Ideas of B Russell/AN Whitehead, by Theme

[British, fl. 1912, Professors at Cambridge. Collaborators during 1910-1913.]

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4. Formal Logic / B. Propositional Logic PL / 2. Tools of Propositional Logic / e. Axioms of PL
The best known axiomatization of PL is Whitehead/Russell, with four axioms and two rules
     Full Idea: The best known axiomatization of PL is Whitehead/Russell. There are four axioms: (p∨p)→p, q→(p∨q), (p→q)→(q∨p), and (q→r)→((p∨q)→(p∨r)), plus Substitution and Modus Ponens rules.
     From: report of B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913]) by GE Hughes/M Cresswell - An Introduction to Modal Logic Ch.1
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 8. Critique of Set Theory
Russell denies extensional sets, because the null can't be a collection, and the singleton is just its element
     Full Idea: Russell adduces two reasons against the extensional view of classes, namely the existence of the null class (which cannot very well be a collection), and the unit classes (which would have to be identical with their single elements).
     From: report of B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913]) by Stewart Shapiro - Structure and Ontology p.459
     A reaction: Gödel believes in the reality of classes. I have great sympathy with Russell, when people start to claim that sets are not just conveniences to help us think about things, but actual abstract entities. Is the singleton of my pencil is on this table?
We regard classes as mere symbolic or linguistic conveniences
     Full Idea: Classes, so far as we introduce them, are merely symbolic or linguistic conveniences, not genuine objects.
     From: B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913], p.72), quoted by Penelope Maddy - Naturalism in Mathematics III.2
5. Theory of Logic / E. Structures of Logic / 6. Relations in Logic
In 'Principia' a new abstract theory of relations appeared, and was applied
     Full Idea: In 'Principia' a young science was enriched with a new abstract theory of relations, ..and not only Cantor's set theory but also ordinary arithmetic and the theory of measurement are treated from this abstract relational standpoint.
     From: report of B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913]) by Kurt Gödel - Russell's Mathematical Logic p.448
     A reaction: I presume this is accounting for relations in terms of ordered sets.
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 3. Numbers / i. Reals from cuts
A real number is the class of rationals less than the number
     Full Idea: For Russell the real number 2 is the class of rationals less than 2 (i.e. 2/1). ...Notice that on this definition, real numbers are classes of rational numbers.
     From: report of B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913]) by Christine M. Korsgaard - Intro to Ethics, Politics, Religion in Kant 5.2
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 4. Definitions of Number / a. Defining numbers
Russell takes numbers to be classes, but then reduces the classes to numerical quantifiers
     Full Idea: Although Russell takes numbers to be certain classes, his 'no-class' theory then eliminates all mention of classes in favour of the 'propositional functions' that define them; and in the case of the numbers these just are the numerical quantifiers.
     From: report of B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913]) by David Bostock - Philosophy of Mathematics 9.B.4
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 6. Logicism / a. Early logicism
'Principia' lacks a precise statement of the syntax
     Full Idea: What is missing, above all, in 'Principia', is a precise statement of the syntax of the formalism.
     From: comment on B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913]) by Kurt Gödel - Russell's Mathematical Logic p.448
Russell and Whitehead were not realists, but embraced nearly all of maths in logic
     Full Idea: Unlike Frege, Russell and Whitehead were not realists about mathematical objects, and whereas Frege thought that only arithmetic and analysis are branches of logic, they think the vast majority of mathematics (including geometry) is essentially logical.
     From: report of B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913]) by Michčle Friend - Introducing the Philosophy of Mathematics 3.1
     A reaction: If, in essence, Descartes reduced geometry to algebra (by inventing co-ordinates), then geometry ought to be included. It is characteristic of Russell's hubris to want to embrace everything.
Russell and Whitehead took arithmetic to be higher-order logic
     Full Idea: Russell and Whitehead took arithmetic to be higher-order logic, ..and came close to identifying numbers with numerical quantifiers.
     From: report of B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913]) by Harold Hodes - Logicism and Ontological Commits. of Arithmetic p.148
     A reaction: The point here is 'higher-order'.
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 6. Logicism / b. Type theory
The ramified theory of types used propositional functions, and covered bound variables
     Full Idea: Russell and Whitehead's ramified theory of types worked not with sets, but with propositional functions (similar to Frege's concepts), with a more restrictive assignment of variables, insisting that bound, as well as free, variables be of lower type.
     From: report of B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913]) by A.George / D.J.Velleman - Philosophies of Mathematics Ch.3
     A reaction: I don't fully understand this (and no one seems much interested any more), but I think variables are a key notion, and there is something interesting going on here. I am intrigued by ordinary language which behaves like variables.
The Russell/Whitehead type theory was limited, and was not really logic
     Full Idea: The Russell/Whitehead type theory reduces mathematics to a consistent founding discipline, but is criticised for not really being logic. They could not prove the existence of infinite sets, and introduced a non-logical 'axiom of reducibility'.
     From: comment on B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913]) by Michčle Friend - Introducing the Philosophy of Mathematics 3.6
     A reaction: To have reduced most of mathematics to a founding discipline sounds like quite an achievement, and its failure to be based in pure logic doesn't sound too bad. However, it seems to reduce some maths to just other maths.
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 6. Logicism / d. Logicism critique
In 'Principia Mathematica', logic is exceeded in the axioms of infinity and reducibility, and in the domains
     Full Idea: In the system of 'Principia Mathematica', it is not only the axioms of infinity and reducibility which go beyond pure logic, but also the initial conception of a universal domain of individuals and of a domain of predicates.
     From: comment on B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913], p.267) by Paul Bernays - On Platonism in Mathematics p.267
     A reaction: This sort of criticism seems to be the real collapse of the logicist programme, rather than Russell's paradox, or Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems. It just became impossible to stick strictly to logic in the reduction of arithmetic.
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 10. Constructivism / a. Constructivism
Russell and Whitehead consider the paradoxes to indicate that we create mathematical reality
     Full Idea: Russell and Whitehead are particularly careful to avoid paradox, and consider the paradoxes to indicate that we create mathematical reality.
     From: report of B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913]) by Michčle Friend - Introducing the Philosophy of Mathematics 3.1
     A reaction: This strikes me as quite a good argument. It is certainly counterintuitive that reality, and abstractions from reality, would contain contradictions. The realist view would be that we have paradoxes because we have misdescribed the facts.
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 10. Constructivism / d. Predicativism
To avoid vicious circularity Russell produced ramified type theory, but Ramsey simplified it
     Full Idea: Russell insisted on the vicious circle principle, and thus rejected impredicative definitions, which resulted in an unwieldy ramified type theory, with the ad hoc axiom of reducibility. Ramsey's simpler theory was impredicative and avoided the axiom.
     From: report of B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913]) by Stewart Shapiro - Thinking About Mathematics 5.2
     A reaction: Nowadays the theory of types seems to have been given up, possibly because it has no real attraction if it lacks the strict character which Russell aspired to.
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 7. Indiscernible Objects
An object is identical with itself, and no different indiscernible object can share that
     Full Idea: Trivially, the Identity of Indiscernibles says that two individuals, Castor and Pollux, cannot have all properties in common. For Castor must have the properties of being identical with Castor and not being identical with Pollux, which Pollux can't share.
     From: report of B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913], I p.57) by Robert Merrihew Adams - Primitive Thisness and Primitive Identity 2
     A reaction: I suspect that either the property of being identical with itself is quite vacuous, or it is parasytic on primitive identity, or it is the criterion which is actually used to define identity. Either way, I don't find this claim very illuminating.
12. Knowledge Sources / E. Direct Knowledge / 1. Intuition
Russell showed, through the paradoxes, that our basic logical intuitions are self-contradictory
     Full Idea: By analyzing the paradoxes to which Cantor's set theory had led, ..Russell brought to light the amazing fact that our logical intuitions (concerning such notions as truth, concept, being, class) are self-contradictory.
     From: report of B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913]) by Kurt Gödel - Russell's Mathematical Logic p.452
     A reaction: The main intuition that failed was, I take it, that every concept has an extension, that is, there are always objects which will or could fall under the concept.
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 7. Meaning Holism / a. Sentence meaning
Only the act of judging completes the meaning of a statement
     Full Idea: When I judge 'Socrates is human', the meaning is completed by the act of judging, and we no longer have an incomplete symbol.
     From: B Russell/AN Whitehead (Principia Mathematica [1913], p.44), quoted by J. Alberto Coffa - The Semantic Tradition from Kant to Carnap
     A reaction: Personally I would have thought that you needed to know the meaning properly before you could make the judgement, but then he is Bertrand Russell and I'm not.