Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was an English philosopher, logician, mathematician, social critic, and historian. He is remembered as being a leader in the British revolt against idealism, as well as a founding father of the field of analytic philosophy. He was also well known for his very public anti-war and anti-imperialist stances.
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By Gary on 18-01-18
Either be smart or be not smart
My usual definition for a philosopher is somebody who writes on a simple everyday concept in such a way that the simple is considered complexly in such way that a person knows more and more about less and less until eventually they know everything about nothing. By that definition, Russell fails because he writes clearly and the reader will actually understand what he is getting at.
Not only will the reader understand, he’ll be able to explain it to others. For example, one of the most important concepts is what Russell called in this book, ‘the laws of thought’. There are three and only three and they are considered absolute in the world of dichotomies, 1) A=A (the thing is the thing), 2) a thing must either be or not be (excluded middle), and 3) a thing can’t be and be at the same time (law of contradiction). Everything within logic (rational analytical thought) must fall under those rules of thought.
Russell clearly sees the world from an ‘event ontology’ perspective. When asked later in life ‘what about the White Cliffs of Dover’ he replied ‘they are an event that is just happening slowly’. Experiences are the atoms that make up his world view, and he believes there is a knowable reality because the truth is out there and discoverable. There is nothing wrong with thinking that, but it is a bias and it does shade how he explains philosophy (mostly epistemology in this short book) over all. Also, at the time of this book he still thinks mathematics has a firm foundation, he believes wrongly that one doesn’t need set theory to go from logic to mathematics as Godel will shortly show.
If one were to only have time to read one book on philosophy, this is the one I would recommend. Hopefully, the reader will take his criticisms of Kant and Hegel, but end up reading them themselves to see why they are still relevant today.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
By Marcin on 17-08-14
A good philosophical essay, mainly on epistemology
Any additional comments?
The essay is going to be a good read for any one interested in epistemology and philosophy of science. Although the title refers to philosophy as a whole, virtually all the problems expanded on in this relatively short essay concern the problems of knowledge - that is what we can and cannot know and in what sens.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful