Imágenes de páginas


Now, in the constitution of jungle society as it is pictured in the story, there is absolutely no reason why “this must be so”, and so when we “think for a minute" we have to seek for the reason in what we know in other ways of wild beasts and their habits; and, doing this, we suddenly see the gap between the every-day world and the world of Kipling's fancy, and realize how great is the fiction that we have been treating as real.

It is, of course, by our every-day world, the world of greatest coherence and most importance for us, that we test all others, and for most civilized adults nowadays that world is the world of physical and historical science. But it must not be forgotten that the scientific conception of the world is a very new one. In the middle ages the every-day world, the world of greatest coherence and most importance, was the world of heaven and hell, God and the devil. Beside it the earth and mundane affairs were as visions and empty dreams.

By history we test the truth of stories, but history is of more recent origin than physics. It is one great story consistent with itself and with physical science and comprehending and explaining as many shorter stories as possible. Before it was told the truth of self-consistent shorter stories or sets of stories could not be questioned. Any tale seemed as true as any other if it appealed strongly enough to the inagination and emotions of the hearer. It is because they know little science and history that children and savages distinguish between truth and fiction so imperfectly.

To ask whether some object really exists or whether some story is true implies the possession of some accepted system of things by which smaller or less vital systems can be tested. If a smaller system is found to agree with the larger a deliberate conviction based upon this agreement is added to the spontaneous and naïve conception of its objects as real. The objects are now thought of as real in a new and deeper

But it must not be forgotten that the distinction between the two kinds of reality is simply one of degree, and that the conception of the reality of the larger system of things which we use as a test grows itself out of the same spontaneous tendency to objectify our impressions that accounts for the more fragmentary systems which we have tested by means of it.


When we discuss the nature of centaurs and dragons we treat these creatures as real in the sense that we imagine them before us with perceptible qualities and relations. We afterwards deny their reality in the sense that we seek in vain to find a place for them in the wider scheme of consistently related things which we have come to regard as alone of vital interest. Unless we took the wider system of things for granted we could not test the narrower. Thus to deny the existence of one thing is really to say something about the relations of some wider or more certain universe whose existence we assume; and thus every proposition, whether its copula is some part of the verb “to be' or whether it is something else, implies the existence of something, though not necessarily of the object described in its subject.




In every proposition something is either asserted or denied of a given object more or less definitely pointed out. When

something is asserted the proposition is called Quality

affirmative (e.g., Dogs like meat', 'Iron is a quantity.

metal'), when denied, negative (e.g., Dogs do not like meat', 'Iron is not a metal '). The character of a proposition as affirmative or negative is called its quality.

When a proposition states something about some one definitely designated object it is called singular, e.g., "Socrates was flat-faced', “My dog is not savage', 'The last man in the row is my cousin '.

When it states something about every member of a designated

group of objects it is called universal, e.g., 'All men are mortal ', .No Spanish-American state has a stable government', 'Every event has a cause '.

When it states something about some undesignated or imperfectly designated member or members of a given group of objects it is called particular, e.g., 'Some of the American races were highly civilized', *One of the men in the row is my cousin', 'Some dogs are not savage', 'A certain man had two sons'.

The term particular' is here used in a peculiar sense, quite contrary to its ordinary meaning, for particular propositions are the only ones which do not give information about particular or definitely designated objects. If a general tells his officers that one of them has blundered, each can ask: Do you mean me? But if he uses a singular proposition and says that Captain Jones has blundered, or a universal and says that they have all blundered, the question is no longer possible. The term 'particular 'as used in logic is derived directly from the Latin particula, a particle, and has been applied to certain propositions merely because, unlike universals, they refer to only part of the class or group of objects mentioned.

Singular propositions are usually classified with universals because they point out the object spoken of in the same definite

way, and because for most iogical purposes definiteness of reference is much more important than the number of objects to which we refer.*

The character of a proposition as universal, singular, or particular is called its quantity.

If we neglect singular propositions and consider the various combinations of quantity and quality in universals and particulars there are four kinds of propositions, each of which it is customary to denote by one of the following symbols :

A. Universal affirmative, as “ All S’s are P'.
E. Universal negative, as

• No S is P'. I. Particular affirmative, as

Some S's are P'.
O. Particular negative, as 'Some S's are not P'.

The symbols A and I are respectively the first and the second vowels in the word affirmo. E and O belong in the same way to nego.

The reader should notice that the proposition ‘All S's are

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* This is the real reason; but it is not always the reason given. Whately, for example, says that singular propositions are to be treated as universals, because they tell something about the whole of the subject'. When, for example, we say that Brutus killed Cæsar, we are speaking about the whole of Brutus. This is of course absurd. We should speak just as much about the whole of Brutus if we said that a certain Roman killed Cæsar. It is not a question of how much ? but of who ? or which ?

not P’usually means . It is not true that all S's are P', i.e.,

*Not all S’s are P’, or “Some S's are not P'. Ambiguities of quantity It is therefore O, not E. When we realize that or quality.

expressions of this sort are ambiguous we should try hard to avoid using them. When we find them used by others who may not have recognized their ambiguity we should try to interpret them according to the real meaning of the speaker—if he had a definite meaning -and not according to any arbitrary rule. If it is impossible to tell what his real meaning is, we should make it plain that this is

the case.

The one thing that we should certainly not do is to allow such expressions to pass without question. If we do so they are likely to be taken in one sense at one time and in another at another; and thus to lead us to conclusions which we really have no right to reach or to disputes for which there was really no occasion.

The word ' few', as Jevons has pointed out, must be interpreted with

care ;

for if I say · few books are at once learned and amusing’, I may fairly be taken to assert that a few books certainly are so, but what I really mean to draw attention to is my belief that the greater number of books are not at once learned and amusing.' A proposition of this class is generally to be classed rather as O than I”.*

Whether the word some means some but not all or at least some, perhaps all, depends largely upon the scientific training of the speaker. Like the fish that bites at every wriggling object and the baby that grasps everything within its reach regardless of possible burns or cuts, we all tend to generalize too carelessly. When a confiding boy leaves home he is likely to take it for granted that every one is trustworthyproposition A; because of his credulity he is soon cheated, and then like David in his wrath he may say that all men are liars, i.e., that no one is trustworthy — proposition E. Soon, however, he gets a letter from home or is befriended

* “Elementary Lessons in Logic ”, p. 67.

« AnteriorContinuar »