Russell on Metaphysics: Selections from the Writings of Bertrand Russell

Russell on Metaphysics: Selections from the Writings of Bertrand Russell

Russell on Metaphysics: Selections from the Writings of Bertrand Russell

Russell on Metaphysics: Selections from the Writings of Bertrand Russell

Synopsis

Is the world of appearances the real world?Are there facts that exist independently of our minds?Are there vague objects?Russell on Metaphysics brings together for the first time a comprehensive selection of Russell's writing on metaphysics in one volume. Russell's major and lasting contribution to metaphysics has been hugely influential and his insights have led to the establishment of analytic philosophy as a dominant stream in philosophy. Stephen Mumford chronicles the metaphysical nature of these insights through accessible introductions to the texts, setting them in context and understanding their continued importance. Russell on Metaphysics is both a valuable introduction to Bertrand Russell as a metaphysician, and an introduction to analytic philosophy and its history.

Excerpt

This book is a collection, along with a commentary, of the most significant writings on metaphysics by Bertrand Russell. Unlike the other books published in this series so far, the heading under which Russell’s writings are selected is one that may not be fully understood in advance by some readers. Russell discussed many things, including politics, religion and ethics. He was, however, one of the greatest analytic philosophers of the twentieth century and this book includes some of the writings for which he deserves this status. Some of the ideas Russell discusses here may be difficult, therefore. But Russell thought that in almost all areas of philosophy, clarity and simplicity was possible and that even very difficult ideas could be stripped down to their easily grasped essentials. He successfully demonstrates this in these papers. Thus, someone completely new to metaphysics ought nevertheless be able to understand what is said. Indeed, this collection would provide a fine introduction to the subject or to analytic philosophy in general. Though it is not a student textbook nor a research monograph, it is the work of a prominent and important philosopher engaged in metaphysical study. Perhaps there is no better introduction to metaphysics than such a thing. Further, this book might be an informative introduction to analytic philosophy and its history. Some of the papers contain the metaphysical development that underpinned the transition from British idealism to contemporary British philosophy.

To some who know a little of Russell’s philosophy, it might seem strange to speak of him being engaged in metaphysics. He is often depicted as standing squarely in the empiricist tradition that had, on the whole, rejected metaphysics and was concerned primarily with the theory of knowledge or epistemology. If this book has but one aim, it is to relieve its readers of that misconception. Russell was a metaphysician. It might even be thought that his most important and lasting philosophical insights were metaphysical. Though famed for his work on the foundations of mathematics and logic, perhaps his greatest achievement was thinking of the metaphysical basis on . . .

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