A view of a large pool in the garden at The Crinan.

Edinburgh is north of London

The part of the earth's surface where Edinburgh stands would be north of the part where London stands, even if there were no human being to know about north and south, and even if there were no minds at all in the universe.

Bertrand Russell (1912)

Russell's claim seems plausible, however, his clear words cover many complications. He is asserting that there are aspects of our world, sometimes called primary qualities in this case spacial relationships, that subsist when humans are not. It is a little hard to see what this could mean, it is we, humans, who 'see' relationships. Can we assume that ours is the only way of perceiving, indeed that our perceptions mirror, indeed mimic, a world that is here independently of us? We know colour and sound are complex compositions; how, by using our perceptions, can we tell that extension and volume are not similarly renderings of something quite other? Further is it not becoming clear that, at the sub-atomic level, our perception of space and time is very far from being copied from that which subsists apart from us.


The passage is taken from Russell's 'The Problems of Philosophy' on page 56 of the 1959 Oxford edition. The view of Edinburgh was photographed from Blackford Hill, two pictures being joined to create the panorama.


Saturday 2nd November 2019

Murphy on duty

Details of the
Greeting Card

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