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The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell

48 pages46 minutes


The reader will perceive, perhaps, that if the function of philosophy is really, as the saying goes, to give us assurance of God, freedom, and immortality, Mr. Russell's philosophy is a dire failure. In fact, its author sometimes gives vent to a rather emphatic pessimism about this world; he has a keen sense for the manifold absurdities of existence. But the sense for absurdities is not without its delights, and Mr. Russell's satirical wit is more constant and better grounded than his despair. I should be inclined to say of his philosophy what he himself has said of that of Leibnitz, that it is at its best in those subjects which are most remote from human life. It needs to be very largely supplemented and much ripened and humanised before it can be called satisfactory or wise; but time may bring these fulfilments, and meantime I cannot help thinking it auspicious in the highest degree that, in a time of such impressionistic haste and plebeian looseness of thought, scholastic rigour should suddenly raise its head again, aspiring to seriousness, solidity, and perfection of doctrine: and this not in the interests of religious orthodoxy, but precisely in the most emancipated and unflinchingly radical quarter. It is refreshing and reassuring, after the confused, melodramatic ways of philosophising to which the idealists and the pragmatists have accustomed us, to breathe again the crisp air of scholastic common sense. It is good for us to be held down, as the Platonic Socrates would have held us, to saying what we really believe, and sticking to what we say. We seem to regain our intellectual birthright when we are allowed to declare our genuine intent, even in philosophy, instead of begging some kind psychologist to investigate our "meaning" for us, or even waiting for the flux of events to endow us with what "meaning" it will. It is also instructive to have the ethical attitude purified of all that is not ethical and turned explicitly into what, in its moral capacity, it essentially is: a groundless pronouncement upon the better and the worse...

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