The Problem of Induction

[Revised entry by John Vickers on March 14, 2014. Changes to: Bibliography] The original problem of induction can be simply put. It concerns the support or justification of inductive methods;
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[Revised entry by John Vickers on March 14, 2014. Changes to: Bibliography] The original problem of induction can be simply put. It concerns the support or justification of inductive methods; methods that predict or infer, in Hume's words, that "instances of which we have had no experience resemble those of which we have had experience" (THN, 89). Such methods are clearly essential in scientific reasoning as well as in the conduct of our everyday affairs. The problem is how to support or justify them and it leads to a dilemma: the principle cannot be proved deductively, for it is...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

What Can Be Learned from Bertrand Russell’s Life as a Philanderer? Part II

This second of four articles on Bertrand Russell's relationship with women surveys some of the relationships Russell had with women icnluding Ottoline Morrell, Dora Black, and Constance Malleson. His relationships provide an interesting and provacative insight into his complex personality.

Bertrand Russell DrawingII. The Women in Russell's Life

The years that followed saw Russell deluge himself in womanly company. The ladies Ottoline Morrell and Constance Malleson headed the ensemble; and despite Lady Constance’s eminence as an extolled West-End actress, it was the belletristic touch of Lady Ottoline that engrossed Russell’s thirst for self-estrangement. The affair was kindled in 1911, the dawn of a fiercely intense relationship that lasted more than five years. If tradition and conformity lied at the heart of his marriage to Alys, it was surely literature that ran through the veins of his and Ottoline’s liaison. She was a beautiful and well-established aristocrat, known for her influence within the intellectual and artistic circles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Through the course of her youth Ottoline had befriended a number of the era’s illustrious writers, including Aldous Huxley, Siegfried Sassoon, T.S. Elliot, and D.H. Lawrence—together with a number of others whose work had been bolstered generously by her patronage.[1] Given the high regard in which Ottoline held the arts, and Russell’s longing to become that which he could never be, it comes as no surprise that he spent much of their relationship coveting the gifts of those who occupied her guestbook. He envisaged himself in the grip of an intellectual incarceration, the result of a lifelong pursuit of technical perfection, which left him wretchedly inept to express himself artistically. Pen in hand, he sought to release himself by way of Ottoline’s experience and ‘gentle’ guidance.[2] She, too, felt Russell needed saving: ‘I suppose,’ she wrote him in February 1912, ‘in some mysterious manner I do help you to free the gods and goddesses within you—and to help them all sing together well in tune.’[3] He held the banner of the tragic prodigy, faced with a destiny he could not fulfil, falling short time and time again of his own lofty expectations. Once again Russell had insinuated himself into an atmosphere that smothered him, and in consequence found himself isolated behind towering ramparts of disparity. This peculiar dynamic infused every aspect of the Russell-Morrell relationship, and in time Russell’s determination to become a new person for Ottoline’s sake brought their gluttonous amour to an end. He simply ‘could not turn himself into a writer of fiction,’[4] and in this deemed himself a failure, leaving his once ablaze affections for Ottoline to wither into a tepid cocktail of resentment and laxity. From the remnants of this sour beverage of an affair, however, the pair maintained a lazy friendship that lasted to her death in 1938.[5] Russell, meanwhile, continued his transatlantic rampage: woman by woman the female population was all but consumed by the maw of his libidinous appetite.[6]

Amidst the marrow of the First World War Russell encountered his second wife, one Dora Black, an industrious bluestocking endowed with the progressive philosophy of Britain’s new left wing. They joined forces in 1916 to combat military conscription, an ambition which left Russell held in a six-month incarceration (this time of the physical kind) at Brixton Prison.[7] Upon his release in 1918 he and Dora embarked on something of a travelling splurge, visiting Russia, China and Japan. Illustrated was the pair’s comedic affinity throughout their Japanese sojourn: upon false reports of Russell’s death at the hands of pneumonia, Dora quite satirically informed the press of her companion’s inability to grant an interview on account of his being dead.[8] They travelled together for a number of years, more a cultural investigation than a deluxe retreat, writing regularly on their experiences. Having previously denied Russell’s nuptial advances on the grounds that matrimony restricted the liberty of women, Dora finally ceded to Russell’s wishes upon their return to England in 1921. Given the strength of Dora’s character, and the interests she and her husband shared, one would be forgiven for presuming Russell’s problems here at an end. She fulfilled a role in Russell’s life to which those who precede her would have balked. Together they wrote The Prospects of Industrial Civilization, a feat of collaboration Russell had failed to perform alongside any of his former lovers,[9] and opened a reformist boarding school in West Sussex, an institution which strove to instantiate the educational philosophy of Dora’s In Defence of Children. Dora’s successes came at an expense, however, namely those virtues one could presume attracted Russell to the likes of Alys and Ottoline—ease and normality. Having met more than his match in terms of the progressive ideas of his parents before him, Russell appeared to view Dora’s very liberality as a barrier that stood between them. For the extent of their relationship both Russell and Dora continued to spark relations with other people, a quirk with which he was unlikely to take immediate umbrage; but upon Dora becoming pregnant with another man’s child, the marriage seemed to fall prey to its own progressiveness.[10] The weir of liberal thinking gave way to intense jealousy and bitter resentment, resulting in Russell’s writing of boastful letters describing his youthful conquests across the Atlantic, and his eventual leaving of Dora for their children’s governess, Patricia.[11] He abandoned the campaigns he and Dora had together founded (including their beloved boarding school) and threw himself into the next chapter of his life with bags haphazardly packed.

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[1] Simkin, J.. (1997). Ottoline Morrell. Available: www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Jmorrell.htm. Last accessed 31/01/14.

[2] Moran, M. (1991). BERTRAND RUSSELL MEETS HIS MUSE: THE IMPACT OF LADY OTTOLINE MORRELL (1911-12). McMaster University Library Press. 182-3.

[3] Ibid. 184.

[4] Ibid. 187.

[5] Ibid. 181

[6] Coffey, R.. (2008). 20 Things You Didn't Know About... Genius. Available: http://discovermagazine.com/2008/oct/01-20-things-you-didnt-know-about-genius#.UwdJWPl_usU. Last accessed 01/02/14.

[7] Simkin, J.. (2013). Dora Russell. Available: www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/TUrussellD.htm. Last accessed 31/01/14.

[8] Russell, B. (2009). Autobiography. London: Routledge. 365-6.

[9] Simkin, J.. (2013). Dora Russell. Available: www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/TUrussellD.htm. Last accessed 31/01/14.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Monk, R. (2001). Bertrand Russell: 1921-1970, The Ghost of Madness. New York: Free Press. 115.

What Can Be Learned from Bertrand Russell’s Life as a Philanderer? Part I

 

Young Bertrand Russell

I. The Young Russell

A dislike of Bertrand Russell must be an onerous burden to bear, be the focus on his work, his personality, or even his reputation. Born to British nobility positively knee-deep in precocity, Russell’s life story is strewn with achievements both bright and bold. Not a moment of his long life was wasted: in his ninety-seven years he wrote over seventy books, hundreds of essays and several thousands of letters. In the way of the Renaissance figures before him, Russell was hardly provincial in his talents: as well an acclaimed philosopher, historian, and hardboiled political figure, he was in some ways a beacon (or perhaps an epitaph) to a breed of academic that was by the twentieth century fading into obsolescence; and for these reasons he is regarded as one of the most important Western philosophers since Immanuel Kant.[1]

Russell springs to mind hunched over a cluttered bureau, suckling the temples of his spectacles in deep coitus with a battered tome, caring not for what might lie beyond its pages. This image is not, however, entirely accurate; he was not so musty and desolate in the way of his pigeonhole. He is remembered grandly as a philosopher, a mathematician, a revolutionary—but by no means least as a philanderer. The list of women he bedded is extensive, and indeed the relationships he had with them controversial. But of what possible relevance could Russell’s private life have to those whose attention is drawn to his academic work? Rather a lot, I believe. We trust our scholastic paragons to hold dear to them their works, and accordingly they often do. This internal truss often results in their scholarship being incubated in suffocating adjacency to their romantic life, breeding strange similarities between the two. In interest of these similarities this series of papers will take a look into Russell’s romantic life, and posit his issues with commitment to be not only analogous with his vagabond-like attitude within academia, but also representative of a degenerate personal philosophy. In what follows I will argue this personal philosophy to be the cause of Russell’s feelings of absence within the world he spent his life working to understand.

Russell’s Autobiography describes how he first began to question religion at the age of fifteen, something to which he had been heavily exposed since moving to live with his grandmother. By eighteen he had come to flout the existence of God entirely, along with the very concepts of free will and an afterlife.[2] He was, in modern terms, what one would describe as a fully-fledged atheist, embracing a sceptical mode of thought redolent of his late parentage. For these reasons one may find it curious that, at age twenty-two, he agreed to marry Alys Pearsall Smith, the high-minded American Quaker with a ravenous lust for tradition and conformity. The daughter of two strictly religious parents, Alys lived a life such that any transgression of her family’s wishes may have left her an anathema among her community. Indeed her older sister, Mary, led just such a ‘flamboyant’ lifestyle, marooning her husband for a famous historian and immersing herself in a life of ‘indulgence’ and ‘defiant behaviour.’[3] She seemed determined not to be led astray in the way of her sister: she stipulated a purely religious ceremony, to be conducted by the unwavering baton of tradition. Though acquiescence to such demands would not seem particularly unusual in your average nineteenth-century groom, Russell’s deference comes as a surprise considering his radical conceptions of faith and religion. He had known Alys from the age of seventeen, having spent much time travelling the continent with her family,[4] which may have provided them good time to consolidate some of their biblical differences, but this scarcely explains Russell’s inane adherence to her demands despite their conflict with his own values.[5] The relationship nevertheless spanned six soporific years, a period in which Russell appeared to achieve very little considering the tremendous success of both the years prior and subsequent. It was by the whims of an exultant bicycle ride that the marriage was brought to ruin: Russell, having come to the realisation that he no longer loved his wife, quite frankly announced his reformed affections and instigated a period of separation that bridged two decades. From what can be seen this was the beginning of Russell’s destructive appetite for self-alienation. In assuming an identity clearly incongruent with his own he had found himself in an environment that could not sustain him (wedlock with a woman who neither understood his work nor cared for it). His self-extrication was inevitable. He left unburdened with anything by the way of a guilty conscience, while, true to her Victorian ways, Alys remained silently devoted to her husband.[6]

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[1] Berumen, M.E.. (2009). Bertrand Russell: A Man in Full in Brief. Available: meberumen.blogspot.co.uk/2004/05/bertrand-russell-man-in-full-in-brief.html. Last accessed 31/01/14.

[2] Russell, B. (2009). Autobiography. London: Routledge. 35-6.

[3] Turcon, S.. (1983). A Quaker wedding: the marriage of Bertrand Russell and Alys Pearsall Smith. Russell: the Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies. 3 (2), 104.

[4] Barrette, P.. (1997). The Bertrand Russell Gallery, Family. Available: www.humanities.mcmaster.ca/~bertrand/family.html. Last accessed 31/01/14.

[5] [5] See Russell’s adherence to Alys’s marital demands in Turcon, S.. (1983). A Quaker wedding: the marriage of Bertrand Russell and Alys Pearsall Smith. Russell: the Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies. 3 (2), 104-7.

[6] Stangroom, J.. (2012). More On Loving Bertrand Russell. Available: blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=6148. Last accessed 31/01/14.

Love, Voles & Kant

In my previous essay I discussed the current theory that love is essentially a mechanical matter. That is, what we regard as love behavior is merely the workings of chemistry, neurons and genetics.
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In my previous essay I discussed the current theory that love is essentially a mechanical matter. That is, what we regard as love behavior is merely the workings of chemistry, neurons and genetics. This view, as noted in the essay, …Read more »

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News source: Talking Philosophy

Press Release: "The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone" (Chicago, April 2014)

Press release on an upcoming book by Scott Samuelson. This new introduction to philosophy is written for everyone, not just academics. Samuelson explores the thought of history's most impactful thinkers to bring philosophy to us an accessible and personal way.

The Deepest Human Life Cover Sometimes it seems like you need a PhD just to open a book of philosophy. We leave philosophical matters to the philosophers in the same way that we leave science to scientists. Scott Samuelson thinks this is tragic, for our lives as well as for philosophy. In The Deepest Human Life he takes philosophy back from the specialists and restores it to its proper place at the center of our humanity, rediscovering it as our most profound effort toward understanding, as a way of life that anyone can live. Exploring the works of some of history’s most important thinkers in the context of the everyday struggles of his students, he guides us through the most vexing quandaries of our existence—and shows just how enriching the examined life can be.

Samuelson begins at the beginning: with Socrates, working his most famous assertion—that wisdom is knowing that one knows nothing—into a method, a way of approaching our greatest mysteries. From there he springboards into a rich history of philosophy and the ways its journey is encoded in our own quests for meaning. He ruminates on Epicurus against the sonic backdrop of crickets and restaurant goers in Iowa City. He follows the Stoics into the cell where James Stockdale spent seven years as a prisoner of war. He spins with al-Ghazali first in doubt, then in the ecstasy of the divine. And he gets the philosophy education of his life when one of his students, who authorized a risky surgery for her son that inadvertently led to his death, asks with tears in her eyes if Kant was right, if it really is the motive that matters and not the consequences. Through heartbreaking stories, humanizing biographies, accessible theory, and evocative interludes like “On Wine and Bicycles” or “On Zombies and Superheroes ,” he invests philosophy with the personal and vice versa. The result is a book that is at once a primer and a reassurance—that many have trod the earth before us, and they have insights into our very souls. 

William B. Irvine, author of A Guide to the Good Life

“Scott Samuelson is a philosopher with a knack for storytelling.  As a result, The Deepest Human Life is a book that humanizes philosophy and that relates grand philosophical themes to the lives of ordinary people. Not only that, but Samuelson writes in a manner that ordinary people—meaning those without a philosophical background—will find inviting. Readers will come away with a better understanding of some of philosophy’s fundamental concepts and in many cases will also have taken important first steps toward conducting an examination of their own lives.”

Christopher Merrill, author of The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War

The Deepest Human Life is a splendid book for students, writers, philosophers, and anyone interested in exploring the human condition. Samuelson wears his considerable learning lightly, addressing the enduring questions—What is philosophy? What is happiness? What is the nature of good and evil?—in an engaging and accessible manner, reminding readers that the quest for meaning is indeed a matter of life and death. What a marvelous professor he must be. And what good luck to have his wisdom here on the page.”

Stephen T. Asma, author of Against Fairness

The Deepest Human Life is charming and upbeat, but it’s also very poignant in places. Samuelson weaves his personal story of teaching at a community college into the philosophical adventure and shows how philosophy is an approach to life—a practice of self-knowing and self-forgetting—rather than a professional career. The result is a unique introduction to philosophy, composed with a rare voice of humane literary sophistication.”

Pre-order your copy on Amazon

http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/D/bo17888850.html

http://scottsamuelsonauthor.com/about

Selfish gene

The Selfish Gene is brilliant, thrilling, even poetic, a lodestar for a generation of scientists. But is it still a useful way to think about evolution?…
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The Selfish Gene is brilliant, thrilling, even poetic, a lodestar for a generation of scientists. But is it still a useful way to think about evolution?… more»

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John Carey: the constant reader

Life among the toffs. Oxford in the 1950s was a daunting place. Ask John Carey, who planned to deflate Oxbridge snobbery from within. No luck…
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Life among the toffs. Oxford in the 1950s was a daunting place. Ask John Carey, who planned to deflate Oxbridge snobbery from within. No luck… more»

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T. S. Eliot and John Hayward

Among literary Londoners, John Hayward was loved but feared. His parties were legendary, as were his temper and his talent for falling out with friends…
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Among literary Londoners, John Hayward was loved but feared. His parties were legendary, as were his temper and his talent for falling out with friends… more»

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Reason, Morality, and Law: The Philosophy of John Finnis

2014.03.15 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews John Keown and Robert P. George (eds.), Reason, Morality, and Law: The Philosophy of John Finnis, Oxford University Press,
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2014.03.15 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews John Keown and Robert P. George (eds.), Reason, Morality, and Law: The Philosophy of John Finnis, Oxford University Press, 2013, 615pp., $140.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780199675500. Reviewed by Jonathan Crowe, University of Queensland John Finnis has retired from his2014.03.15 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews John Keown and Robert P. George (eds.), Reason, Morality, and Law: The Philosophy of John Finnis, Oxford University Press, 2013, 615pp., $140.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780199675500. Reviewed by Jonathan Crowe, University of Queensland John Finnis has retired from his. . .

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

John Norris

[Revised entry by June Yang on March 13, 2014. Changes to: Bibliography] John Norris (1657 - 1711) continued the broadly Cartesian project in late 17th Century England despite the ever-growing
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[Revised entry by June Yang on March 13, 2014. Changes to: Bibliography] John Norris (1657 - 1711) continued the broadly Cartesian project in late 17th Century England despite the ever-growing prominence of Lockean empiricism. Norris wrote on numerous topics, including politics, religion, philosophy and the Christian life. He also composed poetry. This entry describes several of Norris' most noteworthy advances and insights....

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy