Study Questions: Russell, The Problems of Philosophy, pgs. 46-59

1. What is knowledge by acquaintance? More specifically, what do it mean to “have acquaintance with anything”? Give examples. (pg. 46)

2. What is knowledge by description? Give an example (pg. 47)

3. Which type of knowledge is direct? (pg. 47)

4. According to Russell, upon what does all our knowledge rest? (pg. 48)

5. What is acquaintance by introspection? Give an example. Of what knowledge is it the source? (pg. 49)

6. What is self-consciousness conscious of, and what is it not conscious of? What is Russell’s argument for making this distinction? (pg. 50). How does this view differ from Descartes’ view?

7. Do you agree with Russell or Descartes?

8. Russell claims that we have acquaintance with universals. What are universals, and what does he call this type of acquaintance? (pg. bottom 51-52)

9. Are we acquainted with physical objects or other people’s minds? (pg. 52). By what type of knowledge do we know physical objects and other people’s minds? (pg. 52).

10. What is the chief importance of knowledge of description? (pg. 59)
By ‘knowledge by acquaintance’, Russell is referring to the sort of immediate, unmediated knowledge provided by sensory experience. Crucially for such knowledge, there is no process or inference required for its acquisition; there is, for example, no reasoning required to arrive at such knowledge. Thus, we “have acquaintance with any thing” when we are “directly aware” of the thing. Illustrative examples are crucial to understanding what Russell means here: When I look at a tree, I am acquainted with the sensory data which comprises the appearance of the tree to me – that it has a green canopy and a brown base, that its bark feels a certain way...

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