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Notes by RBJ on

A Defence of Common Sense

by G.E.Moore

I. Belief in certain truisms
(1) list of truisms which Moore knows with certainty to be true:
My body has existed continuously on or near the earth, at various distances from or in contact with other existing things, including other living human beings... (lots more)
(2) single truism, also known with certainty:
very many other people know similar things about themselves as the truisms mentioned under (1)
Moore holds these truisms to be wholly true under their usual interpretations.
The distinction is drawn between understanding the meaning of an expression and being able to give a correct analysis of it.
Philosophers who disagree with these view are divided into two groups:
A. Those who hold that no proposition from some of the classes in (2) is wholly true
The following four points are offered in refutation of these philosophers
(a) the denial of the truisms entails the non-existence of philosophers
(b) all philosophers who have denied the truisms have also held other beliefs incompatible with their denial
e.g. by alluding to the existence of other philosophers
(c) some philosophers have held that a contradiction can be derived from the truisms
but this cannot be the case, since they are true
(d) the supposition that these truisms are false is not in itself contradictory, it is simply false (since they are true)
B. Those who hold that no proposition from some of the classes in (2) is known with certainty to be true
II. Independence of Physical Facts from Mental Facts
By way of clarification, there are three different kinds of "mental facts":
(a) Facts which are like: "I am conscious now" and "I am seeing something now" in one of the two following respects:
(alpha) in being the fact that some particular individual was conscious at some particular time
(beta) in being a fact which involves or entails a fact of type (alpha), in the way that seeing something is a specific way of being conscious.
(b) experiences, e.g. the experience of "being conscious now"
Moore doubts that there are such facts, but he admits that experiences, if there were any, would be mental facts.
(c) timeless experiences, e.g. being timelessly conscious
Ditto.
Finally there is a fourth kind of mental fact which asserts of any of the three kinds of mental fact mentioned above that there are mental facts of that kind. A kind of mental metafact.
A.There is no good reason to suppose that every physical fact is logically dependent on some mental fact.
After explaining "logical dependence" the Moore's argument comes down to another bald assertion that the previously mentioned truisms are true (without condition).
B.There is no good reason to suppose that every physical fact is causally dependent on some mental fact.
Because, for example, there is no good reason to suppose that the fact that the earth has existed for many years past is causally dependent on any mental fact.
III. No good reason for belief in God or in an afterlife
IV. Doubt about correctness of analyses of truisms
Moore attempts an analysis in terms of sense data, having some difficulty in pinning down exactly what we know when we experience a sense datum. He considers the following three possibilities:
(1) the sense datum itself is part of the surface of the human hand
(2) there is some relation R such that the surface of the hand has relation R to the sense datum
(3) a set of hypotheticals of the form "if condition then I would perceive a sense datum related to this sense datum in a particular way" (where the condition and the particular relation vary, but the reference to the this sense datum is fixed.)
V. That there are other "selves" is true, but incorrectly analysed


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