Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Unpopular Essays by Bertrand Russell

I am not sure where this book came from, but I recently found it in my office when I was packing up to vacate for summer renovations. I had read a few short things by Russell, but never an entire book. This collection of essays was, to my mind, uneven. However, the ones I liked I read and thoroughly enjoyed. The others I skipped after a few paragraphs.
The first is “Philosophy and Politics.” It was a bit too political for me. I haven’t read much PP since college back in the 60s, and I don’t plan to read much more. This essay reminded me why.
A really good one was “Philosophy for the Laymen.” Russell could take some arcane ideas and boil them down to a clearly understandable sentence. I won’t even try and summarize Hegel’s theory of “The Absolute Idea,” but Russell explains it as “pure thought about pure thought.” That makes sense, to me at least.
My favorite, however, was “An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish.” Russell takes on everything here – religion, astrology, sex, history, politics, et al. This is the longest essay in the collection and well worth the price of admission.
Not for everyone, but it will take a proud place on my rationalist book shelf. 4 stars.
--Chiron 11/21/07

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