Bertrand Russell the Passionate Skeptic: A Biography

By Alan Wood | Go to book overview
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'He was Always Talking'

RUSSELL entered Trinity College Cambridge in October 1890, at the age of eighteen, and found himself in 'a new world of infinite delight'.

It is hard to deny the intellectual supremacy of Cambridge during the half century or more which followed. F. H. Bradley at Oxford was regarded for many years as the leading British philosopher; but his reign was to be overthrown by a revolt inspired firstly by Cambridge, and secondly by the American 'realists'. One college alone in Cambridge--Trinity--could boast of McTaggart, Whitehead, Russell, Moore, Broad, Ramsey and Wittgenstein, together with Eddington, Rutherford and J. J. Thomson. To these we may add such other Cambridge names as W. E. Johnson, Marshall, and Keynes.

No one has yet explained this extraordinary conglomeration of talent; perhaps it can only be ascribed to chance. But one reason for the Cambridge philosophical renaissance may be that Cambridge was far ahead of Oxford in mathematics and science, and the main advances in philosophy were destined to come from this direction. It was because he wanted to study mathematics that Bertrand went to Cambridge, whereas his brother Frank had gone to Oxford.

From the start Russell made friends with an outstanding group of men. One examiner for his scholarship had been A. N. Whitehead, who had entered Trinity as an undergraduate ten years earlier, in 1880, and became a Fellow in 1885. Whitehead was so impressed by Russell's scholarship papers that he made a point of asking senior students to call on Russell and get to know him.

One of the new philosophical friends who had most influence


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