One of the more famous comes from the Oxford philosopher A. Another telling comment comes from the Harvard philosopher W. He wrote a spectrum of books for a graduated public, layman to specialist. As Russell tells us, Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.
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One of the more famous comes from the Oxford philosopher A. Another telling comment comes from the Harvard philosopher W. He wrote a spectrum of books for a graduated public, layman to specialist. As Russell tells us, Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.
These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair. I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy — ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy.
I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness — that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined.
This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what — at last — I have found. With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved. Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens.
But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be.
I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer. This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.
In addition to his ground-breaking intellectual work in logic and analytic philosophy, he involved himself for much of his life in politics. As early as he spoke out frequently in favour of internationalism and in he ran unsuccessfully for Parliament. Although he stood as an independent, he endorsed the full Liberal platform. He also advocated extending the franchise to women, provided that such a radical political change could be introduced through constitutionally recognized means Wood , Three years later he published his Anti-Suffragist Anxieties With the outbreak of World War I, Russell became involved in anti-war activities and in he was fined pounds for authoring an anti-war pamphlet.
Because of his conviction, he was dismissed from his post at Trinity College, Cambridge Hardy Two years later, he was convicted a second time, this time for suggesting that American troops might be used to intimidate strikers in Britain Clark , — The result was five months in Brixton Prison as prisoner No. In and Russell ran twice more for Parliament, again unsuccessfully, and together with his second wife, Dora, he founded an experimental school that they operated during the late s and early s Russell and Park The appointment was revoked following a series of protests and a judicial decision which found him morally unfit to teach at the College Dewey and Kallen , Irvine , Weidlich A year later, together with Albert Einstein, he released the Russell-Einstein Manifesto calling for the curtailment of nuclear weapons.
In , he became a prime organizer of the first Pugwash Conference, which brought together a large number of scientists concerned about the nuclear issue. He became founding president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in and Honorary President of the Committee of in In , Russell was once again imprisoned, this time for a week in connection with anti-nuclear protests. Beginning in , he began work on a variety of additional issues, including lobbying on behalf of political prisoners under the auspices of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation.
Upon being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in , Russell used his acceptance speech once again to emphasize themes relating to his social activism. Over the years, Russell has served as the subject of numerous creative works, including T. For a detailed bibliography of the secondary literature surrounding Russell up to the close of the twentieth century, see Andrew Irvine, Bertrand Russell: Critical Assessments, Volume 1 For a list of new and forthcoming books relating to Russell, see the Forthcoming Books page at the Bertrand Russell Archives.
Russell discovered the paradox that bears his name in , while working on his Principles of Mathematics The paradox arises in connection with the set of all sets that are not members of themselves. Such a set, if it exists, will be a member of itself if and only if it is not a member of itself. In his draft of the Principles of Mathematics, Russell summarizes the problem as follows: The axiom that all referents with respect to a given relation form a class seems, however, to require some limitation, and that for the following reason.
We saw that some predicates can be predicated of themselves. Consider now those … of which this is not the case. For this predicate will either be predicable or not predicable of itself. If it is predicable of itself, it is one of those referents by relation to which it was defined, and therefore, in virtue of their definition, it is not predicable of itself.
Conversely, if it is not predicable of itself, then again it is one of the said referents, of all of which by hypothesis it is predicable, and therefore again it is predicable of itself. This is a contradiction. CP, Vol. Both versions of the theory came under attack: the simple theory for being too weak, the ramified theory for being too strong.
For some, it was important that any proposed solution be comprehensive enough to resolve all known paradoxes at once. For others, it was important that any proposed solution not disallow those parts of classical mathematics that remained consistent, even though they appeared to violate the vicious circle principle. For discussion of related paradoxes, see Chapter 2 of the Introduction to Whitehead and Russell , as well as the entry on paradoxes and contemporary logic in this encyclopedia.
Russell himself had recognized several of these same concerns as early as , noting that it was unlikely that any single solution would resolve all the known paradoxes. Even so, critics claimed that the axiom was simply too ad hoc to be justified philosophically. For additional discussion see Linsky , Linsky and Wahl The first was that all mathematical truths can be translated into logical truths or, in other words, that the vocabulary of mathematics constitutes a proper subset of the vocabulary of logic.
The second was that all mathematical proofs can be recast as logical proofs or, in other words, that the theorems of mathematics constitute a proper subset of the theorems of logic. Thus the number 1 is to be identified with the class of all unit classes, the number 2 with the class of all two-membered classes, and so on. In Principia Mathematica, Whitehead and Russell were able to provide many detailed derivations of major theorems in set theory, finite and transfinite arithmetic, and elementary measure theory.
They were also able to develop a sophisticated theory of logical relations and a unique method of founding the real numbers. Even so, the issue of whether set theory itself can be said to have been successfully reduced to logic remained controversial. A fourth volume on geometry was planned but never completed. As one of the founders of analytic philosophy, Russell made significant contributions to a wide variety of areas, including metaphysics , epistemology, ethics and political theory.
His advances in logic and metaphysics also had significant influence on Rudolf Carnap and the Vienna Circle. Famously, he vacillated on whether negative facts are also required , The reason Russell believes many ordinarily accepted statements are open to doubt is that they appear to refer to entities that may be known only through inference. Motivating this question was the traditional problem of the external world.
If our knowledge of the external world comes through inferences to the best explanation, and if such inferences are always fallible, what guarantee do we have that our beliefs are true? Together these atoms and their properties form the facts which, in turn, combine to form logically complex objects. What we normally take to be inferred entities for example, enduring physical objects are then understood as logical constructions formed from the immediately given entities of sensation, viz.
For example, on this view, an ordinary physical object that normally might be thought to be known only through inference may be defined instead as a certain series of appearances, connected with each other by continuity and by certain causal laws. To say that a certain aspect is an aspect of a certain thing will merely mean that it is one of those which, taken serially, are the thing.
There are things that we know without asking the opinion of men of science. If you are too hot or too cold, you can be perfectly aware of this fact without asking the physicist what heat and cold consist of. Similarly, numbers may be reduced to collections of classes; points and instants may be reduced to ordered classes of volumes and events; and classes themselves may be reduced to propositional functions.
Anything that resists construction in this sense may be said to be an ontological atom. Such objects are atomic, both in the sense that they fail to be composed of individual, substantial parts, and in the sense that they exist independently of one another.
Their corresponding propositions are also atomic, both in the sense that they contain no other propositions as parts, and in the sense that the members of any pair of true atomic propositions will be logically independent of one another. Russell believes that formal logic, if carefully developed, will mirror precisely, not only the various relations between all such propositions, but their various internal structures as well.
It is in this context that Russell also introduces his famous distinction between two kinds of knowledge of truths: that which is direct, intuitive, certain and infallible, and that which is indirect, derivative, uncertain and open to error , 41f; , , and b.
To be justified, every indirect knowledge claim must be capable of being derived from more fundamental, direct or intuitive knowledge claims. The kinds of truths that are capable of being known directly include truths about immediate facts of sensation and truths of logic. Eventually, Russell supplemented this distinction between direct and indirect knowledge of truths with his equally famous distinction between knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description.
Later, he clarifies this point by adding that acquaintance involves, not knowledge of truths, but knowledge of things a, Thus, while intuitive knowledge and derivative knowledge both involve knowledge of propositions or truths , knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description both involve knowledge of things or objects.
This distinction is slightly complicated by the fact that, even though knowledge by description is in part based upon knowledge of truths, it is still knowledge of things, and not of truths. I am grateful to Russell Wahl for reminding me of this point. Since it is things with which we have direct acquaintance that are the least questionable members of our ontology, it is these objects upon which Russell ultimately bases his epistemology.
As Russell puts it, even in logic and mathematics We tend to believe the premises because we can see that their consequences are true, instead of believing the consequences because we know the premises to be true.
But the inferring of premises from consequences is the essence of induction; thus the method in investigating the principles of mathematics is really an inductive method, and is substantially the same as the method of discovering general laws in any other science.
In fact, Russell often claims that he has more confidence in his methodology than in any particular philosophical conclusion. This is so, even though Russell tells us that his one, true revolution in philosophy came as a result of his break from idealism. Russell saw that the idealist doctrine of internal relations led to a series of contradictions regarding asymmetrical and other relations necessary for mathematics. Moore led the way, but I followed closely in his footsteps.
Although we were in agreement, I think that we differed as to what most interested us in our new philosophy.
At the age of three he was left an orphan. His father had wished him to be brought up as an agnostic; to avoid this he was made a ward of Court, and brought up by his grandmother. Instead of being sent to school he was taught by governesses and tutors, and thus acquired a perfect knowledge of French and German. In he went into residence at Trinity College, Cambridge, and after being a very high Wrangler and obtaining a First Class with distinction in philosophy he was elected a fellow of his college in After spending some months in Berlin studying social democracy, they went to live near Haslemere, where he devoted his time to the study of philosophy. In he visited the Mathematical Congress at Paris.
Early life and background[ edit ] Russell as a four-year-old Childhood home, Pembroke Lodge Bertrand Arthur William Russell was born on 18 May at Ravenscroft, Trellech , Monmouthshire , into an influential and liberal family of the British aristocracy. Both were early advocates of birth control at a time when this was considered scandalous. His paternal grandfather, the Earl Russell , had been asked twice by Queen Victoria to form a government, serving her as Prime Minister in the s and s. They established themselves as one of the leading British Whig families, and participated in every great political event from the Dissolution of the Monasteries in — to the Glorious Revolution in — and the Great Reform Act in In January , his father died of bronchitis following a long period of depression. Frank and Bertrand were placed in the care of their staunchly Victorian paternal grandparents, who lived at Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park.