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Cook Wilson as Critic of Bradley

Cook Wilson as Critic of Bradley

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North American Philosophical Publications

Cook Wilson as Critic of Bradley Author(s): Ronald K. Tacelli Source: History of Philosophy Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Apr., 1991), pp. 199-205 Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of North American Philosophical Publications Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27743974 . Accessed: 30/04/2011 14:06
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Tacelli theory of relations has never lacked critics. Perhaps they believed that they could not meet Cook retreat Wilson on his own ground. Bradley has of course had his champions. In the whole of it. That final truth. is a single. "Reality they otherwise exist?and exist?as and whatever.1 And perhaps themost celebrated among them has been John Cook Wilson. you connect them with the old.. have both striven valiantly and at length to defend him against Cook Wilson. utterly devastating and unanswerable. can only can have no reality as such of the in themselves. that they are Bradley had claimed that all relational thinking must end in contradiction. has succeeded. and this bond union is a link which also has two ends. they fail to come to grips with the details ofCook Wilson's complaints. Though they have excellent and instructive things to say. and that stand in relation.. "there is not one single illustration.4 But it seems to me. 199 . April 1991 COOK WILSON AS CRITIC OF BRADLEY Ronald K.3 they stand formany as the last word in this matter. Number Quarterly 2. how the other solids are related we accept the reality of things in relation. But their shifting of the ground?their to the philosophical background. And I hope in this paper to show why. But are they? It seems tome not.he says. since we are forced to go on finding new relations Cook Wilson complains first about the abstract character of Bradley's discussion. for example. is the absurdity or incoherence that Bradley But why? What allows him to erect such a vast metaphysical structure? Consider this much-quoted passage fromAppearance and Reality: thinks are united to its terms] The links [of a relation of by a link. and these require each a fresh link to as a solid thing. Garrett Vander Veer and Sushil Kumar Saxena.2 Though BRADLEY'S criticisms were posthumously published and run for a mere Cook Wilsons four pages."7 process. could be nothing its revelation. too. and cannot therefore express the final truth of things. non-relational whole. And so things and one Real. to Bradley's Recall: impression that those criticisms as they stand are indeed an unanswerable neither. the Absolute Reality.History Volume of Philosophy 8. and you cannot to it.."5 they appearances are in its appearances. If you take the connection have got to show. if Imay put it that way?creates the ing challenge theory.6 show. they appears also one to another. "we are hurried off into And so if the eddy of a hopeless without end.

we are to give the full answer we may of A to B which the question information supplies. No everything necessary to its own answer. There is no further relation n standing between A and r. between B let r2 be the relation say r\. i. Thus we have not gone outside relation the nature of r itself nor reached a new relation and to use all the n. it puts as a question what is no . A is equal to B (ArB. But he abstract Wilson of a general presentation sees it. Suppose you have a relation of equality. or more equality accurately not the equality in of A to B. R) r is. not identical with nor included in the identical with A or B nor a part ofwhat is already understood inA or B" is "never true where (p. A and r are different stand and. 692). yet we have not got beyond the original relation r. this presupposition A and B are in fact properly described as related" (p. and r.200 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY QUARTERLY though it is of the last importance that there should be" (p.. 692). Now in all this. 694]. though. If. producing and the process terms all different from one another [p. 694). "for it contains question to the person asking it" (p. (viz. Similarly one two new relations. for short). 692]. equality a statement the is simply of what kind The answer. then this relation must give rise to a relation between A and r?a relation which is not itself r. nor in any sense beyond to B in a relation statement that A stands the original r [p. Here. The relation r is one of equality. says Cook Wilson. puzzle may in relation between A and B. So the question turns out not to be a genuine question at all. to one another. there is something presupposed. reply: the relation of A to B [p. of giving the genus R for our answer. is not R but the particular instance is the equality r. In other words. a relation. Instead we get an difficulty about relations. is infinite. Unfortunately. We need to have some examples of that which Bradley is denying we can without contradiction understand. 693). r is not And A? we ifyou ask the question the other way. As Cook r the be put briefly thus: let A and B be the terms of a relation. r.Bradley's gives us no examples. If your infinite regress is going to get started. viz. But does it?Consider our example. Thus we have itself become r\ and r2. then. ArB. and r has of the terms of a relation. Here B.e. viz. equality the full being of R itself. then. What is the relation of r to can only reply that the relation to A of A's equality to B (r) is that it is A's to B. that is. Now suppose you ask yourself: What is the relation ofA to equality? There are two We answers possible: to A is that it is the relation of equality of A to may say that the relation is the kind of relation which A has to B. which separate nature of either. but R the universal. 693]. being different. for any question of the relation ofA to r or r to A can only be answered by the statement that A is equal toB. general. namely that "if two somethings are different from one another theymust stand to one another in a relation which is different from either. Now from A and rwe similarly r\ being different get an infinite series with two new relations. we have instead r. and which is not part of the original statement ArB.

seems indeed to be certainly right. So once again the infinite regress cannot get going. And we might even be tempted to concede everything just to keep ourselves fromworking through the argu ments once more. in fact words: that if two of [Bradley's fallacious argument]. separate is already understood in A or B. So must there not be a relation between it and r? Ifwe argue this way. he wrote.is presupposition are different to one another from one another stand things they must is different from either. There is no reason to go beyond A and r and B. "[A] relation. after all.. "standing alongside of its terms is a delusion. 694].Consider again Cook some in a in the nor a true. he is very far from disproving Bradley's Wilson's The thesis?or indeed from disagreeing with it. a lump of sugar. If we as a third thing alongside so consider it. how to understand Take. 692). properly And so: A relation utterly cannot be understood to them.make is not solved by taking relations problem [i."10 is "our problem"? Just this: how tomake intelligible to ourselves "the the things we meet with in everyday experience. nature of either. Cook Wilson complains that there is not a single illustration in chapter III ofAppearance and Reality.. So far from being always part of what can be shown to be never true where A and B are this presupposition as related described [pp. 201 has the infinite information has been generated..COOK WILSON AS A CRITIC OF BRADLEY new regress."8 it)..9 more or less [the relation] Bradley]. Now all this is subtle and difficult. we have an its terms?as external infinite more precisely. of A to B. us [wrote external]. Now substantive Let points he makes are those with which his adversary agrees. 692-93]. independent as independently And what facts. But the problem is just here: where Cook Wilson seems to be most correct. not identical with nor included in the separate nature of either" (p.... And therefore the statement A is equal to B (ArB) is intelligible as it stands. not identical with nor included relation which r is not identical with A or B In other words. half of this is precisely Bradley's position (or. is itself no relation." tone is scornful and confident. Besides: much of what Cook Wilson says seems to be right. for example. And so neither What But suppose we say that n (the new relation) is the difference between A and r. then we do seem to be presupposing that "if two somethings are different from one another they must stand to one another in a relation which is different from either. and that the relation is a way of restating the same facts as before and difference Thus the so-called a mere difference verbal therefore [p. but so far at least the Cook Wilson's regress. A.[Our] real. But he forgets that Bradley's whole discussion of the problem of relations began . But ask yourself: is the difference between A and r? answer is that A is A and not the relation the only possible To this question of A to B is the relation of A to B and not A.e.

Then to-?" is A. It enters only into a part. And yet this is Bradley's contradiction. Of course. because one thing is not another thing. as Cook Wilson has admitted. in the end. it cannot cover the whole ofA's nature. as Cook separate nature. There isA in itself (for if Wilson admits. that however things may be related. The relation would be "identical" with its terms or "in cluded is some in the form separate of the nature doctrine of either. agrees. have its "separate nature"). But if relations are not external?what then? Cook Wilson has put the alternative well. Bradley behind him all the time. For in that case you have a split within the nature of your subject.202 with HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY this familiar experience. Bradley and Cook Wilson are in agreement: Cook Wilson fighting furiously forward. is "not says Bradley. Will this help? It is not easy to see how. see how things are related." of "internal The alternative. So far. with be whole we (A) create is related But in speaking areas. true If relations Cook Wilson and Bradley agree then that the doctrine of external rela tions is absurd. to an infinite regress. is part of our and taste. And B if enters into the nature ofA. for that would lead us. QUARTERLY The sugar and item?and We easily with a puzzle. as we saw. But sugar is not any one of these. is "included" in its we have a term. cannot a boarder related like that. This is the context of Bradley's discussion of relations: how to make sense of the familiar world of experienced things? He found. There must be terms which come to the relation. And in other Bradley words.11 it is hard to relations. Are they .13 relations. of two like masses of A's land." everyday recognize its color texture But this doctrine. then that nature?or be made what it is by the relation). "parts" the "part" nature which a picture between in our minds them." Which what is absurd."12 though "truer" than that of external are external. it must. What Cook Wilson does not consider is whether the alternative he himself presents to it might not also be absurd. the relations cannot be conceived as merely external things. then. it is hard to see how things are related: hard to see how there could be any terms left to enter into a relation." So A is "relation-to-relation-to account Suppose that relation is part of the nature of A. but if relations are internal. It seems to be these qualities (and others) related and forming a unity. A is not B. contention: any way of taking relations leaves you with a final For suppose the relation is identical to the terms related. There iswhat it is in itself (since from only a part of its nature arises the relation to B) and what it is as related that (if the relation is included within A's nature. But how? Is what constitutes the "separate nature" of A externally related to that part of its nature into which B enters? No. These parts part of the nature?must cannot be the same. But B "relation A.14 But can we give of them? is equally "relation-to-A. to B. and there isA as related to B. These two parts make of a up the of A's of concrete nature.

We will arrived at no term.COOK WILSON AS A CRITIC OF BRADLEY 203 internally related? But then the process of division would begin again? enough. we may ask whether A could itself exist apart from this relation. Consider again Cook Wilson's words: to A of r. But there very other ask how another term (B) enters into the nature ofA. that n If now we. however. But it does not go far. then what isA ifnot the relation-to-B? But this as we saw is absurd. then we could confine criticism to the side of external relations. for it is the concrete A which stands in this understandably relation. est look beneath the surface of his prose.. And the same process. If. will begin again to link together the parts ofA's nature. Yes: the relation ofA to r is that r is A's equality to B. if the relation is identical with the nature ofA. But ifthe relation arises from the nature ofA. To allow B to enter into the nature ofA. we can only reply that the relation is the relation what If. To split off a part ofA's nature is really an act of abstraction. Then severally your a arises: If you of the nature questions?if related you questions to be asked. 694]. Consider also this: can get the between is the difference A and r.. yields finally this result: you are left without a term that can enter into any relation at all. reveals some deeply troubling difficulties..15 refusal to see problems on the side of internal It is Cook Wilson's his vehement affirmation ofwhat Bradley after all never relations?and But the mer denied?that give his criticisms their initial persuasiveness. never looking to the problems on the other side?then you might find Cook Wilson's arguments satisfying and sufficient.[We] have not got to B (r) is that it is A's equality to A of A's equality statement the original relation the original r..we. within the nature ofA and not identical to it. then there must arise a split within A ofwhat it is in itself fromwhat it is as made by the relation. nor in any sense beyond beyond r [p.. Or again: ifrelation to-B is part of the nature of A... then what indeed isA in itself? Cook Wilson is right: A isA and not its relation toB. begun to linkA with B. To this answer is that A is A and not the relation of A to B. After and raise all. the relation is included .. But then can A be anything in itself? Suppose we answer: further to each only question other? a part of A can how never exist are ask the apart parts these from the relation to B. we what the difference is between A and r.[say] solution by asking simply the only possible question and that the relation ofA toB is the relation ofA toB and not A [p. no stable unity which comes to relations and is not have we But again: this can be satisfying only if keep to the side of external relations no questions about the final intelligibility of internal relations. 694].ask to J5. But that simply is not so. to B in a relation that A stands Now are there is nothing wrong with this as far as it goes. You might think with him that relation ceases to be prob lematic as soon as you thrust itwithin the nature of the terms related. For if r is part of A's nature.

and assumes as as unanswerable. impossible 7 distinction of our terms from one another. account not a complete of its nature. A is x. for the doctrine of internal relations. and so forth. are grounded in its nature. W B. so that an under in that of A. to the of internal relations. of is the reason why an understanding is grounded indeed in that of A: which it is grounded the nature of the universe. J. of course. had turned his enormous critical powers here. to be unproblematic Boston College Received August 17. is something A and B. and each relation relations seen) (as we have our understanding of A's of both its terms. Therefore and be predicated. But "devastating" and "unanswerable" are not the first that come to mind. so would in it. therefore. strenuously against what Bradley what Bradley himself considered explicitly contested. No anything can be true. though grounded the relation between were is the nature of B therefore that could not be. Joseph lectures. if JB's nature otherwise. and say that ex hypothesi. But equally should reveal A's nature to maintain It becomes the in the nature therefore of B. 1990 NOTES 1. [And] it will not do to say that it is true but only whole universe a part of the truth. expressed it powerfully in a series of he was a loyal and devoted disciple of him here at length. the article on Bradley by W H. and for each different relation different. be just x and y But neither for then A would . Walsh in D.)."16 And this has all along been Bradley's We pay a high metaphysical price How high exactly? H. of every other term. since something a relation itmust in the natures is mutual. be something each relation is an infinity of terms. of their terms?if be grounded in the natures [If] relations must the axiom of internal relations?what follows? Since every term in the universe so it cannot to every other. Cf. Again. he argues false. not only must involves the natures universe of the whole nature but the nature reveal that of the whole universe. I cannot resist quoting point. can it be true as far as it goes. or C. for even difference is a relation. be grounded of both its terms. if to each Again. we accept. But in and out of this relation that is contrary be the same yet x would are related.204 made by them. . HISTORY Instead. A Critical . And an understanding of of B's short would nature. and similarly grounded But so equally reveal that of the whole universe. we cannot really understand the nature of the whole universe. is somehow related to it. for there must in itwherein is grounded. therefore term from any other without the be a different related being nature be indefinitely if there of every term must complex: infinitely complex. But instead. understanding statement therefore about less than the that of anything in it. that is. There are proper words to describe that sort of criticism. would not in some other term of which y but not x would to y. term all others and all these to our axiom. O'Connor (ed. and the elements in its nature indeed be together in A as they be related but unmodified they would by the other. in the nature of A. we OF PHILOSOPHY are off on "an QUARTERLY endless process of distinction. of a term A some character If I predicate x. of A's nature would standing or of C's. then perhaps his criticisms would have been problem If Cook Wilson devastating. Since (as yet) unpublished Cook Wilson. as some have taken them to be.

S. A. "Relations implies really are unmeaning Press. p. within foundation and on the basis between p.. vol. 125: can get on somehow of a line of connection. 125: whole. Ibid. "A relation And 10. 644-45. Cf.. Cf. 692-95. 59-70. 1914).. Essays 13. AR. Books. in G. p. Manser. College . The Idealistic with adequate of Cook Wilson's 283." (ed. 7. attempt ingenious. Cf. Idealism "Bradley Past and Present Press. 9." external must 9. then A is either A. R. New Free are: York: A. expresses as both supporting and as being made It may be by the relation. AR. and as AR. its contents 16. 205 C. Reality. 1970). London: Methuen.. I.. 27: "[A] relation. 489. 25. of Philosophy (2nd 1966)." A and B them. (Cambridge: University 5.. between brackets 4.. This MS. 26). A. double taken made. and yet it fails to do so... 1897).falls inside each quality. on External 17. Idealism: A Critical Survey (3rd ed. Papers to the Warden of New I am grateful and Fellows it are unnumbered. on Truth and Reality 12. 15.. 242-58. Lectures Each has a it: "[A] diversity. p. AR. containing for permission to quote from this material. as at once (Oxford: Clarendon Clarendon Press. bibliography. aspects a and a. pp. p.).A's that results unity disappears. Ewing (Glencoe: (ed. 1964). and these different what and is not made. Cf. to maintain "[A]ny attempt without is really relations p. As a it is the difference distinction as a it is the distinctness and from connexion. p. 2nd ed. once in the possession is of Prof. is as to how it can combine condition and result. Relations. 8. D.. 26.). 312. The MS and the Box the Joseph Oxford. pp. Also valuable ed. John 3. pp. L. 18. C. MacKinnon. found in Passmore.. Years A Hundred Passmore. 1982). and with no difference beyond AR." as merely fail. p. Basic Press. 1935). op. are dissipated in an endless process of distinction" (AR. 1957). (Oxford: Clarendon Press. while is partly each of these. 1926). II. Appearance hereafter cited 6. p. a phrase without And meaning. Page or parentheses in the body of the can be found in Bradley's Veer's defense University Press. a substantial within except p. can be Press. AR. p." of a substantial AR. For itmust are not it is by relation. vol. each p. combine this variety. 117-94. cit.). Tradition 2. (London: George 1967). 130-40. now stored with in New College.which the mere ends terms. pp. pp. An of Bradley physics to defend Bradley should be mentioned but I believe misguided. Cf. 28. pp. 2-3. and Unwin Ltd. and the question Lecture Relations and the Philosophy and Internal of Analysis. AR. Cf.. nor again aspects on which is based. Vander Haven: Yale Clarendon Inference (Oxford: S and I will hereafter appear text. AR. Ifwe call its diverse the other. Collected (Oxford: Essays 14. (New of the Self Metaphysics Saxena's in the Meta in Studies 47-53. Ewing. pp.COOK WILSON AS A CRITIC OF BRADLEY History and of Western Philosophy (NY: Free Press. A is both the diversity. A good account teaching. and (ed. 17-18. M. As Bradley character. Vesey and Internal here: A. Statement Farquharson to references II. 18: 16. Allen 1961). Cf.. pp. 11. AR. pp. AR. pp.

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