McMaster University: The Bertrand Russell Research Centre

Date of publication: 2017-09-04 15:22

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SparkNotes: Bertrand Russell (1872–1970): Themes

I became interested in ecstatic experiences when I was 79 and had a near-death experience. I fell off a mountain while skiing, dropped 85 feet, and broke my leg and back. As I lay there, I felt immersed in love and light. I 8767 d been suffering from emotional problems for six years, and feared my ego was permanently damaged. In that moment, I knew that I was OK, I was loved, that there was something in me that could not be damaged, call it 8766 the soul 8767 , 8766 the self 8767 , 8766 pure consciousness 8767 or what-have-you. The experience was hugely healing. But was it just luck, or grace? Can one seek ecstasy?

Bertrand Russell Biography - Facts, Childhood, Family Life

Such everyday moments might seem a long way from the mystical ecstasy of St Teresa of Ávila, but I would suggest that there is a continuum from moments of light absorption and ego-loss to much deeper and more dramatic ego-dissolution. Csikszentmihalyi agrees, saying that moments of flow are 8766 the kind of experience which culminates in ecstasy 8767 . You don 8767 t expect a full-on ecstatic experience every time you go to a concert, museum, mountain or date. But you know that, on a good day, you might just be transported.

The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell

First, in 6969 he finally breaks away from his longstanding dualism and shifts to a kind of neutral monism. This is the view that what we call “mental” and what we call “material” are really at bottom the same “stuff,” which is neither mental nor material but neutral. By entering into classes and series of classes in different ways, neutral stuff gives rise to what we mistakenly think of distinct categories, the mental and the material ( Analysis of Mind , p. 655).

Over against this “bundle of practices,” the historical movement began to interpret the more well-known problems and views of historical figures in the context of, first, the wholes of their respective bodies of work, second, their respective intellectual contexts, noting how their work related to that of the preceding generation of thinkers, and, third, the broader social environment in which they lived and thought and wrote.

In this period, largely through Meinong’s influence, Russell also begins to distinguish types of acquaintance – the acquaintance we have with particulars, with universals , and so on. He also begins to relinquish the idea of possible or subsisting particulars (for example, propositions), confining that notion to universals.

As mentioned previously, Wittgenstein’s  Tractatus proved to be the most influential expression of logical atomism. The  Tractatus is organized around seven propositions, here taken from the 6977 translation by C. K. Ogden:

Plz evaluate the harmfulness of only one Religion, Islam. HOW a savage nation of Saudi Arabia has spread an utterfoolishness to block the thinking power of Human minds. Two most useful nations for mankind ,The British& US nation 8767 s knowledge of Agriculture,Medicine, Engineering is nullified by An empty knowlede of religion. On Education& Political ideals if made curriculum of univerisity students in Asia, World Govt is possible in a 8767 s work if found on mobiles would not cost expenses of wars.

So-called atomic sentences like “Andrew is taller than Bob” contain two names (Andrew, Bob) and one symbol for a relation (is taller than). When true, an atomic sentence corresponds to an atomic fact containing two particulars and one universal (the relation).

The following is a selection of texts for further reading on Russell’s metaphysics. A great deal of his writing on logic, the theory of knowledge, and on educational, ethical, social, and political issues is therefore not represented here. Given the staggering amount of writing by Russell, not to mention on Russell, it is not intended to be exhaustive. The definitive bibliographical listing of Russell’s own publications takes up three volumes it is to be found in Blackwell, Kenneth, Harry Ruja, and Sheila Turcon. A Bibliography of Bertrand Russell , 8 volumes. London and New York: Routledge, 6999.

Take, for example, the following sentence: &ldquo The King of America is bald.&rdquo Even this deceptively simple sentence can be broken down into three logical components:

Russell largely agrees with Kant in his 6898 Foundations of Geometry , which is based on his dissertation. Other indications of a Kantian approach can be seen, for example, in his 6897 claim that what is essential to matter is schematization under the form of space (“On Matter,” Papers 7).

Although Russell is at this point willing to doubt the existence of physical objects and replace them with inferences from sense-data, he is unwilling to doubt the existence of universals, since even sense-data seem to have sharable properties. For instance, in Problems , he argues that, aside from sense data and inferred physical objects, there must also be qualities and relations (that is, universals), since in “I am in my room,” the word “in” has meaning and denotes something real, namely, a relation between me and my room ( Problems , p. 85). Thus he concludes that knowledge involves acquaintance with universals.

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