ANTHONY S. GILLIES
A NEW SOLUTION TO MOORE’S PARADOX
(Received 23 August 2000; received in revised form 14 November 2000)
ABSTRACT. Moore’s paradox pits our intuitions about semantic oddness against
the concept of truth-functional consistency. Most solutions to the problem proceed
by explaining away our intuitions. But “consistency” is a theory-laden concept,
having different contours in different semantic theories. Truth-functional consist-
ency is appropriate only if the semantic theory we are using identiﬁes meaning
with truth-conditions. I argue that such a framework is not appropriate when
it comes to analzying epistemic modality. I show that a theory which accounts
for a wide variety of semantic data about epistemic modals (Update Semantics)
buys us a solution to Moore’s paradox as a corollary. It turns out that Moorean
propositions, when looked at through the lense of an appropriate semantic theory,
are inconsistent after all.
There is something odd about sentences like (1):
(1) It is raining, but I don’t believe it.
This is, of course, exactly the puzzle that G. E. Moore brought to
our attention. We can state the paradox that (1) poses in this way.
On the one hand, (1) seems contradictory. If I ﬁrst assert that it is
raining, then it seems ﬂatly inconsistent for me to then go on to
deny that I have the relevant belief about the current weather. So (1)
must be inconsistent. But, on the other hand, there is an assignment
of truth-values to the constituents of (1) such that the sentence as
a whole comes out true. For, we need only to consider a world in
which it is raining as a matter of fact, but that I have a false belief or
perhaps no belief at all about the current weather in that world. But
if there is an assignment of truth-values to the component parts of
(1) such that the whole sentence is rendered true, then it cannot be
inconsistent. This, then, is our puzzle since a single sentence cannot
be both inconsistent and consistent.
Philosophical Studies 105: 237–250, 2001.
© 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.