The World Is Real

In The Problems of Philosophy, Bertrand Russell argues for reality; that there really is a world out there. In other words, there is a reality outside our sense-data and our thoughts. Upon concluding that this reality exists, Russell writes:

The argument which has led us to this conclusion is doubtless less strong than we could wish, but it is typical of many philosophical arguments, and it is therefore worth while to consider briefly its general character and validity. All knowledge, we find, must be built upon our instinctive beliefs, and if these are rejected, nothing is left. But among our instinctive beliefs some are much stronger than others, while many have, by habit and association, become entangled with other beliefs, not really instinctive, but falsely supposed to be part of what is believed instinctively.

Philosophy should show us the hierarchy of our instinctive beliefs, beginning with those we hold most strongly, and persisting each as much isolated and as free from irrelevant additions as possible. It should take care to show that, in the form in which they are finally set forth, our instinctive beliefs do not clash, but form a harmonious system. There can never be any reason for rejecting one instinctive belief except that it clashes with others; thus, if they are found to harmonize, the whole system becomes worthy of acceptance.

So much for Descartes and starting with doubt. So much for Kant and idealism. The last thing I would expect to hear from myself when reading Bertrand Russell is an “Amen!”, but I must confess that’s what happened. This defense of “instinctive beliefs” is very Chestertonian. Or perhaps, G. K. Chesterton was a bit Russellian in this respect. Of course, it goes without saying that while their thought may have coincided on this point, the conclusions drawn by these two English contemporaries were poles apart.

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3 Responses to “The World Is Real”


  1. 1 richardcorke September 6, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    Kant also believed that there is an objective world. The objective world for Kant is the noumenal world which exists behind our perceptions.

  2. 2 richardcorke September 6, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    PS. Actually, Kant was concerned with making room for morality. I think he’s on your side.

  3. 3 jacekjakubiak November 15, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I doesn’t matter if Kant believed in an objective world. The real problem is the problem of “the bridge”. If we start from “cogito” we can’t expect that we will be able to reach real world. That’s why Kant is criticised by neokantists. Cogito can reach only cogito. If we want to talk about an objective world we have to start from being. I would recommend to read E.Gilson’s books: “La realisme methodique” and “Realisme thomiste et critique de la connaissance”.


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