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Tony Marmo

I think there is a little bit of psychology involved.

In other post in my blog I have already talked about the discussion of premises. It is difficult to make people discuss premises. For instance, if you ask people who will be the next President of the US, Arnold Schwarzenegger
or Jim Carrey, you may often get one of the alternatives as an answer, if the persons you talk to are unaware that it is a test (and/or are not sufficiently informed). In other words, the sentence
(S)Either Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jim Carrey will be the next President of the US
may be accepted, in spite of the premises for the (S):
(S) Neither Arnold Schwarzenegger nor Jim Carrey will/ may be the next President of the US.
(Premise) Only natural born US citizens are eligible to the Office of President.

Arnold's ardurous fans, particularly, are eager to accept (S) or a version of it as a true prediction regardless to whether the Premise for (S) holds.

I agree that this pattern of thought is not very rational, but it is a common pattern.

Daniel Nolan

I can't see how accepting "quasi-Moorean" situations but not accepting Moorean ones can be coherent. Take some situation S that is quasi-Moorean for you, and take the disjunction of the propositions that are the members of S. That disjunction had better be a Moorean fact for you (or alternatively, its unit set had better be a Moorean situation for you.) Indeed, there will be many stronger Moorean situations: various disjunctions of conjunctions, such that they are true if most of the members of S are true.

This might look like nitpicking - to an extent it is - but remember that whether something looks like a messy disjunction or a unitary claim is rather notation-dependent. In general, I suspect, when you have a not-particularly-artificial quasi-Moorean situation, there'll be considerably logically weaker but Moorean propositions lurking nearby. Of course they might not be a strong as Moore or some others wanted them to be, but maybe that also depends on temprament. I'm not sure I could be argued out of my belief that I have hands, without serious medical intervention on my brain or hands or both. Such epistemic stubbornness isn't necessarily a virtue, but it's not clear to me that it's a mistake.


Hi Dan,

Thanks for the comments. You are, of course, right. I was trying to be too clever for my own good! :)The thing about disjunctive Moorean facts (as you note) is that they may well be very weak, weaker than Moore might've wanted for his epistemological purposes. What I had wanted to do with these disjunctive Moorean facts (as I will now call them), however, was to follow up with a claim that one might nevertheless be able to get some good metaphysical mileage out of the them. In particular, I wanted to say something about why philosophy of language/philosophical semantics was such a useful tool in metaphysics by arguing that it is pitched at an appropriately abstract level that it captures certain general features of reality regardless of whether or not we are certain of such things as the existence of our own hands. The idea was that disjunctive Moorean facts plus philosophical semantics yields substantive metaphysical results. Unfortunately, I haven't had the time to think the thought through any further--so maybe it isn't worth the effort...

Rad Geek

This is interesting stuff, and I think that the shift from taking Moorean facts, as it were, one at a time, to looking at "Moorean situations," may very well be an extremely fruitful one. (In particular, I think it may help a great deal in thinking about the twist on Moore that you get in On Certainty.) But I'm a bit puzzled by the way you try to motivate backing off from Moorean situations to the (intentionally) epistemically much weaker "quasi-Moorean situations." It seems that you are trying to do this motivational work at the beginning, when you say:

'A Moorean fact, roughly, is any proposition of which I am more certain than the premises of any argument to the contrary (I ignore for simplicty the implicit category error). So construed, I suppose I don't believe that there are any Moorean facts; there just are no individual propositions (or at least very, very few) that I am willing to hold onto "come what may".'

Now, as Moore himself might say, so far as this is intended as an arbitrary verbal definition of the phrase "Moorean fact," I have no quarrel with it. But if you are intending to provide an interpretation of Moore, I think you've got something importantly wrong; and it seems to me that what you've gotten wrong is important, since it points to a possibility that you seem to have neglected in this post.

Specifically, Moore does not hold that deliverances of Common Sense -- such as "Here is one hand," "I ate my breakfast before I ate my lunch," "there are many other people like myself who know that they have hands and that they ate their breakfast before they ate their lunch," et cetera -- are irrefutable, or that we must hold on to them "come what may." On the contrary, he is quite clear (see, for example, "What Is Philosophy?" in Some Main Problems of Philosophy) that Common Sense propositions can be, and have in the past actually been, refuted by careful empirical investigation (exploration in a literal sense, astronomy, physics, etc.). But empirical investigation and philosophical analysis are notoriously not the same thing; and what Moore does argue is that "Moorean propositions" are more certain than any purely philosophical that might contradict them. The idea here is not that there can't ever be reasons to (say) decide that you don't have a hand in front of your face after all; it's that the reasons you have had better be better than your "metaphysical intuitions." (For some provocative discussion on this and related points, see Bill Lycan's Moore Against the New Skeptics.)

But if we take "Moorean situations" to mean what Moore means by it, rather than the way that you glossed it here -- that is, not as stuff we oughtn't ever abandon on any grounds, but rather stuff we oughn't abandon on purely philosophical grounds -- then I'm much less clear on why I should want to retreat from full-blown Moorean situations to "quasi-Moorean" situations as an epistemic tool. Why not hold out for all the constituent propositions in the situation rather than a good many, when all that you have to stare down to stick to all of them is a bunch of "metaphysical intuitions"? I think there are many situations that I'd be willing to trash any purely philosophical premises in order to hold on to; for example, exactly the situations that Moore describes in "Proof of an External World," "The Defence of Common Sense," "Four Types of Scepticism," etc.


RG, I suppose that you are right about my mischaracterization of Moore. Nonetheless, I am not inclined to dismiss "metaphysical intuitions" lightly. For instance, I am not highly confident, much less certain, that there is no philosophical defense of the following pair of theses: (1) Idealism is true, (2) Phenomenological reductionism is false. But, of course, it would follow from the conjunction of (1) and (2) that I have no hands. Now if Moore is understood to be peddling a categorical rejection that such a defense is possible, then I think that is a signficant philosophical error. On the other hand, if he is merely saying that the weight of philosophical/scientific evidence doesn't currently support (1) and (2), then, while I agree with his assessment, it hardly supports the strong epistemological conclusions.

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agreed with you marc, so many times that I see this, I see the same result for that reason you have to see both side of the question, without leave any detail.

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They are used that way. I wonder when will it change.

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