BASIC RULES OF REASON
by I. A. RICHARDS
KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRUBNER & Co., Ltd. LONDON, 1933
Psyche Miniatures, General Series No. 62

DIVISION OF PAGES
To The Reader7
I . A  LANGUAGE MACHINE9
II .THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE 1 - 822
III.THEORY OF CONNECTIONS 9 -1165
IV .THEORY OF INSTRUMENTS12-1889
List of the Chief Senses of Some Key Words in Discussion  130

TO THE READER

    This little book is in Basic English. It is a first attempt to put some chief parts of the science which has rightly been named ' the key to knowledge ' into the new language which is becoming month by month the international language of the Earth. For those who have no knowledge of Basic, a list of books about it has been printed on the last page. The rules for working the 850 words here used (all of which are printed at the front, on one side of a bit of business notepaper) are given in Basic English and in the ABC ; and the different forms and uses of the words themselves are made clear in The Basic Words.
    As to my experience in using this language ; I am not conscious that at any point I have said anything which is in any way different from what I had in mind to say, or that I have been forced to say it in a way which is less clear, or less in harmony with my purpose than the other ways which would, with a longer Word List, have been open to me. In fact, very frequently the opposite has been true ; the simple language has been better for this sort of work than a more complex language. About half of the book is an account of views with which everyone who has any experience with these questions will be in agreement. The other half is only a statement of my opinions about points on which agreement is unhappily not possible in the present conditions of knowledge. But when what is said is wrong, the error is to my thought, not in the language, and may be put right without the use of more or different words.
   For suggestions on points of detail in the writing I am in debt to Miss Lockhart of the Orthological Institute.

I. A. R.
Magdalene College, Cambridge

I . A LANGUAGE MACHINE

   
    The purpose of this book is to give a clear account of how we may best put our thought in order, of if we are not able quite to do this, how we may best make a serious attempt in this direction. To put our thoughts in order is to make them come into agreement with things, to make them give us a truer picture, a representative map or instrument for guiding our acts, so that men may give effect to as great a number of their desires as possible. The name of the general theory of how to do this is ' Logic '. As Bentham said, ' Logic is the art which has for its end (or purpose) the giving, in the best way, direction to the mind '. This direction is chiefly a power of keeping the divisions between our thoughts in the right places, and the right places are only the places in which, for the purpose in view, we have a need to put them, and the places in which other for their purposes have put them.
    Another very great authority -- Charles Saunders Pierce -- gave as his account of Logic : that it is the theory of good behaviour in thought, in the sense in which good behaviour is the use of self-control for the purpose of making our desires come about. (His words were, "Logic is the ethics of thinking, in the sense in which ethics is the bringing to bear of self control for the purpose of realizing our desires.") Because we are only able to put and keep our thoughts in control by the help of language, and because of control of language, for this purpose, is the control of the senses of our words, a great part of Logic, as Bentham and Pierce saw it, becomes the theory and right use of the senses of our chief words -- those upon which the ordering of the senses of our other words is dependent. The senses of these chief words -- and their ways of working with or against one another -- are the rules of reason There are not (1) the sense and (2) rules for putting them together ; but the senses themselves give us, in their ways of acting, the rules of reason.
   
    Another very great authority -- Charles Saunders Pierce -- gave as his account of Logic : that it is the theory of good behaviour in thought, in the sense in which good behaviour is the use of self-control for the purpose of making our desires come about. (His words Were, " Logic is the ethics of thinking, in the sense in which ethics is the bringing to bear of self control for the purpose of realizing our desires.") Because we are only able to put and keep our thoughts in control by the help of language, and because the control of language, for this purpose, is the control of the senses of our Words, a great part of Logic, as Bentham and Pierce saw it, becomes the theory and right use of the senses of our chief words -- those upon which the ordering of the senses of our other Words is dependent. The senses of these chief words -- and their ways of working with or against one another are the rules of reason. There are not (1) the senses and (2) rules for putting them together, but the senses themselves give us, in their ways of acting, the rules of reason.
    The trouble we have in giving order to our thoughts almost all comes from taldng one thought for another through the use of one word for two thoughts. So the power whose development is most necessary for us is a power of separating the senses of our words and of seeing when a word has one sense and when, with a change in the discussion, it has another. The process of putting our thoughts into a system, so that if some of them are taken we have then to take the others, is reasoning.
    Most reasoning does not get very far because the thoughts we put into the system are not clear , they are mixed. A number of different thoughts are together and so seem to be only one. In this way we are made, by a sort of trick, to say things which it is not necessary for us to say and to take, as true, thoughts which are not true and for which there is no good reason in the system of thoughts which seems to make them necessary. Or, in another example, we give one sense to a word and later make use of the same word but with another sense -- without taldng the change of sense into account. It is very hard for even the best experts to keep in mind quite clearly the senses they are giving to their words. In sciences where the question has been worked out in all details, they may be able to do this. A great number of years of teaching have made the senses of the words used in these sciences fixed and clear, and clearly separate one from another. But, even in old sciences, when new developments and theories are in question, the same trouble comes up. In thought about other sorts of things -- about society, the theory of money, art, the good, the true, the beautiful, about the mind and the operations or powers of the mind and so on -- nothing is clear. There are dark clouds of possible senses hanging about the chief words, and the apparatus of divis1ons, with which we may put sharp, clear limits between those senses we are taking into the argument and those which we are keeping out, has not been made clear enough. In the regular teaching of language very little attention is given even to the theory of this apparatus. But it is not hard for any one who is interested enough to get a much better control of it, and so to get a more complete control, a more delicate power of direction, over the processes of his thought.
    We all have enough experience with the tricks of words in discussion to be certain 12 that a fuller control of their senses is necessary. ,It will have been noted that in these first pages words have been put forward without clear senses being given to them. Among them are, thought itself, order, division, sense. They have been made use of here so widely and loosely that any man may give them any sense which is desired without great danger of error in the argument. So far, in fact, I have said very little and it is to be hoped that everyone will be in agreement with me. But now the iirst steps in the direction of more detailed and less elastic statements about the use of words have to be taken. The best thing will be to get agreement, if I am able, to a general question about divisions between the senses of words. This is the most important point of all. It is not hard to make clear, but it is very hard to keep in mind, and till we are able to do this all the time troubles of evexy sort will get in our way at every tum. It is this:
    When we take a word and give it a sense, we are free , we are able, for the purpose in hand, to give it any sense which for the purpose in hand, will be of use. The sense we give it first may in fact not be of use, we may not be able -- keeping to that sense -- to say something which we have a desire to say. If so, then we have to make a new attempt , we go back and give a different sense to the word. But when we first give a sense to a word we are not limited in any way. We may give any sense which seems of value so long as there is not serious danger of other men taking 1t in other senses , that is, if only we are able to make clear which sense we are giving it.
    Words have not got -- by natural design as it were -- senses of which they are the owners. They are instruments by which men give direction to thoughts,1 nothing more , though the conditions under which we are able to make them do this are limited. But -- and here the trouble comes in -- when we give a fixed sense to a word we have at the same time made it possible to say some things with it, and not possible to say other things, which we will probably have a strong desire to say later on. We are not able to see, at first, what we will
be able to say with the word so fixed, and what we will not be able to say with it. We have to let the test of experience give us the answer to this secret. A time may come and probably will come when we have a strong desire to say something with the word which the sense we have given to it will not let us say. Then we may come to the decision that the first sense we gave to the word was not the right one, that we made an error in using the word so. But here we have to take great care. There are two important and very different ways in which we may be said to have ' made an error ' and in which the sense we gave may be said to have been ' not the right sense '.
    (1) The sense we gave may not have been the sense of most use for the purpose in hand. In this way we frequently make errors and the senses we give to words are frequently not the right ones. We may make an error in this way without ever maldng any false statements.
    (2) But there is another way of making errors. When we make a false statement, we are in error -- but in a quite different way. In taking a Word and giving it a sense we are not in error in this way -- till, having given the word this sense, we make some false statement wiivh the word. Till we dotlxisw emay be unwisleiu our use of the word but we are not saying anything which is not true.
______
1 And feelings, and desires and acts, in addition. But here we have in view only the use of words for the control of thoughts in the nanow sense in which thoughts are separate from other proceases in the mind.
______

    The great danger, and the cause of most of our trouble with words in arguments, is that we do not keep these two ways of ' making errors ' clearly separate in our minds. When we see that we are unable to say what it is necessary for us to say without a change in the sense of a word, the feeling may come strongly that somehow in giving that sense to the word we were making a false statement. It seems to us as if there was something which was the true owner of the word and that in giving the word to another thing (that is, in giving another sense to the word) we were taldng it away from its tme owner and falsely making some other thing seem to be different from what it is. Bishop But1er's saying that ' Every thing is what it is and not another thing ', or some thought to the same effect, may come into our mind, and give us the feeling that we have done wrong. We have, by the effect of teaching and, it seems possible,by birth, a strong impulse to take words to be the names of things -- one thing, one name ; one name, one thing -- and go on to the idea that, if we were only ableto see enough, the true answer to the question, 'What is --?' (What is Art, the Mind, Existence, Science, Value, Belief ? etc.) would become clear to us. But these questions have no answers -- in the form in which we most frequently put them. Some of them are not questions at all ; others are questions which have to be put in the form ' What is this word "--" being used for in this connection ?' Putting them in the short form ' What is -- ?' gives us a quite wrong idea of the sort of answer which is possible, and the first great step to a better control of thought is to see why this is so.
    An example will make the position clearer. We have, say, the word Poetry'. (I take a word which is not in the Basic List. Its possible senseswill become clear in a minute.) There are a great number of interesting forms of words we are able to make by using the word ' Poetry '. We may say that Poetry is a way of putting words together so as to be the cause of a speclad sort of effect ; or that it is a way of putting words together which comes from a special sort of act or event or experience 17 in the mind of the man who puts them together ; or that it is a way of putting words together in verses -- that is, such that (with the right instruments) tests may be made which make clear that some quality of the sounds or motion bf the words comes back time after time in a regular way ; or that it is a way of putting words together in which it seems that there was a regular order (rhythm) of sounds or motions in the writer of them , or that in a complete reaction to them some r1ar order of sounds or motions will come into the mind in connection with which they will take their places (these give two other senses to the word 'verse ');, or we may say that poetry is words put together in such a way that when sense and feeling is given to them in reading the motion and sound seem to be in special agreement with the sense.
    We may go on for a long time saying things of this sort with the word Poetry. We may say that it is beautiful and high thoughts in delicate and right language, or that it is the coming back into the quiet mind of strong feeling, or that it is an important amusement, or that it is a sort of teaching which is full of pleasure, or
18 that it is the breath and higher being of knowledge, or that it is the look on the face of science. (Some of these may seem strange, but three of them are the opinions of Wordsworth, the others are from Shelley, Sir Philip Sidney and T. S. Eliot).
    If we make a comparison between these sayings, we will see that the word 'is' is not the same in all of them. In the first group it will seem natural to put the sign = in the place of 'is', in the second this will not seem so natural. This change is most important. To make use of a special word from Logic, the first group are naturally taken as definitions -- that is, as attempts to give an account of the sense of the word ' Poetry '. The second group are more naturally taken as statements -- that is to say we take them as if the word ' poetry' had some other sense given it before and as if we are now saying something about the things of which the word (in this before-fixed sense) is the name. It is clear that only the second group, taken as statements, are able to be tme or false. The first group (as definitions) do no more than give a sense to the word ' poetry ' , they do not go on to say anything about the things of which the word ' poetry ' in this way becomes a name -- and because they do not say anything it is happily not possible for them to be wrong. But, in most arguments, men give their chief attention -- not to making open and public the senses which may be best used -- but to the attempt to say the right thing about a nothing whose form and qualities are changed with every statement made about it. When a man says -- with much weight upon the ' is '-- that 'Poetry is '___' he is probably giving us a dehnition and then it would be better if he did not become so heated. If he is not giving us a definition then it is almost certain that a change in the sense -- a change of which he has not taken note -- is the cause of his wave of feeling.
    A strange light on all this -- that it is strange is the strangest thing of all -- comes with thought on how the senses of our words are given to us. ' Poetry ' for example. We have knowledge of it first let us say, in connection with certain verses. Which of the qualities of the verses (so far as we may then see them separately) do we first take as the sense of ' poetry ' ? And which later, when the other sorts of things named poetry come before us? Is
20 . there any need to be surprised if, after years of this sort Qf thing, we have no clear, Hxed and complete sense for ' poetry ' in our mind, if the best we do, when we make use of the word, is to give with it a mass of mixed, broken senses, one of which will seem the most important at one time, another at another (as acting definitions), changing with the different statements in which the word is used ? For purposes of amusement, for attacking one another's opinions in a general way, for stitching together slow minutes in company, such play with unnoted senses is of value, without doubt. But not for serious discussion.
    After these first pages about the purpose and need of a better apparatus for controlling the senses of our words, we may go on freely to the necessary work.
 
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