The 141 new ideas included in the latest update (of 8th January), by Theme

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1. Philosophy / A. Wisdom / 1. Nature of Wisdom
A sense of timelessness is essential to wisdom [Russell]
     Full Idea: Both in thought and in feeling, to realize the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 6)
     A reaction: A very rationalist and un-Heraclitean view of wisdom. This picture may give wisdom a bad name, if wise people are (at a minimum) at least expected to give good advice about real life.
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 7. Despair over Philosophy
Philosophical disputes are mostly hopeless, because philosophers don't understand each other [Russell]
     Full Idea: Explicit controversy is almost always fruitless in philosophy, owing to the fact that no two philosophers ever understand one another.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 1)
     A reaction: Contemporaries don't even seem to read one another very much, especially these days, when there are thousands of professional philosophers. (If you are a professional, have you read all the works written by your colleagues and friends?)
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 1. Nature of Metaphysics
Metaphysics is (supposedly) first the ontology, then in general what things are like [Hofweber]
     Full Idea: Metaphysics can be divided into two parts: first ontology, which is supposed to tell us what there is in general. The second part is the rest of metaphysics, which is supposed to tell us what these things are like, in various general ways.
     From: Thomas Hofweber (Ontology and the Ambitions of Metaphysics [2016], 1.1)
     A reaction: Hofweber is a fairly sceptical guide to metaphysics, but this has been the standard view for the last decade. Before that, Quine had set an agenda of mere ontology.
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 3. Metaphysical Systems
Philosophical systems are interesting, but we now need a more objective scientific philosophy [Russell]
     Full Idea: The great systems of the past serve a very useful purpose, and are abundantly worthy of study. But something different is required if philosophy is to become a science, and to aim at results independent of the tastes of the philosophers who advocate them.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], Pref)
     A reaction: An interesting product of this move in philosophy is (about sixty years later) the work of David Lewis, who set out to be precise and scientific, and ended up creating a very personal system. Why not a collaborative system?
Hegel's confusions over 'is' show how vast systems can be built on simple errors [Russell]
     Full Idea: Hegel's confusion of the 'is' of predication with the 'is' of identity an example of how, for want of care at the start, vast and imposing systems of philosophy are built upon stupid and trivial confusions.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 2 n1)
     A reaction: [He explains the confusion in more detail in the note] Russell cites an English translation, and I am wondering how this occurs in the German. Plato has been accused of similar elementary blunders about properties. Russell treats Berkeley similarly.
Philosophers sometimes neglect truth and distort facts to attain a nice system [Russell]
     Full Idea: The desire for unadulterated truth is often obscured, in professional philosophers, by love of system: the one little fact which will not come inside the philosophical edifice has to be pushed and tortured until it seems to consent.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 8)
     A reaction: Bit of hypocrisy here. Russell was continually trying to find a system, grounded in physics and logic. Presumably his shifting views are indications of integrity, because he changes the system rather than the facts.
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 4. Metaphysics as Science
Physicists accept particles, points and instants, while pretending they don't do metaphysics [Russell]
     Full Idea: Physicists, ignorant and contemptuous of philosophy, have been content to assume their particles, points and instants in practice, while contending, with ironical politeness, that their concepts laid no claim to metaphysical validity.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 4)
     A reaction: Presumably physicists are allowed to wave their hands and utter the word 'instrumentalism', and then get on with the job. They just have to ensure they never speculate about what is being measured.
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 5. Linguistic Analysis
Common speech is vague; its vocabulary and syntax must be modified, for precision [Russell]
     Full Idea: I am persuaded that common speech is full of vagueness and inaccuracy, and that any attempt to be precise and accurate requires modification of common speech both as regards vocabulary and as regards syntax.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Mr Strawson on Referring [1957], p.123)
     A reaction: It is interesting that he cites the syntax of ordinary language, as well as the vocabulary. The implication is that vagueness can also be a feature of syntax (and hence his pursuit of logical form), which is not normally mentioned
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 6. Logical Analysis
We can't sharply distinguish variables, domains and values, if symbols frighten us [Russell]
     Full Idea: Whoever is afraid of symbols can hardly hope to acquire exact ideas where it is necessary to distinguish 1) the variable in itself as opposed to its value, 2) any value of the variable, 3) all values, 4) some value.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Review: Meinong 'Untersuchungen zur..' [1905], p.84)
     A reaction: Not the best example, perhaps, of the need for precision, but a nice illustration of the new attitude Russell brought into philosophy.
When problems are analysed properly, they are either logical, or not philosophical at all [Russell]
     Full Idea: Every philosophical problem, when it is subjected to the necessary analysis and purification, is found either to be not really philosophical at all, or else to be, in the sense in which we are using the word, logical.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 2)
     A reaction: [All Lecture 2 discusses 'logical'] I think Bertie was getting carried away here. In his life's corpus he barely acknowledges the existence of ethics, or political philosophy, or aesthetics. He never even engages with 'objects' the way Aristotle does.
2. Reason / D. Definition / 7. Contextual Definition
Any linguistic expression may lack meaning when taken out of context [Russell]
     Full Idea: Any sentence, a single word, or a single component phrase, may often be quite devoid of meaning when separated from its context.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Substitutional Classes and Relations [1906], p.165)
     A reaction: Contextualism is now extremely fashionable, in philosophy of language and in epistemology. Here Russell is looking for a contextual way to define classes [so says Lackey, the editor].
2. Reason / D. Definition / 11. Ostensive Definition
Empirical words need ostensive definition, which makes them egocentric [Russell]
     Full Idea: The meanings of all empirical words depend ultimately upon ostensive definitions, ostensive definitions depend upon experience, and that experience is egocentric.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Mr Strawson on Referring [1957], p.122)
     A reaction: He seems to imply that this makes them partly subjective, but I don't see why an objective consensus can't be reached when making an ostensive definition. We just need to clearly agree what 'that' refers to.
2. Reason / F. Fallacies / 8. Category Mistake / a. Category mistakes
'The number one is bald' or 'the number one is fond of cream cheese' are meaningless [Russell]
     Full Idea: 'The number one is bald' or 'the number one is fond of cream cheese' are, I maintain, not merely silly remarks, but totally devoid of meaning.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Substitutional Classes and Relations [1906], p.166)
     A reaction: He connects this to paradoxes in set theory, such as the assertion that 'the class of human beings is a human being' (which is the fallacy of composition).
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 5. Truth Bearers
Truth and falsity apply to suppositions as well as to assertions [Williamson]
     Full Idea: The notion of truth and falsity apply to suppositions as well as to assertions.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 7.2)
     A reaction: This may not be obvious to those who emphasise pragmatics and ordinary language, but it is self-evident to anyone who emphasises logic.
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 7. Falsehood
True and false are not symmetrical; false is more complex, involving negation [Williamson]
     Full Idea: The concepts of truth and falsity are not symmetrical. The asymmetry is visible in the fundamental principles governing them, for F is essentially more complex than T, but its use of negation.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 7.5)
     A reaction: If T and F are primitives, controlled by axioms, then they might be symmetrical in nature, but asymmetrical in use. However, if forced to choose just one primitive, I presume it would be T.
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 6. Making Negative Truths
It seems that when a proposition is false, something must fail to subsist [Russell]
     Full Idea: It seems that when a proposition is false, something does not subsist which would subsist if the proposition were true.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Meinong on Complexes and Assumptions [1904], p.76)
     A reaction: This looks to me like a commitment by Russell to the truthmaker principle. The negations of false propositions are made true by some failure of existence in the world.
3. Truth / E. Pragmatic Truth / 1. Pragmatic Truth
If truth is the end of enquiry, what if it never ends, or ends prematurely? [Atkin on Peirce]
     Full Idea: Two related worries about Peirce's account of truth are (from Royce) what are we to make of truth if enquiry never reaches an end, and (from Russell) what are we to make of truth if enquiry never reaches an end?
     From: comment on Charles Sanders Peirce (works [1892]) by Albert Atkin - Peirce 3 'issues'
     A reaction: The defence of Peirce must be that the theory is not holistic - referring to the whole Truth about absolutely everything. The discovery of the periodic table seems to me to support Peirce. In many areas basic enquiry has reached an end.
4. Formal Logic / E. Nonclassical Logics / 3. Many-Valued Logic
Many-valued logics don't solve vagueness; its presence at the meta-level is ignored [Williamson]
     Full Idea: It is an illusion that many-valued logic constitutes a well-motivated and rigorously worked out theory of vagueness. ...[top] There has been a reluctance to acknowledge higher-order vagueness, or to abandon classical logic in the meta-language.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 4.12)
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 3. Types of Set / b. Empty (Null) Set
The null class is the class with all the non-existents as its members [MacColl, by Lackey]
     Full Idea: In 1905 the Scottish logician Hugh MacColl published a paper in which he argued that the null class in logic should be taken as the class with all the non-existents as its members.
     From: report of Hugh MacColl (Symbolic Reasoning [1905]) by Douglas Lackey - Intros to Russell's 'Essays in Analysis. p.95
     A reaction: For the null object (zero) Frege just chose one sample concept with an empty extension. MacColl's set seems to have a lot of members, given that it is 'null'. How many, I wonder? Russell responded to this paper.
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 5. Conceptions of Set / c. Logical sets
The 'no classes' theory says the propositions just refer to the members [Russell]
     Full Idea: The contention of the 'no classes' theory is that all significant propositions concerning classes can be regarded as propositions about all or some of their members.
     From: Bertrand Russell (On 'Insolubilia' and their solution [1906], p.200)
     A reaction: Apparently this theory has not found favour with later generations of theorists. I see it in terms of Russell trying to get ontology down to the minimum, in the spirit of Goodman and Quine.
5. Theory of Logic / A. Overview of Logic / 3. Value of Logic
Logic gives the method of research in philosophy [Russell]
     Full Idea: Logic gives the method of research in philosophy, just as mathematics gives the method in physics.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 8)
     A reaction: I'm struck by how rarely philosophers actually prove anything. Mostly they just use the language of logic as a tool for disambiguation. Only a tiny handful of philosophers can actually create sustained and novel proofs.
5. Theory of Logic / B. Logical Consequence / 4. Semantic Consequence |=
Formal semantics defines validity as truth preserved in every model [Williamson]
     Full Idea: An aim of formal semantics is to define in mathematical terms a set of models such that an argument is valid if and only if it preserves truth in every model in the set, for that will provide us with a precise standard of validity.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 5.3)
5. Theory of Logic / D. Assumptions for Logic / 1. Bivalence
In talking of future sea-fights, Aristotle rejects bivalence [Aristotle, by Williamson]
     Full Idea: Aristotle rejected bivalence for future contingencies; it is true or false that there will be a sea-fight tomorrow.
     From: report of Aristotle (On Interpretation [c.330 BCE], 19a31) by Timothy Williamson - Vagueness 1.2
     A reaction: I'd never quite registered this simple account of the sea-fight. As Williamson emphasises, one should not lightly reject the principle of bivalence. Has Aristotle entered a slippery slope?
'Bivalence' is the meta-linguistic principle that 'A' in the object language is true or false [Williamson]
     Full Idea: The meta-logical law of excluded middle is the meta-linguistic principle that any statement 'A' in the object language is either truth or false; it is now known as the principle of 'bivalence'.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 5.2)
     A reaction: [He cites Henryk Mehlberg 1958] See also Idea 21605. Without this way of distinguishing bivalence from excluded middle, most discussions of them strikes me as shockingly lacking in clarity. Personally I would cut the normativity from this one.
5. Theory of Logic / D. Assumptions for Logic / 2. Excluded Middle
Excluded middle is the maxim of definite understanding, but just produces contradictions [Hegel]
     Full Idea: The law of excluded middle is ...the maxim of the definite understanding, which would fain avoid contradiction, but in doing so falls into it.
     From: Georg W.F.Hegel (Logic (from Encyclopaedia) [1817], p.172), quoted by Timothy Williamson - Vagueness 1.5
     A reaction: Not sure how this works, but he would say this, wouldn't he?
Excluded middle can be stated psychologically, as denial of p implies assertion of not-p [Russell]
     Full Idea: The law of excluded middle may be stated in the form: If p is denied, not-p must be asserted; this form is too psychological to be ultimate, but the point is that it is significant and not a mere tautology.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Meinong on Complexes and Assumptions [1904], p.41)
     A reaction: 'Psychology' is, of course, taboo, post-Frege, though I think it is interesting. Stated in this form the law looks more false than usual. I can be quite clear than p is unacceptable, but unclear about its contrary.
Excluded Middle is 'A or not A' in the object language [Williamson]
     Full Idea: The logical law of excluded middle (now the standard one) is the schema 'A or not A' in the object-language.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 5.2)
     A reaction: [He cites Henryk Mehlberg 1958] See Idea 21606. The only sensible way to keep Excluded Middle and Bivalence distinct. I would say: (meta-) only T and F are available, and (object) each proposition must have one of them. Are they both normative?
5. Theory of Logic / E. Structures of Logic / 2. Logical Connectives / a. Logical connectives
The logical connectives are not objects, but are formal, and need a context [Russell]
     Full Idea: Such words as 'or' and 'not' are not names of definite objects, but are words that require a context in order to have a meaning. All of them are formal.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 7)
     A reaction: [He cites Wittgenstein's 1922 Tractatus in a footnote - presumably in a later edition than 1914] This is the most famous idea which Russell acquired from Wittgenstein. It was yet another step in his scaling down of ontology.
Logical connectives have the highest precision, yet are infected by the vagueness of true and false [Russell, by Williamson]
     Full Idea: Russell says the best chance of avoiding vagueness are the logical connectives. ...But the vagueness of 'true' and 'false' infects the logical connectives too. All words are vague. Russell concludes that all language is vague.
     From: report of Bertrand Russell (Vagueness [1923]) by Timothy Williamson - Vagueness 2.4
     A reaction: This relies on the logical connectives being defined semantically, in terms of T and F, but that is standard. Presumably the formal uninterpreted syntax is not vague.
5. Theory of Logic / E. Structures of Logic / 5. Functions in Logic
'Propositional functions' are ambiguous until the variable is given a value [Russell]
     Full Idea: By a 'propositional function' I mean something which contains a variable x, and expresses a proposition as soon as a value is assigned to x. That is to say, it differs from a proposition solely by the fact that it is ambiguous.
     From: Bertrand Russell (The Theory of Logical Types [1910], p.216)
     A reaction: This is Frege's notion of a 'concept', as an assertion of a predicate which still lacks a subject.
5. Theory of Logic / F. Referring in Logic / 1. Naming / d. Singular terms
'Singular terms' are not found in modern linguistics, and are not the same as noun phrases [Hofweber]
     Full Idea: Being a 'singular term' is not a category in contemporary syntactic theory and it doesn't correspond to any of the notions employed there like that of a singular noun phrase or the like.
     From: Thomas Hofweber (Ontology and the Ambitions of Metaphysics [2016], 2.3)
     A reaction: Hofweber has researched such things. This is an important objection to the reliance of modern Fregeans on the ontological commitments of singular terms (as proof that there are 'mathematical objects').
5. Theory of Logic / F. Referring in Logic / 2. Descriptions / c. Theory of definite descriptions
Russell showed how to define 'the', and thereby reduce the ontology of logic [Russell, by Lackey]
     Full Idea: With the devices of the Theory of Descriptions at hand, it was no longer necessary to take 'the' as indefinable, and it was possible to diminish greatly the number of entities to which a logical system is ontologically committed.
     From: report of Bertrand Russell (On Denoting [1905]) by Douglas Lackey - Intros to Russell's 'Essays in Analysis. p.13
     A reaction: Illuminating, because it shows that ontology is what drove Russell at this time, and really they were all searching for Quine's 'desert landscapes', which minimalise commitment.
The theory of descriptions lacks conventions for the scope of quantifiers [Lackey on Russell]
     Full Idea: Some logicians charge that the theory of descriptions as it stands is formally inadequate because it lacks explicit conventions for the scope of quantifiers, and that when these conventions are added the theory becomes unduly complex.
     From: comment on Bertrand Russell (On Denoting [1905]) by Douglas Lackey - Intros to Russell's 'Essays in Analysis. p.97
     A reaction: [Especially in modal contexts, apparently] I suppose if the main point is to spell out the existence commitments of the description, then that has to include quantification, for full generality.
5. Theory of Logic / H. Proof Systems / 4. Natural Deduction
Or-elimination is 'Argument by Cases'; it shows how to derive C from 'A or B' [Williamson]
     Full Idea: Argument by Cases (or or-elimination) is the standard way of using disjunctive premises. If one can argue from A and some premises to C, and from B and some premises to C, one can argue from 'A or B' and the combined premises to C.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 5.3)
5. Theory of Logic / L. Paradox / 4. Paradoxes in Logic / a. Achilles paradox
The tortoise won't win, because infinite instants don't compose an infinitely long time [Russell]
     Full Idea: The idea that an infinite number of instants make up an infinitely long time is not true, and therefore the conclusion that Achilles will never overtake the tortoise does not follow.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 6)
     A reaction: Aristotle spotted this, but didn't express it as clearly as Russell.
5. Theory of Logic / L. Paradox / 4. Paradoxes in Logic / d. Richard's paradox
Richard's puzzle uses the notion of 'definition' - but that cannot be defined [Russell]
     Full Idea: In Richard's puzzle, we use the notion of 'definition', and this, oddly enough, is not definable, and is indeed not a definite notion at all.
     From: Bertrand Russell (On 'Insolubilia' and their solution [1906], p.209)
     A reaction: The background for this claim is his type theory, which renders certain forms of circular reference meaningless.
5. Theory of Logic / L. Paradox / 5. Paradoxes in Set Theory / b. Cantor's paradox
Sets always exceed terms, so all the sets must exceed all the sets [Lackey]
     Full Idea: Cantor proved that the number of sets in a collection of terms is larger than the number of terms. Hence Cantor's Paradox says the number of sets in the collection of all sets must be larger than the number of sets in the collection of all sets.
     From: Douglas Lackey (Intros to Russell's 'Essays in Analysis. [1973], p.127)
     A reaction: The sets must count as terms in the next iteration, but that is a normal application of the Power Set axiom.
5. Theory of Logic / L. Paradox / 5. Paradoxes in Set Theory / c. Burali-Forti's paradox
It seems that the ordinal number of all the ordinals must be bigger than itself [Lackey]
     Full Idea: The ordinal series is well-ordered and thus has an ordinal number, and a series of ordinals to a given ordinal exceeds that ordinal by 1. So the series of all ordinals has an ordinal number that exceeds its own ordinal number by 1.
     From: Douglas Lackey (Intros to Russell's 'Essays in Analysis. [1973], p.127)
     A reaction: Formulated by Burali-Forti in 1897.
5. Theory of Logic / L. Paradox / 6. Paradoxes in Language / a. The Liar paradox
Vicious Circle: what involves ALL must not be one of those ALL [Russell]
     Full Idea: The 'vicious-circle principle' says 'whatever involves an apparent variable must not be among the possible values of that variable', or (less exactly) 'whatever involves ALL must not be one of ALL which it involves.
     From: Bertrand Russell (On 'Insolubilia' and their solution [1906], p.204)
     A reaction: He offers this as a parallel to his 'no classes' principle. That referred to classes, but this refers to propositions, and specifically the Liar Paradox (which he calls the 'Epimenedes').
'All judgements made by Epimenedes are true' needs the judgements to be of the same type [Russell]
     Full Idea: Such a proposition as 'all the judgements made by Epimenedes are true' will only be prima facie capable of truth if all his judgements are of the same order.
     From: Bertrand Russell (The Theory of Logical Types [1910], p.227)
     A reaction: This is an attempt to use his theory of types to solve the Liar. Tarski's invocation of a meta-language is clearly in the same territory.
5. Theory of Logic / L. Paradox / 6. Paradoxes in Language / b. The Heap paradox ('Sorites')
A sorites stops when it collides with an opposite sorites [Williamson]
     Full Idea: A sorites paradox is stopped when it collides with a sorites paradox going in the opposite direction. That account will not strike a logician as solving the sorites paradox.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 3.3)
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 6. Logicism / b. Type theory
For 'x is a u' to be meaningful, u must be one range of individuals (or 'type') higher than x [Russell]
     Full Idea: In his 1903 theory of types he distinguished between individuals, ranges of individuals, ranges of ranges of individuals, and so on. Each level was a type, and it was stipulated that for 'x is a u' to be meaningful, u must be one type higher than x.
     From: Bertrand Russell (The Principles of Mathematics [1903], App)
     A reaction: Russell was dissatisfied because this theory could not deal with Cantor's Paradox. Is this the first time in modern philosophy that someone has offered a criterion for whether a proposition is 'meaningful'?
Classes are defined by propositional functions, and functions are typed, with an axiom of reducibility [Russell, by Lackey]
     Full Idea: In Russell's mature 1910 theory of types classes are defined in terms of propositional functions, and functions themselves are regimented by a ramified theory of types mitigated by the axiom of reducibility.
     From: report of Bertrand Russell (The Theory of Logical Types [1910]) by Douglas Lackey - Intros to Russell's 'Essays in Analysis. p.133
Russell confused use and mention, and reduced classes to properties, not to language [Quine, by Lackey]
     Full Idea: Quine (1941) said that Russell had confused use and mention, and thus thought he had reduced classes to linguistic entities, while in fact he reduced them only to Platonic properties.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Whitehead and the Rise of Modern Logic [1941]) by Douglas Lackey - Intros to Russell's 'Essays in Analysis. p.133
     A reaction: This is cited as the 'orthodox critical interpretation' of Russell and Whitehead. Confusion of use and mention was a favourite charge of Quine's.
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 7. Formalism
Numbers are just verbal conveniences, which can be analysed away [Russell]
     Full Idea: Numbers are nothing but a verbal convenience, and disappear when the propositions that seem to contain them are fully written out.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Is Mathematics purely Linguistic? [1952], p.301)
     A reaction: This is the culmination of the process which began with his 1905 theory of definite descriptions. The intervening step was Wittgenstein's purely formal account of the logical connectives.
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 10. Constructivism / d. Predicativism
We need rules for deciding which norms are predicative (unless none of them are) [Russell]
     Full Idea: We need rules for deciding what norms are predicative and what are not, unless we adopt the view (which has much to recommend it) that no norms are predicative. ...[146] A predative propositional function is one which determines a class.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Difficulties of Transfinite Numbers and Types [1905], p.141)
     A reaction: He is referring to his 'no class' theory, which he favoured at that time.
A one-variable function is only 'predicative' if it is one order above its arguments [Russell]
     Full Idea: We will define a function of one variable as 'predicative' when it is of the next order above that of its arguments, i.e. of the lowest order compatible with its having an argument.
     From: Bertrand Russell (The Theory of Logical Types [1910], p.237)
     A reaction: 'Predicative' just means it produces a set. This is Russell's strict restriction on which functions are predicative.
'Predicative' norms are those which define a class [Russell]
     Full Idea: Norms (containing one variable) which do not define classes I propose to call 'non-predicative'; those which do define classes I shall call 'predicative'.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Difficulties of Transfinite Numbers and Types [1905], p.141)
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 1. Realism
If two people perceive the same object, the object of perception can't be in the mind [Russell]
     Full Idea: If two people can perceive the same object, as the possibility of any common world requires, then the object of an external perception is not in the mind of the percipient.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Meinong on Complexes and Assumptions [1904], p.33)
     A reaction: This is merely an assertion of the realist view, rather than an argument. I take representative realism to tell a perfectly good story that permits two subjective representations of the same object.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 9. Vagueness / a. Problem of vagueness
Austin revealed many meanings for 'vague': rough, ambiguous, general, incomplete... [Austin,JL, by Williamson]
     Full Idea: Austin's account brought out the variety of features covered by 'vague' in different contexts: roughness, ambiguity, imprecision, lack of detail, generality, inaccuracy, incompleteness. Even 'vague' is vague.
     From: report of J.L. Austin (Sense and Sensibilia [1962], p.125-8) by Timothy Williamson - Vagueness 3.1
     A reaction: Some of these sound the same. Maybe Austin distinguishes them.
When bivalence is rejected because of vagueness, we lose classical logic [Williamson]
     Full Idea: The principle of bivalence (that every statement is either true or false) has been rejected for vague languages. To reject bivalence is to reject classical logic or semantics.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], Intro)
     A reaction: His example is specifying a moment when Rembrandt became 'old'. This is the number one reason why the problem of vagueness is seen as important. Is the rejection of classical logic a loss of our grip on the world?
Vagueness undermines the stable references needed by logic [Williamson]
     Full Idea: Logic requires expressions to have the same referents wherever they occur; vague natural languages violate this contraint.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 2.2)
     A reaction: This doesn't mean that logic has to win. Maybe it is important for philosophers who see logic as central to be always aware of vagueness as the gulf between their precision and the mess of reality. Precision is worth trying for, though.
A vague term can refer to very precise elements [Williamson]
     Full Idea: Both 30 and 60 are clearly acute angles. 'Acute' is precise in all relevant respects. Nevertheless, 30 is acuter than 60.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 4.11)
     A reaction: A very nice example of something which is vague, despite involving precise ingredients. But then 'bald' is vague, while 'this is a hair on his head' is fairly precise.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 9. Vagueness / b. Vagueness of reality
To say reality itself is vague is not properly intelligible [Dummett]
     Full Idea: The notion that things might actually be vague, as well as being vaguely described, is not properly intelligible.
     From: Michael Dummett (Wang's Paradox [1970], p.260)
     A reaction: It seems hard to disagree with this. It seems crazy that a pile of grain, or the hair on someone's head, are vague, and even quantum indeterminacies are not very well described as 'vague'. Vagueness is a very human concept.
Equally fuzzy objects can be identical, so fuzziness doesn't entail vagueness [Williamson]
     Full Idea: Fuzzy boundaries do not in any way require vague identity. Objects are identical only if their boundaries have exactly the same fuzziness.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 9.2)
     A reaction: This all rests on the Fregean idea that determinate existence requires the ability to participate in an identity statement.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 9. Vagueness / c. Vagueness as epistemic
Vagueness is epistemic. Statements are true or false, but we often don't know which [Williamson]
     Full Idea: My thesis is that vagueness is an epistemic phenomenon. In cases of unclarity, statements remain true or false, but speakers of the language have no way of knowing which. Higher-order vagueness consists in ignorance about ignorance.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], Intro)
     A reaction: He has plumped for the intuitively least plausible theory. It means that a hair dropping out of someone's head triggers a situation where they are 'bald', but none of us know when that was. And Rembrandt became 'old' in an instant.
If a heap has a real boundary, omniscient speakers would agree where it is [Williamson]
     Full Idea: If, in judging a heap as grains are removed, omniscient speakers all stop at the same point, it must does mark some sort of previously hidden boundary. ...If there is no hidden boundary, then different omniscient speakers would stop at different points.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 7.3)
     A reaction: A very nice thought experiment, which obviously won't settle anything, but brings out nicely the view the vagueness is a sort of ignorance. God is never vague in the application of terms (though God might withhold the application if there is no boundary).
The epistemic view says that the essence of vagueness is ignorance [Williamson]
     Full Idea: The epistemic view is that ignorance is the real essence of the phenomenon ostensively identified as vagueness. ...[203] According to the epistemic view, I am either thin or not thin, ...and we have no idea how to find out out which.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 7.4)
     A reaction: Presumably this implies that there is often a real border (of which we may be ignorant), but it doesn't seem to rule out cases where there just is no border. Where does the east Atlantic meet the west Atlantic?
If there is a true borderline of which we are ignorant, this drives a wedge between meaning and use [Williamson]
     Full Idea: A common complaint against the epistemic view is that to postulate a matter of fact in borderline cases is to suppose, incoherently, that the meanings of our words draw a line where our use of them does not.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 7.5)
     A reaction: This doesn't necessarily seem to require the view that the meaning of words is their usage. Just that if there is one consensus on usage, it seem unlikely that there is a different underlying reality about the true meaning. Externalist meanings?
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 9. Vagueness / d. Vagueness as semantic
The vagueness of 'heap' can remain even when the context is fixed [Williamson]
     Full Idea: Vagueness remains even when the context is fixed. In principle, a vague word might exhibit no context dependence whatsoever. ...For example, a dispute over whether someone has left a 'heap' of sand on the floor.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 7.7)
     A reaction: A fairly devastating rebuttal of what seems to be David Lewis's view. He talks of something being 'smooth' depending on context.
The 'nihilist' view of vagueness says that 'heap' is not a legitimate concept [Williamson]
     Full Idea: The 'nihilist' view is that no genuine distinction can be vaguely drawn; since vague expressions are not properly meaningful, there is nothing for sorites reasoning to betray; they are empty.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 6.1)
     A reaction: He cites Frege as holding this view. The thought is that 'heap' is not a legitimate concept, so fussing over what qualifies as one is pointless. This seems to be a semantic view of vagueness, of which the main rival is the contextual view.
We can say propositions are bivalent, but vague utterances don't express a proposition [Williamson]
     Full Idea: A philosopher might endorse bivalence for propositions, while treating vagueness as the failure of an utterance to express a unique proposition.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 7.2)
     A reaction: This idea jumps at out me as an extremely promising approach to vagueness, because I am a fan of propositions (and have written a paper on them). The whole point of propositions is that they are not ambiguous (and probably not vague).
If the vague 'TW is thin' says nothing, what does 'TW is thin if his perfect twin is thin' say? [Williamson]
     Full Idea: If vague utterances in borderline cases fail to say anything, then if 'TW is thin' is vague, and TW has a twin of identical dimensions, it still seems that 'If TW is thin then his twin is thin' must be true, and so it must have said something.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 7.2 (d))
     A reaction: This an objection to the Fregean 'nihilistic' view of Idea 21614. I am inclined to a solution based on the proposition expressed, rather than the sentence. The first question is whether you are willing to assert 'TW is thin'.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 9. Vagueness / e. Higher-order vagueness
Asking when someone is 'clearly' old is higher-order vagueness [Williamson]
     Full Idea: Difficulties of vagueness are presented by the question 'When did Rembrandt become clearly old?', and the iterating question 'When did he become clearly clearly old?'. This is the phenomenon of higher-order vagueness. The language of vagueness is vague.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], Intro)
     A reaction: [compressed] I presume the bottom level is a question about Rembrandt, the second level is about this use of the word 'old', and the third level is about this particular application of the word 'clearly'. Meta-languages.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 9. Vagueness / f. Supervaluation for vagueness
Supervaluation keeps classical logic, but changes the truth in classical semantics [Williamson]
     Full Idea: Supervaluationism preserves almost all of classical logic, at the expense of classical semantics, but giving a non-standard account of truth. I argue that its treatment of higher-order vagueness undermines the non-standard account of truth.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], Intro)
Truth-functionality for compound statements fails in supervaluation [Williamson]
     Full Idea: A striking fearure of supervaluations is the failure of truth-functionality for compound statements.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 5.3)
     A reaction: Supervaluations has the initial appearance of enhancing classical logic, but turns out to somewhat undermine it. Hence Williamson's lack of sympathy. But see Idea 21610.
You can't give a precise description of a language which is intrinsically vague [Williamson]
     Full Idea: If a vague language is made precise, its expressions change in meaning, so an accurate semantic description of the precise language is inaccurate as a description of the vague one.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 5.1)
     A reaction: Kind of obvious, really, but it clarifies the nature of any project (starting with Leibniz) to produce a wholly precise language. That is usually seen as a specialist language for science.
Supervaluation assigns truth when all the facts are respected [Williamson]
     Full Idea: 'Admissible' interpretations respect all the theoretical and ostensive connections. ...'Supervaluation' is the assignment of truth to the statements true on all admissible valuations, falsity to the false one, and neither to the rest.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 5.2)
     A reaction: So 'he is bald' is true if when faced with all observations and definitions it is acceptable. Prima facie, that doesn't sound like a solution to the problem. Supervaluation started in philosophy of science. [p.156 'Admissible seems vague']
Supervaluation has excluded middle but not bivalence; 'A or not-A' is true, even when A is undecided [Williamson]
     Full Idea: The supervaluationist denies bivalence but accepts excluded middle. The statement 'A or not-A' is true on each admissible interpretation, and therefore true, even if 'A' (and hence 'not-A') are true and some and false on others, so neither T nor F.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 5.2)
     A reaction: See Ideas 21605 and 21606 for the distinction being used here. Denying bivalence allows 'A' to be neither true nor false. It seems common sense that 'he is either bald or not-bald' is true, without being sure about the disjuncts.
Supervaluationism defines 'supertruth', but neglects it when defining 'valid' [Williamson]
     Full Idea: Supervaluationists identify truth with 'supertruth'; since validity is necessary preservation of truth, they should identify it with necessary preservation of supertruth. But it plays no role in their definition of 'local' validity.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 5.3)
     A reaction: [See text for 'local'] Generally Williamson's main concern with attempts to sort out vagueness is that higher-order and meta-language issues are neglected.
Supervaluation adds a 'definitely' operator to classical logic [Williamson]
     Full Idea: Supervaluation seems to inherit the power of classical logic, ...but also enables it to be extended. It makes room for a new operator 'definitely' to express supertruth in the object-language.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 5.3)
     A reaction: Once you mention higher-order vagueness you can see a regress looming over the horizon. 'He is definitely definitely definitely bald'. [p.164 he says 'definitely' has no analysis, and is an uninteresting primitive]
Supervaluationism cannot eliminate higher-order vagueness [Williamson]
     Full Idea: Supervaluationism cannot eliminate higher-order vagueness. It must conduct its business in a vague meta-language. ...[162] All truth is at least disquotational, and supertruth is not.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 5.6)
     A reaction: This is Williamson's final verdict on the supervaluation strategy for vagueness. Intuitively, it looks as if merely narrowing down the vagueness (by some sort of consensus) is no solution to the problem of vagueness.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 9. Vagueness / g. Degrees of vagueness
Stoics applied bivalence to sorites situations, so everyone is either vicious or wholly virtuous [Stoic school, by Williamson]
     Full Idea: The Stoics were prepared to apply bivalence to sorites reasoning, and swallow the consequences. ...For example, they denied that there are degrees of virtue, holding that one is either vicious or perfectly virtuous.
     From: report of Stoic school (fragments/reports [c.200 BCE]) by Timothy Williamson - Vagueness 1.2
     A reaction: Williamson sympathises with this view, but the virtue example suggests to me that it is crazy. One of my objections to traditional religion is the sharp (and wickedly unjust) binary judgement between those who go to heaven and those who go to hell.
8. Modes of Existence / A. Relations / 1. Nature of Relations
The only thing we can say about relations is that they relate [Russell]
     Full Idea: It may be doubted whether relations can be adequately characterised by anything except the fact that they relate.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Meinong on Complexes and Assumptions [1904], p.27)
     A reaction: We can characterise a rope that ties things together. If I say 'stand to his left', do I assume the existence of one of the relata and the relation, but without the second relata? How about 'you two stand over there, with him on the left'?
Relational propositions seem to be 'about' their terms, rather than about the relation [Russell]
     Full Idea: In some sense which it would be very desirable to define, a relational proposition seems to be 'about' its terms, in a way in which it is not about the relation.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Meinong on Complexes and Assumptions [1904], p.53)
     A reaction: Identifying how best to specify what a proposition is actually 'about' is a very illuminating mode of enquiry. You can't define 'underneath' without invoking a pair of objects to illustrate it. A proposition can still focus on the relation.
There is no complexity without relations, so no propositions, and no truth [Russell]
     Full Idea: Relations in intension are of the utmost importance to philosophy and philosophical logic, since they are essential to complexity, and thence to propositions, and thence to the possibility of truth and falsehood.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Substitutional Classes and Relations [1906], p.174)
     A reaction: Should we able to specify the whole of reality, if we have available to us objects, properties and relations? There remains indeterminate 'stuff', when it does not compose objects. There are relations between pure ideas.
With asymmetrical relations (before/after) the reduction to properties is impossible [Russell]
     Full Idea: When we come to asymmetrical relations, such as before and after, greater and less etc., the attempt to reduce them to properties becomes obviously impossible.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 2)
     A reaction: The traditional Aristotelian reduction to properties is attributed by Russell to logic based on subject-predicate. As an example he cites being greater than as depending on more than the mere magnitudes of the entities. Direction of the relation.
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 11. Properties as Sets
When we attribute a common quality to a group, we can forget the quality and just talk of the group [Russell]
     Full Idea: When a group of objects have the similarity we are inclined to attribute to possession of a common quality, the membership of the group will serve all the purposes of the supposed common quality ...which need not be assumed to exist.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 2)
     A reaction: This is the earliest account I have found of properties being treated as sets of objects. It more or less coincides with the invention of set theory. I am reminded of Idea 9208. What is the bazzing property? It's what those three things have in common.
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 1. Nominalism / a. Nominalism
Nominalists suspect that properties etc are our projections, and could have been different [Williamson]
     Full Idea: The nominalist suspects that properties, relations and states of affairs are mere projections onto the world of our forms of speech. One source of the suspicion is a sense that we could just as well have classified things differently.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 9.3)
     A reaction: I know it is very wicked to say so, but I'm afraid I have some sympathy with this view. But I like the primary/secondary distinction, so there is more 'projection' in the latter case. Classification is not random; it is a response to reality.
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 2. Resemblance Nominalism
'Blue' is not a family resemblance, because all the blues resemble in some respect [Williamson]
     Full Idea: 'Blue' is vague by vague by some standards, for it has borderline cases, but that does not make it a family resemblance term, for all the shades of blue resemble each other in some respect.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 3.3)
     A reaction: Presumably the point of family resemblance is that fringe members as still linked to the family, despite having lost the main features. A bit of essentialism seems needed here.
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 3. Objects in Thought
When I perceive a melody, I do not perceive the notes as existing [Russell]
     Full Idea: When, after hearing the notes of a melody, I perceive the melody, the notes are not presented as still existing.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Meinong on Complexes and Assumptions [1904], p.31)
     A reaction: This is a good example, supporting Meinong's idea that we focus on 'intentional objects', rather than actual objects.
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 4. Impossible objects
Common sense agrees with Meinong (rather than Russell) that 'Pegasus is a flying horse' is true [Lackey on Russell]
     Full Idea: Meinong's theory says that 'Pegasus is a flying horse' is true, while Russell's says that this assertion is false. The average man, if he knows his mythology, would probably agree with Meinong.
     From: comment on Bertrand Russell (Review: Meinong 'Untersuchungen zur..' [1905]) by Douglas Lackey - Intros to Russell's 'Essays in Analysis. p.19
     A reaction: It seems obvious that some disambiguation is needed here. Assenting to that assertion would be blatantly contextual. No one backs Pegasus at a race track.
I prefer to deny round squares, and deal with the difficulties by the theory of denoting [Russell]
     Full Idea: I should prefer to say that there is no such object as 'the round square'. The difficulties of excluding such objects can, I think, be avoided by the theory of denoting.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Review: Meinong 'Untersuchungen zur..' [1905], p.81)
     A reaction: The 'theory of denoting' is his brand new theory of definite descriptions, which makes implicit claims of existence explicit, so that they can be judged. Why can't we just say that a round square can be an intentional object, but not a real object?
On Meinong's principles 'the existent round square' has to exist [Russell]
     Full Idea: To my contention that, on his principles, 'the existent round square' exists, Meinong replies that it is existent but does not exist. I must confess that I see no difference between existing and being existent, and I have no more to say on this head.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Review: Meinong 'Uber die Stellung...' [1907], p.93)
     A reaction: Russell is obviously invoking the famously dubious ontological argument for God's existence. Normally impossible objects are rejected because of contradictions, but there might also be category mistakes. 'The slow square'.
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 5. Individuation / c. Individuation by location
Objects only exist if they 'occupy' space and time [Russell]
     Full Idea: Only those objects exist which have to particular parts of space and time the special relation of 'occupying' them.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Meinong on Complexes and Assumptions [1904], p.29)
     A reaction: He excepts space and time themselves. Clearly this doesn't advance our understanding much, but it points to a priority in our normal conceptual scheme. Is Russell assuming absolute space and time?
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 3. Unity Problems / e. Vague objects
If fuzzy edges are fine, then why not fuzzy temporal, modal or mereological boundaries? [Williamson]
     Full Idea: If objects can have fuzzy spatial boundaries, surely they can have fuzzy temporal, modal or mereological boundaries too.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 9.2)
     A reaction: Fair point. I think there is a distinction between parts of the thing, such as its edges, being fuzzy, and the whole thing being fuzzy, in the temporal case.
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 8. Continuity of Rivers
A river is not just event; it needs actual and counterfactual boundaries [Williamson]
     Full Idea: A river is not just an event. One would need to specify counterfactual as well as actual boundaries.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 9.3)
     A reaction: In other words the same river can change its course a bit, but it can't head off in the opposite direction.
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 5. Contingency
Contingency arises from tensed verbs changing the propositions to which they refer [Russell]
     Full Idea: Contingency derives from the fact that a sentence containing a verb in the present tense - or sometimes in the past or the future - changes its meaning continually as the present changes, and stands for different propositions at different times.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Meinong on Complexes and Assumptions [1904], p.26)
     A reaction: This immediately strikes me as a bad example of the linguistic approach to philosophy. As if we (like any animal) didn't have an apprehension prior to any language that most parts of experience are capable of change.
10. Modality / D. Knowledge of Modality / 1. A Priori Necessary
We can't infer metaphysical necessities to be a priori knowable - or indeed knowable in any way [Williamson]
     Full Idea: The inference from metaphysical necessity to a priori knowlability is, as Kripke has emphasized, fallacious. Indeed, metaphysical necessities cannot be assumed knowable in any way at all.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 7.4)
     A reaction: The second sentence sounds like common sense. He cites Goldbach's Conjecture. A nice case of the procedural rule of keeping your ontology firmly separated from your epistemology. How is it? is not How do we know it?
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 1. Knowledge
We have inexact knowledge when we include margins of error [Williamson]
     Full Idea: Inexact knowledge is a widespread and easily recognised cognitive phenomenon, whose underlying nature turns out to be characterised by the holding of margin of error principles.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 8.3)
     A reaction: Williamson is invoking this as a tool in developing his epistemic view of vagueness. It obviously invites the question of how it can be knowledge if error is a possibility. A very large margin of error would obviously invalidate it.
11. Knowledge Aims / B. Certain Knowledge / 1. Certainty
We want certainty in order achieve secure results for action [Dewey]
     Full Idea: The ultimate ground of the quest for cognitive certainty is the need for security in the results for action.
     From: John Dewey (The Quest for Certainty [1929], p.39), quoted by Erik J. Olsson - Against Coherence 10.5
     A reaction: Just what a pragmatist should say. This may be true within an evolutionary account of human nature, but seems unlikely when doing a sudoku. The 'ground' of the quest may not be the same as its 'source'.
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 1. Perceptual Realism / b. Direct realism
I assume we perceive the actual objects, and not their 'presentations' [Russell]
     Full Idea: I prefer to advocate ...that the object of a presentation is the actual external object itself, and not any part of the presentation at all.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Meinong on Complexes and Assumptions [1904], p.33)
     A reaction: Although I am a fan of the robust realism usually favoured by Russell, I think he is wrong. I take Russell to be frightened that once you take perception to be of 'presentations' rather than things, there is a slippery slope to anti-realism. Not so.
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 1. Perceptual Realism / c. Representative realism
Science condemns sense-data and accepts matter, but a logical construction must link them [Russell]
     Full Idea: Men of science condemn immediate data as 'merely subjective', while maintaining the truths of physics from those data. ...The only justification possible for this must be one which exhibits matter as a logical construction from sense-data.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 4)
     A reaction: Since we blatantly aren't doing logic when we stare out of the window, this aspires to finding something like the 'logical form' of perception.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 4. Sense Data / c. Unperceived sense-data
When sense-data change, there must be indistinguishable sense-data in the process [Russell]
     Full Idea: In all cases of sense-data capable of gradual change, we may find one sense-datum indistinguishable from another, and that indistinguishable from a third, while yet the first and third are quite easily distinguishable.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 5)
     A reaction: This point is key to the sense-data theory, because it gives them independent existence, standing between reality and subjective experience. It is also the reason why they look increasingly implausible, if they may not be experienced.
12. Knowledge Sources / C. Rationalism / 1. Rationalism
Empirical truths are particular, so general truths need an a priori input of generality [Russell]
     Full Idea: All empirical evidence is of particular truths. Hence, if there is any knowledge of general truths at all, there must be some knowledge of general truths which is independent of empirical evidence.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 2)
     A reaction: Humean empiricists respond by being a sceptical of general truths. At this stage of his career Russell looks like a thoroughgoing rationalist, and he believes in the reality of universals, relations and propositions. He became more empirical later.
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 5. Empiricism Critique
Full empiricism is not tenable, but empirical investigation is always essential [Russell]
     Full Idea: Although empiricism as a philosophy does not appear to be tenable, there is an empirical manner of investigating, which should be applied in every subject-matter
     From: Bertrand Russell (Meinong on Complexes and Assumptions [1904], p.22)
     A reaction: Given that early Russell loads his ontology with properties and propositions, this should come as no surprise, even if J.S. Mill was his godfather.
12. Knowledge Sources / E. Direct Knowledge / 3. Memory
We rely on memory for empirical beliefs because they mutually support one another [Lewis,CI]
     Full Idea: When the whole range of empirical beliefs is taken into account, all of them more or less dependent on memorial knowledge, we find that those which are most credible can be assured by their mutual support, or 'congruence'.
     From: C.I. Lewis (An Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation [1946], 334), quoted by Erik J. Olsson - Against Coherence 3.1
     A reaction: Lewis may be over-confident about this, and is duly attacked by Olson, but it seems to me roughly correct. How do you assess whether some unusual element in your memory was a dream or a real experience?
If we doubt memories we cannot assess our doubt, or what is being doubted [Lewis,CI]
     Full Idea: To doubt our sense of past experience as founded in actuality, would be to lose any criterion by which either the doubt itself or what is doubted could be corroborated.
     From: C.I. Lewis (An Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation [1946], 358), quoted by Erik J. Olsson - Against Coherence 3.3.1
     A reaction: Obviously scepticism about memory can come in degrees, but total rejection of short-term and clear memories looks like a non-starter. What could you put in its place? Hyper-rationalism? Even maths needs memory.
13. Knowledge Criteria / A. Justification Problems / 1. Justification / a. Justification issues
Knowing you know (KK) is usually denied if the knowledge concept is missing, or not considered [Williamson]
     Full Idea: The failure of the KK principle is not news. The standard counterexamples involve knowing subjects who lack the concept of knowledge, or have not reflected on their knowledge, and therefore do not know that they know.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 8.2)
     A reaction: There is also the timid but knowledgeable pupil, who can't believe they know so much. The simplest case would be if we accept that animals know lots of things, but are largely devoid of any metathinking.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 5. Coherentism / a. Coherence as justification
A coherence theory of justification can combine with a correspondence theory of truth [Bonjour]
     Full Idea: There is no manifest absurdity in combining a coherence theory of justification with a correspondence theory of truth.
     From: Laurence Bonjour (The Structure of Empirical Knowledge [1985], 5.1)
     A reaction: His point is to sharply (and correctly) distinguish coherent justification from a coherence theory of truth. Personally I would recommend talking of a 'robust' theory of truth, without tricky commitment to 'correspondence' between very dissimilar things.
There will always be a vast number of equally coherent but rival systems [Bonjour]
     Full Idea: On any plausible conception of coherence, there will always be many, probably infinitely many, different and incompatible systems of belief which are equally coherent.
     From: Laurence Bonjour (The Structure of Empirical Knowledge [1985], 5.5)
     A reaction: If 'infinitely many' theories are allowed, that blocks the coherentist hope that widening and precisifying the system will narrow down the options and offer some verisimilitude. If we stick to current English expression, that should keep them finite.
Empirical coherence must attribute reliability to spontaneous experience [Bonjour]
     Full Idea: An empirical coherence theory needs, for the beliefs of a cognitive system to be even candidates for empirical justification, that the system must contain laws attributing a high degree of reliability to a variety of spontaneous cognitive beliefs.
     From: Laurence Bonjour (The Structure of Empirical Knowledge [1985], 7.1)
     A reaction: Wanting such a 'law' seems optimistic, and not in the spirit of true coherentism, which can individually evaluate each experiential belief. I'm not sure Bonjour's Observation Requirement is needed, since it is incoherent to neglect observations.
Incoherence may be more important for enquiry than coherence [Olsson]
     Full Idea: While coherence may lack the positive role many have assigned to it, ...incoherence plays an important negative role in our enquiries.
     From: Erik J. Olsson (Against Coherence [2005], 10.1)
     A reaction: [He cites Peirce as the main source for this idea] We can hardly by deeply impressed by incoherence if we have no sense of coherence. Incoherence is just one of many markers for theory failure. Missing the target, bad concepts...
Coherence is the capacity to answer objections [Olsson]
     Full Idea: According to Lehrer, coherence should be understood in terms of the capacity to answer objections.
     From: Erik J. Olsson (Against Coherence [2005], 9)
     A reaction: [Keith Lehrer 1990] We can connect this with the Greek requirement of being able to give an account [logos], which is the hallmark of understanding. I take coherence to be the best method of achieving understanding. Any understanding meets Lehrer's test.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 5. Coherentism / b. Pro-coherentism
Objects are treated as real when they connect with other experiences in a normal way [Russell]
     Full Idea: Objects of sense are called 'real' when they have the kind of connection with other objects of sense which experience has led us to regard as normal; when they fail this, they are called 'illusions'.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 3)
     A reaction: This rests rather too much on the concept of 'normal', but offers an attractive coherence account of perception. Direct perceptions are often invoked by anti-coherentists, but I think coherence is just as much needed in that realm.
Congruents assertions increase the probability of each individual assertion in the set [Lewis,CI]
     Full Idea: A set of statements, or a set of supposed facts asserted, will be said to be congruent if and only if they are so related that the antecedent probability of any one of them will be increased if the remainder of the set can be assumed as given premises.
     From: C.I. Lewis (An Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation [1946], 338), quoted by Erik J. Olsson - Against Coherence 2.2
     A reaction: This thesis is vigorously attacked by Erik Olson, who works through the probability calculations. There seems an obvious problem without that. How else do you assess 'congruence', other than by evidence of mutual strengthening?
We can no more expect a precise definition of coherence than we can of the moral ideal [Ewing]
     Full Idea: I think it is wrong to tie down the advocates of the coherence theory to a precise definition. ...It would be altogether unreasonable to demand that the moral ideal should be exhaustively defined, and the same may be true of the ideal of thought.
     From: A.C. Ewing (Idealism: a critical survey [1934], p.231), quoted by Erik J. Olsson - Against Coherence 7.6
     A reaction: I strongly agree. It is not a council of despair. I think the criteria of coherence can be articulated quite well (e.g by Thagard), and the virtues of enquiry can also be quite well specified (e.g. by Zagzebski). Very dissimilar evidence must cohere.
A well written novel cannot possibly match a real belief system for coherence [Bonjour]
     Full Idea: It is not even minimally plausible that a well written novel ...would have the degree of coherence required to be a serious alternative to anyone's actual system of beliefs.
     From: Laurence Bonjour (The Structure of Empirical Knowledge [1985], 5.5)
     A reaction: This seems correct. 'Bleak House' is wonderfully consistent, but its elements are entirely verbal, and nothing occupies the space between the facts that are described. And Lady Dedlock is not in Debrett. I think this kills a standard objection.
The objection that a negated system is equally coherent assume that coherence is consistency [Bonjour]
     Full Idea: Sometimes it is said that if one has an appropriately coherent system, an alternative system can be produced simply be negating all of the components of the first system. This would only be so if coherence amounted simply to consistency.
     From: Laurence Bonjour (The Structure of Empirical Knowledge [1985], 5.5)
     A reaction: I associate Russell with this original objection to coherentism. I formerly took this to be a serious problem, and am now relieved to see that it clearly isn't.
A coherent system can be justified with initial beliefs lacking all credibility [Bonjour]
     Full Idea: It is simply not necessary in order for [the coherence] view to yield justification to suppose that cognitively spontaneous beliefs have some degree of initial or independent credibility.
     From: Laurence Bonjour (The Structure of Empirical Knowledge [1985], 7.2)
     A reaction: This is thoroughly and rather persuasively criticised by Erik Olson. But he always focuses on the coherence of a 'system' with multiple beliefs. I take the credibility of each individual belief to need coherent assessment against a full background.
The best explanation of coherent observations is they are caused by and correspond to reality [Bonjour]
     Full Idea: The best explanation for a stable system of beliefs which rely on observation is that the beliefs are caused by what they depict, and the system roughly corresponds to the independent reality it describes.
     From: Laurence Bonjour (The Structure of Empirical Knowledge [1985], 8.3)
     A reaction: [compressed] Anyone who links best explanation to coherence (and to induction) warms the cockles of my heart. Erik Olson offers a critique, but doesn't convince me. The alternative is to find a better explanation (than reality), or give up.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 5. Coherentism / c. Coherentism critique
If undetailed, 'coherence' is just a vague words that covers all possible arguments [Ewing]
     Full Idea: Without a detailed account, coherence is reduced to the mere muttering of the word 'coherence', which can be interpreted so as to cover all arguments, but only by making its meaning so wide as to rob it of almost all significance.
     From: A.C. Ewing (Idealism: a critical survey [1934], p.246), quoted by Erik J. Olsson - Against Coherence 2.2
     A reaction: I'm a fan of coherence, but it is a placeholder, involving no intrinsic or detailed theory. I just think it points to the reality of how we make judgements, especially practical ones. We can categorise the inputs, and explain the required virtues.
Mere agreement of testimonies is not enough to make truth very likely [Olsson]
     Full Idea: Far from guaranteeing a high likelihood of truth by itself, testimonial agreement can apparently do so only if the circumstances are favourable as regards independence, prior probability, and individual credibility.
     From: Erik J. Olsson (Against Coherence [2005], 1)
     A reaction: This is Olson's main thesis. His targets are C.I.Lewis and Bonjour, who hoped that a mere consensus of evidence would increase verisimilitude. I don't see a problem for coherence in general, since his favourable circumstances are part of it.
Coherence is only needed if the informations sources are not fully reliable [Olsson]
     Full Idea: An enquirer who is fortunate enough to have at his or her disposal fully reliable information sources has no use for coherence, the need for which arises only in the context of less than fully reliable informations sources.
     From: Erik J. Olsson (Against Coherence [2005], 2.6.2)
     A reaction: I take this to be entirely false. How do you assess reliability? 'I've seen it with my own eyes'. Why trust your eyes? In what visibility conditions do you begin to doubt your eyes? Why do rational people mistrust their intuitions?
A purely coherent theory cannot be true of the world without some contact with the world [Olsson]
     Full Idea: The Input Objection says a pure coherence theory would seem to allow that a system of beliefs be justified in spite of being utterly out of contact with the world it purports to describe, so long as it is, to a sufficient extent, coherent.
     From: Erik J. Olsson (Against Coherence [2005], 4.1)
     A reaction: Olson seems impressed by this objection, but I don't see how a system could be coherently about the world if it had no known contact with the world. Olson seems to ignore meta-coherence, which evaluates the status of the system being studied.
Extending a system makes it less probable, so extending coherence can't make it more probable [Olsson]
     Full Idea: Any non-trivial extension of a belief system is less probable than the original system, but there are extensions that are more coherent than the original system. Hence more coherence does not imply a higher probability.
     From: Erik J. Olsson (Against Coherence [2005], 6.4)
     A reaction: [Olson cites Klein and Warfield 1994; compressed] The example rightly says the extension could have high internal coherence, but not whether the extension is coherent with the system being extended.
13. Knowledge Criteria / D. Scepticism / 6. Scepticism Critique
Global scepticism is irrefutable, but can't replace our other beliefs, and just makes us hesitate [Russell]
     Full Idea: Universal scepticism, though logically irrefutable, is practically barren; it can only, therefore, give a certain flavour of hesitancy to our beliefs, and cannot be used to substitute other beliefs for them.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 3)
     A reaction: Spot on. There is no positive evidence for scepticism, so must just register it as the faintest of possibilities, like the existence of secretive fairies.
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 5. Anomalies
Anomalies challenge the claim that the basic explanations are actually basic [Bonjour]
     Full Idea: The distinctive significance of anomalies lies in the fact that they undermine the claim of the allegedly basic explanatory principles to be genuinely basic.
     From: Laurence Bonjour (The Structure of Empirical Knowledge [1985], 5.3)
     A reaction: This seems plausible, suggesting that (rather than an anomaly flatly 'falsifying' a theory) an anomaly may just demand a restructuring or reconceptualising of the theory.
14. Science / D. Explanation / 1. Explanation / b. Aims of explanation
Scientific explanation aims at a unifying account of underlying structures and processes [Hempel]
     Full Idea: What theoretical scientific explanation aims at is an objective kind of insight that is achieved by a systematic unification, by exhibiting the phenomena as manifestations of common underlying structures and processes that conform to testable principles.
     From: Carl Hempel (Philosophy of Natural Science [1967], p.83), quoted by Laurence Bonjour - The Structure of Empirical Knowledge 5.3
     A reaction: This is a pretty good statement of scientific essentialism, and structures and processes are what I take Aristotle to have had in mind when he sought 'what it is to be that thing'. Structures and processes give stability and powers.
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 5. Generalisation by mind
It is good to generalise truths as much as possible [Russell]
     Full Idea: It is a good thing to generalise any truth as much as possible.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Philosophical Implications of Mathematical logic [1911], p.289)
     A reaction: An interesting claim, which seems to have a similar status to Ockham's Razor. Its best justification is pragmatic, and concerns strategies for coping with a big messy world. Russell's defence is in 'as much as possible'.
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 2. Propositional Attitudes
To know, believe, hope or fear, one must grasp the thought, but not when you fail to do them [Williamson]
     Full Idea: To know, believe, hope, or fear that A, one must grasp the thought that A. In contrast, to fail to know, believe, hope or fear that A, one need not grasp the thought that A.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 9.3 c)
     A reaction: A simple point, which at least shows that propositional attitudes are a two-stage operation.
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 6. Judgement / b. Error
Do incorrect judgements have non-existent, or mental, or external objects? [Russell]
     Full Idea: Correct judgements have a transcendent object; but with regard to incorrect judgements, it remains to examine whether 1) the object is immanent, 2) there is no object, or 3) the object is transcendent.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Meinong on Complexes and Assumptions [1904], p.67)
     A reaction: Why is it that only Russell seems to have taken this problem seriously? Its solution gives the clearest possible indicator of how the mind relates to the world.
18. Thought / C. Content / 1. Content
The complexity of the content correlates with the complexity of the object [Russell]
     Full Idea: Every property of the object seems to demand a strictly correlative property of the content, and the content, therefore, must have every complexity belonging to the object.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Meinong on Complexes and Assumptions [1904], p.55)
     A reaction: This claim gives a basis for his 'congruence' account of the correspondence theory of truth. It strikes me as false. If I talk of the 'red red robin', I don't mention the robin's feet. He ignores the psychological selection we make in abstraction.
19. Language / B. Reference / 1. Reference theories
References to the 'greatest prime number' have no reference, but are meaningful [Williamson]
     Full Idea: The predicate 'is a prime number greater than all other prime numbers' is necessarily not true of anything, but it is not semantically defective, for it occurs in sentences that constitute a sound proof that there is no such number.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 6.2)
     A reaction: One might reply that the description can be legitimately mentioned, but not legitimately used.
19. Language / C. Assigning Meanings / 9. Indexical Semantics
Science reduces indexicals to a minimum, but they can never be eliminated from empirical matters [Russell]
     Full Idea: It is of the essence of a scientific account of the world to reduce to a minimum the egocentric element in assertion, but success in this attempt is a matter of degree, and is never complete where empirical matter is concerned.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Mr Strawson on Referring [1957], p.121)
     A reaction: He cites ostensive definitions. The key issue is whether they can be wholly eliminated when we try to be objective. Russell here endorses Perry's claim that they never go away. Personally I just think that (if so) we should try harder.
19. Language / D. Propositions / 1. Propositions
If p is false, then believing not-p is knowing a truth, so negative propositions must exist [Russell]
     Full Idea: If p is a false affirmative proposition ...then it seems obvious that if we believe not-p we do know something true, so belief in not-p must be something which is not mere disbelief. This proves that there are negative propositions.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Meinong on Complexes and Assumptions [1904], p.75)
     A reaction: This evidently assumes excluded middle, but is none the worse for that. But it sounds suspiciously like believing there is no rhinoceros in the room. Does such a belief require a fact?
19. Language / D. Propositions / 2. Abstract Propositions / a. Propositions as sense
Without propositions there can be no beliefs or desires [Hofweber]
     Full Idea: If there are no propositions, then there are no contents, and thus there are no beliefs and desires.
     From: Thomas Hofweber (Ontology and the Ambitions of Metaphysics [2016], 1.4.3)
     A reaction: A simple but powerful point. Those who claim that there are only sentences (and no propositions) can hardly claim that you must formulate a sentence every time you have a specific belief or desire.
19. Language / D. Propositions / 2. Abstract Propositions / b. Propositions as possible worlds
It is known that there is a cognitive loss in identifying propositions with possible worlds [Williamson]
     Full Idea: It is well known that when a proposition is identified with the set of possible worlds at which it is true, a region in the space of possible worlds, cognitively significant distinctions are lost.
     From: Timothy Williamson (Vagueness [1994], 7.6)
     A reaction: Alas, he doesn't specify which distinctions get lost, so this is just a pointer. It would seem likely that two propositions could have identical sets of possible worlds, while not actually saying the same thing. Equilateral/equiangular.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / h. Respect
Individuals need creativity, reverence for others, and self-respect [Russell]
     Full Idea: What we shall desire for individuals is now clear: strong creative impulses, overpowering and absorbing the instinct of possession; reverence for others; respect for the fundamental creative impulses in ourselves.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Political Ideals [1917], 1)
     A reaction: Interesting that when Russell focuses on morality, he turns to virtues, rather than to rules. He uses 'reverence' where I would favour 'respect'. His concept of creativity is broad, and does not just concern art etc.
25. Society / B. The State / 7. Changing the State / b. Devolution
We would not want UK affairs to be settled by a world parliament [Russell]
     Full Idea: We should none of us like the affairs of Great Britain to be settled by a parliament of the world.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Political Ideals [1917], 1)
     A reaction: The UK is currently (Dec 2018) living with a plan to quit Europe, mainly on the grounds that a European parliament has some authority over Britain. In every country resentment of the government increases with distance from the capital city.
Democracy is inadequate without a great deal of devolution [Russell]
     Full Idea: Democracy is not at all an adequate device unless it is accompanied by a very great amount of devolution.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Political Ideals [1917], 1)
     A reaction: This whole book of Russell's is an appeal for the devolution of power, and for workplace democracy.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 2. Social Freedom / e. Freedom of lifestyle
We need security and liberty, and then encouragement of creativity [Russell]
     Full Idea: Security and liberty are only the negative conditions for good political institutions. When they have been won, we need also the positive condition: encouragement of creative energy.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Political Ideals [1917], 1)
     A reaction: This sounds like some sort of liberal socialism. The nearest connection I can see is to the 'capabilities approach' of Martha Nussbaum. How do you intervene to encourage creativity?
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 4. Legal Rights / c. Property rights
The right to own land gives a legal right to a permanent income [Russell]
     Full Idea: There are many ways of becoming rich without contributing anything to the wealth of the community. Ownership of land or capital, whether acquired or inherited, gives a legal right to a permanent income.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Political Ideals [1917], 2)
     A reaction: I suspect that in the past land was the main source of this right, but now it is more likely to be capital. Land carries obligations of some sort, so income from capital is more fun.
25. Society / D. Political Doctrines / 3. Anarchism
Anarchy does not maximise liberty [Russell]
     Full Idea: The greatest degree of liberty is not secured by anarchy. ...[22] The results of anarchy between states should suffice to persuade us that anarchism has no solution to offer for the evils of the world.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Political Ideals [1917], 1)
     A reaction: I've heard Russell described as an anarchist, but this clearly wasn't true in 1917. Presumably liberty has to be protected. That we were watching anarchy between states in 1917 is a vivid observation.
25. Society / D. Political Doctrines / 5. Democracy / a. Nature of democracy
On every new question the majority is always wrong at first [Russell]
     Full Idea: It is a mistake to suppose that the majority is necessarily right. On every new question the majority is always wrong at first.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Political Ideals [1917], 3)
     A reaction: Sounds like bitter experience. This is a good argument for taking time over decisions, and (topical) for a second referendum some time after the first one (if you must have a referendum).
Unfortunately ordinary voters can't detect insincerity [Russell]
     Full Idea: It is a painful fact that the ordinary voter, at any rate in England, is quite blind to insincerity.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Political Ideals [1917], 3)
     A reaction: Gor blimey yes! Well said, Bertie. Even in the age of television, when you can examine them in closeup, people seem to confuse superficial charm with genuine positive convictions. Why are people better at detecting it in private life?
25. Society / D. Political Doctrines / 5. Democracy / c. Direct democracy
Groups should be autonomous, with a neutral authority as arbitrator [Russell]
     Full Idea: For maximum freedom with minimum force: Autonomy within each politically important group, and a neutral authority for deciding questions involving relations between groups.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Political Ideals [1917], 3)
     A reaction: This is workplace democracy, and also considerable self-rule amongst minority groups such as religions.
25. Society / D. Political Doctrines / 6. Liberalism
Theoretical and practical politics are both concerned with the best lives for individuals [Russell]
     Full Idea: Political ideals must be based upon ideals for the individual life. The aim of politics should be to make the lives of individuals as good as possible.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Political Ideals [1917], 1)
     A reaction: Russell floats between socialism and anarchism, but this foundational remark is classic liberalism.
25. Society / D. Political Doctrines / 8. Socialism
When the state is the only employer, there is no refuge from the prejudices of other people [Russell]
     Full Idea: Under state socialism ...where the State is the only employer, there is no refuge from its prejudices such as may now accidentally arise through the differing opinions of men.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Political Ideals [1917], 2)
     A reaction: There is also a strong likelihood in full state socialism that the state will control housing as well as employment. This hadn't come to pass in 1917.
25. Society / D. Political Doctrines / 11. Capitalism
Men unite in pursuit of material things, and idealise greed as part of group loyalty [Russell]
     Full Idea: Men combine in groups to attain more strength in the scramble for material goods, and loyalty to the group spreads a halo of quasi-idealism round the central impulse of greed.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Political Ideals [1917], 1)
     A reaction: See the 'greed is good' speech in the film 'Wall Street'. This sounds like a description of the USA, but Russell was very much in England at this stage.
27. Natural Reality / C. Space-Time / 2. Time / a. Time
We never experience times, but only succession of events [Russell]
     Full Idea: There is no reason in experience to suppose that there are times as opposed to events: the events, ordered by the relations of simultaneity and succession, are all that experience provides.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Our Knowledge of the External World [1914], 4)
     A reaction: We experience events, but also have quite an accurate sense of how much time has passed during the occurrence of events. If asked how much time has lapsed, why don't we say '32 events'? How do we distinguish long events from short ones?
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 2. Immortality / d. Heaven
That our heaven is a dull place reflects the misery of excessive work in life [Russell]
     Full Idea: It is a sad evidence of the weariness mankind has suffered from excessive toil that his heavens have usually been places where nothing ever happened or changed.
     From: Bertrand Russell (Political Ideals [1917], 1)
     A reaction: Has any religion got an idea of heaven as a place full of lively activity and creative problem-solving? That is what suits us best.