C. D. Broad, "G. E. Moore," The Manchester Guardian, October 25, 1958. Reprinted in G. E. Moore, Philosophical Papers, 1959.
G. E. MOORE
George Edward Moore was born in London in 1873 and died at Cambridge on October 24, 1958. He was the third son of D. Moore, M.D., and Henrietta Sturge, and was a brother of Sturge Moore, the poet.
Moore was at school at Dulwich College, and he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1892. He took a First in Part I of the Classical Tripos, and then turned to the study of Moral Science, to which he devoted the rest of his life. In 1896 he was placed in the first class of Part II of the Moral Sciences Tripos, and in 1898 he was awarded a prize-fellowship at Trinity. His dissertation dealt with two main topics, viz. the notion of the "empirical" and the "noumenal" self in Kant's ethical writings, and the notions of "reason" and "idea," with special reference to Bradley's Logic. The substance of both parts of the dissertation was afterwards published in Mind in two articles, entitled "Freedom" and "The Nature of Judgment." His first book, Principia Ethica, was published in 1903.
He was away from Cambridge until 1911, holding no teaching post. In 1911 he returned to take up the office of University Lecturer in Moral Science. He held this for the next fourteen years, lecturing on Psychology and on Metaphysics. In 1921 he became editor of Mind, on the retirement of G. F. Stout. In 1925 he succeeded James Ward as Professor of Philosophy in Cambridge, and in the same year he again became Fellow of Trinity. In 1951 he was appointed to the Order of Merit. Moore married Miss Dorothy Ely in 1916 and had two sons.
Beside Principia Ethica Moore published three books, Ethics (1912) in the Home University Series, Philosophical Studies (1922), and Some Main Problems of Philosophy (1953). He contributed many extremely important articles, in his earlier years to Mind and other philosophical periodicals, and later to the Proceedings and the annual Supplementary Volumes of the Aristotelian Society.
Moore's philosophical interests were wholly analytic and
critical. He had not the slightest belief in the possibility of any system of constructive metaphysics, and he was a devastating critic of the fallacies and confusions inherent in such systems. By his own writings, and the influence which he exercised on contemporaries like Bertrand Russell, and (as Keynes has testified) on a whole series of able men of a younger generation, he did more than any other person to undermine the hitherto predominant influence of Kantianism and Hegelianism in England. One essay of his, "A Defence of Common Sense," contributed to Contemporary British Philosophy (Second Series 1925), had and has continued to have an immense influence on British philosophy. The "Autobiography" and "Reply to my Critics," which he contributed to The Philosophy of G. E. Moore in Schilpp's "Library of Living Philosophers" (1942), throw much light on his personality and on his philosophical position in his later years.
Though his published works are all absolutely first-rate contributions to philosophy, his influence on English philosophic thought was out of all proportion to his comparatively small literary output. It was by his lectures, his discussion-classes, his constant and illuminating contributions to discussion at the Cambridge Moral Science Club and the Aristotelian Society, and his private conversations with his colleagues and pupils that he mainly produced his effects on the thought of his time.
It is doubtful whether any philosopher known to history has excelled or even equalled Moore in sheer power of analysing problems, detecting and exposing fallacies and ambiguities, and formulating and working out alternative possibilities. He knew his own limitations, and within the field of absolutely fundamental problems to which he confined himself, he illuminated and transformed every subject which he treated. His literary style is fundamentally simple, lucid, and direct: though sometimes it seems involved because of his determination to state and reiterate every needful qualification and to remove every possibility of misunderstanding.
Apart from his immense analytic power Moore's most noticeable characteristic was his absolutely single-minded desire to discover truth and avoid error and confusion. Fundamentally he was a man of simple tastes and character, absolutely devoid of all affectation, pose, and flummery. He thoroughly enjoyed the simple human pleasures of eating and drinking, walking, gardening, talking to his friends, playing with his children, and so on. It is because ordinary, unpretending Englishmen are so often muddle-headed, and intellectuals so often cracked and conceited, that Moore, who combined the virtues of both and had the vices of neither, was so exceptional and lovable a personality.
C. D. Broad