The nerve of the Pluralist's argument against the Idealist Absolute lies in his denial of the internality of relations. That relations are 'internal,' i.e. grounded in the nature of the terms they relate, is, he protests, a mere false hypothesis which the Idealist adopts as if it were axiomatic certainty. Naturally (the Pluralist is prepared to concede) if all relations are grounded in the nature of the terms related, then, since every term stands in some sort of relation to every other term, every term depends, for the knowledge of its true nature, upon a knowledge of all other terms. And this leads straight to the Monistic Theory of Truth. But against this it is argued that relations are not, or certainly not all, internal. It may be too drastic to regard Reality, with the earlier Mr Russell, as an aggregate of independent entities standing in purely external relations to one another. But this picture, it is held, is at least as near the truth as that of Monistic Idealism. And the Pluralist proceeds to make good his case, as he believes, by citing a number of concrete instances in which, he contends, it is mere wilful paradox to claim that the intrinsic nature of the term is in any way affected by the relation in which it 'happens' to stand.
I cannot, of course, attempt here a comprehensive consideration of the arguments and illustrations whereby the Pluralist seeks to support the theory that at least some relations are external. The main thing that I wish to do is to set forth the criticism which is implied in our earlier examination of the process of thought, since that criticism is, in my view, fatal to the very principle of the Pluralist'ss position.
For let us recall what we then found about the attitude of thought to the professed union of differents. Thought, we found, abhors a 'bare conjunction.' It cannot accept a connection without postulating, and endeavouring to explicate, a ground for the connection. For otherwise it is identifying bare A with not-A, and this is self-contradictory. But what, after all, is the assertion of a merely external relation but just this self-contradictory assertion of a bare conjunction? A is affirmed to stand in a relation, say a relation of 'paternity,' to X, and the Pluralist maintains that the nature of A is indifferent to the relation. But if we thus connect A with 'father of X,' insisting that the connection is one of mere fact, devoid of any rationale, this is just to connect differences without the provision of even an implied ground of their union - i.e. simply in and as a bare conjunction. Nor can the Pluralist reply that he does admit a rationale, but that this rationale leaves the nature of A unaffected. If we do indeed have to assume a ground for the connection of A with 'father of X,' then this ground is a system within which A and 'father of X ' are implicated elements, or it is no 'ground' at all; and it is absurd to suppose that the nature of A will be the same when apprehended within the system as when apprehended in isolation. There is no choice but either to deny the necessity for grounding of connections outright, or else to agree that the nature of the term cannot be thought of as unaffected by its possession of a relation. The former alternative will support the doctrine of external relations. But the cost will be no less than the suicidal admission that thinking can rest satisfied with a self-contradiction.
The short and easy manner in which many Realists think fit to dismiss a doctrine which is granted by Realists themselves to be the very corner-stone of the Monistic Theory of Truth 1 might reasonably provoke suspicion that perhaps we have in these critics, not a clearer understanding of the issue, but a mere misunderstanding of their opponents. This I believe to be the case. But that one's counter-criticism may not lay itself open to a similar imputation, one ought, perhaps, even at the risk of some disproportion, to dwell a little longer upon this cause celŠbre, Mr Moore and Mr Russell may no doubt be regarded as among the most formidable opponents of the doctrine of Internality, and I shall say something on the views of each. In neither case, as it seems to me, is the real reason for the Idealist's advocacy of the theory grasped and combated. It should be possible, I think, even without entering upon a fully detailed analysis of their respective views, to make clear the fundamental misunderstanding upon which these views rest.
1 B. Russell's Philosophical Essays, p. 161. 'Hence the axiom [of internal relations] is equivalent to the monistic theory of truth'.
It is noteworthy that Mr Russell's discussion opens with a formal statement of the ground (or, as he believes, one of the grounds) for believing in the internality of relations which is verbally unexceptionable. It is only when he proceeds to draw out the implications of the statement that it becomes evident that the interpretation which he places upon his words is far removed from that which the Idealist for his part would place upon them. This is what Mr Russell says: 'If we ask ourselves what are the grounds in favour of the axiom of internal relations... they seem to be two, though these are perhaps really indistinguishable. There is first the law of sufficient reason, according to which nothing can be just a brute fact, but must have some reason for being thus and not otherwise....'l With the second 'ground' which follows in Mr Russell's statement we need not concern ourselves. For it is what Mr Russell here calls the 'law of sufficient reason' which does, in fact, furnish the real and sole basis of the Idealist 'axiom'.