Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl (1872-1970) 

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British philosopher, mathematician and social critic, one of the most widely read philosophers of this
century. Bertrand Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950. In his memoirs he
mentions that he formed in 1895 a plan to "write one series of books on the philosophy of the sciences
from pure mathematics to physiology, and another series of books on social questions. I hoped that the
two series might ultimately meet in a synthesis at once scientific and practical." 

"The belief that fashion alone should dominate opinion has great advantages. It makes thought
unnecessary and puts the highest intelligence within the reach of everyone. It is not difficult to learn
the correct use of such words as 'complex,' 'sadism,' 'Oedipus,' 'bourgeois,' 'deviation,' 'left'; and
nothing more is needed to make a brilliant writer or talker." (from 'On Being Modern-Minded' in
Unpopular Essays, 1950) 

Bertrand Russel was born in Trelleck, Gwent, as the second son of Viscount Amberley. His mother,
Katherine, was the daughter of Baron Stanley of Aderley. She died of diphtheria in 1874 and her
husband a twenty months later. At the age of three Russell was an orphan. He was brought up by his
grandfather, Lord John Russell, who had been prime minister twice, and Lady John. 

Inspired by Euclid's Geometry, Russell displayed a keen aptitude for pure mathematics and developed
an interest in philosophy. At Trinity College, Cambridge, his brilliance was soon recognized, and
brought him a membership of the 'Apostles', a forerunner of the Bloomsbury Set. 

After graduating from Cambridge in 1894, Russell worked briefly at the British Embassy in Paris as
honorary attachˇ. Next year he became a fellow of Trinity College. Against his family's wishes, Russell
married an American Quaker, Alys Persall Smith, and went off with his wife to Berlin, where he studied
economics and gathered data for the first of his ninety-odd books, GERMAN SOCIAL DEMOCRACY (1896). A year later came out Russell's fellowship dissertation, ESSAY ON THE FOUNDATIONS ON GEOMETRY (1897). "It was towards the end of 1898 that Moore and I rebelled against both Kant and Hegel. Moore led the way, but I followed closely in his footsteps," Russell wrote in My Philosophical Development (1959). 

THE PRINCIPLES OF MATHEMATICS (1903) was Russell's first major work. It proposed that the
foundations of mathematics could be deduced from a few logical ideas. In it Russell arrived at the view
of Gottlob Frege (1848-1925), that mathematics is a continuation of logic and that its subject-matter is
a system of Platonic essences that exist in the realm outside both mind and matter. PRINCIPIA
MATHEMATICA (1910-13) was written in collaboration with the philosopher and mathematician
Alfred North Whitehead. According to Russell and Whitehead, philosophy should limit itself to simple,
objective accounts of phenomena. Empirical knowledge was the only path to truth and all other knowledge was subjective and misleading. - However, later Russell became sceptical of the empirical
method as the sole means for ascertaining the truth, and admitted that much of philosophy does depend
on unprovable a priori assumptions about the universe. He, however, maintained otherwise than
Wittgenstein, that philosophy could and should deliver substantial results: theories about what exists,
what can be known, how we come to know it. 

After Principia Russell never again worked intensively in mathematics. Russell's interpretation of
numbers as classes of classes was gave him much trouble: if we have a class that is not a member of
itself - is it a member of itself? If yes, then no, if no, then yes. After discussions with Wittgenstein Russell accepted the view that mathematical statements are tautologies, no truths about a realm of
logico-mathematical entities. 

Russell's concise and original introductory book, THE PROBLEMS OF PHILOSOPHY, appeared in
1912. He continued with works on epistemology, MYSTICISM AND LOGIC (1918) and ANALYSIS AND MIND (1921). In his paper of 1905, 'On denoting', Russell showed how a logical form could differ from obvious forms of common language. The work was the foundation of much twentieth-century philosophizing about language. The essential point of his theory, Russell later wrote, "was that although 'the golden mountain' may be grammatically the subject of a significant proposition, such a proposition when rightly analysed no longer has such a subject. The proposition 'the golden mountain does not exist' becomes 'the propositional function "x is golden and a mountain" is false for all values of x'." (from My Philosophical Development)

In 1907 Russell stood unsuccessfully for parliament as a candidate for the Women's Suffragate Society,
and next year he became a Fellow of the Royal Society. Believing that inherited wealth was immoral,
Russell gave most of his money away to his university. His marriage ended when he began a lengthy
affair with the literary hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell, who had been a close friend of the Swedish writer
and physician Axel Munthe (1857-1949). Other liaisons followed, among others with T.S. Eliot's wife
Vivien Haigh-Wood. Later Russell wrote about his sexual morality and agnosticism in MARRIAGE
AND MORALS (1929). Russell stated that human beings are not naturally monogamous, outraging
many with his views. In 1927 Russell wrote in WHY I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN that all organized
religions are the residue of the barbaric past, dwindled to hypocritical superstitions that have no basis in

At the outbreak of World War I, Russell was outspoken pacifist, which lost him his fellowship in 1916.
Two years later he served six months in prison, convicted of libelling an ally - the American army - in a
Tribune article. While in Brixton Gaol, he worked on INTRODUCTION TO MATHEMATICAL
PHILOSOPHY (1919). World War I darkened Russell's view of human nature. "I learned an
understanding of instinctive processes which I had not possessed before." Also Ludwig Wittgenstein's
criticism of Russell's work on the theory of knowledge disturbed his philosophical self-confidence.
Russell visited Russia in 1920 with a Labour Party delegation and met Vladimir Lenin and Leon
Trotsky, but returned deeply disillusioned and published his sharp critic THE PRACTICE AND

"The stuff of which the world of our experience is composed is, in my belief, neither mind nor
matter, but something more primitive than either. Both mind ands matter seem to be composite, and
the stuff of which they are compounded lies in a sense between the two, in a sense above them both,
like a common ancestor." (from The Analysis of Mind, 1921) 

In 1922 Russell celebrated his 50th birthday, believing that "brain becomes rigid at 50." He was famous
and controversial figure - "'Bertie is a fervid egoist," Virginia Wollf wrote in her diary about his friend,
but Russell saw himself as "a nonsupernatural Faust." From about 1927 to 1938 Russell lived by
lecturing and writing on a huge range of popular subjects. He pursued his philosophical work in THE
ANALYSIS OF MIND (1921) and THE ANALYSIS OF MATTER (1927). Between the years
1920 and 1921 he was professor at Peking and in 1927 he started with his former student and second
wife Dora Black a progressive school at Beacon Hill, on the Sussex Downs. In ON EDUCATION
(1926) Russell called for an education that would liberate the child from unthinking obedience to
parental and religious authority. The experiment at Beacon Hill lasted for five years and gave material to the book EDUCATION AND SOCIAL ORDER (1932). 

In 1936 Russell married Patricia Spence, who had been his research assistant on his political history
FREEDOM AND ORGANIZATION (1934). In 1938 he moved to the United States, returning to
academic philosophical work. He was a visiting professor at the University of California at Los Angeles
and later at City College, New York, where he was debarred from teaching because of libertarian
opinions about sexual morals, education, and war. An appointment from the Barnes Foundation near
Philadelphia gave Russell an opportunity to write one of his most popular works, HISTORY OF
WESTERN PHILOSOPHY (1945). Its success permanently ended his financial difficulties and earned
him the Nobel Prize. In 1944 Russell returned to Cambridge as a Fellow of his old college, Trinity.

During WW II Russell abandoned his pacifism, but in the final decades of his life Russell became the
leading figure in the antinuclear weapons movement. From 1950 to his death Russell was extremely
active in political campaigning. He established Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation in 1964, supported
the Jews in Russia and the Arabs in Palestine and condemned the Vietnam War. In his family life Russell had his own tragedies: his son John and his granddaughters Sarah and Lucy suffered from
schizophrenia. Russell turned over the care of John to his mother Dora. Lucy immolated herself five
years after Russell's death. 

Retaining his ability to cause debate, Russell was imprisoned in 1961 with his fourth and final wife Edith
Finch for taking part in a demonstration in Whitehall. The sentence was reduced on medical grounds to
seven days in Brixton Prison. His last years Russell spent in North Wales. His later works include
HUMAN KNOWLEDGE: ITS SCOPE AND LIMITS (1948), two collections of sardonic fables,
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF BERTRAND RUSSELL (1967-69, 3 vols.), in which he stated:
"Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the
search for knowledge and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind." Russell died of influenza on
February 2, 1970. When asked what he would say to God if he found himself before Him, Russell
answered: 'I should reproach him for not giving us enough evidence.'

Though Russell was a pioneer of logical positivism, which was further developed by such philosophers
from 'Vienna circle' as Ludwig Wittgenstein and Rudolf Carnap, he never identified himself fully with the
group. In Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits Russell argued that while the data of sense are
mental, they are caused by physical events. The world is a wast collection of facts and events, but
beyond the laws of their occurrence science cannot go, it only gives us knowledge of the world.