History of Western Philosophy


“A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says is never accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something that he can understand.”

 Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (1945), Book One, Ancient Philosophy, Part II, Chapter XI, Socrates, p. 83.

Image: Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) was a philosopher, mathematician, educational and sexual reformer, pacifist, prolific letter writer, author and columnist. Bertrand Russell was one of the most influential and widely known intellectual figures of the twentieth century.

In 1950 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his extensive contributions to world literature and for his “rationality and humanity, as a fearless champion of free speech and free thought in the West.” Russell led the British “revolt against Idealism” in the early 1900s and is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy along with his protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein.

He co-authored, with Alfred North Whitehead, Principia Mathematica, an attempt to ground mathematics on logic. His philosophical essay On Denoting has been considered a paradigm of philosophy. Both works have had a considerable influence on logic, mathematics, set theory, linguistics and analytic philosophy.

He was a prominent anti-war activist, championing free trade between nations and anti-imperialism. Russell was imprisoned for his pacifist activism during World War I, campaigned against Adolf Hitler and his nazis, called for nuclear disarmament, criticized Joseph Stalin and Soviet totalitarianism, and lastly condemned the United States of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

Russell died at his home in Penrhyndeudraeth, Wales on February 2, 1970, where his ashes were scattered over the Welsh hills.


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