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|Title:||Russell's Earliest Metaphysics|
|Abstract:||<p>In what follows I examine the effects upon Russell's metaphysics of developments in his philosophy between 1894 and 1924. I attempt to make clear the nature of the philosophical interdependence of the three main respects in which Russell's opinion chaniged in the course of thls period and which have bearing on the question of his<br />metaphysics: (1), concerning ontology; (2), concerning the nature of metaphysics; (3), concerning the validity of metaphysics.</p> <p>(1) Given these intentions, what is interesting about the development of Russell's ontology from An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry (1896), via the monistic<br />idealism of his uncompleted studies of the foundations of science (1896-1898), to the empiricism and pluralism of Logical Atomism (1924), is not so much the fact that he reversed his opinions in about 1900 but the continuity of attitude which underlies the reversal.</p> <p>The period in question is dominated, of course, by Principia Mathematica (Vol. 1, 1910). I show how this work evolved out of the earlier to its intended status not merely of meta-mathematical thesis, or treatise of formal logic, but of "Logic" in the sense of a comprehensive system of philosophy. (What is given there is summarily is developed at length expressly as a system of metaphysics in The Philosophy of Logical Atomism (1918) and as a system of epistemology in Our Knowledge of the External World (1914) etc.) I try to show that Prinicipia's vast supeiority to its predecessors in the sphere of formal logic is counterbalanced (at least in comparison with its direct rival, Bradley's Principles of Logic) by equally vast and irresoluble difficulties in the sphere of metaphysics.</p> <p>(2) Russell came to reject in principle Kant's transcendentalism on the grounds of that method's "subjectivity" and "psychologism". I argue that Russell's insensitivity to the import of Kant's principle, revealed by the demand for an absolutely mind-independent ground for the truth of mathematics, is evidence in his own metaphysics by neglect of attention to the principle that to attempt to define the grounds of the objectivity of truth as wholly indepenent of knowledge in general must lead to incoherence. In turn the cause of this (and thus the ultimate source of incoherence in his own account) lies in his misunderstanding the transcendental principle to imply that the generality intended by the concept of knowledge in general is to be construed as equivalent to some such conjunctive generalisation as hat of the set of all individuals' individual knowledge.</p> <p>(3) In the course of certain papers which are intended rather more polemically that philosophically, (e.g. The Philosophical Importance of Mathematical Logic (1913), and Mysticism and Logic (1914), there is a gradually more explicit suggestion that Idealism is to be rejected more on the grounds just that it is a metaphysical doctrine, that that it is bad metaphysics. That is, Russell came to reject metaphysics as such, which he contrasts with "scientific philosophy" precisely as an expression of the contrast between mysticism and mathematical logic. Thus Idealism and his own philosophy prior to the doctrine of Principia are presented as totally disreputable in just this way. I argue that the corollary to this has a disastrous effect upon his own later philosophy, viz., the belief that the "scientific philosophy" is, as such, immune to external criticism on metaphysical grounds.</p> <p>To sum up, my thesis is that the key to Russell's earliest metaphysics is his perhaps temperamental inability to accept any theory which allows a different order to sphere of validityy respectively to mathematical and to metaphysical statements about reality as such. He seems to have been influenced by the feeling that since these are indentical just in respect of their absolute generality, on any satisfactory account they ought to be assimilate. Thus in the Idealist phase he proposed that mathematics could not express the whole truth about reality because of inherent contradictions which would be totally removed only in the highest systhesis. That is, mathematics was to become one with metaphysics by means of a conceptual revolution in the former. In the Logicist phase just the contrary is prroposed, that mathematical philosophy is to supplant metaphysics by means of a conceptual revolution in the latter.</p>|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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