Russell on Relations, 1898: a Reconsideration


  • Nicholas Griffin McMaster University



The paper traces the development of Russell’s thinking about relations in 1898. Central to the story is what Russell called “the contradiction of relativity” which he thought to be endemic in the mathematical sciences. Through most of the year he tried to deal with it within the constraints of the neo-Hegelian doctrine of internal relations until, towards the end of the year, he abandoned the doctrine and with it neo-Hegelianism. Most importantly, he came to see that the contradiction of relativity showed that it was impossible to treat transitive, asymmetrical relations as internal. The paper also throws new light on Russell’s earliest debts to G. E. Moore.