Mysticism and Logic

Mysticism and Logic, by Bertrand Russell (Pelican, 1953)


p. 9/911

[But the greatest men who have been philosophers have felt the need both of science and of mysticism.]: Or of neither.


p. 13/37-14/2

[Ethica1 considerations can only legitimately appear when the truth has been ascertained.]: If ethical considerations are to be postponed until after the truth has been ascertained, there is no truth in Ethics.


p. 15/8-10

[The impossibility of change follows from this principle, for what is past can be spoken of, and therefore, by the principle, still is.] u/l: It does not follow. The past is, but as past. It is on account of this principle that change is possible.


p. 28/3-4

[the whole stream of time]: But time is not a stream.


p. 46/13-16

[The kerne1 of the scientific outlook is the refusal to regard our own desires, tastes and interests as affording a key to the understanding of the world. Stated thus baldly, this may seem no more than a trite truism.]: On the contrary, it seems like a dangerous falsehood.


p. 46/21-26

[Aristotle, I understand, considered that the stars must move in circles because the circle is the most perfect curve. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, he allowed himself to decide a question of

fact by an appeal to aestheticomoral considerations. In such a case it is at once obvious to us that this appeal was unjustifiable.]: This is an abtruse foolish question—we should be just as well off with Aristotle's opinions.


p. 48/9-11

[A certain self-absorption, not personal, but human, has marked almost all attempts to conceive the universe as a whole.] last 5 words u/l: But suppose there is no such thing as 'the universe as a whole'?


p. 48/22-23

[until we have arrived at such an attitude, it is hardly to be hoped that philosophy will achieve any solid results.]: It is a curious assumption that philosophy has not yet achieved any solid results.


p. 48/32-35

[The desire for a larger life and wider interests, for an escape from private circumstances, and even from the whole recurring human cycle of birth and death, is fulfilled by the impersonal cosmic outlook of science as by nothing else.]: Rubbish! 'Science as self-anaesthetic: do you know that?' Nietzsche.


p. 54/34-35

[The necessity of renunciation is evidence of the existence of evil.] u/l and checked.


p. 55/14-16

[For the young, there is nothing unattainable; a good thing desired with the whole force of a passionate will, and yet impossible, is to them not credible.] noted


p. 83/15-19

[We may not at least indulge the comfortable belief that a body in motion is just as truly where it is as a body at rest. Motion consists merely in the fact that bodies are sometimes in one place and sometimes in another, and that they are at intermediate places at intermediate times.]: This is all very well, but how are we to account for the fact that motion is perceived?


p. 98/9-10

[We can easily conceive of things that shall have no connexion whatever with each other.] u/l: If we can conceive of them they are connected.


p. 99/21-23

[Thus what is surprising in physics is not the existence of general laws, but their extreme simplicity.] u/l: This extreme simplicity of physics is simply the extreme simplicity of the physicists.


p. 104/10-13

[The ethical element which has been prominent in many of the most famous systems of philosophy is, in my opinion, one of the most serious obstacles to the victory of scientific method in the investigation of philosophical questions.]: Of course it is; but this is not an argument in favour of scientific philosophy.


p. 104/19-21

[To regard ethical notions as a key to the understanding of the world is essentially pre-Copernican.]: Only if it is presupposed that there is an ethical progress.


p. 104/28-31

[Ethics is essentially a product of the gregarious instinct, that is to say, of the instinct to cooperate with those who are to form our own group against those who belong to other groups.]: Is it? This is an infantile notion of ethics. Ethics is concerned with the question 'What should I do?', and this is only secondarily a social question.


p. 105/25-26

[the imaginative liberation from self] u/l: The scientific 'liberation from self' is a complete self-deception. 'Science as self-anaesthetic: do you know that?' Nietzsche.


p. 106/26-28

[I do believe that a philosophical proposition must be applicable to everything that exists or may exist.]: It is typical of a logician to take for granted that philosophy is s matter of propositions.


p. 122/3

[the outer world] u/l: How do you know there is an 'outer world'?


p. 122/15-17

[But it does not upset the physiological argument in so far as this constitutes merely a reductio so absurdum of naive realism.]: Of course it does. Either (i) we perceive the (outside) world, and the (outside) world is precisely what we perceive, or (ii) we perceive nervous impulses, in which case we do not perceive the 'outside world' at all. Russell, however, supposes that we perceive the outside world through our senses, which are thus s kind of transparent but distorting spectacles. If this is so, we have only to remove our senses in order to perceive the outside world as it really is.


p. 123/2-3

[Since the immediate data of sense are... in a state of perpetual flux.] u/l: They are not. The notion of flux is scientific or speculative—it is by no means a given in immediate sense-perception.


bottom: The cinema is by no means a good example of continuity. The still photographs have a positive endurance, not a 'momentary existence'.


p. 124/2-123

[Each of these is to be regarded, not as one single persistent entity, but sees series of entities succeeding each other in time, each lasting for a very brief period, though probably not for a more mathematical instant. In saying this I am only urging the same kind of division in time as we are accustomed to acknowledge in the case of space. A body which fills a cubic foot will be admitted to consist of many smaller bodies, each occupying only a very tiny volume; similarly a thing which persists for an hour is to be regarded as composed of many things of less duration. A true theory of matter requires s division of things into time-corpuscles as well as into space-corpuscles.]: This is quite good, but it is in contradiction with what is said on p.82, which asserts the existence of instants and points.


p. 127/11-15

[When a man says he has pain in his great toe, what he means is that he has a sensation associated with his great toe and having the quality of painfulness.]: He does not.


p. 127/24-26

[In fact, however, it is not the sensible object in such a case which is painful, but the sensation, that is to say, the experience of the sensible object.] 'sensible object' and 'experience...object' u/l: These two expressions are synonymous; we do not have on the one hand, a sensible object, and on the other, experience of it—if an object is sensible it is exper1enced. The word 'sensation' is superfluous.


p. 162/7- 8

[The continuity of appearances at very small distances from the thing] u/l: A close-up view of a thing can make, at best, only a relative difference.


p. 162/8-11

[It is probable that the common-sense conception is not capable of complete precision. Let us therefore concentrate our attention upon the conception of the persistence of matter in physics.]: On the contrary, it is the physical conception of persistence that cannot be made precise.


p. 162/13-16

[...if time and space form compact series...]: Series consisting of points or instants (or point-instants) can never be 'compact'


p. 162/20

[intermediate] u/l: How is 'intermediate' defined? What is intermediate between red and blue—is it anything other than a combination of red and blue?


p. 166/23-29

[it is significant and true to say ’My present sense-datum exists', and it may also be true that 'x is my

present sense-datum'. The inference from these two 'propositions to 'x exists' is one which seems irresistible to people unaccustomed to logic; yet the apparent proposition inferred is not merely false, but strictly meaningless.] last 12 words noted: The word 'merely' implies that it is both false and meaningless. This is clearly impossible.


p. 167/22-25

[Concerning the immediate objects in illusions, hallucinations, and dreams, it is meaningless to ask whether they 'exist' or are 'real'. There they are, and that ends the matter.] 'It is...exist' and 'they...matter' u/l: If the assertion 'they are' can be made, then why not the assertion 'they exist'? What is the difference between being and existence?


p. 174/29-175/3

[...No two instants are contiguous, since the time-series is compact; hence either the cause or the effect or both must, if the definition is correct, endure for a finite time...]: But see p. 124.


p. 175/3-15

[...if the cause is a process involving change within itself, we shall require (if causality is universal) causal relations between its earlier and later parts...]: This completely ignores the question of level of generality.


p. 190/28-30

[...the sense that it will be what it will be. We all regard the past as determined simply by the fact that it has happened; but for the accident that memory works backward and not forward...] 'the sense...will be' u/l: !

'accident' u/l: ?


p. 191/16

[our present wishes are conditioned by the past] u/l: This simply taken determinism for granted. Russell has not told us what the difference is between past and future.


p. 191/28-30

[...the accidental fact that the past but not the future can be known by memory]: On what grounds is it 'accidental'?


p. 191/31-34

[Although the sense of 'determ1ned' in which the future is determined by the more fact that it will be what it will be is sufficient (at least so it seems to me) to refute some opponents of determinism....] 'the mere...will be' u/l: This is not a statement of fact but a tautology, since 'the future' by definition, means 'what will be'. The question 'What will be' remains



p. 194/8-11

[Whether this doctrine is true or false is a mere question of fact; no a priori considerations can exist on either side.] u/l: On the contrary, the structure of volition is not compatible with that of a deterministic system.


p. 196/11-13

[We found that a system with one set of determinants may very likely have other sets of a quite different kind.] 'may very likely have' u/l: It cannot – even in cybernetic systems.


p. 199/7-10

[But it is hard to discover any state of mind in which I am aware of myself alone, as opposed to a complex of which I am a constituent.]: A sound observation.