Saturday, September 18, 2010

An Introduction to Russell’s Position

It is pertinent to give a brief introduction of Russell’s philosophy. Though this introduction has nothing to do with our main concern i.e. “The Conquest of Happiness” but a glimpse of his philosophic position will more facilitate us to know distinctly about the social, moral and political aspects of his life.

To start with, Russell initiated his philosophic career when he was a student in Trinity College at Cambridge, at the end of nineteenth century. The intellectual atmosphere at that time was Hegalian. M. C. Taggart was the great exponent of Hegalian philosophy. According to Hegal the universe is a unity in spite of diversity found in it. On the basis of his theory he always tried to see everything in the mirror of reality and to equate reality wit logic. He attached much importance to logic, which we find at the core of logic. Logic according to Hegal is a process by which we deduce from our experience of the actual the categories that describe the absolute.
Hegal’s philosophy holds the doctrine of internal relations, which describes that the world is inherently a unity and not a multiplicity this doctrine is based upon subject predicate logic, and this is an important point for present discussion.
Russell was much influenced by Hegal’s philosophy in the beginning, but later, his deep interest in mathematics gradually changed his mind. Whereas Hegal and his followers believed in the philosophy of internal relations, Russell adopted the theory of external relations according to which the world was not unity but multiplicity. So he endeavored to discover the realistic position of science and common sense.
The very first book, which expounds his philosophy, is “The Problems of Philosophy” which was published in 1912. In this book he tried to negate the Berkeley’s Subjective Idealism that the external world is an idea. Russell holds that it is actually our sensation that poses a medium between the external world and us. Thus he defined three basic elements for human knowledge. These are sense data, sensation and physical object.
In the book “Our Knowledge of the External world” he modified his theory and ignored the physical object. It was to strike economy in understanding the world under the influence of doctrine enunciated by Monk O’ Cam Razor that entities are not to be multiplied without necessities. So he ruled out physical object, which he called a logical construction in the “Problem of Philosophy”.
The third phase of his philosophical career can be observed in his book “Analysis of Mind” which appeared in 1921. In this book he further modified his theory and ignored sense data. After elimination of the two, only sensations remained. Thus he constructed the world out of sensations. He enunciated that the fundamental stuff of the world is neither matter nor mind but a neutral stuff, which reduced the philosophy to Neutral Monism. He applied the results and deduction of science and philosophy to prove the scientific and logical validity of his theory. According to Russel, matter was coming more and more immaterial in modern physics. Matter is not tangible stuff, seen or touched by us. Rather, it is now considered as system of events, which is contrary to the general definition of matter. On the other hand matter is becoming more and more material under the influence of Behaviorism. The construction of the world and the mind is reduced to the laws of perspectives. The world gives innumerable appearances from different angles, whether they are observed or not. All these assorted appearances of the world make a history of world in time. The appearances of the world show themselves whether there is some observer or not. In any case these appearances make history at different perspectives. Thus matter and mind correlate to make a combination of perspectives and history, which they make in time. If they are grouped into one perspective, the neutral stuff appears as matter. And if they are taken into another perspective, it appears to be mind. Mind and matter, therefore identified with one another and lost their traditional duality. As a philosopher, Russel’s position seems to be sceptic, with regard to religion and the ultimate purpose of the universe. Practically his position as humanist is more lucid and granted.

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