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Bertrand Russell (1872–1970)

One of the founding figures along with Wittgenstein and Frege of analytic philosophy, Bertrand Russell ranks among the most important twentieth-century philosophers, logicians, and public intellectuals. Born in Wales to a prominent, though reputedly radical British family, Russell quickly distinguished himself in his university studies at Cambridge. His acquaintance with G.E. Moore and A.N. Whitehead resulted in the ‘revolt against idealism’ that established logicism as the predominant mode of philosophy in England. It was in his correspondence with Frege in 1902 that Russell first communicated his famous paradox concerning the membership of sets who are not members of themselves, thus rattling the foundations of the logicist thought Russell was intent to promote. The publication of the Principia Mathematica (co-authored with Whitehead) in three volumes between 1910 and 1913 was a watershed moment in the history of philosophy in its attempt to ground mathematics in an anterior logic. Later on, Russell was one of Wittgenstein’s main patrons in the British context, impressed by the precocious Austrian’s success at showing the problems of the Principia and the limitations of Russell’s own ‘theory of types’, the substance of which is presented in a short text in volume ten of the Cahiers pour l’Analyse.

Beyond his contributions to logic, Russell is noted for the breadth of his intellectual engagement. His History of Western Philosophy (1945) remains a standard text and was largely responsible for Russell’s being awarded a Nobel Prize in literature in 1950. His commitment to atheism was a matter of public conviction (Why I am Not a Christian, 1927), and he stimulated further controversy in making public his views on sexuality morality (Marriage and Morals, 1929). In the post-war era, Russell was a leading figure in the campaign for nuclear disarmament and was also vocal in his opposition to numerous political conflicts, from American aggression in Vietnam to the Israeli occupation of Palestine following the 1967 war. A hero to many in the New Left in Britain, Bertrand Russell’s contribution to twentieth-century intellectual life transcended disciplinary distinctions and generational divisions.

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse

Bertrand Russell, ‘La théorie des types logiques’, CpA 10.4 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Kurt Gödel, ‘La logique mathématique de Russell’, CpA 10.5 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]

Select bibliography

  • The Principles of Mathematics (1903). London: Routledge, 2009.
  • Principia Mathematica, with A.N. Whitehead. 3 vols. (1910–1913). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1927.
  • History of Western Philosophy (1945). London: Routledge, 2004.
  • Why I am Not a Christian, and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957.
  • The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, 3 vols. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1967-1969.