Albritton R on Moore s Paradox 1994 Copy

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  • 8/12/2019 Albritton R on Moore s Paradox 1994 Copy

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    ROGERS ALBRITrON

    C O M M E N T S O N M O O R E ' S PAR A D O X A N D

    S E L F - K N O W L E D G E

    (Received 16 Augu st 1994)

    I wi l l t ake it that we kn ow w el l enough h ow to co nst ruc t what Professor

    Sho ema ker usefu l ly ca l ls 'Moore-paradoxica l sen tences ' : sen tences tha tlook as i f they were s t ra igh t forward ly ap t on ly for the b izarre (or impos-s ib le) perform ance o f jo in t ly asser t ing a th ingand deny ing in the f irs tperson that one bel ieves i t ; or assert ing both i tand in the first person,that one bel ieves o therwise; or the l ike.

    Now, what i s 'Moo re 's parado x '? A ccord ing to Professor Rosentha l ,we ow e tha t t e rm to Wit tgenste in . What d idhe mean by i t?

    I t h i n k h e may so me t i mes h av e mean t o n l y t h e p a rad o x t h a t wo u l dbe p resen ted by a so lem nly Moore-paradoxica l u t te rance i t se l f; bu t as aru le , I be l ieve , he mean t someth in g e lse : namely, the paradox tha t suchan u t te rance would benonsensical. He tho ught ( I th ink) tha t a Moore-paradoxica l u t te rance would no t mean anyth ing , t rue or fal se , and eve n

    tha t a Moore-paradoxica lsentence does no t , as a whole , mean anyth ing .So me t h i n g v e ry like that , at least . Wh ich is a paradox, h e though t, sincei t would be p erfec t ly meaning fu l no t on ly to say o f someo ne e l se tha the or she d idn ' t th ink i t was ra in ing a l though i t was , bu t even to usethe very words of a M oore-paradoxica l sen tence , in the same order, tosay such a th ing as I f , hypothe t ica l ly, i t 's ra in ing and I don ' t be l ieveit 's raining, then a thing I don't bel ieve is nevertheless t rue, for once.Or Sup pos e i t 's raining and I do n't bel ieve i t 's raining. Will I be alaughingstock , in tha t case? Given a l l th i s surrounding sense , and g iven(as Wi t tgenste in would agree) tha t a M oore-paradoxica l sen tence i s no tself-contradictory, ho w can i t be an Uns atz, in the first person, thati t 's ra in ing and I don ' t be l ieve i t 's ra in ing , o r the like? Does be l ieve

    not mean the same in I don ' t be l ieve i t 's ra in ing . as in He doesn ' tbe l ieve i t' s ra in ing . , o r what?

    Philosophical Studies 77: 229-239, 1995. 1995RogersAlbritton. Printed in The Netherlands.

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    230 ROGERS LBRITTON

    I t ake the word Unsatz f rom the d iscuss ion of 'Moore 's paradox ' insec t ion x o f par t II o f theInvestigations. In a sort of coda to that discus-s ion , Wi t tgenste in inv i tes us to consider what he ca l l s den Unsatz : 'Esd i i rf te regnen; aber es regnet n ich t ' , which Ansco mb e t ransla tes themisbego t ten sen tence 'I t ma y be ra in ing , bu t i t i sn ' t ' . Andthat sen tenceis indeed so m isbeg otten that , as far as I can see, there is nothing intel l i -g ib le to be sa id by i t. That i t ma y be ra in ing bu t i sn ' t ra in ing i s no Satzin the other sense of Sa tz : no s ta tement , no proposit ion . Wh ich mightseem paradoxica l , s ince there 's no th ing surface-grammat ica l ly doo me dabout the corresponding sen tence. Som e reso lu t ion of th i s apparen t para-

    dox m ight seem ca l led for, and no doub t could be suppl ied . But no t , Ith ink , by argu ing that no on e canbelieve tha t i t may be ra in ing bu t i sn ' t .The na tura l rep ly to som eone who says , f i rmly, I be l ieve tha t it may bera in ing bu t i sn ' t . i s no t No you don ' t . You can ' t . I t 's You be l ievewhat? Run tha t by me again . o r someth ing of the sort . What does i tm e a n to be l ieve tha t i t ma y be ra in ing bu t i sn ' t ? Noth ing , tha t 's what .Or so i t seems to me. And the au tob iographical Unsatz I be l ieve i t ma ybe ra in ing bu t i sn ' t . i s no t improved by any such tes ty supplements as

    Wh at I mean i s : Inm y j u d g men t , i tm a y wel l be ra in ing bu t i snot ra ining. Don ' t you unders tand Engl i sh? I do , I do , and tha t ' s m y problem.To be sure , the fe l low hasn ' t con t rad ic ted h imsel f . But a l l the same, i ts t r ikes me as an Unsatz tha t i t may be ra in ing bu t i sn ' t. In such a case ,

    i t i sn ' t tha t what one can be l ieve const ra ins what one can assert , asProfessor Shoemak er says about the l ikes of I t ' s ra in ing and I don ' tbel ieve i t 's raining. On the contrary, wha t one can assert constrainswhat on e can be l ieve . There 's no be l iev ing an Unsatz . An d I t ake i t tha tin Wittgens tein 's view, i t is acomparab le Unsatz, in the first person, thati t 's ra in ing and one doesn ' t be l ieve i t is . I am inc l ined to th ink so m ysel f ,I confess , as I con templa te the misbegot ten sen tence I t ' s ra in ing and Ido n't bel iev e i t is . and the rest of i ts i lk . For Wittgen stein, at any rate,the problem these sen tences presen t i s to see how i t can make n osenseto say such a thing as It 's raining and I don 't bel ieve it is . unless, forex amp l e , I b e l iev e . . . d o esn ' tsay the same about onese l f as Sheb e l i ev es . . . wo u l d say ab o u t so meo n e el se (o r ab o u t so meo n e wh o m

    o n e took to be so meo ne e l se) .

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    COMMENTS ON MOORE 'S PARADOX AND SELF-KNOWLEDGE 231

    It seems absurd to suspect tha t the verb be l ieve i s thus ambiguous.Or to suspect , al ternat ively, that by the 'T ' o f declarat ive I bel ieve ,and the l ike, one do esn ' trefer to on ese l f (wi th the resu l t tha t one i sn ' tsay ing anyth ingabout oneself). But i f there wereno seman t ic a sy mm et rybetween I t ' s ra in ing , bu t she does n ' t be lieve i t i s . and I t ' s ra in ing ,bu t I don ' t be l ieve i t is . , how could the la t te r l ack sense? Not tha t anysuch semant ic asym metry, whatever i t was , would suffice to expla inthe absurd i ty of I t ' s ra in ing and I don ' t be l ieve i t i s . ( I t migh t evenseem to erase tha t absurd i ty by depriv ing I don ' t be l ieve i t i s . o fproposi t ional conten t even on i ts own.) But wi thout accep t ing any suchasymm etry, how are we to accep t , peacefu lly, tha t a Mo ore-paradoxica lsentence is useless in the sense tha t a Moore-paradoxer wouldn ' t besay ing anyth ing? That he w ould n ' t i s paradoxica l , i f t rue, and s eems inthe Investigations and e l sewhere to be what W i t tgenstein main ly mean tb y M o o re ' s p a rad o x.

    Now, I don ' t know who e lse of consequence has taken qu i te sograve a v iew o f Moore-paradoxica l sen tences. Moore h imse l f d idn ' t , fo rexample , in a passage of h i s Rep ly to h is c r i ti cs to which ProfessorRosenthal refers us. Moore 's view, there, is explici t ly that one couldperfect ly well assert, by ut tering a senten ce of the form in quest io n, animpeccable conjunct ion . The od di ty of th is asser t ion would l ie on ly insay ing that one d idn ' t be l ieve a th ing and in the same brea th imp ly ing

    tha t one d id believe i t , by the act of saying the thing i tself, whatever i twas . Moo re doesn ' t go on about th i s spec ies o f imply ing , o r about theprobable fo l ly of assert ing one of these odd conjunct ions . What ' s c learis only that he thinks they are true or false, andcan be asserted, andis therefore far from thinking that they are senseless Unsli tze. As areShoemaker and Rosentha l , a l though they don ' t o therwise much agreewith each other.

    Accord ing to Shoemaker, i t i s impossib le in p r inc ip le tobelievethe th ing tha t would be asser ted by an asser t ive Moore-paradoxica lut terance. And this is what explains tha t such an u t te rance wou ldinvolve some sort o f p ragmat ic cont rad ic tion , he says . But would th i s

    pragmat ic cont rad ic t ion ge t in the way ofasser t ing an y t h i n g b y su ch

    an u t te rance? Wel l, I don ' t see why i t would , on Shoe make r ' s account . Tobe sure, he says, early on in his paper, that one can notasser t a Moore-

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    232 ROGERS ALBRIT DN

    paradoxica l sen tence , because what one can be l ieve const ra ins whatone can asser t . But I wond er i f he qu i te be l ieves tha t . He g ives no reasonwhy one can ' t asser t what one can ' t be l ieve , even i f i t were obv ious tha tone co uldn ' t and d idn ' t be l ieve i t . There ' s ly ing , a f te r a ll . There ' s evenobvious ly ing . And unl ike Rosentha l , who takes ly ing to be mere shamassert ion , as in d ramat ic performances and rec i ta t ions , Shoem aker takesi t that no t al l assert ion is sincere. He says so explici t ly (p. 211). Sowh y co u l d n ' t o n e g o i n fo runtruthful asser tion of Moore-paradoxica lsen tences , in hopes of ge t t ing in terv iewed on te lev