Unpopular Essays

Unpopular Essays
by Bertrand Russell

I need a new copy of this book; mine is old, and the glue in the spine has failed, allowing the first thirty or so pages to fall out.

I need a new copy because even though I have read this, I want to keep it. I want to read it again.

Partly that is because I want to learn a bit more philosophy; I didn’t understand the essays “Philosophy and Politics,” “Philosophy for Laymen,” or “Philosophy’s Ulterior Motives” as well as I would have liked. I followed the logic and the writing, of course, as I think that Lord Russell was possibly the clearest thinker and the clearest writer in the history of English and the history of philosophy; but the references to the large ideas of Kant and Nietzsche and particularly the Greeks, were new to me, and thus no chord was struck.

Mainly it is because I did understand everything Russell was saying in the less-referential pieces. Particularly “The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed” and “What It Means to Be a Teacher.” The last resonated with me especially because I am a teacher, and I strive to be one that Lord Russell would have approved. I want my students to think: to weigh evidence, to question assumptions, to come to their own conclusions, and then justify their decisions logically. It’s difficult. They don’t want to. I myself am much less than perfect as a model of the ideals. If I could, I would have them read Bertrand Russell. (Come to think of it, I’ll have them do just that. I am a high school literature teacher, after all. But which essay?) Whether they ever do or not, I plan to read all of his works that I can get my hands on; and I will read this one again. If for no other reason, then because of this, from the introduction: “A word as to the title. In the Preface to my Human Knowledge I said that I was writing not only for professional philosophers, and that ‘philosophy proper deals with matters of interest to the general educated public.’ Reviewers took me to task, saying they found parts of my book difficult, and implying that my words were such as to mislead purchasers. I do not wish to expose myself again to this charge; I will therefore confess that there are several sentences in the present volume which some unusually stupid children of ten might find a little puzzling. On this ground I do not claim that the essays are popular; and if not popular, then ‘unpopular.'”

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