Authority and the Individual (Routledge Classics) by Bertrand Russell

By Bertrand Russell

From historical Greek philosophy to the French Revolution to the trendy welfare country, in Authority and the Individual Bertrand Russell tackles the perennial questions about the stability among authority and human freedom. With attribute readability and deep figuring out, he explores the formation and function of society, schooling, ethical evolution and social, cost-effective and highbrow growth. First of the famous BBC Reith lectures, this excellent assortment offers Russell at his highbrow best.

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Expectation precedes observation: Without waiting, passively, for repetitions to impress or impose regularities upon us, we actively try to impose regularities upon the world. We try to discover similarities in it, and to interpret in terms of laws invented by us. Without waiting for premises we jump to conclusions. These may have to be discarded later, should observations show that they are wrong. (CR, 46) The pursuit of knowledge about our world always begins with hypotheses, expectations, theories, or guesses, and we learn only when we put them to the test.

However, Popper’s view of social institutions solely as barriers is inadequate. Social institutions—along with other World 3 entities, such as scientific and artistic theories—may enable as well as constrain human action. A subsidiary goal of this chapter was to make a contribution, however small, to the understanding of Popper’s overall philosophy, including his views on natural science and metaphysics. At the very least, I hope to have made clear exactly why Popper should not be considered a positivist, given his opposition to positivist doctrines of verificationism, naïve empiricism, and antimetaphysics.

Popper reached this new stance by characterizing universal laws as conjectures about the “structural propert[ies] of our world” (LScD, 432). As such, he says, a universal hypothesis “asserts the truth of the statement that A causes B, provided that the universal hypothesis is true” (OSE II, 363; my emphasis). In other words, if the proposed law is true (something that we can never know for certain), then it entails certain naturally or physically necessary consequences. So in Popper’s revised version of covering-law explanations, causality seems to reside ontologically in conjectural universal laws, while logical causality is located in the deductive structure of a particular explanation.

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