[SIZE="4"]That's Moore Like It!
An Attempted Refutation of Moore's Paradox from First Person Pronouns and Universal Truth
By Giles Field
According to Wikipedia 'Moore's paradox is that it is absurd to make statements like "It's raining outside but I don't believe that it is", even though they are often true.'
It also goes on to state that the paradox is set up as follows;
1. It can be true at a particular time both that p
, and that I do not believe that p
2. I can assert or believe one of the two at a particular time.
3. I cannot without absurdity assert or believe both of them at the same time.
The paradox falls at the first hurdle however. 'I do not believe that p
' can be an assertion or a belief but not, as the paradox dictates, a fact. As soon as the first person 'I' is used then assertion or belief is assumed ie. it has to be an opinion coming from a particular person, namely the speaker, and can no longer be fact as it is not universally true. p
, or 'It is raining', on the other hand, can be an assertion or belief but also fact (or at least a view shared by others).
The 'sleight of hand' of Moore's paradox is that 'I don't believe that p
' looks very much like a factual statement, and when it is phrased by a third person; such as 'He doesn't believe that p
', it is. This is because multiple people can share the view. A simple test of (potential) universal truth is if the belief can be shared by others. 'I' statements are singular and don't qualify as fact as they can never be universally true, they are simply beliefs and assertions. 'I am here', 'I believe in God' and 'I am going down to JB Hi-Fi' are, not in actuality, facts, but assertions. You very may well be going down to JB Hi-Fi, which would make it fact, but simply believing it does not make it so. 'I am going down to JB Hi-Fi' by definition can't be believed by more than one because if your mate Freddo thought 'I am going down to JB Hi-Fi' then he would be talking about himself and not you. He could say however 'You are going down to JB Hi-Fi and you don't believe it'. This is not a Moorean paradox because it is possible I am misled, ignorant or just plain delusional about going down to JB Hi-Fi.
Another way to put it is that 'I' statements are not universally true and are therefore can never be fact.
To continue, p
can be both true and also asserted and believed at a particular time alongside other facts, as long as they are facts and not beliefs and assertions.
For example if we look at the paradox in its commission form; 'It is raining but I believe it is not raining' the absurdity remains because when the statements are joined together they become a belief or an assertion. We can test if it is fact by asking 'Can this belief be shared by others?' Once again the first person use renders this only valid for the speaker and therefore an assertion or belief. It then follows that there is a contradiction because you can't believe and not believe things at the same time.
Simply put 'It is raining but I don't believe it' is a contradictory assertion about contradictory things - you can't believe it and not believe it is raining at the same time! The 'paradox' comes if you split up the assertion and look at it to see if it is factually contradictory too. This is simple with the first half; 'It is raining' can indeed be a fact. The second portion and, because it contains the first person 'I', reason that the combined statements can't be fact, is not fact on it's own either. If you don't look closely however 'I don't believe p
' can look like a fact and the paradox magically appears. 'I don't believe p
' is, and always will be, an assertion and will never be separate fact the way 'p