Top critical review
A definite must, especially in these times
on January 23, 2017
My daughters gave me this book as a gift, knowing of my deep admiration for Russell. Too many decades ago, I discovered him at age twenty, beginning with “Why I am not a Christian.” It went on from there, and I’m thankful I was able to see him on television before he died at age 98 in 1970.
While it is a service to have such a volume available, there are drawbacks. One is that it is poorly bound. Since it is overly tight down the center with a page size too small, it is both cumbersome to handle and difficult to read on both sides of the middle. Further, the font size should have been a point or at least half-a-point larger. I have three dictionaries (one a pocket edition), the Baseball Encyclopedia and an anthology of Shakespeare, among other books, that do not have either problem. I blame the publisher, Routledge Classics, for this and not the editors, who are to be commended. This is why I give three stars rather than five.
I do blame the editors (but only a little) for omitting transcripts of Russell’s numerous debates with adversaries. Surely, a few could have been included, for example the televised one with Dr. Edward Teller, the “father” of the hydrogen bomb. The potential reader is robbed of this type of content that would be livelier than article after article on Principea Mathematica, Logic, and repetitions of his earlier years.
Years ago I read that when he was ninety, a wealthy London matron gave him a huge birthday party. Russell, by then widely admired even among most opponents, was really an atheist, though he always claimed to be agnostic because no proof could be given either way. The matron, mentioning that he was getting up there in age, asked what if he should pass on and prove to be wrong. “What if there is a God?” she asked. “Well,” he replied, “I should say, God you left us insufficient evidence.”
Get the book. Russell was a gift to the human race.