Moore, George Edward

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Moore, George Edward,

1873–1958, English philosopher, b. Upper Norwood. He was educated at Cambridge, where he was a fellow (1898–1904) and then a lecturer (1911–25) in the department of moral sciences. He was professor of philosophy from 1925 until his retirement in 1939 as professor emeritus. He edited (1921–47) the journal Mind and was also visiting professor at various universities in the United States from 1940 to 1944. Moore's earliest writings were strongly influenced by the idealism of F. H. Bradley and the transcendental epistemology of Immanuel Kant, and ranged from idealism to realism. After 1903, however, with the publication of Principia Ethica and "The Refutation of Idealism," he became more interested in critical epistemology, i.e., in distinguishing between acts of consciousness and their possible objects, and between the ways in which we can be said to know and the things we can know. In Principia Ethica he argued that to define the concept of the good in terms of other concepts would involve the "naturalistic fallacy"—i.e., the fallacy of identifying the good with some physical or psychological quality such as pleasure or self-realization. The book was influential among members of the Bloomsbury groupBloomsbury group,
name given to the literary group that made the Bloomsbury area of London the center of its activities from 1904 to World War II. It included Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf, E. M.
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. Along with Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein he was concerned with the philosophical problems caused by the imprecisions of ordinary language, but he did not consider linguistic analysis the main interest of philosophy. He was also concerned with the distinction between a "sense datum" and a material thing, although he never defined the distinction to his own satisfaction. He defended common sense as a limited but not inadmissible criterion for certainty. Although Moore's philosophy provides no systematic doctrine, and indeed progresses toward fragmented and inconclusive investigations (he himself admitted he had not been "a good answerer of philosophical questions"), he provided closely reasoned investigations of questions important to modern philosophy, and added to an atmosphere of inquiry by his capacity to deal freshly with problems, always placing truth before consistency or the desire for an answer. His other writings include Ethics (1912), Philosophical Studies (1922), Some Main Problems of Philosophy (1953), and Commonplace Book, 1919–53 (ed. by Casimir Lewey, 1962). Moore's autobiography and "A Reply to My Critics" appear in The Philosophy of G. E. Moore (ed. by P. A. Schilpp, 3d ed. 1968).


See A. Ambrose, ed., G. E. Moore: Essays in Retrospect (1970); A. J. Ayer, Russell and Moore: The Analytical Heritage (1971).

Moore, George Edward


Born Nov. 4, 1873, in London; died Oct. 24, 1958, in Cambridge. British idealist philosopher. Professor at Cambridge University (1925–39) and fellow of the British Academy. Editor of the philosophical journal Mind (1921–47).

In his article “The Refutation of Idealism” (1903), Moore criticized subjective idealism and British neo-Hegelianism, which, in his view, equated reality with experience. He gave an analysis of sensations, which led to his foundation of neorealism. According to Moore, sensations comprise two elements, namely, consciousness, which unifies sensations, and the object, which differentiates sensations from each other. Adopting the Scottish common sense school’s positions, Moore deemed it necessary to recognize the existence of an object as independent of consciousness; however, common sense did not rule out the possibility of believing in the spiritual nature of existence or in the next world. The concept of the object in Moore’s philosophy has a dual character: it is both a physical thing and a neutral—as posited by the Austrian philosopher and physicist E. Mach—sense datum, which is a part of the external manifestations of physical things. Moore regarded consciousness as a particular activity of the subject, consisting in the direct apprehension of sense data. When they enter consciousness, sense data take on a mental or ideal character; when they leave a cognitive relationship, they take on a material character. Thus, in Moore’s philosophy, material things per se are practically inaccessible to cognition. Moore devoted much attention to the analysis of ordinary language; his ideas later became the basis for linguistic philosophy.

In ethics, Moore held intuitionistic views. He contended that preceding philosophers had committed a “naturalistic fallacy” in identifying good with some other object or quality; for example, the utilitarians identified good with usefulness, while the hedonists identified it with pleasure. From Moore’s point of view, good is an independent quality of existence that is perceived intuitively and does not lend itself to any definition; man’s duty is to follow this intuitively perceived good.


Principia ethica. Cambridge, 1903.
Ethics. London, 1912.
Philosophical Studies. London, 1920.
Some Main Problems of Philosophy. London-New York, 1958.
Philosophical Papers. London-New York, 1959.


Bogomolov, A. S. Filosofiia anglo-amerikanskogo neorealizma. Moscow, 1962.
Hill, T. E. Sovremennye teorii poznaniia. Moscow, 1965. Chapter 6. (Translated from English.)
The Philosophy of G. E. Moore. Edited by P. A. Schilpp. Evanston-Chicago, 1942.
White, A. R. C. E. Moore: A Critical Exposition. Oxford, 1958.


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