The reason Bertrand Russell got into philosophy.

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Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 01:13 am
Bertrand Russell said that what drive him to philosophy are two reasons:
1. To find knowledge that are certain, and indubitable.
2. To satisfy his religious impulses.


In regard to 1, he wrote that he felt sad when his brother taught him geometry and found out that he had to accept the axioms of geometry as given. He wrote that he never felt comfortable with mathematics because of this reason. This might be the reason why he turned away from mathematics, and progressively channel his interests to the humanities like philosophy. He wrote that he try to find comfort in Platonism in the philosophy of mathematics, but it did not help him. At the end of the article, he said that he never found the certainty he wanted in any of his philosophy, or mathematics. The article did not mention anything about 2. A suitable interpretation maybe given as follows. We can suppose Russell religious impulses is the motivation for his pursuit of knowledge that are certain, and indubitable. If this interpretation is true, then we can see that his religious impulses would necessary never be satisfied from our modern perspective.


sources: Last philosophical testament: 1943-68 - Google Books


My impression is that this is a sad article. Why is it the case? He spend countless hours and years in philosophy, and mathematics to arrive at knowledge that is certain, but only to find that nothing would satisfy his religious need.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 05:27 am
@TuringEquivalent,
actually he doesn't say it is to satisfy his religious impulses. He does not use the possessive pronoun.

---------- Post added 05-20-2010 at 09:33 PM ----------

But this excerpt ends on a very true, and solemn, note. 'Power without wisdom is dangerous, and what our age needs is wisdom even more than knowledge.' Amen to that.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 05:34 am
@TuringEquivalent,
TuringEquivalent;166340 wrote:
Bertrand Russell said that what drive him to philosophy are two reasons:
1. To find knowledge that are certain, and indubitable.
2. To satisfy his religious impulses.


In regard to 1, he wrote that he felt sad when his brother taught him geometry and found out that he had to accept the axioms of geometry as given. He wrote that he never felt comfortable with mathematics because of this reason. This might be the reason why he turned away from mathematics, and progressively channel his interests to the humanities like philosophy. He wrote that he try to find comfort in Platonism in the philosophy of mathematics, but it did not help him. At the end of the article, he said that he never found the certainty he wanted in any of his philosophy, or mathematics. The article did not mention anything about 2. A suitable interpretation maybe given as follows. We can suppose Russell religious impulses is the motivation for his pursuit of knowledge that are certain, and indubitable. If this interpretation is true, then we can see that his religious impulses would necessary never be satisfied from our modern perspective.


sources: Last philosophical testament: 1943-68 - Google Books


My impression is that this is a sad article. Why is it the case? He spend countless hours and years in philosophy, and mathematics to arrive at knowledge that is certain, but only to find that nothing would satisfy his religious need.


What makes that sad? And what has the one to do with the other, if that is what you are saying? Of course, not finding knowledge that is certain is not the same thing as just not finding knowledge. In fact, maybe one of the things Russell did find out was that he could find a great deal of knowledge which was not certain, and that knowledge did not have to be certain in order to be knowledge. And that's a good thing to discover.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 05:36 am
@TuringEquivalent,
I reckon he was looking for love (in all the wrong places...)
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 06:10 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;166381 wrote:
I reckon he was looking for love (in all the wrong places...)


And he found it, mostly in the wrong places. But sometimes in the right places, too. Like all of us. "Love is blind" is not a cliche' for no reason.
 
TuringEquivalent
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 06:46 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;166380 wrote:
What makes that sad? And what has the one to do with the other, if that is what you are saying? Of course, not finding knowledge that is certain is not the same thing as just not finding knowledge. In fact, maybe one of the things Russell did find out was that he could find a great deal of knowledge which was not certain, and that knowledge did not have to be certain in order to be knowledge. And that's a good thing to discover.


I think it is sad because he did not get what he wanted.


Maybe he thinks knowledge that are not certain is not justified. If so, then how can there be knowledge if it is not justified?

Even if we grant there he obtain knowledge, it does not follow that it is right knowledge that he wanted, because from story of his brother teaching him geometry, he was not impress knowing the postulates.




---------- Post added 05-20-2010 at 07:56 AM ----------

jeeprs;166375 wrote:
actually he doesn't say it is to satisfy his religious impulses. He does not use the possessive pronoun.




I guess you had a lot to drink...


He did say at the end of the first paragraph that there are in addition two especial influential reasons. The second reason is at the end of the first paragraph where he stated that the reason is to "find some satisfaction for religious impulses". You disagree?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 06:56 am
@TuringEquivalent,
TuringEquivalent;166410 wrote:
I think it is sad because he did not get what he wanted.


Maybe he thinks knowledge that are not certain is not justified. If so, then how can there be knowledge if it is not justified?


Sometimes what we want is something impossible.

What I said is that there can be knowledge, but that does not mean that what we know must be certain. I know, for instance, that Quito is the capital of Ecuador, but I am not certain that it is, meaning that it is not impossible that I am mistaken. But it does not have to be impossible that I am mistaken just as long as I am not actually mistaken. And I am not mistaken about Quito being the capital of Ecuador. I believe that I am not mistaken (although I don't believe it is impossible that I am mistaken) because I have adequate justification for the proposition that Quito is the capital of Ecuador.

The "quest for certainty" (as it has been called) is a quest for the impossible. And this is something analytic philosophy has taught us. Now that is a good thing to know, since analytic philosophy as also taught us that certainty and knowledge are different, and that you can know without being certain. So, although we cannot have certainty, we can know a great many things, and, of course, we do.

He spend countless hours and years in philosophy, and mathematics to arrive at knowledge that is certain, but only to find that nothing would satisfy his religious need.

I still do not see what the one thing had to do with the other.
 
TuringEquivalent
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 07:05 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;166418 wrote:
Sometimes what we want is something impossible.

What I said is that there can be knowledge, but that does not mean that what we know must be certain. I know, for instance, that Quito is the capital of Ecuador, but I am not certain that it is, meaning that it is not impossible that I am mistaken. But it does not have to be impossible that I am mistaken just as long as I am not actually mistaken. And I am not mistaken about Quito being the capital of Ecuador. I believe that I am not mistaken (although I don't believe it is impossible that I am mistaken) because I have adequate justification for the proposition that Quito is the capital of Ecuador.

The "quest for certainty" (as it has been called) is a quest for the impossible. And this is something analytic philosophy has taught us. Now that is a good thing to know, since analytic philosophy as also taught us that certainty and knowledge are different, and that you can know without being certain. So, although we cannot have certainty, we can know a great many things, and, of course, we do.

He spend countless hours and years in philosophy, and mathematics to arrive at knowledge that is certain, but only to find that nothing would satisfy his religious need.

I still do not see what the one thing had to do with the other.



Perhaps he thinks certain knowledge is justified knowledge. If so, then how can there be knowledge if it is not justified? If seems to me that you are not thinking hard enough.

Suppose he does have knowledge, it does not follow that he is satisfied. We can see this from the story of his brother teaching him geometry. He was certainly not satisfied when he had to accept the axioms. So, it seems to be that you are making a jump from knowledge to being satisfied.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 07:44 am
@TuringEquivalent,
TuringEquivalent;166422 wrote:
So, it seems to be that you are making a jump from knowledge to being satisfied.


How did you reach that conclusion? The point is that Russell thought that unless you are certain you cannot know. He was mistaken about that.
 
TuringEquivalent
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 08:47 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;166438 wrote:
How did you reach that conclusion? The point is that Russell thought that unless you are certain you cannot know. He was mistaken about that.



You are only seeing the most obvious, ken. The story of his brother teaching him geometry show us he wanted certain knowledge. We agree that this certain knowledge is unattainable. From the second reason he pursuit philosophy, he is looking to satisfy religious impulses. A suitable interpretation is that his religious impulses drive him to pursuit certain knowledge, but his religious impulses are never satisfied, given that certain knowledge is unattainable. We also have to consider who he is. He is a philosopher, and mathematician etc, as such, so it is also reasonable to assume he spend many hours in philosophy, and mathematics. From what can we deduce from this? Here is a reason! it is reasonable to assume that he is drive by religious impulses to spends those countless many hours, and years in search for a psychological closure from the satisfaction of attaining certain knowledge, but failed after having realizing it at old age. We know he is old, by deduce the date of the publication of the article, and his date of birth. Thus, we can conclude that he is sad, because of the time he wasted in philosophy. Thus, it is reasonable to assume he is sad
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 08:57 am
@TuringEquivalent,
TuringEquivalent;166467 wrote:
You are only seeing the most obvious, ken.


I am happy about that, since that is much more than I can say for many others. As Freud famously is reported to have said, "Sometimes a cigar is only a cigar" (But even if he did not say it, he certainly should have done so). The peculiar thing is that it is the obvious that most people fail to see since they are so often bewildered by looking for that is not right in front of their nose. For a fine account of that, read Edgar Allen Poe's, "The Purloined Letter".

The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe
 
TuringEquivalent
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 09:19 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;166469 wrote:
I am happy about that, since that is much more than I can say for many others. As Freud famously is reported to have said, "Sometimes a cigar is only a cigar" (But even if he did not say it, he certainly should have done so). The peculiar thing is that it is the obvious that most people fail to see since they are so often bewildered by looking for that is not right in front of their nose. For a fine account of that, read Edgar Allen Poe's, "The Purloined Letter".

The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe


Obviously you are not a retard for you can see beyond the obvious. You don ` t just see a person, but you see intentions. Someone can "act" retarded by "pretending" to be a child, but those are pretty pretentious people by trying to make us think they are wise, and knowledgeable. Don` t you agree?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 09:27 am
@TuringEquivalent,
TuringEquivalent;166477 wrote:
Obviously you are not a retard for you can see beyond the obvious. You don ` t just see a person, but you see intentions. Someone can "act" retarded by "pretending" to be a child, but those are pretty pretentious people by trying to make us think they are wise, and knowledgeable. Don` t you agree?


Thank you. I thought it was obvious that I was a retard. I am happy to know I have concealed it, at least from you.

I would agree even more if I knew what you meant.
 
Resha Caner
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 02:54 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;166418 wrote:
The "quest for certainty" (as it has been called) is a quest for the impossible. And this is something analytic philosophy has taught us. Now that is a good thing to know, since analytic philosophy as also taught us that certainty and knowledge are different, and that you can know without being certain. So, although we cannot have certainty, we can know a great many things, and, of course, we do.


I guess I'm going to sidetrack this thread and ask you to expand on this comment. Specifically, what resources address the difference between knowledge and certainty?

I've often thought as much, but in this forum it seems to be a position that is often challenged. If someone disagrees with you, they harp on the impossibility of knowledge being certain rather than addressing the knowledge one presents ... a diversionary tactic IMO. So, what is your experience? Do people accept your position that knowledge and certainty are different?

In the philosophy of science, I can point to Polanyi as someone who claimed that language does not convey all knowledge (another tac I have tried to explain), but that is a different topic.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 03:17 pm
@Resha Caner,
Resha Caner;166578 wrote:
I guess I'm going to sidetrack this thread and ask you to expand on this comment. Specifically, what resources address the difference between knowledge and certainty?

I've often thought as much, but in this forum it seems to be a position that is often challenged. If someone disagrees with you, they harp on the impossibility of knowledge being certain rather than addressing the knowledge one presents ... a diversionary tactic IMO. So, what is your experience? Do people accept your position that knowledge and certainty are different?

In the philosophy of science, I can point to Polanyi as someone who claimed that language does not convey all knowledge (another tac I have tried to explain), but that is a different topic.


Specifically, what resources address the difference between knowledge and certainty?

I don't think I know what that sentence means. Are you asking who it is that discusses this issue? I suppose the issue is about the connection (or lack) between knowledge and certainty. Or to put it more precisely, whether or not knowledge implies certainty. Whether know one has to be certain. C.S. Peirce in his devastating critique of Descartes (who clearly held that knowledge implies certainty) attacked this view and advanced the notion of fallibilistic knowledge, probably as the only notion of knowledge consistent with the view that empirical science can afford us knowledge, since clearly, empirical science cannot afford us certainty in the sense of infallibility, or the impossibility of error. There are a number of reasons for that, but a major one is that the method of science is inductive, and inductive inference is fallible inference.

All this is speaking extremely generally and vaguely. When we get down to details, namely when we begin to philosophize about the issue, we come to the conclusion (and this is merely the conclusion, and not the argument) that whereas certainty (as I already pointed out) implies the impossibility of error, knowledge implies only the inactuality of error. And, since the inactuality of error does not imply the impossibility of error, knowledge does not imply certainty. QED.

I hope that people accept the position that knowledge does not imply certainty since (so far as I know) it is true, and I can demonstrate that it is. What is interesting is why it has been thought that knowledge does imply certainty. And I think I have a number of plausible hypotheses to explain that, too. One of them concerns a modal fallacy in logic which people seem prone to make very easily. It is, after all, not enough to show that knowledge does not imply certainty. What we would like to do is to go into the aetiology of the error of the belief that it does, since so many important philosophers have thought that it does. When we have done that, that would complete the picture.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 03:56 pm
@TuringEquivalent,
The only bone I have to pick with that is that the word certainty describes a mental state where we are sure that what we know is true, not an actual impossibility of error. At least that is how I have always heard it used. I guess there is a philosophical use of the term that is different, but it doesn't seem like a good idea to have a philosophical term that means something different from how the word is normally used.

Perhaps using "absolute certainty" for the impossibility of error would be better.
 
TuringEquivalent
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 04:51 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;166483 wrote:
Thank you. I thought it was obvious that I was a retard. I am happy to know I have concealed it, at least from you.

I would agree even more if I knew what you meant.


If you don` t know what i mean, then why do you reply as if you do? Did i say you are retarded? I hope not, and i hope you can indicate where i actually say it. Some how, you do seem to be seeing beyond what i literally say, and come up with much more. How is that possible? It seems to be that you are not taking your our own advice, ken..
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 05:08 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;166598 wrote:
The only bone I have to pick with that is that the word certainty describes a mental state where we are sure that what we know is true, not an actual impossibility of error. At least that is how I have always heard it used. I guess there is a philosophical use of the term that is different, but it doesn't seem like a good idea to have a philosophical term that means something different from how the word is normally used.

Perhaps using "absolute certainty" for the impossibility of error would be better.


Well, if yours is the practical issue of whether we should use the term "certainty" both or the psychological state of great confidence, and for what Descartes and Russell called "certainty" namely, infallibility, I don't think there is much to quarrel about there. It is just a verbal issue about how it is best to use a term when the term is ambiguous. But, I think it is a good thing to point out the ambiguity of "certainty" because I think that the confusion between the two senses had been the source of confusion in epistemology. After all, however you want to correct the ambiguity, you have first to point it out. I have suggested, "Cartesian certainty" as an apt descriptive term for "absolute certainty" (in your lingo) since it would commemorate its leading proponent. But if that is your only objection, I am content that I am all right.

---------- Post added 05-20-2010 at 07:12 PM ----------

TuringEquivalent;166622 wrote:
If you don` t know what i mean, then why do you reply as if you do? Did i say you are retarded? I hope not, and i hope you can indicate where i actually say it. Some how, you do seem to be seeing beyond what i literally say, and come up with much more. How is that possible? It seems to be that you are not taking your our own advice, ken..


Well, I always like to suppose that the poster knows what he means, and so, using the principle of charity, I propose a plausible hypothesis, and suppose that is what he really does mean. I think that is the charitable thing to do, and it does allow the dialogue to go forth. Since if the poster really is confused, he will grasp at an intelligible interpretation of what he said as if it really is what he meant. Anyway, that is my general policy.
 
TuringEquivalent
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 05:33 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;166630 wrote:




Well, I always like to suppose that the poster knows what he means, and so, using the principle of charity, I propose a plausible hypothesis, and suppose that is what he really does mean. I think that is the charitable thing to do, and it does allow the dialogue to go forth. Since if the poster really is confused, he will grasp at an intelligible interpretation of what he said as if it really is what he meant. Anyway, that is my general policy.



So it seems there is a difference between what i say, and what i mean? The former can be vague, but there is a singular thing called "meaning"? Are you perhaps saying the meaning is the same as intention? You think my intention is to insult, and so you fill in what i didn` t say, but how is that possible, given what little i offer in your comment to my post. You must of figure something from the context! Pieces of informative that is hidden, but how did you do that if you take your own advice?
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 06:08 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;166630 wrote:
Well, if yours is the practical issue of whether we should use the term "certainty" both or the psychological state of great confidence, and for what Descartes and Russell called "certainty" namely, infallibility, I don't think there is much to quarrel about there. It is just a verbal issue about how it is best to use a term when the term is ambiguous. But, I think it is a good thing to point out the ambiguity of "certainty" because I think that the confusion between the two senses had been the source of confusion in epistemology. After all, however you want to correct the ambiguity, you have first to point it out. I have suggested, "Cartesian certainty" as an apt descriptive term for "absolute certainty" (in your lingo) since it would commemorate its leading proponent. But if that is your only objection, I am content that I am all right.


From what I remember of how we learn language, when we learn a word it is by association with something. So if you prime someone with the word "nurse" they become more likely to fill in "Doc___" as doctor rather than docile or some other word. That seems to open the door to confusion then, if you have learned a word with certain associations, and then are trying to reason about that word using a different definition that hasn't been learned as strongly.
 
 

 
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