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In his discussion of Bradley's philosophy, Dr Schiller (Mind, N.S., 134) argues that the sceptical position which arises from the “refusal to recognise the actual procedures of our thought”, is further supported by the systematic substitution of propositions for “genuine judgments”. Bradley, he maintains, is sceptical because he ignores the requirement of relevance and insists on merely verbal forms. Thus “the question of absolute truth becomes that of whether the totality of truth can be packed into a single form of words”; and since this is clearly impossible, a sceptical theory, “which denies truth to man to reserve it for the Absolute,” is inevitable.

It is not, however, necessary in admitting this conclusion to admit either that the question of relevance enters into the question of the truth of judgments, or that insistence on propositions raises any barrier to truth. Our procedure, in passing judgments on things or in voluntarily selecting certain subjects for consideration, may well be taken to indicate that we do not as a matter of fact seek any “totality of truth” but on the contrary believe, as our ordinary discourse shows — indeed the whole possibility of discourse depends on it — that there are any number of independent truths, each as “absolute” as any truth can be. But all this goes no way towards showing that these independent truths take the form of judgments, as distinct from propositions. What is indicated is that the conception of a “totality of truth” is a confused one — as confused as Dr Schiller, in his discussion in Mind, N.S., 130, has shown the conception of an “infinite whole” to be. The impossibility of packing the “totality of truth” into a single form of words is the best reason for rejecting this conception; it could never be a reason for rejecting forms of words.

Dr Schiller's main argument against forms of words is, of course, that no such form could stand the strain of being applied under every conceivable set of conditions and circumstances, whereas, if we restrict ourselves to the judgment which the words conveyed, and which has its application and its proper conditions solely in “its psychical setting and the context in which it arose”, falsification is no longer inevitable. Now it seems so clear to me that, when we make a statement, we are trying to convey something which is true independently of us and in distinction from any circumstances (though we admit that it has circumstances), something which equally raises no question of application to different cases or of being menaced by a variety of possibilities, something which just is “literally true”, that I have some difficulty in following Dr Schiller's argument and can only hope that I may not be


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misrepresenting it. It is surely the case that if there is any actual situation whatever which conflicts with the literal truth of a statement, then that statement is false. If “no human truth could stand this strain”, then we should have to despair of truth. (Of course this position is untenable, since if any proposition is not literally true, its contradictory is literally true.)

It appears that one of the main possibilities that Dr Schiller has in mind, in holding that a form of judgment could not stand the test of all situations “in its verbal integrity”, is ambiguity. Now it is perfectly true that the same set of words may be used to convey entirely different things. But, when we recognise this in any given case, it is always by means of words that we proceed to make the further distinctions that are necessary. When I agree with Dr Schiller that “Bradley is sceptical”, a third person may take the statement to refer to a different Bradley. The ambiguity may then be removed by saying “F. H. Bradley”, adding, if necessary, “author of ‘Appearance and Reality’”, and so on. A similarly verbal procedure would be adopted, if there were any dubiety about the meaning of “sceptical”. But, as it is, we are agreed on the verbal statement “Bradley is sceptical”.

What we agree on is not, of course, a form of words. The words cause us to suppose a certain situation or state of affairs, which, treated as a possibility in the question “Is Bradley sceptical?” is treated by those who believe the proposition as actual or as having occurred — as what we call a “matter of fact”. Now what else is meant by the truth of the proposition except that the supposed state of affairs has actually occurred? But this occurrence is just as independent of our having judged it, as it is of the words in which we state it; on the other hand, it is just as capable of being stated unambiguously in words, as it is of being judged in distinction from anything else. We can misunderstand a statement, but equally we can misinterpret an occurrence; these are the risks we have to take in our reactions to things. But we assume, in the various distinct statements and judgments that we make, that there are various independent occurrences to be known. Now no one will deny that knowledge of actual occurrences is conveyed by means of words, that, in fact, discourse is the vehicle of the communication of truth. To supplant verbal forms by psychic settings is therefore to despair of communicable truth and eventually of all objectivity. Thus there is no need to appeal from propositions to judgments, but every reason for not doing so, if scepticism is to be avoided.

A distinction has to be made, in considering the question of context, between the psychical conditions of our thinking and the objective conditions of the occurrence of which we are thinking. No doubt it depends on our state of mind whether we believe a certain proposition or not (and similarly whether we understand a statement made to us). But to explain how we come to think anything does not explain whether it is true or not. Even if the proposition is about ourselves, its truth is not dependent on our believing it. But only on the basis of a confusion


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between judging and judged could it be supposed, as Dr Schiller appears to do, that all our judgments are about ourselves. He takes as the meaning of the judgment “that in view of all the circumstances present to its maker's mind and judged relevant by him, he has judged it best to make his judgment”. His judging may imply all this, but what he has judged does not; and it is for what he has judged, and not for his judging, that truth is claimed. If the truth-claim of a judgment “can be disputed only by showing that under these same conditions something better and so truer could have been judged”, then, considering that another person's judgment, as well as the same person's judgment at another time, would arise from a different psychic setting and so introduce different conditions, it would appear that a truth-claim could never be disputed. This shows the necessity of considering truth as concerned with what is judged, and not with judging, and so of eliminating the psychic context, at least.

If now we consider the objective circumstances or conditions of what is judged, it at once appears that in so describing them we distinguish them from the occurrence which they condition, and justify ourselves in speaking independently of it. Dr Schiller, it may be noted, speaks in this way of the conditions, but a consistent procedure would compel him to go on to consider conditions of conditions and circumstances of circumstances, and so on in the direction of that “totality” which he is anxious to avoid. If “circumstances” are really relevant to an assertion, they are part of what is asserted, and so cease to be circumstances. In short, with whatever other occurrences an occurrence may be connected, in asserting it we take it as distinct from those others, and thus as something which may be independently known (known even if they are not known); this distinctness (which does not exclude connection) being the ground of our referring to it as an independent occurrence — of our formulating the proposition. On this view it appears that in propositions we are not concerned with application or context, nor are propositions “about” anything.note They are simply true or false; and, if true, they are independently or “absolutely” true. To reject this view it would be necessary to show that we do not mean by a “truth” something which actually occurs. We can of course make specific assertions about circumstances, but this merely means that we can refer to a situation or occurrence which can he described as, or which involves, the connection or distinction of a number of occurrences. This will be a description of what it is that we are judging, and not of its context.

There is a sense in which we can say that a proposition is about something, viz. about the subject of the proposition. Thus “Bradley is sceptical” might be said to be about Bradley. We can say so, because we know Bradley independently of this proposition; i.e. we know other characteristics of his. Such a distinction is necessary, if the proposition is to convey information. But the information which it does convey (which we may sum up as “Bradley's scepticism”) is something which


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equally is distinct from that other knowledge; it is, assuming as I have done that the statement is true, one particular occurrence. And this occurrence, which is what the proposition conveys, is not about anything.

Selection, then, if it is an admissible description of judging, does not consist in taking certain conditions into account as “relevant” and rejecting others as “irrelevant”, but in speaking of a certain thing unconditionally. We select occurrences, i.e. speak of them independently, because there are distinct occurrences; because only by speaking of specific things can we speak at all. Hence there is no need to demand a “right” to select. We need only refer to that independence which truth implies. This does not mean that things do not condition one another. But if we say that two things are connected, we imply that they are distinct and can be distinctly spoken of. And when we speak of one such thing, we are perfectly aware that it has connections with, as well as distinctions from, other things, although these do not enter into the statement in question.

Taking “things” roughly in the sense of subjects of possible propositions, it may be said that we can select those things we wish to speak about; but what we say about them will be either true or false. What Dr Schiller calls selecting “from the mass of possible predicates the assertion we judge best to make about” the subject, cannot be construed otherwise than as judging that the predicate truly belongs to the subject. Hence the right to select is not logically prior to any question about truth. Our selection of predicates is justified, or not, only in relation to what actually occurs. Our selection of subjects is justified in relation to the fact that there are any number of distinct things. But, as has been said, things though distinct may yet be connected or together. And it may be argued that we may make any combination we like of things, and call it one thing. This is opposed to the view that a thing has a special context, to which alone it belongs. But, as we saw, there is no ground for rejecting the universe as context and still insisting that things have a peculiar context of their own. In treating of any arbitrarily chosen thing we shall still be dealing with a subject which has certain predicates and not others; with specific states of affairs, connections and distinctions, which occur or do not occur. Our choice may be arbitrary; but the occurrence of the chosen thing and its predicates will be quite independent of our choice.

Granted that as a matter of fact things are together and distinct, we are not entitled to limit the possibilities of combination of many things into a “unity”, as Dr Schiller does in his criticism (Mind, N.S., 130) of Prof. Scott's theory of the “Infinite Whole”. We find, on the contrary, that whatever can be spoken of as one thing can also be spoken of as many things, and vice versa. We can speak of a number of MIND, which is composed of many articles, or of a collection of numbers of MIND, which includes that number; and in speaking of such “things” we shall attribute to them predicates which either belong to them or do not. We can synthesise two minds, if we can speak of “A's mind and B's mind”,


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though we may find it difficult, and above all uninteresting, to discover predicates of this peculiar thing. Dr Schiller asks, “How can the feelings, desires, idiosyncrasies, delusions, dreams, defects, errors and imaginations of two minds combine into a unity?” But does not drama precisely consist in the combination of the feelings, etc., of several minds into a unity? The point is simply that this unity is not a sort of identity; the components remain distinct. But the combination is also a distinct thing and has its actual predicates. And it is this distinctness that leads us to the rejection of the conception of an “infinite whole”, or of “everything” as a possible subject of discourse; just as it leads us to the recognition that, whatever combinations or components our interests may direct us to consider, the truth of the matter is independent of our consideration.

My general contention is, then, that it is by reference to propositions, and not to judgments, that the conception of the “totality of truth” is to be rejected; that, in fact, Dr Schiller's theory is just as sceptical as Bradley's, and that it shares the same defect — viz., the assumption that a thing is infected by its conditions and cannot be considered apart from them. This leads Bradley to the conclusion that the only thing that can really be considered is the unconditioned whole or Absolute; it leads Dr Schiller to seek to take things in connection with their peculiar conditions, which are to be found in judgment. In both cases it leads away from the acceptance or rejection of statements or propositions just as they stand; that is away from objective and communicable truth.

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