<history of philosophy, biography> orphaned at the age of four, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) studied (and later taught) both mathematics and philosophy at Cambridge. As the grandson of a British prime minister, Russell devoted much of his public effort to matters of general social concern. Jailed as a pacifist during the First World War, he later supported the battle against Fascism but deplored the development of weapons of mass destruction, as is evident in "The Bomb and Civilization" (1945), New Hopes for a Changing World (1951), and his untitled last essay. Throughout his life, Russell was an outspoken critic of organized religion, detailing its harmful social consequences in "Why I Am Not a Christian" (1927) and defending an agnostic alternative in "A Free Man's Worship" (1903). His Marriage and Morals (1929) is an attack upon the repressive character of conventional sexual morality. Russell's Autobiography (1967-69) is an excellent source of information, analysis, and self-congratulation regarding his interesting life. Its pages include his eloquent statements of "What I Have Lived For" and "A Liberal Decalogue". Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950. Through an early appreciation of the philosophical work of Leibniz, published in A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz (1900), Russell came to regard logical analysis as the crucial method for philosophy. In Principia Mathematica (1910-13), written jointly with Alfred North Whitehead, he showed that all of arithmetic could be deduced from a restricted set of logical axioms, a thesis defended in less technical terms in Russell's Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (1919). Applying simlarly analytical methods to philosophical problems, Russell believed, could resolve disputes and provide an adequate account of human experience. Indeed, his A History of Western Philosophy (1946) tried to show that the philosophical tradition had moved slowly but steadily toward just such a culmination. The attempt to account clearly for every constituent of ordinary assertions soon proved problematic, however. Russell proposed a ramified theory of types in order to avoid the self-referential paradoxes that might otherwise emerge from such abstract notions as "the barber who shaves all but only those who do not shave themselves" or "the class of all classes that are not members of themselves". In the theory of descriptions put forward in On Denoting (1905), Russell argued that proper analysis of denoting phrases enables us to represent all thought symbolically while avoiding philosophical difficulties about non-existent objects. As his essay on "Vagueness" (1923) shows, Russell long persisted in the belief that adequate explanations could provide a sound basis for human speech and thought. In similar fashion, the analysis of statements attributing a common predicate to different subjects in "On the Relations of Universals and Particulars" (1911) convinced Russell that both particulars and universals must really exist. He developed this realistic view further in The Problems of Philosophy (1912). Our Knowledge of the External World (1914) continues this project by showing how Russell's philosophy of logical atomism can construct a world of public physical objects using private individual experiences as the atomic facts from which one could develop a complete description of the world. Although Russell's philosophical positions were soon eclipsed by those of Wittgenstein and the logical positivists, his model of the possibilities for analytic thought remains influential. Recommended Reading: Primary sources: Bertrand Russell, A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz: With an Appendix of Leading Passages (Routledge, 1993); Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Arthur Russell, Principia Mathematica (Cambridge, 1997); Bertrand Russell, The Principles of Mathematics (Norton, 1996); Bertrand Russell, Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (Dover, 1993); Bertrand Russell, The Philosophy of Logical Atomism, ed. by David Pears (Open Court, 1985); Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy (Oxford, 1998); Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian, and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (Simon & Schuster, 1977); Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy and Its Connection With Political and Social from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (Simon & Schuster, 1975); The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (Routledge, 2000). Secondary sources: Ray Monk, Russell (Routledge, 1999); Essays on Bertrand Russell, ed. by E. D. Klemke (Illinois, 1971); John G. Slater, Bertrand Russell (St. Augustine, 1994); Peter Hylton, Russell, Idealism, and the Emergence of Analytic Philosophy (Oxford, 1992); Jan Dejnozka, Bertrand Russell on Modality and Logical Relevance (Ashgate, 1999). Additional on-line information about Russell includes: McMaster University's The Bertrand Russell Archives. The Bertrand Russell Society Home Page, hosted by John Lenz. A.D. Irvine's article in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Mark Sainsbury's article in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Also see: acquaintance and description, analysis, analytic philosophy, logical atomism, Cambridge philosophy, descriptions, logical empiricism, English philosophy, impredicative definition, logic, logically proper names, logicism, philosophy of mathematics, mnemic causation, names, the persecution of philosophers, the axiom of reducibility, referential opacity, the nature of relations, skepticism about religion, Russell's paradox, set theory, 'to be', the verb, the theory of types, and vicious circles. The article in the Columbia Encyclopedia at Bartleby.com. The thorough collection of resources at EpistemeLinks.com. Eric Weisstein's discussion at Treasure Trove of Scientific Biography. Snippets from Russell in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Bjoern Christensson's brief guide to Internet material on Russell. A short article in Oxford's Who's Who in the Twentieth Century. An entry in The Oxford Dictionary of Scientists. Discussion of Russell's logical treatment of mathematics from Mathematical MacTutor. A brief entry in The Macmillan Encyclopedia 2001.
[A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names]
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