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date: 06 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

A profitable way of approaching the issue of analytic philosophy’s reflections on scepticism and knowledge is by looking at the history of G. E. Moore’s ‘Proof of an External World’, which first appeared in 1939. The paper has been the object of different and contrasting interpretations since then and is nowadays at the core of a large debate in epistemology. This chapter places the paper in its proper context and considers some classical interpretations of it, along with the ones which have fostered the ongoing debate. It analyses all of the interpretations from a historical point of view, pointing out how they are all somewhat wanting as renditions of Moore’s strategy. It first discusses Moore’s proof of an external world and Norman Malcolm’s interpretation of this proof, together with the interpretations by Thompson Clarke, Barry Stroud, Crispin Wright, and Jim Pryor. The chapter also proposes a different interpretation of the historical Moore. Finally, it revisits the present-day debate and sketches a further interpretation—Wittgensteinian in spirit—which may be of interest to contemporary discussions on the topic.

Keywords: analytic philosophy, G. E. Moore, scepticism, knowledge, external world, Norman Malcolm, Thompson Clarke, Barry Stroud, Crispin Wright, Jim Pryor

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