Bertrand Russell, LIFE magazine profile, April 1 1940

Just flagging this up, because it’s cool.

Bertrand Russell Rides Out Collegiate Cyclone

It’s a LIFE magazine profile of Bertrand Russell that was published in April 1940, right in the middle of the College of the City of New York scandal. (This is where Russell was described in court as “lecherous, salacious, libidinous, lustful, venerous, erotomaniac, aphrodisiac, atheistic, irreverent, narrow-minded, bigoted and untruthful”.)

  1. Now I won’t have that! 👿

    It’s unfair to characterize him that way. He was formally Agnostic in private and only pragmatically Atheistic in public.

    No more heroes anymore! 🙄

  2. So, nine compliments followed by three insults…

  3. Yup. Ray Monk comments that Russell relished that description… and rightly so (except, as you say, for the last three).

  4. Lokkur Vasanthi Rao

    What a narrow minded comment ! BR payed a price for being honest; How many philosophers are ?

  5. It is interesting that what you have described is a first class jerk, one whose personal life (and much of his professional life) was in the toilet. He was intelligent, but as a philosopher, he displayed little wisdom but great intelligence, he mastered the art of academic intimidation by mastering language and communication skills.

    What indeed is the purpose of philosophy, if it is not wisdom to benefit mankind? Bertrand Russell was a great lover of Bertrand Russell, and this obscured his potential achievement.

    To my philosopher brother and sisters, lest you miss the meaning of my words, answer the following question. “How many cab drivers in New York City have philosophy degrees?” Ans: “All of them.”

    What makes a man or philosopher great is the virtue of humility, and the “virtues” you listed are really a summary of his personal faults and failings of unprecedented number. If he was truly wise, no one (including his wives) would have described him thus.

    Look up virtue as defined by Socrates and Porphys.

    Russell is an absolutely must read, but hardly one to be admired for wisdom.

    It is people like Russell who have distorted philosophy to the point where it is almost irrelevant to the populace. I am presently half-way through one of his books, and he certainly hits you in the face with his intelligence, he is hardly one to be admired, because of his inability to translate his intelligence into useful wisdom.

    One would certainly not follow such a man into battle, it is likely he would be shot by his own men, which I find not only amusing, but somewhat distressing.

    But lest you think I excoriate him because he was a personal jerk, I do understand that he made MANY useful observations and contributions. I will continue to read him. But I will not run through the streets willy nilly with his name on a banner proclaiming him a hero.

    For that matter, I am not the ideal, as my history was to deal in death, mayhem, and destruction of the enemies of our way of life. If I could change, then anyone else can…..

  6. Re:-Timrford November 10

    Would you say Russell’s patronage of Wittgenstein lacked wisdom, and was just one jerk patronising another, who similarly lacked wisdom?
    Not all cab-drivers have Philosophy degrees but they are all philosophers as the vast majority of Homo Sapiens are.

  7. No, but the problem of two contemporaries working together presents some unique psychological disadvantages, it ruins objectivity. It is basic human nature to “cultivate” someone of like ability, because human nature is like water, seeks its own level.

    Wittgenstein–I have no real assessment, because I have only read excerpts of some of his works. I will be looking at his works later this year, wan to do some more on BR first–yes, even though he was a jerk.

    Russell was a very intelligent man, as I said before, but he was unable to make the transition to wisdom (in my estimation), and therefore since he was unable to make any substantive changes to himself and his life, thus giving proof of his wisdom. Arrogance is not the sign of wisdom, but of insecurity.

    When I worked for GE, Jack Welch was noted as one of the most successful leader in America and the world. When I met him, I was struck by his arrogance. His personal life was less than stellar, and he never moved from intelligence to wisdom. When I brought this observation to the GE officials, during a takeover, the higher-level managers for GE did not have an answer.

    Intelligence has it’s place, but married to arrogance, is no substitute for wisdom.

    One of the first things we learn in philosophy, is “The Cave.” The weakness of the teaching, is of course, is that when one stepped into the light of day, that perhaps his objectivity was being distorted by his education or personal bias, coupled with the limitations of his mind and experience.

    Russell appeals to academics. The academic world is not the real-life world. The Queen of Science is Philosophy, but it has become irrelevant to the masses.

    That was the point I was making about cab drivers and philosophy. A philosophy degree, unless you work at the university qualifies you for what? Driving a cab? Who hires philosophers?

    (Actually, the truth is that most people with philosophy degrees work in the field of religion.)
    But that is a whole different topic for someday….

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