Maarten Maartensz

|  Philosophy - Philosophers - Russell - Problems of Philosophy - Introduction    


   Chapter 1

















General Introduction

I wrote as follows in 1998, when I first put Russell's text with my notes on line - and everything after "First edition, 1998:" is text written then:

First edition, 1998:

A long time ago, before the advent of the personal computer, I thought it would be a good idea to write a series of comments on philosophical books more or less as this was done in the Middle Ages or in the Torah. In these days, such comments are possible on a personal computer in the form of hypertext, with the additional benefit that the result can be put on the internet.

The files these brief remarks are the General Introduction to are

      • The 15 chapters of Bertrand Russell's text from 1912, called "The
         Problems of Philosophy
        ", each in its own file

      • 15 files of remarks on each chapter

      • The file to which belongs this General Introduction

I choose Russell's text because I like it; because Russell influenced me more than any other phsilosopher; and because the text of "The Problems of Philosophy" is available on the internet. I reproduce that text here, and have changed nothing except correcting a few obvious misprints and the division into separate files and adding links to my remarks.

My remarks have been written in 1998, and the general format is this:

each of Russell's chapters is in one file, and so are my comments to the chapter; my comments are connected by hyperlink in the original, and all end with a link that returns the reader to the beginning of that link in the original at the beginning and the end of each of the files there are four arrows, thus


of which the left and right arrows lead to the previous and next file in the same sequence (Russell's chapters or my remarks); the up arrow leads to this file that contains links to all of the files; and the down arrow leads from Russell's chapter to my comments on the chapter or the other way round.

Altogether my comments take almost as much text as the original they comment on. My comments are in the nature of glosses: I comment on what I believe to be mistakes and on what I believe needs elucidation.

Those who believe I am overly critical of Russell should realise that personally I have the greatest respect for Russell, and believe he is one of the very few, perhaps only, truly great philosophers this century has known (where nearly all soi-disant philosophers have been conformist academics who produced virtually nothing that was read outside their own group, if at all - which is fine for chemistry, physics or mathematics, since these subjects, when seriously pursued, are so abstruse that only specialists can follow them, but makes mostly nonsense of the supposed 'philosophy' thus produced). Apart from my personal esteem for Russell, my remarks should be able to stand on their own, and I believe they increase the value of Russell's text. And in spite of my many critical comments, I am in fundamental agreement with Russell about his general philosophical point of view, which is scientific realism.

Similar html-editions of other philosophical classics with my comments are in preparation.

Amsterdam, in February 1998.

Seond edition, 2009:

Meanwhile, the site has gone through several variations in format and has grown much. Russell's text and my 1998-comments have been always on it and now, after 10 years, I have provided a new edition, that may grow somewhat later this year.

Four reasons to make a new edition are these

  • I like Russell's text and my remarks, for I think both are clear, rational and sensible, and Russell's text is a good first introduction to philosophy.
  • Others like Russell's text and my remarks, for both have often been downloaded.
  • The first edition was written with another editor than I since use for the site, and needed some adaptations.
  • The second edition conforms more to my editions of + comments on other phillosophical classics that are on the site, notably in now quoting the passages I comment on in my comments-files, that make them independently readable.

Indeed, I might have made a second edition earlier, but for my health and for the fact that the automatic links produced by the editor I wrote the first edition in made this not easy - and indeed these links still have to be remade mostly, which may happen later this year.

Here are the differences with the first edition:

  • All files in the main texts have now a short introduction, describing their contents and makers.
  • In the first edition, commented passages were underlined; in the second edition this is no longer the case. (So now you get Russell's text without my underlinings.)
  • In the first edition, commented passages were not quoted in the my comments-files; in the second edition they are. (So now you can read my notes without having to read most of Russell's text.)
  • I have undone some typos and repaired some wrong links.
  • I have added a few things, mostly to have fuller explanations, but not many, and apart from improved typos and links, all the text that was in the first edition is still present in the second.

It may happen - but this depends on my health - that later this year I will extend my notes some more.

Last edited this file: Amsterdam, in January 2014

Maarten Maartensz