Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 07:2 (May 1945)
Article: Reviews Of Books
Author: Anonymous


Reviews Of Books

ed. Paul Arthur Schilpp: The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell (The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume V). Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University. 1944. xvi, 815. $4.00.

In this volume a score of writers are “brought discordantly together in an endeavor to make still clearer the already clearest contemporary writer on philosophy and science in English”. Of the twenty or more essays, by far the most interesting and most readable are My Mental Development and Reply to Criticisms, contributed by Mr. Russell himself. By reading these contributions the careful reader may obtain a fairly accurate notion of Mr. Russell’s position. If in addition the reader should be interested in why some of Mr. Russell’s intellectual inferiors agree or disagree with him, he may read whatever of the main body of the book his fancy chooses. This is not to say that all the other contributors are Mr. Russell’s inferiors. Notable exceptions are G. E. Moore, John Laird, Albert Einstein, and Hans Reichenbach.

At the age of fifteen, so Mr. Russell tells us, he still believed in God, because he considered the argument from a first cause to be a sound one. In fact he was passionately interested in religion, and examined with apologetic fervor all the arguments for God, freedom, and inmortality. But as a result of the influence of J. S. Mill and Cambridge University he eventually abandoned the quest for certainty in these matters, and has since refused to give serious attention to religious conceptions and problems. At one time he had the ambition, inspired by his reading of Hegel, to write a complete philosophy of the sciences. Unfortunately, upon reading what Hegel has to say in his Greater Logic about mathematics, he decided that what Hegel said was nonsense. As a result he repudiated Idealism generally and, under the influence of G. E. Moore, reverted to common sense “uninfluenced by philosophy or theology”. His next and most successful venture was in the field of symbolic logic.

Mr. C. D. Broad’s remark that “Mr. Russell produces a different system of philosophy every few years” (pp. 57f.) is both a half-truth and an exaggeration. The fact is that Mr. Russell has never bothered to write a system of philosophy in the traditional sense. But that is not to say that

his thinking is entirely without a radiating center. Irrespective of the periods to which writers about him may wish to consign his thinking, he has kept the faith with respect to at least two beliefs, viz., (1) that science — especially physics — represents a true account of the world in so far as our world can be known; and (2) that the proper method of philosophic thin...

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