Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Sign in to follow this  

Anything For Anybody Is Everything

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Bertrand Russell ( 1872 -1970 ) famed British mathematician and philosopher once remarked to a large lecture audience at Cambridge that “....nobody can be certain of anything!” contrary to his insistence on previous occasions that mathematical knowledge was a certain and a provable science. He  wasn't being funny. He of course was being very serious. How his epistamology changed we can only speculate but his lecture did proclaim to the whole world that no absolutes can exist, the tree you see or the car you drive or the meal you eat is not real, forgetting substanuously and unknowingly that he was uttering an absolute of his own.This type of evasion is like stating that the pursuit of knowledge is not only fruitless but pointless at best:that reality is unknowable, that the syllogism is corruptible and prone to error and that thee brain doesn't work; therefore rendering the mind impotent. If one accepts Russell’s quotation above as true, the logical conclusion would be that, if nobody can be certain of anything then everybody can be certain of everything that he pleases. Since nothing can be refuted anything and everything would be permissible. In politics this is called the “double twist” used to confuse voters into accepting facts that are not only untrue but to fall into the condition where a voter voluntarily gives up his independent judgement and concedes to the politician in question that he/she must know something better/more than I do (regardless of the true facts) This is the biggest reason America is falling into an ever lowering ring of fatalism that she may not be able to recover from and that my fellow Objectivists would truly be a shame.

Edited by Collectivist

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Collectivist said:

Bertrand Russell ( 1872 -1970 ) famed British mathematician and philosopher once remarked to a large lecture audience at Cambridge that “....nobody can be certain of anything!”

Do you have the original source for this quote? Rand has been accused of improperly paraphrasing Russell. And I couldn't find the lecture online. I did, however, find Russell's article A Liberal Decalogue, in which he presents his list of Commandments. Number one is: "Do not feel absolutely certain of anything." So it's not that I doubt Rand's accuracy. I simply want to track down her source material.

As to your point, I generally agree. The biggest challenge, or one of the top three challenges, we face is an epidemic of radical uncertainty. This, combined with radical fantasy and faith, will devastate civilization. Uncertainty is the fraud that distracts people from the Faith. While you're looking at reality and being uncertain, I'm over here spreading fantasy and being faithful. It's the intellectual's con, and we should not treat them as if they are being honest.

Edited by MisterSwig

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

At the end of the day, even Russel had to wake up every morning, put on his shoes, and walk out the door to go to work or wherever he was headed. His actions betray an implicit knowledge... you need shoes to protect your feet, you need to keep the door closed to prevent burglars or heat escaping your house, etc. When he conveys the idea that "knowledge is impossible," he actually uses knowledge to do so... his knowledge of the English language, and his knowledge of the concepts "knowledge" and "impossibility."

Even the deniers of absolute knowledge act as if they have knowledge. That speaks volumes more than their denial that knowledge is possible. Such hypocrisy is what Rand called the "fallacy of the stolen concept." And it's what I call "the most basic of jokes."

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

There are several matches for "certain" on 100 Philosophical Quotes from Bertrand Russell. Here are the most relevant ones:

“Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.”

“A religious creed differs from a scientific theory in claiming to embody eternal and absolutely certain truth, whereas science is always tentative, expecting that modification in its present theories will sooner or later be found necessary, and aware that its method is one which is logically incapable of arriving at a complete and final demonstration.”

“Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or ignorance.”

“To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it.”

“Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom.”

None are footnoted. They do tend to belie the same essence.

Many of the Google results on "nobody can be certain of anything" are Miss Rand's usage. Citing from Ayn Rand is dead, which has a few footnotes I didn't pursue:

"Despite the quotation marks, she is the actual author. It is a false, incorrect paraphrase of Hume’s Problem of Induction plus an anachronistic paraphrase of Bertrand Russell."

Once “There are no absolutes,” they chatter, blanking out the fact that they are uttering an absolute." is grasped, the rest is dotting i's and crossing t's.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.