Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Professor James Noxon
Bertrand Russell believed that he had definitely solved the mind-body problem and that general recognition of this fact had not occurred because his theory was not understood. He first proposed his solution in 1919. In 1959 he lamented that a general appreciation of it had not occurred. As Russell was a writer acclaimed for the clarity of his style and thought, this is a bewildering assertion on his part. I therefore undertake to present his solution as intelligibly as possible in order to assess whether or not the mind-body problem has been solved. Since Russell never devoted one particular work to this topic, it becomes necessary to examine a great number of his books containing sections of relevance. Furthermore, as his solution is so embedded in the presupposition, attitude and methodology of his particular notion of philosophy, this necessitates as examination of those aspects relevant to his thesis.
I argue that Russell did not completely solve the traditional mind-body problem, but that he may have provided the best working hypothesis for scientific investigation. I argue the distinction between a solution and a working hypothesis, stressing that the latter may eventually evolve into the former. I justify this assertion by indicating problematic areas in Russell's work which may or may not be capable of being remedied. These areas are, in particular, his rejection of the subject, which results in a variety of difficulties with memory, his rejection of substance, and finally his presentation of mental phenomena as non-relational. These problems begin with his initial stance towards philosophy. The basis of the validity of inferences as to structure and the limitations of a structural account of the mind and matter which by Russell's definition cannot present the intrinsic characteristics of matter, are also questioned. I conclude my criticisms with Russell's abandonment of the subject and the resulting reified sense of images.
Harley, David Bruce, "A Critical Exposition of Russell's Solution to the Mind-Body Problem" (1975). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 519.