Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell

region = Western Philosophy
era = 20th century philosophy
color = #B0C4DE

image_caption = Russell in 1907
image_size = 150px
name = Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell
birth = birth date|df=yes|1872|5|18
Trellech, Monmouthshire, UK
death = death date and age|df=yes|1970|2|2|1872|5|18
Penrhyndeudraeth, Wales, UK
school_tradition = Analytic philosophy
awd|Nobel Prize in Literature|1950
main_interests = Ethics, epistemology, logic, mathematics, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, religion
influences = Plato·Leibniz·
A.N. Whitehead·
influenced = Wittgenstein·Ayer·
Carnap·Gödel ·
Chomsky·Austin·Kripke·Schlick·Tarski·Waismann·Davidson· Eddington·Turing·Arendt·Vuillemin·McDowell·Kumar·
Evans · Chisholm | notable_ideas = Logical atomism, theory of descriptions, knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description, Russell's paradox, Russell's teapot.

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970), was a British philosopher, historian, logician, mathematician, advocate for social reform, and pacifist. Although usually regarded as English, as he spent the majority of his life in England, he was born and raised in Wales. [cite book|title=Wales|last=Hestler|first=Anna|pages=53|publisher=Marshall Cavendish|year=2001|isbn=076141195X]

A prolific writer, Russell was a populariser of philosophy and a commentator on a large variety of topics. Continuing a family tradition in political affairs, he was a prominent anti-war activist, championing free trade between nations and anti-imperialism. [cite journal|author=Richard Rempel|year=1979|title=From Imperialism to Free Trade: Couturat, Halevy and Russell's First Crusade|journal=Journal of the History of Ideas|volume=40|issue=3|pages=423–443|doi=10.2307/2709246] [cite book|author=Bertrand Russell|title=Political Ideals|publisher=Routledge|origyear=1917|year=1988|id=ISBN 0-415-10907-8] He wrote the essay "On Denoting" and was co-author (with Alfred North Whitehead) of "Principia Mathematica", an attempt to ground mathematics on the laws of logic. Both works have had a considerable influence on logic, mathematics, set theory, linguistics and analytic philosophy.

Russell was born at the height of Britain's economic and political ascendancy. When he died almost a century later, the British Empire had all but vanished; its power had been dissipated by two world wars and its imperial system had been brought to an end. Among his post–Second World War political activities, Russell was a vigorous proponent of nuclear disarmament, antagonist to Soviet totalitarianism and an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War. [ The Bertrand Russell Gallery ] ] Previously he had been imprisoned and deprived of his position at Trinity College, Cambridge because of his activity as a vigorous peace campaigner and opponent of conscription during the First World War. In 1920, Russell visited the emerging Soviet Union which subsequently met with his disapproval, but he also campaigned vigorously against Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.

In 1950, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought".The Nobel Foundation (1950). [ Bertrand Russell: The Nobel Prize in Literature 1950] . Retrieved on 11 June 2007.]


Bertrand Russell was born on 18 May 1872 at Ravenscroft (now Cleddon Hall), Trellech, Monmouthshire, into an aristocratic family.


His paternal grandfather, John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, was the second son of John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford, and had twice been asked by Queen Victoria to form a government, serving her as Prime Minister in the 1840s and 1860s.cite web| last = Bloy| first = Marjie, Ph.D.| title = Lord John Russell (1792-1878)| url=| accessdate = 2007-10-28 ] The Russells had been prominent in Britain for several centuries before this, coming to power and the peerage with the rise of the Tudor dynasty. They established themselves as one of Britain's leading Whig (Liberal) families, and participated in every great political event from the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536-40 to the Glorious Revolution in 1688-89 to the Great Reform Act in 1832.Cokayne, G.E.; Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed. 13 volumes in 14. 1910-1959. Reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, UK: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000.]

Russell's mother Katherine Louisa (1844 - 1874) was the daughter of Edward Stanley, 2nd Baron Stanley of Alderley, and was the sister of Rosalind Howard, Countess of Carlisle.

Russell's parents were quite radical for their times—Russell's father, Viscount Amberley, was an atheist and consented to his wife's affair with their children's tutor, the biologist Douglas Spalding. Both were early advocates of birth control at a time when this was considered scandalous.cite web|last=Paul|first=Ashley|title=Bertrand Russell: The Man and His Ideas.|url=|accessdate=2007-10-28]

John Stuart Mill, the Utilitarian philosopher, stood as Russell's godfather. Mill died the following year, but his writings had a great effect upon Russell's life.

Childhood and adolescence

Russell had two siblings: Frank (nearly seven years older than Bertrand), and Rachel (four years older). In June 1874 Russell's mother died of diphtheria, followed shortly by Rachel, and in January 1876 his father also died of bronchitis following a long period of depression. Frank and Bertrand were placed in the care of their staunchly Victorian grandparents, who lived at Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park. John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, his grandfather, died in 1878, and was remembered by Russell as a kindly old man in a wheelchair. As a result, his widow, the Countess Russell (née Lady Frances Elliot), was the dominant family figure for the rest of Russell's childhood and youth.

The countess was from a Scottish Presbyterian family, and successfully petitioned a British court to set aside a provision in Amberley's will requiring the children to be raised as agnostics. Despite her religious conservatism, she held progressive views in other areas (accepting Darwinism and supporting Irish Home Rule), and her influence on Bertrand Russell's outlook on social justice and standing up for principle remained with him throughout his life — her favourite Bible verse, 'Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil' (Exodus 23:2), became his mantra. However, the atmosphere at Pembroke Lodge was one of frequent prayer, emotional repression and formality; Frank reacted to this with open rebellion, but the young Bertrand learned to hide his feelings.

Russell's adolescence was thus very lonely, and he often contemplated suicide. He remarked in his autobiography that his keenest interests were in sex, religion and mathematics, and that only the wish to know more mathematics kept him from suicide. ["The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell", p.38] He was educated at home by a series of tutors, and he spent countless hours in his grandfather's library.

His brother Frank introduced him to the work of Euclid, which transformed Russell's life.cite paper|author=Lenz, John R.|title=Bertrand Russell and the Greeks|date=date unknown|url=|format=PDF|accessdate=2007-10-27]

University and first marriage

Russell won a scholarship to read for the Mathematics Tripos at Trinity College, Cambridge, and commenced his studies there in 1890. He became acquainted with the younger G.E. Moore and came under the influence of Alfred North Whitehead, who recommended him to the Cambridge Apostles. He quickly distinguished himself in mathematics and philosophy, graduating with a B.A. in the former subject in 1893 and adding a fellowship in the latter in 1895.cite web|url=|title=Alfred North Whitehead|accessdate=2007-11-08|last=O'Connor|first=J. J.|coauthors=E. F. Robertson|date=October 2003|publisher=School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland] cite web|url=|title=Bertrand Russell's Mathematical Education|accessdate=2007-11-08|last=Griffin|first=Nicholas|coauthors=Albert C. Lewis|work=Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 44, No. 1.|pages=51-71]

Russell first met the American Quaker Alys Pearsall Smith when he was seventeen years old. He became a friend of the Pearsall Smith family—they knew him primarily as 'Lord John's grandson' and enjoyed showing him off—and travelled with them to the continent; it was in their company that Russell visited the Paris Exhibition of 1889 and was able to climb the Eiffel Tower soon after it was completed.cite web|url=|title=Famous Marriages Bertrand Russell & Alla Pearsall Smith, Part 1|accessdate=2007-11-15|last=Wallechinsky|first=David|coauthors=Irving Wallace|date=1981|work=The People's Almanac]

He soon fell in love with the puritanical, high-minded Alys, who was a graduate of Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia, and, contrary to his grandmother's wishes, he married her on 13 December 1894. Their marriage began to fall apart in 1901 when it occurred to Russell, while he was out on his bicycle, that he no longer loved her. She asked him if he loved her and he replied that he didn't. Russell also disliked Alys's mother, finding her controlling and cruel. It was to be a hollow shell of a marriage and they finally divorced in 1921, after a lengthy period of separation.cite web|url=|title=Famous Marriages Bertrand Russell & Alla Pearsall Smith, Part 3|accessdate=2007-11-15|last=Wallechinsky|first=David|coauthors=Irving Wallace|date=1981|work=The People's Almanac] During this period, Russell had passionate (and often simultaneous) affairs with a number of women, including Lady Ottoline Morrell and the actress Lady Constance Malleson.cite web|url=|title=Love, logic & unbearable pity: The private Bertrand Russell|accessdate=2007-11-15|last=Kimball|first=Roger|work=The New Criterion Vol. 11, No. 1, September 1992|publisher=The New Criterion]

Early career

Russell began his published work in 1896 with "German Social Democracy", a study in politics that was an early indication of a lifelong interest in political and social theory. In 1896, he taught German social democracy at the London School of Economics, where he also lectured on the science of power in the autumn of 1937.cite web|url=|title=London School of Economics|last=Simkin|first=John|accessdate=2007-11-16] He was also a member of the Coefficients dining club of social reformers set up in 1902 by the Fabian campaigners Sidney and Beatrice Webb.cite book|last=Russell|first=Bertrand|editor=Ray Perkins|title=Yours Faithfully, Bertrand Russell: Letters to the Editor 1904-1969|year=2001|publisher=Open Court Publishing|location=Chicago|isbn=0-8126-9449-X|pages=16|url=|accessdate=2007-11-16]

In 1905 he wrote the essay "On Denoting", which was published in the philosophical journal "Mind". Russell became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1908. The first of three volumes of "Principia Mathematica", written with Whitehead, was published in 1910, which, along with the earlier [ "The Principles of Mathematics"] , soon made Russell world famous in his field. In 1911, he became acquainted with the Austrian engineering student Ludwig Wittgenstein, whom he viewed as a genius and a successor who would continue his work on logic. He spent hours dealing with Wittgenstein's various phobias and his frequent bouts of despair. The latter was often a drain on Russell's energy, but he continued to be fascinated by him and encouraged his academic development, including the publication of Wittgenstein's "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" in 1922. [ Russell on Wittgenstein] ]

First World War

During the First World War, Russell engaged in pacifist activities, and, in 1916, he was dismissed from Trinity College following his conviction under the Defence of the Realm Act. A later conviction resulted in six months' imprisonment in Brixton prison (see "Activism" below). Russell was released from prison in September 1918.

Between the wars, and second marriage

In August 1920, Russell traveled to Russia as part of an official delegation sent by the British government to investigate the effects of the Russian Revolution.cite web|title=Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)|publisher=Farlex, Inc.|url=|accessdate=2007-12-11] During the course of his visit, he met Lenin and had an hour-long conversation with him. (In his autobiography, he mentions that he found Lenin rather disappointing, and that he sensed an "impish cruelty" in him.) He also cruised down the Volga on a steam-ship. Russell's lover Dora Black also visited Russia independently at the same time — she was enthusiastic about the revolution, but Russell's experiences destroyed his previous tentative support for it.

Russell subsequently lectured in Beijing on philosophy for one year, accompanied by Dora. While in China, Russell became gravely ill with pneumonia, and incorrect reports of his death were published in the Japanese press.cite web|title="Bertrand Russell Reported Dead"|publisher=The New York Times|date=21 April 1921|accessdate=2007-12-11|format=PDF|url= ] When the couple visited Japan on their return journey, Dora notified the world that "Mr. Bertrand Russell, having died according to the Japanese press, is unable to give interviews to Japanese journalists." The press were not amused and did not appreciate the sarcasm.cite book|title="Uncertain Paths to Freedom: Russia and China, 1919-22"|work=The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell|volume=15|publisher=Routledge|date=2000|isbn=0415094119|last=Russell|first=Bertrand|editor=Richard A. Rempel|url=|pages=lxviii]

On the couple's return to England on 26 August 1921, Dora was six months pregnant, and Russell arranged a hasty divorce from Alys, marrying Dora six days after the divorce was finalised, on 27 September 1921. Their children were John Conrad Russell, 4th Earl Russell, born on 16 November 1921 and Katharine Jane Russell (now Lady Katharine Tait) born on 29 December 1923. Russell supported himself during this time by writing popular books explaining matters of physics, ethics, and education to the layman. Some scholars have suggested that at this point he had an affair with Vivien Eliot, wife of T. S. Eliot. [cite web|first=Ray|last=Monk|title=‘Russell, Bertrand Arthur William, third Earl Russell (1872–1970)’|work=Oxford Dictionary of National Biography|publisher=Oxford University Pressmonth=September|year=2004; online edition, January 2008|url=|accessdate=2008-03-14|doi=10.1093/ref:odnb/35875]

Together with Dora, he also founded the experimental Beacon Hill School in 1927. After he left the school in 1932, Dora continued it until 1943.Inside Beacon Hill: Bertrand Russell as Schoolmaster. "Jespersen, Shirley" ERIC# EJ360344, published 1987] cite web|title="Dora Russell"|url=|date=2007-05-12|accessdate=2008-02-17]

Upon the death of his elder brother Frank, in 1931, Russell became the 3rd Earl Russell. He once said that his title was primarily useful for securing hotel rooms.

Russell's marriage to Dora grew increasingly tenuous, and it reached a breaking point over her having two children with an American journalist, Griffin Barry. They separated in 1932 and finally divorced. On 18 January 1936, Russell married his third wife, an Oxford undergraduate named Patricia ("Peter") Spence, who had been his children's governess since the summer of 1930. Russell and Peter had one son, Conrad Sebastian Robert Russell, 5th Earl Russell, who became a prominent historian and one of the leading figures in the Liberal Democrat party.

econd World War

After the Second World War, Russell taught at the University of Chicago, later moving on to Los Angeles to lecture at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was appointed professor at the City College of New York in 1940, but after a public outcry, the appointment was annulled by a court judgement: his opinions (especially those relating to sexual morality, detailed in "Marriage and Morals" ten years earlier) made him "morally unfit" to teach at the college. The protest was started by the mother of a student who would not have been eligible for his graduate-level course in mathematical logic. Many intellectuals, led by John Dewey, protested his treatment.cite web|title="Appointment Denied: The Inquisition of Bertrand Russell"|author=Leberstein, Stephen|url=|publisher=Academe|date=Nov/Dec 2001|accessdate=2008-02-17] Dewey and Horace M. Kallen edited a collection of articles on the CCNY affair in "The Bertrand Russell Case". He soon joined the Barnes Foundation, lecturing to a varied audience on the history of philosophy; these lectures formed the basis of "A History of Western Philosophy". His relationship with the eccentric Albert C. Barnes soon soured, and he returned to Britain in 1944 to rejoin the faculty of Trinity College.cite web|title="Bertrand Russell"|url=|date=2006|accessdate=2008-02-17]

Later life

During the 1940s and 1950s, Russell participated in many broadcasts over the BBC, particularly the Third Programme, on various topical and philosophical subjects. By this time in his life, Russell was world famous outside of academic circles, frequently the subject or author of magazine and newspaper articles, and was called upon to offer up opinions on a wide variety of subjects, even mundane ones. En route to one of his lectures in Trondheim, Russell was one of 24 survivors (among a total of 43 passengers) in a plane crash in Hommelvik in October 1948.cite book|title="The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell"|pages=660|publisher=Routledge|author=Griffin, Nicholas (ed.)|date=2002|isbn=0415260124] "A History of Western Philosophy" (1945) became a best-seller, and provided Russell with a steady income for the remainder of his life.

In an exchange of letters in "The Economist" magazine in 2001, Nigel Lawson, the former British Chancellor, and Nicholas Griffin, of McMaster University, discussed a speech given in 1948 at Westminster School by the celebrated philosopher Bertrand Russell. [ [ A philosopher’s letters | Love, Bertie | ] ] In answer to a question from the audience, Bertrand Russell said that if the USSR's aggression continued, it would be morally worse to go to war after the USSR possessed an atomic bomb than before they possessed one, because if the USSR had no bomb the West's victory would come more swiftly and with fewer casualties than if there were atom bombs on both sides. To put this into context, only the USA possessed an atomic bomb at that time, and the USSR was pursuing an extremely aggressive policy towards the countries in Eastern Europe which it was absorbing into its sphere of influence. Many understood Russell's comments to mean that Russell approved of a first strike in a war with the USSR, including Lawson, who was present when Russell spoke. Others, including Griffin who obtained a transcript of the speech, have argued that he was merely explaining the usefulness of America's atomic arsenal in deterring the USSR from continuing its domination of Eastern Europe.

In the King's Birthday Honours of 9 June 1949, Russell was awarded the Order of Merit, [LondonGazette|issue=38628|supp=yes|startpage=2796|date=3 June 1949|accessdate=2008-03-11] and the following year he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. When he was given the Order of Merit, King George VI was affable but slightly embarrassed at decorating a former jailbird, saying that "You have sometimes behaved in a manner that would not do if otherwise adopted." Russell merely smiled, but afterwards claimed that the reply "That's right, just like your brother" immediately came to mind.

In 1952, Russell was divorced by Peter, with whom he had been very unhappy. Conrad, Russell's son by Peter, did not see his father between the time of the divorce and 1968 (at which time his decision to meet his father caused a permanent breach with his mother).

Russell married his fourth wife, Edith Finch, soon after the divorce, on 15 December 1952. They had known each other since 1925, and Edith had taught English at Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, sharing a house for twenty years with Russell's old friend Lucy Donnelly. Edith remained with him until his death, and, by all accounts, their marriage was a happy, close, and loving one. Russell's eldest son, John, suffered from serious mental illness, which was the source of ongoing disputes between Russell and John's mother, Russell's former wife, Dora. John's wife Susan was also mentally ill, and eventually Russell and Edith became the legal guardians of their three daughters (two of whom were later diagnosed with schizophrenia).

Political causes

Russell spent the 1950s and 1960s engaged in various political causes, primarily related to nuclear disarmament and opposing the Vietnam war (see also Russell Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal). The 1955 Russell-Einstein Manifesto was a document calling for nuclear disarmament and was signed by 11 of the prominent nuclear physicists and intellectuals of the time.cite web|title="Russell Einstein Manifesto"|url=|author=Russell, Bertrand|coauthors=Albert Einstein|date=1955-07-09|accessdate=2008-02-17] He wrote a great many letters to world leaders during this period. He was in contact with Lionel Rogosin while the latter was filming his anti-war film "Good Times, Wonderful Times" in the 1960s. He also became a hero to many of the youthful members of the New Left. During the 1960s, in particular, Russell became increasingly vocal about his disapproval of what he felt to be the American government's near-genocidal policies. In 1963 he became the inaugural recipient of the Jerusalem Prize, an award for writers concerned with the freedom of the individual in society. [ Jerusalem International Book Fair] ] In October 1965 he tore up his Labour Party card because he feared the party was going to send soldiers to support the Vietnam War.

Final years and death

Russell published his three-volume autobiography in 1967, 1968, and 1969. Although he became frail, he remained lucid and clear thinking up to the day of his death. On 23 November 1969 he wrote to "The Times" newspaper saying that the preparation for show trials in Czechoslovakia was "highly alarming". Also during that month, he appealed to Secretary General U Thant of the United Nations to support an international war crimes commission to investigate alleged "torture and genocide" by the Americans in South Vietnam. Then a month after that, he protested to Alexei Kosygin over the expulsion of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn from the Writers Union.

On 31 January 1970, Russell issued a statement which condemned Israeli aggression in the Middle East and called for Israeli withdrawal from territory occupied in 1967. The statement said that: cquote|The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was "given" by a foreign power to another people for the creation of a new state. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their numbers increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their own country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent just settlement of the refugees in their homeland is an essential ingredient of any genuine settlement in the Middle East. We are frequently told that we must sympathise with Israel because of the suffering of the Jews in Europe at the hands of the Nazis. […] What Israel is doing today cannot be condoned, and to invoke the horrors of the past to justify those of the present is gross hypocrisy.|Bertrand Russell|31 January 1970 This was Russell's final ever political statement or act. It was read out at the International Conference of Parliamentarians in Cairo on 3 February 1970, the day after his death. [ Russell's last political speech] ]

The next day, 1 February, he spent at his home, Plas Penrhyn, in Penrhyndeudraeth, Merionethshire, Wales quietly. However, on the morning of 2 February Russell said he didn't feel well and remained in bed until just before noon. That evening, whilst reading, he suddenly fell ill. His wife and nurse, after calling his doctor, got him to bed and gave him oxygen, but it was to no avail. Russell died of influenza before the doctor arrived.

Upon his death, his peerage descended on his eldest son, John, Viscount Amberley, who thence became the fourth Earl.

Russell was cremated at Colwyn Bay on 5 February 1970. There was no religious ceremony, as Russell had dictated there shouldn't be in his will. His ashes were scattered over the Welsh mountains later that year.

Philosophical work

Russell is generally credited with being one of the founders of analytic philosophy but he also produced a body of work that covers logic, the philosophy of mathematics, metaphysics, ethics and epistemology.

Analytic philosophy

Russell is generally recognised as one of the founders of analytic philosophy, even of its several branches. At the beginning of the 20th century, alongside G. E. Moore, Russell was largely responsible for the British "revolt against Idealism," a philosophy greatly influenced by G. W. F. Hegel and his British apostle, F. H. Bradley.cite web|title=A History of Philosophy|url=|last=Copleston|first=Frederick Charles|publisher=Paulist Press|date=1975|isbn=080910072X|pages=577|accessdate=2008-02-20] This revolt was echoed 30 years later in Vienna by the logical positivists' "revolt against metaphysics". Russell was particularly critical of a doctrine he ascribed to idealism and coherentism, which he dubbed the doctrine of internal relations; this, Russell suggested, held that in order to know any particular thing, we must know all of its relations. Based on this Russell attempted to show that it would make space, time, science and the concept of number not fully intelligible. Russell's logical work with Whitehead continued this project.cite web|title=Bertrand Russell|url=|last=Irvine|first=A. D.|date=2003-05-01|accessdate=2008-02-20|publisher=Stanford University]

Russell and Moore strove to eliminate what they saw as meaningless and incoherent assertions in philosophy. They sought clarity and precision in argument by the use of exact language and by breaking down philosophical propositions into their simplest grammatical components. Russell, in particular, saw formal logic and science as the principal tools of the philosopher. Indeed, unlike most philosophers who preceded him and his early contemporaries, Russell did not believe there was a separate method for philosophy. He believed that the main task of the philosopher was to illuminate the most general propositions about the world and to eliminate confusion. In particular, he wanted to end what he saw as the excesses of metaphysics. Russell adopted William of Ockham's principle against multiplying unnecessary entities, Occam's Razor, as a central part of the method of analysis.cite book| last =Russell| first =Bertrand| title =The Analysis of Matter| publisher =Routledge| date =1992| location =London| pages =424| url =| isbn =0-415-08297-8 ] [cite book | last = Baird | first = Forrest E. | authorlink = | coauthors = Walter Kaufmann | title = From Plato to Derrida | publisher = Pearson Prentice Hall | date = 2008 | location = Upper Saddle River, New Jersey | pages = | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 0-13-158591-6 ]

Logic and philosophy of mathematics

Russell had great influence on modern mathematical logic. The American philosopher and logician Willard Quine said Russell's work represented the greatest influence on his own work.cite journal|title=Willard Van Orman Quine, 1908-2000|journal=Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association|volume=75|issue=2|date=November 2001|pages=121-124|last=Parsons|first=Charles|url=] " [ Quine, Willard Van Orman] ." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Accessed 23 February 2008.]

Russell's first mathematical book, "An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry", was published in 1897. This work was heavily influenced by Immanuel Kant. Russell soon realized that the conception it laid out would have made Albert Einstein's schema of space-time impossible, which he understood to be superior to his own system. Thenceforth, he rejected the entire Kantian program as it related to mathematics and geometry, and he maintained that his own earliest work on the subject was nearly without value.cite journal|title=Cambridge Philosophers IX: Bertrand Russell|journal=Philosophy|volume=74|issue=01|last=Monk|first=Ray|date=January 1999|pages=105-117|publisher=Cambridge University Press]

Interested in the definition of number, Russell studied the work of George Boole, Georg Cantor, and Augustus De Morgan, while materials in the Bertrand Russell Archives at McMaster University include notes of his reading in algebraic logic by Charles S. Peirce and Ernst Schröder. [ Bertrand Russell Archives] at McMaster University] He became convinced that the foundations of mathematics were to be found in logic, and following Gottlob Frege took an logicist approach in which logic was in turn based upon set theory. In 1900 he attended the first International Congress of Philosophy in Paris, where he became familiar with the work of the Italian mathematician, Giuseppe Peano. He mastered Peano's new symbolism and his set of axioms for arithmetic. Peano defined logically all of the terms of these axioms with the exception of "0", "number", "successor", and the singular term, "the", which were the primitives of his system. Russell took it upon himself to find logical definitions for each of these. Between 1897 and 1903 he published several articles applying Peano's notation to the classical Boole-Schröder algebra of relations, among them "On the Notion of Order", "Sur la logique des relations avec les applications à la théorie des séries", and "On Cardinal Numbers".

Russell eventually discovered that Gottlob Frege had independently arrived at equivalent definitions for "0", "successor", and "number", and the definition of number is now usually referred to as the Frege-Russell definition. It was largely Russell who brought Frege to the attention of the English-speaking world. He did this in 1903, when he published "The Principles of Mathematics", in which the concept of class is inextricably tied to the definition of number.Russell's " [ The Principles of Mathematics] "] The appendix to this work detailed a paradox arising in Frege's application of second- and higher-order functions which took first-order functions as their arguments, and he offered his first effort to resolve what would henceforth come to be known as the Russell Paradox. Before writing "Principles", Russell became aware of Cantor's proof that there was no greatest cardinal number, which Russell believed was mistaken. The Cantor Paradox in turn was shown (for example by Crossley) to be a special case of the Russell Paradox. This caused Russell to analyze classes, for it was known that given any number of elements, the number of classes they result in is greater than their number. This in turn led to the discovery of a very interesting class, namely, the class of all classes. It contains two kinds of classes: those classes that contain themselves, and those that do not. Consideration of this class led him to find a fatal flaw in the so-called principle of comprehension, which had been taken for granted by logicians of the time. He showed that it resulted in a contradiction, whereby Y is a member of Y, if and only if, Y is not a member of Y. This has become known as Russell's paradox, the solution to which he outlined in an appendix to "Principles", and which he later developed into a complete theory, the Theory of types. Aside from exposing a major inconsistency in naive set theory, Russell's work led directly to the creation of modern axiomatic set theory. It also crippled Frege's project of reducing arithmetic to logic. The Theory of Types and much of Russell's subsequent work have also found practical applications with computer science and information technology.

Russell continued to defend logicism, the view that mathematics is in some important sense reducible to logic, and along with his former teacher, Alfred North Whitehead, wrote the monumental "Principia Mathematica", an axiomatic system on which all of mathematics can be built. The first volume of the "Principia" was published in 1910, and is largely ascribed to Russell. More than any other single work, it established the specialty of mathematical or symbolic logic. Two more volumes were published, but their original plan to incorporate geometry in a fourth volume was never realized, and Russell never felt up to improving the original works, though he referenced new developments and problems in his preface to the second edition. Upon completing the "Principia", three volumes of extraordinarily abstract and complex reasoning, Russell was exhausted, and he felt his intellectual faculties never fully recovered from the effort."The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, the Early Years", p. 202.] Although the "Principia" did not fall prey to the paradoxes in Frege's approach, it was later proven by Kurt Gödel that neither "Principia Mathematica", nor any other consistent system of primitive recursive arithmetic, could, within that system, determine that every proposition that could be formulated within that system was decidable, i.e. could decide whether that proposition or its negation was provable within the system (See: Gödel's incompleteness theorem).

Russell's last significant work in mathematics and logic, "Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy", was written by hand while he was in jail for his anti-war activities during World War I. This was largely an explication of his previous work and its philosophical significance.

Philosophy of language

Russell was not the first philosopher to suggest that language had an important bearing on how we understand the world; however, more than anyone before him, Russell made language, or more specifically, "how we use language", a central part of philosophy. Had there been no Russell, it seems unlikely that philosophers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gilbert Ryle, J. L. Austin, and P. F. Strawson, among others, would have embarked upon the same course, for so much of what they did was to amplify or respond, sometimes critically, to what Russell had said before them, using many of the techniques that he originally developed. Russell, along with Moore, shared the idea that clarity of expression is a virtue, a notion that has been a touchstone for philosophers ever since, particularly among those who deal with the philosophy of language.

Perhaps Russell's most significant contribution to philosophy of language is his theory of descriptions, as presented in his seminal essay, "On Denoting", first published in 1905 in the "Mind" philosophical journal, which the mathematician and philosopher Frank P. Ramsey described as "a paradigm of philosophy." The theory is normally illustrated using the phrase "the present King of France," as in "The present king of France is bald." What object is this proposition "about", given that there is not, at present, a king of France? (Roughly the same problem would arise if there were two kings of France at present: which of them does "the" king of France" denote?) Alexius Meinong had suggested that we must posit a realm of "nonexistent entities" that we can suppose we are referring to when we use expressions such as this; but this would be a strange theory, to say the least. Frege, employing his distinction between sense and reference, suggested that such sentences, although meaningful, were neither true nor false. But "some" such propositions, such as "If" the present king of France is bald, "then" the present king of France has no hair on his head," seem not only truth-valuable but indeed obviously true.

The problem is general to what are called "definite descriptions." Normally this includes all terms beginning with "the," and sometimes includes names, like "Walter Scott." (This point is quite contentious: Russell sometimes thought that the latter terms shouldn't be called names at all, but only "disguised definite descriptions," but much subsequent work has treated them as altogether different things.) What is the "logical form" of definite descriptions: how, in Frege's terms, could we paraphrase them in order to show how the truth of the whole depends on the truths of the parts? Definite descriptions appear to be like names that by their very nature denote exactly one thing, neither more or less. What, then, are we to say about the proposition as a whole if one of its parts apparently isn't functioning correctly?

Russell's solution was, first of all, to analyze not the term alone but the entire proposition that contained a definite description. "The present king of France is bald," he then suggested, can be reworded to "There is an x such that x is a present king of France, nothing other than x is a present king of France, and x is bald." Russell claimed that each definite description in fact contains a claim of existence and a claim of uniqueness which give this appearance, but these can be broken apart and treated separately from the predication that is the obvious content of the proposition. The proposition as a whole then says three things about some object: the definite description contains two of them, and the rest of the sentence contains the other. If the object does not exist, or if it is not unique, then the whole sentence turns out to be false, not meaningless.

One of the major complaints against Russell's theory, due originally to Strawson, is that definite descriptions do not claim that their object exists, they merely presuppose that it does.

Wittgenstein, Russell's student, achieved considerable prominence in the philosophy of language after the posthumous publication of the "Philosophical Investigations". In Russell's opinion, Wittgenstein's later work was misguided, and he decried its influence and that of its followers (especially members of the so-called "Oxford school" of ordinary language philosophy, whom he believed were promoting a kind of mysticism). However, Russell still held Wittgenstein and his early work in high regard, he thought of him as, "perhaps the most perfect example I have ever known of genius as traditionally conceived, passionate, profound, intense, and dominating.""The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell", pg. 329] Russell's belief that philosophy's task is not limited to examining ordinary language is once again widely accepted in philosophy.

Logical Atomism

Perhaps Russell's most systematic, metaphysical treatment of philosophical analysis and his empiricist-centric logicism is evident in what he called Logical Atomism, which is explicated in a set of lectures, "The Philosophy of Logical Atomism," which he gave in 1918.cite web|title=Russell's Logical Atomism|date=2005-10-24|last=Klement|first=Kevin|accessdate=2008-02-23|url=|publisher=Stanford University] In these lectures, Russell sets forth his concept of an ideal, isomorphic language, one that would mirror the world, whereby our knowledge can be reduced to terms of propositions and their truth-functional compounds. Logical Atomism is a form of radical empiricism, for Russell believed the most important requirement for such an ideal language is that every meaningful proposition must consist of terms referring directly to the objects with which we are acquainted, or that they are defined by other terms referring to objects with which we are acquainted. Russell excluded certain formal, logical terms such as "all", "the", "is", and so forth, from his isomorphic requirement, but he was never entirely satisfied with our understanding of such terms. One of the central themes of Russell's atomism is that the world consists of logically independent facts, a plurality of facts, and that our knowledge depends on the data of our direct experience of them. In his later life, Russell came to doubt aspects of Logical Atomism, especially his principle of isomorphism, though he continued to believe that the process of philosophy ought to consist of breaking things down into their simplest components, even though we might not ever fully arrive at an ultimate atomic fact.


Russell's epistemology went through many phases. Once he shed neo-Hegelianism in his early years, Russell remained a philosophical realist for the remainder of his life, believing that our direct experiences have primacy in the acquisition of knowledge. While some of his views have lost favour, his influence remains strong in the distinction between two ways in which we can be familiar with objects: "knowledge by acquaintance" and "knowledge by description". For a time, Russell thought that we could only be acquainted with our own sense data—momentary perceptions of colors, sounds, and the like—and that everything else, including the physical objects that these were sense data "of", could only be inferred, or reasoned to—i.e. known by description—and not known directly. This distinction has gained much wider application, though Russell eventually rejected the idea of an intermediate sense datum.cite web|title=Knowledge by Acquaintance vs. Description|date=2004-01-19|last=Fumerton|first=Richard|publisher=Stanford University|accessdate=2008-02-23|url=]

In his later philosophy, Russell subscribed to a kind of neutral monism, maintaining that the distinctions between the material and mental worlds, in the final analysis, were arbitrary, and that both can be reduced to a neutral property—a view similar to one held by the American philosopher/psychologist, William James, and one that was first formulated by Baruch Spinoza, whom Russell greatly admired.cite web|title=Neutral Monism|date=2005-02-03|last=Stubenberg|first=Leopold|publisher=Stanford University|accessdate=2008-02-23|url=] Instead of James' "pure experience," however, Russell characterised the stuff of our initial states of perception as "events," a stance which is curiously akin to his old teacher Whitehead's process philosophy.

Philosophy of science

Russell frequently claimed that he was more convinced of his "method" of doing philosophy, the method of analysis, than of his philosophical conclusions. Science, of course, was one of the principal components of analysis, along with logic and mathematics. While Russell was a believer in the scientific method, knowledge derived from empirical research that is verified through repeated testing, he believed that science reaches only tentative answers, and that scientific progress is piecemeal, and attempts to find organic unities were largely futile.cite book|title=Our Knowledge of the External World as a Field for Scientific Method in Philosophy|last=Russell|first=Bertrand|publisher=Routledge|date=1993|isbn=0415096057|url=|pages=251] Indeed, he believed the same was true of philosophy. Another founder of modern philosophy of science, Ernst Mach, placed less reliance on method, per se, for he believed that any method that produced predictable results was satisfactory and that the principal role of the scientist was to make successful predictions.cite journal|title=Ernst Mach: Physics, perception and the philosophy of science|journal=Synthese|publisher=Springer Netherlands|volume=18|issue=2-3|date=April 1968|pages=132-170|last=Cohen|first=Robert S.|url=| doi = 10.1007/BF00413773 |format=PDF|accessdate=2008-02-23] While Russell would doubtless agree with this as a practical matter, he believed that the ultimate objective of "both" science and philosophy was to "understand" reality, not simply to make predictions.

The fact that Russell made science a central part of his method and of philosophy was instrumental in making the philosophy of science a full-blooded, separate branch of philosophy and an area in which subsequent philosophers specialised. Much of Russell's thinking about science is expressed in his 1914 book, "Our Knowledge of the External World as a Field for Scientific Method in Philosophy". Among the several schools that were influenced by Russell were the logical positivists, particularly Rudolph Carnap, who maintained that the distinguishing feature of scientific propositions was their verifiability. This contrasted with the theory of Karl Popper, also greatly influenced by Russell, who believed that their importance rested in the fact that they were "potentially" falsifiable.

It is worth noting that outside of his strictly philosophical pursuits, Russell was always fascinated by science, particularly physics, and he even wrote several popular science books, "The ABC of Atoms" (1923) and "The ABC of Relativity" (1925).


While Russell wrote a great deal on ethical subject matters, he did not believe that the subject belonged to philosophy or that when he wrote on ethics that he did so in his capacity as a philosopher. In his earlier years, Russell was greatly influenced by G.E. Moore's " [ Principia Ethica] ". Along with Moore, he then believed that moral facts were objective, but known only through intuition; that they were simple properties of objects, not equivalent (e.g., pleasure is good) to the natural objects to which they are often ascribed (see Naturalistic fallacy); and that these simple, undefinable moral properties cannot be analyzed using the non-moral properties with which they are associated. In time, however, he came to agree with his philosophical hero, David Hume, who believed that ethical terms dealt with subjective values that cannot be verified in the same way as matters of fact.

Coupled with Russell's other doctrines, this influenced the logical positivists, who formulated the theory of emotivism or non-cognitivism, which states that ethical propositions (along with those of metaphysics) were essentially meaningless and nonsensical or, at best, little more than expressions of attitudes and preferences. Notwithstanding his influence on them, Russell himself did not construe ethical propositions as narrowly as the positivists, for he believed that ethical considerations are not only meaningful, but that they are a vital subject matter for civil discourse. Indeed, though Russell was often characterised as the patron saint of rationality, he agreed with Hume, who said that reason ought to be subordinate to ethical considerations.

Religion and theology

For most of his adult life Russell maintained that religion is little more than superstition and, despite any positive effects that religion might have, it is largely harmful to people. He believed religion and the religious outlook (he considered communism and other systematic ideologies to be forms of religion) serve to impede knowledge, foster fear and dependency, and are responsible for much of the war, oppression, and misery that have beset the world.

In his 1949 speech, "Am I an Atheist or an Agnostic?", Russell expressed his difficulty over whether to call himself an atheist or an agnostic:

Though he would later question God's existence, he fully accepted the ontological argument during his undergraduate years:This quote has been used by many theologians over the years, such as by Louis Pojman in his "Philosophy of Religion", who wish for readers to believe that even a well-known atheist-philosopher supported this particular argument for God's existence. However, elsewhere in his autobiography, Russell also mentions:

Russell made an influential analysis of the omphalos hypothesis enunciated by Philip Henry Gosse—that any argument suggesting that the world was created as if it were already in motion could just as easily make it a few minutes old as a few thousand years: cquote|There is no logical impossibility in the hypothesis that the world sprang into being five minutes ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that "remembered" a wholly unreal past. There is no logically necessary connection between events at different times; therefore nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can disprove the hypothesis that the world began five minutes ago.|Bertrand Russell|The Analysis of Mind", 1921, pp. 159–60; "cf." "Philosophy", Norton, 1927, p. 7, where Russell acknowledges Gosse's paternity of this anti-evolutionary argument."

As a young man, Russell had a decidedly religious bent, himself, as is evident in his early Platonism. He longed for eternal truths, as he makes clear in his famous essay, "A Free Man's Worship", widely regarded as a masterpiece of prose, but a work that Russell came to dislike. While he rejected the supernatural, he freely admitted that he yearned for a deeper meaning to life.

Russell's views on religion can be found in his popular book, "Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects". Its title essay was a talk given on 6 March 1927 at Battersea Town Hall, under the auspices of the South London Branch of the National Secular Society, UK, and published later that year as a pamphlet. The book also contains other essays in which Russell considers a number of logical arguments for the existence of God, including the first cause argument, the natural-law argument, the argument from design, and moral arguments. He also discusses specifics about Christian theology.

His conclusion:

Influence on philosophy

Russell had a major influence on modern philosophy, especially in the English-speaking world. While others were also influential, notably Frege, Moore, and Wittgenstein, Russell made analysis the dominant methodology of professional philosophy. The various analytic movements throughout the last century all owe something to Russell's earlier works.

Russell's influence on individual philosophers is singular, perhaps most notably in the case of Ludwig Wittgenstein, who was his student between 1911 and 1914.cite web| title=Ludwig Wittgenstein| url=| journal=Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy| date=2006-11-17| last=Biletzki| first=Anat| accessdate=2008-02-27| publisher=Metaphysics Research Lab, CSLI, Stanford University]

Wittgenstein's own influence on Russell, for example, in leading him to conclude, much to his regret, that mathematical truths were purely tautological truths, is a matter of debate. What is certain is that in 1901 Russell's own reflections on the issues raised by the paradox that takes his name Russell's Paradox, formalised 30 years later by Kurt Gödel's 'Undecidability' Theorems, led him to doubt the certainty of mathematics. This doubt was perhaps Russell's most important 'influence' on mathematics, and was spread throughout the European universities, even as Russell himself laboured (with Alfred North Whitehead) in a futile attempt to solve the Paradox.

Russell wrote (in "Portraits from Memory", 1956) of his reaction to Gödel's 'Theorems of Undecidability':

Evidence of Russell's influence on Wittgenstein can be seen throughout the "Tractatus", which Russell was instrumental in having published. Russell also helped to secure Wittgenstein's doctorate"The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell", pgs. 435-440] and a faculty position at Cambridge, along with several fellowships along the way."The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell", pgs. 351-353] However, as previously stated, he came to disagree with Wittgenstein's later linguistic and analytic approach to philosophy dismissing it as "trivial", while Wittgenstein came to think of Russell as "superficial and glib", particularly in his popular writings. Russell's influence is also evident in the work of Alfred J. Ayer, Rudolf Carnap, Alonzo Church, Kurt Gödel, David Kaplan, Saul Kripke, Karl Popper, W. V. Quine, John R. Searle, and a number of other philosophers and logicians.

Some see Russell's influence as mostly negative,Fact|date=August 2008 primarily those who have criticized Russell's emphasis on science and logic. Russell often characterized his moral and political writings as lying outside the scope of philosophy, but Russell's admirers and detractors are often more acquainted with his pronouncements on social and political matters, or what some (e.g., biographer Ray Monk) have called his "journalism," than they are with his technical, philosophical work. There is a marked tendency to conflate these matters, and to judge Russell the philosopher on what he himself would certainly consider to be his non-philosophical opinions. Russell often cautioned people to make this distinction. Beginning in the 1920s, Russell wrote frequently for "The Nation" on changing morals, disarmament and literature. In 1965, he wrote that the magazine "...has been one of the few voices which has been heard on behalf of individual liberty and social justice consistently throughout its existence." [Katrina Vanden Heuvel "The Nation 1865-1990", p. 136, Thunder's Mouth Press, 1990 ISBN 1-56025-001`-1]

Russell left a large assortment of writing. From his adolescent years, he wrote about 3,000 words a day, with relatively few corrections; his first draft nearly always was his last, even on the most complex, technical matters. His previously unpublished work is an immense treasure trove, and scholars continue to gain new insights into Russell's thought.


Political and social activism occupied much of Russell's time for most of his long life, which makes his prodigious and seminal writing on a wide range of technical and non-technical subjects all the more remarkable.

Russell remained politically active to almost literally the end of his life, writing to and exhorting world leaders and lending his name to various causes. Some maintain that during his last few years he gave his youthful followers too much license and that they used his name for some outlandish purposes that a more attentive Russell would not have approved. There is evidence to show that he became aware of this when he fired his private secretary, Ralph Schoenman, then a young firebrand of the radical left.

Pacifism, war and nuclear weapons

Despite the ready image still provided by popular culture, Russell was never a complete pacifist. He resisted specific wars, protesting against them in specific ways, on the grounds that they were contrary to the interests of civilization, and thus immoral. Indeed, in his 1915 article on " [ The Ethics of War] ", he defended wars of colonization on the same utilitarian grounds: he felt conquest was justified if the side with the more advanced civilization could put the land to better use. So, when it is said, rightly, that Russell opposed nearly all wars between modern nations, it must be understood in this sense.

Russell's activism against British participation in World War I led to fines, a loss of freedom of travel within Britain, and the non-renewal of his fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was attacked as a 'traitor' in the press, treated like a security risk by his own government, and many of his closest friends deserted him. He was eventually sentenced to prison in 1918 on the tenuous grounds that he had interfered in British Foreign Policy — he had argued that British workers should be wary of the United States Army, for it had experience in strike-breaking. He was released after serving six months, but was still closely supervised until the end of the war.cite book|title=Bertrand Russell and the Pacifists in the First World War|last=Vellacott|first=Jo|isbn=0855274549|publisher=Harvester Press|location=Brighton|date=1980]

In 1943 Russell called his stance towards warfare "relative political pacifism"—he held that war was always a great evil, but in some particularly extreme circumstances (such as when Adolf Hitler threatened to take over Europe) it might be a lesser of multiple evils. In the years leading to World War II, he supported the policy of appeasement; but by 1940 he acknowledged that in order to preserve democracy, Hitler had to be defeated. This same reluctant value compromise was shared by his acquaintance A.A. Milne. cite journal|last=Rempel|first=Richard A.|title=The Dilemmas of British Pacifists During World War II|journal=The Journal of Modern History|volume=50|issue=4|date=Dec. 1978|pages=D1213–D1229|url=|doi=10.1086/241842]

Russell was fairly consistently opposed to the continued existence of nuclear weapons from the time of their first use. However, on 20 November 1948, [ in a public speech] at Westminster School, addressing a gathering arranged by the New Commonwealth, Russell shocked some observers with comments that seemed to suggest a preemptive nuclear strike on the Soviet Union might be justified. Russell apparently argued that the threat of war between the United States and the Soviet Union would enable the United States to force the Soviet Union to accept the Baruch Plan for international atomic energy control. (Earlier in the year he had written in the same vein to Walter W. Marseille.) Russell felt this plan "had very great merits and showed considerable generosity, when it is remembered that America still had an unbroken nuclear monopoly." ("Has Man a Future?", 1961). However Nicholas Griffin of McMaster University, in his book "The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell: The Public Years, 1914-1970", has claimed (after obtaining a transcript of the speech) that Russell's wording implies he didn't advocate the actual use of the atom bomb, but merely its diplomatic use as a massive source of leverage over the actions of the Soviets. Griffin's interpretation was disputed by Nigel Lawson, the former British Chancellor, who was present at the speech, claims it was quite clear that Russell was advocating an actual First Strike. Whichever interpretation is correct, Russell later relented, instead arguing for mutual disarmament by the nuclear powers, possibly linked to some form of world government.

In 1955, Russell released the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, co-signed by Albert Einstein and nine other leading scientists and intellectuals, a document which led to the first of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs in 1957. In 1958, Russell became the first president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He resigned two years later when the CND would not support civil disobedience, and formed the Committee of 100. In September 1961 he was imprisoned for a week for inciting civil disobedience, when he took part in a huge ban-the-bomb demonstration at the Ministry of Defence but the sentence was quashed on account of his age.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Russell sent telegrams to Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev, the UN Secretary-General U Thant and British prime minister Harold Macmillan, which may have helped to prevent further escalation and a possible nuclear war. Khrushchev replied with a long letter, published by the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, which was mainly addressed to Kennedy and the Western world. [cite book|author=Horst-Eberhard Richter|title=Die Krise der Männlichkeit in der unerwachsenen Gesellschaft|publisher=Psychosozial-Verlag|year=2006|id=ISBN 3898065707]

Increasingly concerned about the potential danger to humanity arising from nuclear weapons and other scientific discoveries, he also joined with Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Joseph Rotblat and other eminent scientists of the day to establish the World Academy of Art and Science which was formally constituted in 1960.

The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and its publishing imprint "Spokesman Books" [] began work in 1963 to carry forward Russell's work for peace, human rights and social justice. He began public opposition to US policy in Vietnam with a letter to the "New York Times" dated 28 March 1963. By the autumn of 1966, he had completed the manuscript "War Crimes in Vietnam. Then, using the American justifications for the Nuremberg Trials, Russell, along with Jean-Paul Sartre, organised what he called an international War Crimes Tribunal, the Russell Tribunal.

Russell was an early critic of the official story in the assasination of John F. Kennedy; his "16 Questions on the Assassination" from 1964 is still considered a good summary of the apparent inconsistencies in that case.

Russell made a cameo appearance playing himself in the anti-war Bollywood film "Aman" which was released in India in 1967. This was Russell's only appearance in a feature film.

Communism and socialism

Russell initially expressed great hope in "the Communist experiment". However, when he visited the Soviet Union and met Vladimir Lenin in 1920, he was unimpressed with the system in place. On his return he wrote a critical tract, " [ The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism] ". He was "infinitely unhappy in this atmosphere—stifled by its utilitarianism, its indifference to love and beauty and the life of impulse". He believed Lenin to be similar to a religious zealot, cold and possessing "no love of liberty."

In the 1922 and 1923 general elections Russell stood as a Labour Party candidate in the Chelsea constituency, but only on the basis that he knew he was extremely unlikely to be elected in such a safe Conservative seat, and he was not on either occasion.

Politically, Russell envisioned a kind of benevolent, libertarian socialism, similar in some ways to, yet having important differences from, the conception promoted by the Fabian Society.Fact|date=August 2008 He was strongly critical of Stalin's regime, and of the practices of states proclaiming Marxism and Communism generally. Russell was a consistent enthusiast for democracy and world government, and advocated the establishment of a democratic international government in some of the essays collected in "In Praise of Idleness" (1935), and also in "Has Man a Future?" (1961).

Women's suffrage

As a young man, Russell was a member of the Liberal Party and wrote in favor of free trade and women's suffrage. In his 1910 pamphlet, "Anti-Suffragist Anxieties", Russell wrote that some men opposed suffrage because they "fear that their liberty to act in ways that are injurious to women will be curtailed". In May 1907 Russell stood for Parliament as a Woman's suffrage candidate in Wimbledon, but was not elected.cite book|title=The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866-1928|author=Crawford, Elizabeth|publisher=Routledge|pages=785|isbn=0415239265|date=2001|url=]


Russell wrote against Victorian notions of morality. "Marriage and Morals" (1929) expressed his opinion that sex between a man and woman who are not married to each other is not necessarily immoral if they truly love one another, and advocated "trial marriages" or "companionate marriage," formalised relationships whereby young people could legitimately have sexual intercourse without being expected to remain married in the long term or to have children (an idea first proposed by Judge Ben Lindsey).cite web|title="Sex and Politics: Bertrand Russell and Human Sexuality'"|author=Hauerwas, Stanley|publisher=Christian Century|date=1978-04-19|accessdate=2008-02-17|url=] cite web|title="Pioneers of Sex Education"|url=|author=Haeberle, Erwin J.|date=1983|accessdate=2008-02-17|publisher=The Continuum Publishing Company] This was enough to raise vigorous protests and denunciations against him during his visit to the United States shortly after the book's publication. Russell was also one of the first intellectuals to advocate open sex education and widespread access to contraception. He also advocated easy divorce, but only if the marriage had produced no children — Russell's view was that parents should remain married but tolerant of each other's sexual infidelity, if they had children. This reflected his life at the time — his second wife Dora was openly having an affair, and would soon become pregnant by another man, but Russell was keen for their children John and Kate to have a "normal" family life.

Russell was also active within the Homosexual Law Reform Society, being one of the signatories of Anthony Edward Dyson's letter calling for a change in the law regarding homosexual practices, which were legalised in 1967, when Russell was still alive.cite web|title=Lesbian and Gay Rights: The Humanist and Religious Stances|url=|author=Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association|date=1997-11-02|accessdate=2008-02-17]


As with his views on religion, which developed considerably throughout his long life, Russell's views on the matter of race did not remain fixed. By 1951, Russell was a vocal advocate of racial equality and intermarriage; he penned a chapter on "Racial Antagonism" in "New Hopes for a Changing World" (1951), which read:

Passages in some of his early writings support birth control. On 16 November 1922, for instance, he gave a lecture to the General Meeting of Dr. Marie Stopes's Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress on "Birth Control and International Relations," in which he described the importance of extending Western birth control worldwide; his remarks anticipated the population control movement of the 1960s and the role of the United Nations.

Another passage from early editions of his book "Marriage and Morals" (1929), which Russell later clarified as referring only to the situation as resulting from environmental conditioning, and which he had removed from later editions, reads:

Russell later criticized eugenic programs for their vulnerability to corruption, and, in 1932, he condemned the "unwarranted assumption" that "Negroes are congenitally inferior to white men" ("Education and the Social Order", Chap. 3).

Responding in 1964 to a correspondent's enquiry, "do you still consider the Negroes an inferior race, as you did when you wrote "Marriage and Morals"?", Russell replied:

Further reading

elected bibliography of Russell's books

This is a selected bibliography of Russell's books in English sorted by year of first publication.
* 1896, "German Social Democracy", London: Longmans, Green.
* 1897, "An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry", Cambridge: At the University Press.
* 1900, "A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz", Cambridge: At the University Press.
* 1903, The Principles of Mathematics [ "The Principles of Mathematics"] , Cambridge: At the University Press.
* 1905 "On Denoting", Mind vol. 14, NS, ISSN: 00264425, Basil Blackwell
* 1910, "Philosophical Essays", London: Longmans, Green.
* 1910–1913, "Principia Mathematica" (with Alfred North Whitehead), 3 vols., Cambridge: At the University Press.
* 1912, "The Problems of Philosophy", London: Williams and Norgate.
* 1914, [ "Our Knowledge of the External World as a Field for Scientific Method in Philosophy"] , Chicago and London: Open Court Publishing.
* 1916, "Principles of Social Reconstruction", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1916, "Justice in War-time", Chicago: Open Court.
* 1917, [ "Political Ideals"] , New York: The Century Co.
* 1918, "Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays", London: Longmans, Green.
* 1918, [ "Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism, and Syndicalism"] , London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1919, [ "Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy"] , London: George Allen & Unwin, (ISBN 0-415-09604-9 for Routledge paperback) ( [ "Copy at"] ).
* 1920, [ "The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism"] ,London: George Allen & Unwin
* 1921, [ "The Analysis of Mind"] , London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1922, [ "The Problem of China"] , London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1923, "The Prospects of Industrial Civilization" (in collaboration with Dora Russell), London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1923, "The ABC of Atoms", London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.
* 1924, "Icarus, or the Future of Science", London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.
* 1925, "The ABC of Relativity", London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.
* 1925, "What I Believe", London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.
* 1926, "On Education, Especially in Early Childhood", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1927, "The Analysis of Matter", London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.
* 1927, "An Outline of Philosophy", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1927, "Why I Am Not a Christian", London: Watts.
* 1927, "Selected Papers of Bertrand Russell", New York: Modern Library.
* 1928, "Sceptical Essays", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1929, "Marriage and Morals", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1930, "The Conquest of Happiness", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1931, "The Scientific Outlook", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1932, "Education and the Social Order", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1934, "Freedom and Organization, 1814–1914", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1935, "In Praise of Idleness", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1935, "Religion and Science", London: Thornton Butterworth.
* 1936, "Which Way to Peace?", London: Jonathan Cape.
* 1937, "The Amberley Papers: The Letters and Diaries of Lord and Lady Amberley" (with Patricia Russell), 2 vols., London: Leonard & Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press.
* 1938, "", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1940, "An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth", New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
* 1946, "A History of Western Philosophy and Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day", New York: Simon and Schuster.
* 1948, "Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1949, "Authority and the Individual", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1950, "Unpopular Essays", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1951, "New Hopes for a Changing World", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1952, "The Impact of Science on Society", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1953, "Satan in the Suburbs and Other Stories", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1954, "Human Society in Ethics and Politics", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1954, "Nightmares of Eminent Persons and Other Stories", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1956, "Portraits from Memory and Other Essays", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1956, "Logic and Knowledge: Essays 1901–1950" (edited by Robert C. Marsh), London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1957, "Why I Am Not A Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects" (edited by Paul Edwards), London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1958, "Understanding History and Other Essays", New York: Philosophical Library.
* 1959, "Common Sense and Nuclear Warfare", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1959, "My Philosophical Development", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1959, "Wisdom of the West" ("editor", Paul Foulkes), London: Macdonald.
* 1960, "Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind", Cleveland and New York: World Publishing Company.
* 1961, "The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell" (edited by R.E. Egner and L.E. Denonn), London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1961, "Fact and Fiction", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1961, "Has Man a Future?", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1963, "Essays in Skepticism", New York: Philosophical Library.
* 1963, "Unarmed Victory", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1965, "On the Philosophy of Science" (edited by Charles A. Fritz, Jr.), Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company.
* 1967, "Russell's Peace Appeals" (edited by Tsutomu Makino and Kazuteru Hitaka), Japan: Eichosha's New Current Books.
* 1967, "War Crimes in Vietnam", London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1967–1969, "The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell", 3 vols., London: George Allen & Unwin.
* 1969, "Dear Bertrand Russell… A Selection of his Correspondence with the General Public 1950–1968" (edited by Barry Feinberg and Ronald Kasrils), London: George Allen and Unwin.

Note: This is a mere sampling, for Russell also wrote many pamphlets, introductions, articles and letters to the editor. His works also can be found in any number of anthologies and collections, perhaps most notably "The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell", which McMaster University began publishing in 1983. This collection of his shorter and previously unpublished works is now up to 16 volumes, and many more are forthcoming. An additional three volumes catalogue just his bibliography. The Russell Archives at McMaster University also have more than 30,000 letters that he wrote.

Additional References:

A. Russell
* 1900, "Sur la logique des relations avec des applications à la théorie des séries", "Rivista di matematica 7": 115-148.
* 1901, "On the Notion of Order", "Mind (n.s.) 10": 35-51.
* 1902, (with Alfred North Whitehead), "On Cardinal Numbers", "American Journal of Mathematics 23": 367-384.

B. Secondary references:
* John Newsome Crossley. "A Note on Cantor's Theorem and Russell's Paradox", "Australian Journal of Philosophy 51": 70-71.
* Ivor Grattan-Guinness, 2000. "The Search for Mathematical Roots 1870-1940". Princeton University Press.

Books about Russell's philosophy

* "Bertrand Russell: Critical Assessments", edited by A. D. Irvine, 4 volumes, London: Routledge, 1999. Consists of essays on Russell's work by many distinguished philosophers.
* "Bertrand Russell", by John Slater, Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 1994.
* "Bertrand Russell's Ethics". by Michael K. Potter, Bristol: Thoemmes Continuum, 2006. A clear and accessible explanation of Russell's moral philosophy.
* "The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell", edited by P.A. Schilpp, Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University, 1944.
* "Russell", by A. J. Ayer, London: Fontana, 1972. ISBN 0-00-632965-9. A lucid summary exposition of Russell's thought.
* "The Lost Cause: Causation and the Mind-Body Problem", by Celia Green. Oxford: Oxford Forum, 2003. ISBN 0-9536772-1-4 Contains a sympathetic analysis of Russell's views on causality.
* [ "The Ethical Philosophy of Bertrand Russell"] by Dr. Ramendra, New York: Vantage Press,1993. ISBN 0-533-09424-0
* [ "Some Reflections on Ethics"] by Dr. Ramendra

Music about Russell's philosophy

* "Bang!", by World Party, Seaview, 1993. The album "Bang!" composed by Welsh singer/songwriter Karl Wallinger is a paean to Bertrand Russell, including the single, “Is It Like Today?” a four verse précis of "A History of Western Philosophy and Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day".

Biographical books

* "Bertrand Russell: Philosopher and Humanist", by John Lewis (1968)
* "Bertrand Russell", by A. J. Ayer (1972), reprint ed. 1988: ISBN 0-226-03343-0
* "The Life of Bertrand Russell", by Ronald W. Clark (1975) ISBN 0-394-49059-2
* "Bertrand Russell and His World", by Ronald W. Clark (1981) ISBN 0-500-13070-1
* " Bertrand Russell: 1872–1920 The Spirit of Solitude" by Ray Monk (1997) ISBN 0-09-973131-2
* "Bertrand Russell: 1921–1970 The Ghost of Madness" by Ray Monk (2001) ISBN 0-09-927275-X


* The Hon. Bertrand Russell (1872-1931)
* Bertrand, The Earl Russell / Lord Russell (1931-1970)


External links

Writings available online

* [ "Mysticism"] (1961)
* [ "A Free Man's Worship"] (1903)
* [ "Am I an Atheist or an Agnostic?"] (1947)
* [ "Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?"] 1930
* [ "Ideas that Have Harmed Mankind"] (1950)
* [ "In Praise of Idleness"] (1932)
* [ "What Desires Are Politically Important?"] (1950)
* [ "Political Ideals"] (1917)
* [ "The Problems of Philosophy"]
* [ "Proposed Roads to Freedom"] (1918)
* [ "16 Questions on the Assassination" (of President Kennedy)]
* [ "The Analysis Of Mind"]
* [ "What is an Agnostic?"]
* [ "Why I am not a Christian"]
* [ The War and Non-Resistance—A Rejoinder to Professor Perry]
* [ War and Non-Resistance] (1915)
* [ The Ethics of War] (1915)
* [;cc=umhistmath;view=toc;idno=AAT3201.0001.001 "Principia Mathematica"] (1910)
* [ "The Elements of Ethics"] (1910)
* [ "The Principles of Mathematics"] (1903)
* [ "An essay on the foundations of geometry"]
* From: []
** [ "History of Western Philosophy"] (1946)
** [ "My Philosophical Development"] (1959)
** [ "Portraits from Memory and Other Essays"] (1956)
** [ "Unpopular Essays"] (1950)
** [ "Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy"] (1920)
** [ "The Scientific Outlook"] (1954)
** [ "An Outline of Philosophy"] (1951)
** [ "Common Sense and Nuclear Warfare"] (1959)
** [ "Our Knowledge of the External World"] (1914)
** [ "Legitimacy Versus Industrialism 1814-1848"] (1935)
** [ "Authority and the Individual"] (1949)
** [ "Education and the Social Order"] (1932)
** [ "Nightmares of Eminent Persons and Other Stories"] (1954)
** [ "Why Men Fight: A Method of Abolishing the International Duel"] (1917)
** [ "Justice in Wartime"] (1917)
** [ "Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays"] (1917)


* [ Bertrand Russell Audio Archive]
* [ "In Praise of Idleness"] free mp3 recitation of Russell's essay of the same name, from the Audio Anarchy project


* [ Pembroke Lodge — childhood home and museum]
* [ The Bertrand Russell Society] — a member organisation of the International Humanist and Ethical Union
* [ The Bertrand Russell Society Quarterly]
* [ The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation]
* [ Bertrand Russell in Japan]
* [ Biography and quotes of Bertrand Russell]
* [ Russell Photo Gallery]
* [ Photographs] at the [ National Portrait Gallery]
* [ The Bertrand Russell Archives]
* [ Resource list]
* [ The First Reith Lecture given by Russell] (Real Audio)
* [ Encyclopaedia Britannica]
* [ Nobel Prize]
* [ Russell immediate family]
* [ Lecture about 1905, the philosophical landscale of Einstein in which Russell was central]
* [ Bertrand Russell at 100 Welsh Heroes]


NAME=Russel, Bertrand Arthur William, 3rd Earl Russell
SHORT DESCRIPTION=philosopher, logician, and mathematician
DATE OF BIRTH=birth date|1872|5|18|df=y
PLACE OF BIRTH=Trellech, Monmouthshire, United Kingdom
DATE OF DEATH=death date|1970|2|2|df=y
PLACE OF DEATH=Penrhyndeudraeth, Wales, United Kingdom

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