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Bertrand Russell: Science and philosophy

My chum and Russell scholar par excellence has this piece in the TLS. As Wittgenstein sums up Russell’s insight, “Philosophy aims at the logical clarification of thoughts. Philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity”. Something similar might be said of science as well. Analytic philosophyAndrew Irvinebertrand russellLiberalismphilosophical logicPhilosophyscience

Norbert Wiener

Born on this day. Here’s an assessment of Wiener’s legacy from a few years back. Having read most of the notable work on “epistemic ignorance” (yes, there really is a specialized small literature) there is one prize that still alludes me and that is Wiener’s “The Theory of Ignorance” (1906), a philosophical demonstration of the…

Wittgenstein: A Wonderful Life

This 1989 BBC Horizon documentary (see below) is an absolute gem. I must have seen it in the day but viewing it again with the benefit of the intervening quarter century, is so rewarding. It’s television at its best — very tightly presented, it is neither pretentious nor dumbed down as so many programmes on…

Orwell on Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon”

That Wendell Berry takes on the campus commissars (and their complicitous willingly martyred cannon-fodder individual manqué bidders) offers some inkling of hope for preserving liberality. But I fear we are just entering the beginnings of a Darkness at Noon moment — the prospect of a total eclipse is immanent. Check out Orwell’s article on Koestler’s Darkness at Noon reprinted…

David Pears

Born on this day — check out the obits along with Pears and Murdoch in discussion on the idea of freedom. When his book Ludwig Wittgenstein was published in 1971, Igor Stravinksy wrote to congratulate Pears on the beauty of his writing, which, wrote Bernard Williams, “combines in a very pure form the more conversational…

Bertrand Russell

Born on this day. It just so happens that while writing on Herbert Simon today I was reminded of Russell who, on hearing from Simon about his “thinking machine” that proved theorems from Principia Mathematica, responded: “I am delighted to know that ‘Principia Mathematica’ can now be done by machinery. I wish Whitehead and I had known of this…

Russell’s “On Denoting”

Speaking of Davidson, here is a two-parter from Stephen Neale (a Davidson expert) on Russell’s seminal paper “On Denoting” published in MIND in 1905 and the ensuing philosophical debate centred around it. “On Denoting” is arguably the most important philosophical paper of the 20th Century, a paper one has to tackle if one is trying to…