2013 | 21 | 2(82) | 99-116
Article title

Epistemologiczny status danych zmysłowych i wiedzy bezpośredniej w filozofii George’a Edwarda Moore’a

Title variants
Epistemological Status of Sense Data and Immediate Knowledge in the Philosophy of George Edward Moore
Languages of publication
The paper explores two pivotal concepts of Moore’s philosophy: sense data and immediate knowledge, examining their mutual relations. While the concept of sense data is commonly known and has often been extensively discussed, that of immediate knowledge is usually not explicitly mentioned. Nevertheless, Moore, in his arguments for the philosophy of common sense (e.g. in A Defence of Common Sense or Proof of an External World), often referred to examples of empirical knowledge that can be defined as immediate knowledge, i.e. knowledge acquired directly, not inferentially, and constituting a foundation for drawing all further conclusions concerning the empirical world, e.g. “Here is one hand”. The opposite of it is mediate knowledge, which is always a result of inferring from statements expressing bits of immediate knowledge. Although the two terms in question rarely appear explicite in Moore, they are widely discussed in his lectures from 1910–1911, published only in 1953 as Some Main Problems of Philosophy. The present analysis refers mostly to this work. It seems that the question of mutual relations between the concepts of sense data and of immediate knowledge constituted a serious problem for Moore. For sense data are the foundations of immediate empirical knowledge, while not being any knowledge themselves. At the same time, immediate knowledge, having to be based strictly on sense data, still has to comprise something more for it to be knowledge at all. In addition, due to Moore’s assumption that immediate knowledge is not inferential, the shift from sense datum to empirical knowledge cannot be based on any inference. For only mediate knowledge can be a result of inferences. The paper reveals main inconsistencies in Moore’s understanding of immediate knowledge, presenting it as a complex epistemological item in which – contrary to the intentions of Moore himself – the crucial role is played by inference. Accordingly, in its conclusion, it shows that the considerations on epistemological, empirical immediacy put forward in Some Main Problems of Philosophy can be plausibly interpreted in favor of a broadly inferentialist stance: that immediate empirical knowledge does not exist, being a particular case of the myth of the given. It should be noticed that the analysis presented in the paper, although possibly consistent with Wittgenstein’s well known critique of Moore (On Certainty), is mostly inspired by Sellars’ essay Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind.
Physical description
  • Faculty of Education, University of Lower Silesia, Strzegomska 55, 53-611 Wrocław, Poland,
Document Type
Publication order reference
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