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The Problems of Philosophy

95 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1605200255
ISBN-10: 1605200255
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Editorial Reviews


"Treats its subject in a way that will arouse the interest of any one who has any latent ability to become interested in it." --The New York Times

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Publisher


Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Cosimo Classics (December 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605200255
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605200255
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,868,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970). Philosopher, mathematician, educational and sexual reformer, pacifist, prolific letter writer, author and columnist, Bertrand Russell was one of the most influential and widely known intellectual figures of the twentieth century. In 1950 he was awarded the Noble Prize for Literature in 1950 for his extensive contributions to world literature and for his "rationality and humanity, as a fearless champion of free speech and free thought in the West."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

232 of 239 people found the following review helpful By A. Pedersen on April 8, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book because it was recommended for further reading in my philosophy class. I figured it was going to be a pure know, huge words, vague sentences, so on and so on. I have to say that this book is the complete opposite. Bertrand Russell brings the topics right down to earth and explains them in a way that the average person can understand. The last chapter, "The Value of Philosophy" is written with beautiful style and is an enjoyment to read. Here is a quote from this chapter:

"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. Thus, while diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never traveled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect."

This book definitely has sparked in me an interest in philosophy. If you are even remotely interested in the subject, I recommend you buying it too.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book was my first foray into philosophy, and surprisingly, it proved to be very enjoyable. For many, just the word "philosophy" evokes images of ancient thinkers, yet not in a very appealing light: old men sitting around, absent-mindedly stroking their chins as they ponder the meaning of life.
Yet, philosophy does not deserve this reputation. It is not just some hobby for stodgy elders, or those with nothing better to do. Rather, it is quite the opposite; it is an endlessly intriguing subject, one which causes you to consider things you may have never thought of before. Survive the test, and the reaffirmation that results will be worth it.
Philosophy contains no easy answers. It poses a myriad of questions which can force one to doubt, and even reexamine, one's beliefs -- even those which previously seemed so resolute. This may at first be difficult or discombobulating, but persistance is rewarded with an even stronger foundation than before.
I will not attempt to summarize this book, as people before me have already explained it sufficiently. However, I will say that this book was a great influence, and a wonderful introduction to the world of philosophy. For such an abstruse and "deep" matter, one would think that most would be intimidated; however, Russell handles it splendidly. He writes in a lucid, unpretentious manner, and spares the reader any unnecessary confusion.
Even to this day, my friends tease me about "philosophy of a table." It is impossible for me to adequately describe this book, but let me say that it is brilliant and refreshing. For me, philosophy is not meant to give an individual a headache. It is simply for those who wish to gain a better understanding of themselves and their surroundings. And this book, exceptional in its quality, is an excellent choice to get you started on that interminable journey towards the ever so elusive Truth.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Taos Turner on March 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
"Philosophy aims primarily at knowledge," says Bertrand Russell. "But it cannot be maintained that philosophy has had any very great measure of success in its attempts to provide definite answers to its questions."

With that caveat, which comes in the last chapter of The Problems of Philosophy, Russell defines in part what philosophy is and what it can accomplish. The definition casts a rather dim light over the field of philosophy, calling into questions its value as a discipline worthy of our attention. But Russell goes on to say that philosophy's value won't be found in its ability to provide answers ("since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true"). Instead, philosophy is valuable "for the sake of the questions themselves."

"These questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation," notes Russell. He says our minds are "rendered great" when we contemplate "the greatness of the universe." This enables our minds to form a "union with the universe which constitutes its highest good."

In the pages that precede this final chapter on the value of philosophy, Russell highlights the questions he considers to be most "positive" and "constructive." In his view, philosophy's most important questions relate to epistemology, or the theory of knowledge. As a result, most of this book deals with questions like these:

What is the difference between appearance and reality?
What is a belief? What is the relationship between beliefs and facts?
What, if anything, can we know for certain?
What is the difference between deductive and inductive reasoning?
What is intuitive knowledge?
What is truth?
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97 of 115 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Heersink on August 19, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When one considers that the great philosophers of the twentieth century stand on the shoulders of Bertrand Russell, Alfred North Whitehead, A. J. Ayer, G. E. Moore, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, one has to place Russell in the foreground as the philosophers' philosopher. He writes with clarity and lucidity. His concerns are largely logical and epistemological. And this book centers around his principal concerns.
I doubt that Russell would write this same book today, but I also doubt that he would fundamentally alter the positions he takes, if he were writing today. There is something neat, eloquent, and elegant about his epistemological premises that make this work (well beyond its 17th printing and more than eighty years old) such a venerable treasure trove. Could his positions be better articulated? Yes, but not by much. Would he delve more deeply into logic? Almost certainly. And he does, in other books written during his lifetime.
This book is really for the novice. My only complaint is that the novice will probably remain lost if his readings did not encompass more logic and criticism of rational and empirical epistemology. What makes Russell a true "modern" in contemporary philosophy is his bridge to resolving both the rationalist and empiricist schools of thought. One not knowing these dichotomies might find Russell's resolution difficult to follow. Elsewhere in the book, Russell identifies "three" rules of thought, when these rules are no longer considered all that are extent. Generally, there are seven, sometimes nine, taught in most symbolic logic courses, and this discrepancy may needlessly cause confusion. So while the book is written for the novice, it bears re-reading after covering other contemporary writers.
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