[lit-ideas] Mooreana

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 14 May 2014 10:51:49 -0400 (EDT)

In a message dated 5/13/2014 3:00:24 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
rpaul@xxxxxxxx writes:
[Wittgenstein] got his PhD from Cambridge, in 1929. He  submitted the 
Tractatus as his dissertation. His examiners were Russell and  G.E.Moore. The 
story of the proceedings is well-known, and Moore's report to the  Cambridge 
authorities is a classic. You could look it up. Try here.

A classic indeed.
Some context from Wikipedia:
It was Lord Russell (or Baron Russell) who urged Witters to offer the  
"Tractatus" as his (i.e. Witters's) thesis. 
It was examined in 1929 by both Baron Russell and Professor Moore.
At the end of the thesis defence, Witters rather disrespectfully  clapped 
the two examiners on the shoulder and, in a way, insulted them:
"Don't worry, I know you'll never understand it."
However, kind Prof. Moore later in the examiner's report a sort  vehicle 
for his 'conversational implicature' about average Cantab.  doctorates:
Dear Examiners,
I myself consider that this is a work of genius.
But, even if I am completely mistaken and it is nothing of the sort, it is  
well above the standard required for the Ph.D. degree."
The 'even if I am completely mistaken' is an echo of what is known in the  
literature (not Greek literature) as a Moore-type paradox. Variants:

It is raining, but I don't believe it.
The Tractatus is a work of genius, but I may be COMPLETELY mistaken  
(implicature: and it ain't).
WITTERS: Don't worry. I KNOW you'll never understand the Tractatus.
MOORE: How do you KNOW that you know?
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