The controversy between Russell and Bradley concerning the doctrine of internal relations
Eichhoefer, Gerald Werner
Grandy, Richard E.
Doctor of Philosophy
More than any other philosopher Bertrand Russell is thought to have refuted the Absolute Idealism of Francis Herbert Bradley. He is supposed to have done this by showing that Bradley's doctrine of internal relations is contradictory and inadequate. In this thesis I reexamine the controversy between Russell and Bradley concerning the doctrine of internal relations in an attempt to determine whether Russell did, in fact, refute Bradley. In the first chapter I show how Bradley's internal relations reside on the level of understanding which is between the level of feeling and the level of the Absolute. In the second chapter I show how Bradley himself rejects the whole level of understanding including both internal and external relations as mere appearance. He does this primarily by showing that relations have what I call a "dual nature" which means that they must be but cannot be both unifiers and constituents of complexes. In the third chapter I show how Russell's understanding of relations emerged from his belief that the structure of language parallels the structure of extra-linguistic reality and that Russell also discovers the dual nature problem. In the fourth chapter I examine Russell's powerful arguments against internal relations and conclude that they are effective. Russell's and Bradley's arguments, however, show that external relations, which are necessary for Russell's own pluralism, are also impossible due to the dual nature problem. It seems that Russell rather than Bradley is refuted. In the fifth chapter I consider whether any contemporary writers have identified and solved the dual nature problem. Both Alvin Nelson and Timothy Sprigge have distinguished between what they call the "holistic" and other interpretations of internal relations. I show that neither Nelson nor Sprigge captures Bradley's meaning and that the problem remains unsolved. In the last chapter I present the outlines of a solution which is suggested by the dual nature problem itself. In this solution properties are unifiers and relations are "diversifiers" and a theory of levels or types is required. In the end it is not clear that even this solution solves the dual nature problem.