Bertrand Russell

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An essay by the Christian apologist Dr. James Spiegel describes Bertrand Russell as a "misogynistic and a serial adulterer; a chronic seducer of women, especially very young women, even in his old age."[1]

Bertrand Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (1872–1970) was a British, 20th century philosopher, mathematician, political activist, and Fabian Socialist[2], who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950 for his writings.

Russell visited the Soviet Union and met Lenin in 1920. In a tract, The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism, he wrote:

I believe that Communism is necessary to the world, and I believe ... Bolshevism deserves the gratitude and admiration of all the progressive part of mankind. But the method by which Moscow aims at establishing Communism is a pioneer method, rough and dangerous, too heroic to count the cost of the opposition it arouses. I do not believe that by this method a stable or desirable form of Communism can be established. Three issues seem to me possible from the present situation:
  • The ultimate defeat of Bolshevism by the forces of capitalism
  • The victory of the Bolshevists accompanied by a complete loss of their ideals and a régime of Napoleonic imperialism
  • A prolonged world-war, in which civilization will go under, and all its manifestations (including Communism) will be forgotten.

Russell wrote further:

"To understand Bolshevism it is not sufficient to know facts; it is necessary also to enter with sympathy or imagination into a new spirit. The chief thing that the Bolsheviks have done is to create a hope, or at any rate to make strong and widespread a hope which was formerly confined to a few... I cannot share the hopes of the Bolsheviks any more than those of the Egyptian anchorites; I regard both as tragic delusions, destined to bring upon the world centuries of darkness and futile violence... I do not know whether Bolshevism can be prevented from acquiring universal power. But even if it cannot, I am persuaded that those who stand out against it, not from love of ancient injustice, but in the name of the free spirit of Man, will be the bearers of the seeds of progress, from which, when the world's gestation is accomplished, new life will be born."

He also largely blackwashed capitalism by implying that it harmed the agriculture and stole from people, and cited the Industral Revolution as being bad.

Russell's most significant early work was a three-volume attempt to derive all mathematical principles from a well-defined set of axioms and inference rules in symbolic logic, entitled Principia Mathematica (1910-1913). He published this work with Alfred North Whitehead. Although the Principia is widely considered by one of the most important and seminal works in logic and philosophy, part of its success was in inspiring others to question its propositions. In 1931, Kurt Godel proved that what Russell attempted could not possibly be both consistent and complete.

During the Cold War he advocated nuclear disarmament, even if it were unilateral on the part of Western powers, a stance mocked as "better Red than dead."[3] Russell was also the first president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and authored the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. "[4]"

A member of British nobility with the title of "Earl", Russell remained a hero to those on the political left, particularly in the English-speaking world, throughout his life. In his 1929 book Marriage and Morals, he argued that that sex between a man and woman who are not married to each other is not necessarily immoral if they truly love one another. In the 1960's he became a vocal critic of the Vietnam War.

Russell also famously encapsulated the dilemma faced by all those seeking objective moral truths in the face of almost overwhelming logical evidence to the contrary:

"I cannot see how to refute the arguments for the subjectivity of ethical values, but I find myself incapable of believing that all that is wrong with wanton cruelty is that I don't like it." [5]

Philosophy, 1960, "Notes on Philosophy"

Contributions to Mathematics and Philosophy

Bertrand Russell was particularly known for the famous "Russell's Paradox", which wrecked havoc on intuitivistic set theory. The basic restatement of the paradox is the following: suppose there is a predicate "x is a set that does not contain itself", does the set that is the extension of that predicate contain itself. To solve this, Russell came up with the incomprehensibly complex theory of types, which was later abandoned in favour of the Zermelo-Fraenkel axioms.

Russell's numerous writings had a significant influence on mathematical logic and philosophy. His works contributed to the many branches of science even though he discredited some of his earlier writings.

The Principles of Mathematics (1902)
Principia Mathematica (1910-13)
The ABC of Relativity (1925)
Education and the Social Order (1932)
A History of Western Philosophy (1945)
The Impact of Science upon Society (1952)
My Philosophical Development (1959)
War Crimes in Vietnam (1967)
Our Knowledge of the External World (1926)
Inquiry into Meaning and Truth (1962) [6]

Agnostic or atheist?

His own self characterization:

"I never know whether I should say 'Agnostic' or whether I should say 'Atheist'.... As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one [can] prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods."[7]

The evidence points to Bertrand Russell being a "weak atheist" (Bertrand Russell wrote an essay entitled Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?).[8] In 1927, Bertrand Russell wrote an essay entitled "Why I am not a Christian" which was based on a lecture Russell gave the same year.[9][10]

Below are some works by Christian apologists which show the inconsistencies and logical fallacies of Bertrand Russell's essay:

Bertrand Russell's pessimistic worldview

Bertrand Russell

See also: Atheism, agnosticism and pessimism

Bertrand Russell wrote in 1903 about entropy and the universe:

That man is the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins- all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.

"Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding dispair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built." [11]

In a letter to Lowes Dickinson, Bertrand Russell wrote:

We stand on the shores of an ocean, crying to the night and the emptiness; sometimes a voice answers out of the darkness. But it is a voice of one drowning; and in a moment the silence returns” (Bertrand Russell, Autobiography, p. 287 as quoted by Leroy Koopman, “Famous Atheists Give Their Testimonies,” Moody Monthly, Nov. 1975, p. 124.) [12]

See also

Notes and references

  1. The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief By James Spiegel, page 72, Moody Publishers, 2010
  2. (1954) Fabianism in the Political Life of Britain. Chicago: Heritage Foundation, 45. 
  5. [1]
  7. Russell, Bertrand (1947) "Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?"[2] Most online sources say "by which one prove," probably a mistake.
  11. Entropy and heat death
  12. Atheism and the despair of hope

See also