In my first post for several months I’m going to dust off the blog and celebrate Bertrand Russell‘s 144 birthday. I first learned about Bert Russell after coming across a copy of his classic History of Western Philosophy at my grandmother’s home long ago. Of course if anyone is going to be reading someone like Bertrand Russell, it would be my grandma.
As one of the great philosophers and mathematicians of the 20th century Bertrand Russell is certainly not the household name he once was. He helped to define logical mathematics with his book Principia Mathematica. He was a progressive far ahead of his time, protesting World War I and going to jail for what were called pacifist views. Although in this day and age it would simply be protesting a brutal war and the word “pacifist” would never even come into thought. Unfortunately the term pacifist has a negative connotation these days. Not something to be. Of course many who reject pacifism also belong to a religion called Christianity who’s leader was a pacifist and laid pacifism down as a central tenet for his followers. Bert Russell also had a back and forth with the church and debated the existence of (how to spell this?) GOD. Being a rational man of science he couldn’t produce any empirical evidence of these metaphysical things so the answer seemed quite obvious. That, and he wrote a bunch of essays about it and that drew the disapproving eye of the holy see. Another thing that Bert Russell was a pioneer in is the Anti-Nuclear weapons movement. He realized the danger this new power posses for all life (an under-appreciated threat today that needs much more serious attention once again).
Among his political views was Anti-Imperialism, which was a fairly popular political stance in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. World War II changed all of that and since the end of it we never seem to mention Anti-Imperialism in our media. In fact it’s quite the opposite these days, those who call the United States an empire are scorned in most of our media. Just what one would expect to see in the news and information media of an imperial type of country. Russell won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950 “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.” His should once again be a household name.