The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, 1903-1959

The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, 1903-1959

The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, 1903-1959

The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, 1903-1959


Lord Russell has never particularly relished being anatomized although he readily consented to each of us attempting it by selections previously published. We have joined in this volume, again with his kind sanction, to present what we trust will be generally accepted as a useful, definitive sampling of complete essays and chapters indicative of the man and his work over more than sixty years of astounding productivity.

When we have been queried on frequent occasions as to the reason for our own continued absorbing interest in the myriads of words that have flowed from his fertile mind, we have uniformly responded that we deliberately chose his works as we know of no one comparable through whose eyes one can survey the status and progress of contemporary thought in its many variegations. It was that idea which prompted our selection from various fields, in many of which Lord Russell pioneered and advanced human thought and in all of which he spoke with distinction.

Few philosophers have had a more profound influence on the course of modern philosophy than Bertrand Russell. Perhaps no technical philosopher has been more widely read, discussed and misunderstood. This volume is an attempt to present within one cover the more definitive essays by Russell from 1903, when he wrote his celebrated essay, 'A Free Man's Worship', to 1959, when he wrote the frequently cited 'The Expanding Mental Universe'.

The essays were chosen for their contribution to thinking at the time they were written. As Russell himself says, 'I am in no degree ashamed of having changed my opinions. What physicist who was active in 1900 would dream of boasting that his opinions had not changed?'

There is no adequate substitute for first-hand contact with original thought; nor is there any substitute for reading the definitive works of any great thinker in their entirety. Russell anthologies and collections have appeared which show only one period in his thought. Some, for example, reveal the views he held for a limited time (Mysticism and Logic, 1903-1917), while others have been concerned with emphasizing his views on particular subjects (Why I am not a Christian, 1957). It was not our purpose to add still another to their number.

Our aim has been to present a wide portrait of the views of one of the few seminal thinkers of the twentieth century. There will no doubt be readers who would have wished that we had made different selections from Russell's works, but this problem confronts any anthologist.

The editors of any volume on a twentieth-century philosopher are faced with a peculiar dilemma. The recency of the period and the strong . . .

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