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Russell wrote it as a quick and accessible guide to some of the issues of philosophy. The reader is introduced not only to Russell's theories but also those of other philosophers such as Hume, Locke and Kant. The selection of problems concentrates on the theory of knowledge (epistemology) rather than metaphysics. This involves the distinction between types of knowledge, an important part of Russell's philosophy, and to what degree something can truly be known with any certainty.
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Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it? This question, which at first sight might not seem difficult, is really one of the most difficult that can be asked. When we have realised the obstacles in the way of a straightforward and confident answer, we shall be well launched on the study of philosophy—for philosophy is merely the attempt to answer such ultimate questions, not carelessly and dogmatically, as we do in ordinary life and even in the sciences, but critically, after exploring all that makes such questions puzzling, and after realising all the vagueness and confusion that underlie our ordinary ideas.
Published January 13, 1898 on the front page of the Paris daily, L'Aurore, J'accuse was written by Émile Zola, an influential French novelist, as an open letter to Félix Faure, President of the French Republic, and accuses the government of anti-Semitism in the Dreyfus Affair.
Would you allow me, in my gratitude for the benevolent reception that you made me one day, to draw the attention of your rightful glory and to tell you that your star, if happy up to now, is threatened by great shame, by the most ineffaceable of blemishes?
You have remained healthy and free of base calumnies; you have conquered hearts. You appear radiant in the apotheosis of the patriotic festival that the Russian alliance was for France, and you prepare to govern the solemn triumph of our World Fair, which will crown our great century of work, truth and freedom. But what a spot of mud on your name — I was going to say on your reign — is this abominable Dreyfus business! A council of war, under order, has just dared to discharge Esterhazy, completely without any truth, any justice. And it is finished, France has this stain on its cheek, History will write that it is under your presidency that such a social crime could be committed.