The Principles of Mathematics (1903)

§ 51

It is interesting and not unimportant to examine very briefly the connection of the above doctrine of adjectives with certain traditional views on the nature of propositions. It is customary to regard all propositions as having a subject and a predicate, i.e. as having an immediate this, and a general concept attached to it by way of description. This is, of course, an account of the theory in question which will strike its adherents as extremely crude; but it will serve for a general indication of the view to be discussed. This doctrine develops by internal logical necessity into the theory of Mr Bradley's Logic, that all words stand for ideas having what he calls meaning, and that in every judgment there is a something, the true subject of the judgment, which is not an idea and does not have meaning. To have meaning, it seems to me, is a notion confusedly compounded of logical and psychological elements. Words all have meaning, in the simple sense that they are symbols which stand for something other than themselves. But a proposition, unless it happens to be linguistic, does not itself contain words: it contains the entities indicated by words. Thus meaning, in the sense in which words have meaning, is irrelevant to logic. But such concepts as a man have meaning in another sense: they are, so to speak, symbolic in their own logical nature, because they have the property which I call denoting. That is to say, when a man occurs in a proposition (e.g. I met a man in the street), the proposition is not about the concept a man, but about something quite different, some actual biped denoted by the concept. Thus concepts of this kind have meaning in a non-psychological sense. And in this sense, when we say this is a man, we are making a proposition in which a concept is in some sense attached to what is not a concept. But when meaning is thus understood, the entity indicated by John does not have meaning, as Mr Bradley contends[45]; and even among concepts, it is only those that denote that have meaning. The confusion is largely due, I believe, to the notion that words occur in propositions, which in turn is due to the notion that prpositions are essentially mental and are to be identified with cognitions. But these topics of general philosophy must be pursued no further in this work.(§ 51 ¶ 1)

§ 51 n. 1. Logic, Book I, Chap. 1, §§ 17, 18 (pp. 58-60).