JR'S Free Thought Pages
            No Gods  ~ No Masters   


        Bertrand Russell Reading List:

Many of Russell’s books are still in print and/or are available in good used bookstores. This list is not exhaustive.

History of Western Philosophy

Why I Am Not A Christian

Skeptical Essays

Unpopular Essays

Authority and the Individual


Principles of Social Reconstruction

Marriage and Morals

The Conquest of Happiness

Human Society in Ethics and politics

Religion and Science

The Will to Doubt

Philosophical Essays

The Problems of Philosophy

The Art of Philosophizing

An Outline of Philosophy

Mysticism and Logic

Philosophical Essays

Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell

Education and the Social Order

On Education

What I Believe

Our Knowledge of the External World

Roads to Freedom

My Philosophical development

Common Sense and Nuclear Warfare

The Analysis of Mind

Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits

The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (3 Vols.)


         Links to Online Essays:

Why I Am Not A Christian          

Is There A God?

Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?

Religion And Education

On The Value of Skepticism

Why I Am a Rationalist

An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish 

A Free Mans Worship

Authority In Ethics

Will Religious Faith Cure Our Troubles?

What is the Soul?

Ideas That have Harmed Mankind

Ideas That have Helped Mankind


Science And Ethics

Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism

In Praise of Idleness

1948 BBC Debate between Russell and F. Copleston on God's Existence

Essay on Russell by Paul Edwards in Free Inquiry


          Essays and Web Sites on Russell:

Bertrand Russell on Critical Thinking - William Hare (one of my former professors)

Bertrand Russell Archive at McMaster University

Bertrand Russell Society


             Russell at UCLA                                      BBC Broadcast                              Nobel Prize Portrait


Bertrand Russell 1872-1970                       

Russell The Public Philosopher

Before 1914, Russell was well known in academic circles as a logician and mathematician. By 1918, he had become a famous public and political figure. When war was declared against Germany in 1914 Russell was appalled. He spoke excellent German, was well acquainted with many German philosophers and mathematicians and had a high regard for their culture. He was also instrumental in bringing the young Austrian prodigy Ludwig Wittgenstein to Cambridge. Russell was aghast at the fervent enthusiasm for the war among the general populace and thought the government was guilty of war mongering and playing on their instinctive but unwarranted fears of foreigners. He wrote several pamphlets condemning the war, arguing that war between two civilized countries like Germany and Britain was sheer madness. When the British government introduced conscription in 1916 Russell was outraged even further. Russell was a dynamic confident public speaker – and his cogent arguments were very persuasive. His lectures were well attended, convincing many to protest the war and become conscientious objectors. Russell’s disgust at the senseless slaughter prompted him to proclaim, “I hate the planet and the human race. I am ashamed to belong to such a species.” Ultimately the British government took action against Russell when he attempted to incite a general strike and was sent to prison for six months. During his incarceration Russell spent his time studying and wrote a book “The Analysis of Mind”.  

By the 1920’s Russell’s work on logic as well as his contributions to mathematical and analytic philosophy were influencing a new generation of young philosophers, in particular the Logical Positivists. But by that time, Russell had begun a new career – as journalist, lecturer, political activist and writer of books on science and philosophy for the general public. He went on several gruelling lecture tours in the United States and there pronounced on many different social issues including World Peace, Warfare and freedom of the individual. He denounced both Fascism and Communism as serious infringements on the freedom of the individual. Modern totalitarian dictatorships are like religions with unthinking loyal disciples, convinced by a world-view that claims a salvation plan for humanity and monopoly on the truth. Russell’s visits to Russia had made him deeply suspicious of State Socialism but he was also opposed to the concentration of power in the hands of wealthy individuals, powerful corporations or the State.

Much of Russell’s political writing is a continuing attempt to find a way of reconciling the need for some form of government authority with the greater need for personal freedoms. He distrusted governments of all kinds and was a perennial skeptic of those who sought power believing that they were in some important way psychologically flawed since history has taught us that power is all too often abused.  Even in constitutional democracies the power of the people is generally usurped by oligarchies of various kinds – a wealthy aristocracy, land-owning gentry or some form of political faction. Neither did Russell have much faith in the masses. He often felt isolated from his fellow man, and was often horrified by their stupid “herd mentality”, nationalistic fervour and enthusiasm for war. Says Russell, “Devotion to the nation and patriotic fervour is perhaps the deepest and most widespread religion of the present age. Like the ancient religions, it demands its persecutions, its holocausts, its lurid heroic cruelties; like them it is noble primitive, brutal and mad.” But he thought most people have the potential for altruism and compassion but society rarely recognized this capacity and did little or nothing to cultivate it.

There is much more about Russell that can be gleaned from his Three Volume autobiography and the many biographies written on Russell as mathematician, philosopher and public intellectual. He did after all live a long and productive life, active politically and intellectually for all of his 98 years. He is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating personalities and one of the greatest minds of past two centuries.  (JR)


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