Sceptical Essays

Front Cover
Psychology Press, 2004 - Philosophy - 225 pages
"These propostions may seem mild, yet, if accepted, they would absolutely revolutionise human life." With these words Bertrand Russell introduces what is indeed a revolutionary book. Taking as his starting point the irrationality of the world, he offers by contrast something "wildly paradoxical and subversive" - a belief that reason should determine human actions. Unwittingly foreseeing the horrors that resulted in the ensuing years from the irrational passions of religious and political beliefs, it is no wonder that Sceptical Essays has never been out of print since its first publication in 1928. Today, besieged as we are by the numbing onslaught of twenty-first-century capitalism, Russell's defence of scepticism and independence of mind is as timely as ever. In clear, engaging prose, he guides us through the key philosophical issues that affect our daily life - freedom, happiness, emotions, ethics and beliefs - and offers no-nonsense advice. "What would be the effect", he asks his readers with playful irony, "of a spread of rational scepticism ? "
 

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Contents

Introduction On the Value of Scepticism
1
Dreams and Facts
14
Is Science Superstitious?
23
Can Men be Rational?
32
Philosophy in the Twentieth Century
40
Machines and the Emotions
63
Behaviourism and Values
71
Eastern and Western Ideals of Happiness
80
The Need for a Political Scepticism
108
Free Thought and Official Propaganda
124
Freedom in Society
144
Freedom Versus Authority in Education
157
Psychology and Politics
173
The Danger of Creed Wars
185
Some Prospects Cheerful and Otherwise
202
INDEX
218

The Harm that Good Men Do
90
The Recrudescence of Puritanism
101

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About the author (2004)

Bertrand Arthur William Russell (1872-1970) was a British philosopher, logician, essayist and social critic. He was best known for his work in mathematical logic and analytic philosophy. Together with G.E. Moore, Russell is generally recognized as one of the main founders of modern analytic philosophy. Together with Kurt Gödel, he is regularly credited with being one of the most important logicians of the twentieth century. Over the course of a long career, Russell also made contributions to a broad range of subjects, including the history of ideas, ethics, political and educational theory, and religious studies. General readers have benefited from his many popular writings on a wide variety of topics. After a life marked by controversy--including dismissals from both Trinity College, Cambridge, and City College, New York--Russell was awarded the Order of Merit in 1949 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950. Noted also for his many spirited anti-nuclear protests and for his campaign against western involvement in the Vietnam War, Russell remained a prominent public figure until his death at the age of 97.

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