Hi Ken,

interesting language these assertions from Elot. 
"misprision" for example - what is he implying about Dobree's position? That of one supporting a less than reputable thought and that he is abetting a questionable proposition from Eliot or at least one not in the common understanding  of their time? I would have expected that for their contemporaries some version of Natural Law or omnipotent theism or Revelation was at least not likely to get the knee jerk it might now.

And then "I would not make truth..etc ...." This strikes me as quite odd unless seen as the patois of the  urbane who might raise any issue of core importance in light conjectural fashion. 

He seems to be speaking of dogmatic matters in the timbre of the discretionary which is a bit cute in men who wrote a lot to each other.  Jason Harding's book on the Criterion describes  the rhetorical subtleties of Eliot's letters to Dobree suggesting that Eliot manipulated the sort of review he would get by the way he used language in his letters to him - the choice of verb mood and so on. 

I must get Tate's book which I have never read but can you say what Dobree was on about to initiate the exchange.

Cheers Pete

ps those of us who have put our faith in the hypothetico deductive process find it all a bit alien and can't quite see its terms to take the proposition on.

----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Peter Montgomery 
  To: [log in to unmask] 
  Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2013 6:18 PM
  Subject: Re: a note on Truth

  Aha! I smell Owen Barfield and his Saving The Appearances somewhere close.
  I have an inkling of an Inkling.

  P. M.
    ----- Original Message ----- 
    From: Ken Armstrong 
    To: [log in to unmask] 
    Sent: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 9:23 AM
    Subject: a note on Truth

    I had the pleasure of being sent off to the library recently to look up some references to Bonamy Dobree and thought it might be worth sharing part of a letter from TSE that Dobree quotes in his essay on Eliot in Allen Tate's T S Eliot: The Man and His Work:

     "I think there is some misprision on your Part about my Truth. I would not wish to make truth a function of the will. On the contrary, I mean that if there is no fixed truth there is no fixed object for the will to tend to. If truth is always changing then there is nothing to do but to sit down and watch the pictures. Any distinctions one makes are more or less arbitrary. I should say that it was at any rate essential for Religion that we should have the conception of an immutable object or Reality the knowledge of which shall be the final object of that will; and there can be no permanent reality if there is no permanent truth. I am of course quite ready to admit that human apprehension of truth varies changes and perhaps develops, but that is a property of human imperfection rather than of truth." 

    Can't help but think that "to sit down and watch the pictures" is a nice, if not allusion to, image of Plato's cave. At any rate it was probably pre-television. Eliot goes on to say:

    "You cannot conceive of truth at all, the word has no meaning, except by conceiving of it as something permanent. And that is really assumed even by those who deny it. For you cannot even say it changes except in reference to something which does not change; the idea of change is impossible without the idea of permanence."

     I think that for those given to this kind of understanding, the similarity in kind will be apparent to the relation of "absolute meaning" to meaning "not exhausted by any explanation."  In truth, if one takes the time to work out the consequences,  it is only an object of knowledge with absolute meaning that can have meaning not exhausted by any explanation. I realize that this could be taken by those who are not given to the kind of explanation of truth Eliot pronounces above as a sleight of hand. I'd only say that it's not, if taken on its own terms.

    Ken A