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An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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CHAPTER XVI
ON THE EXISTENCE OF RELATIONS
We cannot choose to do without them, without seeking to choose, since choice is action, and involves, for instance, the aforesaid difference between affirming and denying that we mean to do thus and thus. (449)
JOSIAH ROYCE
In concluding the foregoing remarks, I must explain one more general consideration. This concerns an extremely profound structural psycho-logical discovery, made by Prof. Royce,1 which underlies any and all semantic problems of human 'mentality'. Royce, although a 'philosopher', was a lover of mathematics and was much interested in the problems of order. He was trying to reformulate 'logic' in terms of order. We had already encountered the inherent circularity in the structure of human knowledge, which admittedly is semantically disconcerting if not faced boldly. But, when recognized, this circularity is not only not vicious, but even adds to the interest and beauty of life and makes science more interesting. Besides, the structure of human knowledge is such that there are activities of man which are not only circular but also 'absolute', or 'necessary'. Whatever we do, we cannot get away from them - a fact of serious semantic importance. Except from Royce and a few of his students, these problems have as yet received little attention.
Royce shows that there are certain activities which we reinstate and verify through the very fact of attempting to assume that these forms of activity do not exist, or that these laws are not valid. If any one attempts to say that there are no classes whatsoever in his world, he thereby inevitably classifies. If any one denies the existence of relations, and, in particular, a semantic relation between affirmation and denial, or affirms that 'yes' and 'no' have one meaning, in that breath he affirms and denies. He makes a difference between 'yes' and 'no', and emphatically asserts relational equivalence even in denying the difference between 'yes' and 'no'. To use Royce's own remarkable words: 'In brief, whatever actions are such, whatever types of action are such, whatever results of activity, whatever conceptual constructions are such, that the very act of getting rid of them, or of thinking them away, logically implies their presence, are known to us indeed both empirically and pragmatically (since we note their presence and learn of them through action) ; but they are also absolute. And any account which succeeds in telling what they are has absolute truth. Such truth is a "construction"
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