Battle of the Giants

Russell v. Wittgenstein

Lord Russell was a genial if controversial old English aristocrat, a prolific writer from one of the great British political families. He couldn't really make his mind up whether to do philosophy or politics, and his main philosophical contributions flowed from a misunderstanding of the broader significance of his early work on logic and the foundations of mathematics. So he was really a bit confused and it took the genius of Wittgenstein, the greatest philosopher since Socrates, to sort him out (and a couple of thousand years of similar philosophical confusions since Socrates). This was all a bit beyond Russell and he never quite figured out what Wittgenstein was on about. The main corpus of analytic philosophy forgot all about Russell and took on board Wittgenstein's message. Philosophy was never the same again.
Bertrand Russell, the greatest and most prolific philosopher of the 20th Century, was a gentle intellectual giant, with an exceptional willingness to take on board the views of other philosophers and to openly and generously acknowledge their influence on his work. After teaching Wittgenstein most of what he knew about logic and mathematics Russell developed some of Wittgenstein's ideas (later published in his Tractatus) into the philosophy of "Logical Atomism". Later, Wittgenstein decided that there were no real problems in philosophy and devoted his life to showing that all philosophical theories are mistaken consequences of confusion about language. Russell was unwilling to follow Wittgenstein in this philosophical nihilism, but showed pretty amazing temperance in his criticism of the later Wittgenstein.

Russell on Wittgenstein

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