Russell on Propositions

In Chris Tillman & Adam Murray (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Propositions. Routledge. pp. 188-208 (2022)
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Bertrand Russell was neither the first nor the last philosopher to engage in serious theorizing about propositions. But his work between 1903, when he published The Principles of Mathematics, and 1919, when his final lectures on logical atomism were published, remains among the most important on the subject. And its importance is not merely historical. Russell’s rapidly evolving treatment of propositions during this period was driven by his engagement with – and discovery of – puzzles that either continue to shape contemporary theorizing about propositions, or ought to do so. Russell’s creative responses to these puzzles also laid the foundation for many later accounts (most obviously, contemporary ‘Russellian’ accounts of propositions). In this entry we provide an opinionated overview of Russell’s influential treatment of propositions, with a focus on the evolution of his views from 1903 to 1919. A growing secondary literature is dedicated to Russell’s changing views during this period, and their often complex or opaque motivations. We do not intervene overmuch in this ongoing scholarly discussion. Instead, our aim is to trace some of the central motivations for Russell’s evolving views, and highlight the extent to which these motivations remain relevant to contemporary theorizing about propositions.

Author Profiles

Dominic Alford-Duguid
University of Oxford
Fatema Amijee
University of British Columbia


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