Moore’s Paradox and Limits in Language Use

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Moore’sparadox, the tangle associated with the phrase “I believe it is raining andit’s not raining” got Wittgenstein philosophically excited. He treated theissue both in detail and at large over many years. A central theme of generalinterpretative debate has been whether he, as a feature of his philosophicalmethod, aimed to establish some kinds of limits of language use or not. In thischapter, I revisit some presumptive candidates for such limits and respondnegatively to the question. Rather than presenting more or less completephilosophical analyses of psychological concepts or invoking “limits” oflanguage (here related to grammatical features of belief ascription andexpression and our relation to our own words in contrast to those of others),Wittgenstein’s remarks in relation to Moore’s paradox work as reminders ofspecific features of language use. These features of language use are ones thatphilosophers are prone to overlook, and as a consequence they end up inphilosophical confusion – and in our case, the disregard of these features iswhat is required to entertain Moore’s paradox.

Wittgensteinprovides a methodological antidote to the assumption that the issue at stake issome kind of logical obstacle to asserting the Moorean sentence: it is whentreated cold or void of context of use that such sentences display the Mooreanfeature. Instead of ruling out certain ways of speaking as special cases, theycan be treated inclusively as different instances of use. When presented incircumstances in which they can do work, moorean sentences loose theirparadoxical feature, and of what seemed to be a paradox, we are left with merepieces of surface grammar. 

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWittgenstein and the Limits of Language
EditorsHanne Appelqvist
ISBN (Electronic)9781351202671
ISBN (Print)9780815385011
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book


  • Moore's paradox
  • Philosophy
  • Wittgenstein, Ludwig


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