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Philosophy

Alexander to Bertrand Russell (27 January 1906)

Dear Russell,

(I take the liberty of dropping titles).

[Sydney] Waterlow tells me he has returned you your paper on Truth, which I have been keeping all these months. In a way I left him to protect my retreat. But I didn’t intend to excuse myself for what is inexcusable. There is only one way in which you can forgive my bad behaviour – by supposing it not to have occurred.

I have read the paper more than once. But I can’t criticise it yet, because I haven’t made my account with you, and for one reason or another I have not been able to get properly on to Meinong. I still think over your treatment of existence – that “existence does not exist” as you say in your paper. And I am still unconvinced that anything which is true may not exist, though I admit myself shaken in my prejudice for the existent. My brain moves very slowly – by the time I am in Oxford again I may have got a little nearer to certainty on these matters. Meantime I am enmeshed in my own paradoxes.

There is one flagrant neglect of duty of which I have been guilty. You may remember I referred to you an argument of Taylor’s intended against subjective idealism, in which Taylor contended that “it is logically impossible a relation should be completely identical with one of its terms, as this would involve an indefinite regress of such a kind that it would become impossible to say what we mean by the term in question.” You argue that identity is identical with identity and different from difference and this answer I reverently quoted to Taylor with the comment that it made my head swim. Here is his answer on page 2 of this letter. There is nothing in the whole of it which you may not read and it may interest you. Will you tell me what you think of Taylor’s reply. I see his second letter is of Sept. date. The original argument on the thin paper is enclosed within square brackets and I send it [to] you for reference.

My kind regards to Mrs. Russell. I see you succeeded in putting in the Liberal genius for your Division. Moore comes here in the summer to read us a paper. I am hoping to induce you some time to come.

Yours Sincerely,

S. Alexander