We are very pleased to announce that we will have our sixth Russelliana series talk given by Moisés Macías Bustos (UMASS / UNAM) on Sunday, September 12th at 2 pm Eastern Daylight Time / 1 pm Central Daylight Time (adjust for your local time zone). The event is open to the public: all are welcome! Please register here in advance to receive the Zoom link.
Russell’s Response to the Newman Objection Reconsidered: A Defense of Russell’s Structural Realism
My central thesis is that Russell’s structural realism was never vulnerable to Newman’s objection. The defense of this thesis necessitates an in-depth explanation of Russell’s structural realism, with the aim of clearing up persistent confusions from the current consensus in philosophy of science. I contend that Russell’s misunderstood 1928 response to Newman contains the key to understanding the deep interconnections between Russell’s logic, metaphysics and philosophy of science within his structural realism (1927, 1948) which in turn vindicates his proposed solution. The paper goes over the details of Newman’s objection in the context of Russell’s work: his structural realism, philosophies of physics and mind. By piecing these elements together, in light of Russell’s 1928 response to Newman, I argue that from what we know on model-theoretic arguments, Russell was right about what was required, in his assumptions, to avoid the problem. I show these assumptions were explicit in The Analysis of Matter ([AMt], 1927) and in turn presuppose his metaphysics of neutral monism. Lastly I show, against the general consensus, that Russell never abandoned structural realism, as evidenced by the fact that he returned to discuss Newman’s objection in Human Knowledge ([HK], 1948), in a manner which preserves all key ingredients of his 1928 solution, something previous commentators have failed to notice. I argue that his resulting position, while contentful enough to avoid Newman’s objection, does not collapse into either scientific realism or antirealism. This suggests that a Russellian approach to structural realism remains possible.