Bertrand Russell's Ethics

Bertrand Russell's Ethics

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Bertrand Russell was not only one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century, he was also a humanitarian and activist who fought for many moral, social, and political causes. During his lifetime, the general public knew him for his activism and popular works, in which he tackled such diverse topics as sexual ethics, religion, war, and nuclear disarmament. Besides the great achievements in mathematical logic on which his reputation rests, Russell was a pioneer in moral philosophy, and his work in this area informed and guided his activism. Russell created one of the first versions of a meta-ethical theory known as emotivism (sometimes also called the 'boo-hooray' theory, later popularized by A.J. Ayer and C.L. Stevenson) which maintains that ethical statements cannot be true or false - they are simply expressions of emotional attitudes. That Russell could hold such a theory while being at the same time an ardent activist is one feat. That his version was superior to more popular versions of emotivism is another. Yet, despite the fact that Russell held on to some form of emotivism for most of his professional life, and despite the fact that the theory is present in some of his best-known books, it was virtually ignored until the late 1990s. Michael K. Potter's book brings an important new dimension to our understanding of Russell's life, his activism, and his contribution to moral more

Product details

  • Hardback | 192 pages
  • 157.5 x 236.2 x 20.3mm | 408.24g
  • Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0826488102
  • 9780826488107
  • 365,238

Review quote

"'Potter is... the first to bring, in any serious way, Russell's... well-known distinction between impulse and desire into an account of his ethics. Potter's book is well-written in an informal, often amusing style. It makes a useful contribution to our understanding of Russell's ethical views, and will I hope contribute to our appreciation of him as an important moral philosopher.' Nicholas Griffin, Canada Research Chair in Philosophy, The Bertrand Russell Research Centre, McMaster University"show more

About Michael K. Potter

Michael K. Potter teaches in the Department of Philosophy and the Centre for Leadership in Learning at McMaster University, where the Bertrand Russell Research Centre was founded in the year more

Table of contents

1. Descent Into Emotivism; Introduction; The Prig Before the Storm; A Woman and a War; The Music Swells; 2. A Critique of Basic Emotivism; Foundations; Stevenson's Three Requirements; The Meanings and Uses of Ethical Terms; Disputes and Disagreements; Further Objections; Russell's Proto-Emotivism, 1913-22; Criticisms and Comparisons; 3. Enlightened Emotivism; The Preacher and the Legislator; The Meaning of "Good"; Ethical Sentences; General Criticisms; 4. Impulse and Desire; Desires, Behaviour-Cycles, and Consciousness; Impulse and the Principle of Growth; General Criticisms; Dispute, Debate, Disagreement; The Creation and Alteration of Desires and Impulses; Conclusion; 5. Final Thoughts; The Story So Far; Dropping Behaviourism; The Importance of Impulse; The Consequences of Objectivity; Conclusion; Bibliography; more

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