what is “certainty”?

G.E. Moore is evaluating the claim of certainty, and specifically, if you are able to know if you are standing up. Throughout the reading he takes both approaches to this claim and examines it from both sides. He ultimately reaches the conclusion that either argument is just as valid and sound as the other if both people arguing bring ample evidence to support their claim. This is the first philosopher we have read where he says that both arguments are equal and one does not contradict the other. However at the end he acknowledges the possibility that he could have been dreaming while writing this and thus he does not know if he is dreaming or not. This seems to undermine his support up to this point.

Another person references this by saying, “Notoriously, by the end of ‘Certainty’ Moore acknowledges defeat: having agreed that if he does not know that he is not dreaming, then he does not know such things as that he is standing up and talking, he accepts (with reservations) that he cannot know for certain that he is not dreaming.” I was taken back at the abruptness of his last statement as well. He seemed to have logically came to the conclusion that the argument can be supported either way, but then he says he does not know if he is dreaming while writing this and thus proving the claim you cannot know if you are dreaming or not.

The way Moore ended it left me wondering why he just brought up this point and left it. What exactly did he want the reader to take from this? Why would he waste his time trying to prove a point and at the end give support to one of the arguments and not the other? He seems to pose this final point at the end to show that there will always be a way to pose the question if you are in a dream or not. I believe this is the case when he says it is “logically” possible. From our discussions in class, this is one of the easiest claims to fulfill. It does not have to withhold much to be logically possible. He uses the word logically here to say that logically it is possible, but I feel he would also say it is logically possible to not know if you are if dreams have the same sensory experience if you do not know you are in a dream. I believe he just uses the last claim to say that either argument can be valid.

He is following Desecrates in the way that he is withholding judgment on the matter if you are able to tell if you are standing up because there is evidence for both sides and both sides have valid points. Thus he does not stand by one argument and try to use the one argument to contradict the other. He tries to show that both arguments are able to contradict each other and thus both of these have the same validity. In my opinion, Moore seems to be on to some new way to approach skeptical arguments. Before the skeptic would say that you are unable to know if you are dreaming and the other person would say that they obviously know they aren’t dreaming, now Moore shows that both sides are able to contradict the other one. He then tries to find a new way to look at skepticism and new way to validate or deny the claim that you are certain that you are standing.



Baldwin, Tom. “George Edward Moore.” Stanford University. Stanford University, 26 Mar. 2004. Web. 05 Oct. 2014.

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