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Wittgenstein, Moorean Absurdity and its Disappearance from Speech
Research Collection School of Social Sciences
  • John N. WILLIAMS, Singapore Management University
Publication Type
Working Paper
Publication Date
10-2003
Abstract

G. E. Moore famously observed that to say, "I went to the pictures last Tuesday but I don't believe that I did" would be "absurd." Why should it be absurd of me to say something about myself that might be true of me? Moore suggested an answer to this, but as I will show, one that fails. Wittgenstein was greatly impressed by Moore's discovery of a class of absurd but possibly true assertions because he saw that it illuminates "the logic of assertion". Wittgenstein suggests a promising relation of assertion to belief in terms of the idea that one "expresses belief " that is consistent with the spirit of Moore's failed attempt to explain the absurdity. Wittgenstein also observes that "under unusual circumstances", the sentence, "It's raining but I don't believe it' could be given "a clear sense". Why does the absurdity disappear from speech in such cases? Wittgenstein further suggests that analogous absurdity may be found in terms of desire, rather than belief. In what follows I develop an account of Moorean absurdity that, with the exception of Wittgenstein's last suggestion, is broadly consistent with both Moore's approach and Wittgenstein's.

Keywords
  • G.E. Moore,
  • Wittgenstein,
  • Absurdity,
  • Expression,
  • Belief,
  • Assertion,
  • Supposition,
  • Desire
Discipline
Publisher
SMU Social Sciences and Humanities Working Paper Series, 2-2003
City or Country
Singapore
Copyright Owner and License
Author
Creative Commons License
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0
Comments

Published in Synthese, 2006, 149 (1), 225-254. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-004-6252-0

Citation Information
John N. WILLIAMS. "Wittgenstein, Moorean Absurdity and its Disappearance from Speech" (2003) p. 1 - 55
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/john_williams/51/