Russell warns against self-assertion with respect to philosophic contemplation. Any study that presupposes the objects or character of the knowledge that it seeks sets obstacles in its own path, because such study is self-defeating in its obstinate desire for a certain kind of knowledge. Rather, one must start from the "not-Self" and through "the infinity of the universe the mind which contemplates it achieves some share in infinity." The union of Self and not- Self constitutes knowledge, not an "attempt to force the universe into conformity with what we find in ourselves."


In his last words of this book, Russell once again discusses the impairing influence of the idealist position. He writes of the "widespread tendency towards the view which tells us that Man is the measure of all things, that truth is man-made, that space and time and the world of universals are properties of the mind, and that, if there be anything not created by the mind it is unknowable." This position robs philosophy of its value, "since it fetters contemplation to the Self." This view puts an "impenetrable veil between us and the world beyond."

As we have seen, Russell has analyzed away the idealist veil, which took the form of a denial that the physical world existed independent of a mind. In the process, Russell constructed his own veil. Opposing the idealists in The Problems of Philosophy, Russell believed that material objects were real and independent of a mind. He just didn't think that we were acquainted with any of them. Thus, a veil remains intact.