Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Philosophers

By Stuart Brown; Diané Collinson et al. | Go to book overview


Eaton, Ralph M(onroe)

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.

Main publications:
(1917) 'The method of induction: an examination of its aims and logical presuppositions', Thesis, Harvard University.
(1925) Symbolism and Truth: An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
(1920) 'The logic of probable propositions', Journal of Philosophy 17:44-51.
(1921) 'The value of theories', Journal of Philosophy 18:682-90.
(1921) 'The social unrest of the soldier', International Journal of Ethics 31:279-88.
(1921) 'Social fatalism', Philosophical Review 30: 380-92.
(1923) 'What is the problem of knowledge?', Journal of Philosophy 20:178-87.
(1927) (ed. and intro.) Descartes, Selections, New York: Scribner's Modern Students Library.
(1931) General Logic, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
(1932) (trans. and preface) W.M. Kranefeldt, Secret Ways of the Mind: A Survey of the Psychological Principles of Freud, Adler, and Jung, New York: Henry Holt & Co.

Secondary literature:
Moreno, Jonathan D. (1980) 'Eaton on the problem of negation', Transactions of the C.S. Peirce Society, vol. 16, pp. 59-72.

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


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Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Philosophers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • List of Abbreviated Sources xvi
  • List of Schools and Movements xxi
  • A 1
  • Main Publications: 19
  • Main Publications: 22
  • Main Publications: 24
  • Main Publications: 25
  • Main Publications: 29
  • B 41
  • Main Publications: 97
  • C - Cabral, Amilcar Lopes 119
  • Main Publications: 148
  • D 167
  • E 209
  • F 222
  • G 261
  • H 296
  • Main Publications: 323
  • Main Publications: 330
  • I 361
  • Main Publications: 365
  • J 370
  • Main Publications: 385
  • K 387
  • Main Publications: 405
  • Main Publications: 423
  • L 425
  • M 486
  • Main Publications: 491
  • Main Publications: 498
  • Main Publications: 540
  • N 558
  • Main Publications: 577
  • O 583
  • P 593
  • Main Publications: 605
  • Main Publications: 614
  • Main Publications: 626
  • Q 640
  • R 644
  • Main Publications: 657
  • S 690
  • Main Publications: 701
  • Main Publications: 704
  • T 764
  • U 795
  • V 800
  • W 817
  • Main Publications: 827
  • Main Publications: 833
  • Main Publications: 851
  • X 853
  • Y 857
  • Z 861
  • Guide to Schools and Movements 876
  • Bibliography 893
  • Nationality Index 903
  • Category Index 909
  • Index of Interests 918
  • Index of Influences 925
  • Index of People 936
  • Index of Subjects 945


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