In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays

In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays

In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays

In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays

Synopsis

Intolerance and bigotry lie at the heart of all human suffering. So claims Bertrand Russell at the outset of In Praise of Idleness , a collection of essays in which he espouses the virtues of cool reflection and free enquiry; a voice of calm in a world of maddening unreason. From a devastating critique of the ancestry of fascism to a vehement defence of 'useless' knowledge, with consideration given to everything from insect pests to the human soul, this is a tour de force that only Bertrand Russell could perform.

Excerpt

John Maynard Keynes wrote that his friend Bertrand Russell 'held two ludicrously incompatible beliefs: on the one hand he believed that all the problems of the world stemmed from conducting human affairs in a most irrational way; on the other, that the solution was simple, since all we had to do was to behave rationally'. Russell was a better logician than Keynes, and could have objected that, strictly speaking, these beliefs are not incompatible at all. Keynes's point, though, is clear enough, and right on the mark. Russell exhibits a faith in the power of reason to solve problems that is belied by the examples of stupidity which he shows to have created those problems in the first place. If it is the lack of reason that gets man into his messes, how can reason get him out of them? For all his well-known hostility to orthodox religion, especially Christianity, Russell often spoke in the tones of an other-worldly prophet. The ideal of rationality may, like holiness, be almost impossibly hard to attain in this life; but it is the unshirkable duty of the prophet to laud it.

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