Phil 264 - Russell - Logical Atomism Question Answers

Phil 264 - Russell - Logical Atomism Question Answers -...

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Bertrand Russell's "Descriptions" (1919) The significance of Russell's paper: Represents what was then (in 1919) a fairly new approach to solving philosophical puzzles, such as the puzzle of true negative existentials. (Other examples of philosophical puzzles: How can free will exist in a deterministic universe? How can the mind and body causally interact with one another if the mind is non-physical and the body physical?) Russell's recommendation: Translate the troubling natural language sentences into a precise artificial/logical language, and the puzzle will thereby be solved. (See final the section of this hand-out for details on how this logically-based approach to philosophical puzzles applies to the puzzle of true negative existentials.) Study Questions 1. Why is it not excessive to devote two chapters to one word, according to Russell? What is that word? Russell is a philosopher, and so is interested in traditional philosophical issues such as the nature of being/existence. He believes that philosophers before him (such as Meinong) have been led to posit unreal objects because of an incorrect analysis of definite descriptions, expressions of the form the so-and so . From the meaningfulness of the sentence The golden mountain is beautiful Meinong concluded that the golden mountain must have being in some sense. However, Russell believes that there are no unreal objects, all that exists are real objects. He therefore thinks that it is important that philosophers realize that it is a mistake to argue from the meaningfulness of sentences like The golden mountain is beautiful, to an ontology (theory of being/existence) containing unreal objects. More specifically, Russell thinks that a correct analysis of the word the , as it occurs in expressions of the form the-so-and-so , must avoid the supposition that there are unreal objects. 5. What is the importance of the question of unreality? The question of unreality is this: Are there unreal objects? The correct answer is: No, there are no such things. The question is important to philosophy because a central philosophical question is: What sorts of things are there? Philosophers are just as concerned with "getting things right" as are scientists, and so wouldn't want to posit a realm of unreal objects if, in fact, there were no such realm. Consider the physicist's postulation of quarks. The physicist would presumably consider theories that posit quarks as mistaken if it turned out that there were no such things. Ditto for the philosopher's postulation of unreal objects like the golden mountain.) 6. What is his disagreement with Meinong? Meinong believes that the meaningfulness of sentences containing subject terms that refer to nothing real ( the golden mountain , the present king of France , the square circle ) proves that there are unreal objects. For if there
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This note was uploaded on 11/15/2009 for the course PHIL 264 taught by Professor Reimer during the Spring '07 term at Arizona.

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Phil 264 - Russell - Logical Atomism Question Answers -...

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