Date of Award
Dissertation - Restricted
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Thomas L. Prendergast
Marc J. Grisback
In a review published in Vol. XVIII, No. I of Philosophical Books (January, 1977), Jenny Teichman remarks that, as most philosophy books are non-original, it is probably a good idea, now and again, to remind readers of the fact. Of dissertations I suspect that her statement is true with interest. Even so, it is still only the foolhardy or the naïve and pure of heart who will ask, "Then why write them?" I mention Teichman's observation here so as to be able to place this present dissertation with its fellows. But while only rarely will a book be original, and perhaps even less often a dissertation, this state of affairs need not preclude novelty on a more modest scale. At any rate, whatever may be the claims or disclaims to innovation by an author, it is the reader who, in the final analysis, will judge a work a legitimate pretender to innovation (large or small) and also judge the value of the new step.
I have given this study its present title because it seems to me that the question of the extent to which the analytical work of G.E. Moore is consistent. with the disposition to realism inherent in his famous defense ~ common sense is an important one in Moore's philosophy and perhaps, a question that has received less critical attention than it might have. In addressing that question here I have tried to show that, while Moore's insistence upon the literal truth of certain "views of common sense" does indeed commit him to a realist framework in metaphysical matters, this framework is flexible and allows for considerable, sometimes possibly surprising, freedom in deciding matters of detail. For instance, Moore's tendency, late in his career, to favor a phenomenalist analysis of material-object propositions forcefully compels us to ask the question of just how much a defense of common sense in philosophy commits the defender to. A similar question arises in regard to Moore's treatment of philosophical puzzles associated with the topic of 'abstract entities.'
I will argue that, while Moore's work on metaphysical issues can, when collected, be termed 'realist' his concern was never with the correctness of realism as a system of thought, but rather with the soundness of individual arguments. In this kind of attention to the "small print" of philosophical arguments and in his recognition of the many questions of detail which have to be settled before a general position, whether realism or idealism or a third view, can be said to be either set forth or upheld, lies much of Moore's greatness as a philosopher.
And, if there is an element of truth in the suggestion that Moore tended betimes not to see woods for trees, at least he never tended not to see trees for woods. And surely the latter is much the greater philosophical failing.