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Russell and the metaphysics of neutral monism

Hamilton, John 2013. Russell and the metaphysics of neutral monism. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

My overall aim in this thesis is to elucidate the precise nature of Russell's mature 'neutral monist' metaphysic. I show how an understanding of it has been hampered by pervasive misunderstandings. The approach I take is an historical one, and my account reveals that, after his adoption of neutral monism in 1918, there were no radical changes in his worldview, and certainly no lurch from a supposed quasi-phenomenalistic system prior to 1921, to a causal theory of perception after 1927. Instead, the earlier system is not as phenomenalistic as is sometimes supposed and his later philosophy is a development, not a repudiation, of the themes in the earlier. Russell sought to show how his metaphysic dovetails with the outcome of modern physics in his 1927 book The Analysis of Matter. I seek to show how a proper understanding of modern physics indeed leads to Russellian conclusions. I also discuss the implications of quantum mechanics for metaphysics – a task which Russell could not have performed when he wrote The Analysis of Matter, since QM was still very much in a state of flux. I show how Russell moved from empiricism to a naturalistic position in the theory of knowledge,and in doing so supplied a definitive solution to Hume's scepticism. Once again, the usual perception of him as an “empiricist” fails to do justice to the complexity and subtlety of his philosophy. Finally, I argue that Russell's solution to the mind-body problem is the only one with any chance whatsoever of being true. In all this I seek to show how Russell's philosophy has been unjustly neglected in contemporary debates and how it can provide elegant solutions to contemporary philosophical puzzles in the philosophy of science, epistemology and the mind-body problem.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Funders: AHRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 23:18
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/46483

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