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ONT Re: Russell -- Philosophy Of Logical Atomism




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POLA.  Note 23

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| 4.2.  What is the Status of 'p' in "I believe 'p'"?
|
| You cannot say that you believe 'facts', because your beliefs are
| sometimes wrong.  You can say that you 'perceive' facts, because
| perceiving is not liable to error.  Wherever it is facts alone
| that are involved, error is impossible.  Therefore you cannot
| say you believe facts.  You have to say that you believe
| propositions.  The awkwardness of that is that obviously
| propositions are nothing.  Therefore that cannot be the
| true account of the matter.
|
| When I say "Obviously propositions are nothing" it is not perhaps
| quite obvious.  Time was when I thought there were propositions,
| but it does not seem to me very plausible to say that in addition
| to facts there are also these curious shadowy things going about
| such as "That today is Wednesday" when in fact it is Tuesday.
| I cannot believe they go about the real world.  It is more
| than one can manage to believe, and I do think no person
| with a vivid sense of reality can imagine it.
|
| One of the difficulties of the study of logic is that it is an
| exceedingly abstract study dealing with the most abstract things
| imaginable, and yet you cannot pursue it properly unless you have
| a vivid instinct as to what is real.  You must have that instinct
| rather well developed in logic.  I think otherwise you will get
| into fantastic things.
|
| I think Meinong is rather deficient in just that instinct for reality.
| Meinong maintains that there is such an object as the round square only
| it does not exist, and it does not even subsist, but nevertheless there
| is such an object, and when you say "The round square is a fiction",
| he takes it that there is an object "the round square" and there is
| a predicate "fiction".  No one with a sense of reality would so
| analyse that proposition.  He would see that the proposition
| wants analysing in such a way that you won't have to regard
| the round square as a constituent of that proposition.
|
| To suppose that in the actual world of nature there is a whole set of false
| propositions going about is to my mind monstrous.  I cannot bring myself
| to suppose it.  I cannot believe that they are there in the sense in
| which facts are there.  There seems to me something about the fact
| that "Today is Tuesday" on a different level of reality from the
| supposition "That today is Wednesday".  When I speak of the
| proposition "That today is Wednesday" I do not mean the
| occurrence in future of a state of mind in which you
| think it is Wednesday, but I am talking about the
| theory that there is something quite logical,
| something not involving mind in any way;  and
| such a thing as that I do not think you can
| take a false proposition to be.  I think a
| false proposition must, wherever it occurs,
| be subject to analysis, be taken to pieces,
| pulled to bits, and shown to be simply
| separate pieces of one fact in which
| the false proposition has been
| analysed away.  I say that
| simply on the ground of
| what I should call an
| instinct of reality.
|
| Russell, POLA, pp. 87-88.
|
| Bertrand Russell, "The Philosophy of Logical Atomism", pp. 35-155
| in 'The Philosophy of Logical Atomism', edited with an introduction
| by David Pears, Open Court, La Salle, IL, 1985.  First published 1918.

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