Bertrand Russell, The Analysis of Matter, Part I, The Logical Analysis of Physics, Chapter II, Pre Relativity Physics

… i am feeling up to the challenge… we will see how it goes…

  • starting with some words on Newtonian physics, because, modern day physics amends rather than replaces Newtonian physics…1
    • Russel says of the world described by Newton in Principia: nature is convenient for the mathematician2… not so for modern physics…
  • Newtonian physics describes a world situated in absolute space and absolute time, posits that particles are eternal and reduces the interaction of particles to force, mass and acceleration…
  • there are epistemological questions that haunt Newtonian physics which are less problematic for relativity, though not entirely unproblematic… 3
  • epistemological: relating to the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion: what epistemological foundation is there for such an artificial discrimination?
  • absolute space, absolute time, is the most significant epistemic question… it would subsequently be proved that these are not necessary…
  • reasons for rejecting absolute space and time:
    • everything we observe concerns only the relative position position of bodies and events… Russell believes this argument has no force… he argues there is no logical reason that we can’t infer things to exist that are not directly evident… he further argues that the science of physics collapses if we are not able to infer…
    • points and instants are not a required hypothesis and Occam’s razor requires we dispense with them (Russell believes this argument is false as far as Newtonian mechanics is concerned, but not for Relativity)

  1. i am reminded of my idea that thinking of the world is flat was an accurate assessment of the situation if the extent of your travels was less than 25 miles from “home” during an entire lifetime… as we travel greater distances, weather physically or virtually, we encounter facts, such as roundness of the planet, that have to be accounted for… similarly, as our capacity to measure refines, our theories about how the world is made have to refine too [return]
  2. Bertrand Russel, The Analysis of Matter, p 13 [return]
  3. i am wondering if he is foreshadowing the difficulty of finding a starting place for consciousness and the idea that consciousness must be a fundamental quality… [return]

Bertrand Russell, The Analysis of Matter

… as indicated yesterday, having finished the first chapter in the book, i am using what time i have through Saturday to review and/or deepen my understanding of concepts and definitions…

… i just finished a wikipedia entry discussing the philosophical definition of a “proposition”… i learn that in logic and linguistics, a proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence… and that in philosophy, meaning is a non-linguistic entity shared by all sentences with the same meaning…why do we need logic?

… i move on to a definition and discussion of propositional calculus in Wikipedia, which has me jumping to a definition of first-order logic, or logic that uses quantified variables rather than non-logical objects and sentences that contain variables… there exists x such that x is Socrates and x is a man1

… higher-order logic and second-order logic encountered while reading about first-order logic, so i get interested in logic in general, which is defined as: an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning.2

Bertrand Russell, The Analysis of Matter

… i am thinking my plan for reading and understanding the book should be to read and understand as thoroughly as possible one chapter per week… i have completed the reading of chapter 1, i will start the next chapter this Sunday… i will re-read and follow up on threads and individuals introduced as seems compelling to do in the interim… there are 38 chapters, so it will take almost a year, but in the process, i hope to learn a lot… this also makes time for other reading and pursuits…

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]

First Thoughts

HCR meeter pointing slightly up…

  • full FDA approval of Pfizer COVID19 vaccine… the stock market rallied in anticipation of more shots in arms as the vaccine hesitant come forward to get them and as local and federal governments and corporations begin to mandate vaccination…
  • Florida rates of COVID19 are accelerating, hospitalizations and deaths have surpassed previous highest levels, Governor DeSantis doubles down on executive orders that there be no mask and vaccine mandates… large school districts ignoring him… i travel to Florida in a little less than two weeks…
  • evacuation of Americans and Afghans proceeding smoothly and unmolested… Pentagon says they can be finished by end of month, president suggests he might extend to Sep 11 if necessary, Taliban suggests they might not be tolerant of that…

… diner with friends last night… managed to avoid having too much wine… delicious dinner of African mint sausage and grapes, with a side of puréed celery root… celery root was especially delicious… felt the sausage was a little overcooked, dried out… company was great…

… Chas began whining at 3 AM… just my luck on a morning i want to sleep in a little…

… today begins back stair reconstruction… going to be hot next few days, but no rain predicted… demolition of existing stairs today… take stock of existing conditions and make final decisions of how to proceed… hopefully i have the right materials in place… if not, i will have to get untreated lumber as i won’t have time to let it dry out at all…

… as i get more organized about my reading, i wonder about organizing it to the point that i might start writing organized and thoroughly edited posts on the rabbit holes i am exploring… that is something that i have never mustered the determination to do… could i even get to the place where i publish a book?…

… do i need to or could carefully considered and edited posts suffice?… i think i am more likely to head in that direction…

… my copy of Bertrand Russell’s Analysis of Matter has arrived… i sloughed my way through it before and during the pandemic… i am contemplating reading it again with extensive note taking…