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Russell (The Routledge Philosophers)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2014
Landini's book is a much needed addition to the philosophical literature on Bertrand Russell. He is, arguably, the most important Russell scholar in the world today and has worked intensively (and brilliantly) to correct several misunderstandings about Russell's work while at the same time putting forward his own interpretation of Russell's technical work and its connections to his broader philosophical projects. Landini's interpretation, while revisionistic, is rigorously grounded in Russell's works; it actually does justice to the philosopher's immense brilliance and sophistication, something which, sadly, cannot be said of all accounts of Russell's work [cf. Monk]. Landini claims that Russell's Logical Atomism was a research program, of a structuralist sort, which aimed to replace all metaphysical necessities for logical necessities in whichever domain it was applied, be that mathematics, knowledge, the physical world or the analysis of mental phenomena. Graham Stevens, another excellent Russell scholar, takes Landini to task for these views; however Landini's view does fit exceedingly well with both Russell's remarks on the maxim of scientific philosophy i.e. his version of Occam's razor and what he actually attempts to do in most of his philosophical works. Landini also claims that the research program of Logical Atomism isn't a program of reductive empiricism, but a program whose aim is eliminativistic, that is: it doesn't identify the entities of folk or scientific ontology with logical constructions but rather replaces them with those constructions. The entities (plus higher-order logic), it is argued, out of which the folk or scientific ontology are replaced by can and do change throughout Russell's various proposals but the methodology remains. Another of Landini's important claims is that Russell never abandoned unrestricted variables i.e. variables which range over everything, necessary to preserve logic's full generality. He argues that Principia Mathematica has no types at the ontological level, but that types result from the strictures of the syntax of the ramified system of Principia, which emulates a type ontology without commitment to types. Landini's discussion of Russell's philosophy of mathematics shows some ways in which a form of Russellian Neologicism might be pursued, on that subject see also splendid work by Kevin Klement. It's noteworthy that Landini also discusses subjects seldom mentioned in the philosophical literature on Russell: his views on probability; later works; the philosophical connections between his and Wittgenstein's atomism and the second edition of Principia. Landini also enganges with Russell's work on the nature of mind and matter. These days The Analysis of Matter has begun to be recognized as another one of Russell's great contributions to philosophy; with his defense of Epistemic Structural Realism (cf. Ioannis Votsis), as well as his construction of mind and matter out of ontologically neutral stuff; a metaphysics which has been taken over partly (or has inspired views) by Russellian Monists and those sympathetic to them in contemporary debates in the philosophy of mind. Philosophers such as Grover Maxwell, Michael Lockwood, David Chalmes and others. All in all, this is an excellent book, it has some technicalities which can be mastered with a bit of effort by those familiar with elementary logic/basic set theory. It is a worthwhile purchase for students of philosophy, specialists in Russell's work and serious amateurs with an interest in philosophy and its great practitioners.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The Routledge Philosophers editions I've read have generally been quite excellent (Beiser's Hegel, Guyer's Kant, Jolley's Leibniz), but this one misses the mark as a substantive introduction. I would not touch it unless you have a very solid grounding in logic and mathematics. Though he rightly focuses primarily on Russell's immense contributions to logic and the founding of analytic philosophy, Landini uses complex logical syntax without much explanation, which is fine if you're familiar with it, but will be incomprehensible to anyone approaching the logic-analytic tradition for the first time. Further, Landini just doesn't seem to write in a user-friendly manner. I have seen far more approachable explanations of Cantor and the Continuum Hypothesis than the one Landini gives in chapter 2.

Landini declares his account of Russell's logical atomism to be "revisionary," linking it much more closely to Russell's work in mathematical logic. It is certainly far from Russell as I studied him. I don't know whether Landini is right, but be aware that his interpretation is idiosyncratic, and I still wasn't able to understand how it solved the seeming lack of reference that Wittgenstein (and others) pointed out. A later chapter on the Principia revision seems quite speculative and unnecessarily hostile toward Wittgenstein. It could have been trimmed from this long book. Russell *is* hugely important and I fear this book will not win him too many converts.

A.C. Grayling's brief, well-written survey Russell: A Very Short Introduction is vastly more accessible and orthodox. And Peter Hylton's Russell, Idealism, and the Emergence of Analytic Philosophy (Clarendon Paperbacks) gives a good overview of the context in which Russell worked while treating several key aspects of the logical work. After that, better to just read Russell himself.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2013
It's high time to reappraise Bertrand Russell. It's important to get his philosophy aright. It's important to understand his relationship with Wittgenstein--and to get Wittgenstein's origins aright. And it's crucial to examine Bertrand Russell's influence on all of philosophy, not just Anglo-American philosophy. There may be much to dislike about Russell--e.g., his inability to present his opponents' positions uniformly fairly--but his eminence cannot just be wished away. Gregory Landini's book does a masterful job at presenting Russell's ideas fairly and without undue technical verbiage. I think it accurately relocates and re-situates Russell's influence on and relationship with Wittgenstein. I only wish I had read this much earlier in my life.
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