Recent Work on Moore’s Proof

In: International Journal for the Study of Skepticism

Recently, much work has been done on G.E. Moore’s proof of an external world with the aim of diagnosing just where the Proof ‘goes wrong’. In the mainstream literature, the most widely discussed debate on this score stands between those who defend competing accounts of perceptual warrant known as dogmatism (i.e. Pryor and Davies) and conservativism (i.e. Wright). Each account implies a different verdict on Moore’s Proof, though both share a commitment to supposing that an examination of premise-conclusion dependence relations will sufficiently reveal what’s wrong with the Proof. Parallel to this debate on Moore stands perhaps an equally interesting (though less discussed) debate within which the Proof is critiqued as it stands in the context of the skeptical debate. On this score, Michael Fara and Ernest Sosa have weighed in with a markedly different take on Moore’s anti-skeptical ambitions and on the nature of skeptical challenges more generally. The aim of this paper will be to critically evaluate these two very distinct strands of recent work on Moore’s Proof. Part I of the paper will focus on the mainstream debate, and in Part II of the paper, I’ll focus on the parallel debate about skepticism. My critical discussion will be aimed throughout at showing how the various proposals I’ve taken as representative of these two parallel debates surrounding Moore’s Proof ultimately fall short—each for different reasons—of what a satisfactory diagnosis of the Proof would require.

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  • 7

    Beebee (2000) has raised a similar criticism.

  • 12

     See Pryor (2004) 368–70.

  • 13

    I paraphrase from Pryor (2004) and Neta (2008).

  • 14

     See Wright (2007) for a detailed discussion of conservatism.

  • 16

    Neta (2008) notes this point.

  • 17

     See Neta (2008).

  • 24

     See Neta (2008) 29–33. Just as a point of curiosity the infallibilist account of justification that Neta reads Moore as offering borrows from passages of Moore in which Moore speaks of justification in a radically strong way stronger than some contemporary accounts of knowledge. I think it would be helpful to understand clearly how it is that Moore takes knowledge to differ from justification if at all.

  • 29

     See Moore (1959).

  • 35

     See Sosa (2007) and (2009) for a comprehensive defense of this distinction in the theory of knowledge.

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