Bertrand Russell's gross misunderstanding of Plato's theory of knowledge and
Plato believed that truth is a conceptual form of knowledge, which
is a priori and so not obtained through the senses. Truth obtained
through the senses, Plato believed, was changeable.
But, presumably because he was an empiricist, Russell essentially
treats Plato as an empiricist gone wrong. Russell thus grossly misunderstands
Plato, apparently not undestrstanding that, as Leibniz and Kant have
stated, there is a difference between necessary or a priori knowledge
(which does not change) and the changeable, contingent truths of perception.
Because of Russell's apparent confusion between these two forms
of knowledge, and denial of a priori knowledge, Russell wastes
many words apparently trying to show that the changeable knowledge
obtained through the senses can somehow be necessarily true,
giving "snow is white" as an example. Anyone who grew up
as I did, in what was then sooty smokey Pittsburgh, knows that
snow can sometimes be dark gray. Similarly, Russell incorrectly bases
his repudiation of a priori knowledge by using the changeable
nature of contingent knowledge as an example.
I have not checked Russell's treatment of Kant, but
because of this ignorance, Russell also apparently
treats Kant as an empiricist gpone bad.
Dr. Roger B Clough NIST (ret.) [1/1/2000]
See my Leibniz site at
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