American, b: 14 June 1892, Stockton, California. d: 13 April 1932, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cat: Analytical philosopher. Ints: Theory of knowledge; logic; metaphysics; philosophy of language; philosophy of science. Educ: University of California, BA in Literature, 1914; Harvard University, MA 1915, PhD 1917. Infls: Personal influences include Royce, R.B. Perry, R.F. Alfred Hoerne, H.M. Sheffer, Raphael Demos and Whitehead; literary influences include Whitehead and Russell, Broad, Husserl, Peirce and M.R. Cohen. Appts: Assistant in Philosophy, Harvard, 1915-16; Instructor in Literary Composition, University of California, Summer 1916; USAEF, 1917-19; Instructor in Philosophy, Harvard, 1919-26, Assistant Professor, 1926-32, Department Chairman, 1926-30.
The range of Eaton's interests is indicated by the titles of his published works. His major work, Symbolism and Truth (1925), is about the role of symbols in knowledge and attempts to present a 'positive or descriptive theory of knowledge'; the analysis is organized around the theme of symbols since Eaton held that 'knowledge is inseparable from its expression'. Eaton developed a theory of logical form, and also theories of negation and contradiction-consequently also of 'negative facts'-of truth and falsity, of formal deduction and of belief, and a critique of scepticism. His aim was to provide an account of knowledge independent so far as possible from metaphysics and psychology. However, 'a theory of knowledge must come at last to metaphysics', so there is also a discussion of the metaphysics of knowledge. The conclusion reached is that 'reality is logical in form', and so, therefore, is truth. The book was reviewed favourably and at length by H.T. Costello (Philosophical Review, 1926) D.W. Prall (Journal of Philosophy, 1927) and L. Susan Stebbing (Journal of Philosophical Studies, 1926). None the less, it seems not to have had any extensive influence or a wide readership, though it is often recommended favourably by connoisseurs.
Eaton's General Logic (1931) attempted to cover the whole subject, as it existed at that time, and to show 'the continuity of the classical Aristotelian logic with contemporary mathematical logic', of which this is one of the earliest elementary presentations. It makes use of some of the analyses provided by Symbolism and Truth, and had for some time wide use as a textbook. It was reviewed very favourably in The Journal of Philosophy (1932) by J.W. Mauzey, who judged it 'for the most part, truly admirable. As a text it provides probably the only really “general” logic available'.
In 'What is the problem of knowledge?' (1923), Eaton said that