# Who is Bertrand Russell?

December 14, 2020He is a famous British philosopher.

Bertrand Russell, who carried out groundbreaking studies in the field of logic and mathematics, wrote the famous mathematics book named Principia Mathematica with Whitehead. He later reflected his studies in the field of mathematical logic into the field of philosophy and developed the doctrine of logical atomism within this framework.

Accordingly, Russell called the simplest sentences of his system atomic propositions and separated these propositions from molecular propositions versus more complex ones. He said that molecular propositions are made up of atomic propositions connected by logical joints such as if and, or if, if and only.

With this logical teaching, Russell arrived at a certain metaphysical view. In other words, there is a very close relationship between his logic teaching and his metaphysics. According to him, we can have a solid idea about the components that make up the world by making use of this mathematical logic and philosophical analysis. He considered his mathematical logic to be a solid support for the belief that the world consists of a multitude of things, individuals, simple elements.

The world does not consist of a single substance, but of a large number of separate and particular things. Moreover, these simple elements are not of spiritual nature as idealists think. Because they are simple and exist only, they have no qualities in themselves. They occur in complex structures called phenomena, some of which are physical, others spiritual. Adopting empiricism in terms of knowledge theory, Russell spoke of two separate types of knowledge: knowledge by description and knowledge by acquaintance, and argued that these constitute the basis of our experimental knowledge.

In his youth, Russell advocated an ultra-realistic position. The reason for this was that he opposed the idealist philosophy conceptions prevailing at that time. Later, he thought that the necessity to attribute some kind of entity to non-existent objects was due to a poor understanding of the logic of language, and he developed the specific theory of descriptors, which had a great influence on the analytic tradition that followed him. With his article titled “On Denoting” written in 1905, he determined the way analytical philosophy works.

The fact that Russell expresses the contradiction in a letter to Frege, now referred to as the Russell Paradox, is a turning point in terms of mathematical philosophy discussions. In the following years, developing set theory in a way that excludes paradoxes has become one of the main research topics of mathematicians and philosophers working in the field of mathematical philosophy.

Within these discussions, the type theory developed by Russell has a special place. On the other hand, Principia Mathematica, which Russell co-authored with Alfred North Whitehead, is a milestone in the development of formal logic. In this work, the developments achieved in modern logic so far are presented in a comprehensive system. Kurt Gödel proved the incompleteness theorems of famous mathematics in the formal system developed in the Principia. Russell’s book, Our Knowledge of the External World as a Field for Scientific Method in Philosophy, published in 1914 and expressed his views on the method of science, influenced the logical positivists and the later developed philosophy of science tradition.

Subject Headings

Russell’s life and work

Russell’s political activities

Russell’s understanding of logic and mathematics

Russell paradoxes

Russell’s philosophical views

The reduction of mathematics to logic

Happiness and working relationship

What is specific descriptors theory?

What is logical atomism?

Russell’s understanding of the philosophy of science

Russell’s understanding of moral philosophy

Refusal of idealism

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM

Source: Ömer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Department of Sociology 1st Class “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2., 3., 4. Class “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook