Full transcription of 29-minute television interview with Bertrand Russell

I just finished the full transcript (PDF) of a 29-minute video interview (courtesy Manufacturing Intellect) with Bertrand Russell. ‘Bertrand Arthur William Russell (BR, 1872–1970) was a British philosopher, logician, essayist and social critic best known for his work in mathematical logic and analytic philosophy’ (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) and recipient of the 1950 Nobel Prize for Literature. The interview was recorded for the ‘NBC television series Wisdom, which broadcast half-hour interviews with prominent and respected people such as Pablo Picasso, David Ben Gurion, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Margaret Mead.’ (Digital Collections at the University of Maryland). The interview was broadcast on his 80th birthday, which was May 18, 1952 (A bibliography of Bertrand Russell).  The interviewer was Romney Wheeler (RW), the NBC’s London bureau news chief at the time. The discussions are wide ranging with topics from history and philosophy to politics and the human predicament. One of his best known books is Human knowledge: its scope and limits, which has been in my cupboard since my late teens, and in which Russell questions the reliability of our assumptions on knowledge. I developed a great liking for the philosophical work of Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) during my, literally, down-to-earth work as an agricultural advisor in north-western Zambia in the early 1980s. Both, Russell and Whitehead were both eminent mathematicians and philosophers. Their mathematics brought them very close together (Principia Mathematica), but their philosophies separated them very widely again (see here), something I have always found rather regrettable. I added some endnotes in which I explain what struck me in the interview in relations to my exploration of systems thinking. This transcript is stored at https://csl4d.wordpress.com/, which is the blog about social systems thinking by Sjon van ’t Hof, who is also the transcriber, and who is currently (September 2018) working on a second, more theoretical book about Churchman’s systems approach, which is scheduled for 2019. In my preparations I make extensive use of concept mapping, which I consider an essential tool in conceptual analysis. This in turn is part of analytic philosophy, of which Russell is one of the founders. I particularly like his emphasis on clarity to avoid unconscious or half-conscious prejudice, bias and self-interest, which provides a direct link to critical thinking, which was the subject of my last two posts on rationality and thinking and Baron’s search-inference framework. At the end of the transcript you will find a few notes.

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About Sjon van ’t Hof

Development professional who worked in rural development, tropical agriculture, and irrigation development in Chad, Zambia, Mali, Ghana, Mauritania, Israel, Burkina Faso, Niger, and the Netherlands in capacities ranging from project design and management to information management. Conducted missions to India, China, Kenya, and Bangladesh. Experience in the development and delivery of trainings in irrigation equipment selection, information literacy, Internet searching and database searching. Explores systems thinking in relation to international development, education, and management, with an ever stronger focus on the systems approach of C. West Churchman. Knowledgeable in tropical agriculture, project design and development economics, agricultural mechanization, irrigation, plant pathology, environmental degradation and protection, rural development. Co-authored "Wicked Solutions: a systems approach to complex problems", a book written by Bob Williams and Sjon van 't Hof. It was published in June 2014 and provides a practical way of dealing with wicked problems. Wicked problems are complex, ill-structured, human problem situations. This book will help you design an inquiry and intervention in such messy, wicked situations. It does so by guiding you through the steps and stages of a systemic process that addresses your own wicked problem. For more information, see https://csl4d.wordpress.com/ or http://www.bobwilliams.co.nz/Systems_Resources.html
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