Doubts on Russell & Idealism

Spookily, I mentioned in the post before last that I had started a proper read of Stephen Mumford’s “Russell on Metaphysics and his first chapter is woven around Russell’s (supposed?) response to idealism. Spooky because in the previous post Ben Gibran (@PhilosophyFails) made a throwaway remark about philosophers attracted to idealism for the same reason some settle for pan-psychism of some kind.

Now, I’m not strong on isms when it comes to schools of thought and models of the world- an avoider of (the risks of) dogmas generally. In my amateur philosophical journey I’ve passed through many schools at first and second hand. (The isms lie on many independent axes, philosophical, scientific, political and cultural, and they’re not competing for the same ground necessarily.) Useful to know the archaeology of how thought has evolved and to file away connections of potential future value, but not essential (to me) to be able to talk about each ism as a thing-in-itself.

Rather than shoe-horning concepts into foreign ideas I see my approach as taking the best understanding I can make of each idea I come across and morphing or synthesising the best-bits model as I go. There is always a sense of broad and narrow aspects of each ism – the essential feature or a more complete world-view built using it. It does mean however that, having gutted them for the best-bits, I often feel I’ve left works about historical isms behind. I habitually call myself a post-post-modernist to emphasise this take. I’ve moved on. Obviously I make mistakes and my best current guess is always an evolving work-in-progress. It’s the main reason I stop to go back and read particular resources that throw up cognitive dissonances. (See why I’m reading about Russell on metaphysics – the suggestion I may have been wrong about him, and that’s significant to my evolved view so far.)

That said, the first 3 or so chapters on Russell, concerning idealism are already throwing-up doubts about my doubts. Do I crash on and see what the read throws-up or do I pause and diagnose why I have doubts about Mumford’s views about Russell’s doubts – given I’m not wedded to idealism (or Russell) anyway? As ever I will have to do both. Reading lists never grow shorter.

All roads lead back to taking a position on time & causation and on mind & matter. (This is as good a holding post – with links – on my position on dualism for now – but many PoPoMo references ….)

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