I have a specific question in regards to understanding “The Problems of Philosophy” by Russell.

In the third chapter (page 46) he writes:

But the space of science is neutral as between touch and sight; thus it cannot be either the space of touch or the space of sight

I do not understand this. Does anyone mind rewording, rephrasing it or explaining it?

I understand (I think) the overall point he is making: our experience of space, is not space itself, it is not like matter is in our experience of space, if matter is to be shown as independent of our experiences then it must be somewhere and this somewhere must be public ‘space’.

Just that particular line I don’t understand.

Thank you.

Basically what he means here

But the space of science is neutral as between touch and sight; thus it cannot be either the space of touch or the space of sight

Refers to how there are 2 kinds of "spaces", there's a personal space, an individuals personal view and space, and then there's a "real space" which is the scientific space, different and completely detached from a personal "space".

Now this sounds a bit complicated, but simply said, There is a difference between what someone sees an object is and what it is in reality. Lets take an object for an example: a simple coin. we all know a coin is a circular object but it will look like an oval to a person unless we are directly in front of the coin, this is the persons own "space of sight" but the "real" shape of the coin stays as a circular object, this is it's "Space of science".

Rewording that phrase could be many different things, such as

Space of science is unchanged no matter the observant, it's form does not change based on perception, thus it cannot be defined by the space of touch or the space of sight of an individual.

As Bertrand Russell himself says in the chapter

The space of science, therefore, though connected with the spaces we see and feel, is not identical with them, and the manner of its connexion requires investigation.

Also clears up the meaning of the difference between space of science and space of touch and sight.

See Phenomenalism :

objects in space are identical to our representations,

vs Physicalism :

everything is physical.

In a nutshell, our experience is made of sense-data but science deals with objects (matter) existing outside of us in the real world.

These objects are located in the space of physics, the space described by the geometry used by our current physical theory (the euclidean geometry for classical physics as well as the non-euclidean one for reletivistic physics).

It is essential to science that its matter should be in a space, but the space in which it is cannot be exactly the space we see or feel.

See here : in the "world" of our experience there are colours and sounds, whle in the physical world there are waves of different wavelenghts.


Note. See also Primary/secondary quality distinction.

In the third chapter, "The Nature of Matter", Russell wants to describe what "persists independently of my perception of it" (page 43).

Consider the full paragraph from which the quote is taken:

It is not only colours and sounds and so on that are absent from the scientific world of matter, but also space as we get it through sight or touch. It is essential to science that its matter should be in a space, but the space in which it is cannot be exactly the space we see or feel. To begin with, space as we see it is not the same as space as we get it by the sense of touch; it is only by experience in infancy that we learn how to touch things we see, or how to get a sight of things which we feel touching us. But the space of science is neutral as between touch and sight; thus it cannot be either the space of touch or the space of sight.

I put in bold the quote. Here is the question:

I do not understand this. Does anyone mind rewording, rephrasing it or explaining it?

I understand (I think) the overall point he is making: our experience of space, is not space itself, it is not like matter is in our experience of space, if matter is to be shown as independent of our experiences then it must be somewhere and this somewhere must be public ‘space’.

The space of science is independent (or neutral) with respect to our perceptions, that is, with respect to our senses of touch or sight.

Each of these senses creates a space that Russell calls the "space of touch" or the "space of sight". These are not the space that science considers. We get these spaces through our perceptions, but science wants to consider matter independently of these perceptions.

So these spaces must be abstracted away to reach a neutral space, independent of perceptions, in which science can describe matter.


Reference

Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy Chapter 3 The Nature of Matter, Wikisource: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Problems_of_Philosophy/Chapter_3

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