To appear in the Journal of the History of Ideas. Significs and the Origins of Analytic Philosophy

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1 To appear in the Journal of the History of Ideas Significs and the Origins of Analytic Philosophy Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen University of Helsinki Abstract We bring to light a bag of scientific and philosophical ideas and intellectual currents from the early era of significs movement, cotemporaneous with the origins of early analytic philosophy. Significs was a strong candidate for the science of language, meaning and communication of the new century. Its heyday coincided with the Vienna Circle forums, yet its intellectual and cultural climate persisted until bleakly fading in the turmoil of the mid-century s analytic thought. Key words: Significs, analytic philosophy, the Vienna Circle, logical empiricism, linguistic turn, language, meaning, communication, L. E. J. Brouwer, Frederik van Eeden, Gerrit Mannoury, C. K. Ogden, Charles Peirce, Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Waismann, Victoria Welby, Ludwig Wittgenstein.

2 Significs and the Origins of Analytic Philosophy 1 I. Studying the literature on the history of analytic philosophy may leave the impression that the members of the Vienna Circle or more appropriately, the Schlick Circle and the associated advocates of logical empiricism were the chief contributors for philosophy to take the so-called linguistic turn. One may also think that the Circle s inspiration was, in turn, born out of the philosophical and logical contentions of Ernst Mach, 1 followed by Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell and young Ludwig Wittgenstein. It is true that the rapidly-seeming intervention of logical empiricism to the early 20 th -century thought widely influenced the choice of topics in the philosophy of language that were markedly analytic, among them accounts of reference, predication, truth and intentionality. It is equally true that some damage-control has recently been deployed to overcome the rift between continental and analytic philosophies that defined the better part of the last century. 2 However, I aim at a perspective that makes an exception. But before proceeding, a caveat: it is not in the nature of my argument to delve into what analytic philosophy is or is not. Such a task may invariably be frustrated. The Hon. Rt. Lord Quinton takes analytic philosophy to have begun when Wittgenstein arrived in Cambridge in 1912 to study with Russell. 3 Sir Michael Dummett prefers Frege and the Context Principle. But it is also known that Wittgenstein s encounters with Frege were, at best, inconclusive, and that before Frege, thinkers such as Wilhelm Wundt expressed ideas similar to Frege s Context Principle. Accordingly, Dummett s characterisation amounts to the anomalous position that both psychologism supported by Wundt and anti-psychologism supported by Frege would have to be admitted by analytic philosophers. The upshot is that the early childhood of analytic philosophy is likely to be so convoluted as to be nearly meaningless to be pursued at all. 1

3 On balance, though, the questions of the origins are not that easy to avoid. Such an 2 investigation is challenging but worth the effort. Unfortunately, many received publications have either been content with clearing up the historical details, or sought to outline the most salient features of these traditions. My purpose is not to discuss what has been perceived the mainstream early modern European philosophical thought, but to bring to light a scientific and philosophical development that took place at the same time as the formation of early analytic philosophy which has received much less attention. The hope is to partially fill in the picture of the intricate links and networks that have been drawn in, among others, Friedrich Stadler s detailed historical research on the Vienna Circle 4 in terms of phases in European intellectual history that contributed to the shaping of the views on the role of language in contemporary philosophy. What was the intellectual environment in which the Vienna Circle was functioning? Where did its members inherit its interest in logical analysis of language? It is easy to hone in on such general factors as modernism, scientific positivism and monism, as well as a variety of multilateral, culturally and politically-inclined motives. My plan is to offer a connection with the Significs Movement (Dutch: significa), the predominantly Dutch idea and a gathering that scrutinized the philosophical underpinnings of language. The slighted emphasis on this movement is due not so much to individuals as it is to the philosophical community at large. During the last decades, philosophers have been guilty of a crime against science by withholding the credit of developments in the history of linguistics, logic and mathematics. The genetic origin of some of the key ideas routinely relegated to the analytic genre may often be traced back to these much-forgotten developments. The intellectual and cultural milieu of significs persisted even longer than the Vienna Circle s. Driven by linguists or linguistically-minded philosophers and cultural reformists, this movement, all but perished from our day and age, was a strong candidate to form the basis of the science of communication and meaning of the new century. Its heyday coincided with that of the Vienna Circle, 2

4 but its remnants were upheld much longer, until bleakly fading in the turmoil of the mid-century s 3 ordinary language as well as the analytic thought. The signific forum took philosophy to be a genuinely interdisciplinary venture, while at the same time alienating itself from some of the characteristics of the Viennese heritage. Initiated in Lady Victoria Welby s ( ) writings and letters around 1890, related ideas soon emerged in Dutch writer-reformist Frederik Van Eeden s ( ) works a few years later. Following these pioneering efforts, philosopher G.J.P.J. Bolland ( ), 5 mathematician-logicians L.E.J. Brouwer ( ) and David Van Dantzig ( ), poet-lawyer Jacob Israël de Haan ( ), man of letter and sinologist Henri Borel ( ) and Brouwer s teacher, mathematician Gerrit Mannoury ( ), all of them Dutch, were the driving forces behind the movement. Logician Evert W. Beth ( ) joined in sometime later. Though Brouwer was influential during the early phases, Mannoury was the dominant advocate of the Dutch significs since the end of 1920s, when Brouwer s decision to dissociate himself from academic life took grim reality. The thought lived on for seven decades. Its origins and the name are pre-viennese, dating back to Welby s research on cultural and linguistic philosophy. 6 Van Eeden was among Welby s most important sounding boards. Welby and Van Eeden were planning the first summit of what was to become the Signific Circle when they met in London in The early stages thus coincide with that of the initial meetings in Vienna that prefigured the Schlick Circle. During the years , attempts were made to institutionalise the Signific Circle in Amsterdam in the form of a new philosophy department. When the department soon closed down, the so-called Signifische Kring was summoned from 1922 until In the 1930s, the members of these organisations formed the International Group for the Study of Significs. Its activities were finally broadened into the International Society for Significs, which waned in the 1960s without gaining substantial international reputation. 8 3

5 4 The idea of a social reform was heavily stigmatised in interwar Europe. The reformist wing of the International Group for the Study of Significs faced fiscal as well as intellectual opposition. More importantly, the group was never scientifically well-established, lacking the support of a wide and cohesive enough selection of committed scholars. Its members some sixty people at best are not to be blamed for lack of skill or enthusiasm. They collaborated with a number of scholars of the logical empiricist descent and took spry part in conferences in Europe and elsewhere. But the group did not beget followers and could not survive in the whirlpool of rival trends. But the lack of support does not alone explain the demise of the signific movement. The systematic study of its central tenets reveals that it even circumvented the original sin of logical empiricism, the sorting of truths into factual and conceptual, and therefore should not be condemned by the same principles. Its goal was to achieve a detailed analysis of language, but unlike logical empiricism, not by venerating science at the expense of metaphysics. It aimed at tackling the lack of understanding, misinterpretations and ambiguities of language and communication in society, especially scientific communication. It attempted to do this by analysing natural language in terms of different layers that its pragmatic and functional analysis would reveal. The movement died in the barrage of Anglo-Saxon philosophy of language and the analytic phase that associated its roots with Fregean thought. Furthermore, internal tensions on some of the core views on language and logic persisted, which made the onslaught all too easy for analytic philosophy. The remains integrated into the neighbouring disciplines such as pragmatics, cognitive science, cognitive linguistics, psycholinguistics, semiotics, semiology, and communication and information sciences. Its spirit lives on in contemporary multidisciplinary studies in the interfaces of logic, language, information and communication. 4

6 II. 5 What was the core idea of signific language? Welby was in close touch with the linguists of the late 19 th century. While the study of semantics those days was mainly about the change in lexical meaning, Welby broadened it to be a study of complete sentences, taking a note of the intentional states of the utterer and the interpreter and of the context that serves to shape the utterance meaning. She suggested the term semantics as early as in around 1890 but coined significs to describe the new science of the expression she was contemplating at the time: One reason why I am so enigmatic is that I know we are not ready (and have no right yet) to re-define our highest or best. Semantics or, if you like, Symbolics first. 9 Another of Welby s suggested early terms was sensifics. Apparently Welby did not think semantic and pragmatic issues should be separately investigated. Prospects were good when she noticed in 1903 how some of the most distinguished experts in language notably M. Michel Bréal and Dr. Postgate have begun to protest in plain terms against the prevailing neglect by linguistic scholars of Semantics, the science of the changes of meaning. 10 Her 1911 book Significs and Language proposed a tripartite division of semantics into sense, meaning and significance: The one crucial question in all Expression, whether by action or sound, symbol or picture, is its special property, first of Sense, that in which it is used, then of Meaning as the intention of the user, and, most far-reaching and momentous of all, of implication, of ultimate Significance. 11 She had explained this trichotomy in a 1902 letter to Van Eeden: While the sense in which things are beautiful, good or true, or even interesting, belongs to a mere satellite, the meaning of things belongs to the system and centre of which it forms part: while, beyond these but still one with them, the significance of all we are and know, as of our highest conceptions and aspirations, belongs to the cosmos, which in every sense of the word is ultimate to us. 12 5

7 Significs advocated what we today call the semantics and pragmatics of language as the key 6 point of departure in the analysis of linguistic structures. One must thus take semantics in its broadest terms. Including both Bréal s early lexical studies on the semantic change, and the later, truthconditional approaches of formal logic on the language/metalanguage distinction, significs was not limited to these two opposite strands. Nor did it bog down in merely explaining pragmatic purpose in speech acts. Its aim was to create a comprehensive functional analysis of language qua a communicative system, dividing it into, on the one hand, analytic and synthetic branches that pertain to the methodology of the language sciences, and on the other, grading language into five main functional levels. The fundamental division was that of between analytic and synthetic levels of language. (This division should not be confused with that of the empiricists between analytical and synthetic declarative sentences.) According to Mannoury, the purpose of the analytic level was to empirically compare speech acts and the mental associations caused by them. This does not imply a grammatical study of language, nor its social use, but rather an empirical examination of the relationships between speech acts and speaker s intentions. Something of analytic significs is today manifest in cognitive linguistics. For instance, a popular topic for early significs as well as for cognitive linguistics has been the analysis of spatial metaphors. Significs attributed the division between literal meaning and speaker s intention to the analytic function of language, later to be rediscovered by H. Paul Grice in natural-language pragmatics. However, analytic significs has an important element that the subsequent speech act theories have overlooked: the differentiation of meaning between speaker and hearer that is reciprocal and bidirectional. It is this speech-hear interaction, not any typology between different locutionary forces, that needs to be operationalised in communication studies on speech acts, hear acts and their mental 6

8 associations. 7 According to the synthetic branch, meanings in speech acts should be studied by the means illustrated by the analytic branch. In this capacity, synthetic significs carried the burden of the cultural and societal task to cure the then-quite-prevaricate situation in political rhetoric, judicial argumentation or the media of its time. It was also aimed at enhancing scientific communication. When Welby anticipated in her letter to Van Eeden in 1908 that, in the future, significs would encompass wireless communication between all sorts of people and situations, compared to the communications of a hundred years ago, 13 she must have meant not only some telegraphic advancements but normative principles for pre-concerted cooperation and coordination to settle the disputes and controversies in linguistic meaning. The possibility of the wireless message gives us of course though we do not dream it yet a priceless treasure of more than analogy: of mental reality in physical form, she had earlier explained to Norman Pearson around the turn of the century. 14 It is indeed the plainest of common-sense, Welby later wrote, that concentration upon the value of all Sign, and the effective co-ordination of all our means of enhancing and realising this to the very utmost, must bring about a forward step, one of the greatest Man has ever made and the world has ever seen. 15 A more detailed functional division in the signific analysis of language is constituted by five basic levels. First, the foundation is formed by its lexicon, where individual items bear no influence on one another. Preliminary stages of a child language, deep emotions and hypothetical primitive languages belong to this level. The foundational level assumes no presence of the interpreter. Rather, the meaning relations refer to a direct primitive reaction with imagination. 16 Uninterpreted artificial languages such as, say, computer code and algorithms might also be grouped here. The second level is composed of emotive networks by which the connections between words create new dynamic meaning relations. Its expressions speak to the interpreter s mind by way of 7

9 association and experience. 8 The third level of significs is made up of interactive language, a system of employment and action. Word connections play a major role, but form no new meaning-relations or mental associations beyond the satisfaction of basic human tasks and needs. News broadcasting and standard language of everyday use and business are examples of this third level. The interactive level is the one most exposed to the evolutionary effects, giving rise to its overtly diachronic nature. The connections of words and their meaning relations produce a language as a system supported by conventions. This is the fourth, scientific, level, originating from community s law-like functions. One may add that significians were not clear on the extent to which conventions are the result of language as a normative system. But their particular examples support the conclusion that normativity itself should be regarded as one more independent level. The fifth or sixth level is characterised by symbolic language, such as the way represented in logical systems. The purpose is to strip away the misunderstandings and ambiguities in the interpretation. Expressions influence the hearer only if the symbols used have had concrete applications already at the lower levels. The need for a linguistic oculist that Welby called for to restore lost focussing power of language was a logical analysis that would bring our images back to reality by some normalising kinds of lens. 17 Any rigid orthodoxy devoid of such an analysis will always find the implicitly false mental image, source of the false linguistic image. 18 I should add that the issue is not imagistic representation as such, since iconic representations can be such normalising lens just as symbolic representations, they may even connect with our mental realm more directly than symbols. A logical analysis of language, no matter what its media, was believed to provide us with an undistorted view of the reality. However, Welby s target was not to overcome metaphysics through 8

10 logical analysis but to harness it to prevent the looming situation in which the dementia of our 9 metaphysics, popular and professional, spreads unchecked. 19 What was the ultimate purpose of this division, and how well it accomplished its goals? The initial impression reveals the step-by-step growing complexity of language and its learning, presuming, among other things, the ever-developing skills of use and the gradually-deepening understanding of its fundamental nature. The impression, however, does not offer a sustained explanation of the philosophical essence of the role of language in human communication, although it may well be a tempting hypothesis to experimental linguists. The signific investigation of language was indeed not meant to reflect any branch of linguistics. There were higher goals. The aim was to achieve a rigorous analysis of language for better ways of expression and communication, Welby writes, for the purpose of bringing order into chaos which language represents, and for extracting real meaning out of bewildering confusion or the threadbare verbiage to which convention and ignorance confine us. 20 What she meant by rigorous was logical analysis of language. She was very much taken by the logical methods that both Charles Peirce 21 and Russell had employed in their studies. To Peirce she confessed: With regard to Mr. Russell of course my interest in any such work [logical analysis] simply arises from its presentation in non-technical form of these points in advanced modern mathematics which affect philosophical thinking and supply a translation into logical language (as much of your writing seems to do) of some of my own vague ideas. 22 Welby similarly informs others of having been grateful to Mr. Bertrand Russell in his warning against absurdities like man is mortal. 23 When one sees in a book like Bertrand Russell s in what absurd confusions, begged questions and fallacies most of us live, one s solar spark is roused to indignation and flares up! 24 Relieved in seeing the neglect to make the idea of meaning and of 9

11 10 sense in that sense itself a subject of study and analysis evaporate in the mathematical and still more the logical research, especially that of Russell s, 25 having read and annotated her copy of the Principles of Mathematics Welby admitted that the book has simply fascinated me, because she took Russell to be working on my line in a way impossible to me that of intricate and mechanically perfect trains of reasoning. 26 Welby compared Russell s book to her own What is Meaning? published in the same year. She believed it to be emphatically a work in what for mere convenience sake (and for educative purposes) I call Significs. 27 She then went on to liken her and Russell s motivations for writing these treatises: As I understand it, Mr. Russell s whole book is intended to promote recognition of the fact that neglect of elementary metaphysical and logical analysis makes even eminent mathematicians the victims of linguistic fallacy. 28 On this wider programme the two certainly agreed on. However, I shall argue that associating her work to that of Russell s was based on a misjudged comparison on Welby s part. New voices emerged after Welby s work gradually fell into oblivion. Mediated from Welby by Van Eeden, the promotion for the study of significs re-emerged in the Netherlands by Mannoury and his associates. This second phase of significs tended to emphasise the psycholinguistic character of speech and hear-acts and their practical consequences, the significance of what is actually uttered. Linguistics, on the other hand, was at that time considered to be a study of a certain permanent or structural element, our present and static alphabet, the language. (The signifist division is a little oversimplifying, however: if one thinks of language structuralistically, as a system with certain properties, then the division may hold some merit. From the functionalist point of view it is warranted to pigeonhole significs to general linguistics.) The idea of a logical analysis was to play a lesser role in continental significs. But this seems to have been a remiss. For instance, in commenting on the signific account of language, Friedrich 10

12 Waismann ( ) believed that functional layers are explained by the fact that every level 11 operates according to its own logical system and language acts according to that inherent logic. 29 In other words, Waismann took the characteristic logic of language to be expressed by the particular level it pertains to. However, it appears that the key question concerns not the characteristic logic of language, but the general logical criteria that these different levels must satisfy to fulfil the office of the functions that Waismann and others took language to exemplify. No party seems to have been cognisant of the importance of seeking to find such criteria, let alone interested in formulating comprehensive logical theories of these functional levels. It would be an omission to not record one noteworthy historical detail in this connexion. By influencing Waismann s philosophy of language, it is unlikely that significs would not have had some effect on Wittgenstein s thoughts concerning the communicative and contextual roles of language. 30 He did not limit his views on the formation of linguistic meaning to concrete, actual speech acts and their synchronic analysis. On Certainty has telling examples of diachronic meaning, such as a language game does change with time. 31 One should also note that Waismann, together with Otto Neurath and Josef Schächter, 32 were members of the International Group for the Study of Significs since the 1930s. Publishing in their official periodical Synthese, they were well-acquainted with the past ideas, and Mannoury in particular, though to a lesser extent with the part Welby and Van Eeden had played in the instigation. 33 Mannoury had been in close contact with Neurath and contributed to the forums associated with the Vienna Circle and the Unity of Science movement that follower suit. In addition, Wittgenstein s relationship with Waismann lasted much longer than the notes from their conversations with Schlick from would have us believe. 34 In the end, however, the breaking off of their personal and professional relations could not be avoided, for reasons not all to do with their failed collaboration on a joint book project. 11

13 12 When Wittgenstein thought that philosophical problems were brought on by attacks against the boundaries of language, he was not thinking of language as a communicative system, but rather the linear structure of written language. The pictorial languages that Neurath and, to a lesser degree Waismann, had advocated at that time, might have had satisfied Wittgenstein much better than the kind of parole he had difficulties grasping of. For instance, Neurath s International System of TYpographic Picture Education (ISOTYPE) was an intrepid attempt towards a standard for nonsymbolic forms of communicating information. Pictures, whose details are clear to everybody, are free from the limits of language, 35 Neurath wrote and proposed the ISOTYPE makes use of the connection of parts not only in one direction only, but in two, and the effect is a language picture. 36 Earlier, Wittgenstein had suggested the picture theory of meaning but never specified its logical details. Still earlier, Peirce aimed at surpassing the linear boundaries of language in noting that, with reference to his graphical system of logic just invented: Three dimensions are necessary and sufficient for the expression of all assertions; so that, if man s reason was originally limited to the line of speech (which I do not affirm), it has now outgrown the limitation. 37 Proposals of this type did not bear fruit in the interwar atmosphere dominated by the efforts of grounding the language of science in discrete-symbolic systems. Another clash on the differing conceptions of language took place between Mannoury and his student Brouwer. Their bone of contention was the relationship between logic, language and mathematics. According to Mannoury, mathematics is language. Its conceptual content would not exist without speech acts. Mathematics without language would be purely factual, which strips, besides systematisation and order, it of all the liberation and randomness that accounts for the creative aspect of mathematics. Yet, of Brouwer he noted: In freeing himself of the principle of the excluded middle, Brouwer opened up a much broader field in mathematics than traditional logic had; as a result, the Brouwer-Heyting pasigraphical (universally 12

14 understandable) system that formalized Brouwer s mathematics (as far as possible) comes a lot closer to living language than the Peano-Russell system that formalizes classical logic Mannoury took logic to be an integral part of mathematics, despite his acknowledgement of Brouwer for the supremacy of intuitionistic logic in the analysis of natural language compared to the logic of Peano-Russell origin. According to Brouwer, in contrast, logic and mathematics have nothing to do with each another. By changing the laws of logic, one cannot alter the truth of mathematical propositions. People disagree upon mathematical arguments, Brouwer holds, not because their logic differs, but because minds comprehend mathematical entities differently. No language is required to achieve that. For Brouwer, language is a communal device, mankind s dark force and moral rule that coerces individual thinking and behaviour into a certain formula, and sins of the past are passed onto future generations. 39 But mathematics originates from primal and speechless faculty. Much in Welby s spirit, it was through signific analysis Brouwer envisioned alleviation to the powers of language he was tormented by. Mannoury and Brouwer agreed upon the relevance of language in philosophy, or more appropriately speaking upon the conceptually critical (begripskritische) approach towards science. How the differences and similarities concerning the role of language in mathematics were viewed by intuitionists as well as by signifist thinkers has been recounted by mathematician Johan J. de Iongh ( ): The intuitionist mathematics is purely non linguistic mental activity and language serves only to coordinate as far as possible this mathematical activity in different persons. For the significist this description is only true in first approximation. The linguistic communication of the originally possibly non linguistic mathematical activity has influenced this activity in a fundamental and constitutive way. Counting, surely when the numbers involved are greater than seven or possibly even three is not to be separated completely from interindividual linguistic aspects

15 14 A belief in the supremacy of conceptually critical philosophy united the otherwise radically different thinkers, including the majority of the members of the Vienna Circle and the logical empiricists. Later, the Unity of Science Movement followed suit. 41 But whereas significs aspired using it for increasing understanding in scientific communication, logical empiricists job was to find a unified language of science. Disagreement concerned the preferred methodology in pursuing these goals. Members of the signific movement criticized the efforts to formalize and axiomatize the language of science. In Mannoury s opinion, for instance, these were false attempts for the sole fact that science is a human pursuit and cannot be detached from other human activities through artificial means. Such rival conceptions on the role and methodology of language in science would most likely have caused the deterioration of significs even without the mobilisation of the mid-century s philosophy of language. Significs was internally in discord. On the one hand, the psychologistic wing supported by Mannoury, and on the other, the mathematical and logical wing supported by Brouwer, Van Dantzig and Beth could not have been brought to a coherent single theory in the end. The two camps rivalled on the core principles. Noticeable is that Mannoury s psycholinguistic attitude taking perhaps its most outright form in his French translation of Erkenntnis, 42 in which the German term signifik was readily translated into Psycho linguistique was not hostile to mathematical or formal methods as such. However, since Mannoury had to take a stance on the role of logic within the study of language fundamentals, this sort of psychologicism, one that Husserl had opposed in his Logische Untersuchungen ( ), could no longer be deflected. When, in addition, Brouwer s ideas concerning the relationship between language, logic and mathematics were radically different, the rival views were vitiated in the effort to avoid internal discrepancies. Mannoury indirectly admits this when he notes that both psychologism and popular significs include certain risks and that the 14

16 15 field of human communication is so broad that it cannot be captured by any single perspective that we possess. 43 And so the predicament was the same as in early analytic philosophy: psychologism, for one, could not serve as a watershed as to what is analytic in philosophy and what is not. It is a useful reminder here that the Vienna Circle s likewise short-lived history as a collective was equally tarnished by strongly divergent presuppositions. III. Because of these dissentions, one should not attempt to locate the kindred spirit of significs within the same loci with early analytic philosophy. Indeed, from time to time, significs has been considered to be a precursor to Charles Morris s psychological approach to semiotics. Van Dantzig testifies that Morris and Mannoury were, indeed, personal acquaintances. 44 But one must take the claim of the converging views of significs and semiotics with some caution, since Mannoury alone was advocating a psycholinguistic approach akin to Morrisian semiotics. More accurately speaking, significs was related to, although invented by Welby quite independently of, Peirce s pragmatic theory of signs, his semeiotic. 45 I have several points to make to reinforce the connection. First, we should recognize that Peirce does not lie outside of an analytic approach to philosophy at all. 46 Moreover, evidence for the close relationship between significs and semeiotic is abundant. Peirce s review of Welby s What is Meaning? appeared in the October 1903 issue of The Nation: Lady Victoria Welby s little volume is not what one would understand by a scientific book. It is not a treatise, and is free from the slightest shade of pedantry or pretension. Different people will estimate its value very differently. It is a feminine book, and a too masculine mind might think parts of it painfully weak. We should recommend the 15

17 male reader to peruse Chapters xxii to xxv before he reads the whole consecutively, for they will bear a second reading Peirce had gone over two books; in the preceding paragraph he wrote that Russell s The Principles of Mathematics can hardly be called literature. That he should continue these most severe and scholastic labors for so long, bespeaks a grit and industry, as well as a high intelligence, for which more than one of his ancestors have been famed. Whoever wishes a convenient introduction to the remarkable researches into the logic of mathematics that have been made during the last sixty years, and that have thrown an entirely new light both upon mathematics and upon logic, will do well to take up this book. But he will not find it easy reading. Indeed, the matter of the second volume will probably consist, at least nine-tenths of it, of rows of symbols. Russell soon read the review. F.C.S. Schiller, in congratulating Welby on this Nation review, reports that B.Russell was hugely annoyed. 48 A wider implication seems to have been that the propagation of not only Peirce s own work on logic but more generally the entire algebraic tradition and Welby s significs suffered. Russell withdrew his opinion of having a great respect for Peirce s tantalizing work. 49 Privately to Welby, Peirce had described Russell s book superficial to nauseating me, has some silly remarks, about my relative addition etc. which are mere nonsense. 50 Welby circumspectly wrote Russell to be afraid that Peirce, together with John Cook Wilson, are inclined to be technically opponent[s] of yours. 51 Russell, in turn, confessed in 1908 to Philip Jourdain how he has in the past been very nearly rude to [Welby], in refusing to go there because he found quite impossible to be sincere if he saw her. He no longer wanted to be a party to those philosophers encouraging Welby s work, which to his opinion was very wrong. 52 In the same year, Russell ridicules Jourdain for taking up issues to do with significs: I am amused that you are become a writer on Significs in your own despite. 53 Only in 1946 Russell admitted that, I am I confess to 16

18 17 my shame an illustration of the undue neglect from which Peirce has suffered in Europe. I heard of him first from William James when I stayed with that eminent man in Harvard in But I read nothing of him until Alas, similar acknowledgement was not forthcoming on Welby s behalf. The Schiller-Welby correspondence confirms Welby s initially candid admiration of Russell s endeavours on logical analysis of language, which she took to be a mathematical study of the qualities of expressions. Schiller agreed with Peirce that Russell did not express his philosophical thoughts adequately in his book, and attempted to convince Welby that such a parallelism is in fact quite misguided. 55 Those days Schiller was viciously attacking the concept of an uninterpreted logic in his own works, and this was a point he shared with Peirce despite the fact that the two were of very different minds beyond that particular issue. 56 We can see how Welby becomes less gracious in her correspondence with Russell after Welby s launching of the Significs Movement has some wider systematic and historical repercussions. 57 Some of these have been brought out by Rita Nolan, who argues with respect to Welby s notion of tacit knowledge that it is not only virtually identical with that articulated by M. Polyani and N. Chomsky in recent years, introduced years earlier by G. Ryle s knowing how and knowing that, but it also occupies a parallel place in their ontologies of mind. It seems to me that a better depiction can be found in comparing spirit, if not letter, of Peirce s pragmaticism and Wittgenstein s notion of language games. According to Welby, meaning is not some sort of mental or physical entity such as an idea but instead a complex function. 58 This view is connected with her naturalism. She confessed to Samuel Alexander that, I am delighted to hear you call yourself a naturalist, between significant commas! Because I am a fanatical one. Nature in my eyes is an inexhaustible mine of significance which I hope will soon be more thoroughly opened up and worked more improved methods than has yet been possible. 59 The following passages testify the attitude: 17

19 18 Our organism is a plexus of energies intimately related to that environment which we call the material or physical world, and it persist or survives in virtue of a process called adjustment; whence it follows that the unfit (that which is not adjusted, cannot adapt itself to its surroundings and adapt then to itself) is eliminated. This is the adjustment which is the condition of what is usually called experience. 60 To me the widest of all senses belongs, in our language, to sense itself and to way, the relation of which idea to that of knowledge is brought out in an interesting manner by Dr. Chamberlain in the Monist. For we might even say that the region of significance (in its most comprehensive sense) is the cerebral cortex of experience, without which it remains predominantly spinal. 61 Nolan states, correctly, that according to Welby evolutionary theory suggests that behavior, including linguistic behavior, generally be understood as representing adaptive responses to actual stimuli: or to the effects on humans of the action of real things. 62 But what these passages really vindicate is the resemblance of Welby s anticipations to Peirce s, who also fell victim to a comparable inattention. Welby s notions have counterparts in the pragmatistic notion of habits of action, which is not unrelated to, although considerably different from, what the later evolutionary epistemologists have struggled to articulate. 63 To wit, Darwin notes in his autobiography that, I soon perceived that Selection was the keystone of man s success in making useful races of animals and plants. But how selection could be applied to organisms living in a state of nature remained for some time a mystery to me. In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic enquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species

20 19 The same goes with meaning instead of species, argues Welby. In What is Meaning? she writes that, only the utmost degree of plasticity compatible with persistence of type can give the needed adaptiveness to varying circumstance. 65 This is recapitulated in Significs and Language in relation to the preferred methods of analysing language: It must be the recognition and use of a method, a mental procedure and habit, enabling us to perceive the treasures of truth, the implications of reality, that even now are only hidden from us by our contented subjection to the tyranny of misfitting Expression, Expression, of course, of all kinds, but mainly expression in language, taken in its ordinary sense. 66 Later, the idea came about in Wittgenstein s concept of such human activities, or language-games, that constitute the meaning by simply what [human beings] do. 67 Earlier, and around the same time with Welby, Peirce had presented a pragmatic theory of meaning as a function or a form from situations to possible actions guided by habits. 68 What emerged later was the program of evolutionary epistemology which, unlike Peirce s agapastic evolution, took the model to be neo-darwinian adaptation. Peirce comments Welby s trichotomy of sense, meaning and significance to be close to his speculative grammar, critic and speculative rhetoric, which he in turn had derived from the scholastics. 69 According to the signific classification, it follows that in relation to the familiar division between language as a universal medium of expression and language as a re-interpretable calculus, 70 Peirce and his signifist followers took language to serve the latter role. One should keep in mind here that although in significs language was understood as a system in which meanings may sensibly be discussed through the proper use of language, their goals included those of the development of a universal language of communication. Witness, for example, C.K. Ogden s standard for international language, the BASIC English, 71 as well as Neurath s ISOTYPE. But those 19

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