Notes from What I Believe
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What I Believe
Preface to the Routledge Classics
Page 9 @ 21 October 2022 11:09 PM
Rightly or wrongly, Russell agreed with Mill that Socrates dissatisfied is a better man than the fool satisfied. What I Believe defends the disinterested pursuit of the truth as one element in the good life, and Russell’s most passionate complaint against religion is that it is a cowardly response to the bleakness of the universe.
Page 11 @ 21 October 2022 11:28 PM
Rightly enough, Russell thought morality plays a very small part in life. Nobody looks up the rules about parental duty when caring for a sick child, for instance; they are motivated by love — or not — and in either event morality plays no role. If they lack proper affection, they will not be moralized into it, and if they feel it, the moral standpoint is redundant.
Nature and Man
Page 15 @ 25 October 2022 09:58 PM
Electrons and protons, like the soul, are logical fictions; each is really a history, a series of events, not a single persistent entity. In the case of the soul, this is obvious from the facts of growth. Whoever considers conception, gestation, and infancy cannot seriously believe that the soul in any indivisible something, perfect and complete throughout this process.
Page 15 @ 25 October 2022 09:59 PM
Metaphysicians have advanced innumerable arguments to prove that the soul must be immortal. There is one simple test by which all these arguments can be demolished. They all prove equally that the soul must pervade all space. But as we are not so anxious to be fat as to live long, none of the metaphysicians in question have ever noticed this application of their reasonings. This is an instance of the amazing power of desire in blinding even very able men to fallacies which would otherwise be obvious at once. If we were not afraid of death, I do not believe that the idea of immortality would ever have arisen.
Page 15 @ 25 October 2022 10:02 PM
Religion is an attempt to overcome this antithesis. If the world is controlled by God, and God can be moved by prayer, we acquire a share in omnipotence. In former days, miracles happened in answer to prayer; they still do in the Catholic Church, but Protestants have lost this power.
Page 16 @ 25 October 2022 10:04 PM
Happiness is none the less true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting. Many a man has borne himself proudly on the scaffold; surely the same pride should teach us to think truly about man’s place in the world. Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanising myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigour, and the great spaces have a splendour of their own.
Page 16 @ 25 October 2022 10:05 PM
The philosophy of nature is one thing, the philosophy of value is quite another. Nothing but harm can come of confusing them. What we think good, what we should like, has no bearing whatever upon what is, which is the question for the philosophy of nature. On the other hand, we cannot be forbidden to value this or that on the ground that the non-human world does not value it, nor can we be compelled to admire anything because it is a law of nature’.
Page 16 @ 25 October 2022 10:06 PM
The philosophy of nature must not be unduly terrestrial; for it, the earth is merely one of the smaller planets of one of the smaller stars of the Milky Way. It would be ridiculous to warp the philosophy of nature in order to bring out results that are pleasing to the tiny parasites of this insignificant planet. Vitalism as a philosophy, and evolutionism, show, in this respect, a lack of sense of proportion and logical relevance. They regard the facts of life, which are personally interesting to us, as having a cosmic significance, not a significance confined to the earth’s surface. Optimism and pessimism, as cosmic philosophies, show the same naive humanism; the great world, so far as we know it from the philosophy of nature, is neither good nor bad, and is not concerned to make us happy or unhappy. All such philosophies spring from self-importance, and are best corrected by a little astronomy.
The Good Life
Page 18 @ 25 October 2022 10:08 PM
The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.
Page 30 @ 26 October 2022 09:29 PM
I do not wish to suggest that revolutions are never necessary, but I do wish to suggest that they are not short cuts to the millennium. There is no short cut to the good life, whether individual or social. To build up the good life, we must build up intelligence, self-control and sympathy. This is a quantitative matter, a matter of gradual improvement, of early training, of educational experiment. Only impatience prompts the belief in the possibility of sudden improvement. The gradual improvement that is possible, and the methods by which it may be achieved, are a matter for future science.
Science and Happiness
Page 33 @ 26 October 2022 10:38 PM
But courage in fighting is by no means the only form, nor perhaps even the most important. There is courage in facing poverty, courage in facing derision, courage in facing the hostility of one’s own herd. In these, the bravest soldiers are often lamentably deficient. And above all there is the courage to think calmly and rationally in the face of danger, and to control the impulse of panic fear or panic rage.
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