The 1900 Turn in Bertrand Russell’s Logic, the Emergence of his Paradox, and the Way Out

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Russell’s initial project in philosophy (1898) was to make mathematics rigorous reducing it to logic. Before August 1900, however, Russell’s logic was nothing but mereology. First, his acquaintance with Peano’s ideas in August 1900 led him to discard the part-whole logic and accept a kind of intensional predicate logic instead. Among other things, the predicate logic helped Russell embrace a technique of treating the paradox of infinite numbers with the help of a singular concept, which he called ‘denoting phrase’. Unfortunately, a new paradox emerged soon: that of classes. The main contention of this paper is that Russell’s new conception only transferred the paradox of infinity from the realm of infinite numbers to that of class-inclusion. Russell’s long-elaborated solution to his paradox developed between 1905 and 1908 was nothing but to set aside of some of the ideas he adopted with his turn of August 1900: (i) With the Theory of Descriptions, he reintroduced the complexes we are acquainted with in logic. In this way, he partly restored the pre-August 1900 mereology of complexes and simples. (ii) The elimination of classes, with the help of the ‘substitutional theory’, and of propositions, by means of the Multiple Relation Theory of Judgment, completed this process.
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