literary works in the form of essays and articles but the most important article of his is entitled, ‘Refutation of Idealism’ which appeared in MIND in London, 1903.
  • In his literary works, he critiques the concept of Idealism (specially Berkeley՚s philosophy) .

Complete notes and preparation module at doorsteptutor. com

Refutation of Idealism

  • Moore rejects Idealism.
  • According to Idealism, to be is to be perceived or Esse Est Percipi. This means that the objects in the external world cannot exist without being perceived.
  • Moore advocated that existence of the objects in the world do not depend in any way upon human perception.
  • Moore attacks Idealism and comes up with an effective rebuttal of the proposition, “To be is to be Perceived or Esse Est Percipi,”
  • He does this in his article entitled, “Refutation of Idealism” .
  • Before commencing into Moore՚s refutation of Idealism, it is important to understand the nature of the proposition.
Refutation of Idealism
  • Fundamentally, there are two types of propositions;
  • Analytic Propositions
  • Synthetic Propositions

Analytic Propositions:

  • They are necessary and co-implicative propositions.
  • They are also called tautologies because either they are always true or they are always false, they cannot be sometimes true and sometimes false.
  • For example, Bachelor is an unmarried man. This proposition is analytic- it will always be true in nature.
  • Also, the predicate term unmarried man is contained in the subject term- Bachelor. So, in analytic propositions, the predicate is contained in the subject.
  • It is also important to note that analytic propositions give no new information.
  • In other words, they are simply elucidatory or definitional in nature.
  • They do not refer to any actual state of affairs.
  • Lastly, they are always self-evident in nature.

Synthetic Propositions:

  • They are sometimes true and sometimes false in nature.
  • They are not self-evident and these propositions cannot guarantee their truth.
  • Also, they refer to actual state of affairs and are not definitional in nature.
  • They also give us new information.
  • For example, Cows are Black.
  • Here the predicate term (black) is not contained in the subject term (cows) because it is possible that some cows are also white or brown in colour.
Synthetic Propositions
  • Moore avers,
  • The analysis of the meaning of the term Existence (Esse) does not entail the idea of perception or Percipi
  • A relation is necessary in nature, if and only if its opposite cannot be thought of
  • So, to be is to be perceived is not a self-evident proposition
  • Only analytical propositions are necessary in nature, they are self-evident in nature but they also do not give us any new knowledge. They are sterile.
  • (If, to be is to be Perceived or Esse Est Pericipi is taken to be an analytic proposition then it gives us no new knowledge and it is not about any state of affairs (experience) .
  • (If, if we take it to be synthetic in nature then it is not self-evident and it is contingent in nature)
  • No proposition can be both, analytic and synthetic in nature. This leads to fundamental principle of contradiction
  • A proposition taken to be both, is and is not is wholly unacceptable and is a travesty of facts.
  • Hence, Moore says Idealists commit the mistake of taking two distinct elements as somehow one.

Defence of Common Sense Philosophy

  • Moore proves that the idealist argument, ‘to be is to be perceived’ is not self-evident in nature.
  • So, Moore says, for example, when we are in a garden, we see that the grass is green and the sky is blue. We come to understand that green and blue are not the same, they are different from each other.
  • This distinction is not due to awareness or sensation because the visual mechanism followed is the same in the case when we see the grass and when we see the sky.
  • So, it is important to note that the distinction between the two is due to the difference being in between the green and the blue objects.
  • Hence, from this we follow that there is a disunion between awareness or sensation and the content of awareness or sensation.
  • In other words, according to Moore, our consciousness has two elements;
  • Our consciousness gives rise to awareness
  • The content of consciousness differentiates one awareness form the other one.
  • Idealists failed to comprehend and understand these two distinctions.
  • Moore says, the consciousness and the content of consciousness are two separate things.
  • For example, Moore says, when we see the colour blue, blue does not belong to our consciousness but to the object- sky.
  • Similarly, when we see a red flower, our consciousness does not turn red because the flower is red and not our consciousness is red.
  • Hence, Moore is best known for putting the emphasis on the common sense philosophy.






# Idealism