Bertrand Russell to Alexander (6 February 1906)
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.
Russell, Bertrand. 1903. Principles of Mathematics. Cambridge University Press.