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“I am convinced that some of the principles on which Realism bases itself and some of the arguments by which it buttresses itself are so palpably unsound as to cause wonder why admittedly competent minds have accepted them.” So says Professor A. C. Fox in leading up to his discussion and rejection of “the cardinal principle of Realism”, particularly as formulated and supported in my paper, “The Knower and the Known” (Proc. Arist. Soc., Vol. XXVII). Professor Fox's treatment of this “cardinal principle” is, as I shall attempt to show, far from being thorough, but it is gratifying to find an approach being made to the discussion of the central issues.

It is indeed the case that there is no mind so competent that it never falls into fallacy and inconsistency, and the realist and the idealist, humanly prone though they are to wonder how any sensible person can hold the view they oppose, can advance matters only by discussing specific issues. As I pointed out in discussing the philosophy of Alexander (“The Non-Existence of Consciousness”; A.J.P.P., Vol. VII, No. lnote), we cannot define Realism by what any particular realist says, for it is perfectly possible for him to make some quite unrealistic errors — as Alexander, I argued, has done, although “in his doctrine of Space-Time he has laid the foundation of a thorough-going realism as a logic of events”. Similarly I do not hold Idealism responsible for all that appears in the articles referred to, but shall endeavour in discussing these articles to keep the main issues clear.

Nevertheless, the fact that discussion is advanced by consideration only of the issue itself, and not of the minds of persons who hold views about it, is evidence of the truth of the realistic position. For Idealism, which makes the settling of every issue depend on the settling of every other, no issue can ever be settled — and thus Idealism itself cannot be upheld. All actual argument implies the independent issue or individually true proposition, and this is the same sort of independence as the realist finds in the terms of the relation, “knowledge”. On this issue there can


  ― 42 ―
be no compromise; the realist and the idealist simply cannot recognise each other's competence. Speaking as a realist, I find myself bound to assert that Idealism, so far from being competent philosophy, is not philosophy at all. But this does not prevent me from recognising that an adherent of Idealism may be acquainted with many philosophical truths, while an adherent of Realism, such as myself, may fall into many philosophical errors.

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