In a number of philosophical memoirs Bertrand Russell describes his break from the Kantian (and Hegelian) tradition in which he trained. Russell’s first book, an extension of a fellowship dissertation, took up the Kantian question, “how is geometry possible?” An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry elaborated a “mainly Kantian” theory of geometry in which he claimed that geometry is possible “only if space is one of three varieties, one of them Euclidean, the other two non-Euclidean but have the property of preserving a ‘constant measure of curvature’.” As Russell noted, this was a claim subsequently undermined by Einsteinian General Relativity. On later reflection, he claims that his book does not contain “anything valid”. A heavy price to pay, perhaps, for its Kantian commitments.
The retreat from Kant was not merely a matter of scholarly progression. For Russell, there was an emotional appeal to setting Kant aside. He records it as “a great liberation, as if I had escaped from a hot-house on a wind-swept headland”. Furthermore, he claimed that he “hated the stuffiness involved in supposing that space and time were only in my mind”. Elsewhere, he further underscores the emotional flavor accompanying his disagreements with Kant, regardless of any claims about their veracity, indicating that he finds “displeasing” any attempts to “humanize the cosmos”. “Kant made me sick”, Russell reported to Alan Wood.