Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Revisiting Moore’s Metaphysics

Topics: Metaphysics
Keywords: existence, natural, particular, proposition, relation, trope, universal


The paper reexamines Moore’s early (1890s-1903) metaphysics and critically examines some recent discussion (Bell, MacBride) of both Moore’s metaphysics and the significance of the latter for his more well-known works of the early 20th century. In doing so it focuses on (1) the distinction between natural and non-natural properties, (2) problems regarding universals, relations, particulars, “tropes” and predication, and (3) the matter of “intentionality”—both as issues and as they arise in Moore’s early writings.

A topic of Moore’s dissertation works in 1897 and 1898 (Moore 2011) on the metaphysical basis of ethics suggests that key ideas in the classic Principia Ethica of 1903 can be understood in terms of his metaphysics or ontology of the period. This is especially so with respect to his celebrated claim that value properties are non-natural properties. That suggestion was set out in a 1962 paper examining a perplexing and odd ontology developed by the man later known as a, if not the, philosopher of common sense—a man celebrated for proving that two human hands exist by holding up both of his hands and, with appropriate gestures, asserting “Here is one hand, and here is another.” That became a well-known example employed by one of the founding fathers of the development of the 20th century analytic tradition in British philosophy.


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