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Bertrand Russell Society Meeting for 2015

The 2015 meeting of the Bertrand Russell Society.

(Please note that the programme is now full. We have received an exceptionally strong response from scholars around the world. Thank you. However, if you wish to attend as a regular participant, you are most welcome to join us.)

The BRS will be meeting in Dublin in 2015. We meet at Trinity College, June 5 - 7. This annual gathering promises to be very exciting. Not only will members of the society have the opportunity to partake in rich conservations on Russell's thought, we will also have the opportunity to explore the ideas of Bertie's colleagues with members of The Society for the Study of the History of Analytic Philosophy, who will hold their meeting at the same time. 

As news about the meeting filters in, I will pass the information on to the members. Details of the meeting and abstracts of the papers that are accepted for the meeting will be posted on this web site.

Here is a link to the site at Trinity:

Accommodation is available at Trinity College. Please reserve the accommodation that you require through the Trinity online booking engine www.tcd.ie/accommodation/visitors at their public rate.          


The room types available are as follows:


On Campus Apartment Single:  These apartments generally consist of 2 or 3 single bedrooms with kitchen/livingroom and shower/toilet and are located in the more historic areas of campus.  Rate:  €76.50 per person per night including continental breakfast

On Campus Apartment Double:  These apartments generally consist of 1 double room and 1 or 2 single bedrooms with kitchen/livingroom and shower/toilet and are located in the more historic areas of campus.  Rate:  €123 per room per night including continental breakfast

On Campus Ensuite Single:  These rooms are located close to the playing fields and consist of a single study bedroom (with built in bed unit), with private shower/toilet.  Guests have access to a shared kitchenette suitable for light catering.

For the more adventurous, I highly recommend looking at Airbnb facilities:


Fascinating accommodation options, often at very reasonable prices.

The programme for the meeting in now available:


Alan Schwerin
President of the BRS

Abstracts of Accepted Papers for the Meeting

Bernard Linsky (Philosophy, University of Alberta)

Title: The Harry T. Costello Papers.

In May of 2014, I examined two boxes of the papers of Harry T. Costello in the archives of Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. These papers included two sets of notes  for "Philosophy 21: Advanced Logic" that Bertrand Russell taught between March and May of 1914 at Harvard University. From the beginning of the term on February 10th, until Russell's arrival, Costello lectured to the course and his lecture notes are to be found among the papers. From February 12 until the last class, Costello sat as a student in the classroom, and took further notes on Russell's course in a small notebook. I will report on the contents of both of those sets of notes, and on some other materials to be found in the Costello boxes, and also compare Costello's notes with those of another student in the class, T.S. Eliott. 

Sean Crawford (Philosophy, University of Manchester) 

Title: Propositions and the Multiple Relation Theory of Belief: Russell and Wittgenstein Reconciled.

Russell introduced the idea that, instead of being a dyadic or “dual” relation between a subject and a mysterious entity known as a “proposition,” judgment or belief is a “multiple” relation between a subject and various unmysterious (would-be) propositional constituents. A convergence of recent work on propositions suggests that both ideas might be reconciled by an approach that appeals to the notion of a mental event type. I argue that such an approach is indeed the best way to preserve important insights about belief and other attitudes found in the work of Russell, Wittgenstein, Moore and Ayer, and the best way to resolve the conflict between Russell and Wittgenstein on the vexed question of the existence of propositions.

Peter Stone (Political Science, Trinity College: Ireland)

Master class on Russell's In Praise of Idleness. The material to read can be found at this link:


Nancy Doubleday (McMaster University)
Title: Paths to Peace Praxis Through the Russell Archives: Wildness, Pedagogy and Engaged Learning
From individual explorations in peer to peer archival research, we learn about learning and transformation in the context of Russell's struggles with innovation in learning and activism. Drawing on a range of Russell's own accounts and those of the students involved in our pilot project in the Russell Archives, we return to some of the concepts and ideals that Russell pointed to in his struggles to articulate reason and passion for the sake of children, and of humanity and its future.


Russell Wahl (Philosophy, Idaho State University)

Title: Sensibilia and Sense-Data: 1911-1915  

Russell first mentions sense-data in two papers written in 1911 and reported he abandoned sense-data with his adoption of neutral monism.  I and others have argued that Russell’s sense-data do not play the traditional epistemological role sense-data are often alleged to play.  But Russell did have an epistemological role for them, and his attitude toward this role changes during this time.  In this paper I explore these changes by looking specifically at Russell’s changing attitude toward sensibilia, that is, “un-sensed sense-data,” during this period.  Russell did change his attitude toward these during this time and I argue that we can learn a lot of the roles that sense-data play in Russell’s philosophy by looking at his early skepticism toward un-sensed sense-data and his later embrace of them.  I begin with the remarks calling into question these un-sensed sense-data given in “Analytic Realism” (1911), a paper not concerned with either skepticism or epistemological foundationalism, and end with the quite strong embrace of un-sensed sense-data in “The Ultimate Constituents of Matter.”

Milan Soutor (Philosophy, Charles University, Prague)

Title: The Significance of Russell's Theory of Descriptions for His Theory of Propositions as Incomplete Symbols
Russell’s Theory of Descriptions maintains that denoting (or descriptive) phrases are incomplete symbols. This has been widely discussed in the literature. The thesis which Russell introduced in 1910 that propositions (as declarative sentences) are incomplete symbols attracted, on the contrary, much less attention and remains shrouded in obscurity. There are at least two reasons for that, both of them coming from the fact that Russell’s thesis about propositions was intimately tied to his controversial multiple-relation theory of judgment. First, Russell did not offer a sufficiently detailed exposition of this incompleteness aspect of the multiple-relation theory. We have only his rather fragmentary remarks in the first vol. of Principe Mathematica and some other texts written between the years 1910-14, including the manuscript Theory of Knowledge. Second, many scholars focused on trying to understand Wittgenstein’s criticisms of the multiple-relation theory and endeavored to show that the theory failed to do justice to those criticisms. This focus is a distraction from Russell’s thesis that propositions qua linguistic symbols are semantically incomplete. Wittgenstein’s criticisms  (at least prima facie) have nothing to do with that thesis. I shall reconstruct Russell’s thesis of the incompleteness of propositions, emphasizing his claim that a proposition “… does not have meaning in itself, but requires some supplementation in order to acquire a complete meaning”, a fact that is “… somewhat concealed by the circumstance that a judgment in itself supplies a sufficient supplement, and that judgment in itself makes no verbal addition to the proposition.” Any such reconstructive attempt must answer the question about the nature of the link between the incompleteness thesis and Russell’s Theory of Descriptions. I shall develop the idea suggested in Principia that whenever we engage in asserting truth or falsehood, the proposition be taken as a description of a fact and analyzed by the Theory of Descriptions. I shall criticize David Hyder’s account of this theory in his The Mechanics of Meaning (2005), arguing that resulting existential formulas cannot be identified with which was originally asserted or judged, on pain of a vicious circle when Principia’s theory of orders is adopted. A remark of Ramsey’s that existential quantifier represents a multiple-relation is very useful here; it points us in the direction of analyzing the resulting existential formulas as representations of judgment-facts, where the quantificational structure represents the multiple-relation of judging. The iterative circularity that comes in play is innocuous, given the primacy of the pragmatic sort of completion.

David White (Philosophy, St. John Fisher College)   

TitleRussell, Dewey, and the Emancipation of the Religious.

Russell acknowledges there is a remote possibility, a teapot’s chance, of God and religion being true.  This is all the orthodox need to generate the ontological proof of God’s existence.  The existence of the God of the ontological argument is sufficient to create a reasonable expectation of some revelation of that being’s nature and attributes, especially as they pertain to our duties.  Indeed we find candidates for fulfillment of this expectation in conscience, in the natural world, and in the alleged written word of God.  Having excluded all non-evidentialist forms of religion, we examine conscience or human nature generally, the natural world, and the purported scriptures, according to the received rules of evidence as articulated by Russell, and declare whatever “dogma” remains, the common faith (John Dewey) of humanity.  Russell remains  free to reject our conclusions, in contradiction to his own methods, and work out his own destiny in freedom, but he would not have any rational warrant for his preference.   


Nikolay Milkov (Universität Paderborn, Fakultät für Kulturwissenschaften, Germany)

Title: Russell and Husserl - The Odd Couple 

Phenomenology is usually defined as a theory of intentionality and Husserl is considered a theorist of meaning. This explains why, when Husserl is compared with analytic philosophers at all, this is usually done with respect to Frege. In particular, a parallel is drawn between Frege’s sense/meaning distinction and Husserl’s noema/object distinction. In this paper shall try another approach, examining the relatedness between Husserl and Russell. Special attention will be paid to cases of similarity, and dissimilarity, between Husserl’s and Russell’s logic and philosophy as developed between 1905 and 1913.

Raymond A. Younis (Philosophy, University of Notre Dame (Sydney))

Master-class on Russell’s Religion and Science 

The aim is twofold:
1) Russell’s book is sometimes criticised for lacking some degree of originality and sophistication. I will argue that this criticism is not only uncharitable, but unconvincing: uncharitable, firstly, because it fails to take into consideration such things as the audience for which the book was written; and unconvincing, as there are a few original ideas, and approaches to various questions, in the book, and to various theories such as quantum theory (which in the 1930s were still sources of much perplexity, confusion and/or misunderstanding – indeed, some may argue, they still are!); just as there are sophisticated - and important - arguments mounted by Russell in the book (for example, in his detailed responses to Alexander and Bergson, among others)
I shall argue further, if time permits, that these ideas, approaches and arguments are not the only sources of insight or understanding (and, indeed, pleasure) that a discerning reader will find in the book.
2) Michael Ruse has argued (1997, p.x) that “Russell is an ardent proponent of the conflict thesis” (that is, the thesis that there is  a permanent conflict between religion and science, in the sense that each makes claims - for example, concerning the “centre” of the solar system – which are, in some sense, opposed, incompatible or incommensurable).
I will try and show that though there is an element of truth in this claim, it does not go far enough in terms of characterising Russell’s understanding of the relationship between religion and science.

Here are the readings for the masterclass

Younis readings

David Blitz (Philosophy, Central Connecticut State University)

Title: Russell and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Russell's role as a proponent of a peaceful settlement of the Cuban Missile crisis is among his major achievements of the early 1960s, along with his positions on resolving the China-India border war and against the Vietnam War. We have now passed the 50th anniversary of the events that brought the world "to the brink of nuclear war". Since Russell's death,new facts have come to light to illustrate just how close the world came,and how prescient were Russell's concerns. These include facts then unknown about the existence of tactical nuclear weapons under the control of local Soviet officers during the conflict, which Castro attempted(unsuccessfully) to control after the crisis, and the presence of four Soviet submarines armed with nuclear torpedoes, one of which nearly fired on American ships that attempted to force it to surface. New documents recently released also indicate the way in which Khruschev perceived Russell's role, in conversations with Soviet bloc delegations after the crisis. The paper will review these as well as relevant documents from the Russell Archives, in order to draw lessons applicable to contemporary issues of war and peace - notably, the Iran nuclear problem, and the continuing multi-dimensional crisis in the Middle East.

Ádám Tamás Tuboly (Philosophy,University of Pécs, Hungary)

Title: The limits and basis of logical tolerance: Carnap’s combination of Russell and Wittgenstein

The reconstruction of the historical and philosophical connections between Bertrand Russell and Rudolf Carnap has varied from time to time in the twentieth century. First, according to the British reading of the Aufbau Carnap’s alleged phenomenalism and foundationalism is closely tied to Russell external-world project. This oversimplifying view has been reconsidered, for example, by Chris Pincock, aiming for a much subtle historical narrative but the discussion is still on.

In my presentation, however, I would like to consider a different possible connection between Carnap and Russell. Though we cannot detect a certain unified theory of logic in Russell’s writings, in the first decades of his and various writings Russell seemed to claim that logic is a universal framework, which is closely tied to the world and hence not wholly independent of it. In the Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy we find that “logic [...] must no more admit a unicorn than zoology can; for logic is concerned with the real world just as truly as zoology, though with its more abstract and general features.” He also claimed in the Problems of Philosophy that “the belief in the law of contradiction is a belief about things, not only about thoughts. [...] Thus the law of contradiction is about things, and not merely about thoughts; and although belief in the law of contradiction is a thought, the law of contradiction itself is not a thought, but a fact concerning the things in the world.”

Despite this highly ontological or world-dependent conception of logic Russell still maintained (famously in Principia Mathematica) that certain inductive and pragmatical considerations play an important role in logic and mathematics. According to him at the end of all chains of definitions and proofs we have to take certain undefined and/or unproved items. The questions is that how shall we choose between the relevant items? His answer was that there isn’t any final, uniquely correct solution – we have a certain freedom in choosing our final items. This freedom has, however, its limits. We have to choose those notions and axioms which yield those further theorems which we have accepted previously as true.

He formulated this point in Principia Mathematica (1910, p. 62.) as follows: “The reason for accepting an axiom, as for accepting any other proposition, is always largely inductive, namely that many propositions which are nearly indubitable can be deduced from it, and that no equally plausibly way is known by which these propositions could be true if the axiom were false and nothing which is probably false can be deduced from it.”

My thesis is that to obtain Carnap’s famous principle of tolerance we have to extend the limits of Russell’s freedom. To do this, Carnap has accepted the idea of Wittgenstein, namely that logic is empty of any empirical content. Since logical is tautological (which Russell has denied) we have the relevant freedom which resulted in the principle of tolerance. Hence Carnap’s writings about logic and philosophy in the 1930s could be seen as a syntheses or combination of Russell’s inductive and pragmatical considerations on logic and Wittgenstein’s idea of an empty logic. 



Tim Madigan


Bertrand Russell was a strong proponent of Citizens’ Tribunals, such as the International War Crimes Tribunal—aka the Russell-Sartre Tribunal—which investigated American actions during the Vietnam War. According to Arthur Jay Klinghoffer and Judith Apter Klinghoffer, in their 2002 book International Citizen’s Tribunals: Mobilizing Public Opinion to Advance Human Rights, “Russell said that he wanted to ‘reawaken the world’s conscience’ and, paraphrasing the Cuban national hero Jose Marti, he declared: ‘May this tribunal prevent the crime of silence.’ He also argued that the tribunal’s lack of legal standing was an advantage, as it couldn’t be influenced by any state.” The Klinghoffers further point out that “The Russell Tribunal spawned many others with various foci of inquiry. They were mainly issue-oriented (human rights and ‘global capitalism’), rather than organized to impact the fate of specific individuals . . . In that vein, some sought to highlight past injustices and were not related to contemporary state behavior” (page 163). 

In this presentation, I will discuss a recent such tribunal which, while unconnected with Russell’s name, was in part inspired by his example. Ironically, it relates to his own grandfather, Lord John Russell, who served as Prime Minister during the worse years of the Great Irish Famine (1846-1852), also known as an Gorta Mór, “The Great Hunger.” The Irish Famine Tribunal, held at Fordham Law School in 2013, examined the responsibility of the British Government for the tragic consequences of the Famine, in which over one million Irish died of starvation and a million more left the country to seek a better life elsewhere. The Tribunal considered the question whether the actions—or the deliberate inactions—of Lord Russell’s government amounted to either genocide or a crime against humanity. Questions addressed included: Were the repeated, devastating failures of the potato crop beyond the power of any government, in the context of the time, to effectively manage; what relief efforts were made; how responsive was the government in London to reports from relief officials in Ireland; how influential were laissez-faire and providential ideologies; and did British policy makers take advantage of the Famine to “reform” Irish society? I will look at the arguments made by both the prosecution and the defense as well as how this Tribunal relates to various Bertrand Russell-connected efforts to hold individuals accountable for their abuses of basic human rights.

Landon Elkind (Philosophy: The University of Iowa)
Title:   Newman v. Russell 

I defend Bertrand Russell's causal theory of perception from his 1927 The Analysis of Matter against objections raised by mathematician Maxwell H. A. Newman. I relate my defense to the secondary literature on this debate between Russell and Newman, building especially on the work of William Demopoulos, Michael Friedman, and the late I. Grattan-Guiness. I note how Newman's objection differs significantly from the much-discussed model-theoretic argument of Hilary Putnam, and further distinguish two components of Newman's objection. I further argue, in opposition to the strongly-dominant strain of thought in the secondary literature on Newman's objection, that Newman's twin objections are not refutations of Russell's causal theory of perception, much less of scientific structural realism. Finally, I offer a novel interpretation of Russell's correspondence with Newman that squares Russell's reaction to Newman's objection with my contention that Newman's objection is not so serious.

Alan Schwerin (Philosophy, Monmouth University)

Follow this link for details on the Master Class: https://docs.google.com/document/d/127yxlaDCdyv78HxdM3NDSAb5KQed5PkqvDOZ1Cuvnc0/edit?usp=sharing

Here are the two pages that need to be read before the session:

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