Bertrand Russell

The Life and Contributions of Bertrand Russell

October 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

Bertrand Russell was a British philosopher known for his work in mathematical logic. He had a life that was highly controversial to the British government he lived with, and faced many hardships brought on by his beliefs. Russell spent the 97 years of his life using mathematics to prove philosophical ideas.

Russell was born in Trelleck, Monmouthshire, UK, on May 18, 1872, to Viscount Amberley and Katherine Russell. He lost most of his immediate family by the age of six, and was made a ward of Court and brought up by his grandmother. In 1890, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, where he earned a first-class B.A. in Mathematics there and met Dr. Whitehead. In 1900, Russell attended the First International Congress of Philosophy in Paris, where he met Peano. He was influenced heavily by the work and mathematical skill of Peano, and instantly began to study his works. In 1908, he was appointed to the Royal Society. Towards the beginning of the 1910s, He is reappointed as a lecturer at Trinity College, selected to be the president of the Aristotelian Society, and spends some time lecturing at Harvard.

Around the beginning of World War II, things start to go downhill for Russell. He is fined for Anti-War writings, dismissed from his position as lecturer, and ultimately imprisoned for his opposition to the war. He runs for parliament twice in the years of 1922 and 1923 and wasdefeated both times. His life begins to turn around, however, after this low point just shortly later. Russell becomes the third Earl Russell in 1931 upon the death of his brother. A few years later, he is appointed as the visiting Professor of Philosophy at Chicago, and then as the Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Later in life, Russell accomplished some of his more notable feats. In 1950 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1955, he releases a book written in correspondence with Albert Einstein, the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. This book highlighted the dangers of nuclear war and encouraged the government and leaders of world powers to stear clear of nuclear weapons. He spent much of the remainder of his life working against nuclear weapons. He was the founding president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1958. He worked to dissuade world powers from Nuclear war, and was ultimately imprisoned for one week for his work. Shortly before he died, he also founded the Bertrand Russell Peace foundation and launched the War Crimes International Tribunal. On February 2, 1970, Bertrand Russell died in Penrhyndeudraeth, Wales.

Bertrand Russell accomplished many things in his life. He was a mathematician and a philosopher. His work and views earned him at times praise and others scorn. He worked alone as well as with other famous mathematicians and philosophers, such as Albert Einstein. Russell used the principles of mathematics to prove philosophical and social ideas. Russell’s work has been impactful on philosophy and society and is still referenced today.

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The Theme of Living a Good Life in the Happy Life, the Singer Solution to World Poverty and Lifeboat Ethics

October 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

Grasping the Key to the Good Life

“The Happy Life” by Bertrand Russell, “The Singer Solution to World Poverty” by Peter Singer and “Lifeboat Ethics” by Garrett Hardin are all different works that dictate how one can live the “good life” well. To an extent, these three essays are fairly similar in what they are addressing; however, when scrutinized and analyzed, these essays contradict and challenge each other in many ways. After much thought and dissection of these three works, one comes to an overall understanding. A thesis of how the good life ought to be lived and how to live it well is formed. This conclusion that is finally reached is that to live a good life, an individual must fulfill their own needs to be “happy”. An individual achieving happiness is for them to have their basic desires fulfilled and for them to be satisfied. For the good life or happy life to be lived well, the desire to fulfill others should be included in the desires one holds necessary to achieve happiness. In entirety, these three works come together to prove that one should not place other’s happiness before their own, but other people’s happiness should bring one happiness.

Both Russell and Hardin state in their writing that before helping others, one must ensure that they themselves are happy. Russell stresses the theory that one should not at any cost commit the act of “self denial”. Russell says that “Professional moralists have made too much of self-denial” and that “self denial leaves a man self absorbed and vividly aware of what he has sacrificed” (317). This suggests that if helping another person is at the cost of one’s own happiness, then the said individual should not assist the other because it will actually have a negative effect on their own lives and on their fulfillment. This may sound selfish or even egotistical, but when one thinks about this theory deeply, a clearer understanding is developed. Not only will “self denial” result in self harm, it will also lead to the inability to continue helping others. For example, if one privileged individual keeps donating funds and supplies to less fortunate people at the cost of their own health or happiness, they will reach a point at which they will no longer be able to help anyone, including themselves. This theory is discussed at length in Hardin’s “Lifeboat Ethics”. He uses the analogy of a lifeboat in which only 60 people can fit. This lifeboat has 50 people in it, and 100 people drowning under it. If the 50 people let all the drowning people into their lifeboat, then “the boat would swamp” (Hardin, 324), causing everyone to drown. It is clear that this would be “complete injustice” and “complete catastrophe” (325). It is morally unjust to have everyone drown instead of saving those who can be saved. Therefore, it is only logical to let another 10 people onto the lifeboat. Although it may be seen as immoral by society to let the other 90 drown, it is impossible to save all of them effectively. This leaves the privileged lost and “adrift in the moral sea.” (325) To impede on one’s own chance survival by trying to save all individuals in suffering is self denial. Russell explains in his essay that “self denial” is a negative thing. To deny one’s own feelings or necessities for happiness and focus entirely on satisfying and helping others is unhealthy and immoral. Therefore, one must consider their own needs before shifting the entirety of their efforts and attention to others. When juxtaposed to Singer’s beliefs of what the individual’s contribution to society should be, this standard for fulfilling one’s own desires is in stark contrast.

In his essay “The Singer Solution to World Poverty,” Peter Singer escalates his stance in the “good life” to a whole new level. Singer states that it is unethical for one to keep more money or materials than are necessary to purely survive. With this excess money and these excess supplies, Singer suggest that each of the “hundreds of millions of people who can give” (321) donate what they can to the millions of people in poverty. Not only does he suggest this, but he blatantly tries to guilt his readers into donating any money that is not necessary for their survival to UNICEF or another charity that helps those in poverty. This is very effective in making readers feel as if they should donate because of guilt, but does not provide logical support for why the act of donation will result in a “good life”. Singer says that it is “gravely wrong” (320) not to donate all than one possibly can, but does not explain why keeping luxuries will result in a bad life, other than purely causing guilty consciences and shaming a the characteristic of greed. Singer presents his argument in a way that makes it seem like one cannot be happy if they don’t donate all of their excess wealth to the less fortunate. This plan is an extreme that most of society is not prepared to follow. It completely contradicts what is said in Russell’s essay, for it encourages the practice of self denial. In fact, Singer attempts to convince his reader to “think morally” and start totally disregarding their own needs on the behalf of the less fortunate. Unlike what Singer is arguing, one does not achieve happiness by simply giving all that they have to charity. Instead, one must fulfill their own, unique necessities to maintain the good life.

These arguments made by Singer, Hardin, and Russell can be seen as the most extreme sides to the (until now) unsolved question of what the individual’s role in the community should be. When trying to find a good balance between these polars, it is possible to come up with several conclusions. Some may say that from these three essays, they have derived the message that life should be about creating a balance between helping yourself and helping the rest of the community. Others may agree solely with one author or the other, taking the extremes as an ethical standard. Although there are many ways to puzzle-piece these three texts together into one moral motto, there is one cohesive, rational conclusion that is undoubtedly the most moral and sensible of them all. The result is that although one should look to fulfill one’s own desires before others, it is only moral to have the personal desire to help others. This way, there is no order in which things must be done. An individual does not have to feed others before eating, or eat before others. While eating, an individual should also feed others, since it brings them joy to see them eating happily, and remorse to see them starving. The act of gluttony while watching others starve would not bring happiness, but neither would starving while giving all of your food away. This is the true ethical standard about one’s contribution to community that should be set in society . One should want to help others, since it makes themselves happy to see others happy, as well as a “result of a direct impulse to bring help” (Russell, 317). No single individual should feel as if they need to help the community because they are obliged to or because it is “part of virtue to succor the helpless” (Russell, 317). To live a truly good life and to live it well, one should fulfill their own desires of assisting others.

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A Study of Bertrand Russell’s Philosophy Value and the Study of Uncertainty

October 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

“The Value of Philosophy” by Bertrand Russell defines philosophy as a study of the uncertain because the questions asked in philosophy have no answers. Once something has an answer it ceases to be philosophy and becomes an entirely new discipline. Thus, philosophy constitutes the undefinable and the unanswerable.

But an answer can not be achieved without asking the question first. Though philosophic inquiry yields no direct answers, it produces questions that may in turn lead to the discovery of answers as well as the discovery of new disciplines. Philosophy is not considered a “hard science” but its contemplative process is an essential step in creating “hard sciences”. The provable set of truths that are known to us today would not have been discovered without philosophical inquiry.

This also implies that philosophy is unlike the other sciences in the respect that it is not about a certain subject the way history is strictly about events in the past and astronomy is strictly about celestial bodies. Rather, it is a collection of unanswered questions about various subjects.

According to Russell, philosophy’s value lies in its uncertainty. The importance is placed in the questions rather than the answers. The questions let us contemplate things that broaden our perspective and help us see more possibilities. This open method of thought, “…while diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be” and “..keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect.” The idea that philosophy’s value is in the uncertain challenges our tendency to put more value in answers than questions and consider unanswerable and improbable things pointless.

Russell also asserts that because philosophy is a broad study, it helps the individual studying it think openly and without the limitations of conventional thought. While our view of the universe is influenced by the physical world, personal prejudices, culture, instinct, etc., philosophy is impartial, unbiased, and looks outside of the individual. By adopting the philosophical mindset, we are able to lay aside our bias and view the world from a wider lens. “In contemplation… we start from the non-Self, and through its greatness the boundaries of self are enlarged. Through the infinity of the universe the mind which contemplates it achieves some share in infinity.” This reading challenges the popular concept that “Man is the measure of all things” and that “…space and time and the world of universals are properties of the mind.” It challenges the common belief that in order to achieve useful outcomes, we must think inside the parameters of our established set of values and provable truths which we use to define the world.

This implies that our perspective of the universe is clouded by our human bias. It connects to the aforementioned idea that philosophy is a first step in invention, discovery of answers, and creation of other disciplines. Because philosophy encourages contemplation without bias, it allows us to consider new possibilities that in turn may lead to new ideas, theories, and discoveries. Discoveries such as the Big Bang theory and the heliocentric system would not have been possible without thinking outside of the cultural and religious biases of those times. This means that in order to innovate, it is essential for human thought to defy norms and conventional beliefs and become open to ideas that would otherwise be considered implausible.

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The Philosophy Theory as Described by Bertrand Rusell

October 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

Philosophy Essay: Russel, “The Value of Philosophy”

What is Russell after?

You always have to ask, “What is the point?” Every time we read something in this class, maybe every time you ever read or listen to anything, you have to want to understand the purpose/goal of the intellectual effort being exerted. In this case, we ask about what Russell thinks the value of philosophy is, and, much more importantly, why he finds it necessary to explain it to us, in the first place. What is he hoping to accomplish?

How do we figure this out? We look for clues as we go. Why, for example does he choose the phrasing “Goods of the Mind?” What significance is there in calling intellectual knowledge “Goods?” What is the “practical man?” How does that concept help us understand the idea of knowledge as capital? What is the difference between a practical man and an instinctive one? And what is similar enough about them that causes them both to have trouble seeing the value of philosophy? And what is philosophic contemplation, and how does it contribute to the enlargement of self?

What Does Russell Mean

Russell starts by pointing out that we tend to associate value with something practical, like the end result of a scientific investigation being the creation of cell phones. Hence, the idea of goods becomes the measure of value. If I can keep it, use it, store it, sell it, be judged by it, post pictures of myself with it on Facebook, and has some tangible usefulness, then it has value. And since philosophy is often thought of as a sort of mental game more than a useful tangible commodity, people may have trouble seeing why they ought to bother with a discipline that is more historical than it is practical. So, knowing this, he chooses to house philosophy’s value in terms that most people can relate to; he calls them goods. And while they do not take up space in the world, they are useful, fruitful, and powerful. They cannot be shared, like my cell phone can, for that is not where the value lies. But a person who employs philosophy will be affected towards enlargement of the self, and in turn, will have an effect on others in a positive manner that might cause them to seek out similar personal growth.

The problem is that a lot of people do not see that value so readily. We have jobs and families, and responsibilities; we don’t have time for philosophy. The practical man wants tangible goods with trade value. He/she wants to raise their social status, and economic liberty, they cannot spare time for frivolous contemplation about abstract ideas, or universal possibilities. Or the instinctive man (of course, when Russell says “man” it is only a figure of speech, he means person), perhaps, has much more basic concerns like family, health, economic means, personal beliefs. They only care about their circle of meaning, of value, and in doing so, as Russell says, become self-imprisoned by their fear of their foundations coming into question.

It is easier to not question. Some of what people do not like about philosophy, is that it undoes, and tears down, more than it builds. It is seen as a cynical effort, and yet, we do not take the time to realize that it can only undo those things which we do not know. Let me say that another way. Dogma are groups of beliefs held authoritatively, held as though they are completely true, even though they are only beliefs. Philosophy exposes the fact that most of our beliefs are not demonstrated facts, but powerful hopes about the world. And people do not like having their hopes exposed for what they are. It is easier to hold onto a worldview that helps you make sense of life, rather than go in search of truth about life. Certainly, there is great practical value in that perspective. We have to live, and work, and make memories; what time do any of us non-philosophers have to entertain grand ideas whose answers seem to be beyond our scope anyhow?

But, what is overlooked is that philosophy is, simply put, a pursuit of truth. And is truth not a commodity that reaps benefits? Truth turns into premises, evidence that can be used to strengthen beliefs, create new ones, choose more wisely, discover more likely conclusions about all kinds of things in life. Truth reveals, it changes perspective, by expanding our view of reality. Why would someone consciously choose to see and understand less of the world, and risk drawing conclusions about how to go through life on less evidence rather than more of it? Only fear will stifle the pursuit of truth, fear and ignorance. But ignorance does not fight off truth; it just doesn’t recognize it as such. Fear fights against, runs from, and demonizes truth as a dementor of beliefs.

Russell argues that the exercise of philosophic contemplation grows the mind, strengthens our greatest tool in life, and in doing so, in broadening our subjective views towards objectivity, enlarges our concept of self. What does that mean, to enlarge the self, since it seems to be the main value of philosophy that Russell is referring to? When our compassion and empathy grow, we grow; we enlarge our boundary of self because we feel for others more and more like we feel for ourselves. We understand people better, because we see their efforts and tribulations as our own. We connect with others more intimately, we care more directly ad broadly, and in so doing, make choices as citizens of the world, rather than personal, separate, egocentric individuals. We start to want to do what is right, rather than what is right for us. For Russell, while we are subjective beings who will never see the world in its wholly and truthfully objective form the way God might, that should not stop us from trying to see it more wholly, accurately and truthfully every day. Why would we not want to move closer to truth rather than further away? Why would we willing keep our heads in the sand when we have the power to look around, observe, contemplate and conclude based on what the world reveals when we open our eyes, our minds, and be open to possibility.

Lastly, I will talk about another key aspect of the value of philosophy. For Russell, the value in philosophical question asking is not in the answers it provides, since there is not a great deal of certainty to be concluded. People don’t like that these big questions provide many more supplemental questions than answers of any kind. But, in creating/discovering more questions, we become more aware of the universe’s possibilities, of its vastness, our smallness, our uniqueness, its beauty and mystery, and we can’t help but grow humble, more open, feel more connected and learn to appreciate our great cognitive and analytic powers as miraculous. It, at some point, can come to feel almost unethical to not use our minds to their greatest capacity in search of more knowledge, more questions, and in doing so grow closer to God/Truth.

Note: I say “God” above, because Russell used the term. For many philosophers God is used interchangeably with the idea of truth, or reality, or universe (all things). Clearly, the connotation of the word is religious, so we might ask why he employs a typically dogmatic term when he rails against dogma. It is likely because he sees the god concept as the entirety of objective being, which is why he sees philosophy as a path towards that objectivity; in its commitment to truth seeking, it is, in essence a commitment to God seeking: God as the ultimate reservoir of knowledge and experience.

Vocabulary and Key Concepts

Basic Terms:

Philosophy: The love and pursuit of wisdom/knowledge.

Dogma: A principle or belief or a group of them held authoritatively.

Hypothesis: Something taken to be true for the purpose of argument or investigation.

Thought Experiment: A technique used for testing a hypothesis by imagining a situation

and its implications.

Objective: Having or consisting of actual, absolute, pure or fundamental truth/reality.

Subjective: The condition of a particular or personal perspective/experience of reality.

Metaphysics: The branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and structure of reality.

Epistemology: The branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of knowledge and

justification.

Axiology: The branch of philosophy that is concerned with the nature of values.

Key Concepts in Russell:

Goods of the Mind, Dogma, Practical Man, Instinctive Man, Philosophic Contemplation, Enlargement of Self, Free Intellect

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Key Concepts of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

October 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

Philosophy Essay: Russel, “The Value of Philosophy”

What is Russell after?

You always have to ask, “What is the point?” Every time we read something in this class, maybe every time you ever read or listen to anything, you have to want to understand the purpose/goal of the intellectual effort being exerted. In this case, we ask about what Russell thinks the value of philosophy is, and, much more importantly, why he finds it necessary to explain it to us, in the first place. What is he hoping to accomplish?

How do we figure this out? We look for clues as we go. Why, for example does he choose the phrasing “Goods of the Mind?” What significance is there in calling intellectual knowledge “Goods?” What is the “practical man?” How does that concept help us understand the idea of knowledge as capital? What is the difference between a practical man and an instinctive one? And what is similar enough about them that causes them both to have trouble seeing the value of philosophy? And what is philosophic contemplation, and how does it contribute to the enlargement of self?

What Does Russell Mean

Russell starts by pointing out that we tend to associate value with something practical, like the end result of a scientific investigation being the creation of cell phones. Hence, the idea of goods becomes the measure of value. If I can keep it, use it, store it, sell it, be judged by it, post pictures of myself with it on Facebook, and has some tangible usefulness, then it has value. And since philosophy is often thought of as a sort of mental game more than a useful tangible commodity, people may have trouble seeing why they ought to bother with a discipline that is more historical than it is practical. So, knowing this, he chooses to house philosophy’s value in terms that most people can relate to; he calls them goods. And while they do not take up space in the world, they are useful, fruitful, and powerful. They cannot be shared, like my cell phone can, for that is not where the value lies. But a person who employs philosophy will be affected towards enlargement of the self, and in turn, will have an effect on others in a positive manner that might cause them to seek out similar personal growth.

The problem is that a lot of people do not see that value so readily. We have jobs and families, and responsibilities; we don’t have time for philosophy. The practical man wants tangible goods with trade value. He/she wants to raise their social status, and economic liberty, they cannot spare time for frivolous contemplation about abstract ideas, or universal possibilities. Or the instinctive man (of course, when Russell says “man” it is only a figure of speech, he means person), perhaps, has much more basic concerns like family, health, economic means, personal beliefs. They only care about their circle of meaning, of value, and in doing so, as Russell says, become self-imprisoned by their fear of their foundations coming into question.

It is easier to not question. Some of what people do not like about philosophy, is that it undoes, and tears down, more than it builds. It is seen as a cynical effort, and yet, we do not take the time to realize that it can only undo those things which we do not know. Let me say that another way. Dogma are groups of beliefs held authoritatively, held as though they are completely true, even though they are only beliefs. Philosophy exposes the fact that most of our beliefs are not demonstrated facts, but powerful hopes about the world. And people do not like having their hopes exposed for what they are. It is easier to hold onto a worldview that helps you make sense of life, rather than go in search of truth about life. Certainly, there is great practical value in that perspective. We have to live, and work, and make memories; what time do any of us non-philosophers have to entertain grand ideas whose answers seem to be beyond our scope anyhow?

But, what is overlooked is that philosophy is, simply put, a pursuit of truth. And is truth not a commodity that reaps benefits? Truth turns into premises, evidence that can be used to strengthen beliefs, create new ones, choose more wisely, discover more likely conclusions about all kinds of things in life. Truth reveals, it changes perspective, by expanding our view of reality. Why would someone consciously choose to see and understand less of the world, and risk drawing conclusions about how to go through life on less evidence rather than more of it? Only fear will stifle the pursuit of truth, fear and ignorance. But ignorance does not fight off truth; it just doesn’t recognize it as such. Fear fights against, runs from, and demonizes truth as a dementor of beliefs.

Russell argues that the exercise of philosophic contemplation grows the mind, strengthens our greatest tool in life, and in doing so, in broadening our subjective views towards objectivity, enlarges our concept of self. What does that mean, to enlarge the self, since it seems to be the main value of philosophy that Russell is referring to? When our compassion and empathy grow, we grow; we enlarge our boundary of self because we feel for others more and more like we feel for ourselves. We understand people better, because we see their efforts and tribulations as our own. We connect with others more intimately, we care more directly ad broadly, and in so doing, make choices as citizens of the world, rather than personal, separate, egocentric individuals. We start to want to do what is right, rather than what is right for us. For Russell, while we are subjective beings who will never see the world in its wholly and truthfully objective form the way God might, that should not stop us from trying to see it more wholly, accurately and truthfully every day. Why would we not want to move closer to truth rather than further away? Why would we willing keep our heads in the sand when we have the power to look around, observe, contemplate and conclude based on what the world reveals when we open our eyes, our minds, and be open to possibility.

Lastly, I will talk about another key aspect of the value of philosophy. For Russell, the value in philosophical question asking is not in the answers it provides, since there is not a great deal of certainty to be concluded. People don’t like that these big questions provide many more supplemental questions than answers of any kind. But, in creating/discovering more questions, we become more aware of the universe’s possibilities, of its vastness, our smallness, our uniqueness, its beauty and mystery, and we can’t help but grow humble, more open, feel more connected and learn to appreciate our great cognitive and analytic powers as miraculous. It, at some point, can come to feel almost unethical to not use our minds to their greatest capacity in search of more knowledge, more questions, and in doing so grow closer to God/Truth.

Note: I say “God” above, because Russell used the term. For many philosophers God is used interchangeably with the idea of truth, or reality, or universe (all things). Clearly, the connotation of the word is religious, so we might ask why he employs a typically dogmatic term when he rails against dogma. It is likely because he sees the god concept as the entirety of objective being, which is why he sees philosophy as a path towards that objectivity; in its commitment to truth seeking, it is, in essence a commitment to God seeking: God as the ultimate reservoir of knowledge and experience.

Vocabulary and Key Concepts

Basic Terms:

Philosophy: The love and pursuit of wisdom/knowledge.

Dogma: A principle or belief or a group of them held authoritatively.

Hypothesis: Something taken to be true for the purpose of argument or investigation.

Thought Experiment: A technique used for testing a hypothesis by imagining a situation and its implications.

Objective: Having or consisting of actual, absolute, pure or fundamental truth/reality.

Subjective: The condition of a particular or personal perspective/experience of reality.

Metaphysics: The branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and structure of reality.

Epistemology: The branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of knowledge and justification.

Axiology: The branch of philosophy that is concerned with the nature of values.

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