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The Scientific Outlook [Hardcover]

Bertrand Russell

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Book Description

21 Jun 2001 0415249961 978-0415249966 New Ed
'A scientific opinion is one which there is some reason to believe is true; an unscientific opinion is one which is held for some reason other than its probable truth.' - Bertrand Russell
One of Russell's most important books, this early classic on science illuminates his thinking on the promise and threat of scientific progress. Russell considers three questions fundamental to an understanding of science: the nature and scope of scientific knowledge, the increased power over nature that science affords, and the changes in the lives of human beings that result from new forms of science. With customary wit and clarity, Russell offers brilliant discussions of many major scientific figures, including Aristotle, Galileo, Newton and Darwin.
With a new introduciton by David Papineau, King's College, London.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; New Ed edition (21 Jun 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415249961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415249966
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 13.3 x 20.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,248,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970). Philosopher, mathematician, educational and sexual reformer, pacifist, prolific letter writer, author and columnist, Bertrand Russell was one of the most influential and widely known intellectual figures of the twentieth century. In 1950 he was awarded the Noble Prize for Literature in 1950 for his extensive contributions to world literature and for his "rationality and humanity, as a fearless champion of free speech and free thought in the West."

Product Description


'A scientific opinion is one which there is some reason to believe is true; an unscientific opinion is one which is held for some reason other than its probable truth.' - Bertrand Russell

From the Back Cover

The Scientific Outlook is one of Russell's most important books. It is an early classic on science and provides accessible and illuminating insights into his thinking about the promise and threat of scientific progress. Russell considers three questions fundamental to an understanding of science: the nature and scope of scientific knowledge, the increased power over nature that science affords, and the changes in the lives of human beings that result from new forms of science.

Written with his customary wit and clarity, Russell offers brilliant discussions of many of the major figures in the history of science, including Aristotle, Galileo, Newton and Darwin. Unavailable for many years, The Scientific Outlook is essential reading for Russell followers and anyone interested in popular science and philosophy. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
SCIENTIFIC method, although in its more refined forms it may seem complicated, is in essence remarkably simple. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Science meets Philosophy (again) 21 Mar 2005
By C. M. Stahl - Published on
This book is a series of essays grouped together into three sections. Scientific Knowledge is a primer on how the role it plays in overall thinking and philosophy. There is more to establishing an ideology than science and it needs to work in conjunction with the arts for example. The second section is the "How To" of the Scientific Method and the third is a scary portrayal of how a purely scientific world society might end up. It was originally published about the same time as 1984 and Brave New World all three of these writers obviously saw the potential risk of what Russell describes as science for power's sake rather than for the love of knowledge and learning.

Many years ago I read much if not all of these essays about the value of the Scientific Method (or Technique as he says). I was won over and as a student of Social Sciences I attempted to use the method to the best of my ability. I also appreciated his socially liberal outlook that can be seen throughout. Years hence, upon re-reading the book I find that I still appreciate the writing but I have been inured in my thinking that the world will be a better place with the Scientific Method playing a larger role in policy making.

Some of Russell's sentiment of 1931 does not play that well today, such as his tempered admiration for the USSR but many others should his prescient thinking. Those incident's were many but I will only present one and that is because I saw it as true but funny in a melancholy way. In the third section he describes how people in the scientific world society will have no wars and therefore will have to have death defying games in order for those personality types to be able to vent there lust. Today we have reality television.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most influential science fiction source of all time? 26 Jan 2003
By ericross - Published on
Unlike the many other great literary inspirations of the science fiction writers of the of the twentieth century, this book is not a work of science fiction.
As its name suggests, The Scientific Outlook, is an attempt to predict the next developments in science as seen from the perspective of the early 1930's.
The contents of this book were so outrageous and shocking in their time that they were best appreciated by those people who saw it as their business to show our destiny taking an unexpected turn, painting a picture of a time to come when things contrast radically with our current circumstances.
There are instances where such predictive storytelling is intended as a warning, attempting to offer an insight into how seemingly innocuous trends and apparently insignificant contemporary changes portend unforeseen (but not unforeseeable) catastrophic longer term outcomes.
Science fiction writing has a major category called 'technological extrapolation' in which the above occurs, and within that genre there is a subcategory called 'dystopia' which uses such crystal gazing to present a kind of 'negative utopia' where 'it all ends in tears'.
The two most famous twentieth century dystopias, two 'worlds turned upside down', are Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, and '1984' by George Orwell.
Both of these great works have very strong connections to this book, the former being substantially derived from it.
Aldous Huxley was Russell's student and published Brave New World a year after The Scientific Outlook.
Orwell was strongly influenced in '1984' by Burnham's 1940 classic 'The Managerial Revolution' which has strong parallels with 'The Scientific Outlook' (although Russell claims no direct influence on Burnham, he points out the similarity of Burnham's material, which was published nearly a decade after Russell's book).
Even if the similarity to the predictions in `The Managerial Revolution' was a freakish coincidence, the connection to Brave New world is unquestionable and the shared dystopian derivations are `of a piece' with 1984 to the extent where, if you want to `go back to the source' in an easily readable form (Russell's writing is razor sharp and witty, with all the historical context you could wish for in a popular science book) you could not ask for a better starting point in terms of understanding the technological roots of those two great novels.
An enjoyable and insightful read, essential for anyone trying to get to grips with the recent history and philosophy of science, especially in the highly controversial field of medical ethics, where it is possible to see eugenics from a standpoint which preceded its post-war ethical and political denunciation.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Not all wisdom is new, nor is all folly out of date" 9 Feb 2010
By R. Pokkyarath - Published on
This work is an attempt to define the characteristics of the scientific process, identify the techniques as in the application of it to various disciplines and finally Russell makes certain conjectures about how a scientific society might eventually end up.

The book is divided into 3 main sections,
- Scientific Knowledge
- Scientific Technique
- Scientific Society

The part that I liked the most is 'Scientific Knowledge'; especially the discussion pertaining to science, metaphysics and religion. In addition to identifying the characteristics of the scientific process (observation, inductive and deductive reasoning, experimentation, approximation etc) Russell provides a nice explanation about the limitations of this process. Topics such as the validity of the inductive reasoning, inference and the questions/concerns about the abstractness of theoretical physics is discussed in a very interesting manner. In the chapter 'Science and Religion' Russell takes on Sir Arthur Eddington and Sir James Jeans for speculating the possibility of the existence of a creator; Russell replies to Eddington's use of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle to imply the lack of causality and James Jeans thesis of "God as a Mathematician" get a fair amount of dressing down with Russell finally remarking "one does not quite see what can have been gained by creating so such muddle-headedness"

I'm not sure if I gained anything much from the section 'Scientific Technique'. When Russell wrote this book the application of science to biology, physiology and psychology was in its infancy; it does, however, give a snapshot of those early days.

The third section speculates about how a scientific society might look like in the future - a recurring theme in many of his writings; it talks about the ruling oligarchies employing science to gain control. Topics touched upon here include education, eugenics and others. The book ends with a nice chapter entitled 'Science and Values' where Russell looks down upon "power science" and says "Thus it is only in so far as we renounce the world as its lovers that we can conquer it as its technicians"

Overall, a nice book; if you have read Russell's other books related to science and society you will notice quite a bit of an overlap.
5.0 out of 5 stars A book of undeniable importance! 6 Aug 2013
By Hiram Gomez Pardo - Published on
To my view, the four aces who might be regarded like the most prominent thinkers of the last Century: Bertrand Russell, Aldous Huxley, Thomas Mann and Ortega y Gassette.

Nevertheless, Bertrand Russell was a man from the Resnaissance, whose reflections still maintain the intelectual authority, resonance and transcendence; hence its actual vigency.

Russell studies the influence of the science over the human life and manages to imagine the future scientific society on the years to come.
5.0 out of 5 stars good book with interesting conclusion 15 April 2012
By Anthony Marinelli - Published on
This book written by the nobel prize winning writer,is interesting! I wont go into what the book is about but he does go into how science developed,and how it progressed and the type of scientific world we have today and he offers a surprising conclusion,but not for readers who are used to him. As a philosopher Russell is a writer i read from my early youth,and he is someone whoose papers i believe are now in mcmaster in hamilton, who is quite different. The type of scientific world he describes,is a world where science is manipulated by people,and if those aims are good all is fine and if those aims are bad the opposite is true? Whether our world is heading towards a world of aldous huxley or george orwell is for others to judge. There is an old maxim that as the world becomes one in nature and as science advances this will be true,the advances of society must be felt at the community level,since that is the world of science we experience. An important point he mentions is people dont really try to study or research before they begin they manipulate things to their or some perceived are best
advanced by people he sais at books end filled with love,the poetic or mystic mind,not the manipulator who before he begins his procedure already has in mind what he wants to do,to the advantage of this or that. Of course that view has nothing to do with science,it is a result of all that was going wrong in the beginning of the book he states all people even adults,have child like or scientific minds,there really is not a middling ground. I do believe given the development of society,the absence of religious consciousness is sorely felt throughout our world,to those worlds ultimate demise,and thats my christian view..the writer admits the attempt to build a scientific society based on reason even love has i dont know where the future of the world will go...but
the world each year is increasingly orwellian...and my own view is the departure from a christian the author says science goes through and is interpreted through a persons mind,and its best practiced by those
filled with love...not be those who manipulate and interfere with the scientic process...manipulators just confirm their own conclusions
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