**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Two English Critics
by [?]

Mr. Russell himself is far too witty and athletic a ratiocinator simply to repeat the slander dogmatically. Being nothing if not mathematical and logical, he must prove the accusation secundum artem, and convict us not so much of error as of absurdity. I have sincerely tried to follow the windings of his mind in this procedure, but for the life of me I can only see in it another example of what I have called (above, p. 249) vicious abstractionism. The abstract world of mathematics and pure logic is so native to Mr. Russell that he thinks that we describers of the functions of concrete fact must also mean fixed mathematical terms and functions. A mathematical term, as a, b, c, x, y, sin., log., is self-sufficient, and terms of this sort, once equated, can be substituted for one another in endless series without error. Mr. Russell, and also Mr. Hawtrey, of whom I shall speak presently, seem to think that in our mouth also such terms as ‘meaning,’ ‘truth,’ ‘belief,’ ‘object,’ ‘definition,’ are self-sufficients with no context of varying relation that might be further asked about. What a word means is expressed by its definition, isn’t it? The definition claims to be exact and adequate, doesn’t it? Then it can be substituted for the word–since the two are identical–can’t it? Then two words with the same definition can be substituted for one another, n’est–ce pas? Likewise two definitions of the same word, nicht wahr, etc., etc., till it will be indeed strange if you can’t convict some one of self-contradiction and absurdity.

The particular application of this rigoristic treatment to my own little account of truth as working seems to be something like what follows. I say ‘working’ is what the ‘truth’ of our ideas means, and call it a definition. But since meanings and things meant, definitions and things defined, are equivalent and interchangeable, and nothing extraneous to its definition can be meant when a term is used, it follows that who so calls an idea true, and means by that word that it works, cannot mean anything else, can believe nothing but that it does work, and in particular can neither imply nor allow anything about its object or deliverance. ‘According to the pragmatists,’ Mr. Russell writes, ‘to say “it is true that other people exist” means “it is useful to believe that other people exist.” But if so, then these two phrases are merely different words for the same proposition; therefore when I believe the one, I believe the other’ (p. 400). [Logic, I may say in passing, would seem to require Mr. Russell to believe them both at once, but he ignores this consequence, and considers that other people exist’ and ‘it is useful to believe that they do EVEN IF THEY DON’T,’ must be identical and therefore substitutable propositions in the pragmatist mouth.]

But may not real terms, I now ask, have accidents not expressed in their definitions? and when a real value is finally substituted for the result of an algebraic series of substituted definitions, do not all these accidents creep back? Beliefs have their objective ‘content’ or ‘deliverance’ as well as their truth, and truth has its implications as well as its workings. If any one believe that other men exist, it is both a content of his belief and an implication of its truth, that they should exist in fact. Mr. Russell’s logic would seem to exclude, ‘by definition,’ all such accidents as contents, implications, and associates, and would represent us as translating all belief into a sort of belief in pragmatism itself–of all things! If I say that a speech is eloquent, and explain ‘eloquent’ as meaning the power to work in certain ways upon the audience; or if I say a book is original, and define ‘original’ to mean differing from other books, Russell’s logic, if I follow it at all, would seem to doom me to agreeing that the speech is about eloquence, and the book about other books. When I call a belief true, and define its truth to mean its workings, I certainly do not mean that the belief is a belief ABOUT the workings. It is a belief about the object, and I who talk about the workings am a different subject, with a different universe of discourse, from that of the believer of whose concrete thinking I profess to give an account.