Understanding What Russell Said About Mathematics – Kashmir Reader


Known for his mathematics, logic, philosophy and honored for his contributions to the field of literature, Bertrand Russell is famous as one of those who had a significant influence on several subjects of study and discussed the complexities that otherwise would have been difficult to understand. even see or have wind of. Although he is known to be a philosopher, yet he was different from many of them. He considered and maintained that logic is not part of philosophy. In his words, “Logic, it must be admitted, is technical just like mathematics, but logic, I maintain, is not part of philosophy. Philosophy proper deals with matters of interest to the educated general public, and loses much of its value if only a few professionals can understand what is being said.
This British Nobel laureate and great mathematician, Bertrand Russell wrote in “The History of Western Philosophy”, “Mathematics, rightly so, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty – a cold and austere beauty, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the magnificent attributes of painting or music, but of sublime purity, and capable of such severe perfection as only the greatest art can show some. In the following an attempt is made at a brief analysis of this infamous quote from him.
At the very beginning, we come to recognize the importance of being serious. We are made to believe in the premise of having the right approach. For Russell, mathematics must be “correctly seen”. To see mathematics rightly is to grasp its essence. This means appreciating and understanding mathematics rather than getting lost in its symbolism and calculations. One should appreciate the ideas woven into the language of mathematics rather than simply looking for calculations and algorithms. In the words of Field Medalist William Thurston, “Math is not about numbers, equations, calculations or algorithms: it’s about understanding. “
The next thing Russell mentions is that math has both truth and beauty. For Russell, mathematics has the truth and it is not a surprising claim. However, mathematics possesses beauty and not everyone can see or appreciate this beauty. It is relevant to mention that truth, beauty and goodness were sought after by philosophers. In the words of Albert Einstein written long ago in 1930 in his essay, What I Believe, “The ideals that have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are kindness, beauty and love. truth.” It is not strange that the virtues of truth and beauty were discussed by Russell, for mathematics cannot and should not be seen as totally alien to philosophy. Interestingly, something similar was emitted by Einstein. According to Einstein, “The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are allowed to remain, children, all of our lives.”
Continuing on, we find that Russell draws a leaning between the beauty that mathematics possesses and the beauty of a sculpture. He calls this beauty “cold” and “austere”. However, he somehow chooses and prefers a sculpture over a painting or music. Russell mentions paintings and music. But, he seems not to be impressed with them. He seems impassive and not tempted by their attraction and calls this attraction “traps”. The sculptures are known for their durability, longevity and beauty. A sculpture looks more like reality than a painting that only provides a two-dimensional view. While it can be argued that paintings are no less beautiful than sculptures, the fact remains that, for Russell, paintings and music are a little less beautiful and somewhat pejorative compared to sculptures.
Towards the end, we observe an important thing. Russell’s assertion that art is capable of a certain perfection is pointed out to us. He believes that mathematics is also capable of perfection. Russell is not much different from John Locke in what John Locke has said about mathematics. For Locke, “Mathematics is a way of establishing a habit of reasoning in the mind. In Russell’s words, “Mathematics takes us into the region of absolute necessity, to which not only the real word, but every possible word, must conform. “
To sum up, we are able to read between the lines and see how Russell was able to weave his keen sense, his knowledge of literature and the various arts, and come up with beautifully interwoven subtle observations that are probably not cups of coffee. for everyone. .

– The author is an assistant professor at Government Degree College Sopore. [email protected]







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