contradict itself. Yet I saw from the table of the First Antinomy that real problems were being argued; and also, from the Preface, that mathematics and physics were needed to understand these things.

But here I feel I must turn to the issue underlying that discussion, whose impact on me I remember so well. It is an issue that still divides me from most of my contemporaries, and since it has turned out to be so crucial for my later life as a philosopher I feel I must examine it in some detail, at the cost even of a long digression.


7.

A LONG DIGRESSION CONCERNING ESSENTIALISM: WHAT STILL DIVIDES ME FROM MOST CONTEMPORARY PHILOSOPHERS

I call this a digression for two reasons. First, the formulation of my anti-essentialism in the third paragraph of the present section is undoubtedly biased by hindsight. Secondly, because the later parts of the present section are devoted not so much to carrying on the story of my intellectual development (though this is not neglected) as to discussing an issue which it has taken me a lifetime to clarify.

I do not wish to suggest that the following formulation was in my mind when I was fifteen, yet I cannot now state better than in this way the attitude I reached in that discussion with my father which I mentioned in the previous section:

Never let yourself be goaded into taking seriously problems about words and their meanings. What must be taken seriously are questions of fact, and assertions about facts: theories and hypotheses; the problems they solve; and the problems they raise.

-15-

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