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The Problems of Philosophy (1912)

by Bertrand Russell, Bertrand Russell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,283273,948 (3.78)18
This classic work, first published in 1912, has never been supplanted as an approachable introduction to the theory of philosophical enquiry. It gives Russell's views on such subjects as the distinction between appearance and reality, the existence and nature of matter, idealism, knowledge by acquaintance and by description, induction, truth and falsehood, the distinction between knowledge, error and probable opinion, and the limits and value of philosophical knowledge.… (more)
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English (25)  Catalan (1)  All languages (26)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Interessantes Buch über grundlegende epistemologische Begriffe, aber dementsprechend auch nicht besonders spannend. ( )
  Maxim2 | Nov 15, 2023 |
$45. !st Edition. 1912. Home University Library. Dust jacket somewhat torn but book in very fine shape.
  susangeib | Nov 1, 2023 |
Quick run-through about knowledge - what we can and can't know, etc. A little too obvious in some ways, obscure in other ways. ( )
  steve02476 | Jan 3, 2023 |
The title’s a misnomer – the book is almost exclusively about epistemology, or theory of knowledge. This reflects the narrowing of philosophy’s scope in the English-speaking world 100 years ago, eventually making itself more or less a subdiscipline of linguistics (a self-imposed constriction which has only fairly recently been loosened). But Russell treats his subject with characteristic lucidity; the clarity and precision of his logic and phrasing have a certain austere beauty, if that’s the right word. And his formulation and theoretical contributions have their own value, as do his observations and critiques. Unfortunately he rarely shows his considerable wit in this relatively early work.

To a large extent this is a restatement and synthesis of classical British Empiricist epistemology with some refinements and twists of Russell’s own, which are the products of his work in mathematics and logic as well as his critical evaluations of earlier philosophers’ ideas. The result is a very clear, concise, precise, but also carefully worked-out and thorough theory of knowledge. His distinction of knowledge by acquaintance vs. by description, and his treatments of induction, a priori knowledge, knowledge of universals, and what he calls intuitive knowledge (i.e. of self-evident things) are particularly valuable. It’s interesting to note that Russell thinks Plato was largely on track with his Theory of Forms (Ideas), while Kant blew it in his epistemology and Hegel blew it in general. You might say Russell’s agreement with Plato makes him a neo-empiricist, at least at this point in his career.

In the second last chapter he explains why his scope is so limited, substantially paralleling A.J. Ayer’s contention that nothing meaningful can be said and nothing known about metaphysics; and that philosophy is only properly concerned with clarifying terms and statements, and with assessing the validity of arguments. Russell doesn’t exactly say this and perhaps doesn’t go quite this far, but he’s close.

Then in the last chapter he takes a bold leap and makes a number of statements about the purpose and value of philosophy and how life should be lived. Having avoided ethics and largely avoided metaphysics while working through theory of knowledge with his constricted logical precision, he now abandons rational argument in favor of rhetoric and dives headlong into the fearful abyss. Needless to say he doesn’t attempt to prove anything he says in this chapter as he’s spent much of the book trying to demonstrate why these types of statements are indefensible. Maybe there’s more consistency and validity in this chapter than what I see and I’ve just missed it, but it seems pretty out of tune with the rest of the book. It’s nevertheless still pretty well written and fairly compelling. It would have been nice if Russell had tried to treat this material by the same methods he used previously, or else had tried to explain what alternate approach was reasonable and why. Apparently even Bertrand Russell had some hair to let down, but it does seem like an odd coda to a rigorously logical and self-limited piece of early 20th c. analytic philosophy. ( )
  garbagedump | Dec 9, 2022 |
Rather, The Problems of Philosophy, a more apt title might be, The Problems of Philosophers. In an attempt to not get tied up in a Gordian knot, Russell provides a brief, sequential study into the conundrum of perspective and truth, and how philosophical ideologies have tried to deal with it. The book was written in 1911, and Russell states in an afterword written in 1924, that some of his views had changed since the first writing but has kept the book as it is, as a progression of thought. Throughout, he mostly ignores language, which is a shame, but he does set aside some attention to it in the chapter, How A Priori Knowledge Is Possible. Some passages seem to spring straight out of a Dr Seuss book, such as, "Thus, when we are acquainted with an object which is the so-and-so, we know that the so-and-so exists; but we may know that the so-and-so exists when we are not acquainted with any object which we know to be the so-and-so, and even when we are not acquainted with any object which, in fact, is the so-and-so."

Much of the book feels like Russell, working stuff out on the spot, applies in his knowledge of Kant, Plato, Hegel, Leibniz &c, to elucidate his examples. For me, his logic, at times, backed me into a corner, and the examples of the theory, in my view, were not the best thought out. However, it's a thought provoking read, which is the point of the book. So worth a read if you don't have time to wade through the works referenced within. ( )
  RupertOwen | Dec 26, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Russell, Bertrandprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Russell, Bertrandmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Ījabs, IvarsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Byttner, AndersTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fredriksson, GunnarAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lledó, EmilioForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Okonova-Treice, GitaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perry, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vries, Joke deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Xirau, JoaquínTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the following pages I have confined myself in the main to those problems of philosophy in regard to which I thought it possible to say something positive and constructive, since merely negative criticism seemed out of place. For this reason, theory of knowledge occupies a larger space than metaphysics in the present volume, and some topics much discussed by philosophers are treated very briefly, if at all.
Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it?
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This classic work, first published in 1912, has never been supplanted as an approachable introduction to the theory of philosophical enquiry. It gives Russell's views on such subjects as the distinction between appearance and reality, the existence and nature of matter, idealism, knowledge by acquaintance and by description, induction, truth and falsehood, the distinction between knowledge, error and probable opinion, and the limits and value of philosophical knowledge.

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