Mysticism and Logic by Bertrand RussellThere is something strange about Russell’s writing. Although he often adopts a formal, even stilted, style, and tackles the most abstruse logical problems, his personality is always floating in the background, barely out of sight. The feeling is like Russell is there, in the room with you, reading aloud from his work. His ability to adopt this warm, personal style while appearing not to do so is why I think he is a fantastic writer.
This is related to another persistent feature of his writing. When he is laying forth a theory or an argument, I often feel that Russell is trying just as hard to convince himself as his audience. He was a man skeptical to the core, and I get the feeling that he was only capable of wholeheartedly believing in things—even logical theories—in short, passionate bursts; and that, after reflection, he would find flaws in every one of his former opinions. The vacillation of his ideas throughout his career shows this in full evidence.
This quality is apparent in the first essay, “Mysticism and Logic.” Russell starts off in praising philosophers who have successfully combined the two notions, and expresses his wish that the mystical impulse be given its due respect. And then he proceeds to demolish every doctrine or idea posited by mystical thinkers. By the end of the essay, the reader is more averse to mysticism than before he started. (For a more productive attempt to combine the two, see Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.)
Then there’s his masterpiece of prose, “A Free Man’s Worship.” That is a piece of writing more passionate that I could have ever thought possible from polite, civilized Bertrand. And yet, in the back of the reader’s mind is Russell’s cordial warning in the preface that he later came to find the sentiments expressed somewhat naïve. As I said, an incorrigible skeptic.
It is getting to be something of a cliché to say this, but I find it valuable to read through this philosophy even if you don’t believe it. Even the late Bertrand Russell himself didn’t believe it. But his mind was cast in a unique mold. Russell was capable—or at least as nearly capable as can be achieved—of contemplation without sentimentality or dogmatism. He questioned everything: an exercise incomparably valuable, if not ultimately productive.
What’s more, Russell’s ability to get to the very heart of a question, to probe it with his logical pincers until every strand of the thing is clearly laid out on the dissection table, is always astounding. Merely following the train of his thought is worthwhile, even if the train leads into blind alleys. Plus, what’s so bad about blind alleys?
Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays
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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, The author died in , so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 30 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works. Mysticism and Logic 1 II. The Study of Mathematics 58 V.
Russell was a heralded British philosopher, historian and mathematician, as well as a well-published author, and is considered one of the great minds of the 20th century. In this collection, Russell challenges romantic mysticism while promoting a logical and mathematics-based approach to interpreting the world around us. The collection opens with one of Russell's most well known essays, Mysticism and Logic , in which the author explains his worldview and the need for logic when interpreting life. Nine more essays follow this one, and touch on a range of topics including mathematics, life and death, plurality, the nature of existence, intelligence, and science's role in a liberal education. The first five essays of this collection are "entirely popular" according to Russell, whereas the final four are "somewhat more technical.
Bertrand Russell May 18, —February 2, — another thinker of rare genius, a staunch champion of reason and one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived — made a magnificent case for that interplay between science and metaphysics a generation earlier in the title piece of his superb collection Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays free ebook public library. Russell was a founding father of modern atheism , but he was also animated by a resolute commitment to nuance and an unflinching defiance of dogma, be it religious or scientific. -