Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B is for Bertrand Russell

"If the matter is one that can be settled by observation, make the observation yourself. Aristotle could have avoided the mistake of thinking that women have fewer teeth than men, by the simple device of asking Mrs. Aristotle to keep her mouth open while he counted. He did not do so because he thought he knew." - Bertrand Russell.
I was hanging out in a used book store, buying books on math, when it was suggested that I should give Bertrand Russell a try. I found a book called "Mathematics and the Imagination" and was told if I like mathematics and philosophy, I should check him out. I would extend the same suggestion to everyone else, and add that the man had great wit.
The above quote comes from "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish". In it he attempts to find the rationality of man, and only succeeds in finding the folly in everything from the ancient Greeks, religion, politics, secularism, pacifists, aggressive people, and really just about anyone. It is home to many, many good quotes as well. I'm not kidding, this essay is great.

Among some of his gems in the essay is a part about spending time with people who disagree with you. Honestly, so often I forget that people have different opinions then myself. Naturally, I want to stay away from "toxic" people whose opinions just seem to hold me back. These people can be a blessing though. Contrary to what I like to believe sometimes, I am not the greatest thing in the world, or universe, or even the greatest thing in this state. I have flaws, and when others are used correctly, they can help point out those flaws. Other opinions show you that world is dynamic, it is change. Mostly though, it's what reminds that the world is not a figment of my own imagination.

Besides writing essays, he was also a mathematician. He wrote some classics on logic in the early 1900's, including Principia Mathematica, in which he and Alfred North Whitehead attempted to describe a set of mathematic truths in which all of math could be proven. Kurt Godel later prove with his incompleteness therom that this was not possible.

Here is his essay
Here is Principia Mathematica
And here is a dog trying to stay awake


  1. You're right. It is always beneficial to spend time with those not like ourselves, even if the only benefit we glean is a good laugh.

  2. I agree. Conflict in opinion will lead to growth. I will be looking forward to more of your posts.

    Stuart at www.lloydofgamebooks.com

  3. Hello from the A-Z fellow traveler. I was just surfing the A-Z list and came to your Aristotle's Mistake page, and thought why not. I'm glad to have stopped by, and came across your choices of the A-Z subjects. Not easy ones, to me, someone who gave up reading Plato's Collected Dialogues (Edited by Hamilton & Cairns), but you managed to make Bertrand Russell readable. So I'll give both Plato & Russell another try. I've Russell's copy of "A history of Western Philosophy" to begin with.

  4. Bertrand Russell sounds interesting. Seems I have myself a little reading to do. Thanks for sharing!