G.E. Moore’s Principia Ethica and the complex of architecture


  • Tim Gough Kingston University School of Architecture and Landscape




G.E. Moore’s Principia Ethica of 1903 is generally regarded as a starting point of analytical philosophy.  It’s concern with analytical propositions, the pushing of analysis to an end point, its rigorous style, the clarity of its arguments and the precise demolition of the less-than-rigorous work of preceding philosophers provided a template for how twentieth century Anglo-Saxon thought might forge its own path. 

This paper argues that Moore’s notion of the “organic whole”, together with his concern for the goodness of human intercourse, are inherently architectural thoughts with implications for a non-formalist theory or ontology of architecture.  Moore’s emphasis on the intermixture of the work and the subject, his interest in the material quality of things, his championing of the possibilities of valuing the apparently mundane if seen within a broader context, his doubts about representational art compared to environmental beauty, and his valuing of the sociability of human intercourse all point to a rich concept of what architecture can be.  The paper will critique Moore’s central idea and will show that what he calls an organic whole is in fact misnamed.

Author Biography

Tim Gough, Kingston University School of Architecture and Landscape

Tim Gough leads Design Studio 3.2 at Kingston University School of Architecture and Landscape, and lectures in the history and theory of architecture.  His research interests include phenomenology, the work of Gilles Deleuze, and Roman baroque architecture; he is currently working on a book about the ontology of architecture.


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