The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

February 2, 2016

February 2,1970

We read that "As a philosopher, mathematician, educator, social critic and political activist, Bertrand Russell [May 18, 1872 to February 2, 1970]  authored over 70 books and thousands of essays and letters..."

Among these books is A History of Western Philosophy (1945).  We read here how Russell sets up the case for Plato's theory of forms:

“There are many individual animals of whom we can truly say 'this is a cat.' 'What do we mean by the word 'cat.?' Obviously something different from each particular cat....But if the word 'cat' means anything, it means something which is not this or that cat but some kind of universal cattyness. An animal is a cat, it would seem, because it participates in a general nature common to all cats. Language cannot get on without general words such as “cat,” and such words are evidently not meaningless.

I have not myself figured out what is going on in the various solutions to this problem, (nominalism or realism)  so we are switching to something I do have a fresh take on.

Russell later in this book poses the question of "the philosophical beliefs which appeared to follow from seventeenth-century science....The first thing to note is the removal of almost all traces of animism from the laws of physics. "

Animism is defined as "the belief in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe."

Russell knows well Hume's arguments against causality. Yet he fails to grasp that ignoring this intellectual issue is a kind of animism. Causality--- unobserved, unprovable, and yet everywhere--- what is causality but a kind of supernatural influence then? Similarly -- what is the reliance on the unverifiable "Principle of Verification" but introducing deus in machina?

My point is not that these issues have answers, rather that ignoring the inconsistencies is evidence of a certain intellectual slackness, and a pose which is not much different than relying on a divinity as some kind of explanation.

Perhaps Russell's full name inspired him to investigate logic. 

Bertrand Russell's full name was Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell of Kingston Russell, Viscount Amberley of Amberley and of Ardsalla.

Although he never grasped the nature of words, Bertrand Russell is an advertisement for the virtues of inherited social standing.

No comments: