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When I took Metaphysics last spring with professor Grey, we started the course
discussing what it means to exist. Many in the course proposed a wide array of
ideas and definitions, eventually leading to distinguishing between 'being' and
'existing' and whether fictional objects could exist. We found ourselves carving
out fine-grained distinctions for the purpose of placing some objects in a
different category of existing than others. Some were not, for instance,
comfortable with the idea that numbers were real, physical things, and so they
were made something else - mathematical objects are ones which exist, but have
no being. The distinctions seemed, at the time, worthwhile. However, later in
the course after studying factionalism and arguing over Meinong's work,
professor Grey paraphrased G.E. Moore: "I have one hand, I have another had. I
have two hands". He would later explain that the work we were doing resembled
something of a denial of Moorean facts; things which are so obvious it seems
absurd to deny their truth. 

Moore's 'A Defense of Common Sense' seems to be, in many ways, a direct
precursor to the work of those in the Vienna Circle, the Positivists, and their
progeny. He begins by offering a strong criticism of the work of "some
philosophers" (106). He argues that, in some cases, their rejection of common
sense is contradictory in their very act of rejecting it. In others, it merely
doesn't pan out (110-1).  Overall, he seems to be criticizing the metaphysical
work of other philosophers, in ways reminiscent but not entirely as explicit as
people like Hume or his contemporary Neurath. However, his criticism of Mill's
account of material objects at the end is striking. He says that it is "the only
possible alternative if (1) and (2) are rejected" (132), but still finds the
argument questionable. Indeed, Moore seems to instead want to stick with the far
simpler account that he simply knows these facts to be the case, because of
common sense.


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