Famous Thinkers

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How did one or two famous thinkers recognize and overcome difficulties and opposition to their resolution?
Nov 5th, 2013
Famous thinkers have little in common with what makes them reach his or her level of achievement. Creative ideas are the foundation of the creative process (Goodman & Fritchie, 2011). Many of these ideas revolve around finding a solution to a problem, or changing the way people think about approaching issues. Two famous thinkers: Bertrand Russell and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., both used the creative process to change the way people viewed the issues of the day. They each made specific contributions to society during difficult social times.

The creative thinking of these two men went a long way in changing the perceptions of others. Russell for analytical philosophy based in realism and King in defeating the injustices of inequality and segregation. Each looked at their specific problems from different angles in search of uncommon solutions. Both could visualize ideas and solutions to their respective issues and each displayed the patience to refine their ideas and solutions to overcome opposition.

Bertrand Russell contributions to society were numerous, including: establishing the basis of contemporary mathematical logic, the founder of analytical philosophy, and providing controversial views in political theory, religious studies, and education. These resulted in the idea of never accepting assumptions over factual evidence (Irvine, 2010).

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s contribution to society included gaining civil rights for African Americans and changing the way America viewed issues of equality. His vision consisted of a society where people were not judged simply by the color of his or her skin. A society where people from different ethnic backgrounds, could walk together as one. His vision challenged America to expand its value system to include embracing diversity.

The social and political environment during Bertrand Russell’s life influenced his philosophical views pertaining to politics and education. He was an outspoken critic of nuclear proliferation. Set against the backdrop of World War I, he became socially active against war. He used this platform to state that education was the key to social progress (Irvine, 2010). His social philosophy was based not only on understanding nature, but also placed an equal importance on the need to understand one another. His anti-war protests led to convictions, imprisonment, and also contributed to him losing numerous teaching positions at different colleges.

The social and political environment surrounding Dr. King was that of racial tension, oppression, and inequality. His influence helped establish the necessary changes needed to right the wrongs of oppression. According to the King Institute, Martin experienced racism at a young age and knew the dangers of continuing on this path. These factors forced Dr. King to become creative in how to obtain equality and civil rights. He used civil disobedience and a nonviolence approach that were unprecedented during this time in American History.

One of the problems Bertrand Russell’s ideas attempted to solve was to use logical analysis when determining the truth about ordinary claims based on inference. This meant every claim or truth should be based on logical constructions instead of inferred entities.

The problem Dr. King’s ideas attempted to solve was the moral issue of racism and the injustice of inequality associated with it. This meant holding a political system accountable by appealing to the rules, or principles of democracy.

Bertrand Russell’s solution to his problem was introducing a distinction between two different types of knowledge of truth. The first: truth that is direct, certain, and infallible. The second: truth that is indirect, uncertain, and open to error. He justified his position by proving that indirect knowledge must stand up to more fundamental or direct knowledge. In other words, assumptions alone do not prove truth. Instead, provable facts or direct knowledge leads to genuine truth.

Dr. King’s solution to his problem encompassed the promotion of civil disobedience among African Americans to counteract the immoral acts of racism and segregation. His philosophy maintained that it is the responsibility of each individual to disobey unjust laws (Ware, 2009). He believed that integration was the key to gaining equality and promoted a nonviolent policy to achieve his solution. His nonviolent policy was based on his belief that the battle against segregation must be fought in a courtroom instead of the street (Ware, 2009).

The assumption that could have interfered with Bertrand Russell’s creative process was that of thinking everyone would be as enthusiastic and accepting of his theories relating to realism. Perception about truth, based on accepted traditional beliefs was very real during the early 1900’s. He refined his solution by using analytical reasoning and logic to prove the direct link between direct knowledge and inferred knowledge. His solutions met the tests of logic in that they were reasonable and provable. He used the process of writing educational books and teaching to implement his solutions by recognizing the fallacies of accepting a claim without factual proof to back it up.

The assumption that could have hindered Dr. King’s quest for equal rights was his belief that everyone would adhere to a nonviolent policy that promoted civil disobedience. Nonviolence in the face of extreme adversity and ridicule takes an incredible amount of discipline, strength, and courage. He revised his solution by using peaceful demonstrations in key parts of the country that proved his cause as morally correct. His solutions met the test of logic because of the moral agenda behind his cause and the belief that this element would improve humanity. Although his methods were different at the time, they were widely accepted and implemented by his followers. He overcame opposition to his solutions by staying true to himself, his vision, and his beliefs. He stood on ethical high ground and believed in democracy, decency, and persistence to achieve his goals of civil rights. Dr. King was profound, not profane.

Both King and Russell used the creative process to define a problem. The creative solutions to each problem, however effective, still required some fine-tuning after their initial implementation. Looking at these creative solutions from a variety of viewpoints allowed these ideas to gain popularity and became pivotal in developing historic change in American society.


King Institute, 2011. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the global freedom struggle. Retrieved March 28, 2011 from: http://www.kinginstitute

Ware, C., January 19th, 2009. Martin Luther King and civil disobedience and nonviolence. Retrieved March 28, 2011 www.associatedcontent.com

Ruggiero, V. R. (2009). The art of thinking: A guide to critical and creative thought (9th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Longman.Luther King Jr., M. K. Dr. (2003, August 28). I have a dream. The Commercial Appeal, E.3.

Goodman, M. and Fritichie, L.L. 2011. Thinking like a genius. Study Guides and Strategies. Retrieved March 31, 2011 from: http://www.studygs.net

Irvine, A.D. 2010. Bertrand Russell. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved March 28, 2011 from: http://plato.stanford.edu
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