Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Media manipulation - Wikipedia

Used very often in war contexts, these rhetorical techniques may also be used whenever a someone wants to defend a point of view in a non-objective way.

The process of media manipulation is the way in which individuals or groups use various tricks in dealing with the media in order to create an image of their side of an argument that is most favorable to the receiver.

Such tricks are based on the use of logical fallacies and propaganda techniques, and are often used by suppressing information or points of view by crowding them out, by inducing other people or groups of people to stop listening to certain arguments, or simply by drawing their attention elsewhere. Many of the more modern manipulation methods are types of distraction, on the assumption that the public has a limited capacity for attention.

Distraction by nationalism (see transfer within the article propaganda): A variant on the traditional ad hominem and bandwagon fallacies applied to entire countries. The method is to discredit arguments coming from other countries by appealing to nationalistic pride or memory of past accomplishments, or appealing to fear or dislike of a specific country, or of foreigners in general. It can be very powerful as it discredits foreign journalists (the ones that are least easily manipulated by domestic political or corporate interests.)
Example: "You want to know what I really think of the Europeans?" asked the senior United States State Department official. "I think they have been wrong on just about every major international issue for the past 20 years." [1].
Example: "Your idea sounds similar to what they are proposing in Turkey. Are you saying the Turks have a better country than us?"
Example: "The only criticisms of this trade proposal come from the United States. But we all know that Americans are arrogant and uneducated, so their complaints are irrelevant."

Straw man (see Straw man fallacy): Lumping a strong opposition argument together with one or many weak ones, to create a simplistic weak argument that can easily be refuted.
Example: Grouping all opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq as "pacifists", so they can be refuted by arguments for war in general. As with most persuasion methods, it can easily be applied in reverse, in this case, to group all those who supported the invasion together and label them as "warmongers" or "lackeys of the United States".

Distraction by scapegoat (See scapegoating within the article propaganda): A combination of straw man and ad hominem, in which your weakest opponent (or easiest to discredit) is considered as your only important opponent.
Example: If many countries are opposed to our actions, but one of them (say, France) is obviously acting out of self-interest, mention mostly France. As with most persuasion methods, it can easily be applied in reverse, in this case, attempting to discredit George W. Bush in order to discredit the entire coalition against Iraq.

Distraction by phenomenon : A risky but effective strategy summarized by David Mamet's movie Wag the Dog, in which the public can be distracted, for long periods of time, from an important issue, by one which occupies more news time. When the strategy works, you have a war or other media event taking attention away from misbehaving or crooked leaders. When the strategy does not work, the leader's misbehavior remains in the press, and the war is derided as an attempted distraction.
US President Clinton's involvement in Bosnia is often cited as an example.

Marginalization (See Appeal to authority and Bandwagon within the article propaganda): This one is widespread and subtle: Simply giving credence only to "mainstream" sources of information, which are also the easiest to manipulate by corporate or political interests, since they can be owned or sponsored by them. Information, arguments, and objections that come from other sources are simply considered "fringe" and ignored, or their proponents permanently discredited, or accused of having their own agenda.
Example: "I think there are a lot of people out there who feel the way I do, but haven't wanted to come forward because they're afraid of being identified with a fringe group..." Langley said. "I don't believe in all the things that all the (anti-war) groups stand for, but we all do share one thing in common: I do believe that this war is wrong." [2]

Demonisation of the opposition (See Obtain disapproval within the article propaganda): A more general case of distraction by nationalism. Opposing views are ascribed to an out-group or hated group, and thus dismissed out of hand. This approach, carried to extremes, becomes a form of suppression, as in McCarthyism, where anyone disapproving of the government was considered "un-American" and "Communist" and was likely to be denounced.
Example: The consignment of almost all dissent to the "International Jewish conspiracy" by Nazi Germany.
Example: Labelling all those opposed to Neocon policies as left-wing, making use of existing prejudices against Communists.

Googlewashing: A newly coined word by Andrew Orlowski of The Register [3] in April of 2003 to describe the alleged practice of changing the meaning of a meme (in this example, Second Superpower) by web-publishing a well-linked article using the term in an inoffensive manner, stripped of its political significance.

People concerned about media manipulation have promoted the teaching of media literacy to teach about the above techniques and thus make them less effective with people thus educated.

See also
Ann Coulter
Bill O'Reilly
Censorship in the United States
SourceWatch (formerly Disinfopedia)
Edward Bernays
Front organization
Gatekeeper (politics)
List of topics related to public relations and propaganda
Michael Moore
News management
Noam Chomsky
Robots exclusion file
Spin doctoring
Under color of authority
Media transparency

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Tao of Star Wars, Or, Cultural Appropriation in a Galaxy Far, Far Away - Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr.

This is fun...


George Lucas has acknowledged the myriad of debts which the original Star Wars trilogy and The Phantom Menace owe to Asian cultures, especially Chinese and Japanese cultures.Cinematically, the films have been impacted by the film work of world renowned auteur Akira Kurosawa.James Goodwin observes that “Lucas has acknowledged the debt Star Wars owes in story and style to Kurosawa’s comic adventure epic The Hidden Fortress (Kukaushi Toride no San-Akunin, 1958),” whose Japanese title is better translated as “Three Bad Men in a Hidden Fortress” (8).Kurosawa’s film is set during Japan’s civil war era and relates the story of a bold princess, rescued by an old general, who must travel through enemy territory to reach the hidden fortress.The film begins with a pair of bickering farmers who are inadvertently drawn into the conflict, much as Star Wars begins with a pair of bickering droids around whom the story also develops.Similar to the plans stored in R2D2 which must be brought to the hidden rebel base at Yavin, Kurosawa’s characters secretly transport gold which will allow them to turn the tide of war when they reach their home territory.

The visual influence of Japanese film and culture is also evident in Star Wars. Obi-Wan Kenobi (whose name even sounds Japanese, as further discussed below) wears a costume that, with its long brown robe and white underrobes, suggests the kimono of a samurai.Joseph Campbell, writing of Star Wars in The Power of Myth observes that Ben Kenobi is “a Japanese sword master,” seemingly implying that the character is more similar in philosophy and action to a samurai than a Western knight (145).Likewise, the two-handed lightsabre suggests the Japanese katana of a samurai more than Western swords.The shape and sweep of Darth Vader’s mask, his breastplate, and cloak suggest the formal armor of a samurai or daimyo.Visually, the followers of the light and dark sides of the force are much more Asian in appearance than the more Western-clothed Han Solo or Grand Moff Tarkin, both of whom disbelieve in the Force, although both have seen evidence of its power.

One can also detect the influence of Asian thought in the philosophy of the Jedi and the construction of religion in the Star Wars universe.While Lucas does not see Star Wars as “profoundly religious,” he does tell Bill Moyers in an interiew that “almost every single religion” found the film contains elements suggestive of faith: “They were able to relate it to stories in the Bible, in the Koran, and in the Torah” (92-93).Indeed, within a few months of the release of the original film in 1977, Frank Allnutt wrote The Force of Star Wars which viewed Lucas’s film as a “prophetic parable” about the coming of the Antichrist in which the Force is God, the Emperor is Satan, and the Rebellion represents the Church (26, 201).Allnutt offers a fundamentalist Christian analysis on the film which, for reasons too lengthy to debate here, attempts to make the Star Wars narrative fit the Book of Revelation, but fails.In the absence of a true Christ figure (Allnutt suggests Obi-Wan), the theory does not work.

Bill Moyers, in his interview with Lucas, suggests that the Force is an “Eastern view of God—particularly Buddhist—as a vast reservoir of energy that is the ground of all our being” (92).Lucas agrees that “it’s more specific in Buddhism,” but he also argues that “it is a notion that’s been around before that,” without specifying what he means exactly or to which religious philosophies he refers.Lucas’s own view notwithstanding, the language the various characters use to describe the Force suggests Taoism.Moyers’ “reservoir of energy” implies the Tao.Obi-Wan tells Luke, “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power.It’s an energy field created by all living things.It surrounds us and penetrates us and binds the galaxy together.”The theology of Buddhism maintains that this world is an illusion that generates misery and so must be transcended.It is in Taoism that the idea of energy is a principle tenet.Lao Tzu writes in the Tao Te Ching that the Tao (the way) “gives them [people] life and rears them. It gives them life yet claims no possession. . . . It is the steward, yet exercises no authority” (I: x).Unlike the Western notion of God, an authoritative, anthropomorphic patriarch, the Tao is both life giving and binding, yet does not actively control human beings or demand worship or authority.The Tao is a non-present presence: “The way is empty, yet use will not drain it” (I: iv), which further suggests Moyers’ “reservoir of energy,” albeit one which will never be emptied.The theology and cosmology of Star Wars constructs an ultimate reality much closer to Taoism than to any Western religious philosophy.

Western religious philosophy does not have the idea of “flow” on which both Taoism and the Force are centered.The famous metaphor in the Tao Te Ching compares the Tao to water: “In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water.Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it.This is because there is nothing that can take its place” (II: lxxviii). The ideal follower of the Tao flows with the Tao as water flows.While seemingly weak and submissive one will overcome any difficulty by flowing.Likewise, both the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back contain repeated lessons for Luke given by Obi-Wan and Yoda about how to learn to flow. The following passage from Star Wars is typical:

OBI-WAN: Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.

LUKE: You mean it controls your actions?

OBI-WAN: Partially, but it also obeys your commands.

Yoda repeatedly tells Luke, “Feel the Force flow.”This idea of the divine being a flowing energy which both controls and can be controlled is Taoist, not Western.

A further example of the Taoist nature of the Force is its resistance to intellectual understanding.Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber, writing in The Shambala Dictionary of Taoism, observes: “All Taoists strive to become one with the Tao.This cannot be achieved by trying to understand the Tao intellectually; the adept becomes one with the Tao by realizing within himself its unity, simplicity, and emptiness” (165).During the training session on the Millennium Falcon, Obi-Wan tells Luke he is thinking too much: “This time let go your conscious self and act on instinct. . . . Stretch out with your feelings.”The Force cannot be understood or used intellectually; only by experiencing within one’s self, by feeling can one become one with the Force and use it.At the climactic battle of the Death Star, Luke turns off his tactical computer and “uses the Force” to hit the Death Star with his torpedo.It is only by “trusting his feelings,” “letting go,” and “letting the Force flow” that the huge, mechanical Death Star can be beaten and destroyed.Like water, a single man in a small ship seems weak and defenseless against the huge mechanical (read: Western) terror of the Death Star, and yet, through the use of the Force, the living being overcomes the mechanical monster.By learning the Taoist-like teachings of the Jedi, Luke is able to defeat the Dark Side and save the Rebellion repeatedly.

Yoda is the Taoist master of the Star Wars universe.Once Vader and Palpatine have destroyed the Jedi, Yoda, like Lao Tzu, turns his back on civilization and goes off to the wilderness—in Yoda’s case, to the planet Dagobah.In Empire, like Zen masters and Taoist teachers who initially play the fool to test potential students, Yoda pretends to be an insignificant native in order to evaluate Luke while teaching him valuable lesson in Taoist thought.When Luke claims that Yoda is a great warrior, Yoda responds, “Wars do not make one great,” and Luke then learns that this small creature is powerful in the Force but does not resemble what Luke believes a warrior to be.This sentiment echoes the Tao Te Ching: “One who excels as a warrior does not appear formidable; One who excels in fighting is never roused in anger . . .” (II: lxviii).The Jedi, likewise, is not roused in anger when he fights, for anger leads to the Dark Side.

It is in the dualistic nature of the Force that Lucas comes closest to Western religious philosophy.While Taoism recognizes that good and evil, light and dark, are merely opposites in which balance must be sought, Western philosophy judges light to be good and dark to be bad.The yin-yang symbol is the embodiment of Taoism—both light and dark aspects are present and balanced.Western religious philosophy acknowledges a dualistic nature from which the darkness must be purged.Evil is seen as separate from good and must be not only resisted and rejected but overcome.The Dark Side is the result of Taoism’s being subjected to the Western concept of evil.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Toward Immortality: The Social Burden of Longer Lives - LiveScience

As incredible as it may sound, this article argues that health progress - leading to greater lifespan - is nearly a setback for "society". They argue that more elder aged people will lead to a less dynamic society. They only forget to conclude that words such as "young" and "old" will have a completely different meaning in such a society... More time for studying, more time for finding a mate, more time for having children and seeing them grow... More time for a productive career. Does it sound like a social disaster? It may be if we don't increase retirement age limits.


By Ker ThanLiveScience Staff Writerposted: 22 May 200610:13 am ET

Adam and Eve lost it, alchemists tried to brew it and, if you believe the legends, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon was searching for it when he discovered Florida.

To live forever while preserving health and retaining the semblance and vigor of youth is one of humanity's oldest and most elusive goals.

Now, after countless false starts and disappointments, some scientists say we could finally be close to achieving lifetimes that are, if not endless, at least several decades longer. This modern miracle, they say, will come not from drinking revitalizing waters or from transmuted substances, but from a scientific understanding of how aging affects our bodies at the cellular and molecular levels.

Whether through genetic tinkering or technology that mimics the effects of caloric restriction—strategies that have successfully extended the lives of flies, worms and mice—a growing number of scientists now think that humans could one day routinely live to 140 years of age or more.

Extreme optimists such as Aubrey de Gray think the maximum human lifespan could be extended indefinitely, but such visions of immortality are dismissed by most scientists as little more than science fiction.

While scientists go back and forth on the feasibility of slowing, halting or even reversing the aging process, ethicists and policymakers have quietly been engaged in a separate debate about whether it is wise to actually do so.

A doubled lifespan

If scientists could create a pill that let you live twice as long while remaining free of infirmities, would you take it?

If one considers only the personal benefits that longer life would bring, the answer might seem like a no-brainer: People could spend more quality time with loved ones; watch future generations grow up; learn new languages; master new musical instruments; try different careers or travel the world.

But what about society as a whole? Would it be better off if life spans were doubled? The question is one of growing relevance, and serious debate about it goes back at least a few years to the Kronos Conference on Longevity Health Sciences in Arizona.

Gregory Stock, director of the Program on Medicine, Technology, and Society at UCLA’s School of Public Health, answered the question with an emphatic "Yes."

A doubled lifespan, Stock said, would "give us a chance to recover from our mistakes, lead us towards longer-term thinking and reduce healthcare costs by delaying the onset of expensive diseases of aging. It would also raise productivity by adding to our prime years."

Bioethicist Daniel Callahan, a cofounder of the Hastings Center in New York, didn't share Stock’s enthusiasm. Callahan’s objections were practical ones. For one thing, he said, doubling life spans won’t solve any of our current social problems.

"We have war, poverty, all sorts of issues around, and I don't think any of them would be at all helped by having people live longer," Callahan said in a recent telephone interview. "The question is, 'What will we get as a society?' I suspect it won't be a better society."

Others point out that a doubling of the human lifespan will affect society at every level. Notions about marriage, family and work will change in fundamental ways, they say, as will attitudes toward the young and the old.

Marriage and family

Richard Kalish, a psychologist who considered the social effects of life extension technologies, thinks a longer lifespan will radically change how we view marriage.

In today’s world, for example, a couple in their 60s who are stuck in a loveless but tolerable marriage might decide to stay together for the remaining 15 to 20 years of their lives out of inertia or familiarity. But if that same couple knew they might have to suffer each other's company for another 60 or 80 years, their choice might be different.

Kalish predicted that as life spans increase, there will be a shift in emphasis from marriage as a lifelong union to marriage as a long-term commitment. Multiple, brief marriages could become common.

A doubled lifespan will reshape notions of family life in other ways, too, says Chris Hackler, head of the Division of Medical Humanities at the University of Arkansas.

If multiple marriages become the norm as Kalish predicts, and each marriage produces children, then half-siblings will become more common, Hackler points out. And if couples continue the current trend of having children beginning in their 20s and 30s, then eight or even 10 generations might be alive simultaneously, Hackler said.

Furthermore, if life extension also increases a woman's period of fertility, siblings could be born 40 or 50 years apart. Such a large age difference would radically change the way siblings or parents and their children interact with one other.

"If we were 100 years younger than our parents or 60 years apart from our siblings, that would certainly create a different set of social relationships," Hackler told LiveScience.

The workplace

For most people, living longer will inevitably mean more time spent working. Careers will necessarily become longer, and the retirement age will have to be pushed back, not only so individuals can support themselves, but to avoid overtaxing a nation’s social security system.
Advocates of anti-aging research say that working longer might not be such a bad thing. With skilled workers remaining in the workforce longer, economic productivity would go up. And if people got bored with their jobs, they could switch careers.

But such changes would carry their own set of dangers, critics say.

Competition for jobs would become fiercer as "mid-life re-trainees" beginning new careers vie with young workers for a limited number of entry-level positions.

Especially worrisome is the problem of workplace mobility, Callahan said.
"If you have people staying in their jobs for 100 years, that is going to make it really tough for young people to move in and get ahead," Callahan explained. "If people like the idea of delayed gratification, this is going to be a wonderful chance to experience it."

Callahan also worries that corporations and universities could become dominated by a few individuals if executives, managers and tenured professors refuse to give up their posts. Without a constant infusion of youthful talent and ideas, these institutions could stagnate.
Hackler points out that the same problem could apply to politics. Many elected officials have term limits that prevent them from amassing too much power. But what about federal judges, who are appointed for life?

"Justices sitting on the bench for a hundred years would have a powerful influence on the shape of social institutions," Hackler writes.

Time to act

A 2003 staff working paper drawn up by the U.S. President’s Council of Bioethics—then headed by Leon Kass, a longtime critic of attempts to significantly extend the human lifespan—stated that anti-aging advances would redefine social attitudes toward the young and the old, and not in good ways.

“The nation might commit less of its intellectual energy and social resources to the cause of initiating the young, and more to the cause of accommodating the old,” the paper stated. Also, quality of life might suffer. “A world that truly belonged to the living would be very different, and perhaps a much diminished, world, focused too narrowly on maintaining life and not sufficiently broadly on building the good life."

While opinions differ wildly about what the ramifications for society will be if the human lifespan is extended, most ethicists agree that the issue should be discussed now, since it might be impossible to stop or control the technology once it's developed.

"If this could ever happen, then we'd better ask what kind of society we want to get,” Callahan said. “We had better not go anywhere near it until we have figured those problems out."

Top 10 Immortals: Characters Who Endured
Hang in There: The 25-Year Wait for Immortality
Older Population Could Force Retirement Age to 85
Life Expectancy in America Hits Record High
Ray Kurzweil Aims to Live Forever
Anti-Aging Prize Tops $1 Million
The Odds of Dying

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Human, Chimp Ancestors May Have Mated, DNA Suggests - National Geographic

Genetic research keeps bringing surprising news about our human identity. This time, the split between our ancestors and the ones of our closest cousin, the chimp, may have occured only 6 million years ago.
We already had hints about our ancesters through 2 "hominid" fossils: "Toumai" (6-7 million years ago) and "Lucy" (3-4 million years ago)
Question: are we a hybrid specie?


Brian Handwerk for National Geographic News
May 17, 2006
Early human ancestors and chimpanzee ancestors may have mated and produced offspring, according to a new DNA study.

The study suggests that the human and chimp lineages initially split off from a single ape species about ten million years ago. Later, early chimps and early human ancestors may have begun interbreeding, creating hybrids—and complicating and prolonging the evolutionary separation of the two lineages.

The second and final split occurred some four million years after the first one, the report proposes.

"One thing that emerges [from the data] is a reestimate of the date when humans and chimps last exchanged genes," said David Reich, a professor at Harvard Medical School's Department of Genetics in Boston.

"Our data strongly suggest that [the last gene exchange] occurred more recently than 6.3 million years ago and probably more recently than 5.4 million years ago," said Reich, senior author of the study, to be published tomorrow in the journal Nature.

"This paper is very interesting, because it provides a hypothesis that is outside of the currently accepted dogma," said Kateryna Makova, a professor at Pennsylvania State University's Center for Comparative Genomics and Bioinformatics who is unaffiliated with the study.

(Related news: "Chimps, Humans 96 Percent the Same, Gene Study Finds" [2005].)

Did Human, Chimp Ancestors Hybridize?

"The genome analysis revealed big surprises, with major implications for human evolution," biologist Eric Lander said in a release announcing the findings. Lander is director of the Broad Institute, a cooperative institute for genomic medicine in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A genome is an organism's complete set of DNA. The human genome, for example, contains some 3 billion base pairs, which code for the approximately 30,000 genes that define a person's unique traits. (See our quick overview of human genetics.)

"First, human-chimp speciation occurred more recently than previous estimates. Second, the speciation itself occurred in an unusual manner that left a striking impact across chromosome X," Lander said.

This sex-determining chromosome typically occurs in pairs in cells of females and combined with a Y chromosome in cells of males.

"The young age of chromosome X is an evolutionary smoking gun."

Different regions of the human and chimp genomes were found to have diverged at widely different times, and the two species' X chromosomes show a surprisingly recent divergence time.

This genetic evidence boosts the theory that the two species may have hybridized, because interbreeding causes strong selective pressure on the X chromosome and could have resulted in that chromosome's very young age in both humans and chimpanzees.

Different species can, and sometimes do, mate to produce hybrid offspring. Horses and donkeys produce mules, for example. Likewise, "rheboons" are the offspring of female baboons and male rhesus macaques.

Because most hybrid offspring can't reproduce, evolutionary biologists don't believe hybridization plays a significant role in the long-term evolutionary success of new animal species.

But recent research has found some evidence of the process in the development of unique fly and fish species.

"That such evolutionary events have not been seen more often in animal species may simply be due to the fact that we have not been looking for them," Harvard's Reich said.

Reich also explained that the new study doesn't prove that hybridization occurred.
"It's the only explanation that we could imagine," he said. "But there may be others that we can't imagine."

Penn State's Makova notes that a chimpanzee genome sequencing project she took part in pointed to "male mutation bias" as a possible cause of the X chromosome's young appearance. "Male mutation bias" is the term for a higher mutation rate in males than in females.

"To obtain a final answer … analysis of complete sequences of orangutan, macaque, and marmoset will be very helpful in obtaining better understanding of this question."

Researchers are currently working to generate those sequences, and studies of the Y chromosome in primates may also help to paint a clearer picture of the chimp-human split.
DNA and Fossil Evidence

If the new evolutionary timeline estimates prove correct they will raise interesting new questions about the status of notable fossils such as Sahelanthropus tchadensis, a species believed to be an early human precursor.

S. tchadensis, or Toumaï fossils have been dated to the proposed interval period between the initial divergence and the final human-chimp genetic split.

The Toumaï species has what are considered distinctive human features and consequently has been regarded as evidence that the lineages must have split before Toumaï's era, estimated at 6.5 to 7.4 million years ago.

"It is possible that the Toumaï fossil is more recent than previously thought," Nick Patterson, a senior research scientist at the Broad Institute, said in a statement.

"But if the dating is correct, the Toumaï fossil would precede the human-chimp split. The fact that it has humanlike features suggests that human-chimp speciation may have occurred over a long period, with episodes of hybridization between the emerging species."

Such a possibility raises some interesting questions about the relations of humans, chimps, and other primates.

"Are we the hybrids, or are chimps the hybrids—or are we both the hybrids?" Reich pondered.

Planets Found in Potentially Habitable Setup -

By Ker Than
Staff Writer
posted: 17 May 2006
01:00 pm ET

Three medium-sized planets of roughly the same mass as Neptune have been discovered around a nearby Sun-like star, scientists announced today.

The planets were discovered around HD 69830, a star slightly less massive than the Sun located 41 light-years away in the constellation Puppis (the Stern), using the ultra-precise HARPS spectrograph on the European Southern Observatory's 3.6-meter La Silla telescope in Chile.

The finding, detailed in the May 18 issue of the journal Nature, marks a first for astronomers because previously discovered multi-planet solar systems besides our own contain at least one giant, Jupiter-sized planet.

"For the first time, we have discovered a planetary system composed of several Neptune-mass planets," said study team member Christophe Lovis of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland.
The setup is similar to our own solar system in many ways: The outermost planets is located just within the star's habitable zone, where temperatures are moderate enough for liquid water to form, and the system also contains an asteroid belt.

The newly discovered planets have masses of about 10, 12 and 18 times that of Earth and they zip around the star in rapid orbits of about 9, 32 and 197 days, respectively.

Based on their distances from the star, two inner worlds nearest the star are rocky planets similar to Mercury, the scientists suspect. The outermost planet is thought to have a solid core of rock and ice and shrouded by a thick gas envelope.

Recent observations by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope last year revealed that HD 69830 also hosts an asteroid belt, making it the only other Sun-like star known to have one.

When the asteroid belt was found, it was suspected that there might be an unseen planet that was shepherding the asteroids; it now seems that there is more than one shepherd. The researchers think the asteroid belt could lie between the two outermost planets or beyond the third planet.

The planets have not been photographed. They were found using the Doppler, or "wobble," technique, in which astronomers infer the presence of a planet by measuring the gravitational influence it exerts on its parent star. This technique was used to find most of the more than 180 planets so far discovered.

In the early years of planet hunting, the wobble technique was sensitive enough to spot only large, massive planets because they produce more significant stellar wobbles. However, the technique has since been refined to the point where lower-mass planets can now be detected.

A Star Like Our Own
Asteroids Likely Found around Sun-like Star
Detecting Other Worlds: The Wobble Method
Small Rocky Planet Found Orbiting Normal Star

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code is a bestseller. Tens of millions of readers read and enjoyed the book.
It deals with an alleged plot by the Catholic church to cover up the truth about Jesus Christ's life. Given the religious sensitivity of the topic, it was not a surprise to hear Vatican officials protest about the book's allegations.
However, the book itself is classified as a "fiction" meaning it does not pretend to be a history textbook. More controversial are the explanations given by Dan Brown when he is asked what is accurate in the book.
The problem with books of fiction is that they are essentially mixing facts and fictions and that's why they are so entertaining. This may be the real problem: Parts of the history of the Catholic Church would rather be forgotten than discussed openly in the aftermath of the "Da Vinci Code" popularity.

What seems to be so embarassing for some christian communities all over the world is not that there is another book of fiction dealing with christian beliefs, it is the fact that the book is extremely populare and that the forthcoming movie may well be extremely successful.
In countries with a long tradition of freedom of speech, christian organizations merely advise people to boycott the movie. However, in other countries, christian groups have successfully lobbied for either a full or a partial censorship of the movie.,,1776405,00.html


Monday, May 15, 2006

Largest Cosmic Map Confirms How Little We Know -

By Sara Goudarzi
Staff Writer
posted: 15 May 2006
06:15 am ET

For centuries, humans have looked to the heavens for their gods and goddesses and clues for finding the nature of the universe.

Now, the largest ever-produced map of the universe gives those lost in the dark some direction, but is also confirms that the universe is full of dark energy, a strange force pushing galaxies apart at ever faster speeds.

This utterly inexplicable force is one of nature's great unsolved mysteries. Map or no map, scientists admit they're pretty clueless about what's going on.

"We now have a precise view of what makes up our universe, but little idea as to why," said Ofer Lahav, the head of the Astrophysics Group at University College London. "It is intriguing that the ordinary matter our bodies are made of and that we experience in everyday life only accounts for a few percent of the total cosmic budget."

Scientists have known since the 1920s that the universe is expanding. But it was only in the late 1990's that they realized it is doing so at an ever-increasing pace. Not sure how to explain this phenomenon, they concluded that some mysterious force, dark energy, is what's causing this acceleration.

This mysterious force is said to make up about 75 percent of the mass-energy budget of the cosmos.

The new cosmic map is a three-dimensional atlas of more than one million galaxies reaching a distance greater than 5 billion light-years. The most distant galaxies in the universe are more than 13 billion light-years away, and not all of them have been catalogued or even discovered.
The map was created using a new artificial intelligence technique that helps overcome challenges to figuring out how far galaxies are in a photograph that renders them all essentially in two dimensions.

"By using very accurate distances of just 10,000 galaxies to train the computer algorithm, we have been able to estimate reasonably good distances for over a million galaxies," said Adrian Collister of the University of Cambridge. "This novel technique is the way of the future."

To make such a map, astronomers have to find the distance between galaxies. Conventionally, this is done by taking a full spectrum of every galaxy and measuring how the light emitted by each one stretches as the universe expands. But this method is tedious and time consuming because it involves observing each galaxy and splitting the observed light into individual components to measure the light stretch.

However, with the new technique, researchers measured the amount of color distortion of a small sample of galaxies whose colors are well known and therefore avoided the need to obtain a full spectrum of every galaxy.

They then approximated the distance of a galaxy by looking at digital images of the sky and created a map of more than a million galaxies.

Soon, with a few simple clicks, any web surfer will be able to look at the new view of heavens. The map is to be made available free on the Internet.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Karl Popper's critical rationalism

Karl Popper has been an influencial thinker in the field of science and political philosophy.
He is most famous for the "refutation" principle. He destinguishes genuine science from "pseudo-science" by checking if the theories are refutables. His idea is similar to C.S. Pierce's faillibilism: The belief that there are no eternal truth but merely provisional truth.
His political ideas come from his science philosophy with an additional attack on "historicism": The belief that human history follows deterministic laws and is therefore predictable.
He challenged the rationality of platonic, hegelian and marxist visions of an utopian society. He finally defended liberal democracy - the "open society" - as the only political system that allows freedom of thought and social change without violence.
In summary, he opposed totalitarianism on rational grounds


Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH, KT, MA, Ph.D., D.LITT, FRS, FBA. (July 28, 1902September 17, 1994), was an Austrian and British philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics. He is counted among the most influential philosophers of science of the 20th century, and also wrote extensively on social and political philosophy. Popper is perhaps best known for repudiating the classical observationalist-inductivist account of scientific method by advancing empirical falsifiability as the criterion for distinguishing scientific theory from non-science; and for his vigorous defense of liberal democracy and the principles of social criticism which he took to make the flourishing of the "open society" possible.

Born in Vienna (then Austria-Hungary) in 1902 to middle-class parents of Jewish origins, Karl Popper was educated at the University of Vienna. His father was a bibliophile who was rumoured to have 10,000 volumes in his library at home.[1] He took a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1928, and taught in secondary school from 1930 to 1936. In 1934 he published his first book, Logik der Forschung (The Logic of Scientific Discovery), in which he criticized psychologism, naturalism, inductionism, and logical positivism, and put forth his theory of potential falsifiability being the criterion for what should be considered science. In 1937, the rise of Nazism and the threat of the Anschluss led Popper to emigrate to New Zealand, where he became lecturer in philosophy at Canterbury University College New Zealand (at Christchurch). In 1946, he moved to England to become reader in logic and scientific method at the London School of Economics, where he was appointed professor in 1949. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1965, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1976. He retired from academic life in 1969, though he remained intellectually active until his death in 1994. He was invested with the Insignia of a Companion of Honour in 1982.
Popper won many awards and honors in his field, including the Lippincott Award of the American Political Science Association, the Sonning Prize, and fellowships in the Royal Society, British Academy, London School of Economics, King's College London, and Darwin College Cambridge. Austria awarded him the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold.

Popper's philosophy

Philosophy of Science
Popper coined the term critical rationalism to describe his philosophy. This designation is significant, and indicates his rejection of classical empiricism, and of the observationalist-inductivist account of science that had grown out of it. Popper argued strongly against the latter, holding that scientific theories are universal in nature, and can be tested only indirectly, by reference to their implications. He also held that scientific theory, and human knowledge generally, is irreducibly conjectural or hypothetical, and is generated by the creative imagination in order to solve problems that have arisen in specific historico-cultural settings. Logically, no number of positive outcomes at the level of experimental testing can confirm a scientific theory, but a single genuine counter-instance is logically decisive: it shows the theory, from which the implication is derived, to be false. Popper's account of the logical asymmetry between verification and falsification lies at the heart of his philosophy of science. It also inspired him to take falsifiability as his criterion of demarcation between what is and is not genuinely scientific: a theory should be considered scientific if and only if it is falsifiable. This led him to attack the claims of both psychoanalysis and contemporary Marxism to scientific status, on the basis that the theories enshrined by them are not falsifiable. His scientific work was influenced by his study of quantum mechanics - he has written extensively against the famous Copenhagen interpretation - and by Albert Einstein's approach to scientific theories. Popper's falsificationism resembles Charles Peirce's fallibilism. In Of Clocks and Clouds (1966), Popper said he wished he had known of Peirce's work earlier.
In All Life is Problem Solving (1999), Popper sought to explain the apparent progress of scientific knowledge—how it is that our understanding of the universe seems to improve over time. This problem arises from his position that the truth content of our theories, even the best of them, cannot be verified by scientific testing, but can only be falsified. If so, then how is it that the growth of science appears to result in a growth in knowledge? In Popper's view, the advance of scientific knowledge is an evolutionary process characterized by his formula:
In response to a given problem situation (PS1), a number of competing conjectures, or tentative theories (TT), are systematically subjected to the most rigorous attempts at falsification possible. This process, error elimination (EE), performs a similar function for science that natural selection performs for biological evolution. Theories that better survive the process of refutation are not more true, but rather, more "fit"—in other words, more applicable to the problem situation at hand (PS1). Consequently, just as a species' "biological fit" does not predict continued survival, neither does rigorous testing protect a scientific theory from refutation in the future. Yet, as it appears that the engine of biological evolution has produced, over time, adaptive traits equipped to deal with more and more complex problems of survival, likewise, the evolution of theories through the scientific method may, in Popper's view, reflect a certain type of progress: toward more and more interesting problems (PS2). For Popper, it is in the interplay between the tentative theories (conjectures) and error elimination (refutation) that scientific knowledge advances toward greater and greater problems; in a process very much akin to the interplay between genetic variation and natural selection.
In his earlier work Conjectures and Refutations (1963), Popper abandoned his previous rejection of the idea that truth is not a particularly relevant goal for science to pursue. He adopted the semantic theory of truth formulated by the logician Alfred Tarski in 1948. According to this theory, the conditions for the truth of a sentence as well as the sentences themselves are part of a metalanguage. So, for example, the sentence "Snow is white" is true if and only if snow is white. Although many philosophers have interpreted, and continue to interpret, Tarski's theory as a deflationary theory, Popper explicitly refers to it as a theory in which "truth" must be replaced with "corresponds to the facts."
He bases this interpretation on the fact that examples such as the one described above refer to two things: assertions and the facts to which they refer. He identifies Tarski's formulation of the truth conditions of sentences as the introduction of a "metalinguistic predicate" and distinguishes the following cases:
1) "John called" is true.2) "It is true that John called."
The first case belongs to the metalanguage whereas the second is more likely to belong to the object language. Hence, "it is true that" possesses the logical status of a redundancy. "Is true", on the other hand, is a predicate necessary for making general observations such as "John was telling the truth about Phillip."
Upon this basis, along with that of the logical content of assertions (where logical content is inversely proportional to probability), Popper went on to develop his important notion of verisimilitude. In words, the intuitive idea behind verisimilitude is that the assertions or hypotheses of scientific theories can be objectively measured with respect to the amount of truth and falsity that they imply. And, in this way, one theory can be evaluated as more or less true than another on a quantitative basis which, Popper emphasizes forcefully, has nothing to do with "subjective probabilities" or other merely "epistemic" considerations.
The simplest mathemical formulation that Popper gives of this concept can be found in the tenth chapter of Conjectures and Refutations.. Here he defines it as:
where Vs(a) is the verisimilitude (or truthlikeness) of a, Ctv(a) is a measure of the content of truth of a, and CTf(a) is a measure of the content of the falsity of a.
Knowledge, for Popper, was objective, both in the sense that it is objectively true (or truthlike), and also in the sense that knowledge has an ontological status (i.e.–knowledge as object) independent of the knowing subject (Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach, 1972). He proposed three worlds (see Popperian cosmology): World One , being the phenomenal world, or the world of direct experience; World Two , being the world of mind, or mental states, ideas, and perceptions; and World Three, being the body of human knowledge expressed in its manifold forms, or the products of the second world made manifest in the materials of the first world (i.e.–books, papers, paintings, symphonies, and all the products of the human mind). World Three, he argued, was the product of individual human beings in exactly the same sense that an animal path is the product of individual animals, and that, as such, has an existence and evolution independent of any individual knowing subjects. The influence of World Three, in his view, on the individual human mind (World Two) is at least as strong as the influence of World One. In other words, the knowledge held by a given individual mind owes at least as much to the total accumulated wealth of human knowledge, made manifest, than to the world of direct experience. As such, the growth of human knowledge could be said to be a function of the independent evolution of World Three. Compare with Memetics. Contemporary philosophers have not embraced Popper's Three World conjecture, due mostly, it seems, to its resemblance to Cartesian dualism.

Political philosophy

In The Open Society and Its Enemies and The Poverty of Historicism, Popper developed a critique of historicism and a defence of the 'Open Society' and liberal democracy. Historicism is the theory that history develops inexorably and necessarily according to knowable general laws towards a determinate end. Popper argued that this view is the principal theoretical presupposition underpinning most forms of authoritarianism and totalitarianism. He argued that historicism is founded upon mistaken assumptions regarding the nature of scientific law and prediction. Since the growth of human knowledge is a causal factor in the evolution of human history, and since "no society can predict, scientifically, its own future states of knowledge", it follows, he argued, that there can be no predictive science of human history. For Popper, metaphysical and historical indeterminism go hand in hand.

Problem of Induction

Among his contributions to philosophy is his answer to David Hume's Problem of Induction. Hume stated that just because the sun has risen every day for as long as anyone can remember, doesn't mean that there is any rational reason to believe it will come up tomorrow. There is no rational way to prove that a pattern will continue on just because it has before.
Popper's reply is characteristic, and ties in with his criterion of falsifiability. He states that while there is no way to prove that the sun will come up, we can theorize that it will. If it does not come up, then it will be disproven, but since right now it seems to be consistent with our theory, the theory is not disproven. Thus, Popper's demarcation between science and non-science serves as an answer to an old logical problem as well. This approach was criticised by Peter Singer for masking the role induction plays in empirical discovery.


By all accounts, Popper has played a vital role in establishing the philosophy of science as a vigorous, autonomous discipline within analytic philosophy, through his own prolific and influential works, and also through his influence on his own contemporaries and students -- chief among them, Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend, two of the foremost philosophers of science in the next generation of analytic philosophy. (Lakatos's work drastically modifies Popper's position, and Feyerabend's repudiates it entirely, but the work of both is deeply influenced by Popper and engaged with many of the problems that Popper set.)
Popper is also widely credited as one of the leading voices in the revolt against the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle in the middle of the 20th century; his revival of Humean skepticism toward induction and his introduction of the principle of falsifiability as an induction-free solution to the puzzle of scientific knowledge, played a major role in the criticism of the view of science that was central to the positivist programme. Popper entitled a chapter of his memoirs "Who Killed Logical Positivism?" — a question which he answered by saying "I fear that I must admit responsibility". Popper may have overstated his own influence somewhat vis-a-vis fellow critics of positivism, such as W.V.O. Quine and Popper's philosophical nemesis Ludwig Wittgenstein.
While there is some dispute as to the matter of influence, Popper had a long standing and close friendship with economist Friedrich Hayek, also from Vienna. Each found support and similarities in each other's work, citing each other often, though not without qualification. In a letter to Hayek in 1944, Popper stated, "I think I have learnt more from you than from any other living thinker, except perhaps Alfred Tarski." (See Hacohen, 2000). Popper dedicated his Conjectures and Refutations to Hayek. For his part, Hayek dedicated a collection of papers, Studies in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, to Popper, and in 1982 said, "...ever since his Logik der Forschung first came out in 1934, I have been a complete adherent to his general theory of methodology." (See Weimer and Palermo, 1982).
Popper's influence, both through his work in philosophy of science and through his political philosophy, has also extended beyond the academy. Among Popper's students and advocates is the multibillionaire investor George Soros, who says his investment strategies are modelled on Popper's understanding of the advancement of knowledge through falsification. Among Soros's philanthropic foundations is the Open Society Institute, a think-tank named in honor of Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies, which Soros founded to advance the Popperian defense of the open society against authoritarianism and totalitarianism.


The Quine-Duhem thesis argues that it's impossible to test a single hypothesis on its own, since each one comes as part of an environment of theories. Thus we can only say that the whole package of relevant theories has been collectively falsified, but cannot conclusively say which element of the package must be replaced. An example of this is given by the discovery of the planet Neptune: when the motion of Uranus was found not to match the predictions of Newton's laws, the theory "There are seven planets in the solar system" was rejected, and not Newton's laws themselves. Popper discussed this critique of naïve falsificationism in Chapters 3 & 4 of The Logic of Scientific Discovery. For Popper, theories are accepted or rejected via a sort of 'natural selection'. Theories that say more about the way things appear are to be preferred over those that do not; the more generally applicable a theory is, the greater its value. Thus Newton’s laws, with their wide general application, are to be preferred over the much more specific “the solar system has seven planets”.
Thomas Kuhn’s influential book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions argued that scientists work in a series of paradigms, and found little evidence of scientists actually following a falsificationist methodology. Popper's student Imre Lakatos attempted to reconcile Kuhn’s work with falsificationism by arguing that science progresses by the falsification of research programs rather than the more specific universal statements of naïve falsificationism. Another of Popper’s students Paul Feyerabend ultimately rejected any prescriptive methodology, and argued that the only universal method characterizing scientific progress was anything goes.
Another objection is that it is not always possible to demonstrate falsehood definitively, especially if one is using statistical criteria to evaluate a null hypothesis. More generally, it is not always clear that if evidence contradicts a hypothesis that this is a sign of flaws in the hypothesis rather than of flaws in the evidence. However, this is a misunderstanding of what Popper's philosophy of science sets out to do. Rather than proffering a set of instructions that merely need to be followed diligently to achieve science, Popper makes clear in the Logic of Scientific Discovery his belief that the resolution of conflicts between hypotheses and observations can only be a matter of the judgement of scientists, in each individual case.
Other critics seek to vindicate the claims of historicism or holism to intellectual respectability, or psychoanalysis or Marxism to scientific status. It has been argued that Popper's student Imre Lakatos transformed Popper's philosophy using historicist and updated Hegelian historiographic ideas.
Charles Taylor accuses Popper of exploiting his fame as an epistemologist to diminish the importance of philosophers of the continental tradition. According to Taylor, Popper's criticisms are completely baseless, but they are received with an attention and respect that Popper's "intrinsic worth hardly merits".
Martin Gardner has criticised Popper for "enormous egotism", and that in his philosophical career he was motivated by an "intense jealousy of Rudolf Carnap".
In 2004 philosopher and psychologist Michel ter Hark (Groningen, The Netherlands) published a book, called Popper, Otto Selz and the rise of evolutionary epistemology, in which he claims that Popper got part of his ideas from his tutor, the German-Jewish psychologist Otto Selz. Selz himself never published his ideas, partly because of the rise of Nazism which ordered him to quit his work in 1933, and the prohibition of referencing to Selz' work.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Russel's logical atomism

Bertrand Russel is an icon of the 20th century. For many people, he represents the best of contemporary British philosophy: Empiricism, realism, agnostism and a "cool" rational liberalism on the world issues. His attacks on the morality of christianity are also famous and he got into troubles for that. Last but not least, as a pacifist, he also defended the duty of defeating Hitler acknowledging that war against the Nazis were a last resort.

Analytic philosophy

Russell is generally recognised as one of the founders of analytic philosophy, even of its several branches. At the beginning of the 20th century, alongside G. E. Moore, Russell was largely responsible for the British "revolt against Idealism", a philosophy greatly influenced by Georg Hegel and his British apostle, F. H. Bradley. This revolt was echoed 30 years later in Vienna by the logical positivists' "revolt against metaphysics". Russell was particularly appalled by the idealist doctrine of internal relations, which held that in order to know any particular thing, we must know all of its relations. Russell showed that this would make space, time, science and the concept of number unintelligible. Russell's logical work with Whitehead continued this project.
Russell and Moore strove to eliminate what they saw as meaningless and incoherent assertions in philosophy, and they sought clarity and precision in argument by the use of exact language and by breaking down philosophical propositions into their simplest components. Russell, in particular, saw logic and science as the principal tools of the philosopher. Indeed, unlike most philosophers who preceded him and his early contemporaries, Russell did not believe there was a separate method for philosophy. He believed that the main task of the philosopher was to illuminate the most general propositions about the world and to eliminate confusion. In particular, he wanted to end what he saw as the excesses of metaphysics. Russell adopted William of Ockham's principle against multiplying unnecessary entities, Occam's Razor, as a central part of the method of analysis. [citation needed]


Russell's epistemology went through many phases. Once he shed neo-Hegelianism in his early years, Russell remained a philosophical realist for the remainder of his life, believing that our direct experiences have primacy in the acquisition of knowledge. While some of his views have lost favour, his influence remains strong in the distinction between two ways in which we can be familiar with objects: "knowledge by acquaintance" and "knowledge by description". For a time, Russell thought that we could only be acquainted with our own sense data—momentary perceptions of colours, sounds, and the like—and that everything else, including the physical objects that these were sense data of, could only be inferred, or reasoned to—i.e. known by description—and not known directly. This distinction has gained much wider application, though Russell eventually rejected the idea of an intermediate sense datum.
In his later philosophy, Russell subscribed to a kind of neutral monism, maintaining that the distinctions between the material and mental worlds, in the final analysis, were arbitrary, and that both can be reduced to a neutral property—a view similar to one held by the American philosopher, William James, and one that was first formulated by Baruch Spinoza, whom Russell greatly admired. Instead of James' "pure experience", however, Russell characterised the stuff of our initial states of perception as "events", a stance which is curiously akin to his old teacher Whitehead's process philosophy.


While Russell wrote a great deal on ethical subject matters, he did not believe that the subject belonged to philosophy or that when he wrote on ethics that he did so in his capacity as a philosopher. In his earlier years, Russell was greatly influenced by G.E. Moore's Principia Ethica. Along with Moore, he then believed that moral facts were objective, but only known through intuition, and that they were simple properties of objects, not equivalent (e.g., pleasure is good) to the natural objects to which they are often ascribed (see Naturalistic fallacy), and that these simple, undefinable moral properties cannot be analyzed using the non-moral properties with which they are associated. In time, however, he came to agree with his philosophical hero, David Hume, who believed that ethical terms dealt with subjective values that cannot be verified in the same way that matters of fact are. Coupled with Russell's other doctrines, this influenced the logical positivists, who formulated the theory of emotivism, which states that ethical propositions (along with those of metaphysics) were essentially meaningless and nonsensical or, at best, little more than expressions of attitudes and preferences. Notwithstanding his influence on them, Russell himself did not construe ethical propositions as narrowly as the positivists, for he believed that ethical considerations are not only meaningful, but that they are a vital subject matter for civil discourse. Indeed, though Russell was often characterised as the patron saint of rationality, he agreed with Hume, who said that reason ought to be subordinate to ethical considerations.
Russell wrote some books about practical ethical issues such as marriage. His opinions on this field are liberal. He argues that sexual relationships outside of marriages are acceptable. In his book, Human Society in Ethics and Politics (1954), he advocates in favor of the view that we should see moral issues from the point of view of the desires of individuals. Individuals are allowed to do what they desire, as long as there are no conflicting desires among different individuals. Desires are not bad, in and of themselves, but on occasion, their potential or actual consequences are. Russell also writes that punishment is important only in an instrumental sense. Thus we should not punish someone solely for the sake of punishment.

Logical atomism

Perhaps Russell's most systematic, metaphysical treatment of philosophical analysis and his empiricist-centric logicism is evident in what he called Logical atomism, which is explicated in a set of lectures, "The Philosophy of Logical Atomism," which he gave in 1918. In these lectures, Russell sets forth his concept of an ideal, isomorphic language, one that would mirror the world, whereby our knowledge can be reduced to terms of atomic propositions and their truth-functional compounds. Logical atomism is a form of radical empiricism, for Russell believed the most important requirement for such an ideal language is that every meaningful proposition must consist of terms referring directly to the objects with which we are acquainted, or that they are defined by other terms referring to objects with which we are acquainted. Russell excluded certain formal, logical terms such as all, the, is, and so forth, from his isomorphic requirement, but he was never entirely satisfied about our understanding of such terms. One of the central themes of Russell's atomism is that the world consists of logically independent facts, a plurality of facts, and that our knowledge depends on the data of our direct experience of them. In his later life, Russell came to doubt aspects of logical atomism, especially his principle of isomorphism, though he continued to believe that the process of philosophy ought to consist of breaking things down into their simplest components, even though we might not ever fully arrive at an ultimate atomic fact.

Logic and philosophy of mathematics

Russell had great influence on modern mathematical logic. The American philosopher and logician Willard Quine said Russell's work represented the greatest influence on his own work.
Russell's first mathematical book, An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry, was published in 1897. This work was heavily influenced by Immanuel Kant. Russell soon realised that the conception it laid out would have made Albert Einstein's schema of space-time impossible, which he understood to be superior to his own system. Thenceforth, he rejected the entire Kantian program as it related to mathematics and geometry, and he maintained that his own earliest work on the subject was nearly without value.
Interested in the definition of number, Russell studied the work of George Boole, Georg Cantor, and Augustus De Morgan, while materials in the Bertrand Russell Archives at McMaster University include notes of his reading in algebraic logic by Charles S. Peirce and Ernst Schröder. He became convinced that the foundations of mathematics were tied to logic, and following Gottlob Frege took an extensionalist approach in which logic was in turn based upon set theory. In 1900 he attended the first International Congress of Philosophy in Paris where he became familiar with the work of the Italian mathematician, Giuseppe Peano. He mastered Peano's new symbolism and his set of axioms for arithmetic. Peano was able to define logically all of the terms of these axioms with the exception of 0, number, successor, and the singular term, the. Russell took it upon himself to find logical definitions for each of these. Between 1897 and 1903 he published several articles applying Peano's notation to the classical Boole-Schröder algebra of relations, among them On the Notion of Order, Sur la logique des relations avec les applications à la théorie des séries, and On Cardinal Numbers.
Russell eventually discovered that Gottlob Frege had independently arrived at equivalent definitions for 0, successor, and number, and the definition of number is now usually referred to as the Frege-Russell definition. It was largely Russell who brought Frege to the attention of the English-speaking world. He did this in 1903, when he published The Principles of Mathematics, in which the concept of class is inextricably tied to the definition of number. The appendix to this work detailed a paradox arising in Frege's application of second- and higher-order functions which took first-order functions as their arguments, and he offered his first effort to resolve what would henceforth come to be known as the Russell Paradox. In writing Principles, Russell came across Cantor's proof that there was no greatest cardinal number, which Russell believed was mistaken. The Cantor Paradox in turn was shown (for example by Crossley) to be a special case of the Russell Paradox. This caused Russell to analyze classes, for it was known that given any number of elements, the number of classes they result in is greater than their number. In turn, this led to the discovery of a very interesting class, namely, the class of all classes, which consists of two kinds of classes: classes that are members of themselves, and classes that are not members of themselves, which led him to find that the so-called principle of extensionality, taken for granted by logicians of the time, was fatally flawed, and that it resulted in a contradiction, whereby Y is a member of Y, if and only if, Y is not a member of Y. This has become known as Russell's paradox, the solution to which he outlined in an appendix to Principles, and which he later developed into a complete theory, the Theory of types. Aside from exposing a major inconsistency in naive set theory, Russell's work led directly to the creation of modern axiomatic set theory. It also crippled Frege's project of reducing arithmetic to logic. The Theory of Types and much of Russell's subsequent work have also found practical applications with computer science and information technology.
Russell continued to defend logicism, the view that mathematics is in some important sense reducible to logic, and along with his former teacher, Alfred North Whitehead, wrote the monumental Principia Mathematica, an axiomatic system on which all of mathematics can be built. The first volume of the Principia was published in 1910, which is largely ascribed to Russell. More than any other single work, it established the specialty of mathematical or symbolic logic. Two more volumes were published, but their original plan to incorporate geometry in a fourth volume was never realised, and Russell never felt up to improving the original works, though he referenced new developments and problems in his preface to the second edition. Upon completing the Principia, three volumes of extraordinarily abstract and complex reasoning, Russell was exhausted, and he never felt his intellectual faculties fully recovered from the effort. Although the Principia did not fall prey to the paradoxes in Frege's approach, it was later proven by Kurt Gödel that neither Principia Mathematica, nor any other consistent system of primitive recursive arithmetic, could, within that system, determine that every proposition that could be formulated within that system was decidable, i.e. could decide whether that proposition or its negation was provable within the system (Gödel's incompleteness theorem).
Russell's last significant work in mathematics and logic, Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, was written by hand while he was in jail for his anti-war activities during World War I. This was largely an explication of his previous work and its philosophical significance.

Philosophy of language

Russell was not the first philosopher to suggest that language had an important bearing on how we understand the world; however, more than anyone before him, Russell made language, or more specifically, how we use language, a central part of philosophy. Had there been no Russell, it seems unlikely that philosophers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gilbert Ryle, J. L. Austin, and P. F. Strawson, among others, would have embarked upon the same course, for so much of what they did was to amplify or respond, sometimes critically, to what Russell had said before them, using many of the techniques that he originally developed. Russell, along with Moore, shared the idea that clarity of expression is a virtue, a notion that has been a touchstone for philosophers ever since, particularly among those who deal with the philosophy of language.
Perhaps Russell's most significant contribution to philosophy of language is his theory of descriptions, as presented in his seminal essay, "On Denoting", first published in 1905, which the mathematician and philosopher Frank P. Ramsey described as "a paradigm of philosophy." The theory is normally illustrated using the phrase "the present King of France", as in "The present king of France is bald." What object is this proposition about, given that there is not, at present, a king of France? (Roughly the same problem would arise if there were two kings of France at present: which of them does "the king of France" denote?) Alexius Meinong had suggested that we must posit a realm of "nonexistent entities" that we can suppose we are referring to when we use expressions such as this; but this would be a strange theory, to say the least. Frege, employing his distinction between sense and reference, suggested that such sentences, although meaningful, were neither true nor false. But some such propositions, such as "If the present king of France is bald, then the present king of France has no hair on his head," seem not only truth-valuable but indeed obviously true.
The problem is general to what are called "definite descriptions." Normally this includes all terms beginning with "the", and sometimes includes names, like "Walter Scott." (This point is quite contentious: Russell sometimes thought that the latter terms shouldn't be called names at all, but only "disguised definite descriptions," but much subsequent work has treated them as altogether different things.) What is the "logical form" of definite descriptions: how, in Frege's terms, could we paraphrase them in order to show how the truth of the whole depends on the truths of the parts? Definite descriptions appear to be like names that by their very nature denote exactly one thing, neither more or less. What, then, are we to say about the proposition as a whole if one of its parts apparently isn't functioning correctly?
Russell's solution was, first of all, to analyze not the term alone but the entire proposition that contained a definite description. "The present king of France is bald," he then suggested, can be reworded to "There is an x such that x is a present king of France, nothing other than x is a present king of France, and x is bald." Russell claimed that each definite description in fact contains a claim of existence and a claim of uniqueness which give this appearance, but these can be broken apart and treated separately from the predication that is the obvious content of the proposition. The proposition as a whole then says three things about some object: the definite description contains two of them, and the rest of the sentence contains the other. If the object does not exist, or if it is not unique, then the whole sentence turns out to be false, not meaningless.
One of the major complaints against Russell's theory, due originally to Strawson, is that definite descriptions do not claim that their object exists, they merely presuppose that it does. Strawson also claims that a denoting phrase that does not, in fact, denote anything could be supposed to follow the role of a "Widgy's inverted truth-value" and expresses the opposite meaning of the intended phrase. This can be shown using the example of "The present king of France is bald". Taken with the inverted truth-value methodology the meaning of this sentence becomes "It is true that there is no present king of France who is bald" which changes the denotation of 'the present king of France' from a primary denotation to a secondary one.
Wittgenstein, Russell's student, later achieved considerable prominence in the philosophy of language. Russell thought Wittgenstein's elevation of language as the only reality with which philosophy need be concerned was absurd, and he decried his influence and the influence of his followers, especially members of the so-called "Oxford school" of ordinary language philosophy, who he believed were promoting a kind of mysticism. Russell's belief that there is more to philosophy and knowing the world than simply understanding how we use language has regained prominence in philosophy and eclipsed Wittgenstein's language-centric views.

Philosophy of science

Russell frequently claimed that he was more convinced of his method of doing philosophy, the method of analysis, than of his philosophical conclusions. Science, of course, was one of the principal components of analysis, along with logic and mathematics. While Russell was a believer in the scientific method, knowledge derived from empirical research that is verified through repeated testing, he believed that science reaches only tentative answers, and that scientific progress is piecemeal, and attempts to find organic unities were largely futile. Indeed, he believed the same was true of philosophy. Another founder of modern philosophy of science, Ernst Mach, placed less reliance on method, per se, for he believed that any method that produced predictable results was satisfactory and that the principal role of the scientist was to make successful predictions. While Russell would doubtless agree with this as a practical matter, he believed that the ultimate objective of both science and philosophy was to understand reality, not simply to make predictions.
The fact that Russell made science a central part of his method and of philosophy was instrumental in making the philosophy of science a full-blooded, separate branch of philosophy and an area in which subsequent philosophers specialised. Much of Russell's thinking about science is exposed in his 1914 book, Our Knowledge of the External World as a Field for Scientific Method in Philosophy. Among the several schools that were influenced by Russell were the logical positivists, particularly Rudolph Carnap, who maintained that the distinguishing feature of scientific propositions was their verifiability. This contrasted with the theory of Karl Popper, also greatly influenced by Russell, who believed that their importance rested in the fact that they were potentially falsifiable.
It is worth noting that outside of his strictly philosophical pursuits, Russell was always fascinated by science, particularly physics, and he even authored several popular science books, The ABC of Atoms (1923) and The ABC of Relativity (1925).

Religion and theology

Russell's ethical outlook and his personal courage in facing controversies were certainly informed by his religious upbringing, principally by his paternal grandmother, who instructed him with the Biblical injunction, "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil" (Exodus 23:2), something he said influenced him throughout his life.
For most of his adult life, however, Russell thought it very unlikely that there was a god, and he maintained that religion is little more than superstition and, despite any positive effects that religion might have, it is largely harmful to people. He believed religion and the religious outlook (he considered communism and other systematic ideologies to be species of religion) serve to impede knowledge, foster fear and dependency, and are responsible for much of the war, oppression, and misery that have beset the world.
In his 1949 speech, "Am I an Atheist or an Agnostic?", Russell expressed his difficulty over whether to call himself an atheist or an agnostic:
As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.
— Bertrand Russell, Collected Papers, vol. 11, p. 91
Russell also made an influential analysis of the omphalos hypothesis enunciated by Philip Henry Gosse—that any argument suggesting that the world was created as if it were already in motion could just as easily make it a few minutes old as a few thousand years:
There is no logical impossibility in the hypothesis that the world sprang into being five minutes ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that "remembered" a wholly unreal past. There is no logically necessary connection between events at different times; therefore nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can disprove the hypothesis that the world began five minutes ago.
— Bertrand Russell, The Analysis of Mind, 1921, pp. 159–60; cf. Philosophy, Norton, 1927, p. 7, where Russell acknowledges Gosse's paternity of this anti-evolutionary argument.
As a young man, Russell had a decidedly religious bent, himself, as is evident in his early Platonism. He longed for eternal truths, as he makes clear in his famous essay, "A Free Man's Worship", widely regarded as a masterpiece in prose, but one that Russell came to dislike. While he rejected the supernatural, he freely admitted that he yearned for a deeper meaning to life.
Russell's views on religion can be found in his popular book, Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (ISBN 0671203231), whose title essay was a talk given March 6, 1927 at Battersea Town Hall, under the auspices of the South London Branch of the National Secular Society, UK. The speech was published later that year as a pamphlet, which, along with other essays, was eventually published as a book. In the book, Russell considers a number of logical arguments for the existence of God, including the first cause argument, the natural-law argument, the argument from design, and moral arguments. He also goes into specifics about Christian theology.
His final conclusion:
Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. ... A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.
— Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects

Influence on philosophy

It would be difficult to overstate Russell's influence on modern philosophy, especially in the English-speaking world. While others were also influential, notably, Frege, Moore, and Wittgenstein, more than any other person, Russell made analysis the dominant approach to philosophy. Moreover, he is the founder or, at the very least, the prime mover of its major branches and themes, including several versions of the philosophy of language, formal logical analysis, and the philosophy of science. The various analytic movements throughout the last century all owe something to Russell's earlier works.
Russell's influence on individual philosophers is singular, and perhaps most notably in the case of Ludwig Wittgenstein, who was his student between 1911 and 1914. It should also be observed that Wittgenstein exerted considerable influence on Russell, especially in leading him to conclude, much to his regret, that mathematical truths were trivial, tautological truths. Evidence of Russell's influence on Wittgenstein can be seen throughout the Tractatus, which Russell was responsible for having published. Russell also helped to secure Wittgenstein's doctorate and a faculty position at Cambridge, along with several fellowships along the way. However, as previously stated, he came to disagree with Wittgenstein's later linguistic and analytic approach to philosophy, while Wittgenstein came to think of Russell as "superficial and glib," particularly in his popular writings. Russell's influence is also evident in the work of A. J. Ayer, Rudolph Carnap, Kurt Gödel, Karl Popper, W. V. Quine, and a number of other philosophers and logicians.
Some see Russell's influence as mostly negative, primarily those who have been critical of Russell's emphasis on science and logic, the consequent diminishment of metaphysics, and of his insistence that ethics lies outside of philosophy. Russell's admirers and detractors are often more acquainted with his pronouncements on social and political matters, or what some (e.g., Ray Monk) have called his "journalism," than they are with his technical, philosophical work. Among non-philosophers, there is a marked tendency to conflate these matters, and to judge Russell the philosopher on what he himself would certainly consider to be his non-philosophical opinions. Russell often cautioned people to make this distinction.
Russell left a large assortment of writing. Since adolescence, Russell wrote about 3,000 words a day, in long hand, with relatively few corrections; his first draft nearly always was his last draft, even on the most complex, technical matters. His previously unpublished work is an immense treasure trove, and scholars are continuing to gain new insights into Russell's thought.

Russell's activism

Political and social activism occupied much of Russell's time for most of his long life, which makes his prodigious and seminal writing on a wide range of technical and non-technical subjects all the more remarkable.
Russell remained politically active to the end, writing and exhorting world leaders and lending his name to various causes. Some maintain that during his last few years he gave his youthful followers too much license and that they used his name for some outlandish purposes that a more attentive Russell would not have approved. There is evidence to show that he became aware of this when he fired his private secretary, Ralph Schoenman, then a young firebrand of the radical left.

Pacifism, war and nuclear weapons

While never a complete pacifist (in 'The Ethics of War', an article published in 1915, Russell stated that colonial wars were legitimate where the side with the stronger culture could put the land to better use), Russell opposed British participation in World War I. As a result, he was first fined, then lost his professorship at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was later imprisoned for six months. In 1943 Russell called his stance "relative political pacifism"—he held that war was always a great evil, but in some particularly extreme circumstances (such as when Adolf Hitler threatened to take over Europe) it might be a lesser of multiple evils. In the years leading to World War II, he supported the policy of appeasement; but by 1940 he acknowledged that in order to preserve democracy, Hitler had to be defeated.
Russell was a prominent opponent of nuclear weapons. On November 20, 1948, in a public speech at Westminster School, addressing a gathering arranged by the New Commonwealth, Russell shocked some observers by suggesting that a preemptive nuclear strike on the Soviet Union was justified. Russell argued that the threat of war between the United States and the Soviet Union would enable the United States to force the Soviet Union to accept the Baruch Plan for international atomic energy control. (Earlier in the year he had written in the same vein to Walter W. Marseille.) Russell felt this plan "had very great merits and showed considerable generosity, when it is remembered that America still had an unbroken nuclear monopoly." (Has Man a Future?, 1961). Russell later relented from this stance, instead arguing for mutual disarmament by the nuclear powers, possibly linked to some form of world government.
In 1955 Russell released the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, co-signed by Albert Einstein and nine other leading scientists and intellectuals, which led to the first of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs in 1957. In 1958, Russell became the first president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He resigned two years later when the CND would not support civil disobedience, and formed the Committee of 100. In 1961, when he was in his late eighties, he was imprisoned for a week for inciting civil disobedience, in connection with protests at the Ministry of Defence and Hyde Park.
Russell made a cameo appearance playing himself in the anti-war Bollywood film "Aman" which was released in India in 1967. This was Russell's only appearance in a feature film.
The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation began work in 1963, in order to carry forward Russell's work for peace, human rights and social justice. He opposed the Vietnam War and, along with Jean-Paul Sartre, he organised a tribunal intended to expose U.S. war crimes; this came to be known as the Russell Tribunal.
Russell was an early critic of the official story in the John F. Kennedy assassination; his "16 Questions on the Assassination" from 1964 is still considered a good summary of the apparent inconsistencies in that case.

Communism and socialism

Russell visited the Soviet Union and met Lenin in 1920, and on his return wrote a critical tract, The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism. He was unimpressed with the result of the communist revolution, and said he was "infinitely unhappy in this atmosphere—stifled by its utilitarianism, its indifference to love and beauty and the life of impulse." He believed Lenin to be similar to a religious zealot, cold and possessed of "no love of liberty."
Politically, Russell envisioned a kind of benevolent, democratic socialism, not unlike the conception promoted by the Fabian Society. He was extremely critical of the totalitarianism exhibited by Stalin's regime, and of Marxism and communism generally. Russell was an enthusiast for world government, and advocated the establishment of an international or world government in some of the essays collected in In Praise of Idleness (1935), and also in Has Man a Future? (1961).
One who believes as I do, that free intellect is the chief engine of human progress, cannot but be fundamentally opposed to Bolshevism as much as to the Church of Rome. The hopes which inspire communism are, in the main, as admirable as those instilled by the Sermon on the Mount, but they are held as fanatically and are as likely to do as much harm.
— Bertrand Russell, The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism, 1920
For my part, while I am as convinced a Socialist as the most ardent Marxian, I do not regard Socialism as a gospel of proletarian revenge, nor even, primarily, as a means of securing economic justice. I regard it primarily as an adjustment to machine production demanded by considerations of common sense, and calculated to increase the happiness, not only of proletarians, but of all except a tiny minority of the human race.
— Bertrand Russell, "The Case for Socialism" (In Praise of Idleness, 1935)
Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for the others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish for ever.
— Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness, 1935

Women's suffrage

As a young man, Russell was a member of the Liberal Party and wrote in favor of free trade and women's suffrage. In his 1910 pamphlet, Anti-Suffragist Anxieties, Russell wrote that some men opposed suffrage because they "fear that their liberty to act in ways that are injurious to women will be curtailed." In 1907 he was nominated by the National Union of Suffrage Societies to run for Parliament in a by-election, which he lost by a wide margin.


Russell wrote against Victorian notions of morality. Marriage and Morals (1929) expressed his opinion that sex between a man and woman who are not married to each other is not necessarily immoral if they truly love one another, and advocated "trial marriages" or "companionate marriage", formalised relationships whereby young people could legitimately have sexual intercourse without being expected to remain married in the long term or to have children (an idea first proposed by Judge Ben Lindsey). This might not seem extreme by today's standards, but it was enough to raise vigorous protests and denunciations against him during his visit to the United States shortly after the book's publication. Russell was also ahead of his time in advocating open sex education and widespread access to contraception. He also advocated easy divorce, but only if the marriage had produced no children - Russell's view was that parents should remain married but tolerant of each other's sexual infidelity, if they had children. This reflected his life at the time - his second wife Dora was openly having an affair, and would soon become pregnant by another man, but Russell was keen for their children John and Kate to have a "normal" family life.
Russell's private life was even more unconventional and freewheeling than his published writings revealed, but that was not well known at the time. For example, philosopher Sidney Hook reports that Russell often spoke of his sexual prowess and of his various conquests.

Eugenics and race

Some critics of Russell have pointed out racist passages in his early writings, as well as his initial praise for the then-fashionable idea of eugenics. For example, in early editions of his book Marriage and Morals (1929) he asserted:
In extreme cases there can be little doubt of the superiority of one race to another.... It seems on the whole fair to regard negroes as on the average inferior to white men, although for work in the tropics they are indispensable, so that their extermination (apart from questions of humanity) would be highly undesirable.
— Bertrand Russell, Marriage and Morals (1929)
Later in his life, Russell criticized eugenic programs for their vulnerability to corruption, and by 1932 he was to condemn the "unwarranted assumption" that "Negroes are congenitally inferior to white men" (Education and the Social Order, Chap. 3). Racism rapidly declined in acceptance throughout the second half of the 20th century. In fact, Russell seems to have been one of the leaders of change in this sphere. He wrote a chapter on "Racial Antagonism" in New Hopes for a Changing World (1951):
It is sometimes maintained that racial mixture is biologically undesirable. There is no evidence whatever for this view. Nor is there, apparently, any reason to think that Negroes are congenitally less intelligent than white people, but as to that it will be difficult to judge until they have equal scope and equally good social conditions.
— Bertrand Russell, New Hopes for a Changing World (London: Allen & Unwin, 1951, p. 108)
There is a much later condemnation-in-passing of racism in Russell's "16 Questions on the Assassination" (1964), in which he mentions "Senator Russell of Georgia and Congressman Boggs of Louisiana ... whose racist views have brought shame on the United States".

Russell summing up his life
Admitting to failure in helping the world to conquer war and in winning his perpetual intellectual battle for eternal truths, Russell wrote this in "Reflections on My Eightieth Birthday", which also served as the last entry in the last volume of his autobiography, published in his 98th year:
I have lived in the pursuit of a vision, both personal and social. Personal: to care for what is noble, for what is beautiful, for what is gentle; to allow moments of insight to give wisdom at more mundane times. Social: to see in imagination the society that is to be created, where individuals grow freely, and where hate and greed and envy die because there is nothing to nourish them. These things I believe, and the world, for all its horrors, has left me unshaken.
— Bertrand Russell, "Reflections on My Eightieth Birthday"

Comments about Russell

As a man
"Bertrand Russell would not have wished to be called a saint of any description; but he was a great and good man."
— A.J. Ayer, Bertrand Russell, NY: Viking Press, 1972.

As a philosopher
"It is difficult to overstate the extent to which Russell's thought dominated twentieth century analytic philosophy: virtually every strand in its development either originated with him or was transformed by being transmitted through him. Analytic philosophy itself owes its existence more to Russell than to any other philosopher."
— Nicholas Griffin, The Cambridge Companion to Bertrand Russell, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

As a writer and his place in history
"Russell's prose has been compared by T.S. Eliot to that of David Hume's. I would rank it higher, for it had more color, juice, and humor. But to be lucid, exciting and profound in the main body of one's work is a combination of virtues given to few philosophers. Bertrand Russell has achieved immortality by his philosophical writings."
— Sidney Hook, Out of Step, An Unquiet Life in the 20th Century, NY: Carol & Graff, 1988.
"Russell's books should be bound in two colours, those dealing with mathematical logic in red—and all students of philosophy should read them; those dealing with ethics and politics in blue—and no one should be allowed to read them."
— Rush Rhees, Recollections of Wittgenstein, Oxford Paperbacks, 1984.

As a mathematician and logician
Of the Principia: "...its enduring value was simply a deeper understanding of the central concepts of mathematics and their basic laws and interrelationships. Their total translatability into just elementary logic and a simple familiar two-place predicate, membership, is of itself a philosophical sensation."
— W.V. Quine, From Stimulus to Science, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995.

As an activist
"Oh, Bertrand Russell! Oh, Hewlett Johnson! Where, oh where, was your flaming conscience at that time?"
— Alexandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Harper & Row, 1974.

As a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature
In other words, it was specifically not for his incontestably great contributions to philosophy—The Principles of Mathematics, 'On Denoting' and Principia Mathematica—that he was being honoured, but for the later work that his fellow philosophers were unanimous in regarding as inferior.
— Ray Monk, Bertrand Russell, The Ghost of Madness, p. 332.

From a daughter
"He was the most fascinating man I have ever known, the only man I ever loved, the greatest man I shall ever meet, the wittiest, the gayest, the most charming. It was a privilege to know him, and I thank God he was my father."
— Katharine Tait, My Father Bertrand Russell, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975, p. 202.

"War does not determine who is right. Only who is left." (Times Newspaper Interview 1947)
"The secret of happiness is to face the fact that the world is horrible, horrible, horrible." (Source: Alan Wood, Bertrand Russell, the Passionate Sceptic, 1957)
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." [citation needed]
"You could tell by his [Aldous Huxley] conversation which volume of the Encyclopaedia Britannica he'd been reading. One day it would be Alps, Andes and Apennines, and the next it would be the Himalayas and the Hippocratic Oath." (Source: Parris, M., Scorn: With Added Vitriol, London: Penguin, 1996, quoting Russell's 1963 letter to Ronald W. Clark)
"A Tale of Two Moralities" "I dislike Nietzsche," Russell wrote, "because he likes the contemplation of pain, because he erects conceit into a duty, because the men whom he most admires are conquerors, whose glory is cleverness in causing men to die." (Source: History of Western Philosophy, chap. on Nietzsche, last par.)