A Proposed Alternative to Dismantling Religion
The Nuts (ihobo)

Moore's Paradox and the Belief in False Things

GEMoore It is alleged that after G.E. Moore gave the lecture in which his now-famous paradox was first formulated, Wittgenstein rushed around to Moore's quarters (for the two were at Cambridge together under the tutelage of Bertrand Russell) and insisted he repeat it in full. Whether or not this is true, Moore's paradox has become cemented into the philosophical literature by Wittgenstein's interest, as Philosophical Investigations invests a page or so to its consideration.

The heart of the paradox is simple, and rests on what is termed Moore's sentences, which have the logical form 'P and I do not believe P' (or 'P and I believe not-P'). The most commonly cited example is “It is raining but I do not believe it is”. At the heart of this is claimed to be a contradiction – we can say “it is raining” and “I do not believe it is raining” but not both at the same time. Yet curiously, we can make the same claim in the third person (“it is raining but she does not believe it is”) or in the past tense (“it was raining but I did not believe it was”) without any problem at all. What is going on?

This philosophical oddity has special meaning for me. When I was pursuing my Masters degree, I took a unit on introduction to philosophy led by a computer scientist with the unfortunate name of Pratt. This was the first and only formal course of philosophy I took, as thereafter I took to studying philosophy independently. At one point during a particular lecture, I believe discussing some aspect of Bertrand Russell's views of logic, Pratt remarked that it was not possible to believe things that were false. I spoke up and replied that it was perfectly possible, and indeed I did believe some things that were false, to which Pratt replied flatly “no you don't” and continued with the lecture. I was rather exasperated by this turn of events, and did not attend any more of his lectures.

Imagine my surprise when reading Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations earlier this year I found that Wittgenstein supported Pratt's view! He writes: “If there were a verb meaning ‘to believe falsely’, it would not have any significant first person present indicative... “I believe . . . ., and it isn’t so” would be a contradiction.” That said, I'd like to think that had Wittgenstein been my teacher he would at least have had the decency to ask me why I professed to believe in false things, since anyone who claims to be practising philosophy but is not interested in the peculiar oddities that people express therein is a meagre sort of philosopher indeed. (As to examples of false things that I believe, I will get to this in due course).

Moore's paradox rests on the sense that there is a contradiction between asserting a fact (“it is raining”) and believing the converse (“it is not raining”), and this intuition arguably hinges on the understanding of knowledge as justified true belief which originates with Plato. The contradiction in a Moore's sentence is evident if one takes knowledge to be justified true belief – that is, something you believe constitutes knowledge if it is true, and you have a legitimate justification for its truth. But I contend that Plato's model does not reliably describe how we get to a state of knowledge, nor what that state entails. I claim it is perfectly possible for us to believe in a proposition that is false (i.e. 'not P and I believe P' or the equivalent) – and when we dismiss this possibility it is because of our beliefs about what constitute both knowledge and belief.

Philosophers considering Moore's paradox routinely take knowledge as corresponding to objective states and belief to entail a striving towards those states, that is that belief is always an attempt at knowledge. Plato sets up this possibility by saying that for something to be knowledge it must be true and the means that we determine it is true must be correct. Yet it is a virtual impossibility to confirm one's beliefs against objective reality (since we never directly experience this), and equally impossible to verify one's methods of justification (and for similar reasons). In Plato's allegory of the cave, he never seems to seriously consider that after leaving the cave one might still be ill-equipped to establish truth with any confidence.

What we consider knowledge can rarely if ever be ratified by a procedure akin to Plato's; rather, we tend to grant information the status of knowledge either by virtue of its usefulness or by the (often tentative) elimination of competing claims. Thus Newtonian mechanics, while strictly false (Einstein having supplanted them with a more accurate system) are still knowledge in the sense that they are still useful (in engineering, for instance), while “Elvis is dead” is knowledge by virtue of the existence of evidence in support of the claim, and the dearth of credible evidence to the contrary. The latter could cease to be knowledge tomorrow if a 74-year old Elvis were to come out of hiding, but until such an event it comfortably qualifies as knowledge whether or not it is objectively true.

This sheds light on why Moore's sentences feel paradoxical, but not on why I can believe false things; for this, we may need some examples. Consider, as a simple case, that I believe in the fundamental goodness of human beings while knowing that this belief is objectively false, or at least, unverifiable. Since empiricists routinely equate unverifiable with false (e.g. if I cannot verify it is raining, it is not raining), the disconnect felt in Moore's paradox creeps in, but it need not. As another example, I can go to a meeting believing that I am perfectly prepared for every eventuality when pragmatically I simply could not be – I still choose to believe in my preparedness (even though I know it is false) because it helps me act confidently in the meeting to do so. This is similar to the case of the batter who believes he is going to hit a home run for certain, whilst knowing (deep down) that it is far from certain he will do so; the false belief has utility, and this outstrips logical necessity in everyday life.

Beliefs do not necessarily constitute truth claims – this is merely an assumed foundation placing objective knowledge as the goal of belief. Beliefs, in practice, may reflect personal aesthetics, moral choices or other subjective criteria. Consider, as another kind of example, that an emotivist such as Ayer or Stevenson will treat moral principles as expressions of approval or disapproval, rather than as logical propositions. An emotivist may say “rape is wrong” while denying “rape is wrong” is genuinely true. This risks inconsistency, a critic might allege, given the usual practice of speaking of truth whereby if rape is wrong then “rape is wrong” is a true proposition. But one can hardly claim that this particular practice in logic is a necessity rather than just a habit, and as such it need not be followed. Thus the emotivist can believe “rape is wrong” while knowing that “rape is wrong” is objectively a false proposition (or at least, cannot be asserted as true).

The conclusion that this leads to is that the sense of paradox in Moore's sentences comes from our unwillingness to admit of ourselves that we believe false things – our pride, you might say, conditions us into wanting to be right at all times, and although we are content to admit we were in error some time before (the past tense case), or that other people are in error (the third person case) we are not generally prepared to admit that we are wrong now. If we are wrong now, we presume we correct our mistake immediately and instantaneously and thus we must be correct at all times in the present moment. And this despite the fact that we are frequently wrong, and sometimes we even know that we are wrong, as I know I am wrong when I choose to believe in the fundamental goodness of humanity but, frankly, do not care, because it helps me (to be happy, to act positively towards others) to believe in this false thing.

As Nietzsche observes in The Gay Science, both truth and untruth have constantly proved to be useful – it is only a metaphysical commitment to the primacy of the true, a dogmatic “will to truth”, which causes us to deny the value of false things, and he tracks this stance justifiably back to Plato. Personally, I place no restriction on myself as to whether the things I believe must be true, and thus (perhaps) free myself from Moore's paradox. I frequently find it useful to believe in things which, through pragmatic eyes, I know to be false. I see no problem with this. In fact, I find it a constant source of blessings.


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Would belief in God fall into the category of things you believe although they are false? Belief in God being undeniably useful for some purposes?

When Pratt told you that you were wrong, wasn't he setting himself up for a paradox?

You said it was possible to believe something that was false.
He said you were wrong.
Therefore, you were believing something that was false.
Therefore, you were right.
Therefore, he was wrong.
Therefore, he was right.



Richard: *chortle* Infinite regress is always amusing. :) Didn't know you read my humble ramblings; great to have you drop by!

Theo: I wondered if this question would be raised. :)

Well, on an empiricist account, God is clearly unverifiable (except on a phenomenological account) and so God "is false" by the principle of bivalence, but that certainly shouldn't discount belief in God for anyone willing to pursue a faith tradition. Indeed, Christianity has made it its business to stress the importance of faith in its practice.

In this regard, Kant makes it clear that he precludes any claims to considering God as an object of the domain of knowledge, but he still offers a "proof" of God - not as a theoretical proof, but as a "propaedeutic to theology" (i.e. a stepping point into theological thinking). I'll have more on this point in January.

But speaking just for myself, I tend to accept the phenomenological account of God as valid so I don't necessarily consider God to be a "false thing"... (If you start kicking the wheels of phenomenological experiences you'll have bigger problems than the logical status of God, as you will start to suspect that *you* are a false proposition!)

Even if you did consider God to be a false proposition, you could concede the usefulness of God as a counterargument to the claim that as a false thing God should be eliminated from culture. I don't suppose this kind of argument will wash with the New Atheist movement, but perhaps it will have merit among the agnostics. ;)

Best wishes!

"Theo: I wondered if this question would be raised. :)" Happy to oblige!

"If you start kicking the wheels of phenomenological experiences ... you will start to suspect that *you* are a false proposition!" Wonderful! I like that.

I've been mulling over Moore's paradox and Pratt's assertion. I think I must be missing something. As far as I can see the form of Pratt's assertion is wrong - if he says you cannot believe in something false that implies that everything you believe is correct. Wouldn't it be more accurate to say you do not believe anything that you know to be false? And wouldn't that be correct? To believe something is to believe that it is true. Or have I misunderstood?

I am troubled by the outright rejection of truth as merely an expression of will-to-power, for the following reason. Grace Jantzen, a feminist theologian whom in many ways I admire, also rejected 'truth' and 'evidence', and used habitually to ask her students, "whom does this thinking benefit?" While this is an important and often neglected question, it is not all-important. When I turned the tables on Jantzen (inside my own head) to ask whom her thinking benefited, the most obvious answer that came to mind was George Bush's administration. I actually heard one of Bush's bozos responding to the questionable evidence for WMD's by saying there is no such thing as reality. This comes down to something Orwell said more than once. In politics, you have to assume there is a reality that exists independently of us, against which you can check the claims of governments and political movements. Otherwise, the truth is whatever those with power say it is. Pinter said much the same in his Nobel speech.

Or have I got the wrong end of the stick here? Or the wrong stick entirely?

Theo: thanks for continuing this discussion!

"Wouldn't it be more accurate to say you do not believe anything that you know to be false? And wouldn't that be correct? To believe something is to believe that it is true. Or have I misunderstood?"

This is precisely the claim that Moore's Paradox rests upon, and it is this claim that I reject. I claim one can know something is false and still believe it, although to do so one has to apply 'believe' and 'know' in different contexts. It is the attempt to apply them in the same context that creates the logical disconnect (coupled with the assumption that they must be applied in the same context).

So for instance, I give the example that I believe in the fundamental goodness of human beings. But when I say I believe this, I do not mean "I believe this is a true proposition" (I'm pretty sure it's false under empiricism, assuming bivalence), I mean I have faith in the essential goodness of human beings (while acknowledging that any objective attempt to verify the truth value of that claim will fail).

I'm distinguishing between "believe" as in "believe it is a true proposition" and "believe" as "to choose to believe in" or "to have faith in" (these two are not quite the same). If I believe it is raining, it is to use believe in the first sense, if I believe I can get my book published it is in the second sense, and if I believe in humanity it is in the third sense.

Pratt's problem, perhaps, was not allowing for a distinction in the deployment of the term 'believe'.

"I am troubled by the outright rejection of truth as merely an expression of will-to-power"

As well you might! There is definitely a danger here, and *especially* at the political level. One needs to distinguish between emic (personal) reality and etic (objective) reality i.e. the reality in our heads, idealist reality, versus the reality outside us, the objective reality.

The objectivist (or realist) fumbles this by assuming the two are the same. The relativist (or subjectivist) fumbles this by assuming the two are unconnected. The scientist may fumble this by believing one has no effect on the other in research. The politician intentionally fumbles this ("spins" it) for political gain.

I advocate walking the middle path; acknowledging the existence of an objective reality, but admitting that there are limits to what we can know about it, and also that many things we claim are "real" are not actually a part of objective reality. Nations, for instance, are not etic entities but emic entities - they are real solely by convention.

On your specific point, the subjective element of experience is not a defence against backing inaccurate intelligence information - it is the job of the intelligence community to deliver accurate information as well as they are able, and if their intelligence is borderline it must be presented as such. The Bush administration *choose* to represent that intelligence as categorical and undeniable, and in doing so they overstepped their bounds. To defend against this later by hiding behind subjectivism is political cowardice - they already played the objective card to get what they want, it's too late to back up and have it the other way.

"Or have I got the wrong end of the stick here? Or the wrong stick entirely?"

Same stick, different end to the one I was using, but still relevant. :)


I don't think you can apply a principle as unambiguous as bivalence to something as ambiguous as the character of the human race en masse. I doubt you can apply it even to a single human being. In social interactions we assign roles to each other, and if you don't stick to your role people will tell you you're acting out of character!

Nations as unreal entities - precisely! Money even more so. But it's more complicated than objectively existing or not existing. One way to find out if something 'objectively' exists is to infer it from its effects. In that case money and nations are certainly real - if you have no money you may lose your home, go to jail or starve to death, all very real phenomena. But money only has value because everyone thinks it does. The usual answer to that is to say, well, this currency is backed by gold (or silver, or rosewater) and therefore objectively has value. But that only puts the problem at one remove - it is by an act of human imagination that gold becomes valuable. And notice that it isn't easy to secede from this reality born of the imagination. I may not believe in money, but everyone else does so it still has a very real effect on my life.

How much of the world is made up of these half-real entities? It might be more than we realize. According to the Buddhists, a car or a house or any other entity you care to name has no inherent reality, but is rather a conventional name for a contingent and temporary collection of bits. And human beings are the same. I had trouble explaining that when I taught world religions.

I think I have a problem with bivalence also. Sounds serious. I need a doctor - but of what? Theology? Philosophy? The nuthouse quack?

On a pedantic note - sticking to my character as pedant - wasn't it Oxford where Russell, Wittgenstein et al hung out?

Fascinating discussion.

I also have trouble with the conceit that it is impossible to believe false things.

This relates to an problem dealt with by Gregory Bateson, who asked another interesting question: Is it possible (for an organism/system/person/society) to go through life with an epistemology which is wrong/false in some details? How would that system then discover and correct the nature of the falsehood, even as the inaccuracies began to threaten the integrity of the system?

Every physicist knows that Newton was both right and wrong about gravity and motion. As long as we are in the business of moving heavy stuff around on our human scale, Newton's laws are quite 'true enough to believe in. It's only at the extremes where we need other models, and most of us never venture into those extremes, even in our imagination.

Bateson argued that, even if Lamarck's theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics could now be considered 'false' and even demonstrably toxic for evolution, there were certain aspects of it which were more 'true' and consistent with the facts than Darwin's rather more unlikely theory of natural selection. (This is explained in some detail in 'Mind and Nature' where natural selection is shown to safely simulate the inheritance of acquired characteristics. i.e. Natural selection does what the inheritance of acquired characteristics would do if it worked properly, and we would probably not have Darwin's theory without Lamarck's earlier identification of a formal mechanism of inheritance).

We can see this as a warning, which is highly relevant today. Our politicians say they believe that the free market is not just the best way to organise resources, but that it is the only way. Boom/bust cycles will eventually cease, so the ideology goes, and we will all finally enjoy steady growth and prosperity.

Now let's hypothesise that the boom/bust cycle is not an anomaly belonging to the past, but rather a direct consequence of market economics. (This is George Soros' view). The bust will always come as a surprise because those that really believe in the free market must also believe that there will be no bust - especially during a boom, which is for most people, indistinguishable from steady growth and prosperity.

And the busts, the crises, the recessions, the depressions... they come, on a fairly regular basis, but on a timescale which allows several generations to pass in the belief that we have got beyond the bad old days, things have settled down, market economics is finally working properly now. It is certainly possible to believe false things, especially when you can back up your belief with the available evidence.

You can read a relevant sufi story, 'When the Waters Were Changed' near the bottom of this page

Another interesting example is Voodoo (or more properly 'Vodou') - a mish-mash religion cobbled together by runaway slaves living in desperate poverty, which allowed them to go against impossible odds (European armies with guns) and win.

They knew it was their own religion, and that they had made it, and must therefore on some level been aware that it was a fiction, and yet they succeeded in emancipating themselves through their faith, which was the only proof they needed as to the 'truth' of the matter. I think this must be partly true of all 'start-up' religions (or 'cults' as detractors prefer to call them), at least for a brief period. The process of formalising Roman Catholic dogma is surely similar.

A symbol used in a ritual is, ultimately, just a symbol, but that does not necessitate the abandonment of symbols (e.g. salt pentacles, the US dollar, nationhood, one and zero). We can agree that "5" is just as suitable a symbol as "V" for the same concept, and we can dream up other symbols if these are not to our liking, and we know that 'the name is not the thing named' but we still need to pick one before we do some arithmetic.

At that moment, we begin to 'believe' in fictions, not for the sake of amusing ourselves with self-delusion, but for the sake of being able to manipulate those symbols and thereby getting closer to other truths - signing insurance forms, getting married, declaring wars etc.. In this sense, all epistemologies are fictional - i.e. are partly false, so it is not merely possible to believe in falsehoods, it is central to the very nature of belief.

I don't think the Buddhists would deny the utility of names or symbols. The point is that the utility of a name does not mean that the name refers to a real existing essence. The exact opposite of Platonism.

My immediate responses on belief and epistemology: I take it for granted that it is possible to believe something false. As a general principle, I would assume that many of the things I believe are probably false. My original point was to question whether we can believe something that we *know* to be false. I don't think Chris's response really contradicted that, but rather pointed out that belief has more than one meaning - that to speak of religious belief, for example, is to use teh word in a different way from cognitive belief statements, and that the word therefore means something different in this context.

On epistemology - I think the point of epistemology is to ascertain the extent of our ignorance - which is pretty large. It asks, what *can* we know? How do we know it? I don't think it makes truth statements as such, but investigates how far any truth statements are or can be valid.

Your list of 'other truths' is curious. I would never have thought of insurance forms or declaring war as having anything to do with the truth! Especially the latter. Rather the opposite.

Theo: "I don't think you can apply a principle as unambiguous as bivalence to something as ambiguous as the character of the human race en masse."

I agree - take this up with the Logical Positivists, if any still exist! :)

Re: nations and money, I am working on this theme for my new book (my first philosophy commission!) - I hope to share a few of my ideas in this regard on the blog in the future, but I need clearance from the publisher to do so. Watch this space. :)

"On a pedantic note - sticking to my character as pedant - wasn't it Oxford where Russell, Wittgenstein et al hung out?"

No, definitely Trinity College, Cambridge - also Sir Isaac Newton's alma mater.

"On epistemology - I think the point of epistemology is to ascertain the extent of our ignorance - which is pretty large. It asks, what *can* we know? How do we know it? I don't think it makes truth statements as such, but investigates how far any truth statements are or can be valid."

I would say this is generally true, but in Bateson's account he is talking about specific epsitemologies *as systems of knowledge*, not in the general philosophical sense - this, at least, is my understanding.



"I also have trouble with the conceit that it is impossible to believe false things."

I'm so glad it's not just me! :)

Thanks for your discussion of Bateson - I am working towards one of his books on my reading list right now but never quite manage to get there! Fascinated by this link to Lamarck - are you also aware that they have found a quasi-Lamarckian inheritence mechanism in recent decades? Science is truly stranger than fiction! :)

"As long as we are in the business of moving heavy stuff around on our human scale, Newton's laws are quite 'true enough to believe in."

Yes, but by invoking bivalance I'm parodying the Logical Positivists. In their terms, Newton's gravitation is false. (This is perhaps a dated argument, since Logical Positivism is so 1929 - but I still see arguments of this style on the internet, so it's perhaps not dead so much as it is unrecognised that certain people are following in this greatly misguided tradition! :)

Regarding Voudou, I'm not at all certain that when one creates a religion by the composition of traditions that it seems like a fiction; isn't it more the case that it feels "revealed"?

"In this sense, all epistemologies are fictional"

This is actually a major theme in my philosophy. More on this soon...

Finally, I was excited at the thought of a link to a Sufi story - Sufism being one of my five religions - but there seems to have been no link...

Many thanks for your thoughtful comment!

Hello it's me, [IncomprehensibleID] - I thought signing in with my google id would at least put me real name in there. Google knows it, after all.

Yes, Bateson's use of the word 'epistemology' differs slightly from the way it tends to be used in general philosophy, although it is strongly related. In fact it is somewhat similar to the Marxian concept of ideology - a relationship between what we believe and what we experience, or knowledge as a structured and necessarily incomplete mapping of reality.

So whereas philosophers may treat epistemology as an area of study, Bateson says we all *have* an epistemology, and further - that it is a fiction (or 'figment') - however Bateson extends the concept into genetics, and reaches out for a universal truth he calls 'the pattern which connects'. In particular, he says that this pattern is to be found both in evolutionary biology and in psychology, and indeed in any of the 'cybernetic' disciplines. Oddly enough, he invokes Russell and Whitehead to make his point that 'logical type errors' lie behind most of the pickles we find ourselves in, whether they be global crises, family feuds or dead loops in software.

Actually Chris I am surprised you haven't any of read his books yet because you seem to be exploring much of the same territory - which is also why I subscribe to your feed. (I have some kind of game design background too)

I know this is rather old, and I'm being pedantic, but...
"make the same claim in the third person (“it is raining but you do not believe it is”)"
That should say second person.

I *did* say it was pedantic, and if this were John Doe's Blog About Roadkill, I wouldn't think twice about it.

Brennan: thanks for returning to add to your thoughts and clarifications. No idea why Google failed to render your name correctly before!

"So whereas philosophers may treat epistemology as an area of study, Bateson says we all *have* an epistemology, and further - that it is a fiction (or 'figment')"

I agree with this general claim, but I place our systems of knowledge justification in metaphysics rather than epistemology. But I don't want this to devolve into a dispute about the map of philsophy. ;)

"evolutionary biology"

Another tangential aside... I balk at this term. If by this we mean the part of biology that deals with evolution, then "evolution" or "evolutionary theories" suffices. If we mean the part of evolution that is biological then "biology" suffices. What could "evolutionary biology" possibly denote that is not covered by either term separately? *shrugs*

"Actually Chris I am surprised you haven't any of read his books yet because you seem to be exploring much of the same territory - which is also why I subscribe to your feed. (I have some kind of game design background too)"

I'm trying to get there, believe me! :) "Mind and Nature" has been in my Amazon basket for nearly a year now, but my reading list keeps ballooning and I never quite make it there! The new book project has added several thousand pages of new material into the hopper, and the philosophy of mind reading list has consequently been even further delayed.

Given time, I will eventually get to Bateson - bear with me! :)

Tom: thank you for bringing this up!

I'll see your pedantry, and raise you a meticulous correction! :D I *meant* to say third person, it is the sentence that is wrong - it should say "it is raining but *she* does not believe it is". :p

I have made the correction in the post now!

"I *did* say it was pedantic, and if this were John Doe's Blog About Roadkill, I wouldn't think twice about it."

That sounds like a complement... ;)

Best wishes!

Thank you for posting this article (I guess this comment is a little out of place, as it is five years after the original publication date). The essay is thoughtful, but I personally would disagree with a number of your interpretations of the key ideas presented in the text.

First of all, Moore's paradox has very little to do with epistemology. The question at hand is not one about what knowledge is, but about the absurdity arising from asserting two contradictory statements. Wittgenstein's remark, namely that there cannot be a verb that means "to believe falsely," is simply intended to illustrate the difficulty presented in Moore's paradox, and not to claim that we cannot believe false propositions. If there were some verb V that meant "to believe falsely," then that verb could be inserted into a sentence of the form "I V p," where p is some arbitrary proposition. However, to believe is to take something to be true (perhaps this is where you think epistemology enters, though epistemologists are mostly concerned with belief as a condition of knowledge, and not as a subject of study in and of itself), and thus to state that you take something to be true and that you believe that what you think is true is false is something of a contradiction.

So the issue at hand is not that you can't believe false propositions, it's quite obvious that you can (many people falsely believed that the earth was flat for many years). The issue is that you can't believe one thing and simultaneously believe that what you believe is false.

On to verificationism. You state that verificationists assert that all unverifiable statements are false. However, verificationism is not a theory about truth and falsehood of statements or propositions, but about what kind of statements have meaning. On the verificationist view, unverifiable statements are not false, they are meaningless.

Lastly and most importantly, your claims about knowledge seem to contradict everything common sense tells us about knowledge. It would not be the case that if Elvis were discovered alive tomorrow that our knowledge of his death would cease, at that moment, to be knowledge. If we discovered Elvis alive tomorrow we would not say that it used to be the case that we knew that Elvis was dead and now we know that he is alive, we would say that we thought we knew one thing, and it simply turned out we didn't. "I thought I knew..." is a common phrase in English.

It is generally an axiom of epistemology that there are things that we can know. Epistemology dismisses skepticism and instead asks, "assuming knowledge is possible, what are the necessary and sufficient conditions that must be met for an instance of knowledge to obtain?"

Very few contemporary epistemologists are not fallibilists. To say that it is necessarily the case that we can only have knowledge if what we believe is true is not to say that we can only have knowledge of necessary truths, or that knowledge is an infallible mental state. Thus I feel your comments about human pride and our "unwillingness to admit that we believe false things" are perhaps a little unwarranted. In fact I can assert that I believe falsehoods without invoking Moore's paradox (as long as I don't make any such claims about specific beliefs).

Last comment: your solution of Moore's paradox seems to rely on a definition of belief that does not involve truth. But this definition, for you, follows from your claim that we believe unverifiable statements, and unverifiable statements are false. Like I said above, however, unverifiable statements are not false, they are meaningless. Thus unverifiable statements, such as moral claims, cannot be proper objects of belief. An emotivist may argue therefore that moral claims are essentially just sentences that are used to illicit certain kinds of responses from others. Of course verificationism seems to be a very strong theory of meaning in the sense that it keeps certain sentences that should be said to have meaning from having meaning, but it cannot be used to dispute an understanding of Moore's paradox.

Thanks for this, AnH! I've posted your comment and my reply as a new post, since it raises some great new points for discussion. Here's the link: Belief, Knowledge, and Moral Claims.

I throughly enjoyed this! Thank you. I wish I offered more input but I'm quite content just digesting. I'll stay tuned.


Hey Heidi,
Comments always welcome! It doesn't always have to include a cogent counterargument or anything of the kind. It's just nice to know I'm being read, as a writer without readers is thoroughly pointless. :)

If you liked this piece, you should check out "Wikipedia Knows Nothing" which is being published very soon - and the ebook will be free. It explores my concept of knowledge-as-a-practice, which descends from the line of thinking that was presented in this piece. It's a short yet intriguing philosophy book. Watch this space for release dates.

All the best!


hey do you think i can cite this article

Hi rawan,
Yes, you absolutely can cite this article or anything else on this site! I would be delighted for any of my thoughts to be helpful for anyone, anywhere.

Best wishes,


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