Sunday, May 10, 2009

77a Bertrand Russell

A rare thing, a world famous philosopher, but Bertrand Russell was such a philosopher. Maybe more because of his political and other social ideas than because of his theoretical works.

However, also his philosophical works brought him international fame. He made mathematicians happy with his "Principia Mathematica" (1910 -1913), which he wrote together with Whitehead.

Other important works are "Our Knowledge of the external World" (1914), "The Analysis of Mind" (1921) and "The Anallysis of Matter" (1927).

In these titles it already shows that Russell saw analysis as the scientific method of philosophy. The goal of such an analysis is to achieve results as accurate as possible.

The material for such an analysis is found in the knowledge we have at a given moment. That can be knowledge of the "external world", formulated in vague, complex and inexact words, but also scientific knowledge.

Russell applied his logical analysis not only to mathematics, but also to ordinaly language. A lot of philosophical problems can be reduced to syntactical problems, is his opinion. So they are not real philosophical problems, but rather linguistic problems.

For this Russell developed his "Theory of descriptions". Let me quote him:

"With a description I mean a group of words like " the present president of the United States", with which a person or matter not is indicated by a name, but by means of a quality, of which you know or believe that it characterizes the person or matter closely.

These groups of words cause numerous problems. Suppose I say 'The golden mountain does not exist' and you ask 'What does not exist?'. When I answer 'the golden mountain' I seemingly contribute some kind of existence to it."

So here Russell wonders how we can talk about non-exiting things and more important: can such statements, containing such groups of words, be true or false?

He came with a brilliant solution for such problems. Take the statement "The present king of France is not bold". It has become a classic. Problem: there is no king of France at the moment.

Now, is this statement false or just senseless? Both options lead to problems. If we say ....senseless.....we deny the simple fact that we yet can understand what the statement means.

If we say statement is false, then this would mean that the opposite "The present king of France is bold" must be true, but both statements are false.

So how to analyze sentences that have no reference. Russell suggested the idea, that such sentences with descriptions are a contraction of more elementary sentences.

In this case [1] There exists a person these days who is king of France, [2] There is only one person king of France and [3] The person who is king of France is bold.

What this analysis shows is, that the first statement is false. Whatever the truth-value is of the other statements is not important anymore. If one of the statements is false, the description has to be false too.

This theory of description has become a common tool in logical analysis, because it explains why it is possible for us that we can have a conversation, that still makes sense, about non-existing things.

This is only a small flower from Russell's garden. There are many more, so I think he will be our subject for the next lecture too, sothat I can pay more attention to his epistemology and other issues.

The Discussion

[13:22] Herman Bergson: So much on Russell for today...:-)
[13:22] Herman Bergson: if you have any questions or remarks,,,fel free..:-)
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: another mathematician
[13:23] itsme Frederix: Can you "solve" the Cretenzer liar also with the description (like the example you gave) Herman?
[13:24] Herman Bergson: Yes who wrote a letter to Frege, showing a contradiction in his system.....
[13:24] Herman Bergson: since that moment Frege stopped publishing on the subject
[13:25] Herman Bergson: All Cretenzers are liars, said a Cretenzer
[13:25] Herman Bergson: is this statement true or false
[13:25] Alarice Beaumont: well... true...
[13:25] Alarice Beaumont: some can lie and some don't ... so he is a liar
[13:26] Sage Hartmann: I think you need to say 'always lie' to get a paradox, don't you?
[13:26] arabella Ella: hi herman sorry i am late probs with SL crashed
[13:26] Herman Bergson: Ok Sage..that is more accurate indeed
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: how could one ever tell, not enough information
[13:27] Birric Forcella: A paradox, a paradox, a most delicious paradox . . .
[13:27] itsme Frederix: Who shaves the barber. Russell did not like these statements - he was convinced to write the logic bible
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: still not enough info
[13:27] Rodney Handrick: What's a Cretenzer?
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: a liar
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: who cares
[13:27] Herman Bergson: He had another one..
[13:28] Herman Bergson: take a piece of paper....
[13:28] Rodney Handrick: Thanks Ari
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: :)
[13:28] Herman Bergson: write on it : What is written on the other side of this paper is false
[13:28] Herman Bergson: then turn the paper and write the same statement there
[13:29] Herman Bergson: and then start pondering about the truth-value of the statement you read..:-)
[13:29] Birric Forcella: Well, the solution is quite simple. Certain descriptions of sets do not accord with the real world and so need to be outlawed. Much like the description of a circle as being a square
[13:30] Herman Bergson: Someone who lives on the island Crete
[13:30] itsme Frederix: laggy
[13:30] Birric Forcella: Let's use Lesbians
[13:30] itsme Frederix: aha
[13:30] Herman Bergson: I have to dig into paradoxes before I can come up with an proper answer.
[13:30] arabella Ella: or Birric Lesbos instead of Crete perhaps?
[13:30] Cailleach Shan: Lesbians???
[13:31] arabella Ella: only joking
[13:31] Birric Forcella: Yes, Lesbians are the inhabitants of the island Lesbos, duh
[13:31] Rodney Handrick: this conversation is above my
[13:31] Herman Bergson: so I'll save this issue for the next lecture
[13:31] Sage Hartmann: oh dear... lol
[13:31] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:32] itsme Frederix: Well the term Lesbians is a tributu to the greek peot "Shapo?", she wrote abot love for the own gender - besides Greek didn't mind that in those days - you what is it all about. Reduction of culture, poorness.
[13:33] Athena John: Wasn't that "Sappho", hence the term "Sappic?"
[13:33] Rodney Handrick: hmm...
[13:33] Sage Hartmann: well, I think for these paradoxes, the answer would be that they are simply senseless, no? They have no truth-value. The idea of descriptors isn't really needed or relevant here i would think...
[13:33] Birric Forcella: Well, it seems that even in sets you can't describe certain things, like unicorns with two corns
[13:33] Herman Bergson: I think we are drifting away from the toppic here...(^_^)
[13:34] arabella Ella: does this not just show what we can do with language ... like Wittgenstein said ... we need to untangle it or get the fly out of the bottle
[13:34] Birric Forcella: Barbers who shave everybody who does not shave himself
[13:34] itsme Frederix: Well these paradoxes ruined the idea to write a fully deductiv logic/mathematic - the project of the early 20th century
[13:34] Birric Forcella: or herself
[13:34] Osrum Sands: Herman is it fair to say you are taking about process and not content here?
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: I think that like the French King such statements are foolish rather that senseless
[13:35] arabella Ella: philosophical paradoxes can demonstrate the beauty of language and thought
[13:35] Herman Bergson: What do you mean Osrum?
[13:35] arabella Ella: but they need to be untangled and recognised for what they are ... paradoxes
[[13:35] Osrum Sands: well it matters not what the subject you put into the thing
[13:35] Osrum Sands: its the processof thinking that is at hand here
[13:36] Herman Bergson: Yes indeed Osrum
[13:36] Osrum Sands: ta
[13:36] Herman Bergson: logical analysis became the new approach in those days
[13:36] Osrum Sands: sorry my early morning dulness got a bit lost in all the content being thrown around
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: I sense no dullness in Osrum Sands
[13:37] Osrum Sands: Ta Aris
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: bye all back to rl
[13:37] Herman Bergson: time I'll pay attention to the paradoxes and how Russell handle these
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: bye gemma
[13:37] Cailleach Shan: cu Gem
[13:37] Alarice Beaumont: bye gemma... c u!
[13:37] Ze Novikov: bb Gemma
[13:38] Herman Bergson: Bye Gemma
[13:38] Rodney Handrick: bye Gemma
[13:38] Herman Bergson: I think for now I can dismiss class?
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: Thank you Professor
[13:39] itsme Frederix: quicky prof
[13:39] Athena John: Thanks Herman!
[13:39] Herman Bergson: yeah.....
[13:39] Rodney Handrick: thanks Herman
[13:39] Cailleach Shan: ok Herman. I will go and contemplate Russell's elephant and tortise!!
[13:39] Alarice Beaumont: wow... that really was quick tonight!
[13:39] Alarice Beaumont: Thx Herman :-)
[13:39] Osrum Sands: Like Frege this is second level thinking ... Think about the thinking
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: Do you think that only one more lecture on Russell will suffice?
[13:39] Herman Bergson: seems that Russell's ideas in this lecture arent too controversal..:-)
[13:40] Herman Bergson: I am not sure Aristotle...
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: He appears to me to be a very importment man.
[13:40] Herman Bergson: I have to look into it
[13:40] Herman Bergson: Oh yes....and active in many fields
[13:40] Herman Bergson: politics, education...
[13:40] itsme Frederix: Herman, well most of the paradoxes are "commercialized" and well know I guess
[13:40] Alarice Beaumont: c u on thursday then!
[13:40] Alarice Beaumont: bye all
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes, a well rounded humanist
[13:40] Ze Novikov: bb
[13:41] Herman Bergson: Bye Alarice
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Alarice
[13:41] Mickorod Renard: bye alar
[13:41] itsme Frederix: Aristotle I really advise you to read his autobiography - it is very interesting and passionated -
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: thank you Itsme
[13:41] Rodney Handrick: Bye Alarice
[13:41] Herman Bergson: yes indeed....I read it some 30 years ago..:-)
[13:42] Birric Forcella: What's on Thursday?
[13:42] Osrum Sands: life never allows one the time to read all that one wants
[13:42] itsme Frederix: Me to Herman, those days
[13:42] Cailleach Shan: Thanks Herman...
[13:42] Birric Forcella: If you never read anything, you haven't read EVERYTHING
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: you are exactly right OS....alas our poor measure of time
[13:42] Herman Bergson: Well Birric...depends on what I find on paradoxes....then Russell's epistemological thoughts
[13:43] Herman Bergson: and the way he handles metaphysics
[13:43] Osrum Sands: like the net one inquiry leads to many more
[13:43] itsme Frederix: Herman maybe you have to wait for Gödel, he really solves them
[13:43] Birric Forcella: It's no problem any more
[13:43] Birric Forcella: It's more a specialized problem with type theory
[13:43] Osrum Sands: each with there own even more extensive sets of inquiry
[13:43] Osrum Sands: and reading
[13:43] Herman Bergson: I dont intend to become specific in these matters.
[13:44] Herman Bergson: only in the sense how it causes questions about truth-values
[13:44] Herman Bergson: Besides I am no mathematician
[13:45] itsme Frederix: well at least it shows that using language might give some problems - even without talking about the environments or what you might know about it
[13:45] Birric Forcella: Well, the liar's paradox isn't statable in truth values
[13:45] Herman Bergson: I can understand that...:-)
[13:45] Ze Novikov: Thank you Herman....
[13:46] Osrum Sands: is it language or our understand, logic etc there Itsme
[13:46] Ze Novikov: BB everyone
[13:46] Herman Bergson: Bye Ze
[13:46] Rodney Handrick: Bye Ze
[13:46] Mickorod Renard: bye ze
[13:46] itsme Frederix: Osumm oke, logic. Logic is not that powerfull as it seemed those days
[13:47] Birric Forcella: Or simply put, if you have an "all" statement about people who do not shave them selves - you cannot include somebody who does shave herself
[13:47] Osrum Sands: or is it that we are evolving to more and more levels of complexity as time passes ?
[13:47] itsme Frederix: shave herself - lesbian again
[13:47] Birric Forcella feels tickled pink that he finally found a pretext to use sex neutral language
[13:49] Birric Forcella: .
[13:49] itsme Frederix: Osrum, not to much complexity but different levels - and a level has its limitations
[13:49] Osrum Sands: ok fair point
[13:49] arabella Ella: hey itsme 'shaving herself' does not necc imply gay
[13:50] itsme Frederix: arabella I did not mean to say that in any way. I just wonderred about the "her" implying gender
[13:51] Birric Forcella: Well, liberally sprinkling "hers" among your "hises" is generally considered "gender neutral" language
[13:52] arabella Ella: and thanks for doing so Birric ... much appreciated!
[13:52] itsme Frederix: Birric I take your words, english is not my native language.
[13:52] Osrum Sands: yet you do it so well Itsme
[13:52] Birric Forcella: Neither is it mine
[13:52] Osrum Sands: no australian is mine ???
[13:52] Osrum Sands: ahaha
[13:53] itsme Frederix: oke back to another reality. Herman and classmates THX and see you next lesson.
[13:53] Osrum Sands: cheers
[13:54] Herman Bergson: Bye Itsme...
[13:54] Birric Forcella: Is that Thursday?
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Itsme
[13:54] Herman Bergson: Yes it is Birric
[13:54] Rodney Handrick: Bye all
[13:54] Osrum Sands: but only if your a day behind!!!
[13:54] Osrum Sands: just messing with you
[[13:55] Osrum Sands: it just goes to show that we in Australia and NZ really do lead the world !!!
[13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: LOL, tell that to Mr Bush
[13:56] Osrum Sands: now even you guys in USA know just where he has taken you lot
[13:56] Herman Bergson: who is that on your shirt Aristotle?
[13:56] Osrum Sands: no real leadership at all
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: This is Bertrand himself
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: 35 years old
[13:57] Herman Bergson: ah.....a young version
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: yes

Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-06-18 15:33:50

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