Russell’s Neutral Monist Theory of Desire


  • Nicholas Griffin McMaster University



Russell’s theory of desire in The Analysis of Mind is subject to a seemingly overwhelming objection, apparently stated first by Wittgenstein and subsequently elaborated even more compellingly by Anthony Kenny. The puzzle is that, before he became a neutral monist, Russell had used essentially the same argument as part of a critique of William James’s theory of knowledge. Since Russell had already formulated the argument as part of his case against generally naturalistic, and specifically neutral monist, theories of propositional attitudes, why did he think his own neutral monist theory of desire was exempt? I canvass various suggestions, but argue that none of them are effective.