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Our Library => A. E. Taylor - Elements of Metaphysics (1909) => Topic started by: Admin on January 06, 2023, 10:08:07 am

Title: Book I Chapter 2 - 3
Post by: Admin on January 06, 2023, 10:08:07 am
3. But now suppose the sceptic takes this line. All our truth, he may say, is only relatively truth, and even the  fundamental conditions of true thought are valid only relatively and for us. What right have you to assume their absolute validity, and to argue from it to the real constitution of things? Now, what does such a doubt mean, and is it rational? The answer to this question follows easily from what we have already learnt about the logical character of denial. Doubt, which is tentative denial, like negation, which is completed denial, logically presupposes positive knowledge of some kind or other. It is never rational to doubt the truth of a specific proposition except on the strength of your possession of positive truth with which the suggested judgment appears to be in conflict. This is, of course, obvious in cases where we hesitate to accept a statement as true on the ground that we do not see how to reconcile it with another specific statement already known, or believed, to be true. It is less obvious, but equally clear on reflection, in the cases where we suspend our judgment on the plea of insufficient evidence. Apart from positive knowledge, however defective, as to the kind and amount of  evidence which would, if forthcoming, be sufficient to prove the proposition, expressions of doubt and of belief are equally impertinent; unless I know, to some extent at least, what evidence is wanted, how indeed am I to judge whether the evidence produced is sufficient or not?[1] Thus we see that the paradox of Mr. Bradley, that rational doubt itself logically implies infallibility in respect of some part of our knowledge, is no more than the simple truth. We see also that the doubt whether the ultimate presuppositions of valid thinking may not be merely "relatively" valid, has no meaning. If the sceptic's doubt whether Reality is ultimately the self-consistent system that it must be if any of our thinking can be true is to lay any claim to rationality, it must take the form of the assertion, "I positively know something about the nature of Reality which makes it reasonable to think that Reality is incoherent," or "Self-consistency is inconsistent with what I positively know of the nature of Reality." Thus the sceptic is forced, not merely to lay claim to absolute and certain knowledge, but to use the test of consistency itself for the purpose of disproving or questioning its own validity. Our criterion of Reality, then, has been proved infallible by the surest of methods; we have shown that its truth has to be assumed in the very process of calling it in question.
[1] Take a concrete example. A theory as to the early religious history of the Hebrews, let us say, is put forward upon grounds derived from Semitic philology. Though unacquainted with Semitic philology in particular, I may be able to form some sort of estimate of the cogency of the professed reasoning if I already have an adequate acquaintance with the use and value of philological evidence in parallel cases, say, in the study of Greek antiquities. But if I have no positive acquaintance at all with the use of philology in antiquarian research, it would be the merest impertinence for me to offer any opinion whatever.