Bertrand Russell

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the influential British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Born in 1872 into an aristocratic family, Russell is widely regarded as one of the founders of Analytic philosophy, which is today the dominant philosophical tradition in the English-speaking world. In his important book The Principles of Mathematics, he sought to reduce mathematics to logic. Its revolutionary ideas include Russell’s Paradox, a problem which inspired Ludwig Wittgenstein to pursue philosophy. Russell’s most significant and famous idea, the theory of descriptions, had profound consequences for the discipline.

In addition to his academic work, Russell played an active role in many social and political campaigns. He supported women’s suffrage, was imprisoned for his pacifism during World War I and was a founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He wrote a number of books aimed at the general public, including The History of Western Philosophy which became enormously popular, and in 1950 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Russell’s many appearances on the BBC also helped to promote the public understanding of ideas.

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  • AC Grayling 4 episodes
    Master of the New College of the Humanities and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford
  • Mike Beaney No other episodes
    Professor of Philosophy at the University of York
  • Hilary Greaves No other episodes
    Lecturer in Philosophy and Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford

Reading list

  • Bertrand Russell
    A. J. Ayer (University of Chicago Press, 1988) Google Books →
  • Russell: A Very Short Introduction
    A. C. Grayling (Oxford University Press, 2002) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge Companion to Bertrand Russell
    Nicholas Griffin (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, 2003) Google Books →
  • Russell, Idealism, and the Emergence of Analytic Philosophy
    Peter Hylton (Oxford University Press, 1993) Google Books →
  • Bertrand Russell: A Life
    Caroline Moorehead (Viking Adult, 1993) Google Books →
  • Autobiography
    Bertrand Russell Google Books →
  • The Problems of Philosophy
    Bertrand Russell Google Books →
  • Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy
    Bertrand Russell Google Books →
  • Our Knowledge of the External World: As a Field for Scientific Method in Philosophy
    Bertrand Russell Google Books →
  • My Philosophical Development
    Bertrand Russell Google Books →
  • Bertrand Russell
    John Watling (Oliver & Boyd, 1970) Google Books →

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Auto-category: 192 (Philosophy of British philosophers)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. On the last day of the year 1900, an ecstatic British academic wrote to a friend, I invented a new subject, which turned out to be all mathematics for the first time treated in its essence.