Tag Archives: Bertrand Russell

On Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem

This is an appreciation of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem of 1931. I am provoked by a depreciation of the theorem.

In the “Gödel for Dummies” version of the Theorem, there are mathematical sentences that are both true and unprovable. This requires two points of clarification. Continue reading

NL XXIX: External Politics

Index to this series

Executive summary (added September 13, 2018): External politics—dealing with other bodies politic—is the third stage of political life, after the forming of societies (as if by marriage), and their coming to rule over non-social communities (as if by having children) in the formation of a body politic. Since dialectic has been used in the first two stages, it can be used in the third. Thus, being the eristic of external politics, war has no psychological cause. Still, war is a state of mind, which does not think non-agreement can become agreement. Pacifism has this state of mind.

External politics are international relations. These represent a third “stage” in political life (29. 1):

  1. The first stage is the the joining of wills into a society, which rules itself (29. 11).
  2. The second stage is such a society’s ruling over a non-social community in a body politic (29. 12).
  3. The third stage is dealing with other bodies politic (29. 13).

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NL XIV: “Reason”

Index to this series

Summary. Practical reason is the support of one intention by another; theoretical, one proposition by another. Reasoning is thus always “motivated reasoning”: we engage in it to relieve the distress of uncertainty. Reason is primarily practical, only secondarily theoretical; and the reason for saying this is the persistence of anthropomorphism in theoretical reasoning: by the Law of Primitive Survivals in Chapter IX, we tend to think even of inanimate objects as forming intentions the way we do.

My reason for adding this summary of Chapter XIV of Collingwood’s New Leviathan on January 29, 2019, is in part my having just read a provocative Guardian column by Oliver Burkeman on motivated reasoning, and in part the tortuousness of my own (blog) article on the chapter.

Rogier van der Weyden (Netherlandish, 1399/1400-1464), Portrait of a Lady, c. 1460, oil on panel, Andrew W. Mellon Collection
Rogier van der Weyden (Netherlandish, 1399/1400–1464),
Portrait of a Lady, c. 1460, oil on panel
National Gallery of Art, Washington; Andrew W. Mellon Collection


There was a rumor that Collingwood had become a communist. According to David Boucher, editor of the revised (1992) edition of The New Leviathan, the rumor was one of the “many reasons why [that book] failed to attract the acclaim which had been afforded Collingwood’s other major works.” Continue reading

NL I: “Body and Mind”

Index to this series

“Body and Mind” is the opening chapter of Collingwood’s New Leviathan. The chapter is a fine work of rhetoric that could stand on its own, though it invites further reading. In these respects it resembles the first of the ten traditional books of Plato’s Republic, or even the first of the thirteen books of Euclid’s Elements. The analogy with Euclid becomes a bit tighter when we consider that each chapter of The New Leviathan is divided into short paragraphs, which are numbered sequentially for ease of reference.

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