RUSSEL AS A PHILOSOPHER

Bertrand Russell is regarded as the greatest philosopher of the Age. His contribution to philosophy is tremendous. He wrote for more than 65 years over a wide range of subjects like mathematics, logic, philosophy, science, politics, religion, ethics, education and sociology. He applied his mind to the multitude of fields of conquest. He viewed all things with a philosophic trend and hence his influence will continue for years to come. Russell does not believe in mysticism, revelation or intuition. He is a realist. To him philosophy speculates about matters where exact knowledge is not yet possible. It is all speculation. Philosophy has two uses. One of them is to speculate about things which do not come under the head of scientific knowledge. Another use is to tell us that though we know certain things, we actually do not know them perfectly well. In other words, what seems like knowledge to us is not knowledge. There are two aims of philosophy: one is the theoretical understanding of the structure of the world and the second is to discover and inculcate the best possible way of life. Will Durant mentions the branches of philosophy as logic, aesthetics, ethics, politics and metaphysics. Russell’s philosophy can b e studied with the help of two groups out of these five fields of philosophy----pure or academic philosophy comprising logic and metaphysics and social philosophy containing aesthetics, ethics and politics. Academic philosophy in the modern age is divided into three groups. The advocates of the first group follow Kant and sometimes even Hegel. The second consists of pragmatists and Bergson. In the third group fall those philosophers who attach themselves to the science. Russell belongs to the third group. He believes in analysis and pluralism. The new philosophy derived strength from three main sources—theory of knowledge, logic and principles of mathematics. Russell is a strong supporter of realistic school of though. He opines that all physical objects exist independently of being perceived and that knowledge of physical objects is direct. This school of philosophy conceives that all knowledge is scientific. Its sources of inspiration are logic, principles of mathematics and physics. Russell made a significant contribution to logic, mathematical philosophy, theory of knowledge , and the concepts of matter and mind. Russell adopted a new method for philosophy. He called it the logical-analytic or logical atomism. He writes about logical atomism----“The way to get at nature of any subject matter you are looking at is analysis and that you can analyze until you get to things that can’t be analyzed any further and those would be logical atoms. I call them logical atoms because they are not little bits of matter. They are the ideas, so to speak, out of which a thing is built”. The oldest philosophy concerned itself with the knowledge of the external world. These idealist theories of perception maintained that the only entities are ideas in our minds. Russell’s theory of perception is different. According to his theory, the appearance of an object--- its colour, shape and size change as we move towards it or away from it or around it. Russell calls these appearances ‘sense-data’. If we move around an object, the sense -data changes and correlated with these changes are the bodily sensations
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associated with our movements. He defines a private world as an object seen from a certain perspective. Russell considered mind and matter. He forged a relation between psychology and physics. Through common sense we see a world contains two different classes of existence: matter which is known by mind and mind which knows matter. Scientists and philosophers have tried to resolve this apparent duality into a more fundamental unity. For this either mind or matter is to be eliminated. Scientists have tried to eliminate mind and philosophers have discarded matter. Now physics is trying to make matter less material and psychology makes mind lesser mental. Russell feels that both mind and matter are merely convenient ways of grouping events. Russell does not call his theories certain and final. Human intellect cannot find out solution for every problem because as Hamlet says--“There are more, things, in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Written and Composed By: Prof. A. R. Somroo M.A. English, M.A. Education Cell: 03339971417

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