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 Bertrand Russell: Did he make a difference?

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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Bertrand Russell: Did he make a difference?   Wed 05 Feb 2014, 12:34

Deleted - that post was a rant.

Of course Russell was right about love, but you must admit that that part of his philosophy had been said before - and expressed very simply and beautifully (in early 17th century English, not that awful Greek).


Last edited by Temperance on Wed 05 Feb 2014, 13:05; edited 2 times in total
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Bertrand Russell: Did he make a difference?   Wed 05 Feb 2014, 12:50

If, by banging away about the horrors of nuclear escalation towards war brought light and a modicum of restraint then he served humanity. He wrote on other issues such as population growth and food production and the dissipation of energy sources and tolerance that at  least students of the time were reading and discussing - many to rise to high positions - so perhaps he made a difference. The language of logic is to clarify thought and argument but much more so than for Temps, I flounder too soon on the cobblestones of concept though I would not deny the value of the paths.
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PostSubject: Re: Bertrand Russell: Did he make a difference?   Wed 05 Feb 2014, 13:37

@Temperance wrote:
Quote :
One feels sadly inadequate.

But should I feel inadequate? I'm left strangely angry at all this - at these clever men who spend hours and hours and hours discussing and writing about what is incomprehensible to most of us. 




So Temp we do actually agree on something.  Shocked  Although it doesn’t actually anger me ... but it certainly annoys me!

That debate above (Russell v Copleston on whether God exists) just comes across as two supposedly intelligent men both trying to “win” the debate by being “clever”. Frankly I find all this philosophical and theological quibbling rather annoying (and yes Nordmann I do realise the two aren’t quite the same thing) . But they do both seem all too readily to lose sight of the fundamental questions being asked of them ... asked that is by 'the man in the street': ie why are we here? where did we come from? where are we going? etc.... And remember these questions are being asked in the total absence of any evidence that a god, any god, the God, or even GOD actually exists. So all such debates are really just clever quibbling over words, meanings and semantics. And frankly I find such an approach largely irrelevant.

So yes again they both annoy immensely.

I’m just a humble scientist, (OK I run a B&B now but my background has always been in science). I just want to try and understand how the world works. I see things, I read what others think, I have ideas, I put them to the test, I try to predict something similar and again test it.....  But all that clever philososphical guff is to me largely irrelevant. Give me Max Bohr (see the quantuam mechanics thread) and his ideas based firmly on observation and experiment rather than Bertrand Russell and his ilk every time.

But since this is Russell’s thread, I feel I have to add that the only time I have ever encountered him in an academic way is from the so-called ‘Russell Paradox'.  In his own words:

“It seems to me that a class sometimes is, and sometimes is not, a member of itself. The class of teaspoons, for example, is not another teaspoon, but the class of things that are not teaspoons,  is one of the things that are not teaspoons …. [this] led me to consider the classes that are not members of themselves; and these, it seemed, must form a class. I asked myself whether this class is a member of itself or not. If it is a member of itself, it must possess the defining properties of the class, which is to be not a member of itself. If it is not a member of itself, it must not posses the defining property of the class, and therefore must be a member of itself. Thus each alternative leads to its opposite and there is a contradiction.”

Bertrand Russell (1901) - taken from John D Barrow's 'Impossibility - The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits', Oxford University Press, 1998. I think the quote originally comes from Russell's 'The Principles of Mathematics', 1943.

…….. And at this point I can envisage Nordmann, stroking his long philosopher's beard, nodding sagely and saying to himself  “Indeed ‘tis so!” … but sorry,  I find that is all just clever word play and it really doesn’t advance the understanding of the world one iota!


Last edited by Meles meles on Wed 05 Feb 2014, 14:06; edited 4 times in total (Reason for editing : annoying typos comme d'hab')
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Bertrand Russell: Did he make a difference?   Wed 05 Feb 2014, 13:59

Sorry, can't resist. Nordmann gives us all a stern look.



I love the teaspoon quotation. Must say (again - sorry) what my husband would have said listening to all that in the pub: "You're right there, Bertrand. Another pint?"

But I just feel inferior. All goes back to my Oxford philosopher boyfriend (the one with the pet plankter) who always prefaced every remark he ever made to me with: "What you don't seem to understand, ***, is..." And of course he was right; I didn't understand. But I was really good at discussing pomes.  Smile 



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PostSubject: Re: Bertrand Russell: Did he make a difference?   Wed 05 Feb 2014, 14:10

I've got a bad dose of proper 'flu - not the jumped up cold with ideas above its station kind - and my kitchen ceiling has just fallen down. Who do I want to came to my aid? Hmmm, Russell? Plato? Jesus? St Paul? Cara-bloody-vaggio?
No, a man in a boiler suit, preferably bringing me a nice cup of tea.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Bertrand Russell: Did he make a difference?   Wed 05 Feb 2014, 14:25

@ferval wrote:
Cara-bloody-vaggio?


Oh, can we talk about him again - he's my favourite Smile . And he could paint your kitchen ceiling for you when it's been repaired. He'd do a really nice job, if you specify you definitely don't want any of the religious stuff up there - just a bit of magnolia.

Hope you feel better soon, ferval - have a hot toddy or two.

PS Will shut up now about all the heavy stuff. Peter, Paul and Plato - also Bertrand - do seem to have driven everyone away. Back to the PITT thread, I suppose.  Suspect

PPS With all his talk about teapots and teaspoons, Russell does seem to have had a thing about the paraphernalia of afternoon tea.

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PostSubject: Re: Bertrand Russell: Did he make a difference?   Thu 06 Feb 2014, 15:50

Temp, I'm really sorry I never met your husband ... as well as all his other qualities, anyone that would be prepared to listen patiently to my rambling and then actually offer to buy me yet another drink, sounds like a good chap to me!

And I have to say I too am on much safer ground discussing Caravaggio than the likes of Russell. To be honest I know very little about either of 'em ... but it's easier to bluff when talkin' art, innit? Philosopher's have a habit of taking everything one says seriously, analysing every word and statement, and then quoting one's own words back to show you've just contradicted yourself. At least with art one can bullsh*t away in ignorance about how one has empathy (or not) with the artist, and no-one can really contradict you.

And Ferval, how's the 'flu? I hope the tea-bearing man in the boiler suit came up to expectations!
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PostSubject: Re: Bertrand Russell: Did he make a difference?   Fri 07 Feb 2014, 10:28

MM wrote:
And I have to say I too am on much safer ground discussing Caravaggio than the likes of Russell. To be honest I know very little about either of 'em ... but it's easier to bluff when talkin' art, innit? Philosopher's have a habit of taking everything one says seriously, analysing every word and statement, and then quoting one's own words back to show you've just contradicted yourself. At least with art one can bullsh*t away in ignorance about how one has empathy (or not) with the artist, and no-one can really contradict you.


These days I don't feel on safe ground discussing anything, MM. But it would be a shame, especially here, if we all stop trying.

PS I was quite distressed to realise you think we disagree on everything. I don't think that's true - well, I hope it's not.
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PostSubject: Re: Bertrand Russell: Did he make a difference?   Fri 07 Feb 2014, 12:35

Discussion about philosophy - or even philosophers - can often lead the contributors to throw their hands up in despair and scream "Oh, what's the point!". But of course, that is the point in any philosophical discussion really.

Expecting Bertrand Russell to be handy in a collapsing kitchen ceiling situation, or even in sorting out one's qualms and queries regarding metaphysical concerns, is a little optimistic I would have said. The man was a logician (as his teaspoon set theory amply demonstrates). He might have used a teaspoon to launch into a valid exploration of the fallacy of set theory and a teapot to explore the validity of adduced fact based upon supposition posing as factual data, but I would not necessarily have welcomed his company at tea myself. In his private life he displayed hypocritical traits that I tend not to admire in people, and in his more learned debates and correspondences he had a very annoying tendency to follow logical trails away from metaphysical theory presented by his opponent - which is all well and good until he also did the same in a lengthy correspondence with Charles Coulson. Coulson's application of metaphysical theory to quantum mechanics was revolutionary and - as the evidence has shown - absolutely spot on. Peter Higgs (of Higgs boson fame) and Stephen Hawking were students who have taken his metaphysical theory into the practical mechanical sphere (transforming "metaphysics" into "superphysics" which of course is no longer meta- anything, simply complicated). Yet Coulson was also a prolific author concerning the inter-relationship between science and religion (he coined "god of the gaps") and argued throughout his life that a spiritual belief was actually necessary for ethical and accurate scientific investigation of phenomena. Russell hated this assertion and simply dissed everything Coulson said - even the stuff that was being scientifically and mathematically proven as they spoke and which is now standard practise and theory with regard to valency and molecular structure. This struck me as arrogant and unfair of Russell, and indeed made me wonder on how many other such occasions he had attempted to dismantle the credibility and reputation of others. Not everyone was as eloquent and assured as Coulson was. In later life Russell became a formidable enemy to make in certain quarters and I wonder how many budding careers and reputations suffered as a result.

But personality of course has really no role to play in assessing the merits or demerits of philosophical views. It would be wrong to dismiss Russell's excellent logic  - or anyone else's philospophical strengths - on the basis of their being curmudgeonly, or arrogant, or esoteric, or even of being a hypocrite in other areas of their life.

Having said that I still fancy I wouldn't have at all minded going out on the piss occasionally with Plato and the gang. Sitting in a Cambridge tea room with Coulson, Russell and Father Fred however is another matter entirely ...
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PostSubject: Re: Bertrand Russell: Did he make a difference?   Fri 07 Feb 2014, 14:42

THinking back to the youtube dialogue above, I suspect both contenders would get snotty in those pristine poshpinch-mouth tones if pushed towards paths about which they were uncertain. Taking tea with either would have been arduous, I suspect and contempt poured on others, untenable. I reckon Plato might well have done the same, though; Aristotle, at another guess, also. Can we get a thread going about him, please?

And to MM, surely a useful part of message boarding is an element of dissent rather than all agreeing about everything. I doubt anyone has ever changed their mind as a result but at least one has to argue a case or - like me- stand back and enjoy the fire with nothing of value to add to the flames whatsoever.
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PostSubject: Re: Bertrand Russell: Did he make a difference?   Fri 07 Feb 2014, 14:54

@Priscilla wrote:
I suspect both contenders would get snotty in those pristine poshpinch-mouth tones if pushed towards paths about which they were uncertain.

I didn't think either were "snotty in those pristine poshpinch-mouth tones" - they were arguing cogently for and against the notion of the contingent in defining deity, something that I wish more religious people would think about too. This is just a snippet of a longer programme available elsewhere that should really be listened to - it is actually quite informative. You'll be pleased to hear they didn't come to blows at the end but agreed to differ concerning matters of personal definition and where the initiation point of such definition lies. Copleston, because he's religious, admits that every religious person has a subjective starting point since it tallies with his or her spiritual belief. Russell points out that religious belief is itself contingent so one should really think harder about the chicken and the egg aspect to definition. They both laugh.
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PostSubject: Re: Bertrand Russell: Did he make a difference?   Fri 07 Feb 2014, 15:21

I did not think that they would in that dialogue but with others would be so. That was a public performance of honed skills and prepared stance and argument. And to me they both had a ring of intellectual arrogance - well. to me, of course, yes, they would be entitled but I guess I have been exposed to far more of it than you ever have - and the pinch mouth tone always surfaces. Likewise, some write in pinch tight prose that tends to cloud argument rather than clarify it. Goes with the territory.
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PostSubject: Re: Bertrand Russell: Did he make a difference?   Fri 07 Feb 2014, 20:38

@nordmann wrote:
Well, how voluntary a notion is it of you to condone murder? (I mean murder in kind, also known as judicial execution). You said before that you do. But how much of that decision - to allow murder in your name - is actually a product of so-called "free will" and how much is a product of social engineering in which you have been the object, not the tool? You see, there are issues more important than driving the wrong way up a one-way street and we make decisions concerning these issues all the time.

As a humanist by the way I not only condemn such "judicial execution" as wrong but also as stupid when it comes to advancing our species in terms of social evolution. So you see why I might abhor certain people exercising rather lethal free will?


Nordmann,

back from a little "operation" (I mean in the clinic  Wink ) BTW: Where is Gilgamesh of Uruk?

" You see, there are issues more important than driving the wrong way up a one-way street and we make decisions concerning these issues all the time."

I just gave a "light-weight" example of the "free will"  Wink  ...

"Well, how voluntary a notion is it of you to condone murder? #I mean murder in kind, also known as judicial execution#. You said before that you do. But how much of that decision - to allow murder in your name - is actually a product of so-called "free will" and how much is a product of social engineering in which you have been the object, not the tool?"

Well it was another example of my "free will" .


But I am a bit perhaps on the wrong foot. I looked in my dictionary if I understood the word "condone" rightly. From my dictionary:
"to overlook or forgive  "an offence or wrongdoing"

I thought to recall just the contrary.

From a reply to Temperance in this thread:
"For instance to give some examples...euthanasia...more and more even in my close circle I hear from persons, who deliberately and on free will decide to be "killed" by a letal doctor's needle...some make even a legal document to give consent to the euthanasia if they are not able anymore to decide for themselves...I individually am against...but if society is on that level that...who I am to condemn...
As now in many states the dead penalty is abolished I have to agree that society prevails on my personal opinion that proven murder has to be punished also by state murder of the proven murderer...although euthanasia and capital punishment is in many eyes "evil", who I am to say to society and individuals what is "evil"?"

"As now in many states the dead penalty is abolished I have to agree that society prevails on my personal opinion that proven murder has to be punished also by state murder of the proven murderer..."

But even of that I have some reasoning by my I hope logical thinking...although I still think that a premedidated murder has to be punished by a capital sentence and I am happy when a murderer commits suicide after his murder...I am nevertheless aware that there are problems with state murder (I mean murder in kind, also known as judicial execution).
What if the judicial system of the concerned country is not up to "my norms"? As the following example or for instance a country with sharia law...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26047614


Yes and I agree that it is just the opposite of my "euthanasia" statement. But these opposite feelings are just the proof that I have the free will to differ in opinion on both the examples... Wink 
And yes I am still not sure that I am not conditioned in both examples by the influence of my family or by my wide connaissance circle... Wink 
And it has perhaps nothing to do with Plato, Russell and all that...being like Priscilla...not at hight to take part in philosophical and theological discussions...only some chemical studies and nothing more...

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Bertrand Russell: Did he make a difference?   Fri 07 Feb 2014, 21:17

There is a lot to learn from people who murder, even the ones who aren't sure why they did it. One thing is not to make a society where murder is accepted as an aberrational norm. You kill the murderers, you don't learn.

Murder is stupidity - biologically speaking in any case. State murder (which is murder you commit, but get someone else to do) is no less stupid.
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