The teacher and mentor of Ludwig Wittgenstein, a philosopher who is also profiled on this blog, Russell was a philosopher, a writer and a prominent mathematician, besides being a rationalist icon, a renowned pacifist and a superb intellectual.
His roots ran in a Welsh aristocratic family (his full name being Bertrand Arthur William Russell, Earl Russell III), he was from Trellech, and lived between the years 1872 and 1970. His life was exciting in every sense, from his lonely childhood in the royal residence Pembroke Lodge, raised by his strict and moralistic grandparents, up to his liberal college days and his four marriages.
Orphan of parents since age six, he spent long hours in his grandfather’s library, where he founded his love of literature and history, although he would enroll at Trinity College, University of Cambridge, to study mathematics. Both at this discipline and at philosophy, he excelled for his contributions to logic, epistemology, metaphysics and ethics. He covered many fields and had an enormous influence that earned him supporters and detractors alike.
An interesting side of his personality was his pacifism. In both World Wars, he exercised antiwar activism -in the First, to demonstrate for lobbying so it could stop the fascist threat -in the Second. He was even arrested and imprisoned for these activities, such as for opposing the proliferation of nuclear weapons; along with Albert Einstein, he signed a manifesto against the use of these weapons and for the negotiated settlement of international disputes. And along with Jean-Paul Sartre, he made up an international court against war crimes, called the Russell Tribunal. He mediated in many conflicts and treated with intellectuals and politicians to solve them.
Russell also was in favour of an education free from prejudices and also free from the strict school curriculum towards encouraging the creativity and abilities of each child. His remarks on the sexual freedom also hauled criticism.
He embodied all their social concerns and their mathematical and philosophical theses in numerous articles, and in his masterpieces as ‘Principia Mathematica’, ‘Proposed Roads to Freedom’, ‘The Conquest of Happiness’, ‘The Value of Philosophy’ or ‘Mysticism and Logic’. His thoughtful and sarcastic and metaphorical style made him worthy of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950.
Bertrand Russell is considered the most important people in field of analytic philosophy of the twentieth century philosophy and one of the main logics of the past century, too. Let’s enjoy his ideas:
Much of the difficulties the world is facing are because the ignorant are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.
In all activities is healthy, occasionally, to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.
To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.
To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.
Happy is the man who lives objectively, who has free affections and wide interests; who secures his happiness through these, and in turn they make him an object of interest and affection to many others.
The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.
Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.
The good life is one inspired by love and guided by intelligence.
How nice it would be a world in which nobody could be in the stocks market unless they have passed an exam in economics and Greek poetry, and in which politicians were required to have a solid knowledge of the history and the modern novels!
The world needs open minds and hearts, and these cannot be derived from rigid systems whether old or new.
To lead a happy life it is essential a certain ability for bearing boredom. The lives of the great men have just been exciting for a few minutes. A generation that cannot stand boredom will be a generation of men of little worth.
Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and the unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.
One of the shortcomings of modern higher education is that it makes too much emphasis on learning certain specialties, and too little on a widening of the mind and heart through an impartial analysis of the world.
I wish you a happy and a wise week,