- Major Writings
- General Interest
A Summary of R.B. Angell’s Development in Philosophy
Richard Bradshaw Angell graduated with a B.A. from Swarthmore College in June 1940, received an M.G.A. (Masters in Government Administration) from the University of Pennsylvania, in 1948 and received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Harvard University in June, 1954. He taught philosophy at various colleges and universities from 1949 to 1993, including 14 years (1954-68) Ohio Wesleyan University, and 25 years (1968-1993) at Wayne State University. After he retired he published a book, A-Logic (University Press of America, 2002, pp.658). This was the culmination of a search for an alternative theory of logic to the mathematical logic of Frege, Russell-Whitehead and Quine, which he had studied and taught over the preceding forty-four years.
At Swarthmore College he developed a high respect for rigorous scholarship combined with a sense of social responsibility. From his freshman year, through his master’s degree, he aspired to a life of good works in government, but eventually he became convinced that he did not have the right temperament for politics. What interested him most were philosophical problems of knowledge and ethics. In applying for graduate studies at Harvard’s Philosophy Department, he said he wanted to develop more logical ways of deciding ethical issues. At Harvard he quickly found that the new rigorous logic developed by Frege, Russell and Whitehead was a logic for dealing with statements that were true or false, but did not work well for judgments of right and wrong. He became intrigued by the problem of how to reconcile rigor with relevance to human purposes.
His Ph. D. dissertation in 1954 was entitled "Language, Designata and Truth; a Preface to a Pragmatic Rationalism". His next the fifty years were efforts to develop elements of a pragmatic rationalism.
In philosophy, the term “rationalism” has been applied to systems of philosophy like those of Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz, that “stresses the power of a priori reason to grasp substantial truths about the world.” Both Descartes and Leibniz were also major contributors to logic and mathematics. “Pragmatism” as presented by William James and John Dewey, tried to shift philosophers away from questions of ultimate metaphysical truth to the ways in which ideas and concepts (and systems of logic) are used and useful for human purposes … More »