Russell, Bertrand (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970)
Bertrand Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970)
Elizabeth R. Eames
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Philip B. Dematteis
Saint Leo University
1950 Nobel Prize in Literature Presentation Speech
Russell: Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1950
This entry has been expanded by Dematteis from Eames’s Russell entry in DLB 262: British Philosophers, 1800-2000. See also the Russell entry in DLB 100: Modern British Essayists, Second Series.
BOOKS: German Social Democracy: Six Lectures, Studies in Economics and Political Science, volume 7, by Russell and Alys Russell (London & New York: Longmans, Green, 1896; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1965);
An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1897; New York: Dover, 1956);
A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz: With an Appendix of Leading Passages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1900); republished as The Philosophy of Leibniz (New York: Macmillan, 1937);
The Principles of Mathematics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1903; revised edition, London: Allen & Unwin, 1937; New York: Norton, 1938);
Philosophical Essays (London & New York: Longmans, Green, 1910; revised edition, London: Allen & Unwin, 1966; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1966);
Principia Mathematica, 3 volumes, by Russell and Alfred North Whitehead (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910–1913; revised edition, Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1927);
The Problems of Philosophy (London: Williams & Norgate, 1912; New York: Holt, 1912);
Our Knowledge of the External World as a Field for Scientific Method in Philosophy (London: Allen & Unwin, 1914; revised, 1926; Chicago & London: Open Court, 1914);
Scientific Method in Philosophy: The Herbert Spencer Lecture, 1914 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1914);
War: The Offspring of Fear (London: Union of Democratic Control, 1914);
Justice in War-Time (Chicago & London: Open Court, 1916; London: Allen & Unwin, 1916);
Principles of Social Reconstruction (London: Allen & Unwin, 1916); republished as Why Men Fight: A Method of Abolishing the International Duel (New York: Century, 1916);
Political Ideals (New York: Century, 1917; London: Allen & Unwin, 1963);
Mysticism and Logic, and Other Essays (London & New York: Longmans, Green, 1917); republished as A Free Man’s Worship, and Other Essays (London: Unwin, 1976);
Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism, and Syndicalism, Library of Philosophy (London: Allen & Unwin, 1918); republished as Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism, and Syndicalism (New York: Holt, 1919);
Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (London: Allen & Unwin, 1919; New York: Macmillan, 1919);
The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism (London: Allen & Unwin, 1920); republished as Bolshevism: Practice and Theory (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Howe, 1920);
The Analysis of Mind (London: Allen & Unwin, 1921; New York: Macmillan, 1921);
Free Thought and Official Propaganda, Conway Memorial Lecture, no. 13 (New York: Huebsch, 1922; London: Watts, 1922);
The Problem of China (London: Allen & Unwin, 1922; New York: Century, 1922);
The Prospects of Industrial Civilization, by Russell and Dora Russell (New York & London: Century, 1923; London: Allen & Unwin, 1923);
The ABC of Atoms (New York: Dutton, 1923; London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1923; revised, 1925);
Icarus; or, The Future of Science (New York: Dutton, 1924; London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1924);
The ABC of Relativity (New York & London: Harper, 1925; London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1925; revised edition, edited by Felix Pirani, London: Allen & Unwin, 1958);
What I Believe (New York: Dutton, 1925; London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1925);
On Education, Especially in Early Childhood (London: Allen & Unwin, 1926); republished as Education and the Good Life (New York: Liveright, 1926);
Why I Am Not a Christian (London: Watts, 1927; Girard, Kans.: Haldeman-Julius, 1929); enlarged as Why I am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects, edited by Paul Edwards (London: Allen & Unwin, 1957; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957);
The Analysis of Matter (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1927; New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1927);
An Outline of Philosophy (London: Allen & Unwin, 1927); republished as Philosophy (New York: Norton, 1927);
Selected Papers of Bertrand Russell (New York: Modern Library, 1927);
Sceptical Essays (London: Allen & Unwin, 1928; New York: Norton, 1928);
Marriage and Morals (London: Allen & Unwin, 1929; New York: Liveright, 1929);
Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization? An Examination and a Criticism (London: Watts, 1930; Girard, Kans.: Haldeman-Julius, n.d.);
The Conquest of Happiness (London: Allen & Unwin, 1930; New York: Liveright, 1930);
The Scientific Outlook (London: Allen & Unwin, 1931; New York: Norton, 1931);
Education and the Social Order (London: Allen & Unwin, 1932); republished as Education and the Modern World (New York: Norton, 1932);
Freedom and Organization 1814–1914 (London: Allen & Unwin, 1934); republished as Freedom versus Organization 1814–1914 (New York: Norton, 1934);
In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (London: Allen & Unwin, 1935; New York: Norton, 1935);
Religion and Science (London: Butterworth, 1935; New York: Holt, 1935);
Which Way to Peace? (London: Joseph, 1936);
Power: A New Social Analysis (London: Allen & Unwin, 1938; New York: Norton, 1938);
An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth (London: Allen & Unwin, 1940; New York: Norton, 1940);
Let the People Think: A Selection of Essays, Thinker’s Library, no. 84 (London: Watts, 1941);
How to Become a Philosopher: The Art of Rational Conjecture (Girard, Kans.: Haldeman-Julius, 1942);
How to Become a Logician: The Art of Drawing Inferences (Girard, Kans.: Haldeman-Julius, 1942);
How to Become a Mathematician: The Art of Reckoning (Girard, Kans.: Haldeman-Julius, 1942);
An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish: A Hilarious Catalogue of Organized and Individual Stupidity (Girard, Kans.: Haldeman-Julius, 1943);
The Value of Free Thought: How to Become a Truth-Seeker and Break the Chains of Mental Slavery (Girard, Kans.: Haldeman-Julius, 1944);
A History of Western Philosophy: And Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1945; London: Allen & Unwin, 1946);
Ideas That Have Helped Mankind (Girard, Kans.: Haldeman-Julius, 1946);
Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind (Girard, Kans.: Haldeman-Julius, 1946);
Physics and Experience (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1946; New York: Macmillan, 1946);
Philosophy and Politics (London: Cambridge University Press, 1947);
Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (London: Allen & Unwin, 1948; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1948);
Authority and the Individual: The Reith Lectures for 1948–9 (London: Allen & Unwin, 1949; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1949);
Unpopular Essays (London: Allen & Unwin, 1950; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1950);
New Hopes for a Changing World (London: Allen & Unwin, 1951; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1951);
How Near Is War? (London: Ridgway, 1952);
Dictionary of Mind, Matter, and Morals, edited by Lester E. Denonn (New York: Philosophical Library, 1952);
What Is Freedom? (London: Batchworth, 1952);
The Impact of Science on Society (London: Allen & Unwin, 1953 [i.e., 1952]; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1953 [i.e., 1952]);
What Is Democracy? (London: Batchworth, 1953);
The Good Citizens Alphabet (London: Gaberbocchus, 1953; New York: Philosophical Library, 1958);
Satan in the Suburbs, and Other Stories (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1953; London: Bodley Head, 1953);
History as an Art, Hermon Ould Memorial Lecture, no. 2 (Aldington, U.K.: Hand and Flower Press, 1954);
Nightmares of Eminent Persons, and Other Stories (London: Bodley Head, 1954; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1954);
Human Society in Ethics and Politics (London: Allen & Unwin, 1954; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1955);
Logic and Knowledge: Essays 1901–1950, edited by Robert Charles Marsh (London: Allen & Unwin, 1956; New York: Macmillan, 1956);
Portraits from Memory, and Other Essays (London: Allen & Unwin, 1956; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1956);
Understanding History, and Other Essays (New York: Philosophical Library, 1957);
The Will to Doubt (New York: Philosophical Library, 1958);
Bertrand Russell’s Best: Silhouettes in Satire, edited by Robert Egner (New York: New American Library, 1958);
Common Sense and Nuclear Warfare (London: Allen & Unwin, 1959; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1959);
My Philosophical Development (London: Allen & Unwin, 1959; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1959);
Wisdom of the West: A Historical Survey of Western Philosophy in Its Social and Political Setting, edited by Paul Foulkes (London: Macdonald, 1959; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1959);
Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (Cleveland & New York: World, 1960; London: Barker, 1960);
Fact and Fiction (London: Allen & Unwin, 1961; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1962);
Has Man a Future? (London: Allen & Unwin, 1961; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1962);
History of the World in Epitome: For Use in Martian Infant Schools (London: Gaberbocchus, 1962);
Unarmed Victory (London: Allen & Unwin, 1963; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1963);
War and Atrocity in Vietnam (London: Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, 1965);
Appeal to the American Conscience (London: Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, 1966);
War Crimes in Vietnam (London: Allen & Unwin, 1967; New York: Monthly Review, 1967);
The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, 3 volumes (volumes 1 and 2, London: Allen & Unwin, 1967, 1968; Boston: Little, Brown, 1967, 1968; volume 3, London: Allen & Unwin, 1969; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1969);
The Art of Philosophizing, and Other Essays (New York: Philosophical Library, 1968);
Russell’s Logical Atomism, edited by D. F. Pears (London: Fontana, 1972);
The Life of Bertrand Russell in Pictures and His Own Words, edited by Christopher Farley and David Hodgson (Nottingham, U.K.: Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, 1972);
My Own Philosophy (Hamilton, Ont.: McMaster University Library Press, 1972);
Essays in Analysis, edited by Douglas Lackey (London: Allen & Unwin, 1973; New York: Braziller, 1973);
The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, McMaster University Edition, edited by Kenneth Blackwell and others, 16 volumes to date (volumes 1, 7, 8, and 12, London & New York: Allen & Unwin, 1983–1986; volumes 2, 9, and 13, London & Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1988–1990; volumes 3, 4, 6, 10, 11, 14, 15, 28, and 29, London & New York: Routledge, 1992–2003);
Yours Faithfully, Bertrand Russell: A Life Long Fight for Peace, Justice, and Truth in Letters to the Editor, edited by Ray Perkins Jr. (Chicago: Open Court, 2002).
Collections: Authority and the Individual (Boston: Beacon, 1960);
The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, edited by Robert E. Egner and Lester E. Denonn (London: Allen & Unwin, 1961; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961);
Atheism: Collected Essays, 1943–1949 (New York: Arno, 1972);
The Collected Stories of Bertrand Russell, edited by Barry Feinberg (London: Allen & Unwin, 1972; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1973);
Mortals and Others: Bertrand Russell’s American Essays 1931–1935, 2 volumes, edited by Harry Ruja (volume 1, London: Allen & Unwin, 1975; revised, 1991; volume 2, London: Routledge, 1998);
Bertrand Russell on Nuclear War, Peace, and Language: Critical and Historical Essays, edited by Alan Schwerin under the auspices of the Bertrand Russell Society, Contributions in Philosophy, no. 87 (West-port, Conn. & London: Praeger, 2002);
Russell on Metaphysics: Selections from the Writings of Bertrand Russell, edited by Stephen Mumford (London: Routledge, 2003).
OTHER: John B. Watson, Behavior: An Introduction to Comparative Psychology, introduction by Russell (New York: Holt, 1914);
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Phihsophkus, translated by C. K. Ogden and Frank Ramsey, introduction by Russell (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1922);
John Russell Amberley and Katharine Russell Amberley, The Amberley Papers: The Letters and Diaries of Lord and Lady Amberley, 2 volumes, edited by Russell and Patricia Russell (London: Leonard and Virginia Woolf at Hogarth Press, 1937); republished as The Amberley Papers: The Letters and Diaries of Bertrand Russell’s Parents, 2 volumes (New York: Norton, 1937);
“My Mental Development” and “Reply to Criticisms,” in The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell, edited by Paul Arthur Schilpp, The Library of Living Philosophers, volume 5 (Evanston, 111. & Chicago: Northwestern University, 1944), pp. 3–22, 681–741.
Bertrand Russell was well known during his lifetime as a controversial public figure; in retrospect, he has been evaluated primarily as a philosopher and social critic. As a public figure he opposed World War I, supported World War II, headed a campaign for nuclear disarmament (although immediately after World War II he had advocated the nuclear bombing of the Soviet Union to prevent the spread of Stalinist communism), opposed the Vietnam War, served jail sentences, and was involved in lawsuits, love affairs, and marriages that supplied fodder for gossip for at least sixty years of his life. As a philosopher, Russell is seen as both a pioneer and a transitional figure between the nineteenth- and twentieth-century trends in Anglo-American thought. He was a pioneer in the development of mathematical logic, an abstract discipline that he applied to theory of knowledge and metaphysics and that influenced a generation and more of philosophers. As a transitional figure he moved from the systematic idealism of late-nineteenth-century philosophers such as F. H. Bradley to a position he called “analytic realism.” Russell criticized the tendency of nineteenth-century philosophers to erect comprehensive systems to rationalize their own religious and ethical values, urging instead a piecemeal, tentative, and technical approach to philosophy. As a leader in “scientific” philosophizing Russell was open to change and revision and was often charged with developing a new philosophy every few years. By the end of his career some philosophers were criticizing him for his formal mode of philosophizing, while others were accusing him of belonging on the older side of a twentieth-century watershed in philosophical thought in still seeking a metaphysical synthesis and epistemological justification. Late in life, in My Philosophical Development (1959), Russell remarked, “It is not an altogether pleasant experience to find oneself regarded as antiquated after having been, for a time, in the fashion.” It is true that, although Russell used analytic modes of argument, his philosophic aim remained traditional in that he sought a comprehensive view of the nature of reality through science and attempted an epistemological analysis that would give the knowledge people think they have of reality the strongest possible base, however flawed it might remain.
Throughout his life Russell engaged in lively debates and dialogues with his contemporaries, influencing and being influenced by them. He was constantly attentive to current social and political problems and devoted much time, thought, and published work to such issues as women’s suffrage, education, laws governing marriage and sexual relations, international relations, labor conditions, censorship, the treatment of prisoners, foreign affairs, war crimes, and military policies. His analyses of political and social issues and theories give his work a wide range and popular influence not often achieved by technical philosophers. He published more than ninety books and pamphlets during his lifetime, and the editing of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell (1983–) has revealed that he wrote many articles, reviews, and comments that were not recognized as his work and one philosophical book that was never published.
Bertrand Arthur William Russell was born at the estate of Ravenscroft in Trelleck, Monmouthshire, Wales, on 18 May 1872, the third and last child of John and Katharine Louisa Stanley Russell, Viscount and Lady Amberley. The Russells and the Stanleys had been active in politics for generations; Russell’s father, a political radical and an atheist, had served a term in Parliament in 1867-1868 and had written a book on religious belief. His mother and sister died of diphtheria when Russell was two; his father died a year later. The father left Bertrand and his older brother, John Francis Stanley Russell, known as Frank, under the guardianship of two freethinkers; but Russell’s paternal grandparents had the will set aside, and Russell and his brother received a Christian upbringing in their home, Pembroke Lodge, in Surrey. The grandfather, Lord John Russell, a former prime minister, died in 1878, and the boys were raised by their grandmother, Lady Frances Anna Maria Elliot Russell. She was a strong, puritanical figure whose favorite Bible verse, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil,” influenced Russell profoundly. A radical in her own way, she espoused equality for women and became a Unitarian in her eighties. Frank, seven years older than Bertrand, was sent to school, but “Bertie” was tutored at home and became a shy, lonely, and thoughtful child. He had the advantage of encountering the many famous people of the period who came to his grandparents’ home and of reading widely in his grandfather’s library; but, except for a short period when his tutor was a freethinker, he had no one with whom to share his thoughts. In his early teens he kept a diary—written in Greek letters for the sake of secrecy—in which he recorded his doubts about the existence of God, freedom of the will, and immortality.
At eighteen Russell entered Trinity College of the University of Cambridge, where he found other young men with whom he could talk freely. With a kind of intoxication he shared his feelings and thoughts, displayed his wit, and formed lifelong friendships and important intellectual collaborations. Among the ten close friends of his undergraduate days that he lists in his intellectual autobiography, “My Mental Development,” in The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell (1944) are two philosophers, the Hegelian J. M. E. McTaggart, who was six years his senior, and G. E. Moore, who was a year younger but, like McTaggart, extremely influential in Russell’s philosophical development. Alfred North Whitehead, a fellow at Trinity, was much impressed by Russell’s entrance papers on mathematics and mentioned the promising new student to others in that small, elite society. But as Whitehead was eleven years his senior, the two did not become friends and collaborators until some years later. Russell and his friends met every weekend for late-night discussions at which they read papers and argued on wide-ranging topics, and for long Sunday walks.
When he was seventeen, Russell had met a family of American Quakers, the Pearsall Smiths, who lived near his uncle. They were wealthy, religious, ready to discuss any idea, and welcoming to the young Russell. Among the children were Logan Pearsall Smith, who became a writer, and Alys Pearsall Smith, who was several years older than Russell and had just graduated from Bryn Mawr College. Despite opposition from his family, Russell and Alys became engaged when Russell reached his majority and came into his inheritance from his parents’ estate, which yielded a modest income sufficient to support a family. After completing the moral sciences tripos in 1894, Russell planned to become a candidate for a fellowship, study economics, and marry Alys. In the hope of ending the engagement, his grandmother persuaded him to take a three-month appointment as an attaché at the British embassy in Paris. Throughout their friendship, engagement, and separation during the Paris assignment Russell and Alys corresponded daily, and Russell’s letters reveal much about his reading, his conversations, and the development of his philosophical ideas. Russell returned from Paris and married Alys in December 1894. The couple traveled extensively in Europe and collaborated on a book, German Social Democracy, published in 1896.
At the end of his third year at the university Russell turned with relief from mathematics to philosophy. The prevailing mode of philosophizing in Britain at the time was idealism, and the chief debates were carried on between upholders of Kantian and Hegelian versions of that philosophy. Russell was instructed by G. F. Stout and James Ward, but the dominant influence on him was McTaggart’s neo-Hegelianism. In “My Mental Development” he recalls
the precise moment, one day in 1894, as I was walking along Trinity Lane, when I saw in a flash (or thought I saw) that the ontological argument is valid. I had gone out to buy a tin of tobacco; on my way back, I suddenly threw it up in the air, and exclaimed as I caught it: “Great Scott, the ontological argument is sound.” I read Bradley at this time with avidity, and admired him more than any other recent philosopher.
A major issue in Russell’s philosophical reflections was whether spatial and temporal relations were absolute and objective or relative and subjective. He wanted his philosophical position on the issue to be consistent with the mathematical treatment of such relations, and he experimented with various idealist solutions to the problem. His fellowship dissertation, An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry, published in 1897, presents a Kantian view of space and time as structures imposed on experience by the mind; Moore castigated it as unduly psychological and subjective, and in a series of articles he wrote in 1901 Russell developed a Hegelian view in which space and time were aspects of the Absolute.
Although elements of neo-Hegelianism lingered in his thought for some time, during the last years of the nineteenth century Russell, under Moore’s influence, moved away from idealism. Russell remembers this time in “My Mental Development”:
Bradley argued that everything common sense believes in is mere appearance; we reverted to the opposite extreme, and thought that everything is real that common sense, uninfluenced by philosophy or theology, supposes real. With a sense of escaping from prison, we allowed ourselves to think that grass is green, that the sun and the stars would exist if no one was aware of them, and also that there is a pluralistic timeless world of Platonic ideas. The world, which had been thin and logical, suddenly became rich and varied and solid.
In 1900 Russell taught a course on the philosophy of the late-seventeenth- to early-eighteenth-century German rationalist philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and published his third book, A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz, in which he worked out a criticism of the idealist view of relations. The most important event of that year, however, was his attendance at a philosophical congress in Paris, where he met the Italian mathematician Giuseppe Peano and heard papers by Peano and Peano’s pupils. Russell was impressed by the elegance and simplicity of the mathematical symbolism Peano had developed and by Peano’s idea that a system of mathematics could be built up by deduction from a minimum of definitions and axioms. He mastered Peano’s works and applied Peano’s symbolism and deductive method to a wide range of topics, including the logic of relations. The fruit of this labor was The Principles of Mathematics (1903).
In The Principles of Mathematics Russell, while accepting Peano’s symbolism and method of deduction, disputes the Italian’s distinction between a class and its members. The distinction allowed Peano to discuss the null class (a class with no members), infinite classes, and finite classes of which the members are not identifiable. But Russell, holding that terms and propositions are real, has to identify the class with its members: for example, the class of human beings is the sum of John, Mary, and so forth. This position leads to difficulties with the null class, the infinite class, and the class with unidentifiable members (such as the class of persons in the statement “I met a person”). The most serious problem is a paradox that arises in regard to classes that are not members of themselves. Some classes are members of themselves, such as the class of classes; others are not members of themselves, such as the class of teaspoons. What about the class of classes that are not members of themselves? It must both be and not be a member of itself, which is absurd. Russell concludes that the paradox results from classes including themselves among their members and that some restriction on class membership is required; but he thinks that this solution has an ad hoc air. Russell was tortured by this problem for several years, and he tried out various solutions to it and to other problems that had emerged in the book.
Russell had told Whitehead about Peano’s new symbolism and method; Whitehead was contemplating a second volume to complete his A Treatise on Universal Algebra, with Applications (1898), and Russell was planning a continuation of The Principles of Mathematics, but the two decided instead to collaborate on a book that would take the place of both proposed second volumes. Russell was to be responsible for the basic definitions, axioms, and postulates, and the logic of relations, Whitehead for the section on geometry; each man would write the first version of his part of the book, the other would criticize and edit it, and then the original writer would rewrite it. The work went on for ten years and produced a landmark in mathematical logic and philosophy: Principia Mathematica, published in three volumes in 1910, 1912, and 1913, respectively.
Russell published many articles between The Principles of Mathematics and the first volume of Principia Mathematica. Some treated the logical issues he was working out in what he and Whitehead called “the big book”; one of the most notable essays is “On Denoting,” published in the journal Mind in 1905 and republished in Russell’s Logic and Knowledge: Essays 1901–1950 (1956). The topic of this piece has proved to be of permanent significance and continues to be debated among philosophers today. The problem is the denotation of expressions in which an entity is referred to not by name but indirectly as “the such and such,” “a such and such,” or “some such and such,” as in “the author of Waverly” or “the man who is knocking at the door.” The solution to the problem should also deal with expressions that refer to nonexistent entities such as “the winged horse” or “the square circle.” Russell is concerned with how such a proposition as “the king of France is bald” can be said to be false, not because the king of France is hairy but because there is no king of France. How can a proposition be meaningful if it does not denote (that is, point to) any specific thing or even to anything at all? Russell reviews what he believes the Austrian philosopher and psychologist Alexius Meinong and the German mathematician and logician Gottlob Frege offer as solutions to the problem. (Much of the recent debate centers on the extent to which these reviews are accurate and fair.) He then puts forward his own view, which became known as the “theory of descriptions”: the problematic expressions are “incomplete symbols,” and one can translate propositions in which they appear into a series of propositions about which it is possible to say what they refer to and whether they are true or false. “Sir Walter Scott is the author of Waverley” becomes “there is one and only one person who wrote Waverley, and that person is Scott”; “The present king of France is bald” becomes “there is one and only one person who is the king of France, and that person is bald.” In the second case, it can now be seen that the falsity of the proposition derives from the falsity of the first conjunct—” there is one and only one person who is the king of France”— and not the presence or absence of hair. Stated in more-technical terms, the theory of descriptions, under the title “the method of construction,” was intended to be the basic method of the definition of points and instants in a projected fourth volume of Principia Mathematica to be written by Whitehead. In nontechnical terms it later figured as a basic premise of Russell’s theory of “knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description” and as the method of the “construction of the external world.”
In “Transatlantic ‘Truth,” published in The Albany Review in 1908, and “Pragmatism,” published in The Edinburgh Review in 1909, Russell criticizes the pragmatist definition of truth as “what works”; in contrast, Russell maintains a form of realism of which the outlines—as the philosopher F. C. S. Schiller complained to him in a letter of 23 March 1909—are not clear. Both essays were republished in Russell’s Philosophical Essays (1910). In an important series of articles titled “Meinong’s Theory of Complexes and Assumptions,” published in Mind in 1904 and collected posthumously in Russell’s Essays in Analysis (1973), Russell says that true and false propositions differ as do red and white roses, although he admits to problems about the reference of false propositions. “The Nature of Truth,” published in Mind in 1906, became part of a series on truth in Philosophical Essays. Russell criticizes the idealist “monistic theory of truth,” as found in Bradley’s philosophy, for holding that no particular truth can be completely true because it must cohere with the entire rest of the world of thought, and for allowing that any coherent body of thought is true as any other; Russell maintains, on the contrary, that specific inquiries can yield specific truths apart from their connections with the rest of reality. Russell also criticizes Bradley for allowing relations to absorb their terms; Russell holds that terms and relations are separate realities. In Philosophical Essays Russell defends a relational theory of truth: a belief is true if the relation between the components of the belief correspond to the relation between the components of the reality to which the belief refers. Hence, if Othello believes that Desdemona loves Cassio, his belief is true if she does and false if she does not. But the reality of the referents is not undermined: Othello, Desdemona, Cassio, the belief, and love all exist, but the relation does not hold as the belief asserts it to hold.
One of Russell’s best-known essays, “A Free Man’s Worship,” a poetic renunciation of traditional religious belief, appeared in The Independent Review in 1903; “The Study of Mathematics,” an exalted statement of commitment to a realm of eternal mathematical truth, was published in The New Quarterly in 1907. Both were republished in Philosophical Essays. Russell later found the style of the first of these two essays overly rhetorical and the sentiments of the second inappropriate to his changing view of the nature of mathematics.
Another topic addressed in a 1908 article, “Mathematical Logic as Based on the Theory of Types”—published in The American Journal of Mathematics and later collected in Logic and Knowledge— was worked out in detail in Principia Mathematica. The theory of types is Russell’s solution to the paradox of classes that are not members of themselves. The tentative suggestion of The Principles of Mathematics is now strengthened into the prohibition of a proposition including itself in its reference. The result is a hierarchy of classes in which first-order propositions refer only to what are not propositions, while second-order propositions refer only to first-order propositions, and so on. The theory of types also requires that no statement of an order higher than the first could make a statement about all the properties of a class. Yet, to ground parts of mathematics it must be possible to make such statements. Thus, the “axiom of reducibility” is required: it asserts that statements can be made about all the properties of a class, such as the class a, “providing we remember that it is really a number of statements and not a single statement that could be regarded as assigning another property to a, over and above all properties.” Russell and Whitehead found this axiom necessary, but neither of them thought that it was justified on other than pragmatic grounds.
During this period of intense professional activity Russell’s personal life was far from tranquil. On the surface all seemed well: the Russells cooperated in Bertrand’s candidacy for Parliament in 1907, although both understood it as an educational effort with no danger of election; they exchanged visits with Whitehead and his wife, Evelyn, while the two men worked on Principia Mathematica; and they followed their usual routine of charitable works, social engagements, and letter writing. But their marriage was in trouble. Russell says in The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (1967–1969) that one day in 1902, while riding his bicycle, he discovered to his surprise that he no longer loved Alys. When he imparted this information to her, an emotional storm of threatened suicide and real suffering resulted. Russell, for his part, had longed for sexual fulfillment but had found it impossible to achieve with Alys. This emotional turmoil, combined with the continuing frustrations of the logical problems he faced in working on Principia Mathematica, caused him much pain. He says in the autobiography:
The strain of unhappiness combined with very severe intellectual work, in the years from 1902 till 1910, was very great. At the time I often wondered whether I should ever come out at the other end of the tunnel in which I seemed to be. I used to stand on the footbridge at Kennington, near Oxford, watching the trains go by, and determining that tomorrow I would place myself under one of them.
As the volumes of “the big book” went through stages of proof and publication, Russell was continuing to write reviews, articles on current topics such as the women’s suffrage movement, and technical mathematical and philosophical papers. In March 1911 he was scheduled to present three papers in Paris. Spending the night before his departure at the home of Philip and Lady Ottoline Morrell, he fell passionately in love with Ottoline. He was determined that they should get divorced and marry each other; but she did not want to give up her family, and he had to be content with being her lover. Amid much grief and distress, Alys agreed to a separation on the condition that Russell’s relationship with Morrell be kept secret. During its five years the relationship resulted in a dazzling correspondence on Russell’s part that shows the intensity of his desire to share every aspect of his life with Morrell, as well as his jealousy, despair, and, finally, his turning to others when Morrell was involved with other lovers. The correspondence also reveals an important watershed in the development of Russell’s philosophy and, some critics say, the collapse of his dream of a systematic and logically rigorous solution to the philosophical problems that engaged him during this period.
In 1911 Russell wrote a short book for the Home University Library that he called his “shilling shocker.” Published in 1912, The Problems of Philosophy offers an overview of Russell’s point of view at the time, a sketch of what he planned as his next big work after Principia Mathematica, and discussions of a large number of unsolved problems. It is regarded as a classic and has been the means of introducing many students to philosophy. Russell’s primary concern in the work is what can be known. After a skeptical review of instances of purported knowledge, he concludes that two kinds of knowledge are not open to doubt: what is immediately and directly perceived and what are intuited as the basic propositions of logic and mathematics. Such directly given, uninferred knowledge he calls “knowledge by acquaintance.” From it a body of reliable knowledge can be built up by logical inference; this kind of knowledge is “knowledge by description.” The distinction between knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description was an important topic in Russell’s work for many years, and it constituted the link between his general epistemological concerns and his logical techniques. In The Problems of Philosophy, which was intended for a popular audience, the distinction is sketched out in a nontechnical fashion.
Another subject discussed in The Problems of Philosophy is the problem of induction. Russell says that it is impossible to prove that the way things have behaved in the past, however great their regularity, will be the way they behave in the future. At best, the uniformity of nature is a principle that has not been disproved and is useful; thus, one is justified in using it to make probable inferences. A similarly skeptical treatment of induction, “On the Notion of Cause,” was presented to the Aristotelian Society in 1912 and published in Russell’s Mysticism and Logic, and Other Essays (1917). Here Russell argues that all that can be said about causal laws is that certain regularities exist that scientists can express in mathematical formulas; the idea of a cause “forcing” or “necessitating” an effect is a metaphysical one with no basis in experience. For this reason, the concept of cause has no relevance to the issue of determinism versus free will. The problem of induction continued to be a concern of Russell’s and was a major topic that occupied him during his final years of philosophical work.
In 1911 a young engineer named Ludwig Wittgenstein came from Austria to study mathematical logic with Russell. He joined Russell’s course on the Principia Mathematica and found it “like music,” as Russell reported to Morrell in a letter of 19 March 1912. Russell worried about Wittgenstein’s stability but found his companionship stimulating and his ideas brilliant, if not always clear; he appreciated Wittgenstein’s criticisms of the Principia Mathematica and began to see the Austrian as his successor, one who could bring new vigor and insights to the subject. The tenor of their interaction became less that of teacher and student than of colleagues. Russell told Morrell that Wittgenstein did not like the “shilling shocker” and thought that nothing could be said about the value of philosophy: if one is interested, one studies it, and that is that.
By 7 May 1913 the term was over at Cambridge; Wittgenstein had left; and Morrell was in Switzerland for an extended visit. Russell turned to his next major work, which was to be either one long or two shorter volumes on the theory of knowledge. According to Russell’s letters to Morrell, it was to begin with an analysis of what is given in experience, including a treatment of logical ideas and relations, then move on to judgments, propositions, truth and falsity, and probability; a third section would consist in a logical construction of matter, points in space, moments in time, and cause. He showed the manuscript to Wittgenstein on at least two occasions; Wittgenstein criticized it severely, and on 20 June, Russell, having produced three hundred pages, abandoned the work because he could find no answers to Wittgenstein’s objections. Of the original manuscript, only chapters 7 to 11 of part 1 and chapters 1 to 7 of part 2 are extant. It has been established that the first six chapters of part 1 were published, probably with revisions, as articles in the Monist in 1914 and 1915. The reconstructed manuscript was published in 1984 as Theory of Knowledge: The 1913 Manuscript, volume seven of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell.
Russell did not tell Morrell what Wittgenstein’s criticisms were—in fact, he told her that he was not sure what Wittgenstein meant—but it seems likely that Wittgenstein criticized Russell’s theory of relations, theory of judgment, and treatment of propositions. Russell replaced his relational theory of 1910 with a more-complex five-term relation, but Wittgenstein apparently objected that the new theory left the relation between Othello and what he believes on the same level as the relation of love between Desdemona and Cassio. Russell’s attempt to build atomic propositions from the materials of experience and logical form, to build molecular propositions from the atomic propositions, and to construct scientific objects from molecular propositions with the apparatus of mathematical logic could not proceed if the theory of judgment and the theory of relations on which it depended would not hold. Wittgenstein’s criticisms brought Russell’s project to a halt and, Russell wrote to Morrell on 20 June, made “a large part of the book I meant to write impossible for years to come probably.” With the exception of the six Monist articles, none of it was published during Russell’s lifetime, although remnants of the project appear in various forms in Russell’s later work.
Although Russell’s chief concerns in philosophy during this period were logic and theory of knowledge, he was interested in ethics and religion as well. Two of his essays on ethics reveal the influence of Moore: a favorable review of Moore’s Principia Ethica (1903), published in The Independent Review (March 1904), and a statement of ethical realism modeled on Moore’s ethics, published in the Hibbert Journal in 1908 as “Determinism and Morals” and republished in Philosophical Essays as “The Elements of Ethics.” Russell abandoned the view that the good is real after reading George Santa-yana’s comment in the chapter “Hypostatic Ethics” of Santayana’s Winds of Doctrine: Studies in Contemporary Opinion (1913) that it was equivalent to saying that whiskey stood dead drunk in the bottle. Although Russell had long since abandoned traditional religious beliefs, he had retained the attitude of awe toward the majesty of nature and the Spinozistic acceptance of its impersonality and unresponsiveness to human desires that is expressed in “A Free Man’s Worship.” He and Morrell tried to combine her religious commitment with his views in a book on the theme of escape from the prison of the senses and the self. They gave the manuscript for “Prisons” to Evelyn Whitehead; her response was highly critical, and they gave up on the project. All that remains of it is Russell’s article “The Essence of Religion” in the Hibbert Journal in 1912 (republished in 1986 in volume twelve of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell); he told Morrell in a letter dated 9 February 1912 that he had used part of the penultimate chapter of “Prisons” for the article. They also worked together on “The Perplexities of John Forstice,” a philosophical novel in dialogue form. Readers of the manuscript recommended major revisions, and that project, too, was abandoned; the novel was finally published in the twelfth volume of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell with a note, which Russell specified should accompany it if it ever were published, to the effect that it represented his views during only a short period of time.
Invited to give the Lowell Lectures in Boston in the spring of 1913, Russell offered to speak on good and evil in the universe; but the grant that established the lectures stipulated that they were not to involve religion, and Russell had to choose another topic. At the same time he had to prepare lectures for Harvard University, where he would be teaching seminars on logic and on the theory of knowledge. In the fall of 1913, on his return from a vacation following the collapse of his book on the theory of knowledge, he began work on these projects. The Lowell Lectures were published in 1914 as Our Knowledge of the External World as a Field for Scientific Method in Philosophy (generally known simply as Our Knowledge of the External World); they cover much the same ground as Russell’s articles “Knowledge by Acquaintance and Knowledge by Description” in the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society for 1910–1911, “The Ultimate Constituents of Matter” in The Monist (July 1915), “The Relation of Sense-Data to Physics” in Scientia (1914), and his Scientific Method in Philosophy: The Herbert Spencer Lecture, 1914 (1914). All were republished in Mysticism and Logic, and Other Essays.
Russell calls Our Knowledge of the External World a sketch of what could be accomplished by distinguishing those philosophical problems that can be addressed scientifically from those that cannot. The former sort of problems would be solved by the method of construction, which was invented by Whitehead and was to be used to offer definitions of geometrical terms in the forthcoming fourth volume of Principia Mathematica. Russell begins by presenting his familiar skepticism concerning what one learns from perception and how many common-sense beliefs have no firm foundation beyond habit and assumption. One thinks that one sees a penny, but all one really “sees” is a colored shape. The penny is a set of inferences from what one sees or from what others report that they see. The method of construction, however, holds out the hope that a penny may be logically inferred—that is, constructed—from the materials of sensation. For instance, one can look at the penny from a series of different perspectives—from above, on edge, tilted, and so forth—arrange these perspectives into a series of images, or sense-data, and then consider the penny to be this series of sense-data. That is, one can take the materials presented through direct acquaintance, which cannot be doubted, submit them to logical arrangement and logical construction, and arrive at the common-sense objects of experience. The points, instants, and elements of matter in physics can be constructed in a similar way, Russell argues. One thus moves from knowledge by acquaintance to knowledge by description. The book concludes with a discussion of the difficulties of the concept of cause and suggests that the philosophical problem of determinism versus free will is based on a metaphysical inflation of what knowledge by acquaintance shows cause and effect to be: sequences of perceived events following each other in temporal sequence. This concept of cause, which is similar to that elaborated by the eighteenth-century empiricist David Hume, still permits one to speak of causal laws but merely as mathematical representations of the observed sequences. As Russell states the basic epistemological premise of his view: “Every proposition which we can understand must be composed wholly of constituents with which we are acquainted.” He goes on to say that
a complete application of the method which substitutes constructions for inferences would exhibit matter wholly in terms of sense-data, and even, we may add, of the sense-data of a single person, since the sense-data of others cannot be known without some elements of inference. This, however, must remain for the present an ideal, to be approached as nearly as possible, but to be reached, if at all, only after a long preliminary labour of which as yet we can only see the very beginning.
The book became a model for the Vienna Circle and other logical positivists of what might be accomplished by a scientific philosophy, and Russell’s criticism of traditional metaphysical issues such as free will versus determinism inspired the positivist attack on metaphysics. Rudolf Carnap used the ideas of Our Knowledge of the External World and the methodology of the Principia Mathematica in his Der Logische Aufbau der Welt (1928; translated as The Logical Structure of the World, 1967). Other philosophers were less impressed; in “The Existence of the World as a Logical Problem” (1915) the American pragmatist John Dewey found Russell’s construction to depend not on pure experiential givens but on elementary sense-data produced by sophisticated analyses and used to address an artificial problem. More seriously for Russell, Whitehead was displeased by Russell’s preempting of the method he was proposing to use in a different context, and with different assumptions about experience, in the fourth volume of the Principia Mathematica. For this reason, when the publisher, Open Court, refused to allow Russell to use any material from the book after World War I, and he turned to Whitehead, requesting the notes of their discussions that Whitehead was using, Whitehead, too, refused. Volume four of Principia Mathematica was never published; instead, Whitehead wrote An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge (1919).
While Russell was preparing for the Boston lectures in the fall of 1913, Wittgenstein had arrived in Cambridge with some new ideas about logic. Russell had trouble following them, and Wittgenstein said that he was unable to write them down. Russell had a stenographer make a record of Wittgenstein’s discussion of the ideas. Wittgenstein then went to Norway to work in seclusion. Russell sent Wittgenstein a copy of the notes and kept one for himself; Wittgenstein’s copy became the basis for his posthumously published Note-books, 1914–1916 (1961). Russell, still trying to understand Wittgenstein’s comments, took his copy of the notes to Harvard, apparently intending somehow to incorporate them into his logic seminar; but little evidence of Wittgenstein’s rejection of the Principia Mathematica approach appears in notes of the seminar taken by T. S. Eliot, a student of Russell’s at the time. During the period from 1913 to 1919 references to Wittgenstein in Russell’s writings give him general credit for important and yet unpublished ideas, but little change is noticeable in Russell’s own views.
After completing his seminars at Harvard, Russell lectured at several other American universities and then returned to Britain in June 1914. The threat of war was becoming ever more ominous, and Russell tried to rally opposition to Britain’s participation in the looming conflict. When war did break out in August, he threw himself into efforts to protect interned alien residents, supported conscientious objectors, and argued against the continuation of the war. These activities consumed most of his time and energy for the next three years. Aside from works that had been written prior to the war, Russell’s publications from August 1914 to November 1918 were all related to the conflict; ranging from letters to the editors of newspapers to books such as Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916) and Justice in War-Time (1916), they constitute more than one hundred entries in his bibliography. These efforts alienated him from many friends, cost him his fellowship at Trinity, and resulted in fines; finally, in 1918, an article referring to American soldiers as strikebreakers landed him in prison, charged with “having in a printed publication made certain statements likely to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with the United States of America.” He was sentenced to six months, which he occupied in reading works in psychology and composing Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (1919) and a response to Dewey’s critique of Our Knowledge of the External World. The latter piece appeared as “Professor Dewey’s Essays in Experimental Logic” in The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods in 1919 and is republished in volume eight of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell (1986).
In a series of lectures titled “The Philosophy of Logical Atomism,” given in London in 1918–1919, he summarized his earlier views and amended them in the light of what he thought he had learned from Wittgenstein, from whom he had not heard since Wittgenstein joined the Austrian army at the beginning of the war. The lectures were published in the October 1918 issue of The Monist and the three following issues in 1919 and republished in Logic and Knowledge.
The lectures on logical atomism show Russell at a time when he was most under the influence of Wittgenstein. They demonstrate Russell’s response to Wittgenstein’s criticisms in letters to Russell and in the transcribed notes from 1913. In the lectures Russell credits Wittgenstein with the recognition that the two verbs—the one that refers to the “judging” or “believing” of a proposition, and the one within the proposition that refers to what is judged or asserted—are on different levels that must be sharply distinguished. He agrees with Wittgenstein that the proposition itself must be taken as the unit of analysis, without bringing in its assertion, denial, or doubt. He analyzes the atomic proposition, which consists of names—symbols that directly refer to entities outside the proposition—and distinguishes names for components of the proposition from the proposition itself, which is not a name. (Wittgenstein had criticized Russell for holding that an atomic proposition is a name.) An atomic proposition consists of names for terms and relations, and it refers to a fact composed of the referents of those names; it has no parts that are themselves propositions. The external relation of the proposition to the fact determines its truth or falsity: if it points toward the fact, the proposition is true; if it points away from the fact, it is false. This view of truth and falsity, taken from Wittgenstein, avoids the problem, which had been present in Russell’s 1913 manuscript, of comparing the internal relation of the proposition with the internal relation of the fact to which it refers. Molecular propositions consist of two or more atomic propositions connected by logical connectives such as those specified in Principia Mathematica. Russell also deals with the theory of descriptions, the theory of types, and classes. The lectures became highly popular because they advanced the seductive possibility of using a precise language and thereby making philosophy scientific.
Another work of this period, “On Propositions: What They Are and How They Mean,” published in supplementary volume two of The Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society in 1919 and republished in Logic and Knowledge and in volume eight of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, begins with an analysis of facts into terms and relations and gives an account of atomic propositions similar to that in the lectures, then shifts to a discussion of John B. Watson’s theory of behaviorism. (Russell had written an introduction to Watson’s 1914 book, Behavior: An Introduction to Comparative Psychology.) Russell proposes to use psychology to develop a theory of meaning along behavioristic lines. In his prison reading he had been impressed with William James’s psychological theories, and he goes on to connect Watson’s treatment of meaning in terms of images and movements of the larynx with James’s metaphysics of neutral monism, which contends that reality is neither material nor mental but consists of some more-basic stuff that can appear as either mind or matter. If the laws of psychology and the laws of physics could be derived from a flow of particulars such as images and bodily responses to stimuli, Russell says, neutral monism would be an attractive position. He leaves the issue open and the theory of meaning not fully developed. Along with the lectures on logical atomism, this article shows the direction in which Russell’s thought was moving and forms a link to his next major work, The Analysis of Mind (1921).
Another work of this period, Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, written in prison and published in 1919, is a nontechnical overview of mathematical philosophy in which none of the issues of the lectures on logical atomism are broached and the only reference to Wittgenstein is a passing mention that he had pointed out to Russell that logic and mathematics consist of tautologies. In his 1944 autobiographical sketch Russell reveals the impact this view had on him:
My intellectual journeys have been, in some respects, disappointing. When I was young I hoped to find religious satisfaction in philosophy; even after I had abandoned Hegel, the eternal Platonic world gave me something non-human to admire. I thought of mathematics with reverence, and suffered when Wittgenstein led me to regard it as nothing but tautologies.
Russell and Wittgenstein met in Holland in December 1919, after Wittgenstein was released from an Italian prisoner-of-war camp, and went over a manuscript Wittgenstein had written during the war. The work had been rejected by publishers; Wittgenstein and Russell decided that it would have a better reception if it were accompanied by an introduction by Russell. But when Russell sent the introduction to Wittgenstein in May 1920, the latter rejected it, claiming that Russell had misunderstood him. He left the work in Russell’s hands. It was published in a German journal, Annalen der Philosophic, in 1921 as “Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung”; a bilingual edition, with the English translation by C. K. Ogden and Frank Ramsey prepared with Wittgenstein’s assistance, was published in 1922 as Tractaus logico-Philosophicus. Russell’s introduction remained in this version. The publication marked the end of the friendship and collaboration between Russell and Wittgenstein. For the early logical positivists, the Principia Mathematica and the Tractaus Logico-Philosophkus together were manifestos of a new scientific philosophy, and, even after they were disowned by their alleged fathers, the members of the Vienna Circle considered themselves heirs of Russell and Wittgenstein.
After his affair with Morrell ended in 1916, Russell had begun a stormy four-year relationship with Lady Constance Malleson, who acted under the stage name Colette O’Niel. In 1919 he had become interested in a bright, radical, and unconventional young student, Dora Winifred Black. They traveled to Russia in 1920 to see the results of the revolution; during the trip Russell interviewed the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin. Russell despised the Communist system, while Black admired it; Russell published his critique in The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism, (1920). Russell and Black spent the academic year 1920–1921 in China, where Russell taught at the National University of Peking and Black lectured on women’s rights. Russell became ill with pneumonia in China, and Dora nursed him; with his returning health they discovered to their delight that she was pregnant. Their son, John Conrad Russell, was born seven weeks after Russell and Black married in September 1921, following his divorce from Alys.
In 1921 Russell published The Analysis of Mind, a work of logical construction in which he tries to show how a picture of the workings of the mind and an explanation of the development of belief and knowledge can be built up from the materials provided by perception, given the psychological mechanisms of sensation, memory, and imagination. He begins by adopting the neutral monism he had rejected in “On Propositions: What They Are and How They Mean.” Although he identifies this position with James’s, he rejects what he calls James’s “lingering idealism” in the idea of “pure experience”; but he accepts the notion that the laws of physics and the laws of psychology can both be shown to be constructed from “particulars” that are neither matter nor mind. He no longer sees such “particulars” as directly given in experience, without inference or the possibility of error. Each perception includes elements of memory, habit, and expectation, and the given particulars have to be disentangled from this accompanying “encrustation” through a causal analysis of the origin of the various elements of the perception. For example, if one sees a star, the perception may include a causal line of light transmitted from the distant sun through intervening space to the atmosphere of the darkened earth to the retina and to the sensation of light that is a response to that stimulus. But one may also imagine or dream about a star, and these “perceptions” have causal origins as well. When particulars are thus disentangled and ordered in temporal patterns, one has the basis for psychological constructions of minds, emotions, and beliefs. Were the particulars to be ordered spatially instead of temporally, one would have the construction of physical entities. The laws of psychology belong to the first ordering, the laws of physics to the second. In the case of the psychological analysis, repeated perceptual experienced images are the referents for the meanings that one connects into beliefs, formulates in propositions, and tests for truth and falsity through future perceptual experiences. It seems that Russell is attempting in this book to reforge, by way of psychology, the link that had been destroyed in 1913 by Wittgenstein’s criticism, between given experiences, formerly called “acquaintance,” and propositions.
The construction in The Analysis of Mind is a draft or sketch; it is not worked out and expressed in the logical symbols and mathematical form in which such constructions should, according to Russell, ultimately be done. The “neutral monism” in this book actually has little in common with James’s; also, Russell’s theory of truth remains a realistic one, and his criticism of pragmatism on that issue is as severe as ever.
Russell published The Problem of China in 1922; the following year there appeared The Prospects of Industrial Civilization, co-authored with Dora, and The ABC of Atoms. The Russells’ daughter, Katharine Jane, was born in December 1923. In 1924 Russell published Icarus; or, The Future of Science.
Russell used the method of construction again in The Analysis of Matter (1927). In this work, which he called “a long dull book on matter,” his many years of work with the construction of scientific concepts was finally completed. As with the construction of psychological and epistemological concepts in The Analysis of Mind, this construction is not worked out in full mathematical logical form. The book is, however, a technical one in which Russell, starting with the particulars—here called “events”—of which one is aware as elements of perception or that are extrapolated from the perceived elements, constructs points in space, moments in time, causal centers, and causal lines, such that the needs of physics for these concepts and the complicated structure of matter can be supplied. He deals with competing views of relativity and competing constructions of space-and-time series by Whitehead and Sir Arthur Eddington; the theory of relativity naturally makes the process of construction more difficult than it had seemed in the essays of the 1910 period.
Also in 1927 Russell published a second edition of Principia Mathematica. In the introduction he tried to work out a Wittgensteinian view of the topics, such as identity, atomicity, and extensionality, on which Wittgenstein had most severely criticized the first edition of the book. But this reworking neither satisfied Wittgenstein nor represented a conversion on the part of Russell, who appeared to regard the intention of the work as unaffected by the changes he proposed as possible alternatives. The correspondence between Wittgenstein and Ramsey, who was consulted by Russell about the new edition, reveals the degree to which Wittgenstein saw the changes as inadequate. Other publications of 1927, such as the famous Why I Am Not a Christian and An Outline of Philosophy, dealt with nontechnical philosophical topics.
As the Russell children reached school age, their parents became concerned about their education. Russell published several works on the subject, including On Education, Especially in Early Childhood (1926). In 1927 the Russells opened their own school, Beacon Hill, on Russell’s brother Frank’s estate, based on the principles of not inculcating fear or unwholesome prudery in the students. Managing the school and lecturing and writing to raise funds to support it took up a great deal of their time, and their own children, who had to be treated the same as the other pupils while the school was in session, felt neglected by their parents. On Frank’s death in 1931, Russell succeeded to the title of third Earl of Russell, Viscount Amberley. The Beacon Hill School closed in 1932.
Bertrand and Dora Russell thought that marriage should permit the partners the freedom to engage in sexual relationships with others, while maintaining their friendship and their commitment to their children; this view is expressed in Russell’s Marriage and Morals (1929). But when Dora returned from a lecture tour in the United States with a lover, subsequently bore his child, and became pregnant by him again, Russell rebelled. He did not want another man’s children to bear his name; Dora believed he had deserted their principles. A bitter divorce in 1935 included a struggle over the children’s custody, schooling, and support. In January 1936 Russell married his children’s former governess, Patricia Helen Spence, known as “Peter,” by whom he had a third child, Conrad Sebastian Robert-named, like his half brother, in honor of the writer Joseph Conrad—in 1937.
This period was sad, difficult, and trying financially because of the Great Depression, the drying up of Russell’s income from a series of popular articles he had written for the Hearst newspapers, and the financial burden of supporting several households, including that of his brother’s widow. It was, then, with a sense of relief that Russell and his new family set sail in September 1938 for the United States, where Russell had arranged for a one-year lectureship at the University of Chicago.
In contrast to his pacifism during World War I, Russell supported the fighting of World War II, which began in 1939, to stop the aggression of Adolf Hitler’s Germany. He was anguished at being away from England during the conflict, but he was glad to have his children safe in the United States. The American sojourn, too, had its difficulties—Peter was unhappy in Los Angeles, where Russell was professor of philosophy at the University of California in 1939–1940; a contract for Russell to teach at City College of New York was blocked by court action because of his unconventional views on marriage; and Russell was fired from a lectureship on the history of culture at the Barnes Institute in Merion, Pennsylvania, in 1941–1942, and had to sue for his fee.
Russell’s most significant philosophical work of the American period was An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth (1940). As before, he seeks the most reliable foundation for knowledge: the epistemological premises that are most free from doubt and from which inferences can be built up with the least risk of error. Russell attempts to find atomic sentences that express as closely as possible the nub of experience that is left when the effects of habit, memory, and expectation are analyzed away. He refers to this process as the “asymptotic approach to the pure datum.” He finds the sentences closest to the datum to be those that indicate and express “egocentric particulars” such as “here,” “now,” “this,” and “I.” A sentence such as “hot here now,” for example, includes a minimum of inference; in contrast, a sentence such as “the sun is hot” leaves a gap between what is expressed and what is indicated and, thus, an opening for error. Although his own approach is more concerned with language and meaning than it formerly was, he faults logical positivists such as Carnap for keeping their analysis too bounded within language. His old complaint against Schiller, James, and Dewey is here directed against Hans Reichenbach as well: such philosophers fail to distinguish between how propositions are known to be true and what it means for propositions to be true. Russell agrees that they are known to be true by verification, but he insists that what makes them true is that they are in accord with the facts, even if those facts are inaccessible and verification is, therefore, impossible.
In 1945 Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy: And Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day was published, providing much-needed income. That same year the Russells returned to England, where Russell had been offered a fellowship at his old college, Trinity. A History of Western Philosophy proved to be one of Russell’s most popular books; although criticized as flippant and opinionated, it is clear and readable and provides historical, social, and political contexts for the philosophical ideas discussed.
In Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (1948) Russell turns his attention to the problem that had troubled him since 1910: induction—or, as he terms it, non-demonstrative inference. The first four parts of the book treat topics on which he had already written extensively and include little that is new. “The World of Science” brings together what is known in the various sciences; Russell had always believed that philosophy should start with the most reliable human knowledge, that of science, and should end its analysis by justifying what science says. He also believed that the contribution of philosophy was to adumbrate new hypotheses for science to explore. The second part deals with language in a way similar to An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth. The third part, concerning perception and science, is largely an updating of The Analysis of Mind. The fourth part, “Scientific Concepts,” reviews and adds to the material covered in The Analysis of Matter. The fifth and sixth parts add new material. The fifth, “Probability,” reviews the chief theories of probability in relation to mathematical probability and the problem of induction. This discussion leads to the concluding part of the work, “The Postulates of Scientific Inference,” in which Russell, finding the “uniformity of nature” inadequate, develops what he considers the minimum postulates necessary to support the kind of inductive inferences needed to justify the conclusions of science: quasi-permanence, separable causal lines, spatiotemporal continuity in causal lines, the common causal origin of similar structures ranged about a center, and analogy—in other words, assumptions about structure, substance, cause, and continuity. These postulates cannot be proved; but if they are necessary, no experience refutes them, and they are generally believed: they have all the justification of which the case admits.
Russell and his third wife separated in 1949. That year he was awarded the British Order of Merit and published Authority and the Individual: The Reith Lectures for 1948–9.
In 1950 Russell made his first visit to Australia for a two-month lecture tour sponsored by the Edward Dyason Trust Fund. He visited Sydney, Queensland, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth. A senior representative of the Department of External Affairs, Richard Greenish, was assigned to accompany him on his travels. The two developed a code word, “Humph,” to signify that the pomposity at a reception was getting out of hand. Later that year, Russell became the third philosopher to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, after Rudolf Eucken in 1908 and Henri Bergson in 1927. The 1949 prize had been withheld until 1950, and the award for that year, to William Faulkner, and that to Russell were announced at the same time. Russell learned that he had won the prize in a telephone call on 10 November while he was having dinner in Princeton with the physicist Robert Oppenheimer. The next day he delivered the lecture “Mind and Matter” at Princeton University. The large audience gave him a standing ovation at the end; among those in attendance was Albert Einstein, who had won the Nobel in Physics in 1921. Russell was especially pleased to learn that he had been chosen over Winston S. Churchill and Benedetto Croce. In reporting his selection for the prize the BBC called him “an apostle of humanity and free speech”; The New Statesman hailed him as “the wittiest and most pure of British stylists”; and a New York Times editorial pointed out that that anyone who could make A History of Western Philosophy fascinating qualified as a “literary” genius, adding: “It is good to see a true liberal get his reward in these partially totalitarian and reactionary days.” A congratulatory telegram from Greenish in Australia consisted of a single word: “Humph.” The announcement of the prize increased the audience for Russell’s three Matchette Foundation lectures at McMillan Theatre of Columbia University in New York beginning on 14 November. The crowd grew larger on each of the three successive days that he lectured there, filling two additional auditoriums that had to be wired for sound. Julie Medlock, a New York literary agent assigned to Russell by the university as a guide, recalled that “People were lined up three and four deep all the way around two blocks in the hope of getting in by some miracle, or at least hearing the piped voice, or catching a glimpse of Lord Russell in person. This crowd roundly cheered as we drove up” and that a reporter accompanying Russell exclaimed, “Good Lord, Lord Russell, anybody would think it was Jane Russell they were here to see instead of just a philosopher.” Russell’s publisher, Sir Stanley Unwin, suggested that one or two lectures in Sweden in addition to his Nobel lecture might help to increase the sale of his books in Scandinavia; Russell responded in a 23 November 1950 letter, “I have had my fill of lecturing recently and one of the advantages of the Prize is that it will enable me to do less of it.” On 3 December he wrote to his friend Rupert Crawshay-Williams about the tax-free £11,000 monetary award that came with the prize “as you say, is nice. I try to think I like the honour equally, but I don’t.”
In the third volume of his autobiography (1969) Russell devotes a single long paragraph and the first sentence of the next paragraph to his Nobel Prize:
When I was called to Stockholm, at the end of 1950, to receive the Nobel Prize—somewhat to my surprise, for literature, for my book Marriage and Morals—I was apprehensive, since I remembered that exactly three hundred years earlier, Descartes had been called to Scandinavia by Queen Christina in the winter time and had died of the cold. However, we were kept warm and comfortable and, instead of snow, we had rain, which was a slight disappointment. The occasion, though very grand, was pleasant and I enjoyed it. I was sorry for another prize winner who looked utterly miserable and was so shy that he refused to speak to anyone and could not make himself heard when he had to make his formal speech as we all had to do. My dinner companion was Madame Joliot-Curie and I found her talk interesting. At the evening party given by the King, an Aide-de-camp came to say that the King wished to talk with me. He wanted Sweden to join with Norway and Denmark against the Russians. I said that it was obvious, if there were a war between the West and the Russians, the Russians could only get to Norwegian ports through and over Swedish territory. The King approved of this observation. I was rather pleased, too, by my speech, especially by the mechanical sharks, concerning whom I said: “I think every big town should contain artificial waterfalls that people could descend in very fragile canoes, and they should contain bathing pools full of mechanical sharks. Any person found advocating a preventive war should be condemned to two hours a day with these ingenious monsters.” I found that two or three fellow Nobel prize-winners listened to what I had to say and considered it not without importance. Since then I have published it in part II of my book Human Society in Ethics and Politics and a gramophone record has been made of it in America. I have heard that it has affected many people more than I had thought which is gratifying.
1950, beginning with the OM and ending with the Nobel Prize, seems to have marked the apogee of my respectability.
Russell seems to have been surprised not at winning the prize but at winning it in literature; he may have thought that he would more appropriately have won it for philosophy or for mathematics, but no such categories exist. As Irving Polonoff points out, “The Nobel Prize in Literature was intended by Nobel to honor authors of idealistic tendency whose works exemplified the moral force of literature. The term literature was to be construed widely enough to include not only works of fiction but also other writings which through their form and manner of presentation possess literary worth.” Russell’s memory played him false—perhaps he was obtaining some unconscious retrospective vindication—in thinking that the prize was for Marriage and Morals, the work that played a major part in the cancellation of his contract to teach at the City College of New York. Anders Österling, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, did not mention Marriage and Morals in his presentation speech at the awards ceremony, although he did refer to A History of Western Philosophy, Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits, Sceptical Essays (1928), and the sketch “My Mental Development” in The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell; he also alluded to “a great number of equally important books on practically all the problems which the present development of society involves,” which could have included Marriage and Morals. Another source of confusion might have been Österling’s comment toward the end of his speech: “Exactly two hundred years ago Jean Jacques Rousseau was awarded the prize offered by the Academy of Dijon for his famous answer to the question of ‘whether the arts and sciences have contributed to improve morals.’” It seems clear, however, that the prize was not awarded to Russell for any single work, and certainly not for one that had been published twenty-one years earlier. According to the citation, the prize was “in recognition for his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.” As Ray Monk points out in Bertrand Russell: The Ghost of Madness, 1921-1970 (2000), “it was specifically not for his incontestably great contributions to philosophy—
The Principles of Mathematics, ‘On Denoting’ and Principia Mathematica—that he was being honoured, but for the later work that his fellow philosophers were unanimous in regarding as inferior. Russell’s ambivalence about this can only have been heightened by the knowledge that, before him,” one of the only philosophers to have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “was the one against whose influence he had campaigned tirelessly and vehemently for forty years: Henri Bergson.”
Polonoff points out that one reason for Russell’s selection as the 1950 laureate was the fact that that year was the Nobel Foundation’s fiftieth anniversary: “The foundation was in a retrospective mood, reflecting upon the half century years of its activity, reviewing the pattern of its choices, and estimating whether they had fulfilled the intentions of the founder.” Österling said in his presentation speech that “Russell’s philosophy may be said in the best sense to fulfil just those desires and intentions that Alfred Nobel had in mind when he instituted his Prizes. There are quite striking similarities between their outlooks on life. Both of them are at the same time sceptics and utopians, both take a gloomy view of the contemporary world, yet both hold fast to a belief in the possibility of achieving logical standards for human behaviour. The Swedish Academy believes that it acts in the spirit of Nobel’s intention when, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Foundation, it wishes to honour Bertrand Russell as one of our time’s brilliant spokesmen of rationality and humanity, as a fearless champion of free speech and free thought in the West.” Polonoff notes that “There is little doubt that the spirit of Nobel’s intention was carried out by the Academy’s choice” of Russell, but “The enthusiastic remarks coupling their beliefs and outlooks on life seem preposterous.” He asks, when did Nobel’s “desire for peace lead him to use his considerable prestige and power to decline participation in the actual production of armament?… There is a vast difference between the outlook of the industrialist with clandestine dreams of peace and that of the aristocratic rebel.”
Ronald W. Clark says in Bertrand Russell and His World (1981) that the audience for Russell’s Nobel lecture on 11 December, “which included the Swedish Royal family—‘immediately put at ease, by Russell,’ according to one observer—heard something different from the normal technical discourse or literary exposition. Instead, they listened to an impassioned plea for peace” titled “What Desires Are Politically Important?”
In 1951 Russell published New Hopes for a Changing World. In 1952 he and Peter were divorced; £10,000 of the £11,000 Nobel award went to her. That same year Russell married an old friend, Edith Finch.
Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits was part of a synthesis that Russell found to be too large for one volume. The other volume, Human Society in Ethics and Politics, was published in 1954. The two books can be seen as the fulfillment of a plan that, Russell says in “My Mental Development,” he had entertained while walking in the snow in the Tiergarten in Berlin in 1897:
… to write a series of books in the philosophy of the sciences, growing gradually more concrete as I passed from mathematics to biology; I thought I would also write a series of books on social and political questions, growing gradually more abstract. At last I would achieve a Hegelian synthesis in an encyclopaedic work dealing equally with theory and practice. The scheme was inspired by Hegel, and yet something of it survived the change in my philosophy. The moment had had a certain importance: I can still, in memory, feel the squelching of melting snow beneath my feet, and smell the damp earth that promised the end of winter.
Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits and Human Society in Ethics and Politics can be regarded as Russell’s final works in philosophy. He wrote many more works, some of them philosophical, but they were either retrospective analyses of his earlier views and development or polemical pieces. By the 1950s the kind of philosophy that Russell exemplified was widely attacked, particularly by the ordinary-language analysts. Russell’s defenses of his philosophy against J. O. Urmson, G. F. Warnock, and P. F. Strawson, along with his critical review of Gilbert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind (1949), appear in My Philosophical Development. The book is a useful overview of the development of Russell’s thought, and the criticisms of ordinary language philosophy as an “idle tea-table amusement” show how far that thought was from the current mode of British philosophizing. In the chapter “The Impact of Wittgenstein” Russell is critical of some of the doctrines of the Tractatus that had originally impressed him.
After the brief period of “respectability” during which he received the Order of Merit and the Nobel Prize, Russell returned to notoriety in the mid 1950s as head of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and, later, of the Committee of 100, organizations devoted to mass civil disobedience in the cause of halting the nuclear arms buildup. In a wonderful publicity boost for the cause, Russell and his wife were arrested and briefly imprisoned; pictures of the frail-looking eighty-eight-year-old Russell being hauled off to jail evoked widespread sympathy for them and disapproval of government actions. During the 1950s and 1960s he produced a steady flow of speeches, articles, and books in the cause of peace, of which Common Sense and Nuclear Warfare (1959) and Has Man a Future? (1961) are probably the best known. He attempted to intervene in international conflicts such as the border dispute between India and China and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis between the United States and the Soviet Union; he recounts these events in Unarmed Victory (1963). He also used his prestige on behalf of political prisoners. In 1963 he resigned from the Committee of 100 and founded the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation; he was actively involved in the foundation and set up an endowment so that its work would continue after his death. Russell was outspoken in his opposition to American actions in the Vietnam War, and in 1966 he and the leftist French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre set up a self-styled International War Crimes Tribunal to “try” American officials for alleged atrocities in the war.
Russell’s personal life during his final decades was generally happy, although differences of policy and direction within the organizations with which he worked left wounds. There was also the strange case of Russell’s secretary and “assistant,” Ralph Schoenman, who exercised a Svengali-like hold over Russell from 1960 until his rejection by Russell in 1966. Edith Russell, however, gave her husband the contentment and support he needed. She helped him with his autobiography and other writing and with his correspondence, visitors, and engagements, and worked for peace and went to jail with him. Russell’s older son fell ill, and Russell and his wife found themselves caring for their grandchildren. Their home in Penrhyndeudraeth, Merionethshire, Wales, where they had lived since 1955, was a pleasant place for children’s holidays and for entertaining family and friends, and a refuge from the publicity that surrounded them because of their participation in the peace movement.
Russell retained an interest in philosophy; he entertained and corresponded with many philosophers and found the friendship of some, such as Sir Alfred J. Ayer, delightful. He told his wife when they were working on his autobiography that recalling the old issues between himself and Meinong and between himself and Wittgenstein led him to think that he could return to the debate and finally give definitive answers. But his concern for peace was more pressing.
Russell’s death on 2 February 1970 left people around the world feeling bereft of the clear voice of reason to which they had come to look amid the Cold War, the arms race, and incidents such as the Cuban Missile Crisis that had seemed to place humanity on the brink of a nuclear holocaust. Even the critics who had discounted his warnings and accusations as the ravings of a senile old man had to admit that Russell spoke eloquently and without fear or favor; the gadfly was sorely missed.
The evaluation of Russell by philosophers has been highly divergent. While Russell was alive and active, he could and did inflame opponents such as the idealists and pragmatists with what they considered—and sometimes were—unfair criticisms of their ideas. Logical positivists and empiricists who considered him their mentor were shaken by his rejection of some of their ideas. Still other contemporaries were frankly contemptuous of Russell’s work. British ordinary-language analysts objected to the model of a simplified and precise logical language that began with Principia Mathematica; to them, the intuitions and nuances of everyday speech are philosophically informative and not to be ignored. Russell, in turn, regarded such concerns as trivial.
Another criticism, shared by ordinary-language and analytic philosophers and those with other points of view, is of Russell’s “foundationalism,” his attempt to trace beliefs back to some unquestioned and reliable starting point. Throughout his writings Russell strove to find elements of knowledge that could be taken as given and that could serve as the basis for inferences to common-sense and scientific beliefs. Early in his career he found these elements in logical truths and in acquaintance—that is, direct reference from words to objects. Russell admits in the chapter “The Retreat from Pythagoras” in My Philosophical Development that he was unable to achieve his goal. With respect to mathematical truth, he quotes from his 1907 essay “The Study of Mathematics,” where he had said that “Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty,” then goes on: “All this, though I still remember the pleasure of believing it, has come to seem to me largely nonsense.… I have come to believe, though very reluctantly, that it consists of tautologies.” With respect to the world as known through the senses, Russell had to retreat from knowledge by acquaintance to a view that what is presented by perception must submit to extensive analysis before the nugget of reliable knowledge can be elicited from it. Russell acknowledged the difficulties in establishing what can be known; in the chapter from My Philosophical Development titled “Non-Demonstrative Inference,” however, he explains that
Universal scepticism cannot be refuted, but also cannot be accepted. I have come to accept the facts of sense and the broad truth of science as things which the philosopher should take as data, since, though their truth is not quite certain, it has a higher degree of probability than anything likely to be achieved in philosophical speculation.
In other places Russell takes the task of philosophy to be the building of bridges between science and common sense, and these bridges require not only the data of science but also those of perception, as well as the disciplined inferences derived from logic and mathematics. This concept of the scope of philosophy has something in common with his early dream in the Tiergarten, as Russell points out in the postscript to his autobiography:
My work is near its end, and the time has come when I can survey it as a whole. How far have I succeeded, and how far have I failed? From an early age I thought myself as dedicated to great and arduous tasks. Nearly three-quarters of a century ago, walking alone in the Tiergarten through melting snow under the coldly glittering March sun, I determined to write two series of books: one abstract, growing gradually more concrete; the other concrete, growing gradually more abstract. They were to be crowned with a synthesis, combining pure theory with a practical social philosophy. Except for the final synthesis, which still eludes me, I have written these books. They have been acclaimed and praised, and the thoughts of many men and women have been affected by them. To this extent I have succeeded.
Russell goes on to recount his failures: the outer failures of a world torn with strife and its loss of ideals; the inner failure of giving up his dream of finding a world of pure truth through mathematics. But, he says, “beneath all this load of failure I am still conscious of something that I feel to be victory. I may have conceived theoretical truth wrongly, but I was not wrong in thinking that there is such a thing, and that it deserves our allegiance.”
Contemporary philosophers by and large reject this vision of a truth that is “there” and deserves to be pursued and the conviction that the philosopher and the scientist are colleagues in this pursuit. Richard Rorty, for example, sees philosophy not as a search for truth but as “edification.” Even some philosophers who consider themselves, like Russell, in the empiricist tradition, reject his foundationalism.
On the other hand, Russell’s philosophical fame is secure in the realm that most disappointed him: mathematical logic. His and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica remains a milestone in that area of philosophy and a model for many in what remains of the logical positivist or logical empiricist tradition, although this technical subject seems less and less part of the general area of academic philosophy and more and more a subject matter of its own.
Russell himself was unsure of the extent to which his writings on individual ethics, social problems, and political theory should be considered philosophy. Answering his critics in The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell, he says, “I come now to what is, for me, an essentially different department of philosophy—I mean the part that depends upon ethical considerations. I should like to exclude all value judgments from philosophy, except that this would be too violent a breach with usage.” In the preface to Human Society in Ethics and Politics he says, “I had originally intended to include this discussion of ethics in my book ‘Human Knowledge,’ but I decided not to do so because I was uncertain as to the sense in which ethics can be regarded as ‘knowledge.’” Russell certainly regarded his writings in this area an important part of his lifework, whether or not they should be considered philosophical in a technical sense.
However philosophers of the future view such questions as whether philosophy should commit itself to the pursuit of truth, whether science and philosophy can or should collaborate in that pursuit, whether philosophy is properly concerned with the experiential basis of knowledge, and whether value areas such as ethics ought to be included within philosophy, Bertrand Russell’s work has left certain influences that seem likely to endure. The clarity of his writing, the cogency of his arguments, and his insistence on analysis as a method have had long-lasting effects on his successors, whether or not they explicitly espouse his methodology. If one compares the current level of philosophical argumentation with that of much of the nineteenth century, it seems clear that a debt is owed to Russell. The model of the philosopher as a person of wisdom and a citizen of the world, exemplified by Russell in his life and his work, has also struck many of his heirs as an ideal to be admired and emulated.
The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell, 2 volumes, edited by Nicholas Griffin and Alison Roberts Miculan (volume 1, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992; volume 2, London & New York: Routledge, 2001).
Martin Werner, Bertrand Russell: A Bibliography of His Writing 1895-1976 (Munich, New York, London & Paris: Saur / Hamden, Conn.: Linnet, 1981);
Kenneth Blackwell, Harry Ruja, and others, A Bibliography of Bertrand Russell (London & New York: Routledge, 1994).
H. W. Leggett, Bertrand Russell, O.M. (London: Lincolns-Prager, 1949; New York: Philosophical Library, 1950);
Alan Wood, Bertrand Russell: The Passionate Sceptic (London: Allen & Unwin, 1957);
Rupert Crawshay-Williams, Russell Remembered (London: Oxford University Press, 1970);
Dora Russell, The Tamarisk Tree: My Quest for Liberty and Love (New York: Putnam, 1975);
Katharine Tait, My Father, Bertrand Russell (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975);
Ronald W. Clark, The Life of Bertrand Russell (New York: Knopf, 1976);
Maurice Cranston, “Bertrand Russell: Towards a Complete Portrait,” Encounter, 46 (1976): 65–79;
Clark, Bertrand Russell and His World (London: Thames & Hudson, 1981);
Caroline Moorehead, Bertrand Russell: A Life (London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1992);
Alan Ryan, Bertrand Russell: A Political Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993);
Ray Monk, Bertrand Russell: The Spirit of Solitude, 1872-1921 (London: Cape, 1996; New York: Free Press, 1996);
Monk, Bertrand Russell: The Ghost of Madness, 1921-1970 (London: Cape, 2000; New York: Free Press, 2001).
Lillian Woodworth Aiken, Bertrand Russell’s Philosophy of Morals (New York: Humanities Press, 1963);
Alfred J. Ayer, Russell and Moore: The Analytic Heritage (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971);
Kenneth Blackwell, The Spinozistic Ethics of Bertrand Russell (London & Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1985);
Wayne C. Booth, Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1974);
Tom Burke, Dewey’s New Logic: A Reply to Russell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994);
John Dewey and H. M. Kallen, eds., The Bertrand Russell Case (New York: Viking, 1941);
Alan Dorward, Bertrand Russell: A Short Guide to His Philosophy (London & New York: Published for the British Council by Longmans, Green, 1951);
Elizabeth R. Eames, Bertrand Russell’s Dialogue with His Contemporaries (Carbondale & Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989);
Eames, Bertrand Russell’s Theory of Knowledge (London: Allen & Unwin, 1969; New York: Braziller, 1969);
C. A. Fritz, Bertrand Russell’s Construction of the External World (New York: Humanities Press, 1952);
A. C. Grayling, Russell: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1996);
Nicholas Griffin, Russell’s Idealist Apprenticeship (Oxford: Clarendon Press / New York: Oxford University Press, 1991);
Griffin, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Bertrand Russell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003);
Paul J. Hager, Continuity and Change in the Development of Russell’s Philosophy (Dordrecht, Netherlands & Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994);
Claire Ortiz Hall, Rethinking Identity and Metaphysics: On the Foundations of Analytic Philosophy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997);
Peter Hylton, Propositions, Functions, and Analysis: Selected Essays on Russell’s Philosophy (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2005);
Hylton, Russell, Idealism, and the Emergence of Analytic Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon Press / New York: Oxford University Press, 1990);
Philip Ironside, The Social and Political Thought of Bertrand Russell: The Development of an Aristocratic Liberalism (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996);
A. D. Irvine, ed., Bertrand Russell: Critical Assessments, 4 volumes (London & New York: Routledge, 1998);
Irvine and G. A. Wedeking, eds., Russell and Analytic Philosophy (Buffalo, N.Y & Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993);
Ronald Jager, The Development of Bertrand Russell’s Philosophy (London: Allen & Unwin, 1972; New York: Humanities Press, 1972);
C. W. Kilmister, Russell (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984);
Gregory Landini, Russell’s Hidden Substitution Theory (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998);
Holger Leerhoff, Bertrand Russells Philosophie der Mathematik als Ursprung des logischen Atomismus (Marburg: Tectum, 2004);
Godehard Link, ed., One Hundred Years of Russell’s Paradox: Mathematics, Logic, Philosophy, De Gruyter Series in Logic and Its Applications, no. 6 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2004);
Margaret Moran, “Bertrand Russell’s Early Approaches to Literature,” University of Toronto Quarterly, 54 (1984): 56–78;
George Nakhnikian, ed., Bertrand Russell’s Philosophy (London: Duckworth, 1974);
Ramendra Nath, The Ethical Philosophy of Bertrand Russell (New York: Vantage, 1993);
Andrew Newman, The Correspondence Theory of Truth: An Essay on the Metaphysics of Predication (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002);
L. Nathan Oaklander, Temporal Relations and Temporal Becoming: A Defense of a Russellian Theory of Time (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1984);
J. Obi Oguejiofor, Has Bertrand Russell Solved the Problem of Perception? A Critical Exposition of Bertrand Russell’s Analysis of Sense Perception and Its Relation with the External World (Frankfurt am Main & New York: Peter Lang, 1994);
Wayne A. Patterson, Bertrand Russell’s Philosophy of Logical Atomism (New York: Peter Lang, 1993);
D. F. Pears, Bertrand Russell and the British Tradition in Philosophy (London: Collins, 1967; New York: Random House, 1967);
Federico Perelda, Hegel e Russell: Logica e ontologia tra moderno e contemporaneo, edited by Emanuele Severino (Padua: II poligrafo, 2003);
Irving Polonoff, “Bertrand Russell,” in British Winners of the Nobel Literary Prize, edited by Walter E. Kidd (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1973), pp.168–201;
A. P. Rao, Understanding Principia and Tractatus: Russell and Wittgenstein Revisited (San Francisco: International Scholars Publications, 1997);
George Roberts, ed., Bertrand Russell Memorial Volume (London: Allen & Unwin / New York: Humanities Press, 1979);
Dave Robinson, Introducing Bertrand Russell, illustrated by Judy Groves (Cambridge: Icon, 2002);
Alan Ryan, Bertrand Russell’s Politics: 1688 or 1968? (Austin: College of Liberal Arts, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, 1991);
R. M. Sainsbury, Russell (London & Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979);
George Santayana, Winds of Doctrine: Studies in Contemporary Opinion (New York: Scribners, 1913);
C. Wade Savage and C. Anthony Anderson, eds., Rereading Russell (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989);
Paul Arthur Schilpp, ed., The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell, The Library of Living Philosophers, volume 5 (Evanston, Ill. & Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1944);
Ralph Schoenman, ed., Bertrand Russell: Philosopher of the Century. Essays in His Honour (London: Allen & Unwin, 1967; Boston: Little, Brown, 1967);
Ciro Senofonte, Scienza, religione e morale in Bertrand Russell: Saggi e ricerche (Istituto italiano per gli studi filosofici), no. 9 (Naples: Vivarium, 2002);
Graham Stevens, The Russellian Origins of Analytical Philosophy: Bertrand Russell and the Unity of the Proposition (New York & London: Routledge, 2005);
William W. Tait, ed., Early Analytic Philosophy: Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein. Essays in Honor of Leonard Linsky (Chicago: Open Court, 1997);
Elena Tatievskaia, Russells Universalientheorie, Spektrum Philosophie, volume 22 (Wörzburg: Ergon, 2002);
J. E. Thomas and Kenneth Blackwell, eds., Russell in Review: The Bertrand Russell Century Celebrations (Toronto: Stevens, Hakkert, 1976);
Eric Wefald, Truth and Knowledge: On Some Themes in Tractarian and Russellian Philosophy of Language (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1996).
The Bertrand Russell Archives are at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. T S. Eliot’s notes on Russell’s spring 1914 logic seminar at Harvard University are at the Houghton Library, Harvard University.