L. T. (Leonard Trelawny) Hobhouse.

The theory of knowledge; a contribution to some problems of logic and metaphysics online

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conception) ; " He is the ideal labour-leader," asserts a corre-
spondence between a real person and an imagined content
which may hitherto have remained a mere imagination, without
question of the possibility of its being realised. In neither
case does it seem quite accurate to speak of the judgment as
instituting the reference to reality. Either the reference is
already there, or what is asserted is a correspondence between
two kinds of real fact, one of which is a mental image.

These qualifications being understood, we may subscribe to
the definition of the judgment as the reference of an ideal
content to reahty. Nevertheless, some connection of contents
(one of which at least must be ideal) is so intimately bound
up with the work of the judgment, that it may be fairly
regarded as of the essence of the matter. Both the form of
the proposition and the history of logic are witnesses to this.
In the simplest categorical proposition, both terms are signifi-
cant apart from the proposition itself. That is to say, each
designates a certain content, and the effect of the judgment is
to bring these contents into relation. Thus in " Balbus is
building a wall," the subject Balbus refers at starting to a
certain reality, and this reality is connected with that referred
to by the predicate. Subject and predicate alike deal with
ideas already otherwise familiar, the only logical distinction
between them being that the subject corresponds to the
starting-point of thought,- and the predicate to its further
movement. Considering the whole process of judgment from
this point of view, we find it to be an act in which the mind
begins by a reference to a content, real or supposed, given,
remembered, inferred or imagined, and goes on to assert its
connection with some further content.

2. Now, are these two theories of the judgment compatible ?
If judgment merely affirms an ideal content, can it also be said
to connect it with something else ? If it connects it with
something else, does it not do more than merely affirm it?
The answer is to be found by asking, what idea is it which we
are comparing with the judgment ? If the judgment be, " It
has been raining for an hour," the whole content might be
regarded as a single idea. I may suggest that the rain has
lasted an hour, and confirm the fact by looking at my watch.
From the entertainment of this idea, judgment differs merely
as assertion from suggestion, and thus taking the whole
matter, subject, predicate, and their relation as the ideal
content in question, judgment is the assertion that this con-

150 DATA

tent is real. But " raining," taken by itself, is also an ideal
content, and tliis content is connected in the judgment with
other facts. Thus, in spealdng of the relation of judgment to
idea, you must know which idea you mean. Judgment is the
assertion of a content which is ideal, or includes an ideal
element.^. This relates the judgment to its total content.^
Judgment correlates an ideal content with some other content
ideal or perceived. This relates the whole content to one
necessary element, which it includes.

In two cases the element of connection seems to fall out of
the judgment. The first is that of exclamation, or the imper-
sonal judgment. " Freezing ! " " It's lightening ! " may be said
simply to affirm an idea, or simply to qualify the present, and
on this account some would exclude them from the judgment
altogether. We have already seen that the form of expression
is not decisive, and that in point of fact the process underlying
these expressions often differs only in degree of explicitness
from the thought corresponding to the formal sentence. We
may note here that the difference of explicitness affects the
relation of the elements in judgment. Eeally the data before
me, and my thought about them, are much the same whether
I say " freezing " or remark, " There is a sharp frost." In either
case I have the character of the present given me, and I note
its correspondence with a known general quality. These are
the elements, and this the relation asserted ; and as soon as
the relation begins to be realised, we have the beginnings of
judgment. Eliminate the thought of the relation altogether,
and we have mechanical exclamation. So far, then, the con-
nection of contents is coextensive with the judgment itself.
Where no connection is realised in thought, there judgment fails.

The second case presenting difficulty is the existential
judgment. Defenders of the "synthesis" view have iasisted
that we have here a synthesis of the idea which forms the
subject with that of existence in general. To this more than
one objection has been taken. Can existence, it may be asked,
serve as an idea for this purpose ? And if it does, must we
not regard other judgments as a double synthesis of subject
with predicate, and of both with existence ? And, lastly, is it
the fact that judgment introduces the idea of existence, or is
that already contained in the idea of the subject ?

Starting from the last point, we must at least admit its

' The wTioU content is not always strictly ideal. In the simplest qualitative
jndgment, one element is merely apprehended fact. But it must include, and
may be entirely composed of, ideal elements.

^ Cf. Bosanquet, Essentials of Logic, Lect, vi., esp. p. 108,


possibility. My idea of the ether is not of something non-
existent, or existent merely in my head, or, again, "ia some
place above the heavens " out of relation to other things, but
of an imponderable substance diffused in my actual environ-
ment. If you tell me " the ether exists," you do not add the
notion of existence to the idea I had before. You merely con-
firm a suggestion. You tell me that that is true which I thought
possible. Nor is it enough to reply that existence in the judg-
ment always means some definite kind of existence {e.g. in space
and time, as material, or what not) ; for we should then have
to say that the idea forming the subject of such a judgment is
really itself a reference to existence of that very kind. The
child's idea of a fairy refers to the same real world in which
its parents move.^ The idea is a reference, not only to reality,
but to the kind of reahty contemplated by the judgment. It
would seem clear that it is not synthesis with the idea of reality
that turns the subject-idea into a judgment. It is simply the
recognition of the suggestion involved in entertaining the idea.
In fact, the reference of the ideal content to reahty is here the
explicit or formal purport of the judgment.

It does not follow that the element of synthesis or relation
is absent from the content. Por the idea is not only a sugges-
tion, but something that exists on its own account, viz. in the
miad of this or that person. The existential judgment refers
ia its subject to the idea as such, and affirms its correspond-
ence with some further reality. We have iusisted that the
existential judgment (like others) confirms a suggestion. It is
merely stating the same fact in another aspect when we say
that it refers to a suggestion as a thought in your mind, and
asserts its correspondence with a reality. Thus, " The hypnotic
trance is a real state," exphcitly affirms an ideal content to be
real. This may be broken up in two ways : either (a) " Is the
trance real ? ■ Yes ! " or (b) " The idea of the trance (already in
my mind) corresponds with the reality." And (a) and (&) simply
represent the same content split up at different points, for the
" the trance " of (a) is nothing else but a reference to my con-
ception or someone else's. The existential judgment is, in fact,
a case of the judgment which recognises the truth of some other
belief. " What you suppose is true," is much the same as, " The
thing you imagiue really exists." The existential judgment
thus asserts a relation. But the relation is no more than the
reference contained in the subject-idea itself — the relation of a
mental act to a reahty beyond it. Hence this judgment is the

^ I know a child who wants a pumpkin in order that the fairies may change
it into a tram ! The mixture of poetry and prose is instructive.

152 DATA

limitmg case where the assertion, on the one hand, and the
relation into which the idea is brought, on the other, coincide.
The element of relation still remains in its content, but it is
merely the relation (of reference to a reality beyond itself)
already contained in the subject-idea. It would be false to
describe this as either a synthesis of two ideas or a connection
of two ideal contents. It is simply the affirmation of a
reference contained in a single idea. The peculiarity of the
judgment is that an idea (as something in your mind or mine)
is itself the object of reference in the subject, and then some-
thing further is said of the idea, viz. the reference it contains
is affirmed. This judgment, then, like others, while affirming
an ideal content, stOl says " something of something," predi-
cates, affirms a relation ; but not a relation of two ideas or two
ideal contents. In particular, it does not predicate anythtag
of the content which it asserts as real.^

Hence, if the question be, what is the relation of judgment
to idea ? our answer must be that an idea becomes a judgment
when its content is no longer suggested, but asserted of reahty.
On the other hand, the content asserted, or some part of it,
must, if it is in the strict sense ideal,^ be already in some way
known — and that is why it can be referred to by a fixed name.
A necessary incident of the assertion is therefore a correlation of
what was previously known of the content with what now be-
comes known. Hence the necessary distinction of subject and
predicate in the judgment, of which we shall presently treat.^

' The existential judgment may be said to establish a reference of one kind
of reality to another. We get a close parallel in "Lord Steyne was a real

Eerson," " The execution of Bernardo del Nero is historical," for these characters
elong to an "ideal world" of their own, and only by these judgments are
brought into relation with our ordinary "real" world. They already present
the relation of ideal and actual, and shoidd not be confused with "CHve
Newcome really marries Ethel," which merely affirms a point left doubtful by
the novelist, but refers always (as Mr. Boaanquet says) to the ideal world of
Col. Newoome and Lady Kew.

' Ideal contents, we have seen, are normally general, and hence we may speak
broadly of the judgment as necessarily implying a general content. But what
is actually essential is that the content predicated should be an object of fixed
and determinate reference, common to the knowledge of speaker and hearer.
This is the case with the individual, which is common to many facts of ex-
perience, and many experiences, but is not bond fide general. Hence the proper
name judgment, "Here is Leeds," "That is Mr. Gladstone," employs an ideal
but not a general content.

' This account, though mainly based on Bradley {Logic, bk. i. chaps i.
and ii.) and Bosanquet (Introduction and chap, i.), is not, on the whole, opposed
to Sigwart's, to which it also owes much, if we take the doctrine of §§ 5 and 9
in close connection with the insistence (§ 14) on belief in the objective reality
of the content. Here, at least roughly, we have all the elements requisite.
Brentano's view, adopted by Hillebrand {Neuen Theorien der Kategorischen
Schlilsse, pp. 26, 27), that judgment is essentially the Anerkennung of an


Our conclusions, so far, may be briefly restated. The
whole content of the judgment may generally be put as an
idea, and from this idea the judgment merely differs as
assertion from suggestion. Again, in the content, one element
at least must always be ideal, i.e. an object of fixed reference,
and so nameable. The content involves a relation of this
element to some other, and thus assertions, not involving a
relation and an idea, fall outside the judgment.

3. Treating judgment as the acceptance or assertion of an
idea, and " idea " as involving a suggestion of, or reference to,
reahty, we see that the difference between judging and enter-
taining an idea turns out strictly to be one of modality, and
modality enters into the essence of the judgment. The mere
idea is the reference simply taken up and entertained by the
mind. This is ou^rw <pdeic, not yet an assertion, inasmuch as no
specified degree of beUef attaches to it. The manner of its
reference to reality is so far indefinite. Turn it into an explicit
suggestion or assertion, and the difference is just this, that it at
once acquires some definite degree of certainty — varying from
the maximum of the assertorical judgment to the indifference-
point of mere suggestion. To briefly rehearse our points will
make the matter clear, and lead at once to our next step. The
" idea " as a name for a content signifies an abstraction. The
content must be entertained by the mind in some definite way.
To merely entertain it, without any particular degree of belief,
is not strictly to make an assertion. Hold it now with some
definite degree of belief, and it is the content of a judgment,
varying in modahty from the purely problematical to the
assertorical. Entertain it (we may add for the sake of com-
pleteness) in some quite other way, and it may be a wish or a

idea, seems to be better phrased, but to come, after all, to much the same thing as
Sigwart's Bevyiisstsein der ohjediven GilUigJceit, while the dropping of the element
of relation as unessential to the content is a doubtful gain. It is thoroughly
right, however, to treat the relation as matter of content, and not confuse it
with the act of assertion. And Sigwart's reply to Brentano (§ 12, p. 89, note),
with reference to the existential fonn, does not wholly meet the case. It is
true that the idea in this judgment is treated as an object of reference on its
own account ; but it is misleading, I think, to speak of the judgment as itself
a Verkniipfung of ideas and reality. The VerTcnupfung with reality is a part
of the content of the idea itself. All that the judgment does is to affirm or
recognise this relation as true, or, again, reject it as false ; and this is precisely
Brentano's Anerkennung or Verwerfung. If Sigwart replied that his Vorstellung
is not itself a content bearing reference to reality, but what we have called an
image, and that its reference to reality is first inteoduced by the judgment, we
should be driven to regard every judgment as uniting the idea of reality with
its other contents, and then the normal judgment would be an union of three
ideas, and the existential of two only. Essentially the same difference would
crop up along with a more cumbrous analysis.

154 DATA

An idea becomes a judgment, then, not necessarily by being
asserted with full confidence, but by being suggested with any
explicit degree of belief. Full belief is not essential to the
judgment, but each judgment is asserted with its own degree
of confidence. And this is matter, not only for psychology, but
for logic. We shall see more definitely at a later stage that
there is a de, jure degree of certainty, which may or may not
correspond with the actual felt certainty with which the
judgment is made. This de jure degree of certainty we may
call the real probability of the judgment, — a probability which
is reflected more or less accurately in the mind of the person

4. The indifference-point of mere suggestion is the opposite
of belief as such, but is not the only opposite of affirmative belief.
The attitude of the mind to one and the same content may pass
through the stage of doubt to that of rejection, exclusion, or
negation. The negative judgment rejects or excludes the con-
tent which the affirmative accepts, and from this point of view
negation is the contrary attitude of affirmation. Our treatment
of negation must be brief, but a few words will suffice to apply
our general theory of the judgment to this case. If we treat
negation as negation, this means that we think of it as a
particular way of entertaining a content, i.e. as holding it up to
the mind only to reject, dismiss, have done with it. Obviously,
it is difficult to define such an act as a reference of an ideal
content to reahty. It is not such a reference. It is the denial
of a reference already suggested. The content A-B main-
tained in the affirmation A is B, is entertained only to be
rejected in the denial A is not B.

But negation has also normally, if not always, a positive
side. It asserts difference of some kind or another. " Our
train is not in yet " is negative in form, and relatively to the
suggestion, " Our train in ? " remains negative. But it also
affirms a positive character of the present. The state of things
now before us differs from one shortly to be expected. Nearly
all significant negations can be translated into some affirmation
of a difference of contents ; and it is, as a rule, just the mark of
a siUy negation, as that a paraUelopiped is not a monster of
iniquity, that no intelligible degree or kind of difference can be
affirmed of the terms compared.^ But it is doubtful whether
this rule can be applied universally. It is not always absurd

1 The so-ealled "infinite judgment," since it takes mere exclusion as a
positive q^uality, may be said to be the formal expression of this sortof negation,
and hence is justly characterised by Hegel {Logik, bk. iii. WerTce, v. p. 87) and
Mr. Bosanq^uet as " idiotic,"


to deny a connection between things so remote that no connec-
tion between them should be conceivable. " The soul is not an
attenuated gaseous substance " — there is a stage of inteUigence
at which that denial is worth making, however superfluous it
may seem later on. Again, " Sea serpents do not exist," may,
of course, be translated iato, " The nature of reality is incom-
patible with the existence of sea serpents " ; but it is very
questionable whether this expresses any real relation of differ-
ence. I conclude that negation is normally, but not always,
equivalent to an affirmation of more or less definite difference ;
and the more highly developed, i.e. the more fruitful, the negation,
the more precise the difference. But it still remains negative,
i.e. it excludes or rejects a suggested content.

5. We have seen that a certain synthesis is a necessary ele-
ment in the content asserted of reahty by a judgment. That you
can take a known definite content and say something of it, that
it has this or that attribute, or stands in this or that relation,
is the fundamental assumption on which judgment proceeds.
And hence naturally has arisen the division of its content into
subject and predicate, with the copula to express their union or
relation. That this distinction must be traceable in every
judgment seems clear; but where in any case the dividing hne
is to be drawn is another question, and on this one or two
remarks seem necessary.

The subject, in our view, is the starting-point of thought.
Such a starting-point may be of any sort or kind, concrete or
abstract, r^al or imaginary, actual or ideal, subjective or
objective. It must have some kind of reality, either " in our
heads " or outside them ; and so much of reality is a presup-
position of the judgment rather than a part of its exphcit pur-
port.^ Hence has arisen a tendency to idenbify the subject with
the real 2}ar excellence, with reality itself, or perhaps substance,
" as the most really real " of all things.^ And, indeed, on the
synthesis view taken by itself it was not altogether easy to see
how the reference to reality came in, unless you had your
reality already there. On our view there is no distinction of
this kind between subject and predicate. S - P forms a whole
which is asserted to be real ; how far some knowledge of S is
presupposed is for these purposes immaterial. The whole is, if
the judgment is true, equally real, and to deny the reality of
any element would be to destroy the judgment as a categorical

^ For this whole characterisation of the subject, see Sigwart, § 5, p. 28.

2 Cf. Arist. Fast. Anal. A. 22, p. 83a, 1-34.

3 I say " destroy," because the denial of the subject may make the judgment

156 DATA

Again, the limits of the subject become on our view un-
certain or even arbitrary. It is difficult to say how much is
presupposed by the judgment, or from what point the thought
process may be said to begin. It is, in particular, far from
clear that the logical and the grammatical subject coincide. In
" I have lit the lamp," surely " I " is not the point of departure
for thought, but rather " lamp," or even " lit." Ajid if you
urge that the predication must be expressed by the verb, and in
this case the verb is the auxiliary, I must reply that there seem
really to be two or three predications in this short sentence,
any one of which is as good as any other. For if " I " appear
first as myself, and then as the lamp-lighter, the lamp equally
appears as itself and as a-light ; and once more, if we go back
from the sentence to the real thought process, we can with
equal force urge that neither of these terms as they stand, but
rather the perceived or remembered content, is the true subject
of which an ideal content is asserted in the predication. And
this is, in fact, the normal case with the judgment. It contains
predications several times over, and which of them you take as
the predication of the judgment is a matter of convenience. If
you say, " He is going down to Yorkshire to-morrow by the
9.45 from King's Cross," you divide " he " as the grammatical
subject from the rest as predicate ; but the real transition in
thought is from what we knew before to what the judgment
tells us, and on this principle we might divide the judgment at
any point, and should do so if we wish to represent the charac-
ter of the advance, according to the interest which the state-
ment satisfies — " He," or " going," or " Yorkshire," or " the
9.45," or " King's Cross," may be the real predicate, the real
addition to what we knew before. The main point is that this
liberty of distribution is rendered possible by the fact that
any one of those terms stands in the judgment in a double
relation. Of each something is taken as already known, and
something is said. In short, the content of the judgment is a
complex of interconnected elements, any one of which can stand
as subject or as predicate to the rest, the real distinction for
thought being determined by the "psychological situation."
There is not for any given judgment a logically fixed subject,
nor does the subject necessarily take any special logical function
(such as providing the reference to reality) upon itself. The
whole judgment is a content asserted of reality, consisting of
inter-related elements.

To sum up. The whole content of a judgment, in whatever

unmeaning rather than false ; and I say categorical, because the same denial may
leave the judgment a certain hypothetical validity.


way it is entertained, bears reference to a reality beyond the
act of judgment itself. This suggested reference is asserted in
the affirmative and rejected in the negative, with a certain felt
strength of beKef constituting the modality of the judgment.
This element of belief differentiates the judgment from the
mere entertainment of an idea. Of the total content of the
judgment, one element at least is ideal as having a fixed mean-
ing independently of the judgment. This element the judgment
connects with some further content, real or imaginary, ideal or
perceptual ; and this connection of elements forms the predica-
tion involved in the process. In the existential judgment it is
reduced to the relation of the idea to the reahty which it itself
suggests. The employment of this ideal element differentiates
the judgment from ordinary assertion. And the special function
of the judgment is to characterise what is given in terms of a
system of ideal contents.


The Validity of Judgment

So far we have concerned ourselves with the content, and in
some degree with the conditions of the judgment. It remains
to speak of its vahdity. In one sense, indeed, it is premature
to deal with this question. The validity of any class of judg-
ments or any particular judgment cannot be fully discussed
except in connection with the validity of thought in generaL
But there are certain objections brought against the categorical

Online LibraryL. T. (Leonard Trelawny) HobhouseThe theory of knowledge; a contribution to some problems of logic and metaphysics → online text (page 18 of 69)