The Revolt against Dualism: An Inquiry concerning the Existence of Ideas

By Arthur O. Lovejoy | Go to book overview

VII MR. BERTRAND RUSSELL AND THE UNIFICATION OF MIND AND MATTER: II

THE theories of the nature of matter and of percepts which we have been last discussing still maintain a precarious existence in Mr. Russell's recent works. A "physical object" is again defined, at once circuitously and contradictorily, as the totality of "views of a given physical object from different places,"1 and any percept which is "objective" is said to be a member of such a group of "views," i. e., perspective aspects, and thus to be a part of a physical object.2 But it is in the main in an essentially fresh way that the attempt is now made to "bring perception and physics together" so as "to include psychical events in the material of physics" and to show that "from the standpoint of philosophy the distinction of physical and mental is superficial and unreal."3 To the new argument the old definitions, and the peculiar existential propositions which we have seen to be implicit in them, appear to be in reality not only unnecessary but antagonistic. I shall not attempt to show this by a separate analysis; it will, I think, become sufficiently evident in the course of the exposition of the later theory.

The philosophic basis for the belief in the existence of a physical world of unperceived spatio-temporal particulars is now precisely the reverse of that previously accepted. In his earlier phase we found Mr. Russell rejecting the causal theory of perception on the ground that "the notion of cause is not so reliable as to allow us to infer the existence of something that, by its very nature, can never be observed";4 while, on the other hand, it was assumed to be legitimate, not to say necessary, to postulate by analogy the real existence of unperceived members of the sets of perspective aspects to which our visual data belong. But now the once-rejected notion

____________________
1
The Analysis of Matter, New York, 1927, p. 258.
2
Ibid., pp. 222-4. This definition of a physical object, and the related conceptions found in The Analysis of Mind, are also still defended against the criticisms of Mr. Broad; the passage has been cited and discussed in the previous lecture.
3
Ibid., 10,402. The last is the concluding sentence of the book.
4
Analysis of Mind, p. 98.

-222-

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