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A Dialogue
by [?]

After correcting the proofs of all that precedes I imagine a residual state of mind on the part of my reader which may still keep him unconvinced, and which it may be my duty to try at least to dispel. I can perhaps be briefer if I put what I have to say in dialogue form. Let then the anti-pragmatist begin:–

Anti-Pragmatist:–You say that the truth of an idea is constituted by its workings. Now suppose a certain state of facts, facts for example of antediluvian planetary history, concerning which the question may be asked:

‘Shall the truth about them ever be known?’ And suppose (leaving the hypothesis of an omniscient absolute out of the account) that we assume that the truth is never to be known. I ask you now, brother pragmatist, whether according to you there can be said to be any truth at all about such a state of facts. Is there a truth, or is there not a truth, in cases where at any rate it never comes to be known?

Pragmatist:–Why do you ask me such a question?

Anti-Prag.:–Because I think it puts you in a bad dilemma.

Prag.:–How so?

Anti-Prag.:–Why, because if on the one hand you elect to say that there is a truth, you thereby surrender your whole pragmatist theory. According to that theory, truth requires ideas and workings to constitute it; but in the present instance there is supposed to be no knower, and consequently neither ideas nor workings can exist. What then remains for you to make your truth of?

Prag.:–Do you wish, like so many of my enemies, to force me to make the truth out of the reality itself? I cannot: the truth is something known, thought or said about the reality, and consequently numerically additional to it. But probably your intent is something different; so before I say which horn of your dilemma I choose, I ask you to let me hear what the other horn may be.

Anti-Prag.:–The other horn is this, that if you elect to say that there is no truth under the conditions assumed, because there are no ideas or workings, then you fly in the face of common sense. Doesn’t common sense believe that every state of facts must in the nature of things be truly statable in some kind of a proposition, even tho in point of fact the proposition should never be propounded by a living soul?

Prag.:–Unquestionably common sense believes this, and so do I. There have been innumerable events in the history of our planet of which nobody ever has been or ever will be able to give an account, yet of which it can already be said abstractly that only one sort of possible account can ever be true. The truth about any such event is thus already generically predetermined by the event’s nature; and one may accordingly say with a perfectly good conscience that it virtually pre-exists. Common sense is thus right in its instinctive contention.

Anti-Prag.:–Is this then the horn of the dilemma which you stand for? Do you say that there is a truth even in cases where it shall never be known?

Prag.:–Indeed I do, provided you let me hold consistently to my own conception of truth, and do not ask me to abandon it for something which I find impossible to comprehend.–You also believe, do you not, that there is a truth, even in cases where it never shall be known?

Anti-Prag.:–I do indeed believe so.

Prag.:–Pray then inform me in what, according to you, this truth regarding the unknown consists.

Anti-Prag.:–Consists?–pray what do you mean by ‘consists’? It consists in nothing but itself, or more properly speaking it has neither consistence nor existence, it obtains, it holds.

Prag.:–Well, what relation does it bear to the reality of which it holds?

Anti-Prag.:-How do you mean, ‘what relation’? It holds of it, of course; it knows it, it represents it.

Prag.:–Who knows it? What represents it?