Our Knowledge of the External World (Routledge Classics) by Bertrand Russell

By Bertrand Russell

Our wisdom of the exterior global isa compilation of lectures Bertrand Russell added within the US within which he questions the very relevance and legitimacy of philosophy. In it he investigates the connection among ‘individual’ and ‘scientific’ wisdom and questions the skill within which now we have come to appreciate our actual international. this is often an explosive and arguable paintings that illustrates situations the place the claims of philosophers were over the top, and examines why their achievements haven't been greater.


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On the other hand, the new facts have brought new powers; man’s physical control over natural forces has been increasing with unexampled rapidity, and promises to increase in the future beyond all easily assignable limits. Thus alongside of despair as regards ultimate theory there is an immense optimism 23 24 scientific method in philosophy as regards practice: what man can do seems almost boundless. The old fixed limits of human power, such as death, or the dependence of the race on an equilibrium of cosmic forces, are forgotten, and no hard facts are allowed to break in upon the dream of omnipotence.

Presumably, when this belief decayed and the disinterested study of astronomy began, many who had found astrology absorbingly interesting decided that astronomy had too little human interest to be worthy of study. Physics, as it appears in Plato’s Timæus for example, is full of ethical notions: it is an essential part of its purpose to show that the earth is worthy of admiration. The modern physicist, on the contrary, though he has no wish to deny that the earth is admirable, is not concerned, as physicist, with its ethical tributes: he is merely concerned to find out facts, not to consider whether they are good or bad.

In philosophy, hitherto, ethical neutrality has been seldom current tendencies sought and hardly ever achieved. Men have remembered their wishes, and have judged philosophies in relation to their wishes. Driven from the particular sciences, the belief that the notions of good and evil must afford a key to the understanding of the world has sought a refuge in philosophy. But even from this last refuge, if philosophy is not to remain a set of pleasing dreams, this belief must be driven forth. It is a commonplace that happiness is not best achieved by those who seek it directly; and it would seem that the same is true of the good.

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