Talk:Moore's paradox

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Old discussions[edit]

How the hell is this a paradox worthy of discussion? It's like complaining that your ice cream is too warm. What the hell do you gain from studying something so absurd? Since no one would ever truthfully tell you the capitol of NY is Albany but they dont believe it (just like no one would ever complain that their ice cream is too warm), then what is the point? - ME

The purpose of this page is not to express or answer such questions, it is to discuss how to improve the article; please limit your talk page contributions accordingly.

At 61, I started looking at philosophy for some stuff I'm writing on visualizitions - got all excited about Kant - stuff I guess I knew before but forgot - but now I'm thinking letting college kids major in philosophy is like handling a loaded gun to a toddler - look at Wiggenstein's relatives, acquaintances, and colleagues. Also, are we absolutely sure Wiggenstein wasn't being tongue in cheek or damning with very faint praise? It all sounds tongue-in-cheek or just really obsessive and probably self-destructive after a certain point. Also, woudn't melted ice-cream be too warm? YAC (talk) 04:50, 3 May 2008 (UTC)

The purpose of this talk page is to improve the article; please limit you comments accordingly. If you have a reliable source that questions whether Wittgenstein was serious, feel free to preent them. -- (talk) 04:06, 24 May 2010 (UTC)

The point is, among other things: (1) we might gain an understanding of the nature of content, absurdity and nonsense; (2) It might shed light on the nature of lying, and the differences between truthful assertion, honest assertion, open assertion and qualified assertion. Moreover, (3) the view that no-one would ever believe that their ice-cream is too warm is bizarre. Sure no-one in THIS world would likely ever reasonably believe it, but there are some crazy people out there and an infinite number of possible worlds in which it is a perfectly sensible thing to believe. Believing a Moorean sentence is certainly not like believing that one's ice cream is too warm.18:09, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Somewhere I read the sentence, "If there were a verb meaning to incorrectly believe (some proposition), it would have no attested first-person present indicative." Wittgenstein? --FOo 01:39, 11 Feb 2004 (UTC)

I misbelieve that this is false. :-) --Army1987 22:09, 9 August 2005 (UTC)

However, the first person equivalent, "I believe p" seems to function not as a description of me, of the fact that I believe p; rather, it functions simply as an affirmation of p itself. If I'm committed to affirming "p", then I'm committed to affirming "I believe that p", and vice versa. No. If I say "p is true" I mean that I'm quite certain that p is true. If I say "I believe that p is true" i mean that in my opinion p is true, but I acknowledge that I may be wrong.

Sorry not to update the entry, but: There are at least 2 versions of Moore's paradox. (1) p but I don't believe that p. (2) p but I believe that not p.

Also consider: (3) My atheism angers God.

The paradox is about the absurdity of either thinking to oneself such propositions or asserting such sentences (e.g. in speech) to another, and consists in trying to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why there should be some propositions that each of us ourselves cannot think to ourselves and sentences that assert to another without such absurdity, even though the state of affairs, described in the third-person, are contingent truths and indeed pretty much always true (i.e. we are, as a matter of contingent fact, always ignorant as to the truth of a proposition p or have a false belief that p.

(1) and (2) are the syntactic versions of the paradox, bled of content.

Prof. Roy Sorensen (in his book Blindspots) has argued that when we consider the semantic content of the sentences, we can consider (3) as Moore-paradoxical (relative to the person thinking or asserting it).

But the problem can be also treated as a problem about how we relate to certain kinds of mental properties, namely, our own.

"If there were a verb meaning to incorrectly believe (some proposition), it would have no attested first-person present indicative." 

but he is says something rather more like "...would have no significant first person..." The quotation is from Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations,pt. 2., X.

I ain't no user but I believe that I am.

(1) "It is raining" and (2a) "I don't believe that it is raining" or (2b) "He doesn't believe that it is raining." Furthermore both (2a) and (2b) are equally compatible with (1), in that they can be simultaneously true. However, any given person seems debarred from consistently uttering (1) and (2a) together.

There is a difference between the fact "It is raining" and someone stating "It is raining", which is short for "I believe(know) it is raining" which is incompatible with "I don't believe it is raining". Of course the solution to the paradox is simple: The speaker is lying in either (1) or (2a) =) --Xeeron 17:43, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

I made some slight changes today. Wittgensteinians think that the lesson is that the first-person, present tense use of 'believe' is special but for reasons I've added, it isn't generally accepted that this is the lesson of Moore's Paradox. The edit made the paragraph less POV since the point made in that paragraph is a matter of controversy. It's also worth pointing out that there seem to be practical versions of the paradox. W never said (but should have) that if there was a verb that meant to bring about accidentally, it wouldn't have a significant first-person use in the present tense.

As a general remark, I think that this post needs something to clarify the notion of 'contradiction' and something about what is essential to something's being a Moorean absurdity. Apart from the Wittgensteinians, Moorean absurdities are not contradictions in the ordinary sense since the propositions these statements express may well be true. Solving the paradox, if I understand the literature, is a matter of explaining the contradiction.

To simply say that the speaker must be lying in either part 1 or 2a/b doesn't satisfy the fact that it can be considered a true paradox rather than a physical error whether intentional or not. Consider, that part 1 is just an affirmation of something which is recognised to be true. part 1 is affirmed by the speaker as a statement to alert others to a form in which they would understand. such as; "it is raining." part 2 then simply has to be the affirmation of what the speaker believes to be true rather than a conveyed message, universally believed to be true.

_____ I made some quite substantial changes, hope that's ok with everyone. I took out some of the stuff on the 'Wittgensteinian' strategy, made it shorter and more compact, and also divided the entry into sections. 17:54, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

"It has since become de rigeur [sic] to remark on the alleged fact that Wittgenstein considered this peculiar sort of absurdity to be Moore's most worthwhile contribution to philosophy." -This is from the first paragraph of the article. Other than the obvious misspelling, it seems to be a rather ridiculous sentance. To rephrase this, the sentence says that (using wikipedias definition of 'de rigueur'), "it has since become necessary and proper to state the unproven fact that...". Am I the only one who thinks that sounds stupid? Please make the change if you agree. --Heyitspeter 22:03, 18 December 2006 (UTC)

I think 'unproven fact' is an oxymoron and I think 'the statement Wiggenstein is alleged to have made' is better than 'alleged fact'; 'alleged fact' may be correct but it almost seems like an upside down redundancy - I'm groping here, can anyone help me out?YAC (talk) 15:33, 2 June 2008 (UTC)


OK, I think the sentence "There is a pink elephant hurtling ... but I do not believe it." is not a Moore's sentence because the assertion "p" is different in the first and second case. The statement "There is a pink elephant hurtling" refers to the hallucination as a mental model, i.e.: there is a pink elephant *inside the mind* of the person hallucinating; the sentence "but I do not believe it" is a different assertion, namely that "I do not believe there really is a pink elephant in front of me". Is this a notable example mentioned by a notable philosopher or is it someone's original research? I think it should be removed. The example given has the syntax or a Moore's sentence but not the semantics. Alex.g 15:59, 3 September 2007 (UTC)

  • Agreed, and removed. In fact it would be nice to add more examples, and maybe explicit non-examples, and/or something to the effect that this isn't about situations where, on one level, you think something, but on another level, you think the opposite. Everything below is also a non-example, except maybe the last "they're popping up everywhere" section, which I don't understand. --EmbraceParadox (talk) 19:13, 29 July 2008 (UTC)


Maybe this falls under the hallucination scenario, but what if I live in a place where it hasn't rained for ten years. Then a heavy rain starts: (1) I'm sure I'm awake but I can't believe I'm not dreaming, so even though I "know" it's raining outside, I don't "believe" it. (2) Same scenario but I'm inside away from a window. I know it's raining, but I can't believe it unless I'm actually seeing it.

Real world scenario: Our cat went missing for two weeks. We had about given up and we hear her loudly meowing across the yard and finally coming in thru the kitty door just as we arrive. It's too dark to tell for sure, but I say her name - which I was trying to avoid so as not to raise my wife's hopes. When we got the light on, we knew it was her, but we just couldn't believe it.

Another read world scenario: Over the years at various times I've gotten my belly fat down to a certain point and invariably I just can't envision it any better so one way or another I pork back up. Five years ago I discovered an 'exercise' that's so much fun I do it as much as I can. I can't believe my belly fat will get smaller than it is now, but I know that it will because it's already gotten smaller than I could ever "believe" before. In other words, the exercise is doing what I "know" it can do, even though I can't really "believe" it.

I'm not saying these are exceptions. I'm asking for opinions on why they are not.

May 10 - I think scenario (2) can be thrown out because you can't really "know" it's raining unless you're seeing it, even if you just turned away(?) —Preceding unsigned comment added by YetAnotherCommenter (talkcontribs) 05:15, 11 May 2008 (UTC) YAC (talk) 16:11, 8 May 2008 (UTC)

Jun 2 - I guess this fascinates me because I can't let it go. If you can never be sure you're not dreaming (Descartes, I believe), then how can you "know" anything, and if you can't "know" anything, then how can Moore's paradox even arise? That Wiggenstein, so shallow. Look at the contriubions to absurdity I've made right here. How about this. If I say I doubt my own senses am I suffering from Moore's paradox syndrome? There's something either hilariously funny or tremndously deep about the absurdity of Moore's paradox about absurdity. But it won't quite come to me. It's at least a strange loop. YAC (talk) 18:48, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

When you found your cat and couldn't "believe" it, did you genuinely refuse to entertain the idea that this is your cat, or are you confusing a common hyberole ("I can't believe that this is on sale!") with a more rigorous philisophical definition of what it means to believe or disbelieve something? AndyHuston (talk) 15:17, 8 July 2008 (UTC)
This paradox challenges us to resolve the question, What is belief? Because it's true, I can know something and yet not believe it, in some ways: and perhaps I can manage even to believe nothing at all -- and still know. For example, consider the question of the existence of God: some claim to believe, and others not to believe, and yet others -- such as Krishnamurti -- that there is no difference between believing and not believing. In any case it is clear that when one believes in God one is not -- generally speaking -- doing the same thing as when one believes that it is raining.
Another example -- this is a very real example for many people -- I can know I am attractive, and say I know it, and still not believe it: because in this case, my belief is my knowledge embodied in my actions, my demeanor, my emotional reactions, my point of view, my natural or automatic way of assigning meaning to perceptions, etc. -- not merely my ability to assert. —Jemmytc 03:36, 9 August 2008 (UTC)
PS. It was a horrible mistake of the analytic philosophers to assign the same domain to belief, knowledge and error (viz. propositions). I know of three ways one can go about thoroughly transcending this presumption: one is to read Wittgenstein's On Certainty, another is to read Piaget's Genetic Epistemology, and the best is to read Piaget's The Child's Concept of Number. (These philosophers were not aware of the assumptions they made about the workings of the mind. Their understanding was pre-cybernetic. They could not conceive of the brain as a computer, because they had no computers.) —Jemmytc 03:49, 9 August 2008 (UTC)

I like the self image example. This is the first one I've seen that really demonstrates (to me) an example one can relate to. However, isn't this treated by psychologists as some form of Cognitive dissonance? This is an interesting situation when a philisophical view is treated by the medical community as a disorder. Anybody have any thoughts on the matter? AndyHuston (talk) 12:42, 12 August 2008 (UTC)

I think that many of the views that philosopher's espouse are about things (e.g. the nature of the universe, how we know things etc.) that many of those diagnosed with some form of mental disorder think about. What differentiates them (and the line is very thin!) is the path they take to get there. (David Lewis believed that all possible worlds exist and that there are an infinite number of counterpart-me's running around in their own actualities.) What makes a particular belief problematic (irrational, delusional or whatever) is the process by which it is formed, the context in which the subject is in, and the larger role it plays in the subject's cognitive/emotional economy (that is, his life!).

Hume and Problem of Induction[edit]

David Hume claimed that even though induction is not justified, he himself believed in it. Is that an example of this paradox? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:07, 11 May 2008 (UTC)

I don't believe so. This statement is about believing in something that is not known. Moores paradox is about not believing in something that is known. —Preceding unsigned comment added by AndyHuston (talkcontribs) 15:13, 8 July 2008 (UTC)
Erm... Hume was only saying that his belief was without basis -- not that his belief contradicted the facts. —Jemmytc 03:28, 9 August 2008 (UTC)
I think it is unrelated, like saying "I have no substantial reason to believe X, nevertheless I believe X". Said: Rursus () 20:37, 18 November 2008 (UTC)

They're popping up everywhere[edit]

Isn't Bush's cocaine conundrum an example?

And the writers of Miami CSI were undoubtedly checking if watchers were paying attention in the re-run we saw last night. A couple has bailed out their murdering con-person daughter and Kathryn and the bald stubby cop guy know they helped her get in the wind. Kathryn says "She played you, where ever you think she is, she isn't. (Pause) So tell us where she is, and you won't go to jail."

Philosophy - you can't live with it, can't live without it.YAC (talk) 15:18, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

What's the paradox?[edit]

Is it that "I don't believe in P, but P is true" is an erroneous (not just false - but also failing) statement, given the conventions of logic? I just would pinpoint that, as a rhetorical statement, it would make full sense, like to be reinterpreted as "I don't believe in P, I know it for a fact". Said: Rursus () 20:42, 18 November 2008 (UTC)

The sentences are not problematic if construed rhetorically. So there's obviously no paradox in these cases. The problem, depending on how you formulate it is, in a nutshell: - why can't one sensibly/reasonably/rationally etc. assert/believe something (e.g. it's raining but i don't believe it) which in another's mouth would make perfect sense (e.g. it's raining but he doesn't believe it)? - why can't one say or believe something which might, for all I know, be true? After all, it might very well be true that it's raining and I don't believe it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:15, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

I had some difficulty with this, too, and so I added a few sentences with the previous poster's commentary in mind. --Beala (talk) 08:49, 4 March 2009 (UTC)


In essence, saying "it is raining" is the same as "i believe it is raining" so the statement is self contradicting. The 3rd person view is not, simply because it can't be, he is making assumptions about 2 seperate issues - that of his beliefs and that of another persons beliefs. It is of course possible that from 2 different beliefs, one can be true and one false, but not from the same belief. The most interesting thing about this is how it shows how one can never be sure, thats not to say we aren't probably right when we say its raining, just that in the absence of absolute knowledge, one cannot be absolutly sure (talk) 04:16, 27 May 2009 (UTC) ShaneMcDonnell

I actually don't get it. It states it as a paradox, but then the two examples are not paradoxes. One part of each sentence is a fact, the next is someone's belief - they are two totally separate things. (talk) 05:20, 30 September 2014 (UTC)
You got caught up in the ambiguity of "belief". Religious belief aka faith is independent of facts, that's true. But the meaning of "belief" used here is related to the stuff at belief, and is generally not considered independent of facts/truth/reality/whatever.
Please note that this page is for discussing edits to the article, not for discussion of the subject, per WP:NOTFORUM. You can try the WP:REFDESK if you have further questions about the subject, or simply use one of the many dicussion venues outside of Wikipedia. HTH, Paradoctor (talk) 11:18, 30 September 2014 (UTC)

This is not the place to discuss philosophy[edit]

There's a lot of silly WP:OR chit-chat this page. The purpose of talk pages about philosophical subjects is not to discuss or debate or propound upon the philosophical issue, it is strictly to improve the article within the Wikipedia framework of cited reliable sources. -- (talk) 04:06, 24 May 2010 (UTC)

Notation question[edit]

In the section titled "The Problem"

"(OM) P and NOT(I believe that P), or (COM) P"

and nowhere that I can see are 'OM' and 'COM" explained. Can anyone enlighten? Thanks BrideOfKripkenstein (talk) 04:35, 21 May 2011 (UTC)

No creo en brujas, pero que las hay las hay[edit]

(I) Don't believe in witches, but that they exist they exist.

I dunno the origin, but that seems a tad famous; is it a version of Moore's paradox? --TiagoTiago (talk) 05:01, 29 October 2011 (UTC)

Is it not a question of language?[edit]

Isn't this just about what we understand from language.

'It was raining but I did not believe that it was raining' means that at one point you did not know it was raining and thus thought it wasn't but now you know.

'It is raining but you do not believe that it is raining' means that you do not know if it is raining (or not) but you believe it isn't. However I know that it is because I have extra observation and now you know.

But 'It is raining and I don't believe that it is raining' means that you have knowledge that it rains but you don't think it is. That's obviously absurd.

Changing the tense changes the meaning of the sentence in terms of what you knew at specific times and what you know now. The first two phrases imply an addition of knowledge which proves the belief part now false (but you can still use the past tens to say that 'you believed it in the past'). The third sentence implies that something is known but the false belief is held. This is different; there is no addition of knowledge. Muffin8or (talk) 17:12, 23 May 2012 (UTC)

The future-tense form is not in general an absurdity[edit]

"Subsequent commentators have further noted that there is an apparent residual absurdity in asserting a first-person future-tense sentence such as 'It will be raining and I will believe that it is not raining'.[5]"

They're clearly wrong in general, since there are some situations where that would make perfect sense. For example, suppose I have a drug that I believe (correctly or not) will cause me to believe that it is not raining. I plan to wait until it next rains, and then take the drug. In that situation, "It will be raining and I will believe that it is not raining." is a perfectly sensible thing to say.

More generally, the problem is that the future form of this "paradox" is only an absurdity under the assumption that a person's knowledge monotonically increases. If you have reason to believe that you may forget anything or that you may be subject to any impairment of reasoning in future, then there is no paradox.

Reference 'Bovens, Luc (1995)' is not open-access so I cannot check whether it addresses this point. --David-Sarah Hopwood ⚥ (talk) 01:09, 23 July 2012 (UTC)

In addition, even if you have a perfect memory, this is only an absurdity if you specify an exact time: "Friday at noon, it will rain and I will believe it is not raining". Otherwise, it's not just valid but quite likely: I know I am not right all of the time, and it will rain enough times in my life that I will almost surely be wrong at least once. (talk) 04:15, 29 May 2015 (UTC)

Possible non-absurd interpretation exists in literature? Possible to find citation?[edit]

What if we agree that "it's raining" means in fact, that most people agree that it's raining. We may have an argument whether it's raining or not (cause I think it counts just as drizzling and not raining). So you ask 100 people in the street and 98 say in their opinion it's raining. So I accept, that "it's raining" (=according to widely held belief, it counts already as raining), but still believe it's not raining, cause in my opinion it still counts only as drizzle. No paradox in my opinion.

Does any literature hold this view and if yes, could anyone find it and add to citations (I am not versed in this field). (talk) 22:04, 11 October 2013 (UTC)

Possibly. But note that your opinion (and even, sigh, my opinion) don't really count here; the article is not about our views, but about general and informed views as reflected by reliable sources. As to the point you ponder, you might take a look at Moore's Ethics, where he considers opinions and feelings as bases of moral knowledge. (It is pretty dense.) Also check the sources in this article. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:58, 4 December 2013 (UTC)