Bertrand Russell lived an extraordinarily long life, in which he did an extraordinary number of extraordinary things.
Encyclopedia Britannica introduces him thusly: ‘Bertrand Russell ….born May 18, 1872, Trelleck, Monmouthshire, Wales- died Feb. 2, 1970, Penrhyndeudraeth, Merioneth, [was a] British philosopher, logician, and social reformer, founding figure in the analytic movement in Anglo-American philosophy, and recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950. Russell’s contributions to logic, epistemology, and the philosophy of mathematics established him as one of the foremost philosophers of the 20th century. To the general public, however, he was best known as a campaigner for peace and as a popular writer on social, political, and moral subjects. During a long, productive, and often turbulent life, he published more than 70 books and about 2,000 articles, married four times, became involved in innumerable public controversies, and was honoured and reviled in almost equal measure throughout the world…’
For myself, he was particularly influential to my youthful freethinking self, disenchanted with the religion of my childhood and seeking new and more satisfying ways of viewing the world. I read his History of Western Philosophy and Why I Am Not a Christian each several times over. I admire his clear, precise thinking and his principled anti-war stance which came at a significant cost, including jail time and loss of a prestigious job at the University of Chicago, and it’s always so enjoyable to watch him speak (you’ll find plenty of videos on YouTube) in his oh-so-aristocratic accent with a pipe often tucked into the corner of his mouth. He was not a perfect man, but he was a brilliant and never a less-than-fascinating one.
Learn more about the brilliant and idiosyncratic Bertrand Russell at:
Bertrand Russell ~ Melvyn Bragg in discussion with AC Grayling, Mike Beaney, and Hilary Greaves for BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time
Bertrand Russell ~ by Andrew David Irvine for The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Bertrand Russell – Biographical ~ at NobelPrize.org
Bertrand Russell: British Logician and Philosopher ~ by Ray Monk for Encyclopedia Britannica
Stop Working so Much: In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell ~ by Nat Eliason and Neil Soni for Made You Think podcast
Various pieces on Bertrand Russell ~ by Maria Popova for Brain Pickings
*A version of this piece was previously published at Ordinary Philosophy
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