Basic Writings of Bertrand Russel
Knowledge by Acquaintance and Knowledge by Description
There are two sorts of knowledge: knowledge of things, and knowledge of truths. [Knowledge of things is further divided into knowledge by acquaintance, and knowledge by description.]
We have seen that it is possible, without absurdity, to doubt whether there is a table at all, whereas it is not possible to doubt the sense-data.
When I am acquainted with "my seeing the sun," it seems plain that I am acquainted with two different things in relation to each other. On the one hand there is the sense - datum which represents the sun to me, on the other hand there is that which sees this sense-datum.
Theory of Knowledge
Among the prejudices with which I started, I should enumerate six as especially important:
1. It seemed to me desirable to emphasize the continuity between animal and human minds...
2. Along with the prejudice in favor of behaviorist methods there went another prejudice in favor of explanations in terms of physics whenever possible...
3. I feel that the concept of "experience" has been very much over-emphasized, especially in Idealist philosophy, but also in many forms of empiricism... Everybody, in fact, accepts innumerable propositions about things not experienced, but when people begin to philosophize they seem to think it necessary to make themselves artificially stupid...
4. I think that all knowledge as to what there is in the world, if not direct from facts known through perception or memory, must be inferred from premises of which one, at least, is known by perception or memory.
5. One of the things that I realized in 1918 was that I had not paid enough attention to "meaning" and to linguistic problems generally. It was then that I began to be aware of the many problems concerned with the relation between words and things.
6. The last... most important in all my thinking. My method is invariably to start from something vague but puzzling, something which seems indubitable but which I cannot express with any precision... I find that by fixity of attention divisions and distinctions appear where none at first was visible, just as through a microscope you can see the bacilli in impure water which without the microscope are not discernible.
There are many who decry analysis, but it has seemed to me evident, as in the case of impure water, that analysis gives new knowledge without destroying any of the previously existing knowledge.
It seems to me that philosophical investigation, as far as I have experience of it, starts from that curious and insatisfactory state of mind in which one feels complete certainty without being able to say what one is certain of.
"Substance," in fact, is merely a convenient way of collecting events into bundles. What can we know about Mr. Smith? When we look at him, we see a pattern of colors; when we listen to him talking, we hear a series of sounds. We believe that, like us, he has thoughts and feelings. But what is Mr. Smith apart from all these occurrences? A mere imaginary hook, from which the occurrences are supposed to hang.
Any person in the present day who wishes to learn logic will be wasting his time if he reads Aristotle or any of his disciples.
By the time that logical originality revived, a reign of 2,000 years had made Aristotle very difficult to dethrone. Throughout modern times, practically every advance in science, in logic, or in philosophy has had to be made in the teeth of opposition from Aristotle's disciples.
St. Thomas Aquinas
The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading. I cannot, therefore, feel that he deserve to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or of modern times.
Currents of Thoughts in the Nineteenth Century
There is a further consequence of the theory of evolution, which is independent of the particular mechanism suggested by Darwin. If men and animals have a common ancestry, and if men developed by such slow stages that there were creatures which we should not know whether to classify as human or not, the question arises: at what stage in evolution did men, or their semi-human ancestors, bbegin to be all equal?
Would Pithecanthropus erectus, if he had been properly educated, have done work as good as Newton's? Would the Piltdown man have written Shakespeare's potetry if there had been anyone to convict him of poaching?
A resolute egalitarian who answers these questions in the affirmative will find himself forced to regard apes as the equals of human beings. And why stop at apes? I do not see how he is to resist an argument in favor of Votes with Oysters.
An adherent to evolution should maintain that not only the doctrine of equality of all men, but also of the rights of men, must be condemned as unbiological, since it makes too emphatic a distinction between men and other animals.
The most important effect of machine production on the imaginative picture of the world is an immense increase in the sense of human power.
There thus arises, among those who direct affairs or are in touch with those who do so, a new belief in power: first, the power of man in his conflicts with nature, and then the power of rulers as against the human beings whose beliefs and aspirations they seek to control by scientific propaganda, especially education.
To formulate any satisfactory modern ethic of human relationships, it will be essential to recognize the necessary limitations of men's power over the non-human environment, and the desirable limitations of their power over each other.
books/readingall the books/reading notes and pages and things
Opening Lines of famous novels
The Idiot (Dostoevsky)
The Computer and the Mind (Johnson-Laird)
Philosophical Remarks (Wittgenstein)
Watergate topic page
Wars of Watergate (Kutler)
Consider the Lobster (Wallace)
The Gun (Chivers)
Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Shirer)
My kindle clippings:
Do list/needing attention:
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