[lit-ideas] Re: Bertrand Russell

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2012 15:00:21 +0100 (BST)

First thought: OMG, thought he died a while back.
Bertie's comments are well-intentioned but somewhat naive. 
If the first comment is taken as opposed to looking as issues in 
ideologically-driven terms, and of stressing the importance of seeking "the 
truth" irrespective of wishful thinking and self or group interests etc., then 
it is not only well-intentioned but important; but Russell's expression of his 
POV is quite naive - for example, in thinking that "facts" determine or "bear 
out" the "truth" - this may or may not be true, depending for example on 
whether the range of what we admit as "facts" is co-terminous with the range of 
"truth". For example, is it true that there is a God? True or false, what 
"facts" could determine it aside from the "fact" 'God exists' or 'God doesn't 
exist' - in which case the "fact" would constitute the "truth" but would not 
determine the "truth" in the sense of being evidence of it - for the fact "God 
exists" [or "God doesn't exist"] is not evidence that it is true "God exists" 
[or "God doesn't exist"]. But then Russell could
 suggest as late as 1945 that what distinguished science was that its concern 
was the probable and the proveable - a formulation vulnerable to all kinds of 
objection, including Popper's critique that the distinguishing feature of 
scientific claims is their improbability and disproveability [i.e. 
falsifiability]. It would seem that some kind of mistaken and somewhat naive 
theory of knowledge is at work in Russell's suggestion we can determine the 
"truth" simply by looking at the so-called "facts" which "bear out" the truth. 
It's not as simple as that sounds. It would be more accurate to say that we 
should critically examine claims as to their truth, and to do this properly we 
should search for "facts" or evidence that might challenge their truth rather 
than simply rest content on "facts" that might seem to "bear out" their truth. 
Truth is not so easy to come by, or so manifest, as Russell might be taken to 
suggest. That we should not look at the social
 benefits of claims but only at their "truth" is also somewhat naive, both 
intellectually and morally. The moral "Love is wise, hatred is foolish" is also 
one that is open to challenge [starting with whether it is some claim testable 
by "facts" or offered more as an unfalsifiable platitude, albeit one perhaps 
from the side of the angels or those who write greetings cards]. Though quite 
clearly Russell's emphasis on tolerance and the need to avoid to violence, so 
we live together "and not die together", may be applauded, it may be argued 
that entwining issues of "tolerance" and "love" is a recipe for both moral and 
intellectual disaster, for "love" is no sane basis for "tolerance" as we must 
tolerate what we do not love.

 From: Julie Krueger <juliereneb@xxxxxxxxx>
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
Sent: Saturday, 29 September 2012, 22:25
Subject: [lit-ideas] Bertrand Russell


Julie Campbell
Julie's Music & Language Studio
1215 W. Worley
Columbia, MO  65203

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