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Toward a Humanist/secular narrative
Posted: 17 August 2007 09:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Alon - 17 August 2007 02:04 AM

And as for Russell, I must say that the Principia doesn’t impress me at all. It was a very well-crafted failure, like Gould’s punctuated equilibrium thesis. Ultimately, the greatest formal logician of the 20th century was Gödel, followed by Kleene, Turing, and Church; Russell only appears further down the list. And his philosophy is, as far as I can tell, a well-written version of the technocratic elitism that underlies 1950s science fiction. There are a lot of philosophers who I disagree with, or hold in contempt for political reasons, but them I’d just disagree with. If you don’t believe me, start a conversation on Heidegger, or Sartre, or Wittgenstein. Russell, in contrast, seems almost begging not to be taken seriously, or else he wouldn’t have written the Reader’s Digest of philosophy.

Er, this isn’t the thread for this discussion, but you really do need to take a course on Russell. To start with, even though Russell and Whitehead were not able to prove all of what they had anticipated, the Principia was not a failure, and is still held in extremely high regard. I will not argue with you about who was “the greatest formal logician of the 20th century”. Certainly all the people you mention were also titans in the field, but so what? They were also born around the time when the Principia was first published. They learned much of what they began with from the Principia, as it was the founding document (along with early Frege) of mathematical logic.

Russell’s “reader’s digest” stuff, what he published in later life, was not philosophically groundbreaking. There is no doubt about that. It was intended for a public audience, rather as Sagan’s later work was, although at a deeper level. What Russell is reveared for in philosophy is his early work. You should also remember that Russell lived for almost a century. He was well into his later years when he started on his works for the public.

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