How effective is Russell’s presentation of physical objects as logical fiction?

Bertrand Russell is an outstanding philosopher who influenced consistently the development of the 20th century philosophy. At the same time, his ideas and philosophical concepts are quite original and different from conventional, trivial interpretation of basic concepts, ideas and objects. In this regard, Russell’s view on routine, ordinary things, such as physical object that surround humans in their daily life and which people get used to take for granted, is different from views of ordinary people as well as many philosophers. In fact, Russell stands on the ground that physical objects are logical fictions, produced and classified by humans, according to their system of logics. Obviously, such an approach to physical objects is highly controversial and, what is more, it evokes strong criticism of Russell’s ideas because it leads to the classification of physical objects in accordance to human logics but not to their actual significance or role. In such a situation, the question concerning the effectiveness of Russell’s presentation of physical objects naturally arises. On answer this question, it is necessary to understand Russell’s views and his position, but, anyway, it is obvious that such a view on physical objects is highly controversial and inevitably arguable, regardless of the fact whether it is effective or not.

First of all, it should be said that Bertrand Russell is one of the founders of analytical philosophy that, to a significant extent, predetermined his views on physical objects as logical fiction. To put it more precisely, Bertrand Russell denied a traditional idealism, which was typical for many philosophers. Instead, he launched the new trend in philosophy, which was known as the revolt against idealism. In terms of his philosophical approach Bertrand Russell rejected idealism and suggested the supremacy of logic and logical analysis. As a result, he developed analytical philosophy which naturally tended to the classification of various concepts and their detailed analysis.

The development of the analytical philosophy by Bertrand Russell defined his views on physical objects. To put it more precisely, he viewed physical objects as systems, as series of classes of particulars. In actuality, this means that all subjects can be classified in accordance to such systems or series of classes. For instance, tables and chair comprise furniture, which is the general system or category which unites both tables and chairs. At the same time, tables and chairs are different pieces of furniture or, according to Russell’s terminology different particulars belonging to a series of classes, namely furniture. In such a way, tables and chairs can be viewed as subcategories in the system of furniture.

Furthermore, tables and chairs can be also classified and divided into smaller subcategories or classes. For instance, there are different types of tables, they differ in shape, size, purpose for which are used and the same may be said about chairs. Hence, both tables and chairs can be divided into more specific particulars, such as round and square tables or small and large chairs, and so on. In such a way, the chain of classification can be continued as long as there is a possibility for the classification of particulars as a specific series of classes, which makes the particular physical object unique and different from other, though it does not mean that it cannot be included into larger class, such as the class of furniture, for instance.

In such a way, Bertrand Russell applies his analytic philosophy to the interpretation of physical objects by humans. Hence, he stands on the ground that, as all physical objects can be classified into different categories or classes of particulars, than they are logical fiction. In actuality, this implies that physical objects are perceived by humans as a series of classes of particulars, but people do not fully perceive the entire system as a whole. This is why Bertrand Russell argues that physical objects are logical fiction. In this respect, it should be said that people normally perceive physical objects as they are that means that they rather perceive a chair as a chair but not as furniture, which it is a piece of, since it is more logical and precise for an individual to call a chair as it is rather than to call a piece of furniture or furniture at large, which would probably be more correct in terms of Russell’s philosophy.

At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that the language plays an extremely important role in the designation of physical objects as logical fiction because it is through language people label or name certain objects and it is due to the richness of language there are various series of classes of particulars. In fact, Bertrand Russell paid a lot of attention to language. He attempted to understand how people use language and this trend in his philosophy reveals the logic of his views on physical objects as logical fiction. According to Russell, how people use language is of the utmost importance since it can define the perception of the surrounding reality and the process of communication between people. Naturally, the use of the language affects directly the perception of physical objects and this is actually what makes them, according to Russell’s philosophy, logical fiction.

Bertrand Russell supports the view, according to which the language reveals the existence of particulars as parts of larger systems. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the example of tables and chairs again to show that physical objects are logical fiction. In fact, people can use different terms to designate furniture by means of the language, but they tend to specify various pieces of furniture to specify the particular physical objects in order to distinguish it from a series of classes. In other words, people can use different words to designate one and the same physical object, but they tend to slip to particulars in order to be specific and concrete in the designation of particular physical objects. Hence, they tend to logical fictions.

At first glance, such a view on the language, as well as human perception of physical objects, seems to be quite logical and effective. However, on a profound reflection, certain questions arise concerning the effectiveness of such logic or philosophical view on physical objects as logical fiction. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the language which was the core of Russell’s philosophy or, to put it more precisely, to how people use the language. In fact, according to Russell there are certain systems which can be divided into classes or subclasses of particulars. In such a way, it is possible to speak about the existence of the strict hierarchy which allows building up a logical chain. For instance, it is possible to take the furniture as a large, complex system, which is divided into many subcategories, which chairs constitute a part of, but chairs being a smaller class or category can be divided into another, even smaller class or category, such as wooden and plastic chairs, for instance. In such a way, in terms of the analytic philosophy the general concept is gradually divided into smaller parts until the particular object is identified, for instance, the particular object which designates a specific physical object.

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