Of course it is not by argument that we originally come by our belief in an independent external world. We find this belief ready in ourselves as soon as we begin to reflect: it is what may be called an instinctive belief. We should never have been led to question this belief but for the fact that, at any rate in the case of sight, it seems as if the sense-datum itself were instinctively believed to be the independent object, whereas argument shows that the object cannot be identical with the sense-datum.

[Problems of Philosophy, Bertrand Russell, Chapter II]

Does "should never have been led to" have the same meaning as "would never have been led to"?


1 Answer 1


Could have + past participle means that something was possible in the past, or you had the ability to do something in the past, but that you didn't do it.

Should have + past participle can mean something that would have been a good idea, but that you didn't do it. It's like giving advice about the past when you say it to someone else, or regretting what you did or didn't do when you're talking about yourself.

Because 'would' (and will) can also be used to show if you want to do something or not (volition), we can also use would have + past participle to talk about something you wanted to do but didn't.

In your case, using "would never have been led to" instead of "should never have been led to" will make the meaning of the sentence change. They don't have same meaning.

  • The quoted meaning of "should have", while not wrong, is not the only meaning, and decidedly does not apply in this context at all. Oct 11, 2018 at 5:00

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