Bertrand Russell's Dictionary of Mind, Matter and Morals

Bertrand Russell's Dictionary of Mind, Matter and Morals

by Bertrand Russell

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ISBN-13: 9781497675704
Publisher: Philosophical Library/Open Road
Publication date: 12/02/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 308
Sales rank: 648,174
File size: 766 KB

About the Author

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, social reformer, and pacifist. Although he spent the majority of his life in England, he was born in Wales, where he also died. Russell led the British “revolt against Idealism” in the early twentieth century and is one of the founders of analytic philosophy along with his protégé Wittgenstein and his elder Frege. He co-authored, with A. N. Whitehead, Principia Mathematica, an attempt to ground mathematics on logic. His philosophical essay “On Denoting” has been considered a “paradigm of philosophy.” Both works have had a considerable influence on logic, mathematics, set theory, linguistics and analytic philosophy. He was a prominent anti-war activist, championing free trade between nations and anti-imperialism. Russell was imprisoned for his pacifist activism during World War I, campaigned against Adolf Hitler, for nuclear disarmament. He criticized Soviet totalitarianism and the United States of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1950, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.”

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Bertrand Russell's Dictionary of Mind, Matter, and Morals

By Bertrand Russell, Lester E. Denonn

Philosophical Library

Copyright © 1952 Philosophical Library, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-7570-4



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Abelard's view, that (apart from Scripture) dialectic is the sole road to truth, while no empiricist can accept it, had, at the time, a valuable effect as a solvent of prejudices and an encouragement to the fearless use of the intellect. Nothing outside the Scriptures, he said, is infallible; even Apostles and Fathers may err. (HWP 437)


We may thus say that the world of elementary physics is semiabstract, while that of deductive relativity-theory is wholly abstract. The appearance of deducing actual phenomena from mathematics is delusive; what really happens is that the phenomena afford inductive verification of the general principles from which our mathematics starts. Every observed fact retains its full evidential value; but now it confirms not merely some particular law, but the general law from which the deductive system starts. (ATOM 88)




Thus the interlocking power of stupidity below and love of power above paralyses the efforts of rational men. Only through a greater measure of academic freedom than has yet been achieved in the public educational institutions of this country can this evil be averted. (FAC 30)






The word "action" is used to denote energy multiplied by time. That is to say, if there is one unit of energy in a system, it will exert one unit of action in a second, 100 units of action in 100 seconds, and so on; a system which has 100 units of energy will exert 100 units of action in a second, and 10,000 in 100 seconds, and so on. "Action" is thus, in a loose sense, a measure of how much has been accomplished: it is increased both by displaying more energy and by working for a longer time. (ABCR 161)


Our political and social thinking is prone to what may be called the "administrator's fallacy," by which I mean the habit of looking upon a society as a systematic whole, of a sort that is thought good if it is pleasant to contemplate as a model of order, a planned organism with parts neatly dovetailed into each other. But a society does not, or at least should not, exist to satisfy an external survey, but to bring a good life to the individuals who compose it. (AAI 116)


The official adultery to which men have to submit in order that their wives may divorce them is a sordid business, and not the sort of thing that the law ought to demand and promote as it does when adultery is the sole ground for divorce. (DMC 15)


A life without adventure is likely to be unsatisfying, but a life in which adventure is allowed to take whatever form it will is sure to be short. (SC 1010)


If mankind succeeds in abolishing war, it should not be difficult to find other outlets for the love of adventure and risk. The old outlets, which at one time served a biological purpose, do so no longer, and therefore new outlets are necessary. But there is nothing in human nature that compels us to acquiesce in continued savagery. Our less orderly impulses are dangerous only when they are denied or misunderstood. When this mistake is avoided, the problem of fitting them into a good social system can be solved by the help of intelligence and goodwill. (AAI 45)




Affection in the sense of a genuine reciprocal interest of two persons in each other, not solely as means to each other's good but rather as a combination having a common good, is one of the most important elements of real happiness, and the man whose ego is so enclosed within steel walls that this enlargement of it is impossible misses the best that life has to offer, however successful he may be in his career. (CH 184-5)


Affectionateness is an emotional habit which is good in moderation, but can easily be carried too far. When carried too far, it involves a lack of self-dependence, which may have very undesirable effects upon character. Some people who are moralists rather than psychologists confound affection with benevolence, and imagine that it consists in a desire for the happiness of the beloved object. This is only very partially the case; in fact, affection in its instinctive manifestations is bound up with jealousy, and is not in all its forms a desirable emotion. (SAE 92)


The nerve fibers which carry messages to the brain are called "afferent"; those which carry messages from the brain are called "efferent." Broadly speaking, the afferent fibers start from sense organs and the efferent fibers end in muscles. (HK 38)


"Aggression" may be defined as any act of war not sanctioned by the international authority. (STGS 57)

There is first the difficulty of defining an "aggressor".... It is enough to say that no definition has yet been proposed which has seemed satisfactory to authorities on international law, and that every imaginable definition would lend itself to deceit and trickery at the outbreak of a war. Perhaps in time the inculcation of a warlike spirit may come to be considered a form of aggression; schools may be forbidden to teach excessive nationalism; and newspapers may be prevented from publishing incitements to national hatred. (WWP 75-6)


We may distinguish four purposes at which an economic system may aim: first, it may aim at the greatest possible production of goods and at facilitating technical progress; second, it may aim at securing distributive justice; third, it may aim at giving security against destitution; and, fourth, it may aim at liberating impulses and diminishing possessive impulses. (PI 43)


The aeroplane, however, by the preponderance which it has given to the attack, has altered completely the strategy and even the politics of war. There are those, among the older Generals and Admirals, who refuse to admit this, and who cling desperately to traditional conceptions. (WWP 18)


A relation is said to be an aliorelative or to be contained in or imply diversity, if no term has this relation to itself. Thus, for example, "greater," "different in size," "brother," "husband," "father" are aliorelatives; but "equal," "born of the same parents," "dear friend" are not. (IMP 32)


Empirical evidence can prove propositions containing "a" or "some," and can disprove propositions containing "the", "all," or "none." It cannot disprove propositions containing "a" or "some," and cannot prove propositions containing "the," "all," or "none." (IMT 55)

Propositions containing "all" or "none" can be disproved by empirical data, but not proved except in logic and mathematics. We can prove "all primes except 2 are odd," because this follows from definitions; but we cannot prove "all men are mortal," because we cannot prove that we have overlooked no one. (IMT 55)


So far, I have considered alliances only from the standpoint of the prevention of war. But in the minds of statesmen the chief motive for concluding them has always been not peace, but victory. The two are, however, connected, since wars do not occur, as a rule, when one side is sure of victory. (WWP 98)






In international affairs the record of America compares very favourably with that of other Great Powers. There have been, it is true, two short periods of imperialism, one connected with the Mexican war of 1846, the other with the Spanish-American war of 1898, but in each case a change of policy came very soon. In China, where the record of Britain, France, Germany, and Russia is shameful, that of the United States has always been generous and liberal. No territorial concessions were ever demanded, and the Boxer indemnity money was spent on Chinese education. Since 1945, American policy, both as regards control of atomic power and as regards the Marshall Plan, has been generous and farsighted. Western Union economic and political, which America urges is obviously to the interest of western Europe; in fact, American authorities have shown more awareness of what western Europe needs than western Europe itself has shown. (AA 164)


A great deal of nonsense is talked about American so-called "materialism" and what its detractors call "bathroom civilization." I do not think Americans are, in any degree more "materialistic," in the popular sense of that word, than people of other nations. We think they worship the "almighty dollar" because they succeed in getting it. But a needy aristocrat or a French peasant will do things for the sake of money that shock every decent American. Very few Americans marry for mercenary motives. (AA 211)


There is one aspect of American life which I have not yet touched on, and which I think wholly undesirable—I mean, the tyranny of the herd. Eccentricity is frowned upon, and unusual opinions bring social penalties upon those who hold them. It is not a new thing: it was noted by De Tocqueville in his book on American democracy: it was rampant in the time of Washington; and it goes back to the early Puritan colonies of the seventeenth century. It is, I think, the worst feature of America. I earnestly hope that fear of Russia will not cause us to imitate it. (AA 211)


There is something in this, but, for my own part, it is not the American modifications of the English language which annoy me. I find much American speech very pleasant to listen to, and much of the slang refreshingly expressive. But I wish they would frankly call it American, and not English. I should not mind being told that I do not talk American very well. I don't. (CAB 57)


The operation by which, from examination of a whole W, we arrive at "P is part of W," is called "analysis." It has two forms: logical analysis, and analysis into spatio-temporal parts. (IMT 411)


We must therefore suppose that natural processes have the character attributed to them by the analyst, rather than the holistic character which the enemies of analysis take for granted. I do not contend that the holistic world is logically impossible, but I do contend that it could not give rise to science or to any empirical knowledge. (DNL 142)




Anarchism, as its derivation indicates, is the theory which is opposed to every kind of forcible government. It is opposed to the State as the embodiment of the force employed in the government of the community. Such government as Anarchism can tolerate must be free government, not merely in the sense that it is that of a majority, but in the sense that it is that assented to by all. (RF 33)

Anarchism, however attractive, is rejected as a method of regulating the internal affairs of a State except by a few idealistic dreamers. Per contra, except by a few idealistic dreamers it is accepted as the only method of regulating international affairs. The same mentality that insists most strongly on the necessity of subjecting the individual to the State insists simultaneously on the complete independence of the sovereign State from all external control. Logically, such a view is untenable. If anarchy is bad nationally, it is bad internationally; if it is good internationally, it must be good nationally. For my part, I cannot believe it to be good in either sphere. (FAG 249)


The philosopher Anaxagoras, though not the equal of Pythagoras, Heraclitus, or Parmenides, has nevertheless a considerable historical importance. He was an Ionian, and carried on the scientific, rationalist tradition of Ionia. He was the first to introduce philosophy to the Athenians, and the first to suggest mind as the primary cause of physical changes. (HWP 61)




Saint Anselm was, like Lanfranc, an Italian, a monk at Bec, and archbishop of Canterbury (1093-1109), in which capacity he followed the principles of Gregory VII and quarreled with the king. He is chiefly known to fame as the inventor of the "ontological argument" for the existence of God. As he put it, the argument is as follows: We define "God" as the greatest possible object of thought. Now if an object of thought does not exist, another, exactly like it, which does exist, is greater. Therefore the greatest of all objects of thought must exist, since, otherwise, another, still greater, would be possible. Therefore God exists. (HWP 417)


Anti-Semitism is not only an abomination towards the Jews but a serious loss to the nations which, by practicing it, lose the advantages that they could derive from Jewish ability and industry. It is to be hoped—I speak as one who is not a Jew—that mankind will not continue thus to waste the by no means excessive capital of human merit. (ZPS 23)


But the moral effect of yielding, which would have been admirable while German force was lacking, is quite different now, and is no longer capable of producing a peaceful atmosphere, since, if fear is supposed to be its motive, it encourages the habit of threatening and bullying. (WWP 13)


Although this may seem a paradox, all exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation. When a man tells you that he knows the exact truth about anything, you are safe in inferring that he is an in-exact man. Every careful measurement in science is always given with the probable error, which is a technical term, conveying a precise meaning. It means: that amount of error which is just as likely to be greater than the actual error as to be less. (SO 63-4)


Knowledge is said to be a priori when it can be acquired without requiring any fact of experience as a premiss; in the contrary case, it is said to be empirical. (AOM 173)


He succeeded in persuading the Church that Aristotle's system was to be preferred to Plato's as the basis of Christian philosophy, and that Mohammedans and Christian Averroists had misinterpreted Aristotle. For my part, I should say that the De Anima leads much more naturally to the view of Averroes than to that of Aquinas; however, the Church, since Saint Thomas, has thought otherwise. I should say, further, that Aristotle's views on most questions of logic and philosophy were not final, and have since been proved to be largely erroneous; this opinion, also, is not allowed to be professed by any Catholic philosopher or teacher of philosophy. (HWP 453)


In philosophy, the Arabs were better as commentators than as original thinkers. Their importance, for us, is that they, and not the Christians, were the immediate inheritors of those parts of the Greek tradition which only the Eastern Empire had kept alive. (HWP 283)

Arabic philosophy is not important as original thought. Men like Avicenna and Averroes are essentially commentators. Speaking generally, the views of the more scientific philosophers come from Aristotle and the Neoplatonists in logic and metaphysics, from Galen in medicine, from Greek and Indian sources in mathematics and astronomy, and among mystics religious philosophy has also an admixture of old Persian beliefs. Writers in Arabic showed some originality in mathematics and in chemistry—in the latter case, as an incidental result of alchemical researches. Mohammedan civilization in its great days was admirable in the arts and in many technical ways, but it showed no capacity for independent speculation in theoretical matters. Its importance, which must not be underrated, is as a transmitter. (HWP 427)


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