On meaning.

Sidgwick’s Legacy? Russell and Moore on Meaning and Philosophical Inquiry

Sébastien Gandon


James Levine has recently argued (1998, 2009, 2016) that there is a tension between Russell’s Moorean semantical framework and Russell’s Peano-inspired analytical practice. According to Levine, this discrepancy runs deep in Russell’s thought from 1900 to 1918, and underlies many of the doctrinal changes occurring during this period. In this paper, I suggest that, contrary to what Levine claims, there is no incompatibility between Moore’s theory of meaning and the idea of informative conceptual analysis. I show this by relating Moore’s view of meaning to his Sidgwick-inspired criticism of the so-called naturalistic fallacy. I maintain that Moore’s semantical framework has a methodological intent: following Sidgwick, Moore wants to block any attempt to justify ethical principles through setting ad hoc conditions on the meaning of the terms involved. Thus, far from grounding philosophical knowledge on subjective intuitions, as Levine suggests, Moore’s framework would provide us with the means to make room for a discursive and dialectic conception of philosophical inquiry. [PDF available]

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