Notes On Attention Paid

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Bertrand Russell, The Analysis of Matter, Chapter 1, The Nature of the Problem

… Russell describes and illustrates the idea that:

The logical analysis of a deductive system is not such a definite and limited undertaking as it appears at first sight. This is due to the circumstances just mentioned—namely, that what we took at first as primitive entities may be replaced by complicated logical structures. As this circumstance has an important bearing on the philosophy of physics, it will be worthwhile to illustrate its effect by examples from other fields.1

… that a philosophy of physics would depend on a mathematical system of logic is intriguing to me… one reasons their way to an understanding of the nature of physical structures through a series of logical operations…

… the process of connecting arithmetic to logic, that is, of replacing constants in a progression with variables that represent the terms of the progression, is held to be similar in some ways, but different in others, to the process of connecting physics with perception…

… interpretation is held to be the determination of a set of objects to substitute for hypothetical undefined objects which is much more important than any of the other sets of objects that might be available… Russell claims this process is essential in discovering the philosophical import of physics.2

… he continues to illustrate with the case of geometry which may be interpreted through a set of real number coordinates, but that the important interpretation is that Geometry is part of applied mathematics and consequently, part of physics. Said another way, geometry can be directly applied to the description of the disposition of objects in space time (?)…

… the vital problem:

the application of Physics to the empirical world. … although physics can be pursued as pure mathematics, it is not as pure mathematics that physics is important.3

… the laws of physics are held to be true if they correspond with empirical evidence… that is, the laws of physics are tied to perception of one kind or another… the world of physics must be, in some sense, continuous with the world of our perceptions, since it is the latter which supplies the evidence for the laws of physics.4

… the modern problem of physics is that the world of physics is very different from the world of perception and it becomes difficult to accept the evidence acquired through perception as supportive of its laws… the accuracy of perception itself gives cause for concern about a system built upon its supply of evidence… Descarte and Berkley are mentioned as illuminating and making explicit this problem… Whitehead is mentioned as leading the way in a new interpretation of physics which brings matter into closer communion with perception…

The evidence for the truth of physics is that perceptions occur as the laws of physics would lead us to expect—e.g. we see an eclipse when the astronomers say there will be an eclipse. But physics itself never says anything about perceptions; it does not say that we shall see an eclipse, but says something about the sun and the moon. The passage from what physics asserts to the expected perception is left vague and casual; it has none of the mathematical precision belonging to physics itself. We must therefore find an interpretation of physics which gives a due place to perception; if not, we have no right to appeal to the empirical evidence.5

… this already appears to establish the direction that perception (consciousness) is a fundamental quality of the universe… or, at the very least, that the physical universe is intimately entwined with perception…

I believe that matter is less material, and mind less mental, than is commonly supposed…6

… and ultimately, that the two are not distinctly separate entities…

… it is noted that Hume questions the validity of scientific method but that his questions will not be addressed in the book, and scientific method properly pursued will be accepted as valid…

… the grounds for the truth of physics is addressed from the point of view of the solipsist (nothing can be held to exist beyond the self) and the non-solipsist who, none the less, believes that all that is real is mental… the latter point of view is favored over the former for the breadth of sense in which physics can be held to be true.

Given physics as a deductive system, derived from certain hypotheses as to undefined terms, do there exist particulars, or logical structures composed of particulars, which satisfy these hypotheses? If the answer is in the affirmative, then physics is completely true.7

… Russell proposes to bring physics and psychology (perception) together… the demonstration that mind matter separation metaphysically indefensible is a significant purpose of the book…

… end of chapter 1…


  1. Russell, The Analysis of Matter, p 4 [return]
  2. Ibid, p 5 [return]
  3. Ibid, p 6 [return]
  4. Ibid, p 6 [return]
  5. Ibid, p 7 [return]
  6. Ibid, p 7 [return]
  7. Ibid, p 8-9 [return]