Russell was a pioneer: he effectively founded both analytic philosophy and scientific philosophy. However, this aspect of Russell is often neglected in favour of his political work. In particular, Principia Mathematica which he coauthored with A.N. Whitehead (PM hereafter) and Our Knowledge of the External World as Field for Scientific Method in Philosophy we’re incredibly influential on developing philosophical and scientific thought; scientific standards of rigour were bought to philosophy. Logic was now a central focus of philosophy I.e. instead of reasoning about intuitive entities, we instead focus on the logical form of sentences concerning those entities. Russell believed that Logic is the essence of philosophy. Russell’s method appealed greatly to some: “Philosophy from early times, has made greater claims, and achieved fewer results, than any other branch of learning. Ever since Thales said that ‘all is water’, philosophers have been ready with glib assertions about the sum-total of things; and equally glib denials have come from other philosophers ever since Thales was contradicted by Anaximander. I believe that the time has now arrived when this unsatisfactory state of things can be bought to an end. (Russell 1914a, p. 13).
Within this essay, I intend discuss these topic: rational reconstruction, explication/conceptual engineering, and the use of formal logic for dealing with problems that arise from the vagueness of natural language.
I want to discuss these topics, primarily, through the works of: Bertrand Russell, Rudolf Carnap, and W.V.O. We shouldn’t just focus on refuting someone’s argument; we should also focus on diagnosing where the argument went wrong.
Ordinary language distorts both our perception of the world and our reasoning about it. The formal methods of science, in contrast, present a new way of thinking, that has yet to realise its full potential: algorithmic methods for computation, Bayesian stats for abductive reasoning, and crucially the use of a logically perfect language (viz. first-order logic)—all help circumvene the distorting problems of ordinary language.