10/6 Moore

In this week’s reading “Certainty” by Moore, Moore touches on many philosophy questions, such as the nature of dreams, certainty, and sensory perception. I would like to comment on the points of his argument where he claims that an opposite claim from his is no better than his claim. For example, he claims that his argument “I know that I am standing up, and therefore I know that I am not dreaming” and “You don’t know that you are not dreaming, and therefore don’t know that you are standing up” are equally valid claims (Moore 364).It seems that only one of the two claims can be true, since Moore can either know or not know that he is standing, and Moore can be dreaming or not dreaming. The binomial statuses of standing, dreaming, and knowing ensure that these two claims are mutually exclusive. Moore’s argument can be written like this

  1. If I don’t know that I am not dreaming, then I don’t know that I am standing up.
  2. I know that I am standing up.
  3. ______________________________________________
  4. .: I know that I am not dreaming.

While this is formally valid argument Moore does not discuss how he know that he is standing up. Since this is not discussed he is unable to create the sort of “certainty” that the article suggests.

I feel that the lack of certainty and doubt about these claims touches on a point similar to one that  Descartes raised “there may be reasons which are strong enough to compel us to doubt, even though these reasons are themselves doubtful, and hence are not to be retained later on” (Oeuvres de Descartes, Adam, Charles, and Paul Tannery, (eds.) 1904. Paris: J. Vrin 7:473–74). If a skeptical argument relies on the universality of doubt and the doubt itself is doubtful, then the original arguments have little foundation to rely on. If you have reasons to believe a claim, such as “I am standing”, but only doubtful reasons to believe the contrary, then perhaps it make sense to believe the original claim despite the lack of “certainty”. Unless we can create a certain universal rule on how we can acquire knowledge, we will have a hard time disproving a skeptical hypothesis, since we may be simply deceived in what we actually know.

Also the conclusion of this claim seems to go against intuition. The first claim makes “knowing that he is standing” and “knowing that he is dreaming” mutually exclusive. However this doesn’t seem to always be the case. Moore discusses a situation in which a duke dreamt that he was standing up talking in the house of lords, and then woke up and was talking in the house of lords (Moore 362). In this situation, the duke is both standing up and dreaming. If this Duke were then given all the knowledge of his situation by any means whether it is divine intervention or deep contemplation, would it not follow that he would both know that “he is standing” and that “he is dreaming”? Why then is Moore’s knowledge that he is standing strong enough to cause entailment in his claim “I know that I am standing up, and therefore I know that I am not dreaming”?



2 thoughts on “10/6 Moore

  1. I would like to elaborate on the part about the lack of certainty that Moore seems to be presenting. Since much of what Moore is saying seems to not have a verified foundation, I feel as if much of his argument is formed on the basis of assumption, and is therefore not completely correct. For instance, how can Moore be so sure that he is, in fact, standing, as opposed to sitting? As most components of theories we have studied thus far have been open to questions as such, I would like to extend this on to Moore’s argument as well. Essentially, this lack of certainty is what really throws me off about all of Moore’s argument. This circles back to the point made above in Eric’s post, that if the doubt itself is doubtful, then the original arguments have little foundation to rely on. That being said, if the basis of Moore’s argument isn’t fully doubt-free, then the points contingent on it aren’t either.

    1. I agree with you, Mayuri, but at the same time isn’t that what Moore is trying to prove? Because, as you and Eric both state, the doubt itself is doubtful there is no way to know whether our experiences are dreams or not or whether we are standing or sitting or dreaming. The argument is based upon the fact that its facets are relying on doubt and I think that is the point Moore is trying to make and realization he is trying to elicit: that you can’t know both if you are dreaming or if you are not. At least, this is how I took his argument – in a way that was based upon the fact that certainty is unavailable with the “knowledge” that we do have.

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