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In his 1925 paper ‘A Defence of Common Sense’, G. E. Moore set out his ‘Common Sense view of the World’ as a series of ‘truisms’ about himself and the world. Moore then claims (1) that our common-sense truisms are largely true, and (2) that we know that our common-sense truisms are largely true. In his writings Moore defends (1) against philosophers who argue that common sense is no guide to the nature of reality by distinguishing between the ordinary meaning of his common-sense truisms (which is unproblematic) and their analysis (which is often doubtful). He defends (2) against sceptics by arguing that the assessment of claims to knowledge has to respect the framework of deep common-sense beliefs which shape our evidence. This chapter argues that Moore’s defence of (1) is not persuasive but that the defence of (2) includes important contributions to epistemology.
Much has been said about Moore’s proof of the external world, but the notion of proof that Moore employs has been largely overlooked. I suspect that most have either found nothing wrong with it, or they have thought it somehow irrelevant to whether the proof serves its antiskeptical purpose. I show, however, that Moore’s notion of proof is highly problematic. For instance, it trivializes in the sense that any known proposition is provable. This undermines Moore’s proof as he conceives it since it introduces a skeptical regress that he goes at length to resist. I go on to consider various revisions of Moore’s notion of proof and finally settle on one that I think is adequate for Moore’s purposes and faithful to what he says concerning immediate knowledge.
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