THE LAUREATE: Bertrand Russell was born in 1872 on his family’s estate. His parents were atheists and extremely liberal, but when they died, he was raised by his prim old grandmother. Russell went to Cambridge for mathematics and philosophy, and for a while taught a young go-getter named Ludwig Wittgenstein, because why not? Russell was a lifelong pacifist who frequently voiced very controversial positions. He also revolutionized analytical philosophy and even had an equation named after him.
WHAT I’M READING: I bought the Essential Bertrand Russell, and I’m reading everything in it about religion (which isn’t much.)
REVIEW: Bertrand Russell is one of the thinkers that the New Atheist movement read and imitated extensively. I’ve read a few of their books, and the essential arguments they make come right out of Russell’s writing. Russell is much gentler, though, and I’ve come to appreciate that as I’ve stopped trying to pick fights with people on the internet. He also has a very conversational style (which fits, because I think all four articles were originally speeches). I think I wouldn’t mind reading his more serious work.
WHAT’S NEXT: J. M. Coetzee’s book about politics. All the stuff in Monday’s post about timing is now moot.