Russell Redux

June 18, 2009

Frankly, however, the aspects of Russell’s thought that I consider most relevant still to people today concern his politics and his writings on morality. Unlike many progressives during his lifetime, Russell recognized early on that the communist regime of the Soviet Union was a disaster for its citizens and for humanity at large, and was accordingly publicly very critical of it. In a typical fashion, here is how he managed to attack the Soviet revolution and the Catholic Church in one paragraph:

“One who believes as I do, that free intellect is the chief engine of human progress, cannot but be fundamentally opposed to Bolshevism as much as to the Church of Rome. The hopes which inspire communism are, in the main, as admirable as those instilled by the Sermon on the Mount, but they are held as fanatically and are as likely to do as much harm.”

I have never had the chance to read much of Russell except for a multi-pound volume titled “History of Western Philosophy and Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day,” which I still have not finished but hope to by year’s end (I think I’m up to the Renaissance). However, anyone with the philosophical gust to write a book titled “Why I Am Not a Christian,” in 1927, deserves to be saluted for his willingness to offer up an unpopular world-view when blasphemy was still a crime in some parts of the Western world (an unfortunately re-emerging trend).

Thanks to Dr. Pigliucci for pointing our Russell’s contributions.