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A Word More About Truth
by [?]

[Footnote: Reprint from the Journal of Philosophy, July 18, 1907.]

My failure in making converts to my conception of truth seems, if I may judge by what I hear in conversation, almost complete. An ordinary philosopher would feel disheartened, and a common choleric sinner would curse God and die, after such a reception. But instead of taking counsel of despair, I make bold to vary my statements, in the faint hope that repeated droppings may wear upon the stone, and that my formulas may seem less obscure if surrounded by something more of a ‘mass’ whereby to apperceive them.

For fear of compromising other pragmatists, whoe’er they be, I will speak of the conception which I am trying to make intelligible, as my own conception. I first published it in the year 1885, in the first article reprinted in the present book. Essential theses of this article were independently supported in 1893 and 1895 by Professor D. S. Miller [Footnote: Philosophical Review, vol. ii, p. 408, and Psychological Review, vol. ii, p. 533.] and were repeated by me in a presidential address on ‘The knowing of things together’ [Footnote: The relevant parts of which are printed above, p. 43.] in 1895. Professor Strong, in an article in the Journal of Philosophy, etc., [Footnote: Vol. i, p. 253.] entitled ‘A naturalistic theory of the reference of thought to reality,’ called our account ‘the James-Miller theory of cognition,’ and, as I understood him, gave it his adhesion. Yet, such is the difficulty of writing clearly in these penetralia of philosophy, that each of these revered colleagues informs me privately that the account of truth I now give–which to me is but that earlier statement more completely set forth–is to him inadequate, and seems to leave the gist of real cognition out. If such near friends disagree, what can I hope from remoter ones, and what from unfriendly critics?

Yet I feel so sure that the fault must lie in my lame forms of statement and not in my doctrine, that I am fain to try once more to express myself.

Are there not some general distinctions which it may help us to agree about in advance? Professor Strong distinguishes between what he calls ‘saltatory’ and what he calls ‘ambulatory’ relations. ‘Difference,’ for example, is saltatory, jumping as it were immediately from one term to another, but ‘distance’ in time or space is made out of intervening parts of experience through which we ambulate in succession. Years ago, when T. H. Green’s ideas were most influential, I was much troubled by his criticisms of english sensationalism. One of his disciples in particular would always say to me, ‘Yes! TERMS may indeed be possibly sensational in origin; but RELATIONS, what are they but pure acts of the intellect coming upon the sensations from above, and of a higher nature?’ I well remember the sudden relief it gave me to perceive one day that SPACE- relations at any rate were homogeneous with the terms between which they mediated. The terms were spaces, and the relations were other intervening spaces. [Footnote: See my Principles of Psychology, vol. ii, pp. 148-153.] For the Greenites space-relations had been saltatory, for me they became thenceforward ambulatory.

Now the most general way of contrasting my view of knowledge with the popular view (which is also the view of most epistemologists) is to call my view ambulatory, and the other view saltatory; and the most general way of characterizing the two views is by saying that my view describes knowing as it exists concretely, while the other view only describes its results abstractly taken.

I fear that most of my recalcitrant readers fail to recognize that what is ambulatory in the concrete may be taken so abstractly as to appear saltatory. Distance, for example, is made abstract by emptying out whatever is particular in the concrete intervals–it is reduced thus to a sole ‘difference,’ a difference of ‘place,’ which is a logical or saltatory distinction, a so-called ‘pure relation.’