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Thesis (M.A.)—University of Nebraska—Lincoln, 1966. Department of Philosophy.


Copyright 1966, the author. Used by permission.


The aim of this thesis is purposely limited.It is not to give an account of G. E. Moore’s philosophic practice but instead, my aim is to show that Professor Norman Malcolm’s conception of what he calls Moore’s ‘defense of Common Sense,’ can not be successful in illuminating this particular feature of Moore’s philosophic practice. I shall not argue that Malcolm’s conception of this feature is unsuccessful on the grounds that it conflicts with Moore’s own explanation of his ‘Common Sense’ doctrine.Malcolm has explicitly stated: “It must not be assumed that Professor Moore would agree with my interpretation…” In fact, Moore rejected the very premises upon which Malcolm’s conception (or interpretation) is based. Malcolm’s claim, however, is that if Moore’s ‘defense of Common Sense’ is to have relevance to philosophy , it can not be conceived as Moore himself conceived it.It must rather be conceived in terms of Malcolm’s account of it.Put differently, then, my aim in this thesis is to show that on the contrary, if Moore’s so-called ‘defense of Common Sense’ is relevant to philosophy, its relevance can not be accounted for on Malcolm’s interpretation.

It is not at all clear to me what precisely Moore was doing when he was defending the so-called ‘views of Common Sense.’Nor is it at all clear to me what exactly Moore’s philosophical opponents are doing either.This much can, I think, be said. Philosophers who have wished to deny, e.g, the existence or reality of material things or, that we ever do perceive material things, do not appear to be urging views which entail a direct confliction with either common sense or the facts of ordinary language.This is not to say, of course, that such philosophers are, on the other hand, expressing views consistent with, e.g., the ordinary use of language.Since, as I have maintained, the philosopher’s words seem to resist both Moore’s and Malcolm’s translations, the impression I am left with is that such philosophers have somewhere early in their reasoning, performed (to use Professor Lazerowitz’s expression) a ‘linguistic alteration’ with certain ordinary concepts.Hence, it is questionable as to whether it makes sense to speak of refuting their philosophical views.

At any rate, all that I have attempted to show in this thesis is that if Moore’s ‘defense of Common Sense’ is to be an interesting and tenable philosophical position, it can not be, at least on Professor Malcolm’s premises, a defense of ordinary language.

Advisor: Robert E. Dewey