Saturday, July 16, 2022

Checking in...........................

 ...........................with Bertrand Russell:

He could not, in any case, have succeeded in politics, because of his very exceptional intellectual integrity; he was always willing to admit the weak points on his own side and the strong points on that of his opponents.   (Russell talking about his father)

 She had that indifference to money which is only possible to those who have always had enough of it.   (Russell talking about his grandmother)

My grandfather’s library, which became my schoolroom, stimulated me in a different way. There were books of history, some of them very old; I remember in particular a sixteenth-century Guicciardini. There were three huge folio volumes called L’Art de vérifier les dates. They were too heavy for me to move, and I speculated as to their contents; I imagined something like the tables for finding Easter in the Prayer Book. At last I became old enough to lift one of the volumes out of the shelf, and I found, to my disgust, that the only ‘art’ involved was that of looking up the date in the book. Then there were The Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters, in which I read about the men who went to Ireland before the Flood and were drowned in it; I wondered how the Four Masters knew about them, and read no further. There were also more ordinary books, such as Machiavelli and Gibbon and Swift, and a book in four my mental development 11 volumes that I never opened: The Works of Andrew Marvell Esq. M.P. It was not till I grew up that I discovered Marvell was a poet rather than a politician. I was not supposed to read any of these books; otherwise I should probably not have read any of them.

William Lord Russell, who was executed under Charles II, was held up for special admiration, and the inference was encouraged that rebellion is often praiseworthy.

In 1895, when in Berlin, I made a study of German Social Democracy, which I liked as being opposed to the Kaiser, and disliked as (at that time) embodying Marxist orthodoxy. For a time, under the influence of Sidney Webb, I became an imperialist, and even supported the Boer War. This point of view, however, I abandoned completely in 1901; from that time onwards, I felt an intense dislike of the use of force in human relations, though I always admitted that it is sometimes necessary.

 But China did one thing for me that the East is apt to do for Europeans who study it with sensitive sympathy: it taught me to think in long stretches of time, and not to be reduced to despair by the badness of the present.

The question of discipline in childhood, like all other practical questions, is one of degree.

History has always interested me more than anything else except philosophy and mathematics. I have never been able to accept any general schema of historical development, such as that of Hegel or that of Marx. Nevertheless, general trends can be studied, and the study is profitable in relation to the present.

The relation of philosophy to social conditions has usually been ignored by professional philosophers. Marxists are interested in philosophy as an effect, but do not recognize it as a cause. Yet plainly every important philosophy is both. 

. I have always ardently desired to find some justification for the emotions inspired by certain things that seemed to stand outside human life and to deserve feelings of awe. I am thinking in part of very obvious things, such as the starry heavens and a stormy sea on a rocky coast; in part of the vastness of the scientific universe, both in space and time, as compared to the life of mankind; in part of the edifice of impersonal truth, especially truth which, like that of mathematics, does not merely describe the world that happens to exist.

-All excerpts from his essay, "My Mental Development"

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