Philosophy Based on Common SenseJune 27, 2021
Moore distinguishes a group of propositions that he calls “common sense” propositions. It divides them into two groups. As examples of the propositions in the first group, we can give the following:
Moore has a human body. His body was born a certain time ago and has existed on the earth uninterruptedly since then. It has undergone changes over time. It coexisted with other three-dimensional objects of volume and form at different times and at certain distances. These propositions can also be said for other living human bodies. The world has existed long before my body existed. On it, many human bodies have lived and died. My body has had different kinds of experiences (perceptions of objects and other bodies in my environment). People of different bodies have also had such experiences.
Moore also adds to these propositions the second proposition (or set of propositions): Other people also know from their own experience the propositions that Moore knows about himself and his environment. When the propositions in these two groups are brought together, they form a “common sense world view” (“A Defense of Common Sense”, p.32-45).
Moore articulates these propositions in detail (as we do not translate them word for word here). He does not include some propositions about God and the formation of the universe, no matter how many people believe them. According to Moore, I not only believe these propositions, but also know that they are true with a certain degree of certainty. Rejecting the propositions in question does not involve a contradiction. In this respect, these propositions do not include any obligation. But according to Moore, such common-sense propositions are supposed to begin philosophy. This does not mean that no philosopher has denied them. As a matter of fact, there have been philosophers who rejected these propositions in the history of philosophy. But, according to Moore, their rejection of these propositions renders those philosophers’ own views unacceptable. For example, a philosopher who exhibits a skeptical approach to these propositions and writes books or articles on the subject, says what he says for other people to read and criticize. They state that there are some propositions that others accept as true, but that they doubt them. In this case, in fact, they cannot do what they do without first accepting some ideas that their skeptical approaches reject.
A philosopher who defends the skeptical approach questions some of our pre-philosophical knowledge and stands ready to tell us that we do not know what we claim to know, if we cannot provide him with sufficient evidence. Moore’s point of view at this point is that we are faced with a choice. It is a choice between our pre-philosophical common-sense convictions and a principle of philosophical skepticism, which one to trust more. Moore’s position on this issue is clear. Our trust in our judgments based on common sense can never be compared to our trust in a philosophical principle. For we have no valid reason to think that philosophers have a more reliable type of knowledge that takes precedence over our common-sense knowledge.
Why does Moore put so much emphasis on this point? The philosophical tradition that Moore struggles with and opposes is a kind of idealistic philosophy that questions these common-sense propositions. This is the philosophy that dominated Moore’s time at Cambridge. At least, that’s the way Moore understands this philosophical tradition. Philosophy should not begin by questioning such propositions. Philosophy must explain how we come to know the propositions in question. The first step in doing this is to reveal what we actually know when we claim to know such propositions.
From this point of view, Moore directed the method of philosophical analysis to two subjects, ethics (moral philosophy) and knowledge of the external world.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook