Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Keynes' Friends

In his book, English Pasts, reviewing a volume of Bertrand Russell's correspondence, Stefan Collini quotes from one of the letters:

'"I saw Moore in the evening, and discussed whether there was any difference between knowing Arithmetic and knowing one's grandmother; he thinks not."'

Words fail me. At one point I wanted to go to grad school in philosophy. Professors who thought Russell was the epitome of a philosopher put me off the idea. How to answer the question of whether or not the present King of France was bald - this was a burning philosophical problem chez Russell!

(Answer: both the statement that he is and that he isn't are false, in case you're wondering.)

2 comments:

hardindr said...

Professors who thought Russell was the epitome of a philosopher put me off the idea. How to answer the question of whether or not the present King of France was bald - this was a burning philosophical problem chez Russell!

(Answer: both the statement that he is and that he isn't are false, in case you're wondering.)


I disagree. The proposition, "the current King of France is bald" cannot be true or false, because there is no current King of France. The preposition is a category mistake http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category_mistake and isn't coherent enough to have a truth value. It's simply meaningless.

kevin quinn said...

hardindr: you may be right, but I think - and it's been decades since I've looked at it - that Russell analyzed the statement "The present king of france is bald" as "There is some x such that x is presently king of france and x is bald." So that would be false and so would the statement that he is hairy. Anyway, not my cup of tea!