38 Chapters
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Propositions, Warranted Assertibility and Truth (1941)

LARRY A HICKMAN Indiana University Press ePub

I propose in what follows to restate some features of the theories I have previously advanced on the topics mentioned above. I shall shape this restatement on the basis of ascriptions and criticisms of my views found in Mr. Russell’s An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth. I am in full agreement with his statement that “there is an important difference between his views and mine, which will not be elicited unless we can understand each other.”1 Indeed, I think the statement might read “We can not understand each other unless important differences between us are brought out and borne in mind.” I shall then put my emphasis upon what I take to be such differences, especially in relation to the nature of propositions; operations; the respective force of antecedents and consequences; tests or “verifiers”; and experience, the latter being, perhaps, the most important of all differences because it probably underlies the others. I shall draw contrasts which, in the interest of mutual understanding, need to be drawn for the purpose of making my own views clearer than I have managed previously to do. In drawing them I shall be compelled to ascribe certain views to Mr. Russell, without, I hope, attributing to him views he does not in fact hold.

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The Place of Habit in Conduct from Human Nature and Conduct (1922)

LARRY A HICKMAN Indiana University Press ePub

Habits may be profitably compared to physiological functions, like breathing, digesting. The latter are, to be sure, involuntary, while habits are acquired. But important as is this difference for many purposes it should not conceal the fact that habits are like functions in many respects, and especially in requiring the cooperation of organism and environment. Breathing is an affair of the air as truly as of the lungs; digesting an affair of food as truly as of tissues of stomach. Seeing involves light just as certainly as it does the eye and optic nerve. Walking implicates the ground as well as the legs; speech demands physical air and human companionship and audience as well as vocal organs. We may shift from the biological to the mathematical use of the word function, and say that natural operations like breathing and digesting, acquired ones like speech and honesty, are functions of the surroundings as truly as of a person. They are things done by the environment by means of organic structures or acquired dispositions. The same air that under certain conditions ruffles the pool or wrecks buildings, under other conditions purifies the blood and conveys thought. The outcome depends upon what air acts upon. The social environment acts through native impulses and speech and moral habitudes manifest themselves. There are specific good reasons for the usual attribution of acts to the person from whom they immediately proceed. But to convert this special reference into a belief of exclusive ownership is as misleading as to suppose that breathing and digesting are complete within the human body. To get a rational basis for moral discussion we must begin with recognizing that functions and habits are ways of using and incorporating the environment in which the latter has its say as surely as the former.

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Democracy and America from Freedom and Culture (1939) (on Thomas Jefferson)

LARRY A HICKMAN Indiana University Press ePub

I make no apology for linking what is said in this chapter with the name of Thomas Jefferson. For he was the first modern to state in human terms the principles of democracy. Were I to make an apology, it would be that in the past I have concerned myself unduly, if a comparison has to be made, with the English writers who have attempted to state the ideals of self-governing communities and the methods appropriate to their realization. If I now prefer to refer to Jefferson it is not, I hope, because of American provincialism, even though I believe that only one who was attached to American soil and who took a consciously alert part in the struggles of the country to attain its independence, could possibly have stated as thoroughly and intimately as did Jefferson the aims embodied in the American tradition: “the definitions and axioms of a free government,” as Lincoln called them. Nor is the chief reason for going to him, rather than to Locke or Bentham or Mill, his greater sobriety of judgment due to that constant tempering of theory with practical experience which also kept his democratic doctrine within human bounds.

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The Problem of Truth (1911)

LARRY A HICKMAN Indiana University Press ePub

To the lay mind it is a perplexing thing that the nature of truth should be a vexed problem. That such is the case seems another illustration of Berkeley’s remark about the proneness of philosophers to throw dust in their own eyes and then complain that they cannot see. It is evident enough to the plain man that it takes character to tell the truth habitually; and he has learned, through hard discipline, that it is no easy matter to discover what the truth is in special instances. But such difficulties assume that the nature of truth is perfectly well understood. To be truthful is to make our statements conform to our sincere beliefs, and our beliefs to the facts. Only, so it would seem, some zeal for sophistication can make a topic for philosophic dispute out of such a straightaway situation as this. Whence and why the pother? Before our inquiry ends we may find reason for thinking that some of the difficulties attending the debate are gratuitous. But we must begin by indicating that the conditions which make the nature of truth a problem are found in everyday life, in common sense, so that if to take truth as a problem be a crime, common sense is accessory before the act.

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Three Independent Factors in Morals (1930)

LARRY A HICKMAN Indiana University Press ePub

There is a fact which from all the evidence is an integral part of moral action which has not received the attention it deserves in moral theory: that is the element of uncertainty and of conflict in any situation which can properly be called moral. The conventional attitude sees in that situation only a conflict of good and of evil; in such a conflict, it is asserted, there should not be any uncertainty. The moral agent knows good as good and evil as evil and chooses one or the other according to the knowledge he has of it. I will not stop to discuss whether this traditional view can be sustained in certain cases; it is enough to say that it is not right in a great number of cases. The more conscientious the agent is and the more care he expends on the moral quality of his acts, the more he is aware of the complexity of this problem of discovering what is good; he hesitates among ends, all of which are good in some measure, among duties which obligate him for some reason. Only after the event, and then by chance, does one of the alternatives seem simply good morally or bad morally. And if we take the case of a person commonly considered immoral, we know that he does not take the trouble of justifying his acts, even the criminal ones; he makes no effort, to use the psychoanalysts’ term, to “rationalize” them.

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