Bradley and Internal Relations

Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 13:181-195 (1982)
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Abstract

Bradley is often described as an Anglo-Hegelian, and hence it is assumed that his doctrines derive from Hegel. It is true that his first two works ‘The Presuppositions of Critical History’ and Ethical Studies are heavily influenced by Hegel. The Principles of Logic is much less so: it certainly contains a number of both laudatory and critical references to Hegel, but the whole design of the book is completely unrelated to his treatment of logic. Appearance and Reality seems to me not to be Hegelian at all. The interesting logical discussions occur in the Principles, and it is here that we can find points of comparison between Bradley and Frege and Russell. This is in part because all three were agreed that it was impossible to account for logic by reference to psychology. Bradley's doctrine of internal relations first emerges in this context, though it is given a more metaphysical interpretation in the subsequent Appearance and Reality. However, most who have talked of internal relations have taken their view from the latter work, and have found the doctrine either confused or silly. This quotation from Appearance and Reality seems to bring out all that is objectionable in the view:And if you could have a perfect relational knowledge of the world, you could go on from the nature of red-hairedness to these other characters which qualify it, and you could from the nature of red-hairedness reconstruct all the red-haired men. In such perfect knowledge you could start internally from any one character in the Universe, and you could from that pass to the rest…For example, a red-haired man who knew himself utterly would and must, starting from within, go on to know everyone else who had red hair, and he would not know himself until he knew them. But, as things are, he does not know how or why he himself has red hair, nor how and why a different man is also the same in that point, and therefore, because he does not know the ground, the how and why, of his relation to other men, it remains for him relatively external, contingent, and fortuitous. But there is really no mere externality except in his ignorance.

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