Bertrand Russell the Passionate Skeptic: A Biography

By Alan Wood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
Russell and Relativity

AMONG the traits of Sir Stanley Unwin, as a keen business man, was a disinclination to go out of his way to publicize the wares which a rival publisher had to sell. In practice this meant that the lists of Russell's works, facing the title pages of his books published by Allen and Unwin, sometimes omitted those he wrote when Unwin was not his publisher. Principia Mathematica and The Problems of Philosophy might need no reminder of their existence, but some other books by Russell tended to be forrgotten. Chief among them were books on science which C. K. Ogden persuaded him to write for Kegan Paul--the ABC of Atoms and the ABC of Relativity, also published as articles in Brailsford "New Leader"; Icarus, or the future of Science; and The Analysis of Matter. (The last work, after being out of print for many years, appeared again, under the Allen and Unwin imrprint, in Britain in 1954.)

In writing about Russell, there is the same difficulty which conrfronted the Victorian novelists who brought in dozens of different characters, and developed three or four simultaneous plots or subplots, all in the same novel. After describing how one character was getting on, they would continually be dodging back to catch up with the doings of another. Russell was always about a dozen characters at once, all standing in the same pair of shoes; after devoting two or three chapters to Russell as a traveller and sociologist and politician and lecturer, we must now go back to outline the activities, during the same period, of Russell the scientist and Russell the philosopher.

Russell was almost unique among contemporary philosophers in the extent of his knowledge of science: but I think he often regretted he had not devoted more time to it, particularly when

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