Bertrand Russell’s Role in Progressing Epistemology

16 Sep

I previously did not think it was necessary to talk about the blue spectacles and the hard/soft data here, but now I am aware it is needed. I now before this one have 2 writings about Bertrand Russell, and with search engines asking for Russell’s role in epistemology, my 2 writings came up but I am sure that those are not what the person asking that question is looking for. This writing is. The notice of that search bringing my site up is the reason for this writing, when really I should have talked about these things in the first place given that the blue spectacles are totally awesome.

I also have 2 writings on G.E. Moore where he talks about sense data and patches of it. I discussed how, because of this sense data, I like to view everything I see as a big portrait. I said this not only because of what Moore said but because of Russell’s blue spectacles he discussed in Our Knowledge of the External World.  Not only does he discuss the blue spectacles, but he discusses shutting an eye, walking around a table and other things, just to discuss sense data.  Why all of these things? Because  along with Moore, Russell wants to state that sense data is the only way of making understanding of our perceptions.  If I see a red tulip, normally I would think, ‘oh its just a tulip’, but it is necessary to break common sense ordinary observation statements down to sense data statements. If I see a red tulip, I say, a few red patches there, adjacent to each other, and an elongated green patch below.

I used an object to state my argument. Moore used an envelope. Russell used the blue spectacles. I like Russell’s object the best because it supports the way we should all view and understand our perceptions. If you stand still and view the table, you see a few brown and black patches. If you walk around the table, you see a different set of sense data to be interpreted. You do not think about what you saw before you moved, you only analyze what you see now. Russell’s blue spectacles are put on, and you see everything with a blue hue, so if you are looking at a sea shell, you do not think oh, a white and pink sea shell sits beyond these blue spectacles, you think ‘ oh, a blue sea shell.’ Or at least, that is how an epistemologist would think. If you put the blue spectacles over a large white marker board, you would not think about what lies behind the blue spectacles, you would only think,’oh a huge white patch with 2 blue patches within it.’

Put these on, and then observe!!!  I think we should view the world as a portrait because if I am observing my yellow envelope somewhat through a green Mountain Dew bottle and some not, I see 2 yellow patches and a greenish dull yellow patch. I do not inquire what lies behind the green bottle.

The other part of Russell’s epistemology that led to his great role in it, was his hard and soft data.  I need to explain some things before going right into hard and soft data. Russell said that thoughts are either logical, or psychological, and they are primitive or derivative. So if something is logically derivative it is something that takes logical process and inference to understand it. If an idea is logically primitive it is something logical that one knows without having to go through an actual process of understanding and inference.  If an idea is psychologically primitive it is an idea caused by a fact from the sense that is asserted by a belief and that we need no process to understand and that we immediately understand. If, finally, an idea is psychologically derivative it is caused by 1 or more beliefs or an idea  not asserted by the fact of sense and often takes a process to understand because of how it is not asserted by the fact. These 4 definitions can be intersected with each other to have meanings of certain things

First, logically primitive, and psychologically primitive data cannot possibly be put together.

Second,  logically derivative, and psychologically derivative data can be put together. This is called nondata. For example, nondata is like electrons like to be next to protons. Nondata is not important and is arrived at by a lot of psychological and logical inference.

Third,  logically primitive, and psychologically derivative ideas can be put together to get soft  data Soft data is immediately inferred by logic, but takes more than just immediate observation to infer its existence. Soft data would be like when Russell walked around the table, and when more than one observation occurred (making psychologically derivative intuitions), yet he knew the table was still there with the many observations.

Fourth and finally,  logically and psychologically primitive data can be put together to get hard data. This is what is discussed most in epistemology. It takes one immediate logical inference, and one immediate psychological belief to get it. When Russell used the blue spectacles, he saw 2 blue patches. It is hard data because it takes no more than 1 logical and 1 psychological intuitions to understand that there are 2 blue patches.

To discuss some of this, soft and hard data are the only important ones to epistemology. This is so because it is often discussed if certain hard data can be proven wrong. Hard data can be said to be so hard because it involves immediate logic and immediate sense data. Russell discusses in ‘Our Knowledge of the External World’ that the hardest data is made up of 2 things: logic, and sense data. If the two can be inferred, you have hard data. Hard data for the most part cannot be disproved to be there. If there is a blue patch here, and we are immediately observing it, there is little one can do to disprove it, even if he declares your hallucination. Soft data can often be disproved because when Russell walked around the table, it can be postulated that the table no longer exists after that first sense data after he moves, and that new sense data of another item is present.

The above is Russell’s big role in epistemology. If you need more clarification of his philosophy read ‘Our Knowledge of the External World’ by Bertrand Russell.


One Response to “Bertrand Russell’s Role in Progressing Epistemology”

  1. personal trainer September 22, 2010 at 12:12 pm #

    I’m gonna bookmark this one for sure, thanks!

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