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Bertrand Russell to Alexander (6 February 1906)

Dear Alexander,

Thanks for your letter with the enclosure from Taylor. I have not needed the paper on Truth so there is no need of any apology. I hope when you are next in Oxford you will give me an opportunity of further discussion. I shall be there again on Feb. 22. 
As for Taylor, he is mistaken in thinking I have altered my view about existence. The view in a recent Mind is the same as in my book. The existence involved in an existence-theorem is being (as I call it), not existence. But for my desire not to depart from usage, I should speak of a being-theorem. I feel this must be explicitly said in my book somewhere; it is certainly what is meant. The existence we commonly ascribe to physical things is nowhere in question in my big book, as I took pains to point out.

As for Taylor’s argument against subjectivism, I am not so “sound” a philosopher as he supposes. If he will refer to my book, he will find, I think in Chapter IX, a section on “Do differences differ?”, in which I argue that there is no such thing as an instance of a relation, but that if we have aRb and xRy, the R is absolutely the same in the two propositions. I hold this view strongly and it seems to me quite essential to logic. And I do not admit that we cannot know the meaning of a relation unless we know several propositions in which it is truly affirmed, which seems to be Taylor’s view. I should say, on the contrary, that no such proposition can be apprehended unless we are already acquainted with the relation in question—but of this I feel rather doubtful, and I would not press it.

I of course agree strongly with Taylor in thinking subjectivism mistaken, but I do not think his formal argument is cogent. The difference between him and me depends, I think, upon a difference as to the legitimacy of the notion of analysis. Taylor probably holds that a term which occurs in two different propositions is not absolutely the same in the two propositions, but is modified by the context. I of course hold the opposite as a corner-stone of my whole edifice. And thus I hold also that a term may occur twice in a proposition, once as the relating relation and once as the relatum, and that it may be absolutely the same in the two occurrences.
I should be very glad to know Taylor’s reply, if he cares to make one… 
Kindest regards from my wife.


Yours Sincerely, 
Bertrand Russell

Links

Russell, Bertrand. 1903. Principles of Mathematics. Cambridge University Press.