Introduction. 1 Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, n.d.), 7.

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1 Those who have consciously passed through the field of philosophy would readily remember the popular saying to beginners in this discipline: philosophy begins with the act of wondering. To wonder is, first and foremost, to pause and ponder. In other words, it is the act of thinking and reflecting. The act of wondering is hardly an aimless venture, but an activity that is driven by a certain aim or desire. The ancient thinker Aristotle identifies this aim or desire as the quest for knowledge: all men by nature desire to know. The statement would seem to imply that the quest for knowledge is as basic to man as some biological needs of man like eating, loving, breathing, and so on. To a good extent, it is. The history of philosophy is replete with many investigations into the nature, extent and usefulness of human knowledge. The emergence of Bertrand Russell in the circle of the inquirers into human knowledge took a radical approach with his famous question: Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it? 1 Ever since he posited this question in 1912 and developing the investigation in his Theory of Knowledge: The 1913 Manuscript, Russell spent a good portion of his numerous writings to epistemological discourses as exposed in the present book. His interest in the subject-matter of epistemology can be generally said to be dual. In the first case, Russell was driven by intellectual curiosity to finding out whether there is any knowledge that cannot be refuted at any time. It would appear that he wants to lay a solid foundation upon which incontrovertible views can be built. Following the discussions in this book, it appears that such an absolute certainty in knowledge is farfetched. This position receives definitive endorsement in Russell s view that knowledge is 1 Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, n.d.), 7. 19

2 a matter of degree, an affirmation that is often made in connection to another contention, namely, every case of knowledge is a case of justified belief, though not vice-versa. Both contentions suggest the interrelatedness of knowing and believing and so justify the joint examination of the two themes in this work. In this light, it seems appropriate to say that what makes the difference between knowledge and belief is a matter of degree. Russell s stand with regard to both knowledge and belief has troubled many people who readily raise the question: why would it be difficult to affirm anything with a note of certainty? Russell has an argument to buttress his view. The argument is presented in the following passage: Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise, and everything precise is so remote from everything that we normally think, [such that]... you cannot for a moment suppose that [such a remote and imprecise thing] is what we really mean when we say what we think. 2 The existence of any degree of vagueness in any circumstance renders any affirmation of certainty in that context, a mere desire or an ideal which we may never attain. This desire remains a perennial preoccupation for Russell, who in his eightieth birthday reflections recapitulates it thus: I wanted certainty in the kind of way in which people want religious faith. The desire of Russell for an indubitable knowledge is not new in the philosophical world as we have earlier cited Aristotle s background to the problem. In modern times, Descartes methodic doubt was a search for certainty in knowledge. However, Russell s investigations might be be said to be unique on account of the following reasons: (i) Russell displays the capability to analyze the evidences that there are, estimating their degrees of credibility and 20 2 Robert Charles Marsh, ed., Logic and Knowledge: Essays (London: Unwin Hyman Limited, 1956), 180. The stress is mine.

3 (ii) he shows a tireless spirit by returning to the same question in the event of new evidences from other related sciences 3, thereby underlining the point that a true epistemology must stand in relation to other disciplines. 4 This book is concerned with the articulation of the problem of the quest for certainty in knowledge and belief, a quest which is made more complex because of changing philosophical doctrines and scientific discoveries. The book brings to life Russell s philosophic spirit which is the effort to keep philosophical speculations alive, open and general. Since this inquiry is a life-long preoccupation for Russell, our scope of investigation, if it is to be considerably comprehensive, has to cover all his discussions on certainty/ credibility in knowledge and in belief, beginning with the time he raised the above question on the possibility of any knowledge that cannot be doubted. The second reason that propelled Russell to inquire passionately into the certainty of human knowledge and for such a prolonged period of time was his conviction that a lot of dogmatisms are the bane of many conflicts and even of numerous wars in our world today. He experienced many dogmatic environments social, academic and religious. Feeling himself called to fight the said dogmatisms, Russell persistently strove, through analysis, to highlight the degree of inexactitude in what we claim to know. 3 Cf. Elizabeth Eames, Bertrand Russell s Theory of Knowledge, (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1969), 46 & 47. See also: (i) Règis s presentation of The Modern Epistemological Problem in which he notes that epistemological renascence in science, covers all the aspects of the contemporary problem. He identifies this kind of inquiry as Scientific epistemology (L. M. Règis, Epistemology, trans. Imelda Choquette Byrne, New York: The Macmillian Company, 1959), 63; (ii) Hans Reichenbach, The Rise of Scientific Philosophy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951), 117f. 4 Russell writes as follows: After this I found my thoughts turning to theory of knowledge and to those parts of psychology and of linguistics which seemed relevant to that subject. This was a more or less permanent change in my philosophical interests. The outcome, so far as my own thinking was concerned, is embodied in three books: The Analysis of mind (1921); An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth (1940); Human Knowledge : Its Scope and Limits (1948) (Cf. Bertrand Russell, My Philosophical Development, ch. 11). 21

4 22 This task is supposed to be one of the central values of philosophy which he explains thus: [Philosophy does] make people a little more modest intellectually and aware that a great many things which have been thought certain, turned out to be untrue; and that there is no short-cut to knowledge; and that the understanding of the world, which to my mind, is the underlying purpose which every philosopher should have, is a very long and difficult business about which we ought not to be dogmatic. 5 Since the consequences of dogmatism could sometimes lead to horrible occurrences, Russell feels that a moderate scepticism as an antidote is indispensable. According to him, the opinions for which people are willing to fight and persecute all belong to one of the three classes which this scepticism condemns. In the light of this observation, epistemology bears some relation to the social phenomena because the mode in which we understand the world is most likely to be the mode in which we relate to it. Russell generally employs the method of analysis in his philosophical writings and discussions. As a result, it seems appropriate that this method be taken into account in the discussions undertaken in this book. Thus, there is a twofold approach applied to this book: a historical and thematiccritical approach. The historical approach, which is principally employed in part one, is indispensable on these grounds: (i) because the period in which Russell grappled with the problem above is quite a prolonged one; hence, there arises the need for a historical exposition of his discussions on the subject; (ii) because Russell changed his opinions a number of times and as a result, it is considered necessary that we find out the stages of, and reasons for such changes. On its own turn, the thematic-critical 5 Bertrand Russell, Philosophy and Science, Bertrand Russell Speaks: An Interview with Woodrow Wyatt (USA: Caedmon Records, 1962), side one. The stress is mine.

5 approach which, is applied to part two, is intended to examine the arguments that Russell discusses in different contexts and periods. Consequently, it becomes necessary not only to consider these arguments in a separate section from the historical, but also to classify them into psychological, linguistic and epistemological considerations in accordance with Russell s diverse discussions and his basic conviction that theory of knowledge is related to other disciplines. The foregoing situation of diverse contexts and periods in which Russell s discourse is located makes it incumbent on us to make an introductory note at the beginning of every chapter. Given that Russell s discourses reveal more the problematic nature of both knowledge and belief, a situation that was highlighted in his famous affirmation of uncertainty that knowledge is a matter of degree, the entire critical investigations are considered prolegomena [preparations] to what has been proposed in this book as complementary epistemology an epistemology that recognizes the contributions of other disciplines of mental activity and tries to weave them into a harmonious or complementary whole. Such an epistemology is bound to be flexible, piece meal, scientific, and mindful of the recent discoveries. Since this book ends with an epistemology of this kind, it may be looked upon as having ended in a vague, inconsistent and unstable outlook. Such an opinion would be disputable, especially as the book is intended to be a critique of parochial and dogmatic certainty. At any rate, critics retain the freedom to argue that mere relative probability does not ensure complete commitment in human actions. But it is a decision that one has to make between the risk of fanaticism emerging from dogmatism and the approval of sufficient probability that makes for co-existence. The former is founded on dogmatic certainty, the latter on complementary epistemology. With regard to the logical structure of this work, it is to be highlighted that there are two broad divisions of this work, viz, parts one and two. The reason for this division had already been explained above. 23

6 In Chapter one, there is an attempt to make a selection of social and mental atmospheres, which are considered to have influenced Russell s epistemological discourse, whether consciously or unconsciously, concurrently or subsequently. The appropriateness of those selected atmospheres justifies this chapter as a foundational and thematic introduction to the discussions which appear in subsequent chapters. The second chapter exposes Russell s discussions on knowledge in an evolutionary manner, broadly classified into three periods, namely: Russell 1[ ], Russell II [ ], and Russell III [ ]. Chapter three, which has the same historical tripartite structure like the second chapter, considers Russell s theories of belief. Since some of the contexts of this discourse are equally the same with those of knowledge, there is the possibility that some of those contexts would have to be repeated. However, the stress is always different because the discussions in both (knowledge and belief) are different though related. This chapter concludes the first part of the book which is principally expository. It is expository in the sense that the interest is simply to demonstrate the continuity or discontinuity of some of the influences which Russell had and, also, give a summary of his views on knowledge and belief across a long period of time. In chapter four (the beginning of the theoretical-critical chapters), we examine the arguments with regard to the problematics of knowledge. These arguments are principally Russell s critique of the traditional views on knowledge as well as his own new conception. This critique is made from psychological, linguistic and epistemological perspectives. The fifth chapter continues with the structure of the preceding chapter, but this time, in the context of belief. It analyzes the difficulties involved in a discussion on belief. Russell s discussion in this context centres more on psychological and linguistic perspectives of belief and less on the epistemological, since belief is considered by Russell to be more of a psychological question than anything else. Given the difficulties raised in the preceding chapters four and five, Russell gives a modest response by maintaining that knowing 24

7 and believing are questions of degrees of probability, degrees which are understood as relative degrees of rational credibility. The determination of these degrees constitutes the concern of the sixth chapter. The seventh chapter which concludes our investigations of Russell s discourses evaluates Russell s arguments in the previous chapters. The outcome of both the positive contributions of Russell and the evaluations go to support the new proposal for a complementary epistemology. As earlier introduced above, this epistemology may simply be stated as the progressive and mutual critique of those epistemologically related sciences like psychology, linguistics, physics, etc. By complementary, therefore, it does not have to construct a dogmatic single system of thought like that of Hegel. Its significance lies in the enlargement of the horizon of discourse through critique and the need to find common grounds upon which those different disciplines can meaningfully contribute to every epistemological problem. 25

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