VVR

Western PHILOSOPHY(Study Material)

BERTRAND RUSSELL (1872-1970)

Russell is also a great thinker of Twentieth century. He accepted the Realism of Moore and even went ahead in the direction of analytical and linguistic philosophy, but it is also a fact that instead of epistemological monism of Moore, Russell followed the philosophy of Epistemological Dualism, which means we know the material objects indirectly or through mediation. According to Russell There is mediation of sense data. The term sense data was supposed to be introduced in philosophy by Russell and it is none other than sensation and Reflection. Earlier, they were jointly named as impression by Hume while latter on Russell named them as sense data.

We can say that Russell is also a realistic philosopher and that’s why he said that I also want to solve the philosophical problems and want to have the knowledge of objects. According to Russell, There are two types of knowledge -

  1. Knowledge by acquaintance.
  2. Knowledge by Description.

As far as, Knowledge by Acquaintance is concerned, then according to Russell it is direct form of knowledge in which there is no mediation, but a direct contact between the knower and the knowing objects. For example, the knowledge of sense data which is always true and can be never false. Even if we are getting sense data of Snake in Rope, then the sense data of snake is true but the falseness belongs to our statement- This is a Snake. In brief according to Russell a statement or proposition may be true or false but sense data is always true and it is direct form of knowledge. In addition to sense data, According to Russell, the knowledge of memory, introspection, general ideas are also types of direct knowledge.

As far as knowledge by Description is concerned, then According to Russell this is indirect type of knowledge in which there is mediation. This mediation is none other than sense data, for example; the knowledge of material objects, the knowledge of other’s mind is possible only through the mediation of sense data. This is epistemological dualism of Russell and descriptive knowledge as well.

Right from here, Russell went in the direction of his Theory of Description, but before discussing over his theory of description Russell distinguished the ‘Name’ and the ‘Description’. According to Russell, in our general uses of language in addition to the Name, we also use phrases or descriptions.

As far as Name is concerned, it will definitely denote a Namee according to it, but sometimes when we use a phrase it also looks like a Name but according to Russell, they are not actually the Name but the description. Where the Name necessarily denotes a Namee according to it, but on the other hand, it is not necessary for description because a few descriptions denote objects or individual according to them, while a few descriptions fail to do it. In his theory of description, Russell had examined this capability of Name and description.

Altogether we can say that ‘Name’ is having the most important place in Russell’s philosophy as it is the simple symbol of its namee and there must be an object or individual according to name. But this is not necessary for the description that’s why Russell had said that so many descriptions have been also considered as Name. But actually the descriptions are not supposed to be the substitute of name and even they can’t be replaced by the Name. Therefore the facts accepted on the basis of description can also be rejected. That’s why Russell had rejected so many facts including mystical facts which are not subject matter of our sensitive perception. This approach of Russell is known as OCCUM RAZOR.

Altogether we can say, in Russell’s philosophy there must be a namee according to name but number of times the descriptions are also supposed as name, but according to Russell they are not actually the name.

In order to prove his theory, Russell has given his famous example “Scott is the author of Waverly”. According to Russell, in this statement definitely the term Scott is name which denotes and individual in the world or name as the man Scott. But sometimes it appears that the phrase “Author of Waverly” is also the name. Our common sense can accept it, but when we apply our logical or philosophical understanding then only we come to know that the phrase – “Author of Waverly” is not the name because if we consider this phrase as a name then we have two options -

  1. The phrase “Author of Waverly” is the name of Scott.
  2. The phrase “Author of Waverly” is not the name of Scott.

It we follow the first option and believe that the phrase “Author of Waverly” is name of Scott then if can be replaced by Scott. If we do so then the sentence will be changed as “Scott is Scott”. But this is a tautology statement which is although always true but can’t give any new information. So the first option can’t be accepted.

If we accept the second option and believe that the phrase “Author of Waverly” is not the name of Scott then the statement will be changed as “Scott is not Scott”. But this is a contradictory statement which is always false. So the second option can’t be accepted as well.

That’s why according to Russell the phrase “Author of Waverly” is not the Name at all. But it is only description and the description of none other than ‘Scott’.

Now, in order to elaborate his theory of description Russell said that there are two types of descriptions -

  • Indefinite Description,
  • Definite Description.

As far as indefinite descriptions are concerned, then these kinds of descriptions don’t denote any object or individual according to them for e.g. Any prime Minister of India, any book of any library, Any V.C. of Delhi university etc. These are indefinite descriptions because by using these types of descriptions, we can’t reach upto any particular object or individual of this world. So, we can say there is no use of such indefinite description as far as knowledge is concerned.

On the other hand, according to Russell, the Definite Descriptions are those, which denote an object or individual of the world for e.g. the first PM of India, The present President of USA, such book of such library etc. According to Russell these are definite descriptions because when we use them, then we can reach up to any object or individual of this world.

Altogether, we can say in Russell’s philosophy:

  1. Name is the simple symbol of the namee and denotes an object or individual in the world.
  2. Indefinite Descriptions are just phrases and don’t denote any object or individual in the world.
  3. Definite Descriptions are the phrases and denote a particular object or individual in the world.

But now the question is if definite description and name both are denoting the particular objects or individual in the world then we can distinguish them? According to Russell the definite description can be disappeared when we analyze the statement while the name can’t be disappeared even after the analysis of the statement. That’s why Russell had precisely stated that the Name is the complete symbol of namee while the definite description is incomplete symbol of Name.

In order to prove his opinion once again Russell took the example “Scott is the author of Waverly” and said that this statement can be analyzed in this way -

  • There is at least one person who wrote the ‘Waverly’.
  • There is maximum one person who wrote the ‘Waverly’.
  • The person who wrote the ‘Waverly’ was Scott.

There the term or phrase “Author of Waverly” disappeared and that’s why it can’t be accepted as name rather it is only an incomplete symbol. While on the other hand, whatever effort we can do but the term ‘Scott’ can’t be disappeared because it is the name which is the complete symbol of its name.

Initially, Russell’s theory of description was largely appreciated in the philosophical world, but latter on it was criticized by P.F. Strawson, the philosopher of latter half of twentieth century. This criticism is based on existential Pre-supposition. According to Strawson, Russell had already presumed the existence of subject made in the statement but it is not the correct approach because firstly we have to examine that the subject of statement is existing or not and if subject is not existing then actually no statement has been made so, we can’t define truthness or falseness of such statement. On the other hand, if the subject exists then we have to see the predicate imposed on the subject is actually belonging to it or not, if it is belonging then statement is true otherwise false.

In order to prove his criticism, Strawson has given his famous example of philosophical world – “The present kings of France are bald”. According to Strawson if the question is asked to Russell about truthness or falseness of this statement, then definitely he will say that it is a false statement because he already supposed the existence of subject of the statement and if the subject does not exist itself, then he will categorize the statement as false. But According to Strawson, since there is no monarchy in France and no king exists as well, then actually no statement has been made over here.

In order to defend Russell, number of logician said that the truthness or falseness is a necessary character of a proposition because a proposition is either true or false and Russell did all efforts to maintain this character of proposition, that’s why he categorized every statement either true or false and it was his responsibility because basically he was a Mathematician and logician.

As far as Simple proposition is concerned, it is related with Russell’s theory of description because Russell emphasized upon analysis and even he analyzed his famous example – “Scott is the author of Waverly”. But the question is now that how long this analysis can be continued? According to Russell a proposition can be analyzed till we don’t have only names in it because names can’t be further analyzed because the Name is the complete symbol of the Namee. So, when we have only names in a proposition, then it is known as simple proposition. That’s why Russell said that simple proposition consists of names only. Latter on Wittgenstein caught the simple proposition and presented his picture theory.

As far as logical construction is concerned, then it is also related with Russell’s theory of description and incomplete symbol. Actually, Russell’s logical construction is having two main objectives –

  1. To define the truthness of so many universal statements.
  2. To explain the material objects.

As far as first objective is concerned, then in this direction Russell took the example of a universal statement as “All humans are mortal”, but if we try to define the truthness of this statement through analysis then it can be proved true only when last human will die, but after this who will analyze the statement. So according to Russell the term ‘human’ in this statement has not been used for a particular human being rather it is a logical construction.

As far as the second objective is concerned, then there was a conventional dispute over the object in the western philosophy and in this process Locke said that the material objects are something but I don’t know what, while Berkeley rejected the material objects and Hume said that I want to restrict myself only up to impressions and ideas. Further Kant said that sensations are coming from Naumena and Moore presented his epistemological monism as direct knowledge of object. But in contrary to all these thinkers, Russell presented his realistic and logistic solution coherent with his epistemological dualism. That’s why according to Russell the material objects exist but they are logical construction of sense data.

As far as, Logical Atomism is concerned, then this is supposed to be the zenith of philosophy of Russell. It was named by Russell himself and compiled form of his eight lectures. It is also a kind of metaphysics based on Mathematics, in which Russell did all efforts to search such atoms by which he can explain the material world and its objects. These atoms are smallest, Simplest and indivisible particles. So, we can say these atoms are similar to the atoms of physics, but they are different as well, because we can’t do the sensitive perception of atoms of physics, but Russell said that my atoms are the subject matter of sensitive perception. Similarly, Russell said that my atoms are not the conscious atoms of Leibnitz named as monad and my atoms are not the atoms of Greek atomist Luckipus and Democritus. So, this is Atomism of Russell, different from other atomic theories. Russell also named his philosophy as Logical Atomism and the reason behind was the process by which we reach up to these atoms is logical analysis.

As far as Atoms are concerned, then Russell had already mentioned that these are the smallest, simplest and indivisible particles by which I will explain the world and its objects. According to Russell, there are two types of atoms - Particular atoms and Universal atoms, in which the Particular atoms are momentary and their repetition is not possible. Although two particular atoms may be the same, but it is not the repetition at all. These particular atoms are always true for example, SENSE DATA. On the other hand the Universal Atoms in contrary to particular atoms are stable. So they are beyond space and time as well. These universal atoms are also having two types such as -The Qualities and The Relations. Redness, Blueness, Sweetness etc. are the examples of Qualities and Love, Hate, On, Under, Left, Right etc. Are the examples of Relations.

Further Russell said that in my Logical Atomism these particular and universal atoms can’t be separated at all, because they accept each other and exist with each other as well. For example, in this statement, Rose is Red. The Rose is Particular atom and the Red is universal atom. We all know that they can’t exist without each other.

After clarifying the particular and universal atoms, Russell said that they jointly make the facts of the world. But in different facts, universal atoms either can be Quality or Relation. If the universal atom is quality, then particular atom will be one, but, if the universal atom is Relation, then the particular will be more than one for example, the chair is blue. In this proposition the universal atom is the colour (blueness) or quality that’s why the particular atom is one, the chair. While in the example of John Loves Mary, The universal atom is Relation or Love, that’s why the particular atoms are more than one, John and Mary.

Altogether, we can say that with the accumulation of one universal atom and one or more particular atoms formation of the facts take place and they exist in the world. These are known as Atomic facts which are the simplest, smallest and indestructible, indivisible facts of the world. The expressions of these kinds of atomic facts is possible in the form of atomic proposition which are actually simple proposition, we can easily define the truth value of these atomic propositions on the basis of atomic facts. If the atomic fact is existing according to our atomic proposition, then the truth value of our atomic proposition will be true and if the atomic fact is not existing according to our atomic proposition then the truth value of our atomic proposition will be false. This is one – to – one correspondence theory of truth, supported by number of realistic thinkers.

But now the question is, our proposition may be complex also, which was named by Russell as Molecular propositions and which are actually combinations of more than one simple statement or atomic proposition. Now the question is how Russell can define the truth value of these molecular propositions? Russell presented his theory of truth function to define the truth value of molecular propositions.

The truth functional compound statements are those whose truth value can be defined on the basis of the truth value of their simple statements. In logic, So many connectives are supposed to be the truth functional such as Dot (.), Vedge (v), Material Implication (>), Material Equivalence (a”) etc.

When two simple statements have been connected with the word ‘and’ then the compound statement is known as conjunctive compound statement and the symbol of conjunction or Dot has been used between them.When two simple statements have been connected by the word either or then they are known as disjunctive compound statement and the symbol of Vedge or has been used between them.When two simple statements have been connected as ‘if………then ……..’ Then they are known as Conditional compound statement. In logic they are known as material implication and we put the symbol of implication or horse shoe between them. When two simple statements have been connected with the term ‘If and only if’ then they are known as Equivalent statement and we put the symbol of equivalence between them. The truth table is given below -

P Q P.Q PvQ P>Q P=Q
T T T T T T
T F F T F F
F T F T T F
F T F T T F

Therefore, we can say in his logical atomism Russell had accepted the atomic facts, the atomic propositions, the molecular propositions but not the molecular facts and to defined the truth value of molecular proposition he has given the theory of truth function. Although Russell didn’t accept the molecular fact but later on he was compelled to accept the number of other facts in addition to the atomic facts. For example -

  1. The Universal facts because without accepting the universal facts he was unable to define the truth value of universal statement like all humans are mortal because We all know that this statement is true but neither we completely analyze this statement nor we can apply the theory of truth function on it because this universal statement can be proved as true only when the last human being will die, but then after who will analyze the statement?
  2. Russell also accepted the negative facts and the reason behind was we can also speak a negative sentence So, if these is positive fact according to positive propositions, so it was also a compulsion to accept the negative fact according to negative propositions.
  3. Finally. Russell had also accepted the mental facts for example; Mary believes that conference of London will be successful. We know that this statement is not a simple statement and we can’t apply the theory of truth function over here as well. That’s why Russell has accepted this kind of statement as mental facts.

In conclusion, we can say that although Russell did not accept the molecular fact but he could not avoid number of other facts.