Bloomsbury’s Prophet: G.E. Moore and the Development of His Moral Philosophy

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Regan’s thesis is that an adequate understanding of Moore’s ethical philosophy can be achieved only when seen against the backdrop of Bloomsburythe avant-garde group of free spirits (among whom were Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, and John Maynard Keynes) that met weekly in London between 1905 and 1920. When seen in that light, Regan argues, Moore’s thought as expressed in Principia Ethica is a “radical defense of the freedom of the individual to choose,” rather than a defense of conformity to the status quo, as is usually assumed.

Written with the verve appropriate to its subject, and yet philosophically scrupulous, this book deserves a place in philosophy and cultural history collections in both public and academic libraries. Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Lib., Washington, D.C.

1987. Bloomsbury’s Prophet: The Moral Philosophy of G.E. Moore. Temple University Press.

In addition to Bloomsbury’s Prophet, Tom Regan’s other major contributions to Moorean scholarship are Moore: The Early Essays (1987) and G.E. Moore: The Elements of Ethics (1991).


“This is a marvelous book . . . [one among the two] most illuminating discussions of Moore’s philosophy that I have encountered . . . [Regan’s] thesis is that ‘Moore, especially in Principia Ethica, offers a moral philosophy that, for its time and place, is a radical defense of the freedom of the individual to judge and choose’ and not a demand that ‘the individual unquestioningly conform to existing social customs and moral rules’ . . . [Regan] says that ‘he hoped to craft a book about a philosopher unlike any previously done . . . to create a book at once literary and entertaining, but one that did not fall short of the highest demands of philosophic scholarship’ . . . I would say that Regan has realized his ambitions and produced just the book he hoped to write. It is a book that is literary and entertaining and does meet the highest demands of historical and philosophical scholarship. I applaud him.” — E. D. Klemke, International Studies in Philosophy

“The portrait of the man Moore that Regan gives us is not only unique in the growing body of Edwardian literature, but it is well done, indeed.” — Aurum Stroll, Journal of the History of Philosophy

“. . . illuminating . . . [Regan] has certainly succeeded in supplementing the conventional picture of Moore.” — Stuart Hampshire, New York Review of Books

“ . . . a scholarly master piece. It balances text against context, showing how to interpret Moore’s pronouncements on ethics against the background of the Edwardian era . . . It is rare (at least in philosophy) to find a book that combines exegetical precision with historical acumen and insight, and does so in a lucid, engaging style. Regan’s account of Moore’s development as a moral philosopher has all these virtues, and more.” — Dennis Rohatyn, past president, the Moore Society

“Written with the verve appropriate to its subject, and yet philosophically scrupulous, this book deserves a place in philosophy and cultural history collections in both public and academic libraries.” — Leon H. Brody, Library Journal

“. . . elegant and impressive . . . Regan has deepened our understanding of an important line of thought in recent ethics, and provided a surprising and convincing account of its genesis and its interest for an extraordinary group of people.” — Lawrence C. Becker, Spectator Magazine

“The first full-length philosophical work to examine the influence of G. E. Moore’s thought and character on the Bloomsbury group, this scholarly but engrossing study offers a fresh view of Moore’s development as a moral philosopher . . . Highly recommended.” — S. Andre, Choice

“A shrewd, often witty and insightful look at G. E. Moore’s philosophy and his world . . . A must for intelligent students of literature. Regan is a provocative, lively observer of the philosopher and his time.” — The Book Review

“Enlightening about the early Moore and a pleasure to read.” — The Key Reporter

“Bloomsbury’s Prophet is a well-written and provocative book, the main virtue of which is that it makes Principia Ethica more interesting and understandable to us than it had been until now.” — James Klagge, Ethics

“Regan presents a new and unfamiliar portrait of G. E. Moore. Principia Ethica will never seem the same again.” — James Rachels

“… serves as a welcome corrective to the typical approach to Moore’s early ethical theory. This book should help direct Moore studies for years to come.” — John O’Connor

“An unfortunate result of the ever-increasing specialization among scholars is that whole currents of thought may go unnoticed because they cross departmental boundaries. Bloomsbury’s Prophet slips across these false boundaries with ease, dramatically revising the current estimate of Moore by studying him in the context of his literary associations.” — Paul Gilster, The News and Observer