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May - August 2006 Contents

Cover / In This Issue

Society News

Waismann’s Philosophy

On Russell’s Naturalism

More on Russell and Quine

Orwell on Russell’s Power

Review, On Russell and Education

Review, The Salmon of Doubt

Traveler’s Diary

in this issue


in our last issue of the Quarterly, Andrew Lugg argued for the controversial thesis that Russell was a naturalist (one who presupposes scientific theories to answer philosophical questions, so that philosophy is a part of science) from at least 1912 on. Most Russell scholars would disagree and respond to Russell’s claims that his philosophy is scientific by saying: “Well, yes, he says that, but you have to understand that what he means by ‘scientific philosophy’ is not at all what we would call science, but something wildly metaphysical and purely philosophical.” In contrast, Lugg has taken seriously Russell’s claims to have been doing scientific philosophy, and has constructed a systematic interpretation of Russell’s philosophy from them that seems to be an accurate account of Russell’s views.

Several people besides Lugg have taken Russell’s claims to have been doing scientific philosophy seriously: these are Thomas Baldwin, Graham Stevens, Paul O’Grady, and the recently deceased Ned Garvin. But each has viewed Russell’s naturalism differently, with each emphasizing different aspects of it. In this issue, Graham Stevens responds to Lugg’s views, agreeing with parts, disagreeing with others and presenting an alternative view of Russell’s naturalism. Lugg replies to Stevens with an elaboration of his own views of the matter.

friedrich waismann was a student of Wittgenstein’s philosophy for most of his adult life, but because Wittgenstein repeatedly insisted that Waismann did not understand him, Waismann’s philosophy, especially his views on Wittgenstein’s philosophy and ordinary language philosophy, is not highly regarded by most philosophers today. In this issue’s feature essay, ‘A Road Less Traveled’, Mazi Allen gives us a detailed sketch of Waismann’s philosophy on the way to correcting Richard Rorty’s misrepresentation of it. The picture of Waismann’s philosophy that Mazi presents us with is one that makes Waismann sound much more interesting than the standard view has it.

Waismann was one of the original members of the Vienna Circle and a student of Moritz Schlick – it was in fact Schlick who assigned Waismann the project of speaking with Wittgenstein in Vienna and writing a systematic exposition of Wittgenstein’s philosophy. However, Wittgenstein’s philosophy was in constant transition and the project soon evolved from providing a systematic exposition of the Tractatus to one of recording Wittgenstein’s post-Tractarian thought and then to one of describing his philosophy that emerged still later. Waismann worked at this task from 1927 to 1939, but in 1936 Wittgenstein withdrew from the project completely. Waismann continued with the project alone and his book on Wittgenstein was set for publication in 1939, only to be withdrawn by Waismann at the last minute. It was finally published in 1965, six years after Waismann’s death.

Because of all this, Waismann is often thought of as having been a mere expositor of Wittgenstein and a poor one at that, one who in the end simply failed to appreciate Wittgenstein’s thought. After all, the master himself had made this judgment, hadn’t he? Moreover, A.J. Ayer, in his anthology of the Vienna Circle philosophers, Logical Positivism, includes just one article by Waismann, ‘How I See Philosophy’, and he puts that at the very end of the book, as though including the essay out of a sense obligation or as an afterthought, as if to say: “Well, Waismann was a member of the Vienna Circle, so I guess we should include something by him; but let’s stick it in the back out of the way; we’ll put Schlick and Carnap up front; theirs are the important essays.” However, after reading Allen’s essay on Waismann, and I hope after also going back and reading or rereading one or more of Waismann’s own essays, the reader may well come away with a new appreciation of Waismann. I know I have. It now seems to me that his later philosophy is the most mature of the analytic philosophers of the period – the most grownup and subtlest. Perhaps, then, Ayer didn’t put Waismann’s essay in the back of his book as an afterthought and because he thought it the least important of the essays in that volume, but because he thought it the aptest conclusion for Logical Positivism, the best ending for his book and for analytic philosophy as well. If this is so, perhaps Ayer’s philosophy itself had more subtly than it’s usually given credit for having. It’s possible. I may go back and take another look soon.

also in this issue, we include a 1946 review by George Orwell of Russell book Power, with an introduction by Peter Stone (and a thanks to Phil Ebersole for suggesting the review for inclusion in the BRSQ), and a new review by Chad Trainer of Chris Shute’s book Bertrand Russell: Education as the Power of Independent Thought. Chad provides us with a detailed view of Shute’s book. And finally, we have at the back of the issue, in the traveler’s diary, report of the 2006 BRS Annual Meeting held in Iowa City and the minutes for the BRS Board of Directors meeting held there.