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Two English Critics
by [?]

The only remedy for this intolerable ambiguity is, it seems to me, to stick to terms consistently. ‘Reality,’ ‘idea’ or ‘belief,’ and the ‘truth of the idea or belief,’ which are the terms I have consistently held to, seem to be free from all objection.

Whoever takes terms abstracted from all their natural settings, identifies them with definitions, and treats the latter more algebraico, not only risks mixing universes, but risks fallacies which the man in the street easily detects. To prove ‘by definition’ that the statement ‘Caesar exists’ is identical with a statement about ‘expediency’ because the one statement is ‘true’ and the other is about ‘true statements,’ is like proving that an omnibus is a boat because both are vehicles. A horse may be defined as a beast that walks on the nails of his middle digits. Whenever we see a horse we see such a beast, just as whenever we believe a ‘truth’ we believe something expedient. Messrs. Russell and Hawtrey, if they followed their antipragmatist logic, would have to say here that we see THAT IT IS such a beast, a fact which notoriously no one sees who is not a comparative anatomist.

It almost reconciles one to being no logician that one thereby escapes so much abstractionism. Abstractionism of the worst sort dogs Mr. Russell in his own trials to tell positively what the word ‘truth’ means. In the third of his articles on Meinong, in Mind, vol. xiii, p. 509 (1904), he attempts this feat by limiting the discussion to three terms only, a proposition, its content, and an object, abstracting from the whole context of associated realities in which such terms are found in every case of actual knowing. He puts the terms, thus taken in a vacuum, and made into bare logical entities, through every possible permutation and combination, tortures them on the rack until nothing is left of them, and after all this logical gymnastic, comes out with the following portentous conclusion as what he believes to be the correct view: that there is no problem at all in truth and falsehood, that some propositions are true and some false, just as some roses are red and some white, that belief is a certain attitude towards propositions, which is called knowledge when they are true, error when they are false’–and he seems to think that when once this insight is reached the question may be considered closed forever!

In spite of my admiration of Mr. Russell’s analytic powers, I wish, after reading such an article, that pragmatism, even had it no other function, might result in making him and other similarly gifted men ashamed of having used such powers in such abstraction from reality. Pragmatism saves us at any rate from such diseased abstractionism as those pages show.

P. S. Since the foregoing rejoinder was written an article on Pragmatism which I believe to be by Mr. Russell has appeared in the Edinburgh Review for April, 1909. As far as his discussion of the truth-problem goes, altho he has evidently taken great pains to be fair, it seems to me that he has in no essential respect improved upon his former arguments. I will therefore add nothing further, but simply refer readers who may be curious to pp. 272-280 of the said article.