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In Praise of Idleness: And Other Essays (Routledge Classics) Paperback – January 1, 1985

ISBN-13: 978-0415109246 ISBN-10: 0415109248

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Product Details

  • Series: Routledge Classics
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (January 1, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415109248
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415109246
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,728,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

'A book full of rich, stimulative thought, with plenty of scope for disagreement.' - The Guardian

'Invariably intelligent, stimulating and lucid.' - The Listener

'There is not ... a page which does not provoke argument or thought.' - The Sunday Times

 


More About the Author

Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970). 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 Noble Prize for Literature in 1950 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."

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By P. Schumacher on January 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Russell became famous as a mathematician and philosopher.
But when he won the Nobel Prize, it was for Literature. When you read this book of essays, you will see why.
It is beautifully written and has all of Russell's virtues: clarity, wit, humor, forcefulness, simplicity.
Even better, it is a brief education in itself. Most of the essays were written just as the Great Depression was beginning, and Russell gets right to the heart of a problem Capitalists and Socialists do not usually address: How much work is needed, and what is the ultimate point? He constantly stresses that we do too much work, and most of it is unneeded, and makes life grim. He never ceases to remind us that we should work to live, not live to work.
He addresses this point in many ways--through economics, through architecture, through the then-raging problems of Fascism and Communism. And though he treats serious problems seriously, he always has time for the breathtaking perspective and the ligtht touch--as with the essay, "Man Versus Insects."
A wonderful, even life-changing book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Pletko on November 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
+++++

Controversial philosopher and Nobel Prize winner Lord Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) has written fifteen scintillating essays on which to whet our intellectual appetites. These short essays were written between 1925 and 1935.

Russell writes in an elegant, readable, and understandable style. His arguments are well thought out.

These essays consider social questions not discussed in politics. The general theme that ties these essays together is that the world suffers from dogmatism and narrowness; what is needed is the willingness to question dogma.

These essays are a blend of philosophy with other disciplines such as psychology, economics, science, and history. All the essays are brutally honest and forthright. Each is packed with loads of wisdom. What's amazing is that these essays are as current today as when they were first written and their messages will probably remain relevant in the future.

My five favorite essays in this collection include the following:

(1) "In Praise of Idleness." Discusses work and the importance of leisure. In order to get an idea of Russell's insight that permeates this book, here's a sample sentence from this essay: "The morality of work is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery."

(2) "'Useless' Knowledge." Points out that all knowledge is useful not only that which has a practical value.

(3) "The Case for Socialism." Russell gives many arguments in favor of socialism, most notably the need for preventing war.

(4) "Western Civilization." Discusses its characteristics.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 15, 1998
Format: Paperback
Written by a very advanced thinker, this book represents a shattering statement against the Christian petit-burgois morality of work, a true revolution and evolution in man's thinking.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is one book where you must read the introduction. and then when you read the book you find out thatthe book can be interpreted in at least one other way. i think everybody would take out something different but that would always be refreshing. i could not stop myself from saying 'aha' at many places. still, i think he sometimes is contradicting himself. he thinks that socialism and liberalism can go together. maybe he is right. i dont think so.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 13, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I like reading the works of Bertrand Russell. He is a crisp and thoughtful writer, and a penetrating and skilled philosopher. But we can't be great at everything and unfortunately, "In Praise of Idleness" highlights Dr. Russell's naivete when it comes to social and political commentary.

And more unfortunate still, the most naive essay of all is the title essay. In it, Dr. Russell outlines a vision whereby all able-bodied individuals would need only to work for four hours a day. Russell abhors work, and true to his upper-cust raisings, cannot see why it is really all that necessary. What he does not realize is that the beauty of the capitalism he so detests is that it allows the individual - rather than a majority vote or a dictator - choose how much work they will do based on how much "reward" they want. Should they want high reward, they can choose to work more and harder. Should they want less financial reward, they can choose a less stressful job. (Russell also misses the fact that, while many of us do detest work, they would detest it more if they did not own the fruits of their labor via wages in a capitalistic system. After all, many people work only because there is a financial motivator.)

His essay extolling the usefulness of useless knowledge is actually quite good. Rather than arguing - as its title might suggest - against a pragmatic view of knowledge (that only "useful" knowledge is worth anything), Russell argues to expand the definition of "useful." Knowledge that contributes to an individuals mental well-being, knowledge that is interesting, and knowledge that is just plain fun to think about, is every bit as useful to individuals as knowlege that helps us dig ditches, structure economies, etc. (To be useful, knowledge need not always be SOCIALLY useful.
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