Friday, April 29, 2016
What is better than a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist and Nobel laureate? Well a lot of things but today I will be discussing Bertrand Russel and his mathematical ways.
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”
Bertrand Russell’s first mathematical book, An Essay of the Foundations of Geometry, was published in the late late 1890’s. His book and the work that filled it was inspired by Immanuel Kant. Kant was a German philosopher. Russell later found that his concept made Albert Einstein’s representation of space and time ultimately impossible.
Russell believed that religion could be quite harmful to people. “As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.”
— Bertrand Russell, Collected Papers, vol. 11, p. 91
Later on, Russell decided to choose to take over the agnostic label on a BBC radio debate between himself and Frederick Copleston. Not only was Russell agnostic. He was also a huge influence on modern philosophy. (How great of transition was that?) Russell also had an influence on individuals in the philosophy world as well. One that really stands out would be, Ludwig Wittgenstein. Ludwig was a pupil of Russell between the years 1911 and 1914. Ludwig Wittgenstein was an Austrian-British philosopher who also worked with the philosophy if mathematics.
“I wanted certainty in the kind of way in which people want religious faith. I thought that certainty is more likely to be found in mathematics than elsewhere. But I discovered that many mathematical demonstrations, which my teachers wanted me to accept, were full of fallacies ... I was continually reminded of the fable about the elephant and the tortoise. Having constructed an elephant upon which the mathematical world could rest, I found the elephant tottering, and proceeded to construct a tortoise to keep the elephant from falling. But the tortoise was no more secure than the elephant, and after some twenty years of arduous toil, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing more that I could do in the way of making mathematical knowledge indubitable.” –Bertrand Russell