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The Problems of Philosophy - Bertrand Russell [Modern library classics] (Annotated)

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"Published in 1912, The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell is one of his most popular books. It renders philosophical issues and questions in a way in which they become relevant and accessible to the man or woman on the street, provoking them to devote time and effort into thinking about these aspects of life. Here, the great philosopher and humanist thinker "Published in 1912, The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell is one of his most popular books. It renders philosophical issues and questions in a way in which they become relevant and accessible to the man or woman on the street, provoking them to devote time and effort into thinking about these aspects of life. Here, the great philosopher and humanist thinker Bertrand Russell examines the importance of empirical (that which can be verified by observation or experience rather than deduced from logic or reasoning) thinkers like David Hume and George Berkeley the Anglo-Irish philosopher and scientist. Both these men were proponents of empiricism and idealist philosophies. The book also holds great relevance for us in today's world. Our education systems today focus largely on making us ready for employment. There are very few courses which delve into the inner workings of our minds and help us to engage with the fundamental aspects of our lives. In The Problems of Philosophy, Bertrand Russell presents readers with some of the issues that philosophers have grappled with throughout the ages. He then presents these through his own viewpoints and breaks them down to their core principles. Most Western and Eastern philosophical questions have been centered around the issues of personal and public experiences, identity, the consciousness of self and the awareness of others, time and space relationships and finally the question of knowledge itself. In The Problems of Philosophy, Russell describes in detail one of his most famous theories of knowledge, the distinction between “knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description.” He argues that anything which is known through means of a direct causal experience is fundamentally different (and perhaps superior) to knowledge gained through secondhand descriptions and through the reports of other people. In today's Age of Information, knowledge by description is often mistaken for “true knowledge” and many of us proceed on the premise that such knowledge is indeed the truth. Russell was a philosopher who believed in the dynamism and evolution of thought. He frequently revised his positions on fundamental issues throughout his life, moving from liberalism to socialism. He was also a famous pacifist and prominent anti-war, anti-imperialism activist. Imprisoned for his views on the evils of World War II, he was also an outspoken critic of Hitler and Stalin. He strongly condemned the actions of the United States in the Vietnam War and lent his voice to support nuclear disarmament. The Problems of Philosophy examines the questions that lie deep in the hearts and minds of all human beings and provides a compassionate yet objective attempt at finding the answers to some of them."


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"Published in 1912, The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell is one of his most popular books. It renders philosophical issues and questions in a way in which they become relevant and accessible to the man or woman on the street, provoking them to devote time and effort into thinking about these aspects of life. Here, the great philosopher and humanist thinker "Published in 1912, The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell is one of his most popular books. It renders philosophical issues and questions in a way in which they become relevant and accessible to the man or woman on the street, provoking them to devote time and effort into thinking about these aspects of life. Here, the great philosopher and humanist thinker Bertrand Russell examines the importance of empirical (that which can be verified by observation or experience rather than deduced from logic or reasoning) thinkers like David Hume and George Berkeley the Anglo-Irish philosopher and scientist. Both these men were proponents of empiricism and idealist philosophies. The book also holds great relevance for us in today's world. Our education systems today focus largely on making us ready for employment. There are very few courses which delve into the inner workings of our minds and help us to engage with the fundamental aspects of our lives. In The Problems of Philosophy, Bertrand Russell presents readers with some of the issues that philosophers have grappled with throughout the ages. He then presents these through his own viewpoints and breaks them down to their core principles. Most Western and Eastern philosophical questions have been centered around the issues of personal and public experiences, identity, the consciousness of self and the awareness of others, time and space relationships and finally the question of knowledge itself. In The Problems of Philosophy, Russell describes in detail one of his most famous theories of knowledge, the distinction between “knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description.” He argues that anything which is known through means of a direct causal experience is fundamentally different (and perhaps superior) to knowledge gained through secondhand descriptions and through the reports of other people. In today's Age of Information, knowledge by description is often mistaken for “true knowledge” and many of us proceed on the premise that such knowledge is indeed the truth. Russell was a philosopher who believed in the dynamism and evolution of thought. He frequently revised his positions on fundamental issues throughout his life, moving from liberalism to socialism. He was also a famous pacifist and prominent anti-war, anti-imperialism activist. Imprisoned for his views on the evils of World War II, he was also an outspoken critic of Hitler and Stalin. He strongly condemned the actions of the United States in the Vietnam War and lent his voice to support nuclear disarmament. The Problems of Philosophy examines the questions that lie deep in the hearts and minds of all human beings and provides a compassionate yet objective attempt at finding the answers to some of them."

30 review for The Problems of Philosophy - Bertrand Russell [Modern library classics] (Annotated)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    Plato, in the Symposium, was perhaps the first person to consider the question of the "unliked review". If a review never receives any votes, can it truly be said to exist? This problem has tormented many of the world's greatest philosophers. Bishop Berkeley's famous answer is that God reads and likes every review, hence they all exist. Even at the time, this was not universally considered satisfactory; Rousseau's reply, le compte de Dieu est privé, is widely quoted as the standard objection. By Plato, in the Symposium, was perhaps the first person to consider the question of the "unliked review". If a review never receives any votes, can it truly be said to exist? This problem has tormented many of the world's greatest philosophers. Bishop Berkeley's famous answer is that God reads and likes every review, hence they all exist. Even at the time, this was not universally considered satisfactory; Rousseau's reply, le compte de Dieu est privé, is widely quoted as the standard objection. By the time of Nietzsche, the theory was under serious attack. In a passage that the publisher insisted on removing from the first edition of Beyond Good and Evil, and which was only reinstated after a lengthy court case, the author argues that there is no clear evidence that God is a member of Goodreads in the first place; even if He was once a member, He could easily have left without anyone realizing. Wittgenstein, in The Stripey, Off-White Notebook With A Gravy Stain On The Bottom Left (unpublished during his lifetime), considered that the question was not well-posed. The sentence "God liked my review" is syntactically ill-formed according to the strict rules of [continued for another 14 pages]

  2. 5 out of 5

    Coffee&Quasars

    I studied Philosophy years ago before moving on to Physics. Recently, my dad (now retired) announced that he might head back to uni to study philosophy to keep his brain ticking over, and I decided to reread my copy of this before loaning it to him as a nice intro, or at least relatively nice - It’s essentially a philosopher’s job to try to be the fussiest and most pedantic person on the planet as far as humanly possible. Still, you can hardly ask for a better guide through the territory than I studied Philosophy years ago before moving on to Physics. Recently, my dad (now retired) announced that he might head back to uni to study philosophy to keep his brain ticking over, and I decided to reread my copy of this before loaning it to him as a nice intro, or at least relatively nice - It’s essentially a philosopher’s job to try to be the fussiest and most pedantic person on the planet as far as humanly possible. Still, you can hardly ask for a better guide through the territory than Bertrand Russell, a practical Everyman in a field full of seriously strange people (philosophy really should come with a mental health warning). Reading this now through more of a scientific lens, certain ideas hit harder. Throughout the book, Russell essentially makes the case that it’s not the job of Philosophy (or within its abilities) to ascertain absolute truths about the world, but rather, assess our ‘state of knowledge’ of things and produce a hierarchy or framework, based on the value of each state. This isn’t so different from the Bayesian view, widely and increasingly used in astronomy and many other areas of science, which (though more fleshed out and with a complete mathematical framework) can essentially be boiled down to, ‘truth or falsity isn’t absolute, rarely 1 or 0, but exists on a continuum between them’. This comes in handy when comparing theoretical models (among other things) and is a lesson that could stand to be more widely learned in all walks of life in the fight against tribalism and bias. When we adopt a dogmatic view of the world, we assume our state of ignorance is 0, when it could be 0.3 or 0.648 or 0.999. That said, there are places in which its views are out of date, for example, discussing the ‘order of events’ as being absolute even while their appearance may vary spatially is half right, as relativity teaches us that our frame of reference can significantly affect our perception not only of how events appear, but also the order in which they occur. If you’re a beginner, any philosophy book you’ll encounter will seem at least slightly laborious as the writer tries to work in detail through every assumption, define every term, address Cartesian doubt for the millionth time and so on, but at around 100 pages and giving a brief overview of many of the problems of his day which are still relevant now, this is a perfectly good place to start. It’s also quite funny in places, especially when addressing other philosophers. There’s no better kind of bitchiness than when one philosopher criticises another. To put it in his own words: “Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions, since no definite answer can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination, and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation; but above all because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good.” Amen, brother.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    The Problems of Philosophy was written in 1912 as an early attempt by its author to create a brief and accessible guide to the problems of philosophy. Bertrand Russell is considered to be one of the founders of analytic philosophy, and is also widely held to be one of the 20th century's premier logicians. He is generally thought to be one of the most important philosophers of the past two hundred years. Extremely prolific and influential, he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1950. The Problems of Philosophy was written in 1912 as an early attempt by its author to create a brief and accessible guide to the problems of philosophy. Bertrand Russell is considered to be one of the founders of analytic philosophy, and is also widely held to be one of the 20th century's premier logicians. He is generally thought to be one of the most important philosophers of the past two hundred years. Extremely prolific and influential, he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1950. Not only was he a leading philosopher with a long and distinguished career, but during his life he was a prominent figure in various political and social causes, such as nuclear disarmament. He remained politically active almost to the end of his life, writing to and exhorting world leaders to actions, and lending his name to various causes. He was a passionate and remarkable man with a huge intellect. But was he the best person to write an introduction to philosophy for the novice? Possibly not. Bertrand Russell was a philosopher, not a teacher. Ironically, he may perhaps have been just too interested in his subject to write a "primer" in philosophy. This work seems to fall between several stools. In part it is a survey of western philosophy, briefly summarising those philosophers he considers to have contributed the most to philosophy. He starts by introducing the crux of the important philosophical theories of Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753), who posed the question, what is the difference between appearance and reality? Russell maintains that we must differentiate between sensation, sense-data and matter, to be clear. But the question posed by Berkeley was, "Is there any such thing as matter?" His final answer to this was that matter is merely, "an idea in the mind of God", who then allows us to experience it with our sensations. Berkeley, an Anglo-Irish philosopher, is remembered along with John Locke and David Hume as one of the three most famous British Empiricists. They maintained that all our knowledge is derived from experience. Berkeley's primary achievement was the advancement of the theory he called "immaterialism" or "idealism", considering that the physical world only exists while it is being perceived. The reason for Russell to begin this book here, is clearly historical. Berkeley forms the basis for much of present-day philosophical enquiry. But it must be said that his conclusions (which Russell kindly goes on to point out are flawed) seem very alien to a modern mind. In a later section Russell details what he calls "Bishop Berkeley's fallacy". He says that there is a confusion between the 2 meanings of "idea". Berkeley makes the word to refer both to the acts of apprehension, and also to the things apprehended. It is vitally important to make a distinction between the act and the object, Russell says, claiming that,"This is the true analysis of Berkeley's argument and the ultimate fallacy upon which it rests." Russell then introduces Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, (1646-1716), a German philosopher and mathematician whose contention was that matter is "a colony or collection of souls". The theories seem to be becoming even more abstruse and drifting off into the realms of metaphysics rather than introducing us to develop a clear method of thought and analysis. Perhaps that too was in Russell's mind, as he skims lightly through Leibniz's theories, reminding both himself and the reader of his primary task with this book, "Philosophy, if it cannot answer so many questions as we would wish, has at least the power of asking questions which increase the interest of the world, and show the strangeness and wonder lying just below the surface even in the commonest things of daily life." We are now back on track as Russell introduces Descartes (1596-1650), the founder of modern Philosophy. René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and writer who spent most of his life in the Dutch Republic. He invented the "method of systematic doubting". Russell says of Descartes, "He would believe nothing which he did not see quite clearly and distinctly to be true." If it was possible to doubt it, then he would doubt until he saw reason to not doubt it. His contention was that the most subjective things, are the most certain, "I think, therefore I am." Both Descartes and Leibniz were rationalists. They claimed that in addition to what we know by experience, there are certain "innate ideas" and "innate principles", which we know independently of experience. Russell again lets us know what he thinks, saying that logical principles are an example of this, being known to us and not provable by experience, since all proof presupposes them. In this, he says, the rationalists were in the right. He then moves on to Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) a German (Prussian) philosopher, who took the rationalists views and developed them further. Before Kant, all knowledge was thought to be analytic, in that the predicate is obtained by merely analysing the subject. All a priori judgements were thought to be like this. The "law of contradiction" (that something can not at the same time have and not have a certain property) covered everything. Hume, who preceded Kant, had disagreed, saying that many so-called "analytic" cases - especially cause and effect - were really "synthetic". Whereas the rationalists had thought that the effect could be logically deduced from the cause if only we had sufficient knowledge, Hume maintained that this is not so. He thought nothing could therefore be known a priori about the connection of cause and effect. Kant took this a step further. Not only cause and effect, but but all arithmetic and geometry he considered is "synthetic", not analytic. This is because no analysis of the subject will reveal the predicate. For example, 7+5=12 . But 7 and 5 have to be put together to make 12. The idea of "12" is not contained in them, and neither is it contained in the idea of putting them together. Therefore all pure Maths, although a priori, is "synthetic." As well as the observation that all a priori knowledge does not have to be analytic, Russell says Kant recognised the importance of the theory of knowledge. We are told that when Kant came along his theories were a reversal in the philosophical orthodoxy. A relationship had previously been thought to pertain between the object analysed, and the subject that analyses it. Truth or reality, was in the external world. Kant differentiated between the "physical object" - or what he termed "the thing in itself" and our own nature - what Russell called the "sense-data". The difference came when Kant regarded the material of sensation as due to the object. Russell explains that he thought, "What we supply is the arrangement in space and time". So all our sense-data, he thought, result from our own natures. The "thing in itself" is essentially unknowable. What is known is our experience of the object, which Kant calls the "phenomenon", or a joint product of us and the thing in itself. In this way he tried to harmonise the rationalists with the empiricists. Unexpectedly, Russell then goes back to Classical Greece, to Plato (427-347 BC). Russell says, relations (relationships) are different from physical objects, from our minds and also from sense-data. This conceptual link leads him back to Plato's theory of ideas, or "forms" - the idea of finding the pure essence of something, eg "whiteness". They are not in a mind - but just an idea eg "justice". Russell says, "It is eternally itself, immutable and indestructible." Plato's world is "supra-sensible". Russell says that, "The only true world for Plato is the world of ideas". This has been developed into many mystical theories, which Russell does not go into, having decided that they are beyond the scope of this book. Plato's theory of forms, he says led to later theories of universals. Russell calls abstract ideas "universals." At this point Russell seems to distance himself from previous philosophical schools and there follow several interesting chapters which detail Russell's own theories to do with "knowledge of truths" and "knowledge by acquaintance." Knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description form knowledge of things (which exist). He further subdivides knowledge by acquaintance into acquaintance by sense-data, memory, introspection, and (probably, he says) by self, or that which is aware of these things. Then there is acquaintance with universals, or general ideas. A universal of which we are aware he calls a "concept". He differentiates between universals and "particulars", saying that descriptions always start from particulars with which we are acquainted, but, "In logic, on the contrary, where we are concerned not merely with what does exist, but with whatever might or could exist or be, no reference to actual particulars is involved. In this way, knowledge by descriptions enables us to pass beyond the limits of our private experience." Russell then gives a detailed explanation of the "principle of induction". Although Hume did a lot of work on inductive reasoning, and the theory dates back to ancient times, Russell seems to have abandoned telling the reader the the historical background to these theories, and is keen to go into the logical analysis of them. When applying the principle of induction, we make a series of observations and infer a new claim based on them. It is to do with the number of times something has been observed to be associated with something else, but never found separately, dissociated from that thing. The greater the number of cases in which two have been associated, the greater the probability that they will be associated in a new case in which one of them is known to be present. He goes on to observe that in our daily lives we tend to apply the inductive principle as a matter of course. "All our conduct is based on associations which have worked in the past, and which we therefore regard as likely to work in the future; and this likelihood is dependent for its validity upon the inductive principle. The general principles of science, such as the belief in the reign of law, and the belief that every event must have a cause, are as completely dependent upon the inductive principle as are the beliefs of daily life." Russell then introduces more "tools of the trade". The inductive principle is a logical principle, but so are self-evident logical principles which we employ in our laws of thought. These are the "law of identity" (whatever is, is), the "law of contradiction", (nothing can both be and not be), and the "law of excluded middle" (everything must either be or not be.) He also takes account of intuitive knowledge, if it is consistently verifiable by the inductive principle and coherence, although he makes the point that it can easily merge into probable opinion. "What we firmly believe, if it is true, is called knowledge, provided it is either intuitive or inferred (logically or psychologically) from intuitive knowledge from which it follows logically. What we firmly believe, if it is not true, is called error. What we firmly believe, if it is neither knowledge not error, and also what we believe hesitatingly, because it is, or is derived from, something which has not the highest degree of self-evidence, may be called probable opinion. Thus the greater part of what would commonly pass as knowledge is more or less probable opinion." Approaching the end of his overview, Russell introduces the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), a major figure in idealism. Hegel's view was that everything short of "the whole" is fragmentary, and incapable of existing without the complement supplied by the rest of the world. A metaphysician can see the whole of reality in outline from one piece or fragment of it. To a reader, this may feel as though we are back where we started, with Berkeley. Hegel asserts that if we think of something, its incompleteness provides us with questions. Then by hypothesising and forming a new, more complete theory which answers these (or at least presents fewer contradictions) this is the synthesis of the original idea and its antithesis. This will still not be wholly complete, so the process is repeated, until the "absolute idea" is revealed, which describes "absolute reality" as one views the "whole". God sees an eternal perfect unchanging spiritual unity. Russell says, "Hegel reaches the conclusion that Absolute Reality forms one single harmonious system, not in space or time, not in any degree evil, wholly rational, and wholly spiritual. Any appearance to the contrary, in the world we know, can be proved logically...to be entirely due to our fragmentary piecemeal view of the universe." Russell maintains that he will not go into metaphysics but confine himself to the philosophy of knowledge (epistemology). Frustratingly though, as soon as Russell attempts to present a simple version of other philosophers' views, he cannot help but put his own slant on their views. Sometimes this is overt, and he will happily say where (in his opinion) the earlier philosopher got it right - or wrong - and why. But he frequently forgets his audience. As well as struggling with the new definitions and new concepts, the reader is trying to disentangle what is an earlier view and what Russell's. In the course of his overview of historical philosophical standpoints, Russell observes, "Whoever wishes to become a philosopher must learn not to be frightened by absurdities." That is good advice for a new philosopher, particularly one in the 21st century. In many ways this book represented the philosophical orthodoxy at the time of writing, but some early theories must have seemed almost as remote to readers then as they are to us now. When a reader keeps being distracted by doubts, to think that they don't understand a position such as Berkeley's "Mind of God", the truth may well be that they just don't agree with it! But it can be the hardest discipline for this reason, that the budding philosopher has to continually suspend their "disbelief" in a theory. But in general, as a first attempt to get to grips with an unfamiliar and intellectually rigorous subject, this historical focus is a distraction. What a newcomer needs is the tools for the job. Philosophy, like any other academic discipline, has its own terminology. Also, words such as "innate" which have a meaning in psychology, have an entirely different meaning in philosophy. "Empiricist" and "rationalist" have also been appropriated by philosophy to have very specific meanings, which are at variance with their everyday ones. Russell tries to introduce the correct approach to tackling philosophical problems; to both define the terms and the analytical method to lay the foundations for further philosophical studies. However, he has to spend an inordinate amount of time in defining his terms, explaining the nice and extremely subtle distinctions before any headway can be made. He uses simplistic words such as "so-and-so", and the sentences end up as incredibly convoluted, with many clauses and subclauses. Several times a diagrammatic representation would have made something a lot clearer. His search for clarity is a big part of why Russell's writing in this volume seems so convoluted and wordy. Because of Russell's enthusiasm for his subject, he delights in presenting his own viewpoint at every turn. The reader might find that Russell has forgotten that he is dealing with newcomers to the field, and presupposes a greater knowledge, forgetting that he has never used a term (such as "synthetic") in its philosophical sense before. The reader may feel by the end that they have read the book a dozen times, back and forth, to accurately abstract its meaning Basically, Russell is trying to come at the problem from two different angles, and covering too much ground. He mistakenly thinks that by interjecting an overview of the main philosophical movements, that will make the book more interesting. It does not; it is overly ambitious. It makes it even more dense, and should probably have been a completely separate work. It is clear that Russell is trying very hard to make the book accessible, as he is doing when he puts in his little jokes about earwigs and breakfast. But simplicity is the key. The final chapters of the book make Russell's own case for studying philosophy as an academic discipline. He maintains that we do not study philosophy to discover definite answers to questions, but for the questions themselves. This book itself needs to be read with a certain historical perspective; it may once have been a core text, but advances in scientific areas such as quantum physics, which was in its infancy when Russell was writing this, may have made certain theories of philosophy redundant. Russell acknowledges this fact himself, "Philosophy aims at...the kind of knowledge which gives unity and system to the body of the sciences...from a critical examination of the grounds of our convictions, prejudices and beliefs... As soon as definite knowledge concerning any subject becomes possible, this subject ceases to be philosophy, and becomes a separate science." A much earlier example of this lies in the studies by Ancient Greeks such as Aristotle, of what they called "Natural Philosophy", but what we from our later perspective call "Science". It seems strange to study an area in which once the answers are evident the earlier reasonings become redundant. It is a task which is intellectually rigorous and never obvious, but essentially frustrating. Russell does however, provides a perfect justification for such a tough task, "While diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they might be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never travelled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect." Perhaps it would be preferable to have more knowledge of these commonly discussed philosophical areas before reading this book. One possible approach to this book may be to read around each chapter, and then come back to this book for Russell's views on it. Or if it is read as a sort of revision of lengthier works, it may be that it can then be properly appreciated. It may also be an ideal book for someone who wants to get back into studying the subject and needs reminding of the main areas and schools of thought. But for anyone completely new to the area and wanting an introduction to analytical philosophy, there is probably a much simpler book available nowadays. The lasting impression given is that Bertrand Russell is just far too interested in his subject, to the point of being frustrated by his own book. He is having difficulty in restraining himself from going into each area in great detail. Also, areas he does not want to consider, he refers to sketchily and then quickly moves on without defining them properly. But this is a hopeless way to write for a beginner to read. Concepts have to be explained, or not referred to at all! In the final analysis, a primer of philosophy would perhaps be more accessibly written by a teacher of philosophy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Cleverish: "The Problems of Philosophy" by Bertrand Russell Brilliant, but in the sense of clever. I never have a sense of depth when reading Russell. Life's deeper questions were actually not questions at all, so let us get on with our lives. No wonder that D. H. Lawrence and Wittgenstein accused Russell of living a life of merely superficiality. There was an Edwardian air about Russell to the end of his long life, that if only the If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Cleverish: "The Problems of Philosophy" by Bertrand Russell Brilliant, but in the sense of clever. I never have a sense of depth when reading Russell. Life's deeper questions were actually not questions at all, so let us get on with our lives. No wonder that D. H. Lawrence and Wittgenstein accused Russell of living a life of merely superficiality. There was an Edwardian air about Russell to the end of his long life, that if only the world listened to an enlightened gentleman like himself, all its problems would be solved.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    The Problems of Philosophy, Bertrand Russell The Problems of Philosophy is a 1912 book by Bertrand Russell, in which Russell attempts to create a brief and accessible guide to the problems of philosophy. Focusing on problems he believes will provoke positive and constructive discussion, Russell concentrates on knowledge rather than metaphysics: If it is uncertain that external objects exist, how can we then have knowledge of them but by probability. There is no reason to doubt the existence of The Problems of Philosophy, Bertrand Russell The Problems of Philosophy is a 1912 book by Bertrand Russell, in which Russell attempts to create a brief and accessible guide to the problems of philosophy. Focusing on problems he believes will provoke positive and constructive discussion, Russell concentrates on knowledge rather than metaphysics: If it is uncertain that external objects exist, how can we then have knowledge of them but by probability. There is no reason to doubt the existence of external objects simply because of sense data. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: شانزدهم ماه آوریل سال 1974 میلادی عنوان: مسائل فلسفه؛ نویسنده: برتراند راسل؛ مترجم: احمد اردوبادی؛ تهران، معرفت، 1336، در 188 ص؛ عنوان: روی جلد: مسائل فلسفی برتراند راسل؛ موضوع: فلسفه - فیلسوفان - مفاله ها و خطابه ها از نویسندگان بریتانیایی - سده 20 م عنوان: مسائل فلسفه؛ نویسنده: برتراند راسل؛ مترجم: منوچهر بزرگمهر؛ تهران، خوارزمی، 1347، در 200 ص؛ چاپ پنجم: 1389؛ شابک: 9789644871290؛ چاپ دیگر 1390؛ عنوان: روی جلد: مسائل فلسفی برتراند راسل؛ موضوع: فلسفه - فیلسوفان - مفاله ها و خطابه ها از نویسندگان بریتانیایی - سده 20 م نقل از متن مقدمه: در این مختصر بحث خود را منحصر به آن قسمت از مسائل فلسفه ساخته ام که درباره آنها میتوان اظهار نظر مثبت کرد زیرا در یک چنین کتابی جای بحث و انتقاد منفی نیست. از این جهت بحث معرفت از بحث وجود و مابعدالطبیعه به معنی اخص بیشتر آمده است و بعضی مطالب که فیلسوفان دیگر به تفصیل از آن سخن گفته اند به اختصار برگزار شده و حتی حذف گردیده است. در نوشتن کتاب از آثار منتشر نشده «جرج ادوارد مور» و «جان مینارد کینز» استفاده کرده ام از اولی درباره ی رابطه میان داده های حس، و اعیان واقعیه، و از دومی در باب احتمال و استقراء. همچنین از انتقادات و پیشنهادهای استاد «گیلبرت موری» تمتع بسیار حاصل کرده ام. پایان نقل از مقدمه. ا. شربیانی

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stephen M

    From the geniuses that brought you the Cryptex Crossword and the Gravity-Defying Word Generator comes. . . A brand-new way of writing Goodreads reviews! Look out world, here comes SHAMS (the Steve Hotopp Assisted Manuscription System). The newest, the hipest, and the easiest way to pump out those reviews, so you can kick back, drink a beer and watch the likes come rolling in. Are you tired of having to sit at your computer and type. every. single. word. all. day. long? Modern times are rough ∞ From the geniuses that brought you the Cryptex Crossword and the Gravity-Defying Word Generator comes. . . A brand-new way of writing Goodreads reviews! Look out world, here comes SHAMS (the Steve Hotopp Assisted Manuscription System™). The newest, the hipest, and the easiest way to pump out those reviews, so you can kick back, drink a beer and watch the likes come rolling in. Are you tired of having to sit at your computer and type. every. single. word. all. day. long? 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Berty Boy Russell’s The Perturbances of Philosophy is chock full of syllogisms, words, and sentences that combine for a silly reading experience. The main character, the human that is reading the book, is from wherever that person comes from and does whatever that person does, and has whatever characteristics the reader happens to have! He/She/Xe is not chromatic or living in a box of crayons, the epitome of mental health! I won’t divulge much of the plot, but I will say that there are Perturbances and Peturbators that are never solved. The bigger point, it seems to me, is that things are difficult to think about and alienation is man’s most natural state since solipsism is tough to argue against even though he may enjoy the classic PC game Starcraft. The book was more ur-quasi (than simply quasi) standard philosophical fare. Berty Boy wrote simply, straight-forwardly and uncomplexly in a way that would make James Joyce want to write about green things in Ireland. It was an effective marriage between Ludwig Wittgenstein and James Patterson. All in all it was labyrinthine and philosophical. I was taking baby steps towards the void and hyperbolized, dammit. I gave this 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286 208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647093844609550582231725359408128481 117450284102701938521105559644622948954930381964428810975665933446128475648233 786783165271201909145648566923460348610454326648213393607260249141273724587006 606315588174881520920962829254091715364367892590360011330530548820466521384146 951941511609433057270365759591953092186117381932611793105118548074462379962749 567351885752724891227938183011949129833673362440656643086021394946395224737190 702179860943702770539217176293176752384674818467669405132000568127145263560827 785771342757789609173637178721468440901224953430146549585371050792279689258923 542019956112129021960864034418159813629774771309960518707211349999998372978049 951059731732816096318595024459455346908302642522308253344685035261931188171010 003137838752886587533208381420617177669147303598253490428755468731159562863882 353787593751957781857780532171226806613001927876611195909216420198938095257201 065485863278865936153381827968230301952035301852968995773622599413891249721775 283479131515574857242454150695950829533116861727855889075098381754637464939319 255060400927701671139009848824012858361603563707660104710181942955596198946767 837449448255379774726847104047534646208046684259069491293313677028989152104752 162056966024058038150193511253382430035587640247496473263914199272604269922796 782354781636009341721641219924586315030286182974555706749838505494588586926995 690927210797509302955321165344987202755960236480665499119881834797753566369807 stars rounded to 4 ★ ★ ★ ★. 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  7. 4 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    Bertrand Russell is such a gentleman. He writes in lucid, clear prose filled with insight and occasional brilliance. He manages to compress enormous, complex debates into just a few paragraphs, and belies an encyclopedic knowledge of Western philosophy. The book is a gem, and sparkles with subtlety and charm. But gentlemen can be dry. His prose marches forward but never leaps and dances, his mind is a logical machine impervious to emotion, his philosophy is not a philosophy of life and art, but Bertrand Russell is such a gentleman. He writes in lucid, clear prose filled with insight and occasional brilliance. He manages to compress enormous, complex debates into just a few paragraphs, and belies an encyclopedic knowledge of Western philosophy. The book is a gem, and sparkles with subtlety and charm. But gentlemen can be dry. His prose marches forward but never leaps and dances, his mind is a logical machine impervious to emotion, his philosophy is not a philosophy of life and art, but of knowledge and truth. He has prostrated himself on the altar of logic, and bathed his spirit in the eternal light of rationality. To be a philosopher, for him, is to be a citizen of the universe, to free one’s mind from the ‘shackles’ of custom and history through purgative contemplation. It all sounds very nice. Really, though, we do have some profound thinking here. Russell is asking a basic question, “what is the nature of knowledge?” Added to this is, “what can we know?” and “how can we know it?” Of course, these are tricky questions and it is impossible to give airtight answers. Russell, however, manages to give the reader a satisfying montage of the many ways these questions have been answered, as well as his own attempt. Characteristic of our gentleman, he upholds the view of the common man and defends the usual, accepted view of knowledge. But, if he did this in a common way, we wouldn’t be talking about him, would we?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    An excellent introductory to the layperson (me) on some basics of philosophy; the final section is a beautifully written piece on why philosophy is important and how it enriches humanity.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

    Turns out that philosophy has many problems

  10. 4 out of 5

    Trevor Price

    This book is intended to be an epistemology primer, but I think it fails pretty hard at that. It reminds me of a Big Bang episode when Sheldon attempts to teach Penny physics: "Now, Introduction to physics. What is physics? Physics comes from the ancient Greek word physika. Physika means the science of natural things. And it is a warm summer evening in ancient Greece that our story begins..." In writing this book, Russell seemed very conscientious of an audience unseasoned in philosophy, so he This book is intended to be an epistemology primer, but I think it fails pretty hard at that. It reminds me of a Big Bang episode when Sheldon attempts to teach Penny physics: "Now, Introduction to physics. What is physics? Physics comes from the ancient Greek word physika. Physika means the science of natural things. And it is a warm summer evening in ancient Greece that our story begins..." In writing this book, Russell seemed very conscientious of an audience unseasoned in philosophy, so he often kicked up quite the dust storm in his efforts to be painstakingly clear on one matter or another. Unfortunately, this dust was sometimes suffocating and made me forget about the larger point being made. The final third gets a little better, though, and the final chapter, in which Russell makes the case for studying philosophy, is almost worth a star on its own. But perhaps the most damning thing I could say about this book is that I can't imagine anything written in it that couldn't be found elsewhere in a much more readable, lucid form.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gaurav

    A great work of philosophical inquiry by Russell; the book explains the basic problems of philosophy in a very interesting manner. The books talks on the famous problem - 'existence of matter'. This seminal work of Russell discusses the real purpose of philosophy; the purpose that ought to be rather than what it is supposed to be.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alain Dib

    The problems of philosophy was an interesting book. I was advised to read it but couldn’t quite get it right. The book itself isn’t bad per se it’s more that the writer is also a mathematician so he rely very much on this kind of logic but, I’m not very passionate about math or physics which was a bit annoying at times. Some concepts where very useful I especially liked the first chapters where in short it’s about how the perspective change everything and chapters later I loved the principle of The problems of philosophy was an interesting book. I was advised to read it but couldn’t quite get it right. The book itself isn’t bad per se it’s more that the writer is also a mathematician so he rely very much on this kind of logic but, I’m not very passionate about math or physics which was a bit annoying at times. Some concepts where very useful I especially liked the first chapters where in short it’s about how the perspective change everything and chapters later I loved the principle of induction which in short means that If you see something in high numbers with the same quality you usually assume that it is universal or that as Russell said all the breeds of this particular bird are white which isn’t true. What I disliked about the book is the fact that Russel criticize many things and says they are uncertain and then go on about the uncertainty therefore the need to neglect said concept or object to just finish and say that regardless it’s okay to consider it and I think it’s plain stupid at times because he was gone in a direction and then contradicts himself a bit. Also, at some point he talks about a concept which is logical to announce that it is likely, why not? Just to declare that regardless it is better discarded. Why discard said concept if you willingly said it is possible while you are going to accept other concepts who don’t have much more arguments to offer. The whole book seems like some kind of sophism the author dives into details and go on and on about things. You feel that you’re being played, tricked to some degree and I didn’t enjoy this feeling much. Regardless, I loved the eloquent and precise writing of Russell even if I deem his writing regarding some topics far from cohesive or plain trickery. The last chapter was interesting because it brings into perspective how philosophy is the root of science and its importance. I also grasped some random facts like the distance between the earth and the sun(49 million km) and the time required for the sun rays to reach the earth(8 min). I think this book is best for an amateur who wishes to know about philosophy and likes mathematics.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    My usual definition for a philosopher is somebody who writes on a simple everyday concept in such a way that the simple is considered complexly in such way that a person knows more and more about less and less until eventually they know everything about nothing. By that definition, Russell fails because he writes clearly and the reader will actually understand what he is getting at. Not only will the reader understand, he’ll be able to explain it to others. For example, one of the most important My usual definition for a philosopher is somebody who writes on a simple everyday concept in such a way that the simple is considered complexly in such way that a person knows more and more about less and less until eventually they know everything about nothing. By that definition, Russell fails because he writes clearly and the reader will actually understand what he is getting at. Not only will the reader understand, he’ll be able to explain it to others. For example, one of the most important concepts is what Russell called in this book, ‘the laws of thought’. There are three and only three and they are considered absolute in the world of dichotomies, 1) A=A (the thing is the thing), 2) a thing must either be or not be (excluded middle), and 3) a thing can’t be and be at the same time (law of contradiction). Everything within logic (rational analytical thought) must fall under those rules of thought. Russell clearly sees the world from an ‘event ontology’ perspective. When asked later in life ‘what about the White Cliffs of Dover’ he replied ‘they are an event that is just happening slowly’. Experiences are the atoms that make up his world view, and he believes there is a knowable reality because the truth is out there and discoverable. There is nothing wrong with thinking that, but it is a bias and it does shade how he explains philosophy (mostly epistemology in this short book) over all. Also, at the time of this book he still thinks mathematics has a firm foundation, he believes wrongly that one doesn’t need set theory to go from logic to mathematics as Godel will shortly show. If one were to only have time to read one book on philosophy, this is the one I would recommend. Hopefully, the reader will take his criticisms of Kant and Hegel, but end up reading them themselves to see why they are still relevant today.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Pink

    The synopsis for this book says - This accessibly clear little book is a stimulating guide to those problems of philosophy which often mistakenly make the subject seem too lofty & abstruse for laypersons. So it includes passages like - When a case of acquaintance is one with which I can be acquainted (as I am acquainted with my acquaintance with the sense-datum representing the sun), it is plain that the person acquainted is myself. Thus, when I am acquainted with my seeing the sun, the whole The synopsis for this book says - This accessibly clear little book is a stimulating guide to those problems of philosophy which often mistakenly make the subject seem too lofty & abstruse for laypersons. So it includes passages like - When a case of acquaintance is one with which I can be acquainted (as I am acquainted with my acquaintance with the sense-datum representing the sun), it is plain that the person acquainted is myself. Thus, when I am acquainted with my seeing the sun, the whole fact with which I am acquainted is 'Self-acquainted-with-sense-datum'. or Thus, when we are acquainted with an object which is the so-and-so, we know that the so-and-so exists; but we may know that the so-and-so exists when we are not acquainted with any object which we know to be the so-and-so, and even when we are not acquainted with any object which, in fact, is the so-and-so. Hmmm, I don't think I wish to be acquainted with the so-and-so that wrote this.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Xander

    A very decent introduction to the major problems of philosophy, mainly occupied with theory of knowledge. The relative shortness of the book (100 pages or so) does not signal anything about the accessibility or ease with which the material is grasped. This was my second read and I learned much more than on my first read. Also, it helps to pause at the end of each chapter and try to picture the progress you've made since the first sentence - Russell is building an argument throughout the book and A very decent introduction to the major problems of philosophy, mainly occupied with theory of knowledge. The relative shortness of the book (100 pages or so) does not signal anything about the accessibility or ease with which the material is grasped. This was my second read and I learned much more than on my first read. Also, it helps to pause at the end of each chapter and try to picture the progress you've made since the first sentence - Russell is building an argument throughout the book and each chapter builds on prior discoveries. Basically, Russell's theory of knowledge is the following. When we talk about knowledge, we have to distinguish between (1) knowledge of things and (2) knowledge of truths. (1) Knowledge of things can be (a) immediate knowledge of things ('knowledge by acquaintance') such as sense-data, selfconsciousness and universals (sense qualities, relations, logical principles), or (b) inferred knowledge of things ('knowledge by description'), which is a combination of knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge of truths. Again, (2) knowledge of truths can be (c) immediate knowledge such as states of sense-experience, self-evident logical and mathematical principles, and some basis ethical principles, or (d) inferred knowledge, i.e. all truths that are deduced, using logical rules, from self-evident principles. The important thing to note is that knowledge of things is always concerned with the givenness of the objects in experience as sense-data, while knowledge of truths is always concerned with the relationship between propositions and sense-data. It is this last characteristic that introduces the notions of truth and falsehood. In the final chapters of the book, Russell works out his correspondence theory of truth. The most important thing to remember is that a belief or judgement is the relationship between subject and systems of objects. That is, a proposition is a mental act of a subject with which he/she collects objects and orders them in a particular relationship. The proposition thus is composed of subject, the collection of objects and their determined relation - it is the specific order of the objects (i.e. the act of the subject) which gives meaning to the proposition. Truth, then, is the correspondence between the meaning of the proposition (i.e. the objects and their particular order) and the state of affairs in reality. In simple terms: propositions are products of the mind and are true in so far as they correspond to facts in reality. The final question then is: How do I know whether my propositions are true? Russell offers three terms to answer this question: knowledge, error and probable opinion. (1) Knowledge is what we are convinced is true and is actually true, given it is intuitive knowledge or inferred from intuitive knowledge. In short, self-evident principles, sense-data or inferred propositions from either of those. (2) Error is what we are convinced is true is actually not true. And (3) probable opinion is the bulk of our propositions: it's neither knowledge nor error, but is, or is inferred from, something which does not have the highest degree of self-evidence. This is all rather technical. What Russell means is that things we intuitively grasp - like logical principles (A=A; A can't be both true and false; etc.) and our immediate awareness of sense-data - or things which are legitimately based on things we intuitively grasp have the highest degree of certainty. In most of our lives, this goal is unattainable. We formulate beliefs that are likely, or probable, but not self-evident in any significant degree, and we further have to evaluate these propositions based on incomplete evidence. In cases like this, we should just use the coherence principle as heuristic: if a given proposition fits in with the rest of our tested and unfalsified beliefs, it is likely to be true. If not, it's likely to be false. To conclude, Russell explicitly argues that philosophy cannot offer us any utility in the sense that the sciences can. Nor can it offer us any road to absolute certain knowledge. He openly rejects all the system builders and dogmatists (Hegel first and foremost), who claimed that the philosopher could attain absolutely certain knowledge about metaphysical truths (e.g. why there is something rather than nothing). Russell is a realist, in the sense that reality is all there is, as a given, and we should not go beyond our actual sense-data and intuitions. The value of philosophy lies in this uncertainty: it is wonder - contemplation about things that are normally taken for granted. This leads to a mind that is solely occupied with freedom and impartiality: in reality this plays out as a universal love and a pursuit of justice. In short, or so Russell claims, philosophy offers us the citizenship of the universe. And on that poetic note, I'd like to end this review. This is a wonderful book. A decent introduction to philosophy, and a very interesting approach to questions about reality, knowledge, truth and being. As Russell states in his bibliographical note: instead of reading handbooks on philosophy, the student should read the original works himself. There is much more to be learned from Plato's Republic, Descartes' Meditations or Hume's Enquiry, than from any handbook with recycled ideas. My admiration for Bertrand Russell - both as a thinker and as a human being - has grown considerably in the past couple of months. A remarkable figure, to say the least.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    Not an easy read, but fun at times. How do we know what is real? There is a disjunct between appearance and reality. In other words, the “real” is not always the obvious. Russell’s main sparring partner is Bishop Berkeley, and so Russell treats us to a fine display of Idealism (with following refutations). Berkeley says that if things exist independently of us, they cannot be the immediate objects of sensation. Idealists, therefore, place the existence of objects within the mind (or rather, say Not an easy read, but fun at times. How do we know what is real? There is a disjunct between appearance and reality. In other words, the “real” is not always the obvious. Russell’s main sparring partner is Bishop Berkeley, and so Russell treats us to a fine display of Idealism (with following refutations). Berkeley says that if things exist independently of us, they cannot be the immediate objects of sensation. Idealists, therefore, place the existence of objects within the mind (or rather, say such existence is mental). What is known in the senses is not the immediate object of the senses. For Berkeley an idea is what is immediately known (sense-data). This means x is “in” the mind. This raises a problem. What does it mean to be “in” the mind? It’s better to say an object is “before” the mind. Berkeley equivocates on “in.” All he has a right to say is the thought of x is within the mind. Berkeley did not distinguish between the thought of something and the act of thinking that thought. The latter is certainly mental, but we are not justified in saying the former is. Different Types of Knowledge Knowledge by acquaintance is “foundational” knowledge. It is immediate and direct (Russell 48). Universals Russell correctly calls “universals” “ideas.” This way there is no confusion on what Plato meant by ideas and what Berkeley and Locke mean by ideas. We are aware of universals by “conceiving.” As conceived, the universals are now “concepts.” A universal is the opposite of that which causes sensation. A universal is that which is shared by many particulars. Proper names stand for particulars, while other substantives stand for universals. Other examples of universals are “qualities” and “relations.” Many relations do not exist in space or time, yet they are real and can be known to be real. Take the phrase, “North of London.” “North of” is not physical, yet it is a real something. The implications of this for Christianity, which presumably Russell didn’t explore, are staggering. The Problem of Induction When two things have been found to be associated together, and no instance is known of one occurring without the other, does the occurrence of one give me any ground for expecting the other? No. Experience only tells us about past futures. It cannot tell us what to expect of future futures. Conclusion I think Russell does a successful job in showing that we can have legitimate knowledge that isn’t derived from sensations. Further, this work has a number of semi-legendary chapters along with a fine bibliography. Appearance and Reality What is the “real” object? If I am looking at the table, is the table’s appearing to me the real table? If I look at it under a microscope, I will see something different. Which, then, is the real table? Russell suggests the “real” is not what we see. It is inferred from what we see (Russell 11). Russell suggests, rightly I think, that if we keep “reducing” matter all the way down we will end up with electrical forces (16). This is correct. But why stop there? Why not reduce the electrical forces even further? He gives no answer, but it’s not hard to fathom: any further reduction, to quote Matthew Raphael Johnson, will show that energy will have a non physical cause: Logos. In other words, Logos is the substrate of the energy. Objects within space and time can be reduced to forces, and these forces must be outside space and time. Russell later admits that real “somethings” can exist outside space and time (98). The Existence of Matter If an object is merely sense-data, then it will cease to exist once it is no longer perceived. But this is silly. If I throw a blanket over a table, does the table cease to exist? If so, then is the blanket floating in mid-air (!?).

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    The title’s a misnomer – the book is almost exclusively about epistemology, or theory of knowledge. This reflects the narrowing of philosophy’s scope in the English-speaking world 100 years ago, eventually making itself more or less a subdiscipline of linguistics (a self-imposed constriction which has only fairly recently been loosened). But Russell treats his subject with characteristic lucidity; the clarity and precision of his logic and phrasing have a certain austere beauty, if that’s the The title’s a misnomer – the book is almost exclusively about epistemology, or theory of knowledge. This reflects the narrowing of philosophy’s scope in the English-speaking world 100 years ago, eventually making itself more or less a subdiscipline of linguistics (a self-imposed constriction which has only fairly recently been loosened). But Russell treats his subject with characteristic lucidity; the clarity and precision of his logic and phrasing have a certain austere beauty, if that’s the right word. And his formulation and theoretical contributions have their own value, as do his observations and critiques. Unfortunately he rarely shows his considerable wit in this relatively early work. To a large extent this is a restatement and synthesis of classical British Empiricist epistemology with some refinements and twists of Russell’s own, which are the products of his work in mathematics and logic as well as his critical evaluations of earlier philosophers’ ideas. The result is a very clear, concise, precise, but also carefully worked-out and thorough theory of knowledge. His distinction of knowledge by acquaintance vs. by description, and his treatments of induction, a priori knowledge, knowledge of universals, and what he calls intuitive knowledge (i.e. of self-evident things) are particularly valuable. It’s interesting to note that Russell thinks Plato was largely on track with his Theory of Forms (Ideas), while Kant blew it in his epistemology and Hegel blew it in general. You might say Russell’s agreement with Plato makes him a neo-empiricist, at least at this point in his career. In the second last chapter he explains why his scope is so limited, substantially paralleling A.J. Ayer’s contention that nothing meaningful can be said and nothing known about metaphysics; and that philosophy is only properly concerned with clarifying terms and statements, and with assessing the validity of arguments. Russell doesn’t exactly say this and perhaps doesn’t go quite this far, but he’s close. Then in the last chapter he takes a bold leap and makes a number of statements about the purpose and value of philosophy and how life should be lived. Having avoided ethics and largely avoided metaphysics while working through theory of knowledge with his constricted logical precision, he now abandons rational argument in favor of rhetoric and dives headlong into the fearful abyss. Needless to say he doesn’t attempt to prove anything he says in this chapter as he’s spent much of the book trying to demonstrate why these types of statements are indefensible. Maybe there’s more consistency and validity in this chapter than what I see and I’ve just missed it, but it seems pretty out of tune with the rest of the book. It’s nevertheless still pretty well written and fairly compelling. It would have been nice if Russell had tried to treat this material by the same methods he used previously, or else had tried to explain what alternate approach was reasonable and why. Apparently even Bertrand Russell had some hair to let down, but it does seem like an odd coda to a rigorously logical and self-limited piece of early 20th c. analytic philosophy.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    One of the first classic works of philosophy I read as a whole, as opposed to merely excerpts in my first-year textbook. It is very dated now, being 100 years old, but it is interesting both as a historical document and as an introduction to some of the concerns of twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy, and in some cases, philosophy throughout history. Russell's prose is simple and easy to understand, but quite often the conclusions he reaches which he believes to be obvious or intuitive One of the first classic works of philosophy I read as a whole, as opposed to merely excerpts in my first-year textbook. It is very dated now, being 100 years old, but it is interesting both as a historical document and as an introduction to some of the concerns of twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy, and in some cases, philosophy throughout history. Russell's prose is simple and easy to understand, but quite often the conclusions he reaches which he believes to be obvious or intuitive hardly seem such to the reader, especially his argument for a Platonist account of Universals. At times too his concerns seem dated; we feel that philosophy has moved on, leaving Russell and his sense-data in its wake. (Though this, paradoxically, is not exactly true. Philosophers are still trapped in some of the same paradigms as was Russell--they're just not aware of it, and they think they've moved on.) Ultimately, it is worth more as a historical document, as an insight into the beginnings of analytic philosophy as it was first shaking off the spectre of British Hegelianism, than as a piece of philosophy itself. For along with Moore, Russell paved the way for a new school of philosophy, one that gave rise to the likes of Wittgenstein, Quine, and Brandom. To read it now, though, is to find mostly disappointment. One wishes to jump forward in time, to the youthful brashness and vigour of A.J. Ayer's 1936 Language, Truth, and Logic. But I suppose we needed this rather more dull book to get there.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anil Swarup

    "Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from tyranny of custom". This is the essence of what Bertrand Russell has to say about philosophy in the book that explores the "value"of philosophy. The distinction that the author draws between science and philosophy is also an interesting one : "those questions which are already capable of definite answers are "Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from tyranny of custom". This is the essence of what Bertrand Russell has to say about philosophy in the book that explores the "value"of philosophy. The distinction that the author draws between science and philosophy is also an interesting one : "those questions which are already capable of definite answers are placed in the sciences, while those only to which, at present, no definite answer can be given, remain to form the residue which is called philosophy"

  20. 4 out of 5

    Charbel

    The concepts in this book are not unfamiliar to me. I have come across them before, yet I am nowhere near fully understanding them. I wished Russel would have used more fascinating examples, but unfortunately he was very uniform (it got a bit boring) in his explanations. I also have to admit that there were parts where I couldn't follow what he was trying to convey. To philosophy enthusiasts this would probably be a good book, but to me it's just another read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Hind

    Clearest book of philosophy I’ve read to date. Russell writes really well.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lisajean

    Russell's writing is clear and accessible, but Bertrand Russell's Personal Opinions on Metaphysics would have been a more accurate title. I wish he addressed other branches of philosophy as well.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rashid Saif

    I would be lying if I said that this book was an easy read, but as far as philosophy books go, this book was an easy read. Most books that claim to 'introduce' philosophy often oversimplify and trivialise concepts in order to gain readability. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, but for those who wish to study philosophy it can be very frustrating. The harsh reality is that a great deal of philosophy, like science, cannot be oversimplified; you have to have a certain degree of I would be lying if I said that this book was an easy read, but as far as philosophy books go, this book was an easy read. Most books that claim to 'introduce' philosophy often oversimplify and trivialise concepts in order to gain readability. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, but for those who wish to study philosophy it can be very frustrating. The harsh reality is that a great deal of philosophy, like science, cannot be oversimplified; you have to have a certain degree of complexity to remain faithful to the concept. After this heady introduction, I promise to make this short. Russell does an astounding job in introducing the topic of epistemology (how knowledge works) in a multifaceted way. He starts from the lowest form of knowledge, the senses, and moves higher and higher to ask "Is it even is possible to rationally deduce the Universe?". Russell, however, does sneak his views in from time to time but for the most part, he is objective. An excellent introduction indeed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    This is an incredibly good book for somebody just getting started to learn about epistemology. I don't think Russell delves too much into anything else like metaphysics, certainly not logic, art, or ethics. His focus is on epistemology. If knowledge is possible, if a priori knowledge is possible, comparing the rationalist and empiricists, etc. What I love most about this book is that it reaches a conclusion. Many philosophers prefer to just show the examples of other philosophers ideas but This is an incredibly good book for somebody just getting started to learn about epistemology. I don't think Russell delves too much into anything else like metaphysics, certainly not logic, art, or ethics. His focus is on epistemology. If knowledge is possible, if a priori knowledge is possible, comparing the rationalist and empiricists, etc. What I love most about this book is that it reaches a conclusion. Many philosophers prefer to just show the examples of other philosophers ideas but Russell actually strives to make a point and an argument. I think that his arguments are, for the most part, successful. There are some things in the book which I don't think are completely correct but, at the very least, on the right track. I won't give away his beliefs but I highly recommend this to beginners with epistemology because it's just 10 pages average per chapter. There may be times where it's confusing but overall, you'll be able to understand it and it's an easy read compared to a lot of philosophy books.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nart Abaza

    How reliable are our senses and minds in perceiving and understanding the world? How true is what we think is true? and how can we, if at all possible, avoid being handicapped by a form of Solipsism? ِAlthough these are very fundamental questions, this book goes to depths superfluous to most people and to most paths, and should be avoided until one has some confident interaction with philosophy in general, and perhaps learns well about the different views of conciousness because that would How reliable are our senses and minds in perceiving and understanding the world? How true is what we think is true? and how can we, if at all possible, avoid being handicapped by a form of Solipsism? ِAlthough these are very fundamental questions, this book goes to depths superfluous to most people and to most paths, and should be avoided until one has some confident interaction with philosophy in general, and perhaps learns well about the different views of conciousness because that would fundamentally affect the way he interacts with the book. so, unlike I thought, this is NOT an introduction to philosophy. However good the sequence and the logic of the book is, I found the language to be confusing and the examples used to be insufficient in both quality and quantity. Nevertheless, the last two chapters (The Limits of Philosophical Knowledge & The Value of Philosophy) were exceptionally good both in content and in language.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Huda AbuKhoti

    This book gives no answers... It asks and intrigues a multiple of questions and doesn't expect you to have answers for them, either. Beautifully written and easy to read. It mainly discusses the differences between appearance or perspective and reality, and how truth to us humans is either collected by description or acquaintance. This question I had no answer to after I finished reading the book: If I become acquainted with something over time, and I started giving descriptions and This book gives no answers... It asks and intrigues a multiple of questions and doesn't expect you to have answers for them, either. Beautifully written and easy to read. It mainly discusses the differences between appearance or perspective and reality, and how truth to us humans is either collected by description or acquaintance. This question I had no answer to after I finished reading the book: If I become acquainted with something over time, and I started giving descriptions and characteristics to that thing, be it a human being or an abject, does this make those characteristics real? maybe I am missing a different perspective, maybe I am looking at the worst side of the object? maybe someone else is viewing this object from its best view. Why is it that throughout humanity this has been the case regarding many things?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This is Russell reviewing his philosophical foundations. The Problems of Philosophy is a good, short overview of basic philosophical questions. For example, the relationship between reality and appearance. Russell introduces the reader to metaphysics, epistemology, and logic. For readers who have no experience reading philosophy, this is a good introduction to basic philosophical scepticism. The book is short, this edition is pg. 161, and so any difficulty in reading it can be endured. For This is Russell reviewing his philosophical foundations. The Problems of Philosophy is a good, short overview of basic philosophical questions. For example, the relationship between reality and appearance. Russell introduces the reader to metaphysics, epistemology, and logic. For readers who have no experience reading philosophy, this is a good introduction to basic philosophical scepticism. The book is short, this edition is pg. 161, and so any difficulty in reading it can be endured. For beginners, it is worth the work to read. For those folks who have slogged through undergrad and grad philosophy courses, or who are (like me) simply nuts and like the pain, this book is a good reminder for why we love what I view as being one of humanities greatest endeavors: tackling the problems of philosophy.

  28. 4 out of 5

    L

    An attempt to introduce philosophical principles in less than 120 pages. The result felt like islands of thought stranded in a vast (unmappable) sea. "Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions ... but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation; but above all because, An attempt to introduce philosophical principles in less than 120 pages. The result felt like islands of thought stranded in a vast (unmappable) sea. "Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions ... but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation; but above all because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good."

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    Russell: "I believe in using words, not fists. I believe in my outrage knowing people are living in boxes on the street. I believe in honesty. I believe in a good time. I believe in good food. I believe in sex." Truly wonderful quote,now if only he believed in providing answers....

  30. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    The evidence is strong, that there is no doubt, that this is that, and that is this, and this, is a BOORRING read! Thus therefore necessarily concluding the derivative that this book has firmly been judged, and the probability high, that this book is REALLY boring. The end was good though.

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