George Edward Moore, OM
1873-1959. Classic; Professor of Philosophy; Lecturer in Moral Sciences.
Moore (who disliked his first names and was usually called 'Moore', except by his wife who called him Bill) was the son of Baptists. He was educated at Dulwich College and won a scholarship to Trinity to study Classics and and then Philosophy (Moral Sciences), for which he had acquired a taste through fellow Trinity members of the Apostles, particularly Bertrand Russell and J.M.E. McTaggart. Russell later wrote concerning his time as a student at Trinity:
In my third year I met G.E. Moore, who was then a freshman, and for some years he fulfilled my ideal of genius. He was in those days beautiful and slim, with a look almost of inspiration, and with an intellect as deeply passionate as Spinoza's.
He was a student of Henry Sidgwick. In 1898 he won a five-year prize fellowship with a dissertation propounding a programme of conceptual analysis - maintaining that ‘A thing becomes intelligible first when it is analysed into its constituent concepts’ - which can be seen as the starting point of the Cambridge school of analytical philosophy. During the period of his fellowship he wrote his most famous book, the Principia ethica (1903), as well as several papers criticising idealist metaphysics. He also developed friendships with several members of the nascent Bloomsbury group - before it became associated with Bloomsbury.
After leaving Cambridge without a job he wrote Ethics (1912). In 1911 he was appointed to a University Lectureship in Moral Sciences at Cambridge, though he needed to draw on his private income until 1925, when he was appointed Professor of Mental Pphilosophy and Logic and elected to a fellowship at Trinity . Moore then stayed on in Cambridge throughout his academic career, and indeed for almost all the rest of his life. Wittgenstein attended his lectures, and acknowledged Moore's influence on his thinking. In his later writings Moore seeks to show how we can accommodate the existence of illusory appearances and false beliefs within a non-illusory world which does not include objective falsehoods. Another central concern is with the issues raised by sceptical arguments: Moore maintains that scepticism is an absurd doctrine, but recognizes that he has to demonstrate that there are mistakes in sceptical arguments. His overriding concern was for absolute clarity.
Another who attended his lectures was I.A. Richards, who wrote
He was interested in the problem in hand: more interested in it than, I think, I have ever seen anyone interested in anything … He could take a single sentence from James Ward's Encyclopaedia Britannica article on psychology and stay with it for three weeks … underlining the key words perhaps seventy times, gown flying, chalk dust rising in clouds, his intonations coruscating with apostrophes, and come out by the same door as in he went, looking up to heaven and shaking his head in despair.
Moore was buried in St Giles's cemetery. His son Nicholas wrote this epitaph for him:
Here lies the great philosopher
Who did not like the world to err,
Who did not err himself, but died
Forever not quite satisfied
That he was not a silly, though
His wise friends never thought him so.
GEORGE EDWARD MOORE O.M.
collegii socius et philsophiae professor qui studiis graecis et latinis adulescens imbutus mox philosophiae ita se dedidit ut acumine mentis hanc disciplinam paene renovaverit. vir modestia comitate lepore insignis, omnium reverentiam amorem sodalium unice adeptus, anno aetatis quinto et octogesimo mortem obiit A.D.IX kal.Nov. A.S.MCMLVIII.
|George Edward Moore, O.M., was a Fellow of the College and Professor of Philosophy. In his youth thoroughly trained in the Classics, he then devoted himself to philosophy to such effect that with his keen intellect he virtually set up the discipline anew. He was remarkable for his modesty, pleasantness and wit. He gained the respectful love of all his colleagues to an unusual degree. He died on 24th October 1958 at the age of eighty-five.|
George Edward Moore
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