Mapping the Understanding Complex in Russell's Theory of Knowledge

Katarina Perovic


Anyone familiar with Russell’s work on the multiple-relation theory of judgment will at some point have puzzled over the map of the five-term understanding complex at the end of Chapter 1, Part II of his Theory of Knowledge (1913). Russell presents the map with the intention of clarifying what goes on when a subject S understands the “proposition” that A and B are similar. But the map raises more questions than it answers. In this paper I present and develop some of the central issues that arise from Russell’s map, and I offer an interpretation of it that reflects his evolving views in the manuscript. I argue that multiple lines in the map are not meant to represent many relations, but rather one comprehensive multiple relation of understanding. And I argue that such a relation relates in a complex way due to the distinctive nature of its relata.

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