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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, A boulder on an Icelandic beach. Berkeley voiced disquiets at this assumption 300 years ago. Samuel Johnson, sort to refute the idea (as effectively Russell is doing) by kicking a boulder. that subsist when humans are not. Some people find it 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 or mimic, a world that is here independently The bust of Peter Scott at the WWT reserve in southern Scotland. The complications of the word 'world' muddy this matter, but here Kant's noumenon might be seem as candidates. 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? Russell's view depends on an un-appetising division between primary and secondary qualities. Further it is now becoming clear that, at the sub-atomic level, our perception of space and time are 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.

Above hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.


Saturday 2nd November 2019

Murphy on duty to this site