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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

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Aristotelian Society
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/19/20

The Aristotelian Society for the Systematic Study of Philosophy, more generally known as the Aristotelian Society, was founded at a meeting on 19 April 1880, at 17 Bloomsbury Square, London.[1]

The Aristotelian Society resolved "to constitute a society of about twenty and to include ladies; the society to meet fortnightly, on Mondays at 8 o'clock, at the rooms of the Spelling Reform Association…"[2] The rules of the society stipulated:

The object of this Society shall be the systematic study of philosophy; 1st, as to its historical development; 2nd, as to its methods and problems.

According to H. Wildon Carr, in choosing a name for the society, it was:

essential to find a name which would definitely prescribe the speculative character of the study which was to be the Society's ideal, and it seemed that this could best be secured by adopting the name of a philosopher eminently representative. There is only one such name in the history of philosophy and so we became the Aristotelian Society, not for the special study of Aristotle, or of Aristotelianism, but for the systematic study of Philosophy."[3]

The society's first president was Mr. Shadworth H. Hodgson. He was president for fourteen years from 1880 until 1894, when he proposed Dr. Bernard Bosanquet as his replacement.

Bernard Bosanquet FBA (/ˈboʊzənˌkɛt, -kɪt/; 14 June[1] 1848 – 8 February 1923) was an English philosopher and political theorist, and an influential figure on matters of political and social policy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His work influenced but was later subject to criticism by many thinkers, notably Bertrand Russell, John Dewey and William James. Bernard was the husband of Charity Organisation Society leader Helen Bosanquet.

Born at Rock Hall near Alnwick, Bosanquet was the son of Robert William Bosanquet, a Church of England clergyman. He was educated at Harrow School and Balliol College, Oxford. After graduation, he was elected to a Fellowship at University College, Oxford, but, after receiving a substantial inheritance, resigned it in order to devote himself to philosophical research. He moved to London in 1881, where he became an active member of the London Ethical Society and the Charity Organisation Society. Both were positive demonstrations of Bosanquet's ethical philosophy.

The Charity Organization Societies were founded in England in 1869 following the 'Goschen Minute' (Poor Law Board; 22nd Annual Report (1869–70), Appendix A No.4. Relief to the Poor in the Metropolis. PP XXXI, 1871) that sought to severely restrict outdoor relief distributed by the Poor Law Guardians. In the early 1870s a handful of local societies were formed with the intention of restricting the distribution of outdoor relief to the elderly.

Also called the Associated Charities was a private charity that existed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a clearing house for information on the poor. The society was mainly concerned with distinction between the deserving poor and undeserving poor. The society believed that giving out charity without investigating the problems behind poverty created a class of citizens that would always be dependent on alms giving.

The society originated in Elberfeld, Germany and spread to Buffalo, New York around 1877. The conviction that relief promoted dependency was the basis for forming the Societies. Instead of offering direct relief, the societies addressed the cycle of poverty. Neighborhood charity visitors taught the values of hard work and thrift to individuals and families. The COS set up centralized records and administrative services and emphasized objective investigations and professional training.

-- Charity Organization Society, by Wikipedia

Bosanquet published on a wide range of topics, such as logic, metaphysics, aesthetics and politics. In his metaphysics, he is regarded as a key representative (with F. H. Bradley) of absolute idealism, although it is a term that he abandoned in favour of "speculative philosophy".

He was one of the leaders of the so-called neo-Hegelian philosophical movement in Great Britain. He was strongly influenced by the ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, but also by the German philosophers Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Among his best-known works are The Philosophical Theory of the State (1899), his Gifford lectures, The Principle of Individuality and Value (1912) and The Value and Destiny of the Individual (1913).

Bosanquet was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1894 to 1898.

In his Encyclopedia, Section 95, Hegel had written about "the ideality of the finite." This obscure, seemingly meaningless, phrase was interpreted as implying that "what is finite is not real" because the ideal is understood as being the opposite of the real. Bosanquet was a follower of Hegel and the "central theme of Bosanquet's idealism was that every finite existence necessarily transcends itself and points toward other existences and finally to the whole. Thus, he advocated a system very close to that in which Hegel had argued for the ideality of the finite."

The relation of the finite individual to the whole state in which he or she lives was investigated in Bosanquet's Philosophical Theory of the State (London, 1899). In this book, he "argued that the state is the real individual and that individual persons are unreal by comparison with it." But Bosanquet did not think that the state has a right to impose social control over its individual citizens. "On the contrary, he believed that if society is organic and individual, then its elements can cooperate apart from a centralised organ of control, the need for which presupposes that harmony has to be imposed upon something that is naturally unharmonious."

The relationship between the individual and society was summarised in Bosanquet's preface to The Introduction to Hegel's Philosophy of Fine Art (1886):

Man's Freedom, in the sense thus contemplated, lies in the spiritual or supra-sensuous world by which his humanity is realized, and in which his will finds fulfilment. The family, for example, property, and law are the first steps of man's freedom. In them the individual's will obtains and bestows recognition as an agent in a society whose bond of union is ideal — i.e. existing only in consciousness; and this recognition develops into duties and rights. It is in these that man finds something to live for, something in which and for the sake of which to assert himself. As society develops he lives on the whole more in the civilized or spiritual world, and less in the savage or purely natural world. His will, which is himself, expands with the institutions and ideas that form its purpose, and the history of this expansion is the history of human freedom. Nothing is more shallow,more barbarously irrational, than to regard the progress of civilization as the accumulation of restrictions. Laws and rules are a necessary aspect of extended capacities. (p. xxvii)

-- Bernard Bosanquet (philosopher), by Wikipedia

Professor Alan Willard Brown [1] noted in 1947 that '[The Society]'s members were not all men of established intellectual position. It welcomed young minds just out of university as well as older amateur philosophers with serious interests and purposes. But many distinguished men were faithful members, and not the least virtue of the society has remained, even to the present day, the opportunity it affords for different intellectual generations to meet in an atmosphere of reasoned and responsible discussion.'."[4]

The society continues to meet fortnightly at the University of London's Senate House to hear and discuss philosophical papers from all philosophical traditions. The current President (2016–2017) is Tim Crane, a Professor of Philosophy at University of Cambridge.[5] Its other work includes giving grants to support the organisation of academic conferences in philosophy, and, with Oxford University Press, the production of the 'Lines of Thought' series of philosophical monographs.

The society's annual conference, organised since 1918 in conjunction with the Mind Association, (publishers of the philosophical journal Mind), is known as the Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association, and is hosted by different university departments in July each year.

The Mind Association is a philosophical society whose purpose is to promote the study of philosophy. The association publishes the journal Mind quarterly.

Mind is a quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Mind Association....

Early on, the journal was dedicated to the question of whether psychology could be a legitimate natural science. In the first issue, Robertson wrote:

Now, if there were a journal that set itself to record all advances in psychology, and gave encouragement to special researches by its readiness to publish them, the uncertainty hanging over the subject could hardly fail to be dispelled. Either psychology would in time pass with general consent into the company of the sciences, or the hollowness of its pretensions would be plainly revealed. Nothing less, in fact, is aimed at in the publication of Mind than to procure a decision of this question as to the scientific standing of psychology.

-- Mind (journal), by Wikipedia

It was established in 1900 on the death of Henry Sidgwick [one of the founders and first president of the Society for Psychical Research; a member of the Metaphysical Society, and the Cambridge Apostles, a lifelong homosexual, married to Eleanor Mildred Balfour, sister to Arthur Balfour], who had supported Mind financially since 1891 and had suggested that after his death the society should be formed to oversee the journal.

-- Mind Association, by Wikipedia


The first edition of the society's proceedings, the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society for the Systematic Study of Philosophy, now the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, was issued in 1888.

Papers from invited speakers at the Joint Session conference are published in June each year (i.e., before the joint conference) in The Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume.

The Proceedings and the Supplementary Volume are published by the society and distributed by Oxford University Press. The back run of both journals has been digitised by JSTOR.

List of current and past presidents

Many significant philosophers have served the society as its president:

• Shadworth H. Hodgson (1880–1894)
• Bernard Bosanquet (1894–1898)
• D. G. Ritchie (1898–1899)
• G. F. Stout (1899–1904)
• Hastings Rashdall (1904–1907)
Lord Haldane of Cloan (1907–1908)
• Samuel Alexander (1908–1911)
Bertrand Russell (1911–1913)
• G. Dawes Hicks (1913–1914)
Arthur Balfour (1914–1915)
• H. Wildon Carr (1915–1918)
• G. E. Moore (1918–1919)
• James Ward (1919–1920)
• W. R. Inge (1920–1921)
F. C. S. Schiller (1921–1922)
• A. N. Whitehead (1922–1923)
• Percy Nunn (1923–1924)
• Lord Lindsay of Birker (1924–1925)
• J. A. Smith (1925–1926)
• C. Lloyd Morgan (1926–1927)
• C. D. Broad (1927–1928)
• A. E. Taylor (1928–1929)
• J. Laird (1929–1930)
• Beatrice Edgell (1930–1931)
• W. G. de Burgh (1931–1932)
• Leonard J. Russell (1932–1933)
• L. Susan Stebbing (1933–1934)
• G. C. Field (1934–1935)
• J. L. Stocks (1935–1936)
• Samuel Alexander (1936–1937)
Bertrand Russell (1937–1938)
• G. F. Stout (1938–1939)
• Sir William David Ross (1939–1940)
• Hilda D. Oakeley (1940–1941)
• A. C. Ewing (1941–1942)
• Morris Ginsberg (1942–1943)
• H. H. Price (1943–1944)
• H. J. Paton (1944–1945)
• Gilbert Ryle (1945–1946)
• R. B. Braithwaite (1946–1947)
• Norman Kemp Smith (1947–1948)
• C. A. Mace (1948–1949)
• William Kneale (1949–1950)
• John Wisdom (1950–1951)
• A. J. Ayer (1951–1952)
• H. B. Acton (1952–1953)
• Dorothy Emmet (1953–1954)
• C. D. Broad (1954–1955)
• J. N. Findlay (1955–1956)
• J. L. Austin (1956–1957)
• R. I. Aaron (1957–1958)
• Karl Popper (1958–1959)
• H. L. A. Hart (1959–1960)
• A. E. Duncan–Jones (1960–1961)
• A. M. MacIver (1961–1962)
• H. D. Lewis (1962–1963)
• Sir Isaiah Berlin (1963–1964)
• W. H. Walsh (1964–1965)
• Ruth L. Saw (1965–1966)
• Stephan Körner (1966–1967)
• Richard Wollheim (1967–1968)
• D. J. O'Connor (1968–1969)
• P. F. Strawson (1969–1970)
• W. B. Gallie (1970–1971)
• Martha Kneale (1971–1972)
• R. M. Hare (1972–1973)
• Charles H. Whiteley (1973–1974)
• David Daiches Raphael (1974–1975)
• A. M. Quinton (1975–1976)
• D. M. Mackinnon (1976–1977)
• D. W. Hamlyn (1977–1978)
• G. E. L. Owen (1978–1979)
• A. R. White (1979–1980)
• P. G. Winch (1980–1981)
• R. F. Holland (1981–1982)
• Timothy Smiley (1982–1983)
• A. R. Manser (1983–1984)
• Peter Alexander (1984–1985)
• Richard Sorabji (1985–1986)
• Martin Hollis (1986–1987)
• G. E. M. Anscombe (1987–1988)
• Onora O'Neill (1988–1989)
• Renford Bambrough (1989–1990)
• John Skorupski (1990–1991)
• Timothy Sprigge (1991–1992)
• Hugh Mellor (1992–1993)
• David E. Cooper (1993–1994)
• Jonathan Dancy (1994–1995)
• Christopher Hookway (1995–1996)
• Jennifer Hornsby (1996–1997)
• John Cottingham (1997–1998)
• Adam Morton (1998–1999)
• David Wiggins (1999–2000)
• James Griffin (2000–2001)
• Jane Heal (2001–2002)
• Bob Hale (2002–2003)
• Paul Snowdon (2003–2004)
• Timothy Williamson (2004–2005)
• Myles Burnyeat (2005–2006)
• Thomas Baldwin (2006–2007)
• Dorothy Edgington (2007–2008)
• M G F Martin (2008–2009)
• Simon Blackburn (2009–2010)
• Quassim Cassam (2010–2011)
• Marie McGinn (2011–2012)
• Sarah Broadie (2012–2013)
• David Papineau (2013–2014)
• A. W. Moore (2014–2015)
• Susan James (2015–2016)
• Tim Crane (2016–2017)
• Helen Beebee (2017–2018)
• Jo Wolff (2018–2019)


1. Five individuals attended this meeting: F. G. Fleay, Alfred Senier (1853–1918) (later Professor of Chemistry in the University of Galway), Herbert Burrows, Edward Clarkson, and Alfred Lowe (Carr, 1928–1929, pp.360).
2. Carr (1928–1929), 360.
3. Carr (1928–1929), 361.
4. Brown (1947), p.249.
5. "The Council", Aristotelian Society.


• Philosophy portal
• Brown, A.W., "The Metaphysical Society: Victorian Minds in Crisis, 1869–1880" New York: Columbia University Press (1947)
• Carr, H.W., "The Fiftieth Session: A Retrospect", Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Vol.29, (1928–1929), pp. 359–386.

External links

• The Aristotelian Society for the Systematic Study of Philosophy
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Mon Apr 20, 2020 2:27 am

F. C. S. [Ferdinand Canning Scott] Schiller
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/19/20

Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller
Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller
Born: 16 August 1864, Ottensen near Altona, Holstein, German Confederation
Died: 6 August 1937 (aged 72), Los Angeles
Education: Rugby School[1]; Balliol College, Oxford (B.A., 1887)
Era: 19th/20th-century philosophy
Region: Western philosophy
School: British pragmatism
Institutions: Corpus Christi, Oxford[1]
Main interestsL Pragmatism, logic, Ordinary language philosophy, epistemology, eugenics, meaning, personalism
Notable ideas: Criticism of formal logic, justification of axioms as hypotheses (a form of pragmatism), intelligent design, eugenics
Influences: William James, Protagoras
Influenced: William James, Victoria, Lady Welby

Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller (16 August 1864 – 6 August 1937), usually cited as F. C. S. Schiller, was a German-British philosopher. Born in Altona, Holstein (at that time member of the German Confederation, but under Danish administration), Schiller studied at the University of Oxford, later was a professor there, after being invited back after a brief time at Cornell University. Later in his life he taught at the University of Southern California. In his lifetime he was well known as a philosopher; after his death his work was largely forgotten.

Schiller's philosophy was very similar to and often aligned with the pragmatism of William James, although Schiller referred to it as "humanism". He argued vigorously against both logical positivism and associated philosophers (for example, Bertrand Russell) as well as absolute idealism (such as F. H. Bradley).

Schiller was an early supporter of evolution and a founding member of the English Eugenics Society.


Born in 1864, one of three brothers and the son of Ferdinand Schiller (a Calcutta merchant), Schiller's family home was in Switzerland. Schiller grew up in Rugby. He was educated at Rugby School and Balliol College, and graduated in the first class of Literae Humaniores, winning later the Taylorian scholarship for German in 1887. Schiller's first book, Riddles of the Sphinx (1891), was an immediate success despite his use of a pseudonym because of his fears concerning how the book would be received.

Where is the cultivated reader to go for a positive statement of the philosophic view of the world, for an exposition of modern metaphysics, and for an explanation of their bearing on the problem of life in its modern shape?...

[T]he anti-metaphysical surface current is still sufficiently violent, both in religion and in science, to render discretion the duty of all who do not covet the barren honours of a useless martyrdom. Hence it would be needless to assign any further reason for the last point it is necessary to allude to, viz., the anonymity of the Riddles of the Sphinx, even if the professional position of its author were such that he could afford to disregard men's intolerance of real or seeming innovation. For the splendid satire of Plato is unfortunately still too true to the spirit of men's treatment of those whose souls have risen by rough paths of speculation to the supernal spheres of metaphysics, and who return to tell them that the shadows on the walls of their Cave are not the whole truth, nor precisely what their nurses have taught them, and such as they have learnt from their grandmothers. In their wrath ''they would, if perchance they could lay their hands upon them, verily put them to death;" for their first impulse is still to stone the prophets, whose spirit their bootless reverence will afterwards oppress beneath the burden of memorial sepulchres. Who then will take it upon him to blame a philosopher if he wraps his mantle closely around his face?

-- Riddles of the Sphinx: A Study in the Philosophy of Evolution, by A TROGLODYTE

Between the years 1893 and 1897 he was an instructor in philosophy at Cornell University. In 1897 he returned to Oxford and became fellow and tutor of Corpus Christi for more than thirty years. Schiller was president of the Aristotelian Society in 1921, and was for many years treasurer of the Mind Association. In 1926 he was elected a fellow of the British Academy. In 1929 he was appointed visiting professor in the University of Southern California, and spent half of each year in the United States and half in England. Schiller died in Los Angeles either 6, 7 or 9 August 1937 after a long and lingering illness.[2][3]

Schiller was a founding member of the English Eugenics Society and published three books on the subject; Tantalus or the Future of Man (1924), Eugenics and Politics (1926), and Social Decay and Eugenic Reform (1932).[4]


In 1891, F.C.S. Schiller made his first contribution to philosophy anonymously. Schiller feared that in his time of high naturalism, the metaphysical speculations of his Riddles of the Sphinx were likely to hurt his professional prospects (p. xi, Riddles). However, Schiller's fear of reprisal from his anti-metaphysical colleagues should not suggest that Schiller was a friend of metaphysics. Like his fellow pragmatists across the ocean, Schiller was attempting to stake out an intermediate position between both the spartan landscape of naturalism and the speculative excesses of the metaphysics of his time. In Riddles Schiller both,

(1) accuses naturalism (which he also sometimes calls "pseudometaphysics" or "positivism") of ignoring the fact that metaphysics is required to justify our natural description of the world, and

(2) accuses "abstract metaphysics" of losing sight of the world we actually live in and constructing grand, disconnected imaginary worlds.

The result, Schiller contends, is that naturalism cannot make sense of the "higher" aspects of our world (freewill, consciousness, God, purpose, universals), while abstract metaphysics cannot make sense of the "lower" aspects of our world (the imperfect, change, physicality). In each case we are unable to guide our moral and epistemological "lower" lives to the achievement of life's "higher" ends, ultimately leading to scepticism on both fronts. For knowledge and morality to be possible, both the world's lower and higher elements must be real; e.g. we need universals (a higher) to make knowledge of particulars (a lower) possible. This would lead Schiller to argue for what he at the time called a "concrete metaphysics", but would later call "humanism".

Shortly after publishing Riddles of the Sphinx, Schiller became acquainted with the work of pragmatist philosopher William James and this changed the course of his career. For a time, Schiller's work became focused on extending and developing James' pragmatism (under Schiller's preferred title, "humanism"). Schiller even revised his earlier work Riddles of the Sphinx to make the nascent pragmatism implicit in that work more explicit. In one of Schiller's most prominent works during this phase of his career, "Axioms as Postulates" (1903), Schiller extended James' will to believe doctrine to show how it could be used to justify not only an acceptance of God, but also our acceptance of causality, of the uniformity of nature, of our concept of identity, of contradiction, of the law of excluded middle, of space and time, of the goodness of God, and more.

Towards the end of his career, Schiller's pragmatism began to take on a character more distinct from the pragmatism of William James. Schiller's focus became his opposition to formal logic. To understand Schiller's opposition to formal logic, consider the following inference:

(1) All salt is soluble in water;
(2) Cerebos is not soluble in water;
(3) Therefore, Cerebos is not a salt.

From the formal characteristics of this inference alone (All As are Bs; c is not a B; Therefore, c is not an A), formal logic would judge this to be a valid inference. Schiller, however, refused to evaluate the validity of this inference merely on its formal characteristics. Schiller argued that unless we look to the contextual fact regarding what specific problem first prompted this inference to actually occur, we can not determine whether the inference was successful (i.e. pragmatically successful). In the case of this inference, since "Cerebos is 'salt' for culinary, but not for chemical purposes",[5] without knowing whether the purpose for this piece of reasoning was culinary or chemical we cannot determine whether this is valid or not. In another example, Schiller discusses the truth of formal mathematics "1+1=2" and points out that this equation does not hold if one is discussing drops of water. Schiller's attack on formal logic and formal mathematics never gained much attention from philosophers, however it does share some weak similarities to the contextualist view in contemporary epistemology as well as the views of ordinary language philosophers.

Opposition to naturalism and metaphysics

In Riddles, Schiller gives historical examples of the dangers of abstract metaphysics in the philosophies of Plato, Zeno, and Hegel, portraying Hegel as the worst offender: "Hegelianism never anywhere gets within sight of a fact, or within touch of reality. And the reason is simple: you cannot, without paying the penalty, substitute abstractions for realities; the thought-symbol cannot do duty for the thing symbolized".[6]

Schiller argued that the flaw in Hegel's system, as with all systems of abstract metaphysics, is that the world it constructs always proves to be unhelpful in guiding our imperfect, changing, particular, and physical lives to the achievement of the "higher" universal Ideals and Ends. For example, Schiller argues that the reality of time and change is intrinsically opposed to the very modus operandi of all systems of abstract metaphysics. He says that the possibility to change is a precondition of any moral action (or action generally), and so any system of abstract metaphysics is bound to lead us into a moral scepticism. The problem lies in the aim of abstract metaphysics for "interpreting the world in terms of conceptions, which should be true not here and now, but "eternally" and independently of Time and Change." The result is that metaphysics must use conceptions that have the "time-aspect of Reality" abstracted away. Of course, "[o]nce abstracted from,"

the reference to Time could not, of course, be recovered, any more than the individuality of Reality can be deduced, when once ignored. The assumption is made that, to express the 'truth' about Reality, its 'thisness,' individuality, change and its immersion in a certain temporal and spatial environment may be neglected, and the timeless validity of a conception is thus substituted for the living, changing and perishing existence we contemplate. ... What I wish here to point out is merely that it is unreasonable to expect from such premises to arrive at a deductive justification of the very characteristics of Reality that have been excluded. The true reason, then, why Hegelism can give no reason for the Time-process, i.e. for the fact that the world is 'in time,' and changes continuously, is that it was constructed to give an account of the world irrespective of time and change. If you insist on having a system of eternal and immutable 'truth,' you can get it only by abstracting from those characteristics of reality, which we try to express by the terms individuality, time, and change. But you must pay the price for a formula that will enable you to make assertions that hold good far beyond the limits of your experience. And it is part of the price that you will in the end be unable to give a rational explanation of those very characteristics, which you dismissed at the outset as irrelevant to a rational explanation.[7]

While abstract metaphysics provides us with a world of beauty and purpose and various other "highers", it condemns other key aspects of the world we live in as imaginary. The world of abstract metaphysics has no place for imperfect moral agents who (1) strive to learn about the world and then (2) act upon the world to change it for the better. Consequently, abstract metaphysics condemns us as illusionary, and declares our place in the world as unimportant and purposeless. Where abstractions take priority, our concrete lives collapse into scepticism and pessimism.

He also makes a case against the alternative naturalist method, saying that this too results in an epistemological and moral scepticism. Schiller looks to show this method's inadequacy at moving from the cold, lifeless lower world of atoms to the higher world of ethics, meanings, and minds. As with abstract metaphysics, Schiller attacks naturalism on many fronts: (1) the naturalist method is unable to reduce universals to particulars, (2) the naturalist method is unable to reduce freewill to determinist movements, (3) the naturalist method is unable to reduce emergent properties like consciousness to brain activity, (4) the naturalist method is unable to reduce God into a pantheism, and so on. Just as the abstract method cannot find a place for the lower elements of our world inside the higher, the naturalist method cannot find a place for the higher elements of our world inside the lower. In a reversal of abstract metaphysics, naturalism denies the reality of the higher elements to save the lower. Schiller uses the term "pseudo-metaphysical" here instead of naturalism—as he sometimes does—because he is accusing these naturalist philosophers of trying to solve metaphysical problems while sticking to the non-metaphysical "lower" aspects of the world (i.e. without engaging in real metaphysics):

The pseudo-metaphysical method puts forward the method of science as the method of philosophy. But it is doomed to perpetual failure. ... [T]he data supplied by the physical sciences are intractable, because they are data of a lower sort than the facts they are to explain.

The objects of the physical sciences form the lower orders in the hierarchy of existence, more extensive but less significant. Thus the atoms of the physicist may indeed be found in the organisation of conscious beings, but they are subordinate: a living organism exhibits actions which cannot be formulated by the laws of physics alone; man is material, but he is also a great deal more.[8]

To show that the world's higher elements do not reduce to the lower is not yet to show that naturalism must condemn the world's higher elements as illusionary. A second component to Schiller's attack is showing that naturalism cannot escape its inability to reduce the higher to the lower by asserting that these higher elements evolve from the lower. However, Schiller does not see naturalism as any more capable of explaining the evolution of the higher from the lower than it is capable of reducing the higher to the lower. While evolution does begin with something lower that in turn evolves into something higher, the problem for naturalism is that whatever the starting point for evolution is, it must first be something with the potential to evolve into a higher. For example, the world cannot come into existence from nothing because the potential or "germ" of the world is not "in" nothing (nothing has no potential, it has nothing; after all, it is nothing). Likewise, biological evolution cannot begin from inanimate matter, because the potential for life is not "in" inanimate matter. The following passage shows Schiller applying the same sort of reasoning to the evolution of consciousness:

Taken as the type of the pseudo-metaphysical method, which explains the higher by the lower ... it does not explain the genesis of consciousness out of unconscious matter, because we cannot, or do not, attribute potential consciousness to matter. ... the theory of Evolution derives the [end result] from its germ, i.e., from that which was, what it became, potentially.

Unable to either reduce or explain the evolution of the higher elements of our world, naturalism is left to explain away the higher elements as mere illusions. In doing this, naturalism condemns us to a scepticism in the both epistemology and ethics. It is worth noting, that while Schiller's work has been largely neglected since his death, Schiller's arguments against a naturalistic account of evolution have been recently cited by advocates of intelligent design to establish the existence of a longer history for the view due to legal concerns in the United States (See: Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District).

Humanist alternative to metaphysics and naturalism

Schiller argued that both abstract metaphysics and naturalism portray man as holding an intolerable position in the world. He proposed a method that not only recognises the lower world we interact with, but takes into account the higher world of purposes, ideals and abstractions. Schiller:

We require, then, a method which combines the excellencies of both the pseudo-metaphysical and the abstract metaphysical, if philosophy is to be possible at all.[9]

Schiller was demanding a course correction in field of metaphysics, putting it at the service of science. For example, to explain the creation of the world out of nothing, or to explain the emergence or evolution of the "higher" parts of the world, Schiller introduces a divine being who might generate the end (i.e. Final Cause) which gives nothingness, lifelessness, and unconscious matter the purpose (and thus potential) of evolving into higher forms:

And thus, so far from dispensing with the need for a Divine First Cause, the theory of evolution, if only we have the faith in science to carry it to its conclusion, and the courage to interpret it, proves irrefragably that no evolution was possible without a pre-existent Deity, and a Deity, moreover, transcendent, non-material and non-phenomenal. ... [T]he world process is the working out of an anterior purpose or idea in the divine consciousness.[10]

This re-introduction of teleology (which Schiller sometimes calls a re-anthropomorphizing of the world) is what Schiller says the naturalist has become afraid to do. Schiller's method of concrete metaphysics (i.e. his humanism) allows for an appeal to metaphysics when science demands it. However:

[T]he new teleology would not be capricious or random in its application, but firmly rooted in the conclusions of the sciences ... The process which the theory of Evolution divined the history of the world to be, must have content and meaning determined from the basis of the scientific data; it is only by a careful study of the history of a thing that we can determine the direction of its development, [and only then] that we can be said to have made the first approximation to the knowledge of the End of the world process.[11] [This] is teleology of a totally different kind to that which is so vehemently, and on the whole so justly dreaded by the modern exponents of natural science. It does not attempt to explain things anthropocentrically, or regard all creation as existing for the use and benefit of man; it is as far as the scientist from supposing that cork-trees grow to supply us with champagne corks. The end to which it supposes all things to subserve is ... the universal End of the world-process, to which all things tend[.][12]

Schiller finally reveals what this "End" is which "all things tend":

If our speculations have not entirely missed their mark, the world-process will come to an end when all the spirits whom it is designed to harmonise [by its Divine Creator] have been united in a perfect society.[13]

Now, while by today's philosophic standards Schiller's speculations would be considered wildly metaphysical and disconnected from the sciences, compared with the metaphysicians of his day (Hegel, McTaggart, etc.), Schiller saw himself as radically scientific. Schiller gave his philosophy a number of labels during his career. Early on he used the names "Concrete Metaphysics" and "Anthropomorphism", while later in life tending towards "Pragmatism" and particularly "Humanism".

The Will to Believe

Schiller also developed a method of philosophy intended to mix elements of both naturalism and abstract metaphysics in a way that allows us to avoid the twin scepticisms each method collapses into when followed on its own. However, Schiller does not assume that this is enough to justify his humanism over the other two methods. He accepts the possibility that both scepticism and pessimism are true.

To justify his attempt to occupy the middle ground between naturalism and abstract metaphysics, Schiller makes a move that anticipates James' The Will to Believe:

And in action especially we are often forced to act upon slight possibilities. Hence, if it can be shown that our solution is a possible answer, and the only possible alternative to pessimism, to a complete despair of life, it would deserve acceptance, even though it were but a bare possibility.[14]

Schiller contends that in light of the other methods' failure to provide humans with a role and place in the universe, we ought avoid the adoption of these methods. By the end of Riddles, Schiller offers his method of humanism as the only possible method that results in a world where we can navigate our lower existence to the achievement of our higher purpose. He asserts that it is the method we ought to adopt regardless of the evidence against it ("even though it were but a bare possibility").

While Schiller's will to believe is a central theme of Riddle of the Sphinx (appearing mainly in the introduction and conclusion of his text), in 1891 the doctrine held a limited role in Schiller's philosophy. In Riddles, Schiller only employs his version of the will to believe doctrine when he is faced with overcoming sceptic and pessimistic methods of philosophy. In 1897, William James published his essay "The Will to Believe" and this influenced Schiller to drastically expanded his application of the doctrine. For a 1903 volume titled Personal Idealism, Schiller contributed a widely read essay titled "Axioms as Postulates" in which he sets out to justify the "axioms of logic" as postulates adopted on the basis of the will to believe doctrine. In this essay Schiller extends the will to believe doctrine to be the basis of our acceptance of causality, of the uniformity of nature, of our concept of identity, of contradiction, of the law of excluded middle, of space and time, of the goodness of God, and more. He notes that we postulate that nature is uniform because we need nature to be uniform:

[O]ut of the hurly-burly of events in time and space [we] extract[ ] changeless formulas whose chaste abstraction soars above all reference to any 'where' or 'when,' and thereby renders them blank cheques to be filled up at our pleasure with any figures of the sort. The only question is—Will Nature honour the cheque? Audentes Natura juvat—let us take our life in our hands and try! If we fail, our blood will be on our own hands (or, more probably, in some one else's stomach), but though we fail, we are in no worse case than those who dared not postulate ... Our assumption, therefore, is at least a methodological necessity; it may turn out to be (or be near) a fundamental fact in nature [an axiom].[15]

Schiller stresses that doctrines like the uniformity of nature must first be postulated on the basis of need (not evidence) and only then "justified by the evidence of their practical working." He attacks both empiricists like John Stuart Mill, who try to conclude that nature is uniform from previous experience, as well as Kantians who conclude that nature is uniform from the preconditions on our understanding. Schiller argues that preconditions are not conclusions, but demands made on our experience that may or may not work. On this success hinges our continued acceptance of the postulate and its eventual promotion to axiom status.

In "Axioms and Postulates" Schiller vindicates the postulation by its success in practice, marking an important shift from Riddles of a Sphinx. In Riddles, Schiller is concerned with the vague aim of connecting the "higher" to the "lower" so he can avoid scepticism, but by 1903 he has clarified the connection he sees between these two elements. The "higher" abstract elements are connected to the lower because they are our inventions for dealing with the lower; their truth depends on their success as tools. Schiller dates the entry of this element into his thinking in his 1892 essay "Reality and 'Idealism'" (a mere year after his 1891 Riddles).

The plain man's 'things,' the physicist's 'atoms,' and Mr. Ritchie's 'Absolute,' are all of them more or less preserving and well-considered schemes to interpret the primary reality of phenomena, and in this sense Mr. Ritchie is entitled to call the 'sunrise' a theory. But the chaos of presentations, out of which we have (by criteria ultimately practical) isolated the phenomena we subsequently call sunrise, is not a theory, but the fact which has called all theories into being. In addition to generating hypothetical objects to explain phenomena, the interpretation of reality by our thought also bestows a derivative reality on the abstractions with which thought works. If they are the instruments wherewith thought accomplishes such effects upon reality, they must surely be themselves real.[16]

The shift in Schiller's thinking continues in his next published work, The Metaphysics of the Time-Process (1895): The abstractions of metaphysics, then, exist as explanations of the concrete facts of life, and not the latter as illustrations of the former ... Science [along with humanism] does not refuse to interpret the symbols with which it operates; on the contrary, it is only their applicability to the concrete facts originally abstracted from that is held to justify their use and to establish their 'truth.'[17]

Schiller's accusations against the metaphysician in Riddles now appear in a more pragmatic light. His objection is similar to one we might make against a worker who constructs a flat-head screwdriver to help him build a home, and who then accuses a screw of unreality when he comes upon a Phillips-screw that his flat-head screwdriver won't fit. In his works after Riddles, Schiller's attack takes the form of reminding the abstract metaphysician that abstractions are meant as tools for dealing with the "lower" world of particulars and physicality, and that after constructing abstractions we cannot simply drop the un-abstracted world out of our account. The un-abstracted world is the entire reason for making abstractions in the first place. We did not abstract to reach the unchanging and eternal truths; we abstract to construct an imperfect and rough tool for dealing with life in our particular and concrete world. It is the working of the higher in "making predictions about the future behavior of things for the purpose of shaping the future behavior of things for the purpose of shaping our own conduct accordingly" that justifies the higher.[18]

To assert this methodological character of eternal truths is not, of course, to deny their validity ... To say that we assume the truth of abstraction because we wish to attain certain ends, is to subordinate theoretic 'truth' to a teleological implication; to say that, the assumption once made, its truth is 'proved' by its practical working ... For the question of the 'practical' working of a truth will always ultimately be found to resolve itself into the question whether we can live by it.[19]

A few lines down from this passage Schiller adds the following footnote in a 1903 reprint of the essay: "All this seems a very fairly definite anticipation of modern pragmatism." Indeed, it resembles the pragmatist theory of truth. However, Schiller's pragmatism was still very different from both that of William James and that of Charles Sanders Peirce.

Opposition to logic

As early as 1891 Schiller had independently reached a doctrine very similar to William James' Will to Believe. As early as 1892 Schiller had independently developed his own pragmatist theory of truth. However, Schiller's concern with meaning was one he entirely imports from the pragmatisms of James and Peirce. Later in life Schiller musters all of these elements of his pragmatism to make a concerted attack on formal logic. Concerned with bringing down the timeless, perfect worlds of abstract metaphysics early in life, the central target of Schiller's developed pragmatism is the abstract rules of formal logic. Statements, Schiller contends, cannot possess meaning or truth abstracted away from their actual use. Therefore, examining their formal features instead of their function in an actual situation is to make the same mistake the abstract metaphysician makes. Symbols are meaningless scratches on paper unless they are given a life in a situation, and meant by someone to accomplish some task. They are tools for dealing with concrete situations, and not the proper subjects of study themselves.

Both Schiller's theory of truth and meaning (i.e. Schiller's pragmatism) derive their justification from an examination of thought from what he calls his humanist viewpoint (his new name for concrete metaphysics). He informs us that to answer "what precisely is meant by having a meaning" will require us to "raise the prior question of why we think at all.".[20] A question Schiller of course looks to evolution to provide.

Schiller provides a detailed defence of his pragmatist theories of truth and meaning in a chapter titled "The Biologic of Judgment" in Logic for Use (1929). The account Schiller lays out in many ways resembles some of what Peirce asserts in his "The Fixation of Belief" (1877) essay:

Our account of the function of Judgment in our mental life will, however, have to start a long way back. For there is much thinking before there is any judging, and much living before there is any thinking. Even in highly developed minds judging is a relatively rare incident in thinking, and thinking in living, an exception rather than the rule, and a relatively recent acquisition.


For the most part the living organism adapts itself to it conditions of life by earlier, easier, and quicker expedients. Its actions or reactions are mostly 'reflex actions' determined by inherited habits which largely function automatically ... It follows from this elaborate and admirable organisation of adaptive responses to stimulation that organic life might proceed without thinking altogether. ... This is, in fact, the way in which most living being carry on their life, and the plane on which man also lives most of the time.

Thought, therefore, is an abnormality which springs from a disturbance. Its genesis is connected with a peculiar deficiency in the life of habit. ... Whenever ... it becomes biologically important to notice differences in roughly similar situations, and to adjust action more closely to the peculiarities of a particular case, the guidance of life by habit, instinct, and impulse breaks down. A new expedient has somehow to be devised for effecting such exact and delicate adjustments. This is the raison d'etre of what is variously denominated 'thought,' 'reason,' 'reflection,' 'reasoning,' and 'judgment[.]'


Thinking, however, is not so much a substitute for the earlier processes as a subsidiary addition to them. It only pays in certain cases, and intelligence may be shown also by discerning what they are and when it is wiser to act without thinking. ... Philosophers, however, have very mistaken ideas about rational action. They tend to think that men ought to think all the time, and about all things. But if they did this they would get nothing done, and shorten their lives without enhancing their merriment. Also they utterly misconceive the nature of rational action. They represent it as consisting in the perpetual use of universal rules, whereas it consists rather in perceiving when a general rule must be set aside in order that conduct may be adapted to a particular case.[21]

This passage of Schiller was worth quoting at length because of the insight this chapter offers into Schiller's philosophy. In the passage, Schiller makes the claim that thought only occurs when our unthinking habits prove themselves inadequate for handling a particular situation. Schiller's stressing of the genesis of limited occurrences of thought sets Schiller up for his account of meaning and truth.

Schiller asserts that when a person utters a statement in a situation they are doing so for a specific purpose: to solve the problem that habit could not handle alone. The meaning of such a statement is whatever contribution it makes to accomplishing the purpose of this particular occurrence of thought. The truth of the statement will be if it helps accomplishes that purpose. No utterance or thought can be given a meaning or a truth valuation outside the context of one of these particular occurrences of thought. This account of Schiller's is a much more extreme view than even James took.

At first glance, Schiller appears very similar to James. However, Schiller's more stringent requirement that meaningful statements have consequences "to some one for some purpose" makes Schiller's position more extreme than James'. For Schiller, it is not a sufficient condition for meaningfulness that a statement entail experiential consequences (as it is for both Peirce and James). Schiller requires that the consequences of a statement make the statement relevant to some particular person's goals at a specific moment in time if it is to be meaningful. Therefore, it is not simply enough that the statement "diamonds are hard" and the statement "diamonds are soft" entail different experiential consequences, it is also required that the experiential difference makes a difference to someone's purposes. Only then, and only to that person, do the two statements state something different. If the experiential difference between hard and soft diamonds did not connect up with my purpose for entering into thought, the two statements would possess the same meaning. For example, if I were to randomly blurt out "diamonds are hard" and then "diamonds are soft" to everyone in a coffee shop one day, my words would mean nothing. Words can only mean something if they are stated with a specific purpose.

Consequently, Schiller rejects the idea that statements can have meaning or truth when they are looked upon in the abstract, away from a particular context. "Diamonds are hard" only possesses meaning when stated (or believed) at some specific situation, by some specific person, uttered (or believed) for some specific aim. It is the consequences the statement holds for that person's purposes which constitute its meaning, and its usefulness in accomplishing that person's purposes that constitutes the statement's truth or falsity. After all, when we look at the sentence "diamonds are hard" in a particular situation we may find it actually has nothing to say about diamonds. A speaker may very well be using the sentence as a joke, as a codephrase, or even simply as an example of a sentence with 15 letters. Which the sentence really means cannot be determined without the specific purpose a person might be using the statement for in a specific context.

In an article titled "Pragmatism and Pseudo-pragmatism" Schiller defends his pragmatism against a particular counterexample in a way that sheds considerable light on his pragmatism:

The impossibility of answering truly the question whether the 100th (or 10,000th) decimal in the evaluation of Pi is or is not a 9, splendidly illustrates how impossible it is to predicate truth in abstraction from actual knowing and actual purpose. For the question cannot be answered until the decimal is calculated. Until then no one knows what it is, or rather will turn out to be. And no one will calculate it, until it serves some purpose to do so, and some one therefore interests himself in the calculation. And so until then the truth remains uncertain: there is no 'true' answer, because there is no actual context in which the question has really been raised. We have merely a number of conflicting possibilities, not even claims to truth, and there is no decision. Yet a decision is possible if an experiment is performed. But his experiment presupposes a desire to know. It will only be made if the point becomes one which it is practically important to decide. Normally no doubt it does not become such, because for the actual purposes of the sciences it makes no difference whether we suppose the figure to be 9 or something else. I.e. the truth to, say, the 99th decimal, is ' true enough ' for our purposes, and the 100th is a matter of indifference. But let that indifference cease, and the question become important, and the ' truth ' will at once become ' useful '. Prof. Taylor's illustration therefore conclusively proves that in an actual context and as an actual question there is no true answer to be got until the truth has become useful. This point is illustrated also by the context Prof. Taylor has himself suggested. For he has made the question about the 100th decimal important by making the refutation of the whole pragmatist theory of knowledge depend on it. And what nobler use could the 100th decimal have in his eyes? If in consequence of this interest he will set himself to work it out, he will discover this once useless, but now most useful, truth, and—triumphantly refute his own contention![22]

We might recognise this claim as the sort of absurdity many philosophers try to read into the pragmatism of William James. James, however, would not agree that the meaning of "the 100th decimal of Pi is 9" and "the 100th decimal of Pi is 6" mean the same thing until someone has a reason to care about any possible difference. Schiller, in constast, does mean to say this. James and Schiller both treat truth as something that happens to a statement, and so James would agree that it only becomes true that the 100th decimal of Pi is 9 when someone in fact believes that statement and it leads them to their goals, but nowhere does James imply that meaning is something that happens to a statement. That is a unique element of Schiller's pragmatism.

Humanist theory of meaning and truth

While Schiller felt greatly indebted to the pragmatism of William James, Schiller was outright hostile to the pragmatism of C.S. Peirce. Both Schiller and James struggled with what Peirce intended with his pragmatism, and both were often baffled by Peirce's insistent rebuffing of what they both saw as the natural elaboration of the pragmatist cornerstone he himself first laid down. On the basis of his misunderstandings, Schiller complains that for Peirce to merely say "'truths should have practical consequences'" is to be "very vague, and hints at no reason for the curious connexion it asserts." Schiller goes on to denigrate Peirce's principle as nothing more than a simple truism "which hardly deserves a permanent place and name in philosophic usage". After all, Schiller points out, "[i]t is hard ... to see why even the extremest intellectualism should deny that the difference between the truth and the falsehood of an assertion must show itself in some visible way."[23]

With Peirce's attempts to restrict the use of pragmatism set aside, Schiller unpacks the term "consequences" to provide what he considers as a more substantial restatement of Peirce's pragmatism:

For to say that a [statement] has consequences and that what has none is meaningless, must surely mean that it has a bearing upon some human interest; they must be consequences to some one for some purpose.[23]

Schiller believes his pragmatism to be more developed because of its attention to the fact that the "consequences" which make up the meaning and truth of a statement, must always be consequences for someone's particular purposes at some particular time. Continuing his condemnation of the abstract, Schiller contends that the meaning of a concept is not the consequences of some abstract proposition, but what consequences an actual thinker hopes its use will bring about in an actual situation. The meaning of a thought is what consequences one means to bring about when they employ the thought. To Schiller, this is what a more sophisticated pragmatist understands by the term meaning.

If we are to understand the pragmatic theory of meaning in Schiller's way, he is right to claim that James' theory of truth is a mere corollary of the pragmatist theory of meaning:

But now, we may ask, how are these 'consequences' to test the 'truth' claimed by the assertion? Only by satisfying or thwarting that purpose, by forwarding or baffling that interest. If they do the one, the assertion is 'good' and pro tanto 'true' ; if they do the other, 'bad' and 'false'. Its 'consequences,' therefore, when investigated, always turn out to involve the 'practical' predicates 'good ' or 'bad,' and to contain a reference to ' practice' in the sense in which we have used that term. So soon as therefore we go beyond an abstract statement of the narrower pragmatism, and ask what in the concrete, and in actual knowing, 'having consequences ' may mean, we develop inevitably the fullblown pragmatism in the wider sense.[24]

Given Schiller's view that the meaning of a thought amounts to the consequences one means to bring about by the thought, Schiller further concluded that the truth of a thought depends on whether it actually brings about the consequences one intended. For example, if while following a cooking recipe that called for salt I were to think to myself, "Cerebos is salt", my thought will be true if it consequently leads me to add Cerebos and produce a dish with the intended taste. However, if while working in a chemistry lab to produce a certain mixture I were to think to myself, "Cerebos is salt", my thought would both have a different meaning than before (since my intent now differs) and be false (since Cerebos is only equivalent to salt for culinary purposes). According to Schiller, the question of what a thought like "Cerebos is salt" means or whether it is true can only be answered if the specific circumstances with which the thought arose are taken into consideration. While there is some similarity here between Schiller's view of meaning and the later ordinary language philosophers, Schiller's account ties meaning and truth more closely to individuals and their intent with a specific use rather than whole linguistic communities.

Selected works

• Riddles of the Sphinx (1891)
• "Axioms as Postulates" (published in the collection Personal Idealism, 1902)
• "Useless 'Knowledge': A Discourse Concerning Pragmatism", January 1902)
• Humanism (1903)
• "The Ethical Basis of Metaphysics" (July 1903)
• "The Definition of 'Pragmatism' and 'Humanism'" (January 1905)
• Studies in Humanism (1907)
• Plato or Protagoras? (1908)
• Riddles of the Sphinx (1910, revised edition)
• Humanism (1912, second edition)
• Formal Logic (1912)
• Problems of Belief (1924, second edition)
• Logic for Use (1929)
• Our Human Truths (1939, published posthumously)

Notes and references

1. John R. Shook, Joseph Margolis (eds.), A Companion to Pragmatism, John Wiley & Sons, Apr 15, 2008 , p. 44.
2. "Obituary: Prof. F.C.S. Schiller" Nature 140, 454–455 (11 September 1937), link.
3. "Notes: Dr. F.C.S. Schiller (1864–1937)" Mind, Vol. 47, No. 185, Jan 1938.
4. "F.C.S. Schiller" in American Philosophy: An Encyclopedia, 2008, edited by John Lachs and Robert Talisse.
5. Schiller, F.C.S. (1930) page 276
6. Schiller, F.C.S. (1891) Riddles of the Sphinx, p. 160
7. Schiller, F.C.S. (1894) "The Metaphysics of the Time-Process"; republished on pages 98–99 of Humanism (1903)
8. Schiller, F.C.S. (1891) p. 152
9. Schiller, F.C.S. (1891) p. 164
10. Schiller, F.C.S. (1891) p. 198
11. Schiller, F.C.S. (1891) p. 205
12. Schiller, F.C.S. (1891) p. 203
13. Schiller, F.C.S. (1891) p. 436
14. Schiller, F.C.S. (1891) p. 5
15. Schiller, F.C.S. (1903) "Axioms as Postulates", p. 111
16. Schiller, F.C.S. (1892) "Reality and 'Idealism'"; reprinted on p. 120 of Humanism (1903)
17. Schiller, F.C.S. (1895) "The Metaphysics of the Time-Process"; also reprinted on pages 102–103 of Humanism (1903)
18. Schiller, F.C.S. (1903) Humanism p. 104
19. Schiller, F.C.S. (1903) Humanism p. 105
20. Schiller, F.C.S. (1930) p.51
21. Schiller, F.C.S. (1929) Logic For Use, pages 197–198
22. Schiller, F.C.S. (1906) "Pragmatism and Pseudo-pragmatism", p. 384
23. Schiller, F.C.S. (1905) p. 236
24. Schiller, F.C.S. (1905) pages 236–237

Further reading

• Pragmatic Humanism of F.C.S. Schiller by Rueben Abel (1955)
• Humanistic Pragmatism: The Philosophy of F.C.S. Schiller edited by Rueben Abel (1966)
• "The Pragmatic Humanism of F.C.S. Schiller" in Cornelis De Waal's On Pragmatism (2005)

External links

• Works written by or about Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller at Wikisource
• Works by F. C. S. Schiller at Project Gutenberg
• Works by or about F. C. S. Schiller at Internet Archive
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

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Part 1 of 2

Bertrand Russell
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/19/20

Physiology and psychology afford fields for scientific technique which still await development. Two great men, Pavlov and Freud, have laid the foundation. I do not accept the view that they are in any essential conflict, but what structure will be built on their foundations is still in doubt.

I think the subject which will be of most importance politically is mass psychology. Mass psychology is, scientifically speaking, not a very advanced study, and so far its professors have not been in universities: they have been advertisers, politicians, and, above all, dictators. This study is immensely useful to practical men, whether they wish to become rich or to acquire the government. It is, of course, as a science, founded upon individual psychology, but hitherto it has employed rule-of-thumb methods which were based upon a kind of intuitive common sense. Its importance has been enormously increased by the growth of modern methods of propaganda. Of these the most influential is what is called "education." Religion plays a part, though a diminishing one; the press, the cinema, and the radio play an increasing part.

What is essential in mass psychology is the art of persuasion. If you compare a speech of Hitler's with a speech of (say) Edmund Burke, you will see what strides have been made in the art since the eighteenth century. What went wrong formerly was that people had read in books that man is a rational animal, and framed their arguments on this hypothesis. We now know that limelight and a brass band do more to persuade than can be done by the most elegant train of syllogisms. It may be hoped that in time anybody will be able to persuade anybody of anything if he can catch the patient young and is provided by the State with money and equipment.

This subject will make great strides when it is taken up by scientists under a scientific dictatorship. Anaxagoras maintained that snow is black, but no one believed him. The social psychologists of the future will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will try different methods of producing an unshakable conviction that snow is black. Various results will soon be arrived at. First, that the influence of home is obstructive. Second, that not much can be done unless indoctrination begins before the age of ten. Third, that verses set to music and repeatedly intoned are very effective. Fourth, that the opinion that snow is white must be held to show a morbid taste for eccentricity.

"Relative political pacifism"/"Non-absolute pacifism" [i.e., "SNOW IS BLACK"]: "War is always a great evil, but in some particularly extreme circumstances, it may be the lesser of two evils." -- Bertrand Russell

But I anticipate. It is for future scientists to make these maxims precise and discover exactly how much it costs per head to make children believe that snow is black, and how much less it would cost to make them believe it is dark gray.

Although this science will be diligently studied, it will be rigidly confined to the governing class. The populace will not be allowed to know how its convictions were generated. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for a generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen. As yet there is only one country which has succeeded in creating this politician's paradise.

-- The Impact of Science on Society, by Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell, OM FRS
Born: Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 18 May 1872, Trellech, Monmouthshire, United Kingdom[note 1]
Died: 2 February 1970 (aged 97), Penrhyndeudraeth, Caernarfonshire, Wales, United Kingdom
Nationality: British
Education: Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A., 1893)
Spouse(s): Alys Pearsall Smith (m. 1894; div. 1921); Dora Black (m. 1921; div. 1935); Patricia Spence (m. 1936; div. 1952)[1]; Edith Finch (m. 1952)
Awards: De Morgan Medal (1932); Sylvester Medal (1934); Nobel Prize in Literature (1950); Kalinga Prize (1957); Jerusalem Prize (1963)
Era: 20th-century philosophy
Region: Western philosophy
School: Analytic philosophy; Aristotelianism; Empiricism; Linguistic turn; Foundationalism[2]; Logicism; Predicativism; Indirect realism[3]; Correspondence theory of truth[4]; Utilitarianism
Institutions: Trinity College, Cambridge, London School of Economics, University of Chicago, UCLA
Academic advisors: James Ward[5]; A. N. Whitehead
Doctoral students: Ludwig Wittgenstein
Main interests: Epistemology ethics logic mathematics metaphysics history of philosophy philosophy of culture philosophy of language philosophy of logic philosophy of mathematics philosophy of mind philosophy of perception philosophy of religion philosophy of science philosophy of social science
Notable ideas [show]
Influences: Euclid Mill Peano Boole[9]De Morgan[10] Frege Cantor Santayana Kant[11] Meinong Spinoza James Mach[12] Hume[13] Leibniz Wittgenstein Whitehead Moore Stout Ward[14] Sidgwick[15] Shelley
Influenced: Ludwig Wittgenstein A. J. Ayer Rudolf Carnap[16] John von Neumann[17] Kurt Gödel[18] Karl Popper[19] W. V. Quine[20] Noam Chomsky[21] Hilary Putnam[22] Saul Kripke[23] Moritz Schlick[24] Vienna Circle[25] J. L. Austin G. H. Hardy[26] Alfred Tarski[27] Norbert Wiener[28] Robert Oppenheimer[29] Leon Chwistek[30] Alan Turing[31] Jacob Bronowski[32] Frank P. Ramsey[33] Jawaharlal Nehru[34] Tariq Ali[35] Michael Albert[36] Che Guevara[37] Bernard Williams Donald Davidson[38] Thomas Kuhn[39] Nathan Salmon[40] Christopher Hitchens[41] Richard Dawkins[42] Carl Sagan[43] Isaiah Berlin[44] Albert Ellis[45] Martin Gardner[46] Daniel Dennett[47] Buckminster Fuller[48] Pervez Hoodbhoy[49] John Maynard Keynes[50] Isaac Asimov[51] Paul Kurtz[52] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn James Joyce[53] Kurt Vonnegut[54] Ray Kurzweil[55] Marvin Minsky[56] Herbert A. Simon[57] B. F. Skinner[58] John Searle[59] Andrei Sakharov[60] Stephen Hawking[61] Joseph Rotblat[62] Edward Said[63] Sidney Hook Frank Wilczek[64] A. C. Grayling Colin McGinn Txillardegi[65]

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM FRS[66] (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, essayist, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate.[67][68] Throughout his life, Russell considered himself a liberal, a socialist and a pacifist, although he also sometimes suggested that his sceptical nature had led him to feel that he had "never been any of these things, in any profound sense."[69] Russell was born in Monmouthshire into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in the United Kingdom.[70]

In the early 20th century, Russell led the British "revolt against idealism".[71] He is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy along with his predecessor Gottlob Frege, colleague G. E. Moore and protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein. He is widely held to be one of the 20th century's premier logicians.[68] With A. N. Whitehead he wrote Principia Mathematica, an attempt to create a logical basis for mathematics, the quintessential work of classical logic. His philosophical essay "On Denoting" has been considered a "paradigm of philosophy".[72] His work has had a considerable influence on mathematics, logic, set theory, linguistics, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science (see type theory and type system) and philosophy, especially the philosophy of language, epistemology and metaphysics.

Russell was a prominent anti-war activist and he championed anti-imperialism.[73][74] Occasionally, he advocated preventive nuclear war, before the opportunity provided by the atomic monopoly had passed and he decided he would "welcome with enthusiasm" world government.[75] He went to prison for his pacifism during World War I.[76] Later, Russell concluded that war against Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany was a necessary "lesser of two evils" and criticised Stalinist totalitarianism, attacked the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War and was an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament.[77] In 1950, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought".[78][79]


Early life and background

Russell as a four-year-old

Childhood home, Pembroke Lodge

Bertrand Arthur William Russell was born on 18 May 1872 at Ravenscroft, Trellech, Monmouthshire, into an influential and liberal family of the British aristocracy.[80] His parents, Viscount and Viscountess Amberley, were radical for their times. Lord Amberley consented to his wife's affair with their children's tutor, the biologist Douglas Spalding. Both were early advocates of birth control at a time when this was considered scandalous.[81] Lord Amberley was an atheist and his atheism was evident when he asked the philosopher John Stuart Mill to act as Russell's secular godfather.[82] Mill died the year after Russell's birth, but his writings had a great effect on Russell's life.

His paternal grandfather, the Earl Russell, had been asked twice by Queen Victoria to form a government, serving her as Prime Minister in the 1840s and 1860s.[83] The Russells had been prominent in England for several centuries before this, coming to power and the peerage with the rise of the Tudor dynasty (see: Duke of Bedford). They established themselves as one of the leading British Whig families, and participated in every great political event from the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536–1540 to the Glorious Revolution in 1688–1689 and the Great Reform Act in 1832.[83][84]

Lady Amberley was the daughter of Lord and Lady Stanley of Alderley.[77] Russell often feared the ridicule of his maternal grandmother,[85] one of the campaigners for education of women.[86]

Childhood and adolescence

Russell had two siblings: brother Frank (nearly seven years older than Bertrand), and sister Rachel (four years older). In June 1874 Russell's mother died of diphtheria, followed shortly by Rachel's death. In January 1876, his father died of bronchitis following a long period of depression. Frank and Bertrand were placed in the care of their staunchly Victorian paternal grandparents, who lived at Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park. His grandfather, former Prime Minister Earl Russell, died in 1878, and was remembered by Russell as a kindly old man in a wheelchair. His grandmother, the Countess Russell (née Lady Frances Elliot), was the dominant family figure for the rest of Russell's childhood and youth.[77][81]

The countess was from a Scottish Presbyterian family, and successfully petitioned the Court of Chancery to set aside a provision in Amberley's will requiring the children to be raised as agnostics. Despite her religious conservatism, she held progressive views in other areas (accepting Darwinism and supporting Irish Home Rule), and her influence on Bertrand Russell's outlook on social justice and standing up for principle remained with him throughout his life. (One could challenge the view that Bertrand stood up for his principles, based on his own well-known quotation: "I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.") Her favourite Bible verse, "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil" (Exodus 23:2), became his motto. The atmosphere at Pembroke Lodge was one of frequent prayer, emotional repression, and formality; Frank reacted to this with open rebellion, but the young Bertrand learned to hide his feelings.

Russell's adolescence was very lonely, and he often contemplated suicide. He remarked in his autobiography that his keenest interests were in "nature and books and (later) mathematics saved me from complete despondency;"[87] only his wish to know more mathematics kept him from suicide.[88] He was educated at home by a series of tutors.[89] When Russell was eleven years old, his brother Frank introduced him to the work of Euclid, which he described in his autobiography as "one of the great events of my life, as dazzling as first love."[90][91]

During these formative years he also discovered the works of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Russell wrote: "I spent all my spare time reading him, and learning him by heart, knowing no one to whom I could speak of what I thought or felt, I used to reflect how wonderful it would have been to know Shelley, and to wonder whether I should meet any live human being with whom I should feel so much sympathy."[92] Russell claimed that beginning at age 15, he spent considerable time thinking about the validity of Christian religious dogma, which he found very unconvincing.[93] At this age, he came to the conclusion that there is no free will and, two years later, that there is no life after death. Finally, at the age of 18, after reading Mill's Autobiography, he abandoned the "First Cause" argument and became an atheist.[94][95]

He traveled to the continent in 1890 with an American friend, Edward FitzGerald, and with FitzGerald's family he visited the Paris Exhibition of 1889 and was able to climb the Eiffel Tower soon after it was completed.[96]

University and first marriage

Russell at Trinity College in 1893

Russell won a scholarship to read for the Mathematical Tripos at Trinity College, Cambridge, and commenced his studies there in 1890,[97] taking as coach Robert Rumsey Webb. He became acquainted with the younger George Edward Moore and came under the influence of Alfred North Whitehead, who recommended him to the Cambridge Apostles. He quickly distinguished himself in mathematics and philosophy, graduating as seventh Wrangler in the former in 1893 and becoming a Fellow in the latter in 1895.[98][99]

Russell was 17 years old in the summer of 1889 when he met the family of Alys Pearsall Smith, an American Quaker five years older, who was a graduate of Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia.[100][101] He became a friend of the Pearsall Smith family—they knew him primarily as "Lord John's grandson" and enjoyed showing him off.[102]

He soon fell in love with the puritanical, high-minded Alys, and, contrary to his grandmother's wishes, married her on 13 December 1894. Their marriage began to fall apart in 1901 when it occurred to Russell, while he was cycling, that he no longer loved her.[103] She asked him if he loved her and he replied that he did not. Russell also disliked Alys's mother, finding her controlling and cruel. It was to be a hollow shell of a marriage. A lengthy period of separation began in 1911 with Russell's affair with Lady Ottoline Morrell,[104] and he and Alys finally divorced in 1921 to enable Russell to remarry.[105]

During his years of separation from Alys, Russell had passionate (and often simultaneous) affairs with a number of women, including Morrell and the actress Lady Constance Malleson.[106] Some have suggested that at this point he had an affair with Vivienne Haigh-Wood, the English governess and writer, and first wife of T. S. Eliot.[107]

Early career

Russell in 1907

Russell began his published work in 1896 with German Social Democracy, a study in politics that was an early indication of a lifelong interest in political and social theory. In 1896 he taught German social democracy at the London School of Economics.[108] He was a member of the Coefficients dining club of social reformers set up in 1902 by the Fabian campaigners Sidney and Beatrice Webb.[109]

He now started an intensive study of the foundations of mathematics at Trinity. In 1898 he wrote An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry which discussed the Cayley–Klein metrics used for non-Euclidean geometry.[110] He attended the International Congress of Philosophy in Paris in 1900 where he met Giuseppe Peano and Alessandro Padoa. The Italians had responded to Georg Cantor, making a science of set theory; they gave Russell their literature including the Formulario mathematico. Russell was impressed by the precision of Peano's arguments at the Congress, read the literature upon returning to England, and came upon Russell's paradox. In 1903 he published The Principles of Mathematics, a work on foundations of mathematics. It advanced a thesis of logicism, that mathematics and logic are one and the same.[111]

At the age of 29, in February 1901, Russell underwent what he called a "sort of mystic illumination", after witnessing Whitehead's wife's acute suffering in an angina attack. "I found myself filled with semi-mystical feelings about beauty ... and with a desire almost as profound as that of the Buddha to find some philosophy which should make human life endurable", Russell would later recall. "At the end of those five minutes, I had become a completely different person."[112]

In 1905 he wrote the essay "On Denoting", which was published in the philosophical journal Mind. Russell was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1908.[66][77] The three-volume Principia Mathematica, written with Whitehead, was published between 1910 and 1913. This, along with the earlier The Principles of Mathematics, soon made Russell world-famous in his field.

In 1910 he became a University of Cambridge lecturer at Trinity College, where he had studied. He was considered for a Fellowship, which would give him a vote in the college government and protect him from being fired for his opinions, but was passed over because he was "anti-clerical", essentially because he was agnostic. He was approached by the Austrian engineering student Ludwig Wittgenstein, who became his PhD student. Russell viewed Wittgenstein as a genius and a successor who would continue his work on logic. He spent hours dealing with Wittgenstein's various phobias and his frequent bouts of despair. This was often a drain on Russell's energy, but Russell continued to be fascinated by him and encouraged his academic development, including the publication of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus in 1922.[113] Russell delivered his lectures on logical atomism, his version of these ideas, in 1918, before the end of World War I. Wittgenstein was, at that time, serving in the Austrian Army and subsequently spent nine months in an Italian prisoner of war camp at the end of the conflict.

First World War

During World War I, Russell was one of the few people to engage in active pacifist activities. In 1916, because of his lack of a Fellowship, he was dismissed from Trinity College following his conviction under the Defence of the Realm Act 1914.[114] He later described this as an illegitimate means the state used to violate freedom of expression, in Free Thought and Official Propaganda. Russell played a significant part in the Leeds Convention in June 1917, a historic event which saw well over a thousand "anti-war socialists" gather; many being delegates from the Independent Labour Party and the Socialist Party, united in their pacifist beliefs and advocating a peace settlement.[115] The international press reported that Russell appeared with a number of Labour MPs, including Ramsay MacDonald and Philip Snowden, as well as former Liberal MP and anti-conscription campaigner, Professor Arnold Lupton. After the event, Russell told Lady Ottoline Morrell that, "to my surprise, when I got up to speak, I was given the greatest ovation that was possible to give anybody".[116][117]

The Trinity incident resulted in Russell being fined £100 (equivalent to £5,600 in 2019), which he refused to pay in hope that he would be sent to prison, but his books were sold at auction to raise the money. The books were bought by friends; he later treasured his copy of the King James Bible that was stamped "Confiscated by Cambridge Police".

A later conviction for publicly lecturing against inviting the United States to enter the war on the United Kingdom's side resulted in six months' imprisonment in Brixton prison (see Bertrand Russell's political views) in 1918.[118] He later said of his imprisonment:

I found prison in many ways quite agreeable. I had no engagements, no difficult decisions to make, no fear of callers, no interruptions to my work. I read enormously; I wrote a book, "Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy"... and began the work for "Analysis of Mind"[119]

He found the Brixton period so much agreeable that while he was reading Strachey's Eminent Victorians chapter about Gordon he laughed out loud in his cell prompting the warden to intervene and reminding him that "prison was a place of punishment".[120]

Russell was reinstated to Trinity in 1919, resigned in 1920, was Tarner Lecturer 1926 and became a Fellow again in 1944 until 1949.[121]

In 1924, Bertrand again gained press attention when attending a "banquet" in the House of Commons with well-known campaigners, including Arnold Lupton, who had been a Member of Parliament and had also endured imprisonment for "passive resistance to military or naval service".[122]

G. H. Hardy on the Trinity controversy and Russell's personal life

In 1941, G. H. Hardy wrote a 61-page pamphlet titled Bertrand Russell and Trinity—published later as a book by Cambridge University Press with a foreword by C. D. Broad—in which he gave an authoritative account about Russell's 1916 dismissal from Trinity College, explaining that a reconciliation between the college and Russell had later taken place and gave details about Russell's personal life. Hardy writes that Russell's dismissal had created a scandal since the vast majority of the Fellows of the College opposed the decision. The ensuing pressure from the Fellows induced the Council to reinstate Russell. In January 1920, it was announced that Russell had accepted the reinstatement offer from Trinity and would begin lecturing from October. In July 1920, Russell applied for a one year leave of absence; this was approved. He spent the year giving lectures in China and Japan. In January 1921, it was announced by Trinity that Russell had resigned and his resignation had been accepted. This resignation, Hardy explains, was completely voluntary and was not the result of another altercation.

The reason for the resignation, according to Hardy, was that Russell was going through a tumultuous time in his personal life with a divorce and subsequent remarriage. Russell contemplated asking Trinity for another one-year leave of absence but decided against it, since this would have been an "unusual application" and the situation had the potential to snowball into another controversy. Although Russell did the right thing, in Hardy's opinion, the reputation of the College suffered due to Russell's resignation since the 'world of learning' knew about Russell's altercation with Trinity but not that the rift had healed. In 1925, Russell was asked by the Council of Trinity College to give the Tarner Lectures on the Philosophy of the Sciences; these would later be the basis for one of Russell's best received books according to Hardy: The Analysis of Matter, published in 1927.[123] In the preface to the Trinity pamphlet, Hardy wrote:

I wish to make it plain that Russell himself is not responsible, directly or indirectly, for the writing of the pamphlet ... I wrote it without his knowledge and, when I sent him the typescript and asked for his permission to print it, I suggested that, unless it contained misstatement of fact, he should make no comment on it. He agreed to this ... no word has been changed as the result of any suggestion from him.

Between the wars

In August 1920, Russell travelled to Soviet Russia as part of an official delegation sent by the British government to investigate the effects of the Russian Revolution.[124] He wrote a four-part series of articles, titled "Soviet Russia—1920", for the US magazine The Nation.[125][126] He met Vladimir Lenin and had an hour-long conversation with him. In his autobiography, he mentions that he found Lenin disappointing, sensing an "impish cruelty" in him and comparing him to "an opinionated professor". He cruised down the Volga on a steamship. His experiences destroyed his previous tentative support for the revolution. He subsequently wrote a book, The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism,[127] about his experiences on this trip, taken with a group of 24 others from the UK, all of whom came home thinking well of the Soviet regime, despite Russell's attempts to change their minds. For example, he told them that he had heard shots fired in the middle of the night and was sure that these were clandestine executions, but the others maintained that it was only cars backfiring.

Russell with his children, John and Kate

Russell's lover Dora Black, a British author, feminist and socialist campaigner, visited Soviet Russia independently at the same time; in contrast to his reaction, she was enthusiastic about the Bolshevik revolution.[127]

The following autumn, Russell, accompanied by Dora, visited Peking (as it was then known in the West) to lecture on philosophy for a year.[89] He went with optimism and hope, seeing China as then being on a new path.[128] Other scholars present in China at the time included John Dewey[129] and Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian Nobel-laureate poet.[89] Before leaving China, Russell became gravely ill with pneumonia, and incorrect reports of his death were published in the Japanese press.[129] When the couple visited Japan on their return journey, Dora took on the role of spurning the local press by handing out notices reading "Mr. Bertrand Russell, having died according to the Japanese press, is unable to give interviews to Japanese journalists".[130][131] Apparently they found this harsh and reacted resentfully.

Dora was six months pregnant when the couple returned to England on 26 August 1921. Russell arranged a hasty divorce from Alys, marrying Dora six days after the divorce was finalised, on 27 September 1921. Russell's children with Dora were John Conrad Russell, 4th Earl Russell, born on 16 November 1921, and Katharine Jane Russell (now Lady Katharine Tait), born on 29 December 1923. Russell supported his family during this time by writing popular books explaining matters of physics, ethics, and education to the layman.

From 1922 to 1927 the Russells divided their time between London and Cornwall, spending summers in Porthcurno.[132] In the 1922 and 1923 general elections Russell stood as a Labour Party candidate in the Chelsea constituency, but only on the basis that he knew he was extremely unlikely to be elected in such a safe Conservative seat, and he was unsuccessful on both occasions.

Together with Dora, Russell founded the experimental Beacon Hill School in 1927. The school was run from a succession of different locations, including its original premises at the Russells' residence, Telegraph House, near Harting, West Sussex. On 8 July 1930 Dora gave birth to her third child Harriet Ruth. After he left the school in 1932, Dora continued it until 1943.[133][134]

On a tour through the US in 1927, Russell met Barry Fox (later Barry Stevens), who became a well-known Gestalt therapist and writer in later years.[135] Russell and Fox developed an intensive relationship. In Fox's words: "... for three years we were very close."[136] Fox sent her daughter Judith to Beacon Hill School for some time.[137] From 1927 to 1932 Russell wrote 34 letters to Fox.[138]

Upon the death of his elder brother Frank, in 1931, Russell became the 3rd Earl Russell.

Russell's marriage to Dora grew increasingly tenuous, and it reached a breaking point over her having two children with an American journalist, Griffin Barry.[134] They separated in 1932 and finally divorced. On 18 January 1936, Russell married his third wife, an Oxford undergraduate named Patricia ("Peter") Spence, who had been his children's governess since 1930. Russell and Peter had one son, Conrad Sebastian Robert Russell, 5th Earl Russell, who became a prominent historian and one of the leading figures in the Liberal Democrat party.[77]

Russell returned to the London School of Economics to lecture on the science of power in 1937.[108]

During the 1930s, Russell became a close friend and collaborator of V. K. Krishna Menon, then secretary of the India League, the foremost lobby in the United Kingdom for Indian self-rule.[vague]

Second World War

Russell's political views changed over time, mostly about war. He opposed rearmament against Nazi Germany. In 1937, he wrote in a personal letter: "If the Germans succeed in sending an invading army to England we should do best to treat them as visitors, give them quarters and invite the commander and chief to dine with the prime minister."[139] In 1940, he changed his appeasement view that avoiding a full-scale world war was more important than defeating Hitler. He concluded that Adolf Hitler taking over all of Europe would be a permanent threat to democracy. In 1943, he adopted a stance toward large-scale warfare called "relative political pacifism": "War was always a great evil, but in some particularly extreme circumstances, it may be the lesser of two evils."[140][141]

Before World War II, Russell taught at the University of Chicago, later moving on to Los Angeles to lecture at the UCLA Department of Philosophy.[142] He was appointed professor at the City College of New York (CCNY) in 1940, but after a public outcry the appointment was annulled by a court judgment that pronounced him "morally unfit" to teach at the college due to his opinions, especially those relating to sexual morality, detailed in Marriage and Morals (1929). The matter was however taken to the New York Supreme Court by Jean Kay who was afraid that her daughter would be harmed by the appointment, though her daughter was not a student at CCNY.[142][143] Many intellectuals, led by John Dewey, protested at his treatment.[144] Albert Einstein's oft-quoted aphorism that "great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds" originated in his open letter, dated 19 March 1940, to Morris Raphael Cohen, a professor emeritus at CCNY, supporting Russell's appointment.[145] Dewey and Horace M. Kallen edited a collection of articles on the CCNY affair in The Bertrand Russell Case. Russell soon joined the Barnes Foundation, lecturing to a varied audience on the history of philosophy; these lectures formed the basis of A History of Western Philosophy. His relationship with the eccentric Albert C. Barnes soon soured, and he returned to the UK in 1944 to rejoin the faculty of Trinity College.[146]

Later life

Russell in 1954

Russell participated in many broadcasts over the BBC, particularly The Brains Trust and the Third Programme, on various topical and philosophical subjects. By this time Russell was world-famous outside academic circles, frequently the subject or author of magazine and newspaper articles, and was called upon to offer opinions on a wide variety of subjects, even mundane ones. En route to one of his lectures in Trondheim, Russell was one of 24 survivors (among a total of 43 passengers) of an aeroplane crash in Hommelvik in October 1948. He said he owed his life to smoking since the people who drowned were in the non-smoking part of the plane.[147][148] A History of Western Philosophy (1945) became a best-seller and provided Russell with a steady income for the remainder of his life.

In 1942, Russell argued in favour of a moderate socialism, capable of overcoming its metaphysical principles, in an inquiry on dialectical materialism, launched by the Austrian artist and philosopher Wolfgang Paalen in his journal DYN, saying "I think the metaphysics of both Hegel and Marx plain nonsense—Marx's claim to be 'science' is no more justified than Mary Baker Eddy's. This does not mean that I am opposed to socialism."[149]

In 1943, Russell expressed support for Zionism: "I have come gradually to see that, in a dangerous and largely hostile world, it is essential to Jews to have some country which is theirs, some region where they are not suspected aliens, some state which embodies what is distinctive in their culture".[150]

In a speech in 1948, Russell said that if the USSR's aggression continued, it would be morally worse to go to war after the USSR possessed an atomic bomb than before it possessed one, because if the USSR had no bomb the West's victory would come more swiftly and with fewer casualties than if there were atom bombs on both sides.[151][152] At that time, only the United States possessed an atomic bomb, and the USSR was pursuing an extremely aggressive policy towards the countries in Eastern Europe which were being absorbed into the Soviet Union's sphere of influence. Many understood Russell's comments to mean that Russell approved of a first strike in a war with the USSR, including Nigel Lawson, who was present when Russell spoke of such matters. Others, including Griffin, who obtained a transcript of the speech, have argued that he was merely explaining the usefulness of America's atomic arsenal in deterring the USSR from continuing its domination of Eastern Europe.[147]

However, just after the atomic bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Russell wrote letters, and published articles in newspapers from 1945 to 1948, stating clearly that it was morally justified and better to go to war against the USSR using atomic bombs while the United States possessed them and before the USSR did. In September 1949, one week after the USSR tested its first A-bomb, but before this became known, Russell wrote that USSR would be unable to develop nuclear weapons because following Stalin's purges only science based on Marxist principles would be practiced in the Soviet Union.[153] After it became known that the USSR carried out its nuclear bomb tests, Russell declared his position advocating for the total abolition of atomic weapons.[154]

In 1948, Russell was invited by the BBC to deliver the inaugural Reith Lectures[155]—what was to become an annual series of lectures, still broadcast by the BBC. His series of six broadcasts, titled Authority and the Individual,[156] explored themes such as the role of individual initiative in the development of a community and the role of state control in a progressive society. Russell continued to write about philosophy. He wrote a foreword to Words and Things by Ernest Gellner, which was highly critical of the later thought of Ludwig Wittgenstein and of ordinary language philosophy. Gilbert Ryle refused to have the book reviewed in the philosophical journal Mind, which caused Russell to respond via The Times. The result was a month-long correspondence in The Times between the supporters and detractors of ordinary language philosophy, which was only ended when the paper published an editorial critical of both sides but agreeing with the opponents of ordinary language philosophy.[157]

In the King's Birthday Honours of 9 June 1949, Russell was awarded the Order of Merit,[158] and the following year he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.[77][89] When he was given the Order of Merit, George VI was affable but slightly embarrassed at decorating a former jailbird, saying, "You have sometimes behaved in a manner that would not do if generally adopted".[159] Russell merely smiled, but afterwards claimed that the reply "That's right, just like your brother" immediately came to mind.

In 1950, Russell attended the inaugural conference for the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a CIA-funded anti-communist organisation committed to the deployment of culture as a weapon during the Cold War.[160] Russell was one of the best known patrons of the Congress, until he resigned in 1956.[161]

In 1952 Russell was divorced by Spence, with whom he had been very unhappy. Conrad, Russell's son by Spence, did not see his father between the time of the divorce and 1968 (at which time his decision to meet his father caused a permanent breach with his mother). Russell married his fourth wife, Edith Finch, soon after the divorce, on 15 December 1952. They had known each other since 1925, and Edith had taught English at Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia, sharing a house for 20 years with Russell's old friend Lucy Donnelly. Edith remained with him until his death, and, by all accounts, their marriage was a happy, close, and loving one. Russell's eldest son John suffered from serious mental illness, which was the source of ongoing disputes between Russell and his former wife Dora.

In September 1961, at the age of 89, Russell was jailed for seven days in Brixton Prison for "breach of peace" after taking part in an anti-nuclear demonstration in London. The magistrate offered to exempt him from jail if he pledged himself to "good behaviour", to which Russell replied: "No, I won't."[162][163]

In 1962 Russell played a public role in the Cuban Missile Crisis: in an exchange of telegrams with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev assured him that the Soviet government would not be reckless.[164][165] Russell sent this telegram to President Kennedy:


According to historian Peter Knight, after JFK's assassination, Russell, "prompted by the emerging work of the lawyer Mark Lane in the US ... rallied support from other noteworthy and left-leaning compatriots to form a Who Killed Kennedy Committee in June 1964, members of which included Michael Foot MP, Caroline Benn, the publisher Victor Gollancz, the writers John Arden and J. B. Priestley, and the Oxford history professor Hugh Trevor-Roper." Russell published a highly critical article weeks before the Warren Commission Report was published, setting forth 16 Questions on the Assassination and equating the Oswald case with the Dreyfus affair of late 19th-century France, in which the state wrongly convicted an innocent man. Russell also criticised the American press for failing to heed any voices critical of the official version.[167]

Political causes

Russell (centre) alongside his wife Edith, leading a CND anti-nuclear march in London, 18 February 1961

Bertrand Russell was opposed to war from early on, his opposition to World War I being used as grounds for his dismissal from Trinity College at Cambridge. This incident fused two of his most controversial causes, as he had failed to be granted Fellow status, which would have protected him from firing, because he was not willing to either pretend to be a devout Christian, or at least avoid admitting he was agnostic.

He later described the resolution of these issues as essential to freedom of thought and expression, citing the incident in Free Thought and Official Propaganda, where he explained that the expression of any idea, even the most obviously "bad", must be protected not only from direct State intervention, but also economic leveraging and other means of being silenced:

The opinions which are still persecuted strike the majority as so monstrous and immoral that the general principle of toleration cannot be held to apply to them. But this is exactly the same view as that which made possible the tortures of the Inquisition.[168]

Russell spent the 1950s and 1960s engaged in political causes primarily related to nuclear disarmament and opposing the Vietnam War. The 1955 Russell–Einstein Manifesto was a document calling for nuclear disarmament and was signed by eleven of the most prominent nuclear physicists and intellectuals of the time.[169] In 1966–1967, Russell worked with Jean-Paul Sartre and many other intellectual figures to form the Russell Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal to investigate the conduct of the United States in Vietnam. He wrote a great many letters to world leaders during this period.

In 1956, immediately before and during the Suez Crisis, Russell expressed his opposition to European imperialism in the Middle East. He viewed the crisis as another reminder of the pressing need for a more effective mechanism for international governance, and to restrict national sovereignty to places such as the Suez Canal area "where general interest is involved". At the same time the Suez Crisis was taking place, the world was also captivated by the Hungarian Revolution and the subsequent crushing of the revolt by intervening Soviet forces. Russell attracted criticism for speaking out fervently against the Suez war while ignoring Soviet repression in Hungary, to which he responded that he did not criticise the Soviets "because there was no need. Most of the so-called Western World was fulminating". Although he later feigned a lack of concern, at the time he was disgusted by the brutal Soviet response, and on 16 November 1956, he expressed approval for a declaration of support for Hungarian scholars which Michael Polanyi had cabled to the Soviet embassy in London twelve days previously, shortly after Soviet troops had already entered Budapest.[170]

In November 1957 Russell wrote an article addressing US President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, urging a summit to consider "the conditions of co-existence". Khrushchev responded that peace could indeed be served by such a meeting. In January 1958 Russell elaborated his views in The Observer, proposing a cessation of all nuclear-weapons production, with the UK taking the first step by unilaterally suspending its own nuclear-weapons program if necessary, and with Germany "freed from all alien armed forces and pledged to neutrality in any conflict between East and West". US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles replied for Eisenhower. The exchange of letters was published as The Vital Letters of Russell, Khrushchev, and Dulles.[171]

Russell was asked by The New Republic, a liberal American magazine, to elaborate his views on world peace. He urged that all nuclear-weapons testing and constant flights by planes armed with nuclear weapons be halted immediately, and negotiations be opened for the destruction of all hydrogen bombs, with the number of conventional nuclear devices limited to ensure a balance of power. He proposed that Germany be reunified and accept the Oder-Neisse line as its border, and that a neutral zone be established in Central Europe, consisting at the minimum of Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, with each of these countries being free of foreign troops and influence, and prohibited from forming alliances with countries outside the zone. In the Middle East, Russell suggested that the West avoid opposing Arab nationalism, and proposed the creation of a United Nations peacekeeping force to guard Israel's frontiers to ensure that Israel was prevented from committing aggression and protected from it. He also suggested Western recognition of the People's Republic of China, and that it be admitted to the UN with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.[171]

He was in contact with Lionel Rogosin while the latter was filming his anti-war film Good Times, Wonderful Times in the 1960s. He became a hero to many of the youthful members of the New Left. In early 1963, in particular, Russell became increasingly vocal in his disapproval of the Vietnam War, and felt that the US government's policies there were near-genocidal. In 1963 he became the inaugural recipient of the Jerusalem Prize, an award for writers concerned with the freedom of the individual in society.[172] In 1964 he was one of eleven world figures who issued an appeal to Israel and the Arab countries to accept an arms embargo and international supervision of nuclear plants and rocket weaponry.[173] In October 1965 he tore up his Labour Party card because he suspected Harold Wilson's Labour government was going to send troops to support the United States in Vietnam.[77]

Final years, death and legacy

Russell on a 1972 stamp of India

In June 1955 Russell had leased Plas Penrhyn in Penrhyndeudraeth, Merionethshire, Wales and on 5 July of the following year it became his and Edith's principal residence.[174]

Bust of Russell in Red Lion Square

Russell published his three-volume autobiography in 1967, 1968, and 1969. Russell made a cameo appearance playing himself in the anti-war Hindi film Aman, by Mohan Kumar, which was released in India in 1967. This was Russell's only appearance in a feature film.[175]

On 23 November 1969 he wrote to The Times newspaper saying that the preparation for show trials in Czechoslovakia was "highly alarming". The same month, he appealed to Secretary General U Thant of the United Nations to support an international war crimes commission to investigate alleged torture and genocide by the United States in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The following month, he protested to Alexei Kosygin over the expulsion of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn from the Soviet Union of Writers.

On 31 January 1970 Russell issued a statement condemning "Israel's aggression in the Middle East", and in particular, Israeli bombing raids being carried out deep in Egyptian territory as part of the War of Attrition. He called for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-Six-Day War borders. This was Russell's final political statement or act. It was read out at the International Conference of Parliamentarians in Cairo on 3 February 1970, the day after his death.[176]

Russell died of influenza, just after 8 pm on 2 February 1970 at his home in Penrhyndeudraeth.[177] His body was cremated in Colwyn Bay on 5 February 1970 with five people present.[178] In accordance with his will, there was no religious ceremony but one minute's silence; his ashes were scattered over the Welsh mountains later that year. He left an estate valued at £69,423 (equivalent to £1.1 million in 2019).[179] In 1980 a memorial to Russell was commissioned by a committee including the philosopher A. J. Ayer. It consists of a bust of Russell in Red Lion Square in London sculpted by Marcelle Quinton.[180]

Lady Katharine Jane Tait, Russell's daughter, founded the Bertrand Russell Society in 1974 to preserve and understand his work. It publishes the Bertrand Russell Society Bulletin, holds meetings and awards prizes for scholarship.[181] She also authored several essays about her father; as well as a book, My Father, Bertrand Russell, which was published in 1975.[182] All members receive Russell: The Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies.

Titles and honours from birth

Russell held throughout his life the following styles and honours:

• from birth until 1908: The Honourable Bertrand Arthur William Russell
• from 1908 until 1931: The Honourable Bertrand Arthur William Russell, FRS
• from 1931 until 1949: The Right Honourable The Earl Russell, FRS
• from 1949 until death: The Right Honourable The Earl Russell, OM, FRS
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Main article: Bertrand Russell's philosophical views


Russell is generally credited with being one of the founders of analytic philosophy. He was deeply impressed by Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716), and wrote on every major area of philosophy except aesthetics. He was particularly prolific in the fields of metaphysics, logic and the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of language, ethics and epistemology. When Brand Blanshard asked Russell why he did not write on aesthetics, Russell replied that he did not know anything about it, though he hastened to add "but that is not a very good excuse, for my friends tell me it has not deterred me from writing on other subjects".[183]

On ethics, Russell wrote that he was a utilitarian in his youth, yet he later distanced himself from this view.[184]

For the advancement of science and protection of the right to freedom of expression, Russell advocated The Will to Doubt, the recognition that all human knowledge is at most a best guess, that one should always remember:

None of our beliefs are quite true; all have at least a penumbra of vagueness and error. The methods of increasing the degree of truth in our beliefs are well known; they consist in hearing all sides, trying to ascertain all the relevant facts, controlling our own bias by discussion with people who have the opposite bias, and cultivating a readiness to discard any hypothesis which has proved inadequate. These methods are practised in science, and have built up the body of scientific knowledge. Every man of science whose outlook is truly scientific is ready to admit that what passes for scientific knowledge at the moment is sure to require correction with the progress of discovery; nevertheless, it is near enough to the truth to serve for most practical purposes, though not for all. In science, where alone something approximating to genuine knowledge is to be found, men's attitude is tentative and full of doubt.


Russell described himself in 1947 as an agnostic, saying: "Therefore, in regard to the Olympic gods, speaking to a purely philosophical audience, I would say that I am an Agnostic. But speaking popularly, I think that all of us would say in regard to those gods that we were Atheists. In regard to the Christian God, I should, I think, take exactly the same line."[185] For most of his adult life, Russell maintained religion to be little more than superstition and, despite any positive effects, largely harmful to people. He believed that religion and the religious outlook serve to impede knowledge and foster fear and dependency, and to be responsible for much of our world's wars, oppression, and misery. He was a member of the Advisory Council of the British Humanist Association and President of Cardiff Humanists until his death.[186]


Main article: Bertrand Russell's political views

Political and social activism occupied much of Russell's time for most of his life. Russell remained politically active almost to the end of his life, writing to and exhorting world leaders and lending his name to various causes.

Russell argued for a "scientific society", where war would be abolished, population growth would be limited, and prosperity would be shared.[187] He suggested the establishment of a "single supreme world government" able to enforce peace,[188] claiming that "the only thing that will redeem mankind is co-operation".[189]

Russell was an active supporter of the Homosexual Law Reform Society, being one of the signatories of A. E. Dyson's 1958 letter to The Times calling for a change in the law regarding male homosexual practices, which were partly legalised in 1967, when Russell was still alive.[190]

In "Reflections on My Eightieth Birthday" ("Postscript" in his Autobiography), Russell wrote: "I have lived in the pursuit of a vision, both personal and social. Personal: to care for what is noble, for what is beautiful, for what is gentle; to allow moments of insight to give wisdom at more mundane times. Social: to see in imagination the society that is to be created, where individuals grow freely, and where hate and greed and envy die because there is nothing to nourish them. These things I believe, and the world, for all its horrors, has left me unshaken".[191]

Freedom of opinion and expression

Like George Orwell, Russell was a champion of freedom of opinion and an opponent of both censorship and indoctrination. In 1928 he wrote: "The fundamental argument for freedom of opinion is the doubtfulness of all our belief... when the State intervenes to ensure the indoctrination of some doctrine, it does so because there is no conclusive evidence in favour of that doctrine .. It is clear that thought is not free if the profession of certain opinions make it impossible to make a living.[192] In 1957 he wrote: "'Free thought' means thinking freely ... to be worthy of the name freethinker he must be free of two things: the force of tradition and the tyranny of his own passions."[193]

Selected bibliography

Below is a selected bibliography of Russell's books in English, sorted by year of first publication:

• 1896. German Social Democracy. London: Longmans, Green.
• 1897. An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry.[194] Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
• 1900. A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
• 1903. The Principles of Mathematics.[195] Cambridge University Press.
• 1903. A Free man's worship, and other essays.[196]
• 1905. "On Denoting", Mind, Vol. 14. ISSN 0026-4423. Basil Blackwell.
• 1910. Philosophical Essays. London: Longmans, Green.
• 1910–1913. Principia Mathematica[197] (with Alfred North Whitehead). 3 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
• 1912. The Problems of Philosophy.[198] London: Williams and Norgate.
• 1914. Our Knowledge of the External World as a Field for Scientific Method in Philosophy.[199] Chicago and London: Open Court Publishing.[200]
• 1916. Principles of Social Reconstruction.[201] London, George Allen and Unwin.
• 1916. Why Men Fight. New York: The Century Co.
• 1916. The Policy of the Entente, 1904–1914 : a reply to Professor Gilbert Murray.[202] Manchester: The National Labour Press
• 1916. Justice in War-time. Chicago: Open Court.
• 1917. Political Ideals.[203] New York: The Century Co.
• 1918. Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1918. Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism, and Syndicalism.[204] London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1919. Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy.[205][206] London: George Allen & Unwin. (ISBN 0-415-09604-9 for Routledge paperback)[207]
• 1920. The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism.[208] London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1921. The Analysis of Mind.[209] London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1922. The Problem of China.[210] London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1922. Free Thought and Official Propaganda, delivered at South Place Institute[168]
• 1923. The Prospects of Industrial Civilization, in collaboration with Dora Russell. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1923. The ABC of Atoms, London: Kegan Paul. Trench, Trubner.
• 1923. Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1924. Icarus; or, The Future of Science. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.
• 1925. The ABC of Relativity. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.
• 1925. What I Believe. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.
• 1926. On Education, Especially in Early Childhood. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1927. The Analysis of Matter. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.
• 1927. An Outline of Philosophy. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1927. Why I Am Not a Christian.[211] London: Watts.
• 1927. Selected Papers of Bertrand Russell. New York: Modern Library.
• 1928. Sceptical Essays. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1929. Marriage and Morals. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1930. The Conquest of Happiness. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1931. The Scientific Outlook,[212] London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1932. Education and the Social Order,[213] London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1934. Freedom and Organization, 1814–1914. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1935. In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays.[214] London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1935. Religion and Science. London: Thornton Butterworth.
• 1936. Which Way to Peace?. London: Jonathan Cape.
• 1937. The Amberley Papers: The Letters and Diaries of Lord and Lady Amberley, with Patricia Russell, 2 vols., London: Leonard & Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press.
• 1938. Power: A New Social Analysis. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1940. An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
• 1945. The Bomb and Civilisation. Published in the Glasgow Forward on 18 August 1945.
• 1945. A History of Western Philosophy and Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day[215] New York: Simon and Schuster.
• 1949. Authority and the Individual.[216] London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1950. Unpopular Essays.[217] London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1951. New Hopes for a Changing World. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1952. The Impact of Science on Society. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1953. Satan in the Suburbs and Other Stories. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1954. Human Society in Ethics and Politics. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1954. Nightmares of Eminent Persons and Other Stories.[218] London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1956. Portraits from Memory and Other Essays.[219] London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1956. Logic and Knowledge: Essays 1901–1950, edited by Robert C. Marsh. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1957. Why I Am Not A Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects, edited by Paul Edwards. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1958. Understanding History and Other Essays. New York: Philosophical Library.
• 1959. Common Sense and Nuclear Warfare.[220] London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1959. My Philosophical Development.[221] London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1959. Wisdom of the West: A Historical Survey of Western Philosophy in Its Social and Political Setting, edited by Paul Foulkes. London: Macdonald.
• 1960. Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind, Cleveland and New York: World Publishing Company.
• 1961. The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, edited by R. E. Egner and L. E. Denonn. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1961. Fact and Fiction. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1961. Has Man a Future? London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1963. Essays in Skepticism. New York: Philosophical Library.
• 1963. Unarmed Victory. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1965. Legitimacy Versus Industrialism, 1814–1848. London: George Allen & Unwin (first published as Parts I and II of Freedom and Organization, 1814–1914, 1934).
• 1965. On the Philosophy of Science, edited by Charles A. Fritz, Jr. Indianapolis: The Bobbs–Merrill Company.
• 1966. The ABC of Relativity. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1967. Russell's Peace Appeals, edited by Tsutomu Makino and Kazuteru Hitaka. Japan: Eichosha's New Current Books.
• 1967. War Crimes in Vietnam. London: George Allen & Unwin.
• 1951–1969. The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell,[222] 3 vols., London: George Allen & Unwin. Vol. 2, 1956[222]
• 1969. Dear Bertrand Russell... A Selection of his Correspondence with the General Public 1950–1968, edited by Barry Feinberg and Ronald Kasrils. London: George Allen and Unwin.

Russell was the author of more than sixty books and over two thousand articles.[223][224] Additionally, he wrote many pamphlets, introductions, and letters to the editor. One pamphlet titled, 'I Appeal unto Caesar': The Case of the Conscientious Objectors, ghostwritten for Margaret Hobhouse, the mother of imprisoned peace activist Stephen Hobhouse, allegedly helped secure the release from prison of hundreds of conscientious objectors.[225]

His works can be found in anthologies and collections, including The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, which McMaster University began publishing in 1983. By March 2017 this collection of his shorter and previously unpublished works included 18 volumes,[226] and several more are in progress. A bibliography in three additional volumes catalogues his publications. The Russell Archives held by McMaster's William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections possess over 40,000 of his letters.[227]

See also

• Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation
• Cambridge University Moral Sciences Club
• Criticism of Jesus
• List of peace activists
• List of pioneers in computer science


1. Monmouthshire's Welsh status was ambiguous at this time, and was considered by some to be part of England. See Monmouthshire (historic)#Ambiguity over status.



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2. Carlo Cellucci, Rethinking Knowledge: The Heuristic View, Springer, 2017, p. 32.
3. The Problem of Perception (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy): "Paraphrasing David Hume (1739...; see also Locke 1690, Berkeley 1710, Russell 1912): nothing is ever directly present to the mind in perception except perceptual appearances."
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5. James Ward (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
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7. "Structural Realism": entry by James Ladyman in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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67. The Life of Bertrand Russell. Knopf. 1976. p. 119. ISBN 9780394490595. He became a relentless political activist during World War I, and throughout his life was an ardent advocate of parliamentary democracy through his support first of the Liberal Party and then of Labour.
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70. Hestler, Anna (2001). Wales. Marshall Cavendish. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-7614-1195-6.
71. Russell and G. E. Moore broke themselves free from British Idealism which, for nearly 90 years, had dominated British philosophy. Russell would later recall in "My Mental Development" that "with a sense of escaping from prison, we allowed ourselves to think that grass is green, that the sun and stars would exist if no one was aware of them ..."—Russell B, (1944) "My Mental Development", in Schilpp, Paul Arthur: The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell, New York: Tudor, 1951, pp. 3–20.
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158. "No. 38628". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 June 1949. p. 2796.
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160. Frances Stonor Saunders, "The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters." New York Press, 1999. Print.
161. Frances Stonor Saunder, ""The Cultural Cold War: The CIA And the World of Arts and Letters." New York Press, 1999. Print.
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166. John H. Davis. The Kennedys: Dynasty and Disaster. S. P. Books. p. 437.
167. Peter Knight, The Kennedy Assassination, Edinburgh University Press Ltd., 2007, p. 77.
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170. Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell (Psychology Press, 2005)
171. Yours Faithfully, Bertrand Russell (pp. 212–213)
172. "Jerusalem International Book Fair". Retrieved 1 October 2011.
173. "Bertrand Russell Appeals to Arabs and Israel on Rocket Weapons". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 26 February 1964.
174. Russell, Bertrand (12 October 2012). Andrew G. Bone (ed.). The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell Volume 29: Détente Or Destruction, 1955–57. Abingdon: Routledge. p. iii. ISBN 978-0415-3583-78.
175. "Aman (1967)". IMDb.
176. "Bertrand Russell's Last Message". 31 January 1970. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
177. The Guardian – 3 February 1970
178. The Guardian – Page 7–6 February 1970
179. Russell, 1970, p. 3 at Retrieved 29 August 2015
180. "Bertrand Russell Memorial". Mind. 353: 320. 1980.
181. "The Bertrand Russell Society". The Bertrand Russell Society. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
182. My Father, Bertrand Russell. National Library of Australia. 1975. ISBN 9780151304325. Retrieved 28 May 2010.
183. Blanshard, in Paul Arthur Schilpp, ed., The Philosophy of Brand Blanshard, Open Court, 1980, p. 88, quoting a private letter from Russell.
184. The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, London: Routledge, 2000 [London: Allen and Unwin, 1969, Vol. 1], p. 39 ("It appeared to me obvious that the happiness of mankind should be the aim of all action, and I discovered to my surprise that there were those who thought otherwise. Belief in happiness, I found, was called Utilitarianism, and was merely one among a number of ethical theories. I adhered to it after this discovery, and was rash enough to tell my grandmother that I was a utilitarian." In a letter from 1902, in which Russell criticized utilitarianism, he wrote: "I may as well begin by confessing that for many years it seemed to me perfectly self-evident that pleasure is the only good and pain the only evil. Now, however, the opposite seems to me self-evident. This change has been brought about by what I may call moral experience." Ibid, p. 161).
185. Russell, Bertrand (1947). "Am I An Atheist or an Agnostic?". Encyclopedia of Things. Archived from the original on 22 June 2005. Retrieved 6 July 2005.: "I never know whether I should say 'Agnostic' or whether I should say 'Atheist'... As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one prove (sic) that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist."
186. 'Humanist News', March 1970[not specific enough to verify]
187. Russell, Bertrand (1952). "Conclusions". The Impact of Science on Society. New York, Columbia University Press.
188. Russell, Bertrand (1936). Which Way to Peace? (Part 12). M. Joseph Ltd. p. 173.
189. Russell, Bertrand (1954). Human Society in Ethics and Politics. London: G. Allen & Unwin. p. 212.
190. Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (2 November 1997). "Lesbian and Gay Rights: The Humanist and Religious Stances". Retrieved 17 February 2008.
191. Russell, Bertrand (1968). The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell: 1944–1969. Little, Brown. p. 330. Published separately as 'Reflections on My Eightieth Birthday' in Portraits from Memory.
192. Skeptical Essays, 1928, ISBN 978-0415325080
193. Understanding History and other Essays
194. "An essay on the foundations of geometry". Internet Archive. Cambridge, University press. 1897.
195. "The Principles of Mathematics".
196. Free man's worship, and other essays, London : Unwin Books, 1976, ISBN 0048240214
197. Principia mathematica, by Alfred North Whitehead ... and Bertrand Russell. 2005.
198. "The Problems of Philosophy".
199. "Our Knowledge of the External World". Internet Archive. George Allen & Unwin.
200. ... ssell(1914).pdf
201. "Principles of social reconstruction". Internet Archive. 1916.
202. Russell, Bertrand (14 May 2019). "The Policy of the Entente 1904–1914: A Reply to Professor Gilbert Murray". National Labour Press. Retrieved 14 May 2019 – via Google Books.
203. Political Ideals. Project Gutenberg.
204. Proposed Roads to Freedom. Project Gutenberg.
205. Kevin C. Klement. "Russell's Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy".
206. Pfeiffer, G. A. (1920). "Review: Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy by Bertrand Russell" (PDF). Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 27 (2): 81–90. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1920-03365-3.
207. "Introduction to mathematical philosophy". Internet Archive. 1920.
208. The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism. Project Gutenberg.
209. The Analysis of Mind. Project Gutenberg.
210. The Problem of China. Project Gutenberg.
211. "Why I Am Not A Christian". Archived from the original on 19 November 2006.
212. "The Scientific Outlook". Internet Archive. George Allen And Unwin Limited. 1954.
213. "Education and the Social Order". Internet Archive.
214. "In Praise of Idleness By Bertrand Russell".
215. "Western Philosophy". Internet Archive.
216. "Authority and the individual". Internet Archive.
217. "Unpopular Essays". Internet Archive. Simon and Schuster. 1950.
218. "Nightmares of Eminent Persons And Other Stories". Internet Archive. The Bodley Head. 1954.
219. "Portraits From Memory And Other Essays". Internet Archive. Simon and Schuster. 1956.
220. "Common Sense And Nuclear Warfare". Internet Archive. Simon and Schuster. 1959.
221. "My Philosophical Development". Internet Archive. Simon and Schuster. 1959.
222. "The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell 1872 1914". Internet Archive. Little, Brown and company. 1951.
223. Charles Pigden in Bertrand Russell, Russell on Ethics: Selections from the Writings of Bertrand Russell, Routledge (2013), p. 14
224. James C. Klagge, Wittgenstein: Biography and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press (2001), p. 12
225. Hochschild, Adam (2011). To end all wars: a story of loyalty and rebellion, 1914–1918. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 270–272. ISBN 978-0-618-75828-9.
226. "McMaster University: The Bertrand Russell Research Centre". 6 March 2017. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
227. "Bertrand Russell Archives Catalogue Entry and Research System". McMaster University Library. The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections. Retrieved 5 February 2016.


Primary sources

• 1900, Sur la logique des relations avec des applications à la théorie des séries, Rivista di matematica 7: 115–148.
• 1901, On the Notion of Order, Mind (n.s.) 10: 35–51.
• 1902, (with Alfred North Whitehead), On Cardinal Numbers, American Journal of Mathematics 24: 367–384.
• 1948, BBC Reith Lectures: Authority and the Individual A series of six radio lectures broadcast on the BBC Home Service in December 1948.

Secondary sources

• John Newsome Crossley. A Note on Cantor's Theorem and Russell's Paradox, Australian Journal of Philosophy 51, 1973, 70–71.
• Ivor Grattan-Guinness. The Search for Mathematical Roots 1870–1940. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.
• Alan Ryan. Bertrand Russell: A Political Life, New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Further reading

Books about Russell's philosophy

• Alfred Julius Ayer. Russell, London: Fontana, 1972. ISBN 0-00-632965-9. A lucid summary exposition of Russell's thought.
• Celia Green. The Lost Cause: Causation and the Mind-Body Problem, Oxford: Oxford Forum, 2003. ISBN 0-9536772-1-4 Contains a sympathetic analysis of Russell's views on causality.
• A. C. Grayling. Russell: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2002.
• Nicholas Griffin. Russell's Idealist Apprenticeship, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.
• A. D. Irvine (ed.). Bertrand Russell: Critical Assessments, 4 volumes, London: Routledge, 1999. Consists of essays on Russell's work by many distinguished philosophers.
• Michael K. Potter. Bertrand Russell's Ethics, Bristol: Thoemmes Continuum, 2006. A clear and accessible explanation of Russell's moral philosophy.
• Elizabeth Ramsden Eames. Bertrand Russell's Theory of Knowledge, London: George Allen and Unwin, 1969. A clear description of Russell's philosophical development.
• P. A. Schilpp (ed.). The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell, Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University, 1944.
• John Slater. Bertrand Russell, Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 1994.

Biographical books

• A. J. Ayer. Bertrand Russell, New York: Viking Press, 1972, reprint ed. London: University of Chicago Press, 1988: ISBN 0-226-03343-0
• Ronald W. Clark. The Life of Bertrand Russell, London: Jonathan Cape, 1975 ISBN 0-394-49059-2
• Ronald W. Clark. Bertrand Russell and His World, London: Thames & Hudson, 1981 ISBN 0-500-13070-1
• Rupert Crawshay-Williams. Russell Remembered, London: Oxford University Press, 1970. Written by a close friend of Russell's
• John Lewis. Bertrand Russell: Philosopher and Humanist, London: Lawerence & Wishart, 1968
• Ray Monk. Bertrand Russell: Mathematics: Dreams and Nightmares London: Phoenix, 1997 ISBN 0-7538-0190-6
• Ray Monk. Bertrand Russell: 1872–1920 The Spirit of Solitude Vol. I, New York: Routledge, 1997 ISBN 0-09-973131-2
• Ray Monk. Bertrand Russell: 1921–1970 The Ghost of Madness Vol. II, New York: Routledge, 2001 ISBN 0-09-927275-X
• Caroline Moorehead. Bertrand Russell: A Life New York: Viking, 1993 ISBN 0-670-85008-X
• George Santayana. 'Bertrand Russell', in Selected Writings of George Santayana, ed. Norman Henfrey, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, I, 1968, pp. 326–329
• Katharine Tait. My father Bertrand Russell, New York: Thoemmes Press, 1975
• Alan Wood. Bertrand Russell The Passionate Sceptic London: George Allen & Unwin, 1957.
• Peter Stone et al. Bertrand Russell´s Life and Legacy. Wilmington: Vernon Press, 2017.

External links

• Media from Wikimedia Commons
• Quotations from Wikiquote
• Texts from Wikisource
• "Bertrand Russell's Ethics". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
• "Bertrand Russell's Logic". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
• "Bertrand Russell's Metaphysics". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
• The Bertrand Russell Archives at McMaster University
• The Bertrand Russell Society at Bertrand Russell Society
• The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation
• O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Bertrand Russell", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
• Works by Bertrand Russell at Project Gutenberg
• Works by or about Bertrand Russell at Internet Archive
• Works by Bertrand Russell at Open Library
• Works by Bertrand Russell at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
• BBC Face to Face interview with Bertrand Russell and John Freeman, broadcast 4 March 1959
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Tue Apr 21, 2020 2:43 am

Part 1 of 3

Did [Bertrand] Russell Advocate Preventive Atomic War Against the USSR?
by David Blitz
Philosophy and Honors Program / Central Connecticut State U.
New Britain, CT 06050, USA

The wind-up for that 1945 nuclear bombing of explicitly civilian targets, had been test-run during the last months of the war in Europe. Planned bombing of civilian populations of targeted cities, under so-called Lindemann/"Bomber Harris" doctrine, had, like Montgomery's "Market Garden" hoax, actually prolonged the war—and, thus, also killed more U.S. soldiers—by resuscitating what [had] been Germany's fading willingness to continue to fight. The fire-bombing of Tokyo had been a similar piece of strategic folly. The needless use of the only existing nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal, was the beginning of what became known as the Rand Corporation's post-war "utopian" revolution in military affairs. That evil uncle Bertrand Russell whom confused children have adored as a fighter for peace, was the actual inventor of that United States' doctrine of "preventive nuclear war," which was the actual motivation for the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What that bombing accomplished, for the long run, was to set the precedent needed to institutionalize that utopian dogma of a U.S. nuclear revolution in military affairs, which is Cheney's doctrine today....

That bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki thus divided the military and related factions of the U.S. chiefly, between the supporters of the U.S. traditional doctrine of strategic defense—as represented by those such as post-war Generals of the Armies MacArthur and Eisenhower—and, their opponents, the utopian followers of "preventive nuclear warrior" Bertrand Russell. Rumsfeld and his crew typify the "military-industrial complex" utopians at their worst, and most stupid today. A misguided President Truman had leaned toward the side of the same utopians who gave us, later, the 1964-72 Indo-China War, and have also pushed that so-called revolution in military affairs, which dumped us, by means of fraudulent pretexts, into both the 1964-1972 Indo-China war and the presently suppurating folly of rising bloody, irregular warfare attrition in Iraq....

Truman's dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was an effect, of the terrorist, Nietzschean type prescribed by Professor Leo Strauss's crony, Synarchist Alexander Kojève. It typified the right-wing, pro-Synarchist turn of the post-Roosevelt U.S.A. That expresses the essence of the trouble with Harry.

A dear friend's eyewitness account of OSS chief General Donovan's emerging, deeply saddened, from a visit at the failing President Roosevelt's office, reports Donovan sadly murmuring to the effect: "It's over." Many among the accomplishments of the U.S.A. under FDR's leadership could not be rooted out by the Truman Presidency, but Truman cleared the way for those who would ruin the FDR legacy as early and often as possible, the right-wing which had used the victory in Normandy as the signal to dump, as much as possible, the policies of a Roosevelt they had always disliked, and who they no longer considered indispensable. Truman cleared the way for an attempted, top-down takeover of U.S. strategic domestic and foreign policy by those utopians President Eisenhower later identified as a "military-industrial complex," the followers of the "preventive nuclear war" doctrines of Bertrand Russell. The other name for that crew of utopians was, and is "The Synarchist International."....

Suppose you were, for example, Russia, China, or India. Suppose you knew that your nation was pre-designated for a medium-term nuclear-warfare attack, or for destruction by other means, if you failed to resist the attacker. Suppose that other nations of Asia shared that concern. How might you react?

How did Russia, China, and North Korea react, during the Korean War, to their conviction that they faced similar threats from the U.S. Truman Administration? How did they read a pattern of certain provocative moves from the Truman Administration. What did these nations, which believed themselves targets, read into the publication of the threat from the most evil living person of the world at that time, Bertrand Russell, in Russell's September 1946 publication of his argument for his doctrine of "preventive nuclear warfare" against the Soviet Union?"

Compare that with Cheney's repeated threats, since he was Secretary of Defense in the 1989-1993 Bush Administration, of nuclear warfare against, implicitly, post-Soviet Russia and other targets? Compare that with the impact of Cheney's escalating threats since the evening of Sept. 11, 2001. If you knew that powerful enemy was intent upon crushing your nation, and also others, out existence, and if you were such a targeted nation, which had the potential means to wreak a terrible penalty upon that foe, would you seek to define a defense, even at the risk of losing half of your population? The history of land wars in Asia on this account, including China's role in the Korean War, and the case of U.S. experience with its war in Indo-China, should give the wary a hint of something to think about....

The combination of Truman's order for the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Bertrand Russell's publication of his September 1946 declaration of a policy of preventive nuclear warfare targeting the Soviet Union in particular, and President Harry Truman's endorsement of Winston Churchill's widely celebrated "Iron Curtain" address, had defined a situation in which both Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao Tse Tung's China shared the belief that the U.S.A. and Britain were determined to use nuclear weaponry to threaten them with virtual extinction as states. Against that background, the type of U.S. provocations conducted by the Truman Administration in Asia, as identified in the chapter of Barnett which I have referenced, brought matters to a threshold, in a way broadly analogous to the kind of "pre-World War" tension which the continuing antics of Svengali Cheney and the Trilbys of both the Bush Administration and Democratic Party have combined to create today.....

Apart from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the most significantly tell-tale single piece of evidence against Truman, is that Roosevelt had intended to conclude the war with the liberation of the planet from colonialism and related practices. Truman acted to support the British policy of restoration of colonialism by military force, in places where it had been overthrown in the course of the war. Truman's action thus tipped the balance, to restore the institution of imperialism as a established feature of the United Nations Organization.

Not long after Truman's retirement, and the death of Josef Stalin, the most evil man of the world at that time, Bertrand Russell, negotiated an accommodation with the new Soviet leader Khrushchev, through the facility of a London Conference of World Parliamentarians for World Government. Russell's intention was, as usual for him, world government, and his own burning hatred against the existence of, above all, the United States. His often restated intent was to establish the kind of world government which he and H.G. Wells had prescribed in Wells' 1928 The Open Conspiracy. It was on behalf of world government, explicitly, that Russell had explicitly proposed preventive nuclear warfare as the road to utopia and peace, publically and repeatedly, from 1946 on.

-- World Nuclear War When? McAuliffe's Deadly Delusions: or, How Harry Truman Defeated Himself, by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., Executive Intelligence Review

Russell’s statements in the immediate post-World War II period about war with the Soviet Union have generated considerable controversy. Some commentators interpret his declarations as if he advocated a preventive war against the Soviet Union. To the contrary, Russell advanced a strategy of conditional threat of war with the aim not of provoking war, but of preventing it. However, Russell was unable to satisfy his critics. Despite initial accuracy in his restatements of what he had originally said, Russell erred in later affirmations, lending credence to the erroneous view that he had something to hide.


Whether Russell advocated a preventive atomic war against the USSR in the period 1945-491 remains a matter of controversy. It has been discussed by all biographers of Russell from Alan Wood to Ray Monk, and was the subject of a debate in the pages of Russell between Douglas Lackey and Ray Perkins, Jr. It was recently the object of an exchange of letters between Nicholas Griffin and Lord Lawson in The Economist. The subject is rendered more noteworthy not only because of the perceived inconsistency of a noted pacifist advocating war—and atomic war at that—but also because of the numerous occasions on which Russell denied having advocated such a position, then recognized that, in a way, he had.2

My claims are the following: (a) Russell’s position with respect to the USSR during the period was consistent with the philosophy of non-absolute pacifism which he shared with Einstein, and is best understood in terms of the exception clause which he had previously invoked during World War II; (b) Russell did not advocate preventive war, in the sense of making a call for immediate and unconditional war—rather, he proposed a conditional threat in order to prevent war; (c) Russell’s policy of conditionally threatening war was a strategy for a specific period of time during which he thought pressuring the Soviet Union might induce it to accept international authority and avoid the arms race; (d) Russell assigned varying probabilities to the likelihood of war, from low to high depending on circumstances, but his preference was for a negotiated agreement separating the opposing Communist and anti-Communist forces, despite the low probability he assigned to such an outcome; (e) Russell’s denials of having advocated preventive nuclear war were consistent with his public statements, and not an attempt to cover up his motivation, despite later confusions in his recollections of what he said.


That Russell would argue in favour of threatening the USSR with war— which he did on many occasions during the period under question— would seem to be inconsistent with his position as a pacifist, and therefore startling and even shocking. But Russell on almost as many occasions indicated that he was not a pacifist in the traditional sense of the term: an individual opposed to all wars at all times and places. Russell was a non-absolute pacifist, and it is in this context that his statements need to be situated in order to be properly understood.3 Non-absolute pacifism as a philosophy consists of two related claims: (1) the principle that wars are evil and must be prevented, and (2) the recognition that some, an exceptional few, can be supported as necessary evils. Russell admitted that the Second World War fell under the latter, rather than the former clause, and he believed, at the beginning of the post-war period under consideration, that a similar exceptional situation might still be at hand:

I make, however, one exception to the condemnation of wars in the near future. A powerful group of nations, engaged in establishing an international military government of the world, may be compelled to resort to war if it finds somewhere an opposition which cannot be peacefully overcome, but which can be defeated without a completely exhausting struggle.4 (Italics added)

The salient point is to determine what type of opposition justified invoking the exception clause. The opposition which Russell had in mind was opposition to the strategic objective of world government. Russell, who had been converted to pacifism as a result of his debates with Louis Couturat during the Boer War, had been shocked by the outbreak of the First World War. He came to realize that an abstract appeal to humanity’s best ideals would often be submerged by that same species’ baser instincts. Consequently, he became an advocate of world government as a means of restraining this tendency. The role of a world government, Russell believed, should be limited to questions of international security. But it had to possess an armed force equipped with the most modern weapons, in order to force recalcitrant states to accept the international order. The achievement of world government would not in itself result in world peace, but it would provide the privileged means to progress towards that ultimate goal.

After World War II, Russell identified the Soviet Union as the main threat not only to world peace, but to western civilization. For Russell, Russia—the term which he used in preference to the USSR—had replaced Nazi Germany as an expansionist, totalitarian regime. Russell had not always held such a view. He had initially welcomed news of the Soviet revolution in 1917, mainly because it meant that the Russians withdrew from the world war which he opposed. But in the course of his visit to the Soviet Union in 1920 he was repelled by the doctrinaire Marxist ideology of the Communist Party and the despotic nature of the Bolshevik state. Nonetheless this did not lead him to designate the Soviet Union as an enemy of world peace before World War II. What changed after 1945 was that the Soviet Union emerged from the war with newly acquired territory—including the Baltic republics—and a clearly expressed desire to expand its sphere of influence throughout Eastern Europe and the Far East. From a sympathetic point of view this might have appeared as a purely defensive policy, aimed at securing a buffer zone for the Soviet Union, which had suffered some 25 million dead in the preceding conflict. But Russell shared the predominant Western view that Soviet actions, either militarily through its expanded Red Army, or politically, through its client Communist Parties, were aimed at increasing the Russian sphere of domination, up to and including Western Europe.

There was certainly evidence for this view. In the immediate post-war period, Russell was alarmed by what he believed to be the systematic mistreatment of German refugees by the Russians and their allies, and publicly denounced this in the House of Lords, comparing the Soviet actions to those of the defeated Nazis: “The Russians, and the Poles with Russian encouragement, have, I regret to say, adopted a policy of vengeance, and have so far as I am able to discover, committed atrocities very much on the same scale and of the same magnitude as those of which the Nazis were guilty.”5 His concern grew as the Soviet Union rejected the Baruch Plan for the international control of atomic energy and nuclear weapons (1946-47), and reached a further high point during the Berlin Blockade (1948-49) when the Soviets blocked all ground traffic in and out of the city, forcing an airlift to supply its citizens with food and supplies. All during this period Russell was growing increasingly alarmed at the prospect of a nuclear arms race once the Soviet Union developed the atomic bomb, as it did in 1949.

Russell’s view during this period of the threat posed by the Soviet Union was based on these concerns, and not, as was the case with the official “cold warriors” in the US and Britain, with the anti-capitalist goals of the Communists which were deemed a threat to the Western powers’ wealth and control. To the contrary, Russell was himself a socialist, though of a moderate “guild socialist” orientation. Moreover, unlike the “cold war” strategy of the right, Russell was unwilling to sacrifice civil liberties at home, and progressive governments abroad, to the anti-Soviet crusade. So while his position was strongly anti-Soviet, it was not one focused on overthrowing the Communist regime at all and any cost.

Russell’s view favouring conditionally threatening war was not an isolated comment or expression of personal feeling. Rather, it was part of a plan he had developed to promote global peace. In isolation the statement appears to be in direct contradiction to his pacifism; indeed it might be seen, as Monk sees it, as a sign of bellicism. But as part of an overall policy it was aimed at serving Russell’s ultimate goal of peace. Russell often talked of his “policy” towards the Soviet Union, and in what follows, I argue that this was a strategy aimed at removing the main obstacle to world government.


Typically, since Clausewitz, strategy has been considered as the coordination of battles to win a war, and tactics as the coordination of forces to win a battle.6 In the political sense, strategy is the focusing of efforts to achieve a national, or in the case of Russell, an international objective, either directly, by a decisive achievement, or indirectly, by removing an obstacle to a goal. For Russell, the ultimate end was world peace; the strategic objective was international government, and the strategic obstacle was the Soviet Union. The problem was not primarily the Soviet social structure, but rather its leaders’ rejection of trans-national authority under the guise of protecting state sovereignty, coupled with their ambition of increasing the Russian sphere of influence, up to and possibly including Western Europe. The strategy which Russell proposed— that of conditionally threatening war should the Soviet Union not accept specific conditions, such as agreeing to the international control of atomic energy—was specific to the international context of the second half of the 1940s.

The relationship between strategy and goals is not straightforward. Edward Luttwak, in his study of strategy as the logic of war and peace, has drawn attention to this complicated relationship, which he terms “paradoxical”.7 Strategy has an inner logic which often violates common- sense intuitions about the relationship between ends pursued and means that are used. As an example, Luttwak notes that it may be better for a military commander to move forces along the poorer of two roads leading to a desired target, since the better road will likely be more heavily defended. A slower advance is, “paradoxically”, the better choice. Similarly, a military defeat, by drawing enemy forces from a more important task, may facilitate ultimate victory. At the strategic level, it may be necessary to use force to restore peace. A recent example was the NATO bombing of Serbian forces, where the use of deadly force was employed to end the more serious genocidal actions against the Albanian minority. Russell’s threat of force was a paradoxical strategy in this sense as well: the threat of war was intended to prevent war, and served the ultimate goal of world peace.8

That Russell’s policy was a strategic one focused on a time-specific obstacle is indicated by his willingness to change it when circumstances changed. Once the arms race was fully engaged, in particular, after both the US and USSR had exploded hydrogen bombs—the US in 1952 and the USSR two years later—Russell shifted to a different strategy. The ultimate aim (world peace) and the strategic goal (international government) remained the same, but the obstacle was now the arms race to which both the US and the USSR had become committed. The strategic policy that Russell adopted was to propose a special mediating role for the neutral countries, which he hoped would make an objective inquiry into the disastrous effects of nuclear war, and then use their influence to persuade the superpowers of the folly of their course of action. But even India, with whose government Russell was quite close, was unable to take up this proposal, and the policy was abandoned by the second half of the 1950s. By then Russell was persuaded that the US was becoming the major obstacle to world peace, indicated in part by his interpretation of the public exchange of letters he undertook with Khrushchev and John Foster Dulles (acting on Eisenhower’s behalf ) in 1958,9 and then further confirmed by his analysis of the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, where he valued above all Khrushchev’s removal of the missiles as a means of ending the conflict. By the mid-1960s, under the influence of the war in Vietnam, Russell identified the US as the main obstacle to world peace. This led to Russell’s participation in the campaign to denounce the US intervention in Vietnam, the organization of the International War Crimes Tribunal, and Russell’s support for the Vietnamese liberation movement, all of which shocked Russell observers as much as his threat of war against the USSR a quarter century earlier.

In short, Russell passed through at least three phases in his analysis of the strategic obstacles to international government and world peace: (1) the Soviet Union as the main obstacle in the period 1945-49; (2) a period in the 1950s when both superpowers, and their arms race, were identified as the main obstacle; and (3) the period of the 1960s when he identified the United States as the main obstacle. As the strategic obstacles changed, so did Russell’s policy, with the additional feature that each succeeding strategy became less abstract and more personal: from the conditional threat of war, about which Russell had little control beyond distant relations with the British Labour government, to the proposal for mediation by neutrals, for which Russell had contacts at least with the Indian authorities and a number of leaders in developing countries, to the ban-the-bomb protest movements, where he exercised leadership positions. This process culminated in the establishment of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, with Russell as the centre of an informal diplomatic network of relations with foreign heads of state.


In order to better understand the character of the policy that Russell favoured for dealing with the Soviet Union during 1945-49—the threat of force, up to and including its use—it is helpful to compare his strategy with that proposed by the one other prominent thinker who shared his non-absolute pacifism: Albert Einstein. Both men agreed on the need to prevent a nuclear arms race in order to avoid omnicidal disaster, and both agreed on the need for international government as guarantor of world peace. But they disagreed on the means to accomplish this strategic objective, and therefore on policy. For Russell, the United States should take the lead in forming an international alliance, which would be the embryo of a future world government. The Soviet Union should be pressured, up to and including the threat of war, to join. Russell went on to affirm that it might only be as the result of yet another war that such an international organization would be set up, using compulsion to bring the defeated power—which he assumed would be the Soviet Union—into the world government:

There might be a period of hesitation followed by acquiescence, but if the USSR did not give way and join the confederation, after there had been time for mature consideration, the conditions for a justifiable war, which I enumerated a moment ago, would all be fulfilled. A casus belli would not be difficult to find.

Either the voluntary adherence of Russia, or its defeat in war, would render the Confederation invincible, since any war that might occur would be quickly ended by a few atomic bombs.
(“Humanity’s Last Chance”, p. 9)

At the strategic level, Russell believed that firmness and leadership were the only alternative to appeasement. His argument was based on reasoning by analogy: Just as appeasement had failed to stop Nazi Germany in the period leading up to World War II, so too would it fail with Soviet Russia. For this analogy to work one has to accept, as Russell did, that Soviet Russia was now playing the same role in the international system as the Third Reich had previously done. A second aspect of Russell’s strategy, the call for American leadership, was also based on the analogy to the pre-war situation. US isolationism, Russell believed, had encouraged Hitler to launch his attacks both to the west and east; while US involvement in the war after Pearl Harbor hastened the German and Japanese collapse. In the current situation, a return to US isolationism would likewise serve to embolden Stalin, while the assumption of international leadership by the US would have the opposite effect, moderating and perhaps ending his ambitions, particularly in Western Europe. Russell’s conclusion was that only a form of confrontation, to be formulated as threats to compel Russian compliance, would be successful:

The policy most likely to lead to peace is not one of unadulterated pacifism. A complete pacifist might say: “Peace with Russia can always be preserved by yielding to every Russian demand.” This is the policy of appeasement, pursued, with disastrous results, by the British and French Governments in the years before the war that is now ended. I myself supported this policy on pacifist grounds, but I now hold that I was mistaken. Such a policy encourages continually greater demands on the part of the Power to be appeased, until at last some demand is made which is felt to be intolerable, and the whole trend is suddenly reversed. It is not by giving the appearance of cowardice or unworthy submission that the peace of the world can be secured.10

Einstein, like Russell, was a non-Marxist socialist who was opposed to the Soviet dictatorship, but his evaluation of the Soviet Union was less negative, and his tactic toward it, though not one of appeasement, was nonetheless rather different from Russell’s:

I am in favour of inviting the Russians to join a world government authorized to provide security, and if they are unwilling to join, to proceed to establish supranational security without them…. Those who create the organization must understand that they are building with the final objective of obtaining Russian adherence.11

The source of the difference was twofold. On the one hand, Russell’s criterion for invoking the exception clause of non-absolute pacifism was weaker than Einstein’s. Whereas for Einstein, the enemy force against which war could be justified had to aim at the destruction of life “as such”, placing the threat at the level of Nazi genocide, for Russell it sufficed to have an opponent determined to destroy modern civilization, through the elimination of its cultural elite, thus placing the threat at the level of the Soviet gulag. Einstein focused on the Soviet people, who had lost so many of their number to the Nazi onslaught, while Russell focused on the Soviet leadership, which aimed at increasing its sphere of influence in Europe.

Whereas Russell’s policy was one which involved a threat of war, Einstein’s was not, and it might be preferred on these grounds alone. However, given Russell’s analysis that the main obstacle to an effective world authority was the Soviet Union, then not dealing with the Soviet problem, and deferring it to later as Einstein proposed, would only lead to failure. International organizations in the twentieth century were developed, and most major states acquiesced to them, only in the aftermath of major wars—the League of Nations after World War I, and the United Nations after World War II. Leaders were willing to forfeit some, though not much, state sovereignty in the hopes of preventing further global conflict. By not dealing with the most pressing problem at hand, Einstein’s proposal was not such as to motivate states to accept the further, more significant limitation on national sovereignty presupposed by their participation in the sort of international authority which he and Russell proposed, and which went far beyond the relatively powerless United Nations Organization, where the major powers had the veto. Einstein held it possible to deal directly with the strategic objective, and bring about real international authority without dealing with the Soviet problem, whereas for Russell this could not be accomplished except first by removing the main obstacle, which was Russian intransigence and expansionism. This was the point of Russell’s refusal to collaborate with Einstein in 1947 (though they were able to work together in the changed circumstances of the mid-1950s).

The question remains: was there an appropriate strategic policy in 1945-49 other than that of threat, which would not involve appeasement, but would be more active and likely to mobilize than Einstein’s? Here a weakness in Russell’s argument appears: although he stated that he was privately in contact with government specialists on military strategy, he did not publicly debate the strategic and policy theorists of the time. In particular, he did not analyze, or even appear to be acquainted with, the writing of authors such as George Kennan who were addressing the same problem. Kennan is best known for his “long telegram” just after World War II, alerting US policy-makers to the threat of Soviet foreign policy in the post-war period, and the “X” article in Foreign Affairs which proposed the policy of containment to deal with that threat.12

Kennan based his analysis on two factors: “the innate antagonism between capitalism and Socialism” (p. 572), which he took to be the underlying factor, and the Soviets’ belief in their own infallibility, which he took to be an aggravating factor. Nonetheless, he identified one aspect of Marxist ideology that, curiously enough, mitigated the immediate threat: the belief in the inevitability of Communist victory. As a result, the Kremlin was “under no ideological compulsion to accomplish its purposes in a hurry” (p. 574), and could allow itself the luxury of patience in dealing with long-term ideological questions. Kennan then proposed his policy of containment: “In these circumstances it is clear that the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.” And he continued, in words that should have called for a response from Russell:

It is important to note, however, that such a policy has nothing to do with outward histrionics; with threats or blustering or superfluous gestures of outward “toughness”. While the Kremlin is basically flexible in its reaction to political realities, it is by no means unamenable to considerations of prestige. Like almost any other government, it can be placed by tactless and threatening gestures in a position where it cannot afford to yield even though this might be dictated by common sense.… For these reasons it is a sine qua non of successful dealing with Russia that the foreign government in question should remain at all times cool and collected and that its demands on Russian policy should be put forward in such a manner as to leave the way open for a compliance not too detrimental to Russian prestige. (Pp. 569-70)

Kennan proceeded from a much narrower perspective than Russell: his strategic goal was the defence of the national interests of the United States, whereas Russell saw the need for the US to take the lead in establishing international authority that transcended national interests. Nonetheless, both identified the Soviet Union as the main obstacle to achieving their strategic objectives, and as is evident from Kennan’s other writings, both had a commitment to world peace. It would therefore have been interesting to have Russell’s opinion on Kennan’s analysis of flexibility in Russian foreign policy and his warning on the futility of threats as a means of modifying Soviet behaviour. This remains a weakness in Russell’s project, as he was unable to refine his policy through debate with related, but differing strategic plans. As a result, Russell’s many statements on the question, in newspapers, journals and broadcasts, tended to be more repetitive than amplificative. We are left with a more limited question: whether Russell’s threat of war amounted to an advocacy of preventive war?


[T]he theory of internal collusion, which asserts that the CIA and the FBI let it happen (sometimes abbreviated as LIHOP, let it happen on purpose);...[and] the more radical approach which is endorsed here, namely that 9/11 was the product of a network of moles inside the US government and intelligence agencies, backed up by covert action teams of expert professionals, seeking to provoke a war of civilizations as a means of shoring up Anglo-American world domination. The acronym for this approach is MIHOP – made it happen on purpose.

-- 9/11 Synthetic Terror Made in USA, by Webster Griffin Tarpley

In what follows I will refer to the policy advanced by Russell as “conditional threat of war”, formulated as follows:

CTW: If Russia does not acquiesce in the Baruch Plan for the international control of atomic energy, then the West should conditionally threaten war.

This occurred in a variant form before the Baruch Plan, and after as well (during the Berlin crisis, for example), where the focus was on directly warlike activities of the Soviet Union: if Russia does not cease its aggressive activities towards European countries, then the West should threaten war conditionally. This implied as well that the West should be militarily prepared to deal with a provocation by the Soviet Union, a point Russell stressed especially after 1949, to the point of supporting the development of hydrogen weapons as a deterrent to the Soviet A-bomb (a position he abandoned after the devastating effects of the hydrogen bomb were revealed in tests during 1952-54).13

I will contrast this position with a different one, “advocacy of preventive war”, a position often attributed to Russell, but one that I will argue he did not defend:

APW: Because Russia did not acquiesce in the Baruch Plan for the international control of atomic energy, the West should wage preventive war.

Similarly, a modified version of APW can be formulated substituting aggression against a European country for rejection of the Baruch Plan as the trigger for war, or “casus belli”: because Russia has fomented a Communist coup in country X (or invaded it), the West should wage immediate, preventive war. APW contradicts the principle of non-absolute pacifism which Russell advocated, according to which the nonabsolute pacifist may acquiesce to armed conflict only as self-defence against a real aggression putting into jeopardy civilisation itself. A preventive war is conventionally defined as “a war initiated in the belief that military conflict, while not imminent, is inevitable, and that to delay would involve greater risk.”14 To initiate war on the belief or fear that it is inevitable violates Russell’s philosophy in two ways: firstly, in ascribing inevitability to historical events, a position more in line with Hegelianism or Marxism than with Russell’s view of history as contingent; and secondly, in initiating attack rather than responding to one.15

CTW, however, does not contradict non-absolute pacifism, if, as has been argued above, it is a strategy to deal with an obstacle to attaining the necessary mechanism—that of world government—through which perpetual peace alone can be achieved. To advocate preventive war (APW) is to urge the mobilization of military forces for the waging of war; whereas to conditionally threaten war (CTW) is to urge the object of the threat to satisfy the conditions necessary to avoid the war.16

Two days after resigning as the Bush administration's top weapons inspector in Iraq, David Kay said Sunday that his group found no evidence Iraq had stockpiled unconventional weapons before the U.S.-led invasion in March.

He said U.S. intelligence services owe President Bush an explanation for having concluded that Iraq had.

"My summary view, based on what I've seen, is we're very unlikely to find large stockpiles of weapons," he said on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition." "I don't think they exist."

It was the consensus among the intelligence agencies that Iraq had such weapons that led Bush to conclude that it posed an imminent threat that justified the U.S.-led invasion, Kay said.

"I actually think the intelligence community owes the president rather than the president owing the American people," he said....

"It is not a political 'gotcha' issue. It is a serious issue of 'How you can come to a conclusion that is not matched in the future?'"

Other countries' intelligence agencies shared the U.S. conclusion that Iraq had stockpiled such weapons, though most disagreed with the United States about how best to respond....

Secretary of State Colin Powell defended the administration's moves Sunday. "Military action was justified by Iraq's violation of 12 years of U.N. resolutions," he said in an interview with First Channel Russia during a visit to Moscow.

"Iraq had the intent to have weapons of mass destruction and they had previously used weapons of mass destruction. They had programs to develop such weapons," Powell said.

"And what we were trying to find out was what inventory they actually had, and we are still examining that question."

Saddam Hussein was given the opportunity to divulge what his country was doing but chose not to do so, which resulted in the U.S.-led campaign to oust him, Powell said.

"And the world is better off, the Iraqi people are better off, because Saddam Hussein is gone," Powell said. "And we will continue to make sure we find all elements of his weapons of mass destruction programs and whatever weapons there might be."

-- Kay: No Evidence Iraq Stockpiled WMDs: Former chief U.S. inspector faults intelligence agencies, by CNN

Part, but only part, of the distinction between the CTW and APW lies in the use of the terms “advocate” and “threaten”. I suggest that “advocate” designates the intended goal of a policy, while “threaten” indicates a subordinate strategy. Consider the analogy to a prosecutor in court. She has as her goal, for which she is the advocate, proving the guilt of the accused. She will develop a strategy for the prosecution depending on the specific circumstances of the case. Suppose that a defence witness, whose past is shady and who is known to lie, falsely testifies for the accused. The prosecutor may threaten that witness with charges of perjury if he continues to lie on the stand. Now, we readily admit that the prosecutor advocates the guilt of the accused, proposes a strategy for pursuing the case, and conditionally threatens the witness as part of it.

This analogy can be extended as follows. Suppose the prosecutor, once a guilty verdict has been obtained in a capital murder case, demands the death penalty (in the US, where such penalties are still regrettably permitted). Now this is quite different from that of the police officer who, before the trial had begun, made the conditional threat that if the accused did not admit his guilt, he would be subject to prosecution under the death penalty rule. Once the verdict has been rendered and the court has moved to the penalty phase, the prosecutor is an advocate of the death penalty, since this is the only remedy for which she is pleading. Earlier, before the trial, the police officer had made a conditional threat, offering the prisoner a choice. The two are not the same, since for the prosecutor, advocacy of the death penalty is the goal of her penalty phase presentation, while for the police officer, threat of the death penalty is a means to a different goal: that of obtaining a confession from the accused. Russell’s case is more like that of the police officer than that of the prosecutor.

In other words, Russell’s intention was the prevention of war, through a strategy which may appear paradoxical, but which is not inconsistent with that goal. This contrasts with the intention of APW, which is to wage immediate war. It is instructive to distinguish Russell’s conditional threat of war from a real example of the advocacy of preventive war. The mathematician and game theorist John von Neumann, in speaking of the Soviet Union, was reported to have said: “If you say why not bomb them tomorrow, I say why not today? If you say today at 5 o’clock, I say why not at 1 o’clock?”17 Although von Neumann also preceded his statements by “if ”, there are no conditions that could be satisfied to warrant the non-application of the bombing, whereas for Russell there were. The intention depends in part on the theory in which the statement is embedded, and not exclusively on the statement. The problem is not therefore a semantic one of the difference between “advocate” and “threaten”, but a theoretical one related to the role that statements using each verb play in a more general setting.

The Perkins–Lackey debate touched on the problem of conditional threats as well, along with the likelihood of their being carried out.18 Ray Perkins, Jr. proposed an analysis of three types of statements Russell made, based on the core statement-type, “We ought to wage war against the Soviets unless they agree, under threat of war, to international controls.” This core statement is then modified as a type c1 statement by the addition at the end of the sentence of the modifier “and they will probably agree”, and a type c2 statement by the addition of the phrase “and they will probably not agree”. The “c ” stands for conditional, so that for Perkins the condition is the greater or lesser likelihood of Russian acquiescence to the threat. When proposed without either qualifier, Perkins labels the statement as type u (for unconditional). Perkins argued that Russell’s public claims were usually of type c1, which presumed likely Soviet compliance, without the need to carry out the threat, rather than of type c2, where war was probable (though not guaranteed, as in the case PWu, which Perkins holds that Russell never defended). According to Perkins this meant that Russell defended “a policy rather less bellicose than what is usually attributed to him”. On Perkins’ view, the controversy over the 1948 Westminster School talk arose because it was perceived as type c2, even though upon analysis it can be shown to be of type c1. The only exception was contained in a 1948 letter to an American correspondent, Walter Marseille (see below), which was of type c2.

Perkins’ analysis differs from that made in this paper. Perkins admits that Russell did in fact advocate preventive war, while I claim that Russell did not publicly advocate preventive war; rather he proposed the strategic policy of conditionally threatening war. While Perkins’ distinction between the three types of threat (c1, c2 and u) is helpful in analyzing the variations in Russell’s position (once the sentences are reformulated as CTW, not APW), it does not capture Russell’s CTW position adequately. The conditional nature of Russell’s statement has more to do more with the “unless” part of Perkins’ formulation of Russell’s position: “We ought to wage war against the Soviets unless they agree, under threat of war, to international controls”, than the codicil concerning the likelihood or not of Soviet compliance.19

Douglas Lackey, in his rejoinder to Perkins, denied the relevance of the conditional/unconditional distinction, since on his view even unconditional statements have conditions given by the intentions of the maker of the statement. What I will argue in the following sections of the paper, following in spirit though not in detail Perkins’ position, is that there is a real distinction between conditional and unconditional statements about war, corresponding to APW and CTW above; in particular, that conditional statements allow for an enumeration of cases upon which strategic thinking can be based, while unconditional ones lock in one and only one course of action. But, in agreement with Lackey, though for different reasons, the question of the likelihood of the threat being carried out is not decisive for the justification of the statement containing the threat.20


The widespread view is that indeed Russell did advocate preventive war against the Soviet Union. This claim is largely based on a talk which Russell gave in November 1948 for the New Commonwealth at Westminster School. It has recently been discussed again, in an exchange of letters between Nigel Lawson (Lord Lawson of Blaby, a former chancellor of the exchequer), a student at the time at Westminster School who attended the talk, and Nicholas Griffin, editor of Russell’s Selected Letters, Volume 2 of which covers this period.21 Lawson remembers the event as follows:

Needless to say, Russell advocated a pre-emptive nuclear strike on strictly humanitarian grounds. In a nutshell, he pointed out that at the time the Soviet Union did not yet possess a nuclear capability but that it would very soon do so, after which all history made it clear that sooner or later there would be a war between the two superpowers that would be infinitely more devastating than either of the two world wars through which he had lived. The only way of preventing this Armageddon, he concluded with remorseless if unpalatable logic, was for America to launch a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union before it acquired the bomb: after that it would be too late.22

Griffin, in his reply (ibid., 11 Aug., p. 14) pointed out that Lawson had not remembered that the three alternatives were prefaced by the conditional “if the present aggressive Russian policy was persisted in” (emphasis in the original), properly pointing out that since the matter was clearly dealt with as a conditional it should not be construed as a direct call to action, or advocacy of preventive atomic war. Lawson retorted that not withstanding the condition, Russell “expected that it [the Russian policy] would be [persisted in]”, making the action of preventive atomic war the only logical conclusion (18 Aug., p. 14). Griffin replied that Russell advocated a continuation of the West’s policy of containment, “backed by a threat of war”; and that this was not the same as advocating pre-emptive nuclear attack (25 Aug., p. 18). But for Lawson, as for many other listeners and subsequent readers of Russell’s statement, the conditionals had been stripped away, leaving bare the terms “aggressive Russian policy”, “war” and “atomic bombs”, which were then concatenated together to form the notion that Russell advocated a preventive nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.

A closer examination of the talk in printed form23 shows that Russell clearly formulated his proposal as a conditional. But more importantly, the conditional formulation was part of a more general enumeration of cases which, I believe, is essential to the philosophy of non-absolute pacifism. The task for the absolute pacifist is to organize opposition to each and any war. But the non-absolute pacifist has to analyze cases to determine when a war may exceptionally be justified. Once Russell had concluded that the Soviet Union under Stalin represented a sufficient threat to western civilization to fall under the exception clause, he had to consider the various alternatives. In what follows, he uses both disjunction to exhaustively enumerate possible cases, and implication to propose actions appropriate to each:

The question is whether there is to be war or whether there is not; and there is only one course of action open to us. That is to strengthen the Western Alliance morally and physically as much and as quickly as possible, and hope it may become obvious to the Russians that they can’t make war successfully. If there is war, it should be won as quickly as possible. That is the line of policy which the Western Nations are now pursuing. (P. 41, italics added, with “IS” in the second italicized passage being italicized in the original)

Russell believed that in either case (war, or no war), the preferred policy was one of Western strength. In the best case scenario, this would dissuade the Russians from initiating war, while in the worst case scenario, this would make for as brief a war as possible. In what follows, I will refer to the best case scenario as case (d), for reasons to be explained below. The most controversial part of his talk was the following response to the question: “If there is another war, what would be the chances of survival of this country? What would be the economic consequences?” The response, reported in the third person, reformulated the question as considering the alternatives “if the present aggressive Russian policy was persisted in”, and Russell considered three cases (a)–(c). The first two considered war before and after the Russians had the atomic bomb, and the third, laconically termed “submission”, presumed no war, but immediate Western capitulation. What is missing is the fourth possibility: no war, with Russian acquiescence to international controls of atomic energy and a form of world government. This is precisely the alternative I have lettered as (d) above. Neglecting this fourth possibility gives an altogether sinister interpretation to Russell’s reported response:

As he saw it there were three alternatives if the present aggressive Russian policy was persisted in : (a) War with Russia before she has the atomic bombs, ending fairly swiftly and inevitably in a Western victory; (b) war with Russia after she has the atomic bombs, ending again in Western victory, but after frightful carnage, destruction and suffering; (c) Submission. We could say to the Russians “Come in and govern us, establish your concentration camps, do what you like.” This third alternative seemed to him so unutterably unthinkable that it could be dismissed; and as between the other two the choice to him, at least, seemed clear. (P. 43, italics in the original)

It is interesting to note that Russell considered the conditional nature of his response (“if the present aggressive Russian policy was persisted in”) so important, that one of the few corrections to the typescript he made before publication was to specify that those words be italicized. This is because the three cases (a)–(c) presupposed that condition; while a fourth case—labelled (d) above—presupposed the opposite condition: that Russian policy changed. Russell’s full analysis can be summarized in the table below, with indication of his clearly expressed preferences for each scenario:


(a) War / Before USSR has atom bomb / Ends swiftly with Western victory. / (2) Preferred to atomic war once USSR has the bomb.

(b) War / After USSR has atom bomb / Much more destruction than in immediately preceding case. / (3) Preferred to capitulation.

(c) No war / West submits to the Soviets / Capitulation of West, destruction of Western civilization. / (4) Least preferred of all options.

(d) No war / Soviets agree to atomic energy control and some form of international government / Can only be achieved by Western preparedness to show Soviets they can’t win war. / (1) Preferred to all other options.

A reasonable hypothesis to explain Lawson’s interpretation of the talk is that members of the audience simply retained cases (a)–(c) based on their recollection of the last part of the talk—the question period—without recalling case (d), which was mentioned earlier in the body of the talk. Although Russell had carefully formulated his proposals in the conditional, making explicit the conditions that first had to be realized before the consequent actions were to be undertaken, Lawson appears to have stripped away the terms “if … then …” and remembered the talk as a series of affirmations. Both of these effects have contributed to the continuing myth that Russell advocated preventive atomic war, when in fact what he did was enumerate possible cases and propose conditional responses, including the use of threats of war as a strategic policy in the existing circumstances.
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Part 2 of 3


I will term Russell’s methodology for analyzing the international situation as “enumeration of cases”, where he considers three factors in developing his strategy: the logical possibilities or scenarios, the likelihood or probability of each, and their desirability both intrinsically and realistically. In another article the same year as his Westminster School talk, “The Outlook for Mankind” (1948),24 Russell began: “Let us begin by enumerating the logical possibilities, without regard to the question whether they are probable or desirable” (p. 238). He distinguished six possibilities, three of which involved no world war, and three of which did, as follows:

Let us begin by enumerating the logical possibilities, without regard to the question whether they are probable or desirable.

First: Russia may convert the Capitalist world, and a Communist empire extend over the whole earth.

Second: Russia may revert to Capitalism, and take to willing co-operation with the West.

Third: Each side may concede to the other a definite sphere, and the world may be divided as the medieval world was divided, between Christendom and Islam, perhaps with occasional minor conflicts as inconclusive and peripheral as the Crusades.

These three possibilities do not involve a world war. If there is a world war, there are three further possibilities:

Fourth: America may be victorious and establish an American world empire.

Fifth: Russia may be victorious and establish a Communist world empire.

Sixth: The war may end in a draw, after which, presumably, each side will prepare for the next bout; or, possibly, they may belatedly revert to the third possibility, as was done at the Peace of Westphalia after the Thirty Years’ War.

Russell then evaluated the likelihood of each of these possibilities. He considered case 1 (Russia converts the West) and case 2 (Russia reverts to capitalism) highly unlikely, given the tenacity with which both Americans and Russians then asserted their respective systems. Case 3 (modus vivendi and long-term world division) also seemed unlikely, given Russell’s view that the Russians were insincere in their calls for co-existence. Significantly, however, this possibility was deemed less unlikely than the previous two, with the result that Russell was able to value it as a preference. Of the three war options, case 4 (America victorious) was considered the likely outcome by Americans and by Russell, case 5 (Russia victorious) was considered the likely outcome by the Russians only, while case 6 (draw that prepares yet another war) was not rated, though the possibility that it might not lead to another war was considered.

Russell’s crystal ball was not as good as he might have hoped, as case 3 (coexistence of both systems) did come to pass in the period 1949-91, followed by case 2 (collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union). But the probabilities Russell assigned are less important than the preferences he associated with each case, with the one exception that he excluded evaluating scenarios that were deemed highly improbable:

The above review of possibilities has been necessary before considering what we should attempt and what it is permissible to hope. It seems to result from our survey that what would be best would be an agreement to partition the world and not interfere in each other’s zones; next to that, a war soon, ending in an American victory; next, a Russian victory; and, worst of all, a draw. (P. 243)

In summary form, Russell’s analysis looks as follows:


A: No War

1: USSR converts world to Communism / Highly improbable / Not ranked as the likelihood is so small.

2: USSR reverts to capitalism / Highly improbable / Not ranked as the likelihood is so small.

3: Division of world into stable and separate blocs / Unlikely / (1) First preference, most preferred since it does not involve war.

B. War

4: American victory / Believed likely by Americans and Russell / (2) Desirable, second preference, since it involves victory of liberty, albeit at the price of war.

5: Russian victory / Believed likely only by Russians, not Americans or Russell / (3) Undesirable, but third ranked preference compared to the next, worst outcome.

6: Inconclusive, leading to further (fourth) world war (or possibly, reverting to case 3 situation) / None stated / (4) Most unwelcome outcome, could lead to annihilation of humanity in subsequent war.

And he noted, that while he considered it possible to avoid war, he doubted whether it was likely:

The only possible way, so far as I can see, of avoiding a war between Russia and America, is to make it obvious to the Russian Government that, in a war, America would be victorious. It is obvious that the Marshall Plan, combined with a West-European Union, gives the best hope of this, as well as of bringing victory to the West if there is a war. But for the reasons already given it is very difficult to persuade the Russians that they would not win. I do not myself believe that it is possible to persuade them, and therefore I expect a war. Nevertheless, we should do all in our power to make the Russians afraid of war. Fortunately, the measures necessary to that end are exactly the same as those involved in preparing for war if it should come, namely to build up the economic and military strength of Western Europe in close alliance with the United States.25 (Ibid., p. 243, italics added)

From the above analysis, three conclusions follow: (1) Russell’s conditional threat was not dependent on his analysis of the probability of compliance by Russia, (2) Russell continued to prefer a non-war solution, despite the low probability he assigned it, and (3) he continued to favour a policy of threats as a means of preserving peace.


An interesting analysis of this type of problem is made by the ethicist R. M. Hare, who has argued that it is not always the case that “what it would be wrong to do, it would be wrong to threaten to do.”26 The key to his analysis is the point that “it seems to me that there could be, and well may be now, situations in which the expectation of utility, that is, of preference-satisfaction, would be maximized by making threats the carrying out of which would not maximize utility” (ibid., p. 77). Hare does not discuss Russell’s views, but his analysis can be made explicit as follows. There are four cases to be examined, corresponding to the four combinations of threat/no threat and war/no war: (1) no threat and no war, (2) no threat and war, (3) threat and no war, and (4) threat and war. Preponderance of benefits from the pacifist point of view is obtained in the two no-war cases (1) and (3), while preponderance of risks is incurred in the two war cases (2) and (4). Benefit may be considered as positive utility, risk as negative utility.

-- / NO WAR / WAR

No threat / (1) Spontaneous success of coexistence / (2) Failure of appeasement and isolationism

Threat / (3) Success of threat as pressure tactic / (4) Failure of threat to prevent war

Russell’s position was that it was worth taking the risk involved in case (3), of threat made, but war prevented. On Hare’s analysis, this would be justified only if two inequalities hold:

(i) The benefit involved in not making a threat and no war resulting (success of spontaneous coexistence, case 1) is less than the risk that not making a threat will only hasten war (failure of appeasement and/or isolationism, case 2). Russell believed that coexistence without a threat was unlikely, given Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe, so that its overall value as an option was low. At the same time, he considered the likelihood of war as great without a threat, based on the analogy to pre-war appeasement by Britain and isolationism by the US. In other words, not threatening produced more risk of war than benefit of peace, and should be avoided. This does not, in itself, justify threatening, which has to be analyzed on its own terms.

(ii) The benefit of threatening war, without having war (threat of war as preventive, case 3) is greater than the risk that threatening war will lead to war (failure of threat to prevent war, case 4). Conditional threat of war might result in the Soviet Union backing down, thereby achieving the aim of the threat and preserving peace. But even if war did result, the outcome was likely to be favourable to the West and the war to be over quickly, so the failure of the threat to obtain its immediate goal—peaceful coexistence—would lead to the success in the next round of the “game”—Western supremacy.

Much depends on how the threat/war box (case 4) is viewed. For Russell, the war outcome was a failure of the paradoxical strategy of threats of war to prevent actual war. But for his critics, this box should be labelled “preventive war”, since on their view the threat of war was simply a ruse behind which lay the intention of waging preventive war. I argue that Russell favoured case (3): threaten war to prevent war; his critics claim that he actually favoured case (4), interpreted as advocacy of preventive war. This misalignment of perceptions also played a role in the problem of Russell’s denials.


One final aspect of the controversy remains to be analyzed: Russell’s repeated denials—and worse than that, occasional retractions of his denials—of having advocated preventive atomic war with the Soviet Union. These have seemed to most of his readers and critics as self-serving, and an indication that there was something to hide. Rather than constituting smoke screens behind which he tried to maintain his newfound respectability with the Labour Party as Ray Monk has claimed (see below), they rather show Russell trying, though not very successfully, to set the record right, and then succumbing to some, though not all, of the misunderstandings of his critics.

There are three distinct periods in Russell’s analysis of his own statements: (1) an initial period, roughly from 1948 to 1953, when he was generally correct in stating that he supported CTW and denying that he approved of APW; (2) the period 1954-59 when under continued pressure by critics, he misstated his own views in meta-statements about them; (3) a third period, 1959-59, when Russell then repeated these more or less inaccurate accounts as if they were what he had actually stated in 1945-49.
The problems involved in the second and third periods do not, however, modify the content of what Russell stated as his policy, and admitted with a high degree of accuracy during the first period.


The very first of Russell’s denials was made immediately after the Westminster School talk in 1948. Although Russell had made similar statements on the threat of war on many previous occasions, it was this case which attracted the most attention, in part based on a very unfavourable report in Reynolds News.27 One of the first places that Russell attempted to repair the damage was at his alma mater, Cambridge (where he had attended Trinity College and had been teaching since 1944). The 27 November 1948 edition of Varsity, a Cambridge Weekly Newspaper, headlined, “Earl Russell Denies Atom War Reports: Misquoted in London Press, Did Not Say ‘Attack Russia’”. Russell, as he was to do again later, attacked the report as an “intentional misrepresentation”. In particular, Russell rejected the claim that he had ever said: “Either we must have a war against Russia before she has the atom bomb or we will have to lie down and let them govern us.” This is a denial of APW. An examination of the text of Russell’s speech, both in typescript and as printed, shows that Russell did not make the quoted comment, though, curiously, Ray Monk, following Caroline Moorehead, quotes him as if he had.28

To the contrary, Russell continued, stating a version of CTW: “What I really said was that it was infinitely to be hoped that there would be no war, but that the best way to avoid war was to be prepared for it.” He further admitted that at the end of the meeting he declared “that in the event of war our chance would be better while we had a monopoly of the atom bomb.”29 This is not in contradiction to CTW. Rather, it expresses Russell’s preference for a less destructive rather than a more destructive war, if war were to occur. Such a less destructive war, given the evolution of weapons of mass destruction, would also be earlier rather than later.

In a letter to The Observer (28 Nov. 1948), Russell continued his response to the fallout from the Westminster School address, situating the distinction as between urging immediate war, i.e. preventive war, and urging the threat of war. “I did not, as has been reported, urge immediate war with Russia. I did urge that the democracies should be prepared to use force if necessary, and that their readiness to do so should be made perfectly clear to Russia.”30 Again, he admitted CTW and denied APW.

For his Nobel Prize speech of 11 December 1950, Russell chose as his topic “What Desires Are Politically Important”. Noting that a major psychological source of war was the unfulfilled desire for adventure, he proposed, only partly in jest, that large cities should have venues for such thrill seekers that would satisfy their desires without recourse to war, and he suggested two: artificial waterfalls with fragile canoes, and bathing pools filled with mechanical sharks. He continued: “Any person found advocating a preventive war should be condemned to two hours a day with these ingenious monsters.”31 This does not appear as a self-criticism, so certain was Russell that he had not advocated preventive war in the previous period.

In 1951 Russell responded to a criticism made of him the previous year in the New Statesman. In the 18 November 1950 issue, “Critic” had noted: “After the last war, even more deeply troubled by the spread of communism than he was by the power of Rome which he had often denounced, he decided that it would be both good morals and good politics to start dropping nuclear bombs on Moscow.”32 Russell demanded, and was given, a lengthy reply, in the form of a letter printed in the 21 April 1951 issue. Russell reproduced a number of quotes from his writings in favour of peace, and added in conclusion that he had advanced CTW:

I will admit that at one time I had hopes of a shorter road to general peace. At the time of the Baruch proposal for internationalizing atomic energy, I thought it possible that the Russians might be induced by threats to agree to this proposal and thereby to save the world from the atomic armaments race upon which it is now embarked. But this hope proved vain. After the Berlin blockade and the rape of Czechoslovakia I stated emphatically, what I still hold, that the Russians ought to be informed that the West would not tolerate further aggressions of this sort. (P. 450, italics added)

In 1952 Russell was questioned by journalists at the Fleet Street Forum and the transcript was published as How Near Is War? The relevant question he was asked was phrased in terms of an “ultimatum”: “Not long ago you were quoted as demanding that the West should send the Russians an ultimatum that they should either toe the line or have an atom bomb dropped on them. Will you tell us whether you were misreported and, if not, what accounts for the slight difference between that line and the one you now advocate?” (p. 18). Russell responded with a contextualization of his CTW to the Russian refusal to accept the internationalization of atomic energy:

I thought, at the time, there was something to be said for trying to bully the Russians into accepting that Baruch report. Of course that situation has now gone, entirely. First of all the Russians also have the atom bomb; in the second place the Americans are no longer in that mood—you cannot give those terms any longer. (P. 19, italics added)

On 17 October 1953 Russell’s letter to a correspondent who had queried him on this question was reprinted, with Russell’s permission, in the Nation. He once again denied APW, this time citing it as a “Communist invention”. “The story that I supported a preventive atom war against Russia is a Communist invention. I once spoke at a meeting at which only one reporter was present and he was a Communist, though reporting for orthodox newspapers.”33 This is a denial of APW, but it became a problem in 1959 when Russell, in response to a criticism by a correspondent, incorrectly believed that he had denied CTW in this letter (see below).

The clearest exposition of his position was made in an article published in March 1958, “Why I Have Changed My Mind”, and reproduced as an appendix, entitled “Inconsistency?”, in his 1959 book, Common Sense and Nuclear Warfare. Referring to the period surrounding the Baruch proposal, he admitted CTW: “I thought, at that time, that it would be worth while to bring pressure to bear upon Russia and even, if necessary, to go so far as to threaten war on the sole issue of the internationalizing of atomic energy.”34 He continued: “My aim, then as now, was to prevent a war.” And he concluded: “I do not deny that the policy I have advocated has changed from time to time. It has changed as circumstances have changed” (p. 91). This summary is interesting, both for its emphasis on the obligation Russell felt to change his political views as the world changed, and for his continued insistence that what he had done was propose a policy of threatening Russia.

Biographers of Russell who have paid careful attention to his published words and studied his archival letters, such as Clark and Monk, are nonetheless not satisfied. Speaking of the 1948 Westminster speech, Clark commented:

Nowhere in all this did Russell urge, in so many words, the starting of preventive war, while the qualifying “if ” about Russian intentions added a conditional that many reports ignored; nevertheless, emphasis on the obvious fact that a war before Russia had nuclear weapons would be less disastrous than war afterwards was perilously close to it. (P. 525)

And he later commented with respect to Russell’s statement of his position for the 1952 Fleet Street interview:

The statement—which overlooked Russell’s advocacy of finding a casus belli long before the Baruch proposals—was not formally a plea for preventive war; but complete dissociation from the policy demanded a considerable semantic wiggle. (P. 526)

Whether Russell was indeed “perilously close” to APW and just a “semantic wiggle” away from it, Clark nevertheless admitted that formally, Russell did not advance it. But when Clark, and other commentators, considered a further set of statements by Russell, where confusions between CTW and APW were made by Russell himself, and where he claimed he had forgotten having made statements threatening war, willingness to give Russell the benefit of the doubt failed.


The second period I identify is characterized by two criticisms made of Russell’s inconsistencies, one in 1954 and another in 1959. Whereas in the first period (1948-53) Russell had focused directly on what he had said in 1945-49, he now was forced to defend what he said he had said in his preceding clarifications. In this situation of meta-claims, mistakes began to accumulate. In particular, Russell admitted that (1) he had stated APW when in fact he had stated CPW; (2) believed that he had stated CTW only privately in 1948, when he in fact he had stated it on numerous public occasions; and (3) claimed that he had forgotten ever having formulated CTW, until reminded by readers who published letters from him which contained anti-Soviet statements.

The young ought to be temperate in the use of this great art [lying] until practice and experience shall give them that confidence, elegance, and precision which alone can make the accomplishment graceful and profitable. Patience, diligence, painstaking attention to detail -- these are the requirements; these, in time, will make the student perfect; upon these, and upon these only, may he rely as the sure foundation for future eminence. Think what tedious years of study, thought, practice, experience, went to the equipment of that peerless old master who was able to impose upon the whole world the lofty and sounding maxim that "Truth is mighty and will prevail"-- the most majestic compound fracture of fact which any of woman born has yet achieved. For the history of our race, and each individual's experience, are sewn thick with evidences that a truth is not hard to kill, and that a lie well told is immortal.

-- "Advice to Youth," by Mark Twain 15 April 1882

In “A Prescription for the World”, which appeared in The Saturday Review in August 1954, Russell announced the shift in his strategy to a campaign against the danger of nuclear omnicide. The changed circumstances of the destructive power of hydrogen-bomb war now precluded any form of threat of war: “Organized war, an institution which has existed for some six thousand years, has at last become incompatible with the continued existence of the human race.” 35 Walter Marseille, the Berkeley psychiatrist to whom Russell had written a letter on the danger of the Soviet Union in 1948, forwarded that letter to the Saturday Review, which published it, along with Russell’s reply, as “1948 Russell vs. 1954 Russell”.36 The accompanying editorial note indicated that Russell’s 1954 article “appeared to reject” the “aggressive anti-Soviet policy” which he had expressed in 1948. In the letter to Marseille, Russell had argued that as a result of a war with Russia, Western Europe “will be lost to civilization for centuries”, and went on to say:

Even at such a price, I think war would be worthwhile. Communism must be wiped out, and world government must be established. But if, by waiting, we could defend our present lines in Germany and Italy, it would be an immeasurable boon.

I do not think the Russians will yield without war. I think all (including Stalin) are fatuous and ignorant. But I hope I am wrong about this. (8 May 1948; SLBR, 2: 429)

This strong expression of personal opinion was not unique. Russell’s intense dislike for Stalinist Russia was evident in his personal letters written immediately after the war, particularly those to his close confident Gamel Brenan and her husband, Gerald. Writing from Trinity College to Gamel Brenan just two days after VE day, Russell was gloomy and pessimistic about the future:

This “Victory” is dreadful. Hatred of everybody by everybody, Germans to be homeless and starving, Russia already taking on the role the Nazis were playing, the next war already clearly in prospect. I have not at any time felt more unhappy than now. (10 May 1945, RA Rec. Acq. 705)

Russell’s attitude did not improve in the following months, and his mind appeared quite set on the notion that Russia was going to occupy the role as destroyer of civilization that the Nazis had been forced to vacate. His pessimism was reinforced by the reality of the A-bombs, which had been dropped on Japan just weeks before this note was sent by Russell to Brenan:

I see very little hope for the world. There is no point in agreements not to use the atomic bomb, as they would not be kept. Russia is sure to learn soon how to make it. I think Stalin has inherited Hitler’s ambition for world dictatorship. We must expect a war between USA and USSR, which will begin with the total destruction of London. I think the war will last 30 years, and leave a world without civilized people, from which everything will have to be built afresh—a process taking (say) 500 years. (1 Sept. 1945; SLBR, 2: 410)

In the same letter he expressed himself most clearly about his personal wish, in the depths of his gloom and pessimism, for a swift resolution to the danger of Soviet Russia. Yet the words that follow, though they represent Russell’s feelings or state of mind, do not constitute a policy he would ever “dream of advocating”: a preventive atomic war of the US against the USSR:

There is one thing, and one only, which could save the world, and that is a thing which I should not dream of advocating. It is, that America should make war on Russia during the next two years, and establish a world empire by means of the atomic bomb. This will not be done. (Ibid., italics added)

Here there is no conditional formulation; merely a desire for an action. Expressed in a personal letter this is no more than what one might ordinarily expect from such a form of communication: indicating to a close personal friend a fear for the future.37 Moreover, Russell very early on states that he does not intend to advocate unconditional, or preventive war. But when a similar expression of Russell’s views appeared in the letter to Marseille, it seemed to Marseille, many commentators, and indeed even Russell at times, to be a case of Russell’s advocacy of preventive war with the USSR. Indeed, given Russell’s imperative, “Communism must be wiped out …”, it could easily be seen by a reader as APW, had it been made in a public statement of Russell’s policy, which—significantly—it was not.

The context of the 1948 letter to Marseille may explain its vociferous tone.
8 May 1948, when the letter was sent, was just weeks after the beginning of the Soviet blockade of West Berlin, and about a month before the relief of the city was undertaken through the US-led airlift. Russell was particularly attuned to the plight of the German civilian population after World War II, and had denounced Soviet mistreatment of them in the harshest terms. Consequently, it is not surprising that Russell used such strong language in his letter to Marseille, given the recent action of the Soviet authorities to prevent food and supplies reaching the people of West Berlin.

In his 1954 response to Marseille, Russell admitted having favoured a policy of threats after the Soviet rejection of the Baruch proposal: “I thought at the time that perhaps the Russians could be compelled to accept the offer by the threat of war in the event of their continued refusal.” This is recognition that he did advance CTW. He went on to note that times had changed, with the Russian acquisition of the bomb: “Those who still advocate war seem to me to be living in a fool’s paradise.” Russell continued that he did “not now, any more than at an earlier time, advocate appeasement or a slackening in rearmament, since either might encourage the Communist powers in aggressive designs and would therefore make war more likely.”38 The impression that an unsympathetic reader would take away from this exchange was that Russell had admitted defending APW, reading “advocate war” for “advocate preventive war”. This use of “advocate”, however, is ambiguous as between “advocate conditional threat of war” (CTW) and “advocate the waging of preventive war” (APW).

This ambiguity persisted in his 1959 interview with John Freeman on the BBC.39 Freeman asked Russell if he had defended APW: “Is it true or untrue that in recent years you advocated that a preventive war might be made against communism, against Soviet Russia?” Russell responded: “It’s entirely true, and I don’t repent of it.” This seems to be an admission of APW, but Russell went on to say that despite his disappointment with the Soviet rejection of the Baruch plan, he had proposed CTW, not APW: “… not that I advocated a nuclear war, but I did think that great pressure should be put upon Russia to accept the Baruch proposal, and I did think that if they continued to refuse it might be necessary actually to go to war.” He readily admitted that making a threat presupposes that it may have to be carried out: “I thought then, and hoped, that the Russians would give way, but of course you can’t threaten unless you’re prepared to have your bluff called” (p. 505, italics added).

The problem of what may be called (on analogy to the previous case) 1954 Russell vs. 1953 Russell was noted almost immediately by a reader of The Listener, Winthrop Parkhurst, who returned to the advocate/threaten debate. He began with a quote from Russell’s 17 October 1953 letter to The Nation denying that he had ever supported a preventive war: “The story that I supported a preventive atom war against Russia is a communist invention.” Parkhurst then quoted from Russell’s 1954 letter to The Saturday Review to the effect that “I thought, at that time, that it would be worth while to bring pressure to bear upon Russia, and even, if necessary to threaten war on the sole issue of the internationalizing of atomic weapons.”

Russell in 1953 denied APW, while in 1954 he admitted CTW. But this was not Parkhurst’s reading: “Mr. Russell may not like to explain how, having formerly advocated preventive war, he can charge a reporter with writing a slanderous report of such advocacy” (ibid.). In other words, Parkhurst read Russell as denying APW in 1953 (which he did) and then admitting APW in 1954 (which he did not), and incorrectly concluded that he was inconsistent.

In response, Russell complicated the problem by accepting that there was in fact a contradiction: that his having “at one time favoured a policy of threats against Soviet Russia which might have led to war” did not “accord” with his 1953 letter to The Nation. To further muddle the matter, he affirmed that he had “completely forgotten that I had ever thought a policy of threat involving possible war desirable”, the fact of which was supposedly brought to his attention by Walter Marseille in 1954. Not only did Russell now agree that there was a conflict between what he said in 1954 and what he said in 1953, when in fact there was not, but he added a reason for it—forgetting that he had favoured a policy of CTW—which contradicted his many statements of the threat, as well as his admission on almost as many occasions that he had made the threat. It was at this point that even a sympathetic biographer such as Clark could only express dismay and endorse the view that Russell had stated APW and was trying to hide it. In this context, Clark returned to a comment Russell had made in a 1945 publication, before the Baruch plan, about finding a “casus belli” if the Soviet Union did not desist in its aggressive activities, and combined this with the 1959 statements, to conclude:

His explanation that he had simply forgotten what he had said, given in The Listener after the Freeman interview, and later in his autobiography, would be more acceptable if applied to one speech rather than to a long series of articles and statements, the first made months before the appearance of the Baruch proposals. It might be possible to argue that his disavowal of advocating preventive war was based on the most academic interpretation of the term: that advocating the threat of war unless a potential enemy submitted, even though being prepared to have your bluff called, was not advocacy of a preventive war. But even this questionable escape-route is blocked by Russell’s own statement to Freeman and to his earlier suggestion that “a casus belli would not be difficult to find”.40 (Clark, pp. 529–30)

Clark concluded that the “truth seems simpler”: Russell was trying to “brush under the carpet” his bellicose period, now that, after 1955 and the Einstein–Russell declaration, he was again an advocate of peace. Monk as well loses what little patience he may have had for Russell at this point, and sees the 1959 Freeman interview and letter in response to Parkhurst as the culmination of a long period of Russell’s attempt to cover-up his “war-like pronouncements” (Monk, 2: 303), initiated after the 1948 Westminster speech in order to protect his new-found respectability with the British Labour Party. Typically, Monk segues into a discussion of Russell’s unhappy personal life, and leaves the matter at that.

Of Russell’s major biographers, Clark is by far the more detailed and analytic in his discussion of the period. But for him, as for Monk, the 1959 “muddle” is the reductio ad absurdum of Russell’s position. I disagree, and suggest a different explanation as follows. Russell found himself in an untenable situation. Despite his accurate denials of APW and ready admission of CTW, the matter was continually brought up as if it were discovered anew. His exasperation increased through the later part of the 1950s, to the point where, unwisely, he was willing to admit to APW if that admission would dissipate the hostility and allow him to explain why he had, in fact, favoured CTW.

The use of the term “advocate war” was a further source of confusion, and eventually, even to Russell, came to signify either APW or CTW. In practice, the distinction meant little in the new period of the hydrogen-bomb arms race begun in 1954, and Russell shifted strategy to take into account this new international situation where the threat of war was no longer justified. But theoretically, and for historical purposes, the distinction remains capital. The impression of wrongdoing— ultimately, of advocating preventive war—as evidenced by a perceived effort to hide the past or cover it up was established in the minds of commentators, and passed into Russell scholarship with Clark’s otherwise excellent, archivally based biography.


Although Russell correctly stated his position as late as 1958, in the article “Why I Have Changed My Mind”, reprinted as “Inconsistency?”, the Freeman–Parkhurst confrontation caused him to present his positions differently thereafter. Three types of errors occur in this period: (1) Russell’s claim that he proposed conditional threat of war only in 1948, (2) that the threat was made only in private letters and conversation, and (3) that he had forgotten about having made the threat until reminded by correspondents.

In August 1960 Russell dictated to his wife, Edith Russell, a document to be sent to Russell’s publisher, Sir Stanley Unwin, entitled “Bertrand Russell’s Work for Peace”. In a portion of the document formulated in the first person, and in Edith Russell’s hand, Russell stated his erroneous claim that he had made CTW only privately, in 1948:

1948-50. While America had a monopoly of atomic weapons, I favoured the Baruch Plan, which would have entailed their abandonment by the United States and an undertaking by Russia to abstain from making them. When Russia refused to adhere to the Baruch Plan, I thought that the United States could compel adherence, if necessary by the threat of war. (I never urged this publicly, but only stated this view in private correspondence—since published— and conversation. (6 Aug. 1960; p. 3 of the dictated manuscript; p. 2 of the typescript in the third person, italics added; RAI 220.024190)

Russell maintained the same position in 1962 when he was queried by a schoolboy who had refused to join the Cadet Corps.41 This was a protest against war for which he was inspired by Russell’s writings and example. The young man, Christopher Perry, stated: “The other day I became involved in an argument with a Commander of the Navy and he advises me not to believe anything Bertrand Russell has to say because soon after the war he advocated war with Russia, then H-bomb-less, which is inconsistent with the present cause” (undated letter of June 1962). Russell responded, pointing out that his views changed as the underlying circumstances that prompted those views themselves changed: “Of course, I have changed my views on things. In ninety years events have changed as well.” He then continued:

I said privately that it should even be said that this issue [the Baruch Plan] was of such importance that we might consider war were an atomic race to be instituted. I did not advocate a war with Russia; I urged that the terrible urgency of the issue be impressed upon Stalin so that he might realise just how seriously the Baruch plan was desired by the West. Since the arms race itself has taken place the very fears which motivated me to urge so strongly the internationalization of atomic power have led me to call for immediate halt before the danger becomes final death for us all. (13 June 1962, first italics added; RAI 630)

A similar exchange occurred with Miriam Dyer-Bennett where Russell stated, in response to her query on his earlier positions:

I advocated that the Soviets should be informed in 1948 of the tremendous importance of the proposal to internationalize atomic energy, and to be warned that the consequences of not coming to agreement on this would be a disastrous arms race. I urged those who supported the internationalization of atomic energy to inform the Soviets that the consequences of failure to agree might be war. I did not propose an attack upon the Soviet Union, but an ultimately serious effort to avert what then seemed to be an inevitable arms race, the consequences of which we are now experiencing. (14 Sept. 1962, italics added; RA Rec. Acq. 236)

When Dyer-Bennett indicated that she would share his letter with others, Russell responded: “I am most pleased that you found my letter of use to you and I should be in your debt if you could contribute towards putting the lie to the fiction that I have advocated war against the Soviet Union” (21 Oct. 1962).

Russell’s final public statement on the matter was in Volume 3 of his Autobiography. Russell remained unrepentant that he had at one time favoured a policy of CTW, claiming that had his “advice to threaten war been taken in 1948”, the “evils” that have developed as a result of the Cold War “might have been avoided” (p. 8). This is a consequentialist argument for CTW, but Russell continued as if CTW had been made only in 1948, and then only privately:

None the less, at the time I gave this advice, I gave it so casually without any real hope that it would be followed, that I soon forgot I had given it. I had mentioned it in a private letter [to Walter Marseille] and again in a speech [at Westminster School] that I did not know was to be subject of dissection by the press.… Unfortunately, in the meantime, before this incontrovertible evidence was set before me [that he had favoured CTW, by Marseille, in 1954], I had hotly denied that I had ever made such a suggestion [denial of APW in 1953]. (Auto., 3: 18; identification of references in square brackets added)

The layers of confusion in this, Russell’s last statement on the matter, were no doubt exasperating to biographers from Clark through Moorehead to Monk. But many a great thinker has been known to be a poor chronicler of the evolution of his own thought, and autobiographies, though valuable, are not the final word. After all, the Darwin industry would soon be put out of work if it were to accept his own view, as stated in his Autobiography, that the idea of natural selection came to him one day while reading Malthus’ On Population. The actual story is a bit more complicated. So too for Russell, and the fact that, after a period of repeatedly correct presentations of his views (1948-53), he caved in under the weight of his critics’ misunderstandings and his own inability to dissuade them from those misunderstandings (1954-59), and partially misrepresented his own views thereafter (1959-67), does not change what his views originally were. Russell summed up most accurately his view as follows, reading “pacifist” in the context below as “absolute pacifist”:

This advice of mine is still brought up against me. It is easy to understand why Communists might object to it. But the usual criticism is that I, a pacifist, once advocated the threat of war. It seems to cut no ice that I have reiterated ad nauseam that I am not a pacifist, that I believe that some wars, a very few, are justified, even necessary. They are usually necessary because matters have been permitted to drag on their obviously evil way till no peaceful means can stop them. (Auto., 3: 18)

The “usual criticism” that Russell was inconsistent because, although a pacifist, he once advocated preventive war needs to be rejected for a variety of reasons. Firstly, Russell was a non-absolute pacifist who admitted, exceptionally, the support of some wars; so he was not a “pacifist” in the usual sense of the term. Secondly, his support for the conditional threat of war was not advocacy of preventive war. Rather, it was the key component in a strategic plan to force the USSR to accept international control of atomic energy, relinquish territorial ambitions in Europe, and participate in an embryonic form of world government. The aim of this strategy was to avert or to prevent world war, not to advocate the waging of a preventive war. Thirdly, Russell’s policy was specific to a period of time, 1945-49, when Russell believed that it would either bring about the desired result—Soviet acquiescence—or better prepare the West for a defence of its basic values in the face of Soviet aggression. Fourthly, Russell in his statements up to 1959 was consistent in admitting that he favoured a policy of conditional threat of war, even if during the period after 1959 he incorrectly stated that he voiced this policy only in 1948 and only in private. Finally, when the international situation changed and the nuclear arms race between the two superpowers risked an atomic holocaust, Russell shifted his strategy to take this new reality into account, not because he regretted or wanted to hide his previous policy, but because changed circumstances demanded a changed policy. All through these shifts in strategy, there remained one constant to which these strategies were subordinate, as means to an end: the goal of international government to advance the cause of world peace.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Tue Apr 21, 2020 7:43 am

Part 3 of 3



1 The period covered goes from the end of World War II to the explosion of the Soviet A-bomb in 1949. Russell’s support of what I term “conditional threat of war” continued as late as 1952.

2 The major discussions start with Wood, Chap. 22. Clark devotes a chapter to the matter, “19: Towards a Short War with Russia?” I. F. Stone had drawn new attention to this problem in a 1972 talk at the Bertrand Russell Centenary Celebrations at McMaster University; see Stone, “Bertrand Russell as a Moral Force in World Politics”, Russell, n.s.1 (1981): 7-26. Moorehead visits the topic in her Chap. 17, pp. 467ff. Monk considers it in Monk, 2: Chap. 9, “The Bomb Goes Off”, which also deals with aspects of Russell’s philosophy and family life at the time. For Lackey and Perkins, see note 18; for Lawson and Griffin, note 22.

3 Russell’s non-absolute pacifism was already evident in “The Ethics of War”, written at the beginning of World War I, and reprinted in Justice in War-Time (Chicago: Open Court, 1916); also Papers 13. Russell identified four types of wars: “(1) Wars of Colonization; (2) Wars of Principle; (3) Wars of Self-Defence; (4) Wars of Prestige”, and he indicated that some wars of the first two categories had been justified [i.e., "SNOW IS BLACK"], but only in the past, and only insofar as they had advanced the cause of civilization; his focus in the paper as a whole was to oppose the then raging First World War. During the Second World War, Russell supported resistance to Hitler, considering that the ferocity of the Nazi attack on Western civilization constituted the special and exceptional conditions that justified war to defeat it, as he stated in his letter “Dr. Russell Denies Pacifism”, The New York Times, 27 Jan. 1941, p. 14, which was subtitled by the editor “Believes, as Always, That Some Wars Are Justified and Others Are Not”. For a theoretical presentation of Russell’s non-absolute pacifism, see his article “The Future of Pacifism”, American Scholar, 13 (winter 1943-44): 7-13. The issue is discussed at length in my article, “Russell, Einstein and the Philosophy of Non-Absolute Pacifism”, Russell, n.s. 20 (2000): 101-28.

Pacifism. [i.e., "SNOW IS WHITE"] The belief that any violence, including war, is unjustifiable under any circumstances, and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means.

-- Google Dictionary

What is essential in mass psychology is the art of persuasion. If you compare a speech of Hitler's with a speech of (say) Edmund Burke, you will see what strides have been made in the art since the eighteenth century. What went wrong formerly was that people had read in books that man is a rational animal, and framed their arguments on this hypothesis. We now know that limelight and a brass band do more to persuade than can be done by the most elegant train of syllogisms. It may be hoped that in time anybody will be able to persuade anybody of anything if he can catch the patient young and is provided by the State with money and equipment.

This subject will make great strides when it is taken up by scientists under a scientific dictatorship. Anaxagoras maintained that snow is black, but no one believed him. The social psychologists of the future will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will try different methods of producing an unshakable conviction that snow is black. Various results will soon be arrived at. First, that the influence of home is obstructive. Second, that not much can be done unless indoctrination begins before the age of ten. Third, that verses set to music and repeatedly intoned are very effective. Fourth, that the opinion that snow is white must be held to show a morbid taste for eccentricity.

-- The Impact of Science on Society, by Bertrand Russell

4 Russell, “Humanity’s Last Chance”, Cavalcade, 7, no. 398 (20 Oct. 1945): 8-9.

5 Russell, “[The Situation in Central Europe]”, Parliamentary Debates (Lords), (5), 138 (5 Dec. 1945): cols. 376-80 (at 376).

6 “According to our classification, therefore, tactics teaches the use of armed forces in engagements, and strategy the use of engagements to attain the object of the war” (Carl von Clausewitz, On War [New York: Modern Library, 1943], Book II, Ch. 1, p. 62).

7 Luttwak, Strategy: the Logic of War and Peace, rev. ed. (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard U. P., 2002; 1st ed., 1987).

8 There is, of course, paradox and paradox, in the sense that some paradoxes are simply contradictions. The slogan popularized during World War I, “the war to end all wars”, was vicious in this latter sense: the Allies who put forward this notion had no intent of ending war. Rather they wanted to appeal to those among the public who were not persuaded by the usual patriotic slogans. Immediately after the war, however, the victorious powers imposed such conditions upon the losers as to fairly well guarantee further war, and thereby contributed to the rise of the Nazis in Germany, who exploited the population’s dislike for the crippling reparations.

9 The letters were initially published in The New Statesman, and then printed as a book under the title The Vital Letters of Russell, Krushchev, Dulles (London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1958). By the late 1950s, Russell would argue that submission to the Soviet Union was preferable to war, apparently the exact opposite of what many took his position to be a decade earlier. But the contradiction is only apparent, and in his writings of the late 1950s, Russell maintained that there was yet a third alternative to war or submission: the development of a movement for disarmament and the abolition of war, of which he was a prime participant. Similar to the period under question, those who stripped away Russell’s preferred option, and saw only war or submission, treated him as a partisan of capitulation. But Russell was not arguing “better red than dead” in the following sense: though he did prefer the former to the latter, he considered there was yet another way out of the dilemma.

10 Russell, “The Atomic Bomb and the Prevention of War”, Polemic, no. 4 (July– Aug. 1946): 15-22 (at 21-2).

11 Einstein, “Atomic War or Peace”, Atlantic Monthly, 180, no. 5 (Nov. 1947): 29-32 (at 31).

12 Kennan, under the pseudonym “X”, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct”, Foreign Affairs, 25 (1947): 566-82.

13 For the earlier position, see Russell, “Is a Third World War Inevitable?”, World Horizon, 1, no. 2 (March 1950): 6-9. For his significantly modified policy after 1953, see “The Hydrogen Bomb and World Government”, The Listener, 52 (22 July 1954): 133-4, and, of course, “Man’s Peril from the Hydrogen Bomb”, The Listener, 52 (30 Dec. 1954): 1,135-6.

14 This is the current US Department of Defense definition, reproduced in Christopher Morris, ed., Dictionary of Science and Technology (San Diego: Academic P., 1992). It should be compared with the same source’s definition of pre-emptive attack: “An attack initiated on the basis of incontrovertible evidence that an enemy attack is imminent” (also available online at [last visited 15 Oct. 2002]). Thus, while a pre-emptive attack is a response to an immediate danger and may lead to a full-scale war, a preventive war is a response to a future danger, where the initiator of the war prefers to fight sooner rather than later. The problem with preventive war in theory is the notion that future hostilities are inevitable, presupposing certainty with respect to an opponent’s intentions, an evaluation necessarily biased by the evaluator’s preconceptions. In practice, the doctrine of preventive war easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, since once attacked, the opponent is likely to respond in kind, confirming to the initiator the hostile stance of its opponent. As a result, the notion that preventive war is a justified means of self-defence is dubious at best, and a smoke-screen for aggression at worst.

15 It is important to distinguish between anticipatory self-defence which actually prevents an otherwise unpreventable attack, and the claim to preventive war which merely serves to camouflage an aggressive and/or unnecessary hostile action. International jurisprudence recognizes the criteria set out by US Secretary of State Daniel Webster in 1842, concerning the sinking of an American ship, the Caroline, in 1837 as it was transporting men and supplies to aid the rebels in Upper Canada (present day Ontario). The ship was sunk at night by the British Navy, who claimed a right to armed self-defence since the ship was being used to seize Canadian territory and abet insurrection. In rejecting the British claim, Webster stated that any preventive armed action had to meet the criterion—thereafter known as Webster’s criterion—that the danger was “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means or moment for deliberation” (Webster to Ashburton, 27 July 1842, quoted in “The Caroline and McLeod Cases” by R. Y. Jennings, American Journal of International Law, 32 [1938]: 89). This formulation then found its way into the domain of international law as a statement of the necessary conditions for the justification of pre-emptive attack—see Yoram Dinstein, War, Aggression and Self-Defence, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford U. P., 2001), pp. 218-19.

16 After 1949, the United States rejected preventive war as a cold war strategy against the USSR. The defining national security document of that policy, NSC–68, released on 14 April 1950, pointed out:

Some Americans favor a deliberate decision to go to war against the Soviet Union in the near future. It goes without saying that the idea of “preventive” war—in the sense of a military attack not provoked by a military attack upon us or our allies—is generally unacceptable to Americans….

Apart from this, however, a surprise attack upon the Soviet Union, despite the provocativeness of recent Soviet behavior, would be repugnant to many Americans. Although the American people would probably rally in support of the war effort, the shock of responsibility for a surprise attack would be morally corrosive. Many would doubt that it was a “just war” and that all reasonable possibilities for a peaceful settlement had been explored in good faith. Many more, proportionately, would hold such views in other countries, particularly in Western Europe and particularly after Soviet occupation, if only because the Soviet Union would liquidate articulate opponents. It would, therefore, be difficult after such a war to create a satisfactory international order among nations. Victory in such a war would have brought us little if at all closer to victory in the fundamental ideological conflict.

(Sec. IX, “Possible Courses of Action”, in Ernest R. May, ed., American Cold War Strategy: Interpreting NSC 68 [Boston: Bedford, 1993], pp. 69-70)

Recently, however, in the post-cold war period of the new “war on terrorism”, the Bush administration has revisited and endorsed the preemptive war option, now applied to Iraq and other regimes that it wants to change. The recently released National Security Strategy of the United States declares:

The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction—and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.

(Sec. v. “Prevent Our Enemies from Threatening Us, Our Allies, and Our Friends with Weapons of Mass Destruction”, reprinted in the New York Times, 22 Sept. 2002, online edn.; and at [visited 10 Dec. 2002]).

The consequences of the large-scale deployment of this strategy are ominous.

17 Quoted in William Poundstone, Prisoner’s Dilemma (New York: Doubleday, 1992), p. 4. The proximate source is Steve J. Heims, John von Neumann and Norbert Weiner: from Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death (Cambridge, Mass: MIT P., 1980), p. 247, who refers the ultimate source of the quote to C. Blair, “Passing of a Great Mind”, Life, 25 Feb. 1957. Poundstone sees only a difference in degree between Russell’s statements of threats of war, and von Neumann’s clear advocacy of preventive war.

18 (1) Douglas P. Lackey, “Russell’s Contribution to the Study of Nuclear Weapons Policy”, Russell, n.s. 4 (1984): 243-52; (2) Ray Perkins, Jr., “Bertrand Russell and Preventive War”, Russell, n.s. 14 (1994): 135-53; (3) Lackey, “Reply to Perkins on ‘Conditional Preventive War’”, Russell, n.s. 16 (1996): 85-8; (4) Ray Perkins, Jr., “Response to Lackey on ‘Conditional Preventive War’”, Russell, n.s. 16 (1996): 169-70.

19 Technically, “A unless B” (where A = “We ought to wage war” and B = “The Soviet Union complies”) should be translated in propositional logic as “A is inequivalent to B” (either A or B, but not both). This biconditional can then be broken down into its conjoined conditionals: “If A then not-B” and “If B then not-A”.

20 Lackey describes Russell’s statements for 1946-48 as “threatening a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union” (“Russell’s Contribution to the Study of Nuclear Weapons Policy”, p. 244).

21 See SLBR, 2: 426-8, for a discussion of the period.

22 Lord Lawson, “Bertie and the Bomb”, Letters, The Economist, 4 Aug. 2001, p. 16, in response to the unsigned review of SLBR, Vol. 2, ibid., 21 July 2001, p. 70.

23 Russell, “Atomic Energy and the Problems of Europe”, The Nineteenth Century and After, 115 (1949): 39-43.

24 Horizon, 17 (April 1948): 238-46.

25 This was generally Russell’s view for the period 1948-52. In How Near Is War? (London: Derricke Ridgway, 1952), he estimated at six to four the chances of war (p. 15).

26 Hare, “War and Peace”, in Essays on Political Morality (Oxford: Clarendon Paperbacks, 1989), p. 77.

27 Reported in Reynolds News, 21 Nov. 1948, as “Schoolboy Challenges Bertrand Russell”. The column “What We Think” was devoted to the issue. Entitled “Prophet of Despair”, it was highly critical of Russell, calling his ideas worthy only of a “caveman” (ibid., p. 4.

28 Monk, 2: 302, bases himself on Moorehead, p. 469, but she does not include an endnote reference to this quotation. The source of the quotation is the Reynolds News article which Russell repudiated as false. The quotation does not occur in the article in Nineteenth Century which reproduces Russell’s talk and the ensuing question period. Monk’s failure to note that the quotation is not one made by Russell is unfortunate.

29 And he concluded, “Wherever I go in the country I must watch what I say, for I stand in danger of being grossly misrepresented.” He would need “three months” to undo the damage; the only thing to be fully believed in newspaper reports were “cricket scores and stock exchange prices” (Varsity, 27 Nov. 1948, p. 1). The controversy at Cambridge, as elsewhere, did not go away, and in 1950 Russell felt obliged to resign from the honorary presidency of the Cambridge Labour Club.

30 In Ray Perkins, Jr., ed. Yours Faithfully, Bertrand Russell: a Lifelong Fight for Peace, Justice, and Truth in Letters to the Editor (Chicago: Open Court, 2002), pp. 191-2.

31 Reprinted as “Politically Important Desires”, Pt. 11, Chap. 11 of Human Society in Ethics and Politics (London: Allen and Unwin, 1954), p. 168.

32 “Critic”, New Statesman and Nation, n.s. 40 (13 Nov. 1950): 449. Russell’s reply is “Lord Russell and the Atom Bomb”, ibid., 41 (21 April 1951): 448, 450.

33 Russell, “Bertrand Russell and ‘Preventive War’”, The Nation, 177 (17 Oct. 1953): 320.

34 Russell, Common Sense and Nuclear Warfare (London: Allen and Unwin, 1959), pp. 89-90.

35 Russell, “A Prescription for the World”, Saturday Review, 37, no. 35 (28 Aug. 1954): 9-11, 38-40.

36 Saturday Review, 37, no. 42 (16 Oct. 1954): 25-6.

37 Rupert Crawshay-Williams, a close personal friend of Russell’s at the time, explained his views as follows: “When he was feeling calm, he would simply say that the methods of Communism were as bad as those of any totalitarian state including Nazi Germany. But, when he was provoked—for instance, by us [Crawshay-Williams and his wife], who believed that there was nothing in Russia so bad as the Nazis’ concentration camps and extermination—then Russell would often get excited. He would start to say that Russia was far worse than Germany and he would boil over into making large and comprehensive generalizations about “all Russians” (Russell Remembered [New York: Oxford U. P., 1970], p. 22).

38 “1948 Russell vs. 1954 Russell”, p. 25.

39 “Bertrand Russell Reflects: a Conversation on B.B.C.. Television with John Freeman”, The Listener, 61 (19 Mar. 1959): 503-5. See also Russell’s further comments, to a letter from Winthrop Parkhurst: “Bertrand Russell’s Television Broadcast”, The Listener, 61 (28 May 1959): 937.

40 Alan Ryan shares this view: “Whether this was old age catching him out, it is hard to say; if it was a deliberate attempt to deceive, it was uncharacteristically cowardly, and inept too, when the printed record was too easily accessible” (Bertrand Russell: a Political Life [London: Allen Lane the Penguin P., 1988], p. 180).

41 Andrew Bone, editor of the forthcoming Man’s Peril, 1954-55 (Vol. 28 of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell), includes a further example of the type of correspondence Russell had on this issue, starting with a letter to the editor of the Daily Telegraph by Horace King, a Conservative MP. King considered that Russell’s 1961 position in favour of unilateral British nuclear disarmament was in conflict with his former position in favour of Western armaments to deter Soviet aims made in a 1955 television interview. In a letter to Mrs. P. E. Wilson on the purported contradiction, Russell said, speaking of the period surrounding the Baruch Plan: “I emphasize that I did not advocate war but urged the Americans to convey the intensity of their feeling that the internationalization of atomic power was essential to survival” (Russell to P. E. Wilson, 21 Dec. 1961; RAI 720). For a full discussion on the matter, see Papers 28: 434-5.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Tue Apr 21, 2020 7:46 am

Bertrand Russell and Preventive War
by Ray Perkins, Jr.
Philosophy / Plymouth State College
Plymouth, NH 03264-1600, USA

Many commentators have claimed that Bertrand Russell advocated preventive war against the Soviet Union in the 1945-48 period in order to force the Soviets into world government and thus prevent a future war of total nuclear annihilation. Russell has been faulted not only for advocating an inherently morally repugnant policy but, also, for a time denying that he ever held such a view.

In what follows I wish to examine the record in order to determine just what Russell did advocate with regard to Russia during the period in question. We shall find that the record is reasonably clear: Russell did publicly espouse a form of preventive war in the early post-World War II years, although it was a policy rather less bellicose than what is usually attributed to him. As regards Russell's denials, we shall see that they were not the distortions of the record that his critics have claimed. But his later avowals are inaccurate regarding important details and invite speculation that Russell may have wanted to disguise a portion of the record despite his claim in his autobiography to have finally set it straight.


Let us distinguish several senses in which one could be said to advocate a preventive war against Russia. In the simplest, most straightforward sense, there is the unconditional advocation of preventive war:

PWu: We (the West) ought to wage war against the Soviets (now or in the immediate future).

But there is also a conditional advocation in which the waging of war is conditioned upon certain Soviet behaviour. In particular Russell wanted the Soviets to agree to world government and/or to the internationalization of atomic energy. Russell's hope, in the early years after World War I I, was that the US, with a nuclear monopoly, could effectively threaten the Soviets with war in order to get them to agree. Russell's advocation takes the form:

PWc: We ought to wage war against the Soviets unless they agree, under threat of war, to international controls.

It is highly relevant to the moral implications of PWc whether the advocate of the policy believes that the threat of war will be effective. Thus, we can further distinguish:
PWc1: We ought to wage war against the Soviets unless they agree, under threat of war, to international controls; and they will probably agree.

PWc2: We ought to wage war against the Soviets unless they agree, under threat of war, to internationalize controls; and they will probably not agree.

I claim that PWc1 is Russell's public position from 1945 to 1947. Russell made more than a dozen public statements in speeches and articles concerning Russia and war in the 1945-48 period, but in none does he advocate PWu, or even PWc2, as did the us Department of Defense, for example, from 1946 to 1950. During those years the Pentagon hatched various secret plans such as BROILER and TROJAN featuring "bolt-out-of-the-blue" surprise nuclear attacks on the Soviet Union.l

It is important to see the main moral difference between PWc1 and the other formulations of preventive war policy. And that difference is just this: one who advocates PWc1, unlike one who advocates PWc2 or PWu, does not advocate a policy which he or she believes will directly result in war.2 As we shall see, this is a feature of Russell's position which, despite his repeated affirmations in the early post-war period and later, has been largely ignored by his critics.

There is a surprising amount of misunderstanding concerning Russell's policy. Many have failed to grasp its conditional nature. Thus, I. F. Stone, writing about Russell's views at this time, sarcastically paraphrases Russell's advice as: "why not drop one more bomb on Russia before it is too late, and make them consent to world government and save mankind from what's coming?"3 What Russell actually advocated in the 1947 speech to which Stone refers is best put in Russell's own words:

If the whole world outside of Russia were to insist upon international control of atomic energy to the point of going to war on this issue, it is highly probable that the Soviet government would give way on this issue. If it did not, then if the issue were forced in the next year or two, only one side would have atomic bombs, and the war might be so short as not to involve utter ruin.4

Again, in an address at about the same time to the Royal Empire Society he said:

I should like to see as soon as possible as close a union as possible of these countries who think it worth while to avoid atomic war. I think you could get so powerful an alliance that you could turn to Russia and say, "It is open to you to join this alliance if you will agree to the terms; if you will not join us we shall go to war with you." I am inclined to think that Russia would acquiesce; if not, provided this is done soon, the world might survive the resulting war and emerge with a single government such as the world needs.5

Russell was obviously advocating a risky, and some might say, morally dubious policy. But it is a different and less morally problematic policy from the one that Stone caricatures.

Similarly, Alan Ryan, correctly pointing out Russell's consequentialist moral posture, completely ignores the fact that Russell apparently believed that his policy would not require war. He tells us that Russell's advocacy"... varied in tone but never in content. The content always included the probability of war. The tone varied according to whether Russell thought it would be a long war or a short one."6 This is not true.

Douglas Lackey, in an otherwise astute piece on Russell's writings on the nuclear arms race, describes one of Russell's earliest formulations of his preventive war policy-his 20 October 1945 Cavalcade article-as "a fairly straightforward call for preventive nuclear war".7 What Lackey means here is really unconditional preventive nuclear war. He explains:

True, the launching of the war is to be proceeded by an ultimatum, but the ultimatum demands the abrogation of national sovereignty by the Soviet Union. Under such conditions, the distinction between a conditional call for preventive war and an unconditioned call for preventive war virtually dissolves. (Ibid.)

This is a coarse interpretation. The ultimatum would require the Soviet Union to join a democratic world confederation and thereby relinquish some of its national sovereignty. But the relinquishment of sovereignty here pertains only to the (alleged) right of nations to acquire armaments and make war. The right to practise one's preferred form of government, including socialism, would not be denied.8 It seems that acquiescence to this sort of control, however undesirable, is to be distinguished from defeat in a nuclear war. Moreover, although Lackey correctly points out that Russell did not at this time have his facts straight on the winnability of a nuclear war against Russia, he, like Ryan, ignores the fact that Russell apparently did not think that what he was advocating would involve war (p. 247). Although it is true that Russell does not speculate on the likelihood of Soviet acquiescence in the Cavalcade article, he is at least· moderately optimistic in several other statements made at the time.9

Russell's views underwent modification in 1948. Owing to international events in early 1948 (specifically, the Czech Communist coup and the continued Russian refusal to accept the Baruch Plan for internationalizing atomic energy), Russell apparently began to have doubts about the Soviet response to threats, and in a piece for the New Leader (March 6), he advocates the threat but adds that he ventures "no opinion" on the question of whether the Soviets will comply.10 This, I believe, is the closest that Russell came to a public statement advocating preventive war against the Soviets in the sense of PWc2.

But in a private letter written in May 1948 to Walter Marseille he says, after endorsing PWc, "Communism must be wiped out, and world government must be established ... I do not think the Russians will yield without war."11 This is clearly the doctrine we have called PWc2. While theoretically distinct from PWu -- a doctrine which Russell never espoused -- it is nonetheless a harsh and morally offensive, if not indefensible, doctrine. This, I believe, is his only expression-public or private -- of PWc2.

Russell claimed to have forgotten about this letter until Marseille published it, to Russell's surprise, six years later. As I shall suggest in the next section, Russell's embarrassment concerning his Marseille letter and its harsh recommendation may have caused him to obscure the record regarding its content in his later years.

Some of Russell's critics, however, have unfairly cited two of his 1948 public statements as proof that he did advocate war against the Soviet Union at the time. One is a June article in a Swedish publication; the other is a speech at Westminster School in November. But a close reading of these statements makes it difficult to construe either one as an advocation of preventive war in any recognizable sense of the term. I want briefly to examine each because they, especially the Westminster School talk, have been taken to give an unduly bellicose interpretation of Russell's public position in 1948, and because they indicate a direction away from preventive war that Russell's thinking was taking as the events of that year unfolded.

In the Swedish publication Dagens Nyheter (June), he says that he doubts that the Soviets would agree to join a world alliance with an international inspectorate to control armaments. But he does not urge that Russia be given an ultimatum. Rather he merely says that Russia should be invited to join the alliance, but if she refuses inspection" which", he says, "is all too likely"-war would probably eventually occur: "Even were a precarious peace preserved for a time, one must -- recalling the earlier history of human folly -- expect that sooner or later war would break out. If it did, we should have a truly great cause to fight for: that of world government...."12

The phrase "all too likely" is, perhaps, sufficiently ambiguous to allow that Russell did not believe that Soviet refusal was more probable than not. (I might properly say that I refuse to play Russian roulette on the grounds that it's "all too likely" that I'd blow my brains out, without thereby implying that I thought the probability of the event was greater than .5.) But I think most people would say that although his proposal lacks the moral harshness of either PWu or PWc2. it is still morally disturbing to the extent that it advocates something which is thought to have a significantly high chance of resulting in an event which is to be expected "sooner or later" to lead to war. Of course, Russell thought that war was a likely eventual result of any course of action (short of capitulation to the Soviets) which did not include world government. And he says regarding it, "... it can not be achieved until the Soviet leadership has been either defeated in war or so daunted by the situation as to submit to international inspection ... " (ibid.). But he doesn't rule out the second alternative. Moreover, in the article he specifically recommends, as a first step for the immediate future, that the West "must prevent an immediate war by so strengthening west European defences that Russia would be reluctant to attack." The implication here is that any war which broke out would not be initiated by the West.

In a little-known paper published in September of 1948 (presumably written after the onset of the Berlin crisis in the last week of June), Russell is perhaps even more pessimistic than in the Swedish article, saying that he thinks it "improbable" that world government can be brought about "except by force", i.e. war. But he does not advocate war, nor does he advocate an ultimatum or using a Western coalition to bully the Russians into submission. The article is concerned merely to make the point that should war occur, there would be a reasonable- chance that a victorious Western alliance could bring about world government. But he clearly states that world government by consent is the path to be preferred and supported, adding:

Nevertheless, in spite of the difficulties, we must hope that a gradual approach to international government may become possible without another world war.... So long as there is not actual war, we must continue to seek ways of diminishing the likelihood of war....13

Similarly, in Russell's November 1948 talk at the Westminster School in London, there is no mention of an ultimatum; rather, he advocates that the West strengthen defences to show the Russians that "they can't make war successfully."14 But in the question-and-answer period after his talk, Russell seems, as some critics have noted, to be advocating immediate war with Russia:

As he saw it there were three alternatives if the present aggressive Russian policy was persisted in: (a) War with Russia before she has the atomic bombs, ending fairly swiftly and inevitably in a Western victory; (b) war with Russia after she has the atomic bombs, ending again in Western victory, but after frightful carnage, destruction and suffering; (c) submission.... This third alternative seemed to him so utterly unthinkable that it could be dismissed; and as between the other two the choice to him, at least, seemed dear. (Ibid., p. 43. Russell's emphasis)

About one week later he claimed that press reports of his talk were inaccurate, and he denied that he had urged immediate war against the USSR.15 Five years later he referred again to the "slanderous" reports of the talk which he attributed to a single reporter and which he said were largely responsible for the lingering but false view "that I supported a preventive atom war against Russia."16

Strictly speaking, however, Russell was at most calling for preventive war conditionally. This, I take it, is the point of his emphasis on the conditional phrase "if the present aggressive Russian policy was persisted in". We must remember that at this time the international situation was extremely tense. The Soviets had managed a Communist coup in Czechoslovakia in February, and the Berlin Crisis and airlift were in their fifth month. Many in the West fully expected that war would break out. But the immediate crisis soon passed. For that reason the conditional of his disjunctive syllogism was not fulfilled, and his alternatives were, therefore, non-starters. Indeed, the crisis passed in September 1949, about the same time that the West learned that the Russians had exploded an atomic bomb. No longer could one reasonably believe in a short, easily winnable war with the Soviets.17

Moreover, it is important to realize that Russell's "three alternatives" comment was made in response to the question: "If there is another war what would be the chances of survival of this country?" In this context, Russell's answer looks.less like a recommendation for immediate war than merely a hypothetical comparative evaluation to the effect that a small victorious war against Stalin sooner would be preferable to either a large one later or to submission. Hardly a morally outrageous claim. Indeed, he had already made his recommendation, and it was about how to prevent a war:

The question is whether there is to be war or whether there is not; and there is only one course of action open to us. That is to strengthen the Western Alliance morally and physically as much and as quickly as possible, and hope it may become obvious to the Russians that they can't make war successfully. ("Atomic Energy and the Problems of Europe", p. 43)

This certainly makes it look like Russell is advocating merely a defensive posture, and that any subsequent war would be a defensive response to Russian aggression, not a preventive or pre-emptive strike by the West, as he later insisted.18

However, in the next paragraph he says that the world ought to hope to achieve world government backed by a unified armed force because it is the "only ... way to ensure" peace. But he adds:

There is singularly little hope of establishing such a force by international agreement; the voluntary sacrifice by nations of a large part of their sovereignty is extremely unlikely.... The Western Alliance with the United States and the Commonwealth will have the nucleus for such a force. It must impose itself upon the whole world, and remain powerful, uniquely so, until the world has been educated into a unified sanity. (Ibid., p. 41)

This passage puts a different light on Russell's "defensive posture" recommendation. That is, by expanding and exhibiting its military strength, the West might not merely discourage Soviet aggression now. They might also eventually use this "nucleus" to impose on the world, and the Soviets, an international confederation. Thus, what Russell may have had in mind here is something like PWc:, where the threat or ultimatum is implied rather than overtly stated.

But is his intention more like PWc1 or PWc2? The answer, I think, depends on whether Russell thought the required imposition by the West would involve war. What does he mean by saying that the West must "impose itself upon the whole world"? Obviously military conquest is a possible interpretation. But Russell may have meant to suggest no more than an acceleration of the Truman Doctrine with "containment" plus an overwhelming global military presence to persuade the other side of the «wisdom" of Western hegemony. Indeed, one could view the post-World War II era culminating in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the more or less successful global "imposition" of the West, although one not requiring military conquest. If this is what Russell had in mind then his advice looks more like PWc1 than PWc2, although to call it "preventive war" seems excessive.

There are two reasons for thinking that Russell believed the "imposition" achievable without war. First, Russell says that one of the factors making the current situation so dangerous was Stalin's ignorance of the . effects of nuclear weapons, but he adds "even though the ultimate downfall of the dictatorship is certain" (ibid, p. 39). This suggests that Russell thought that the Soviet system, owing to its own dynamic, was bound to change for the better. If so, there was reason to hope that a unified world could eventually be brought about peacefully, provided the dangers of the immediate future could be met and war averred.

Second, he mentions the "implacable" nature of Marxist dogma in the current impasse between capitalism and communism, and he says "Against this kind of creed only superior force could prevail" (p. 42). But he immediately adds in the next paragraph, "It would· be necessary to start re-educating the Russians", and he goes on to give examples of how this might be done: "You could begin in the schools .... If a few intelligent Russians were shown round the world ... ", the effects of Communist propaganda could be undone and "within, say, thirty years, the whole of Russia could be completely re-educated." In other words, Russell thought the road to peace achievable without war, provided the Russians could be re-educated, a possibility which he seems to admit, albeit one requiring a protracted period of several decades.

These reasons, especially the. second, make it reasonable to believe that Russell's use of the term "imposition" intended merely a Western display of force together with a programme of Western propaganda. In short, it seems like a prescription for reform via something like the Cold War. Indeed, Russell's suggestions seem to anticipate by several years the cultural, educational and scientific exchange programmes begun under Khrushchev and Eisenhower in the mid-1950s. If one thinks of the evolution of Soviet reform from Khrushchev to Gorbachev as a process of successful Westernized, democratic, capitalistic re-education, Russell's estimate of thirty years was remarkably accurate.

This optimism about a non-bellicose "imposition" is stated rather less obliquely in an article which appeared nine months later (after the Soviets ended the Berlin blockade, but before the West had learned of the Soviet Bomb):

If it can be made obvious to the Russians that the west is more powerful than they are, it is to be expected that they will change profoundly and become very much more amenable.19

Let us sum up our conclusions regarding Russell's preventive war policies. In 1945-47 his public position was PWc1, i.e. the waging of war was conditioned on Soviet rejection of an ultimatum to internationalize the means of war, although he said that he thought they would comply. In early 1948, owing to crises in Europe and the Soviet rejection of the Baruch Plan, he developed doubts about whether the Soviets would acquiesce to an overt threat, and he ceased advocating anything that could fairly be called preventive war. His public views at this time .underwent modification throughout 1948 in response to international events. They either: (i) advocate the ultimatum but venture no opinion on ,Soviet acquiescence (March, The New Leader), or (ii) drop the ultimatum but predict war as an eventual outcome of an "all too likely" Soviet refusal to internationalize controls while counselling a defensive posture for the near future Gune, Dagens Nyheter), or (iii) assert war as a more probable, but not more desirable, path to world government, while advocating avoidance of war (September, The New Leader), or (iv) predict war if Soviet behaviour did not change, but offer hope of a protracted non-bellicose "imposition" of Western values on the Soviet system leading eventually to a global "unified sanity" and world government (November, Westminster School talk). None of these views is tantamount to the advocation of preventive war in the sense of either PWu or PWc2, although his March article comes close to PWc2. In one private letter in May of 1948, however, he unequivocally advocates PWc2.


Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of Russell's preventive war phase has to do with his seemingly contradictory series of denials and later avowals. Russell's main denials occur in 1948, 1951 and 1953· These denials have proved to be especially troubling for Russell because they have been taken by some of his critics as evidence of a long-term cover-up.20 What we shall find is that Russell's denials were essentially correct at the time they were made, provided one keeps in mind the important distinctions and related senses of "preventive war". A more serious problem, as we shall see, concerns the accuracy of Russell's later avowals and his later descriptions of his earlier views.

The 1948 denial occurred eight days after unfavourable press reports of his November 20 Westminster School talk.21 In that denial he is concerned to deny press reports that he "urged immediate war with Russia", i.e. he seems to be denying what we have called PWu. Although portions of that speech were not unambiguous, I think we have to say that he was correct-he did not urge immediate war with Russia-even if we decide that he was urging war in some conditional sense.

Two decades later, however, he was affirming that he had, in 1948, advocated (a version of) preventive war on two occasions. Writing in his 1969 autobiography, Russell refers to two 1948 statements which he says that he had, for a while, simply forgotten about. One of these statements he describes as '''a speech that I did not know was to be the subject of dissection by the press" (Auto. 3: 18). This speech is pretty dearly the Westminster School talk. The other is definitely his 1948 letter to Walter Marseille. The trouble is that Russell describes these statements in his autobiography as PWc1. He says:

... I suggested that the remedy might be the threat of immediate war by the United States on Russia for the purpose of forcing nuclear disarmament upon her.... My chief defence of the view I held in 1948 was that I thought Russia very likely to yield to the demands of the West. (Auto. 3: 18)

The school talk can perhaps (by a significant semantic stretch) be cast as PWc1, but not the Marseille letter. That was clearly PWc2. Russell of course did hold the view he describes in his autobiography. But it was in 1945-47, not 1948. Curiously, there is no mention of the pre-1948 statements. 22

In his autobiography Russell tells us that he was first reminded of his earlier preventive war (PWc1) statements when Walter Marseille requested permission to publish Russell's 1948 letter some years later (1954):

... I said, as I usually do, without consideration of the contents, that if he wished he might publish it. He did so. And to my surprise I learned of my earlier suggestion. I had, also, entirely forgotten that it occurred in the abovementioned speech. (Auto. 3: 18)

The record makes it difficult to accept Russell's claim that he simply forgot that he once advocated preventive war (he says "the threat of immediate war") against the Soviets until he (re-) read his Marseille letter in 1954. The reason is that only one year earlier he had written a letter to the editor of the New York Nation trying to set the record straight on his earlier views regarding war with Russia. He begins with what seems to be a blanket denial: "The story that I supported a preventive atom war against Russia is a Communist invention."23 But it is clear from the contents of his letter that he is not denying ever having held PWc1.

Indeed, in that 1953 Nation letter, he refers to a "slanderous" press report of his 1948 Westminster School talk and a "long letter of refutation" that his lawyer induced the New Statesman to publish in 1951 as the result of the editor's 18 November 1950 statement that "After the last war .,. [Russell] decided that it would be both good morals and good politics to start dropping bombs on Moscow." Russell says in the final paragraph of the 1951 letter:

I will admit that at one time I had hopes of a shorter road to general peace. At the time of the Baruch proposal for internationalizing atomic energy [1946-47], I thought it possible that the Russians might be induced by threats to agree to this proposal and thereby to save the world from the atomic armaments race upon which it is now embarked. But this hope proved vain. After the Berlin blockade and the rape of Czechoslovakia [mid-1948] I stated emphatically, what I still hold, that the Russians ought to be informed that the West would not tolerate further aggressions of this sort. My statements were mis-reported and misunderstood, and men with whom I might have co-operated chose, instead, to regard me as an enemy.24

And he concludes the 1953 denial with: "I shall be glad if you can make its contents known to anybody who still believes the slanderous report."

So Russell's 1951 denial, and the 1953 Nation letter of denial referring to it, are not denials that he ever advocated preventive war in the sense of PWc1. Rather, they are, evidently, denials that he advocated what we have called PWu. Indeed, they are admissions that he did hold PWc1 "at the time of the Baruch proposal" (1946-47), although he chooses not to describe that view as "preventive war" 'in either letter. But they are also denials that he continued to advocate that view after the 1948 crises in Czechoslovakia and Berlin (i.e. roughly after July). This is actually a fairly accurate summary of the record. 25 Note, however, that it does contradict his autobiography regarding when he gave up PWc1.

Thus, Ronald Clark and others who have charged Russell with falsely denying the record in 1953 are mistaken. The trouble is, however, that Russell himself, in his later years, seems to acknowledge the charge as true. In his autobiography he regrets that, owing to a "fault of my memory", he had "hotly denied" (prior to the reappearance of his Marseille letter in 1954) that he had ever held PWc1 (Auto. 3: 18). He gives essentially the same account in a 1959 letter to The Listener attempting to explain his 1953 denial:

Although it may seem incredible, I believed this statement [the 1953 denial] to be entirely correct at the time when I made it. I had, in fact, completely forgotten that I had ever thought a policy of threat involving possible war desirable.26

But, for the reasons already given, it's difficult to believe that Russell had "completely forgotten" about his PWc1 views in his 1953 denial. After all, in that letter he refers to the 1951 letter, which explicitly admits to having held PWc1 in 1946-47.

How are we "to explain this perplexing state of affairs? I believe the most likely explanation is that Russell was a victim of both faulty memory and a desire to draw attention away from the (PWc2 ) contents of the Marseille letter. It's implausible that simply Russell forgot about his advocation of PWc1: he had reiterated that position too many times in the early post-war period and referred to it too recently. But he probably did forget about his Marseille letter. It was, after all, only a single letter in an immense private correspondence. When confronted with it in 1954 his response was essentially to plead guilty to lesser "crimes" --that of having briefly held the less offensive version (PWc1) and of having made erroneous denials of the fact due to a "fault of memory".

This tack would require some modest modification of the record: his usage of «preventive war" would have to be expanded to include PWc1; the Marseille letter would have to be assimilated to the more benign doctrine of the 1945-47 period; and, to give credibility to the faulty memory claim, it would be necessary to "recall" only one or two instances of the advocation.

We have already seen that in his autobiography Russell admits to only two instances. We have also seen that he inaccurately describes the Marseille letter as PWc1. This could have been an understandable slip by a man well into his nineties. But even when the letter was first published in 1954 in the Saturday Review, on the same page containing his 1948 PWc2 recommendation, he explains his earlier state of mind: «I thought at the time that perhaps the Russians could be compelled to accept the offer [the Baruch Plan] by the threat of war in the event of their continued refusal."27 Here, without asserting a literal falsehood, Russell manages to cast the Marseille letter within the framework of PWc1.

That Russell did, in the post-1954 era, expand the sense of "preventive war" to include the less problematic version is evidenced by an exchange with John Freeman in a BBC interview in 1959:

FREEMAN: Is it true ... that in recent years you advocated that a preventive war might be made against ... Soviet Russia?

RUSSELL: It's entirely true, and I don't repent of it.... [N]ot that I advocated a nuclear war, but I did think that great pressure should be put upon Russia to accept the Baruch proposal, and I did think that if they continued to refuse it might be necessary actually to go to war.... [T]he odds were the Russians would have given way.28

Here Russell includes PWc1 within the intension of "preventive war" while clearly recognizing a distinction between the more and less justifiable senses, i.e. between PWc1 and PWu.29

By means of such semantic adjustment, Russell's earlier (pre-1954) denials would be false (since they would be reconstrued as denying having held PWc1.) But if such "errors" arose from a "faulty memory", they would be forgivable. Moreover, he could point out (and did), that PWc1 was not an undefensible position at the time.

If this reconstruction of Russell's denial and avowal phase is correct, the questions must be asked: "Why did he do it? Why not simply tell the. story as it was, viz. that his denials were not false: he had not urged war with Russia, i.e. he had not advocated PWu?" The answer lies, I believe, with the Marseille letter. To tell the full story would be to call attention to its morally offensive nature. True, it wasn't PWu, but most people would probably see it as morally tantamount to PWu; close enough, anyway, to make his earlier denials seem less than truthful. Worse, the letter had the potential of casting doubt on the sincerity of his pre-1948 public statements: he was publicly advocating PWc1 but many might say that he secretly believed, or even hoped, that what he advocated would result in war.

We must remember that when the Marseille letter was brought to Russell's attention, he had long since moved away from his preventive war views. Stalin was dead and nuclear war had become unthinkable owing to the possession of the H-bomb by both sides. He was, by then, in the vanguard of the movement in the West to defuse the Cold War, abolish nuclear weapons, and create a rapprochement with the Communist bloc. To have told the full story of his preventive war phase would have jeopardized the effectiveness. of his role as a leader in the world peace movement, a role which continued to grow in size and importance until his death in 1970.

Still, many will be disappointed that Russell did not point these things out himself in his autobiography-his last chance to have set the record straight. There he says of his earlier denials: "It is shameful to deny one's own words. One can only defend or retract them" (Auto. 3: 18).

What Russell might have said is what the record shows: in 1945-47 he consistently advocated the policy described in his autobiography and which we have designated as PWc1. But 1948 brought an increasing pessimism about the likelihood of Soviet acquiescence to an ultimatum, although early in that year, in a private letter, he proposed PWc2, and in a portion of a public talk several months after the Communist Czechoslovakian coup and in the midst of the Berlin Crisis, he seemed to speak in favour of war with the Soviets before they got the bomb. It is these words which he needed to "defend or retract" -- or clarify.

What Russell might have said, but didn't, is that he had, in at least his private letter, underestimated the chances of a fourth alternative among a little war now, a big war later, and submission -- viz. peaceful coexistence. This alternative was one which he unequivocally supported soon after the Soviets achieved nuclear capability and Stalin had left the international scene.

Remarkably, this option had not really been overlooked by Russell. Indeed, like so many post-World War II developments (e.g. the Baruch proposal, the H-bomb, the nuclear arms race), it, too, was suggested as a less "utopian" option in his 1945 Cavalcade article. None of Russell's commentators has noted this feature of the piece, which does contain more than a plan for world government with (coerced) Soviet cooperation. Toward the end of the article, after he outlines his Confederation proposal, he says:

I am afraid that what I have been suggesting, in the form in which I have suggested it, is Utopian, since it would involve the voluntary surrender of absolute sovereignty on the part of the United States.

What is perhaps possible is something less desirable and less effective, but still capable of making world wars less probable. The United States might retain for the present its monopoly of the atomic bomb, but undertake to protect. against aggression any Powers willing to enter into an alliance with it and to abstain from manufacturing their own atomic bombs. In this way, without surrender of sovereignty, the United States could become the leader in a bloc which would be jointly irresistible.


In this way America could in all likelihood secure both her own peace and the peace of the world at a cost immeasurably less than that of another war.30

Thus Russell anticipated the NATO alliance four years before its inception. But he not only anticipated NATO, he also envisioned (at Westminster School), what few could have done before the advent of Gorbachev, the possibility of genuine Soviet reform without war with the West. Yet he insisted that an alliance of Western nations could never by itself ensure world peace in the long term, although it could serve as a nucleus for a world government that could. For a while he did publicly advocate issuing an ultimatum to the Soviets to speed up the journey to world government. But he can, and did, claim as his defence that his advocation lasted only as long as his optimism that the Soviets would acquiesce and war could be avoided.



1 M. Kaku and D. Axelrod, To Win A Nuclear War: the Pentagon's Secret War Plans (Boston: South End P., 1987), Chaps. 1 and 2.

2 In a televised interview with John Freeman published in The Listener, 61 (19 March 1959): 505, Russell claimed that he was prepared to go to war if the Soviets had not given in: "... you can't threaten unless you're prepared to have your bluff called."

3 I. F. Stone, "Bertrand Russell as a Moral Force in World Politics", Russell n.s. 1 (1981): 17-18. Compare Kingsley Martin's remark in the New Statesman (18 Nov. 1950): "After the last war ... [Russell] decided that it would be both good morals and good politics to start dropping bombs on Moscow."

4 Published as "International Government", New Commonwealth, 9 (Jan. 1948): 77- 80. Emphasis added.

5 Given 3 December 1947. Published in United Empire, 39 (Jan.-Feb. 1948): 18-21. Emphasis added.

6 Alan Ryan, Bertrand Russell: a Political Life (New York: Hill and Wang, 1988), p. 179.

7 Douglas Lackey, "Russell's Contribution to the Study of Nuclear Weapons Policy", Russell, n.s. 4 (1984): 246.

8 Russell did not explicitly say this in the Cavalcade piece, but he did in other places, e.g. in "The Prevention of War", Dagens Nyheter, 1 June 1948, p. 3.

On the question of unconditional preventive war (i.e. PWu) in 1945, Russell's rejection was unambiguous. In a letter to Gamel Brenan (1 Sept.) he says: "There is one thing, and one only, which could save the world, and that is a thing which I should not dream of advocating. It is that America should make war on Russia during the next two years, and establish a world empire by means of the atomic bomb." (Emphasis added; quoted from Clark, p. 518.)

There is, of course, paradox and paradox, in the sense that some paradoxes are simply contradictions. The slogan popularized during World War I, “the war to end all wars”, was vicious in this latter sense: the Allies who put forward this notion had no intent of ending war. Rather they wanted to appeal to those among the public who were not persuaded by the usual patriotic slogans.

-- Did [Bertrand] Russell Advocate Preventive Atomic War Against the USSR?, by David Blitz

Lackey also unfairly complains that. although Russell says that after a Soviet refusal "the conditions for a justifiable war, which I enumerated a moment ago, would all be fulfilled", he provides no such enumeration in the article. Not so. He clearly states that a world government may resort to war when: (1) a state refuses to join and can not be persuaded, (2) the war would be winnable and not completely exhausting, (3) the world government is democratic, and (4) the purpose of the war is to establish a system in which wars are less likely than the present one.

9 For example, in "Peace or Atomisation", Cavalcade, 7, no. 396 (6 Oct. 1945): 9; also .in "How to Avoid the Atomic War", Common Sense, 14, no. 9 (Oct. 1945): 5. Indeed, in a speech before the House of Lords, 28 November 1945 -- reprinted in Has Man a Future? (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1962), p. 23 -- he expresses optimism for Russian compliance without the threat of war: "I can not really doubt that if ... [the case for internationalizing controls on atomic energy] were put to them in a convincing manner they would see it."

10 "The Future of Mankind", The New Leader, 31, no. 10 (6 March 1948): 8-9. Actually, by late 1947 Russell was already expressing doubts about Soviet compliance. In a letter to Einstein, 24 November 1947, he says: "I think the only hope of peace (and that a slender one) lies in frightening Russia" (see Clark, p. 522).

11 Saturday Review, 16 Oct. 1954. Reprinted in BRA 2: II.

12 "The Prevention of War", Dagens Nyheter, 1 June 1948, p. 4 (ts. of English trans.).

13 "World Government", The New Leader, 31, no. 36 (4 Sept. 1948): 8.

14 "Atomic Energy and the Problems of Europe", The Nineteenth Century and After, London, 145 (Jan. 1949): 41.

15 The Observer, 28 Nov. 1948; p. 3. Also in the London Times, 30 Nov., p. 5.

16 "Bertrand Russell and 'Preventive War''', The Nation, 177 (17 Oct. 1953): 320.

17 Not that Russell immediately adopted nuclear pacificism or ceased his intense dislike for the Soviet Union. These features of Russell's post-World War II thinking did not emerge until the death of Stalin and the advent of the Soviet H-bomb. Indeed, he still maintained that war was preferable to "the extension of the Kremlin's power over the whole world". (See his "Is a Third World War Inevitable?", World Horizon, London, 1, no. 3 [March 1950J: 6-9.) But it's a mistake to say that Russell continued to advocate preventive war as some scholars have claimed. (See Clark, pp. 526-7. See also Stephen Hayhurst, "Russell's Anti-Communist Rhetoric before and after Stalin's Death", Russell, n.s. II [1991]: 71).

18 In the face of hostile press reports of his school talk, he said in a letter to The Observer (28 Nov. 1948), p. 3: "I did not, as has been reported, urge immediate war with Russia. I did urge that the democracies should be prepared to use force if necessary, and that their readiness to do so should be made perfectly clear to Russia [which] ... can be halted in their attempts to dominate Europe and Asia only by determined and combined resistance· by every means in the democracies' power -- not excluding military means, if Russia continues to refuse all compromise."

19 "Ten Years Since the War Began", The New Leader, 32; no. 36 (3 Sept. 1949): 6. He adds that since the Russians may soon have the Bomb, the West should use its temporary advantage to "insist -- even to the point of war, if necessary -- on the measures that are necessary to make the world less dangerous", i.e. world government.

This suggests a temporary return to the earlier doctrine of preventive war, i.e. PWc1, given -his expressed optimism about Soviet amenability. The advent of the Russian Bomb, however, would make a full-blown recrudescence of that pre-1948 doctrine untenable.

20 See Clark, p. 530. Cf Ryan, p. 180.

21 Among those press reports were: "Fight Before Russia Finds Atom Bomb", The Observer, 21 Nov. 1948, p. 1; and "Earl Russell Calls for Atom War", Daily Worker, London, 22 Nov. 1948.

22 More curiously still, he does not even mention a 1947 article to which he had already publicly referred in a letter to The Listener of 28 May 1959, p. 937. In that letter he cites not only the Marseille letter, but also a piece he did for Alfred Kohlberg's publication, Plain Talk ("The Prevention of Atomic War", Feb. 1947, pp. 13-16), as examples of his preventive war phase. The article unequivocally advocates PWc1.

23 "Bertrand Russell and 'Preventive War''', The Nation, 177 (17 Oct. 1953): 320.

24 "Lord Russell and the Atom Bomb", The New Statesman, n.s. 41 (21 April 1951): 449-50.

The Editor has brought to my attention a 1962 letter to Russell by the reporter present at the Westminster School speech in November 1948. The reporter, J. P. Jordi, faults Russell, unfairly I think, for failing to mention the School talk, rather than the Marseille letter, as the source of the "threat of preventive war" statement attributed to him. If the above analysis is correct, the reporter's interpretation of Russell's speech was inaccurate.

25 Russell's statement is accurate provided that we ignore the fact that some of Russell's preventive war statements were reprinted in several publications and reappeared under different tides after mid-1948, e.g. his March New Leader piece (''The Future of Mankind").

26 The Listener, 61 (28 May 1959): 937.

27 "1948 Russell vs. 1954 Russell", The Saturday Review, 37, no. 42 (16 Oct. 1954): 25.

28 Interview on 4 March 1959, published in The Listener, 61 (19 March 1959): 505. Emphasis added. Here, however, in a letter to The Listener on 28 May 1959 ("Bertrand Russell's Television Broadcast"), p. 937, he mistakenly gives the date of the reappearance of the Marseille letter as 1958 rather than 1954. Perhaps this was because he had recently replied to Marseille's reprinting of extracts from the letter in "Not War, Not Peace", Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 14 (April 1958); Russell's reply, "An Answer to Mr. Marseille", is in the same issue, pp. 144-6.

29 But apparently Russell did not always, after 1954, use the term "advocate war" to include PWc1. In 1962 Russell wrote to a reporter: "I should be in your debt if you could contribute towards putting the lie to the fiction that I have advocated war' against the Soviet Union." Clark takes this as proof of continued cover-up. But a more reasonable explanation is that Russell simply lapsed back into his pre-1954 usage whereby "advocate war" means proposing PWu. Thus, in the above quote, Russell is merely denying (truthfully) that he ever advocated PWu.

30 "Humanity's Last Chance", Cavalcade, 7, no. 398 (20 Oct. 1945): 9.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

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The Ethics of War
by "The Honorable" Bertrand Russell, F.C.S.
The International Journal of Ethics
January, 1915

THE question whether war is ever justified, and if so under what circumstances, is one which has been forcing itself upon the attention of all thoughtful men. On this question I find myself in the somewhat painful position of holding that no single one of the combatants is justified in the present war, while not taking the extreme Tolstoyan view that war is under all circumstances a crime. Opinions on such a subject as war are the outcome of feeling rather than of thought: given a man's emotional temperament, his convictions, both on war in general, and on any particular war which may occur during his lifetime, can be predicted with tolerable certainty. The arguments used will be mere reinforcements to convictions otherwise reached. The fundamental facts in this as in all ethical questions are feelings; all that thought can do is to clarify and systematize the expression of those feelings, and it is such clarifying and systematizing of my own feelings that I wish to attempt in the present article.


The question of the rights and wrongs of a particular war is generally considered from a juridical or quasi-juridical standpoint: so and so broke such and such a treaty, crossed such and such a frontier, committed such and such technically unfriendly acts, and therefore by the rules it is permissible to kill as many of his nation as modern armaments render possible. There is a certain unreality, a certain lack of imaginative grasp about this way of viewing matters. It has the advantage, always dearly prized by lazy men, of substituting a formula, at once ambiguous and easily applied, for the vital realization of the consequences of acts. The juridical point of view is in fact an illegitimate transference, to the relations of States, of principles properly applicable to the relation of individuals within a State. Within a State, private war is forbidden, and the disputes of private citizens are settled, not by their own force, but by the force of the police, which, being overwhelming, very seldom needs to be explicitly displayed. It is necessary that there should be rules according to which the police decide who is to be considered in the right in a private dispute. These rules constitute law. The chief gain derived from the law and the police is the abolition of private wars, and this gain is independent of the question whether the law as it stands is the best possible. It is therefore in the public interest that the man who goes against the law should be considered in the wrong, not because of the excellence of the law, but because of the importance of avoiding the resort to force as between individuals within the State.

In the interrelation of States nothing of the same sort exists. There is, it is true, a body of conventions called "international law," and there are innumerable treaties between High Contracting Powers. But the conventions and the treaties differ from anything that could properly be called law by the absence of sanction: there is no police force able or willing to enforce their observance. It follows from this that every nation concludes multitudes of diver- gent and incompatible treaties, and that, in spite of the high language one sometimes hears, the main purpose of the treaties is in actual fact to afford the sort of pretext which is considered respectable for engaging in war with another Power. A Power is considered unscrupulous when it goes to war without previously providing itself with such a pretext — unless indeed its opponent is a small country, in which case it is only to be blamed if that small country happens to be under the protection of some other Great Power. England and Russia may partition Persia immediately after guaranteeing its integrity an independence, because no other Great Power has a recognized interest in Persia, and Persia is one of those small States in regard to which treaty obligations are not considered binding. France and Spain, under a similar guarantee as to Morocco, must not partition it without first compensating Germany, because it is recognized that, until such compensation has been offered and accepted, Germany, though not Morocco, has a legitimate interest in the preservation of that country. All Great Powers having guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium, England has a recognized right to resent its violation — a right which is exercised when it is believed to be to England's interest, and waived when England's interest is not thought to be involved. A treaty is therefore not to be regarded as a contract having the same kind of binding force as belongs to private contracts; it is to be regarded merely as a means of giving notice to rival powers that certain acts may, if the national interest so demand, form one of those reasons for war which are recognized as legitimate. If the faithful observance of treaties were a frequent occurrence, like the observance of contracts the breach of a treaty might be a real and not merely a formal ground for war, since it would tend to weaken the practice of deciding disputes by agreement rather than by armed force. In the absence of such a practice, however, appeal to treaties is only to be regarded as part of the diplomatic machinery. A nation whose diplomacy has been skilfully conducted will always, when it belies that its interests demand war, be able to find some treaty or agreement bringing its intervention within the rules of the diplomatic game. It is obvious, however, that, so long as treaties are only observed when it is convenient to do so, the rules of the diplomatic game have nothing to do with the question whether embarking or participating in a war will or will not be for the good of mankind, and it is this question which has to be decided in considering whether a war is justified or not.


It is necessary, in regard to any war, to consider, not its paper justification in past agreements, but its real justification in the balance of good which it is to bring to mankind. At the beginning of a war each nation, under the influence of what is called patriotism, believes that its own victory is both certain and of great importance to mankind. The praiseworthiness of this belief has become an accepted maxim of common sense: even when war is actually in progress it is held to be natural and right that a citizen of an enemy country should regard the victory of his side as assured and highly desirable. By concentrating attention upon the supposed advantages of the victory of our own side, we become more or less blind to the evils inseparable from war and equally certain whichever side may ultimately prove victorious. Yet so long as these are not fully realized, it is impossible to judge justly whether a war is or is not likely to be beneficial to the human race. Although the theme is trite, it is necessary therefore briefly to remind ourselves what the evils of war really are.

To begin with the most obvious evil: large numbers of young men, the most courageous and the most physically fit in their respective nations, are killed, bringing great sorrow to their friends, loss to the community, and gain only to themselves. Many others are maimed for life, some go mad, and others become nervous wrecks, mere useless and helpless derelicts. Of those who survive many will be brutalized and morally degraded by the fierce business of killing, which, however much it may be the soldier's duty, must shock and often destroy the more humane instincts. As every truthful record of war shows, fear and hate let loose the wild beast in a not inconsiderable proportion of combatants, leading to strange cruelties, which must be faced, but not dwelt upon if sanity is to be preserved.

Of the evils of war to the non-combatant population in the regions where fighting occurs, the recent misfortunes of Belgium have afforded an example upon which it is not necessary to enlarge. It is necessary, however, to point out that the misfortunes of Belgium do not, as is commonly believed in England, afford a reason in favor of war. Hatred, by a tragic delusion, perpetuates the very evils from which it springs. The sufferings of Belgium are attributed to the Germans and not to war; and thus the very horrors of the war are used to stimulate the desire to increase their area and intensity. Even assuming the utmost humanity compatible with the conduct of military operations, it cannot be doubted that, if the troops of the Allies penetrate into the industrial regions of Germany, the German population will have to suffer a great part of the misfortunes which Germany has inflicted upon Belgium. To men under the influence of hate this thought is a cause of rejoicing, but to men in whom humane feeling is not extinct it shows that our sympathy with Belgium should make us hate war rather than Germany.

The evils which war produces outside the area of military operations are perhaps even more serious, for though less intense they are far more widespread. Passing by the anxiety and sorrow of those whose sons or husbands or brothers are at the front, the extent and consequences of the economic injury inflicted by war are much greater than is usually realized. It is common to speak of economic evils as merely material, and of desire for economic progress as grovelling and uninspired. This view is perhaps natural in well-to-do people, to whom economic progress means setting up a motor car or taking holidays in Scotland instead of at the seaside. But with regard to the poorer classes of society, economic progress is the first condition of many spiritual goods and even often of life itself. An overcrowded family, living in a slum in conditions of filth and immorality, where half the children die from ignorance of hygiene and bad sanitation, and the remainder grow up stunted and ignorant — such a family can hardly make progress mentally or spiritually, except through an improvement in its economic condition. And without going to the very bottom of the social scale, economic progress is essential to the possibility of good education, of a tolerable existence for women, and of that breadth and freedom of outlook upon which any solid and national advance must be based. It is not the most oppressed or the most ill-used who make an effective plea for social justice, for some reorganization of society which shall give less to the idler and more to the common man. Throughout the Napoleonic wars, while the landowners of England continually increased their rent-rolls, the mass of the wage-earning population sank into greater and greater destitution. It was only afterwards, during the long peace, that a less unjust distribution began to be possible. It cannot be doubted that the desire on the part of the rich to distract men's minds from the claims of social justice has been more or less unconsciously one of the motives leading to war in modern Europe. Everywhere the well-to-do and the political parties which represent their interests have been the chief agents in stirring up international hatred and in persuading the working man that his real enemy is the foreigner. Thus war, and the fear of war, has a double effect in retarding social progress: it diminishes the resources available for improving the condition of the wage- earning classes, and it distracts men's minds from the need and possibility of general improvement by persuading them that the way to better themselves is to injure their comrades in some other country. It is as a protest against this delusion that international socialism has arisen, and whatever may be thought of socialism as an economic doctrine, its internationalism makes it the sanest force in modern politics, and the only body which has preserved some degree of judgment and humanity in the present chaos.

Of all the evils of war the greatest, in my opinion, is the purely spiritual evil: the hatred, the injustice, the repudiation of truth, the artificial conflict, where, if once the blindness of atavistic instincts and the sinister influence of anti-social interests, such as those of armaments with their subservient press, could be overcome, it would be seen that there is a real consonance of interest and essential identity of human nature, and every reason to replace hatred by love. Mr. Norman Angell has well shown how unreal, as applied to the conflicts of civilized States, is the whole vocabulary of international conflict, how illusory are the gains supposed to be obtained by victory, and how fallacious are the injuries which nations, in times of peace, are supposed to inflict upon each other in economic competition. The importance of this thesis lies, not so much in its direct economic application, as in the hope which it affords for the liberation of better spiritual impulses in the relations of different communities. To love our enemies, however desirable, is not easy; and therefore it is well to realize that the enmity springs only from blindness, not from any inexorable physical necessity.


Are there any wars which achieve so much for the good of mankind as to outweigh all the evils we have been considering? I think there have been such wars in the past, but they are not wars of the sort with which our diplomatists are concerned, for which our armies and navies have been prepared, and which are exemplified by the present conflict. For purposes of classification we may roughly distinguish four kinds of wars, though of course in any given case a war is not likely to be quite clearly of any one of the four kinds. With this proviso we may distinguish: (1) Wars of Colonization; (2) Wars of Principle; (3) Wars of Self-defence; (4) Wars of Prestige. Of these four kinds I should say that the first and second are fairly often justified; the third seldom, except against an adversary of inferior civilization; and the fourth, which is the sort to which the present war belongs, never. Let us consider these four kinds of war in succession.

By a "war of colonization" I mean a war whose purpose is to drive out the whole population of some territory and replace it by an invading population of a different race. Ancient wars were very largely of this kind, of which we have a good example in the Book of Joshua. In modern times the conflicts of Europeans with American-Indians, Maories, and other aborigines in temperate regions, have been of this kind. Such wars are totally devoid of technical justification, and are apt to be more ruthless than any other war. Nevertheless, if we are to judge by results, we cannot regret that such wars have taken place. They have the merit, often quite fallaciously claimed for all wars, of leading in the main to the survival of the fittest, and it is chiefly through such wars that the civilized portion of the world has been extended from the neighborhood of the Mediterranean to the greater part of the earth's surface. The eighteenth century, which liked to praise the virtues of the savage and contrast them with the gilded corruption of courts, nevertheless had no scruple in thrusting the noble savage out from his North American hunting grounds. And we cannot at this date bring ourselves to condemn the process by which the American continent has been acquired for European civilization. In order that such wars may be justified, it is necessary that there should be a very great and undeniable difference between the civilization of the colonizers and that of the dispossessed natives. It is necessary also that the climate should be one in which the invading race can flourish. When these conditions are satisfied the conquest becomes justified, though actual fighting against the dispossessed inhabitants ought, of course, to be avoided as far as is compatible with colonizing. Many humane people will object in theory to the justification of this form of robbery, but I do not think that any practical or effective objection is likely to be made.

Such wars, however, belong now to the past. The regions where the white men can live are all allotted, either to white races or to yellow races to whom the white man is not clearly superior, and whom, in any case, he is not strong enough to expel. Apart from small punitive expeditions, wars of colonization, in the true sense, are no longer possible. What are nowadays called colonial wars do not aim at the complete occupation of a country by a conquering race; they aim only at securing certain governmental and trading advantages. They belong, in fact, rather with what I call wars of prestige, than with wars of colonization in the old sense. There are, it is true, a few rare exceptions. The Greeks in the second Balkan war conducted a war of colonization against the Bulgarians; throughout a certain territory which they intended to occupy, they killed all the men, and carried off all the women. But in such cases, the only possible justification fails, since there is no evidence of superior civilization on the side of the conquerors.

In spite, however, of the fact that wars of colonization belong to the past, men's feelings and beliefs about war are still those appropriate to the extinct conditions which rendered such wars possible. When the present war began, many people in England imagined that if the Allies were victorious Germany would cease to exist: Germany was to be "destroyed" or "smashed," and since these phrases sounded vigorous and cheering, people failed to see that they were totally devoid of meaning. There are some seventy million Germans; with great good fortune, we might, in a successful war, succeed in killing two millions of them. There would then still be sixty-eight million Germans, and in a few years the loss of population due to the war would be made good. Germany is not merely a State, but a nation, bound together by a common language, common traditions, and common ideals. What- ever the outcome of the war, this nation will still exist at the end of it, and its strength cannot be permanently impaired. But imagination in what pertains to war is still dominated by Homer and the Old Testament; men who cannot see that circumstances have changed since those works were composed are called "practical" men and are said to be free from illusions. Those, on the other hand, who have some understanding of the modern world, and some capacity for freeing their minds from the influence of phrases, are called dreamy idealists, Utopians, traitors, and friends of every country but their own. If the facts were understood, wars amongst civilized nations would cease, owing to their inherent absurdity. Men's passions always lag behind their political organizations, and facts which leave no outlet for passions are not readily admitted. In order that hatred, pride and violence may find an outlet, men unconsciously blind themselves to the plainest facts of politics and economics, and modern war continues to be waged with the phrases and theories invented by simpler men in a simpler age.


The second type of war which may sometimes be justified is what may be called "the war of principle." To this kind belong the wars of Protestant and Catholic, and the English and American civil wars. In such cases, each side, or at least one side, is honestly convinced that the progress of mankind depends upon the adoption of certain beliefs — beliefs which, through blindness or natural depravity, mankind will not regard as reasonable, except when presented at the point of the bayonet. Such wars may be justified: for example, a nation practising religious toleration may be justified in resisting a persecuting nation holding a different creed. On this ground we might justify the resistance of the Dutch to the English and French combined in the time of Charles II. But wars of principle are much less often justified than is believed by those in whose age they occur. It is very rarely that a principle of genuine value to mankind can only be propagated by military force: as a rule, it is the bad part of men's principles, not the good part, which makes it necessary to fight for their defence. And for this reason the bad part rather than the good rises to prominence during the progress of the war of principle. A nation undertaking a war in defence of religious toleration would be almost certain to persecute those of its citizens who did not believe in religious toleration. A war on behalf of democracy, if it is long and fierce, is sure to end in the exclusion from all share of power of those who do not support the war. Mr. George Trevelyan in an eloquent passage describes the defeat which, as the ultimate outcome of our civil war, overtook alike the ideals of the Roundheads and the ideals of the Cavaliers. "And this was the curse of the victors, not to die, but to live, and almost to lose their awful faith in God, when they saw the Restoration, not of the old gaiety that was too gay for them and the old loyalty that was too loyal for them, but of corruption and selfishness that had neither country nor king. The sound of the Roundhead cannon has long ago died away, but still the silence of the garden is heavy with unalterable fate, brooding over besiegers and besieged, in such haste to destroy each other and permit only the vile to survive."1 [George M. Trevelyan, Clio, A Muse, and other Essays literary and pedestrian, London, 1913, pp. 26-27.] This common doom of opposite ideals is the usual, though not the invariable, penalty of supporting ideals by force. While it may therefore be conceded that such wars are not invariably to be condemned, we must nevertheless scrutinize very skeptically the claim of any particular war to be justified on the ground of the victory which it brings to some important principle.

There are some who maintain that the present war is a war in defence of democracy. I do not know whether this view is adopted by the Tsar, and for the sake of the stability of the Alliance I sincerely hope that it is not. I do not, however, desire to dispute the proposition that democracy in the western nations would suffer from the victory of Germany. What I do wish to dispute is the belief not infrequently entertained in England that if the Allies are victorious democracy can be forced upon a reluctant Germany as part of the conditions of peace. Men who think thus have lost sight of the spirit of democracy in worship of the letter. The Germans have the form of government which they desire, and therefore any other form, imposed by alien victors, would be less in harmony with the spirit of democracy, however much it might conform to the letter. Men do right to desire strongly the victory of ideals which they believe to be important, but it is almost always a sign of yielding to undue impatience when men believe that what is valuable in their ideals can be furthered by the substitution of force for peaceful persuasion. To advocate democracy by war is only to repeat, on a vaster scale and with far more tragic results, the error of those who have sought it hitherto by the assassin's knife and the bomb of the anarchist.


The next kind of war to be considered is the war of self-defence. This kind of war is almost universally admitted to be justifiable, and is condemned only by Christ and Tolstoy. The justification of wars of self-defence is very convenient, since so far as I know there has never yet been a war which was not one of self-defence. Every strategist assures us that the true defence is offence; every great nation believes that its own overwhelming strength is the only possible guarantee of the world's peace and can only be secured by the defeat of other nations. In the present war, Servia is defending itself against the brutal aggression of Austria-Hungary; Austria-Hungary is defending itself against the disruptive revolutionary agitation which Servia is believed to have fomented; Russia is defending Slavdom against the menace of Teutonic aggression; Germany is defending Teutonic civilization against the encroachments of the Slav; France is defending itself against a repetition of 1870; and England, which sought only the preservation of the status quo, is defending itself against a prospective menace to its maritime supremacy. The claim of each side to be fighting in self-defence appears to the other side mere wanton hypocrisy, because in each case the other side believes that self-defence is only to be achieved by conquest. So long as the principle of self-defence is recognized as affording always a sufficient justification for war, this tragic conflict of irresistible claims remains unavoidable. In certain cases, where there is a clash of differing civilizations, a war of self-defence may be justified on the same grounds as a war of principle. I think, however, that, even as a matter of practical politics, the principle of non-resistance contains an immense measure of wisdom if only men would have the courage to carry it out. The evils suffered during a hostile invasion are suffered because resistance is offered: the Duchy of Luxemburg, which was not in a position to offer resistance, has escaped the fate of the other regions occupied by hostile troops. What one civilized nation can achieve against another by means of conquest is very much less than is commonly supposed. It is said, both here and in Germany, that each side is fighting for its existence ; but when this phrase is scrutinized, it is found to cover a great deal of confusion of thought induced by unreasoning panic. We cannot destroy Germany even by a complete military victory, nor conversely, could Germany destroy England even if our Navy were sunk and London occupied by the Prussians. English civilization, the English language, English manufactures would still exist, and as a matter of practical politics it would be totally impossible for Germany to establish a tyranny in this country. If the Germans, instead of being resisted by force of arms, had been passively permitted to establish themselves wherever they pleased, the halo of glory and courage surrounding the brutality of military success would have been absent, and public opinion in Germany itself would have rendered any oppression impossible. The history of our own dealings with our colonies affords abundant examples to show that under such circumstances the refusal of self-government is not possible. In a word, it is the means of repelling hostile aggression which make hostile aggression disastrous and which generate the fear by which hostile nations come to think aggression justified. As between civilized nations, therefore, non-resistance would seem not only a distant religious ideal, but the course of practical wisdom. Only pride and fear stand in the way of its adoption. But the pride of military glory might be overcome by a nobler pride, and the fear might be overcome by a clearer realization of the solidity and indestructibility of a modern civilized nation.


The last kind of war we have to consider is what I have called "the war of prestige." Prestige is seldom more than one element in the causes of a war, but it is often a very important element. In the present war, until the war had actually broken out, it was almost the only thing involved, although as soon as the war began other and much more important matters came to be at stake. The initial question between Austria and Russia was almost wholly one of prestige. The lives of Balkan peasants could not have been much affected for good or evil by the participation or non-participation of Austrian officials in the trial of supposed Servian accomplices in the Sarajevo murders. This important question, which is the one on which the war is being fought, concerns what is called the hegemony of the Balkans, and this is entirely a question of prestige. Men desire the sense of triumph, and fear the sense of humiliation which they would have in yielding to the demands of another nation. Rather than forego the triumph, rather than endure the humiliation, they are willing to inflict upon the world all those disasters which it is now suffering and all that exhaustion and impoverishment which it must long continue to suffer. The willingness to inflict and endure such evils is almost universally praised; it is called high-spirited, worthy of a great nation, showing fidelity to ancestral traditions. The slightest sign of reasonableness is attributed to fear, and received with shame on the one side and with derision on the other. In private life exactly the same state of opinion existed so long as duelling was practised, and exists still in those countries in which this custom still survives. It is now recognized, at any rate in the Anglo-Saxon world, that the so called "honor" which made duelling appear inevitable was a folly and a delusion. It is perhaps not too much to hope that the day may come when the honor of nations, like that of individuals, will be no longer measured by their willingness to inflict slaughter. It can hardly be hoped, however, that such a change will be brought about while the affairs of nations are left in the keeping of diplomatists whose status is bound up with the diplomatic or, military triumph of the countries from which they come, and whose manner of life renders them unusually ignorant of all the political and economic facts of real importance and of all the changes of opinions and organization which make the present world different from that of the eighteenth century. If any real progress is to be made in introducing sanity into international relations, it is vital that these relations should be in the hands of men less aloof and less aristocratic, more in touch with common life, and more emancipated from the prejudices of a bygone age. It is necessary also that popular education, instead of inflaming the hatred of foreigners and representing even the tiniest triumph as worthy of even the greatest sacrifices, should aim rather at producing some sense of the solidarity of mankind and of the paltriness of those objects to which diplomatists, often secretly, think fit to pledge the manhood and heroism of nations.

The objects for which men have fought in the past, whether just or unjust, are no longer to be achieved by wars amongst civilized nations. A great weight of tradition, of financial interests, of political insincerity, is bound up with the anachronism of international hostility. It is, however, perhaps not chimerical to hope that the present war, which has shocked the conscience of mankind more than any war in previous history, may produce a revulsion against antiquated methods, and may lead the exhausted nations to insist upon that brotherhood and co-operation which their rulers have hitherto denied them. There is no reason whatever against the settlement of all disputes by a Council of the Powers deliberating in public. Nothing stands in its way except the pride of rulers who wish to remain uncontrolled by anything higher than their own will. When this great tragedy has worked itself out to its disastrous conclusion, when the passions of hate and self-assertion have given place to compassion with the universal misery, the nations will perhaps realize that they have fought in blindness and delusion, and that the way of mercy is the way of happiness for all.

Bertrand Russell.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

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William Crookes
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Accessed: 4/22/20

William Crookes

Sir William Crookes (1832-1919) was an English physicist and chemist, and an early member of the Theosophical Society. His professional work centered on spectroscopy, vacuum tubes, cathode rays, radioactivity, and invention of the radiometer. He was knighted in 1897, and was president of the Royal Society.

According to Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett:

Crooks, Sir William, 1832-1919. English physicist and scientist of note; Member of the Royal Society. He achieved some remarkable results with experiments in "Radiant Matter." He was one of the "highest minds" whom the Adept Founders of the TS had hoped to interest in Theosophy. He became a member of the TS and One of the five councilors of the Society. HPB states (LBS, pp 224-5) that he was teaching a very occult doctrine and the the Mahatmas intended to help him. See ML index; SH index.[1]

Sir William Crookes and his wife joined The Theosophical Society in London on December 15, 1883, together with Charles Webster Leadbeater. In 1890 he was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and in the 1890s joined the Society for Psychical Research. Later, he joined the Ghost Club, a paranormal research organization, of which he was president from 1907 to 1912.



Katie King, Florence Cook and Sir William Crookes

Prof. Crookes' younger brother Philip died prematurely in 1867 at age 21, which may have contributed to his interest in spiritualism. In 1870 Crookes stated that science had a duty to study the phenomena associated with spiritualism in an impartial way.

He studied mediums such as Kate Fox, Florence Cook, and others, and witnessed many phenomena, including the appearance of ghostly characters, such as Katie King. His report on this research in 1874, concluded that these phenomena could not be explained as conjuring, and that further research would be useful. Most scientists were convinced that spiritualism was fraudulent, and Crookes' final report so outraged the scientific establishment "that there was talk of depriving him of his Fellowship of the Royal Society." Crookes then became much more cautious and didn't discuss his views publicly until 1898, when he felt his position was secure. From that time until his death in 1919, letters and interviews show that Crookes was a believer in spiritualism.[2]

Theosophists on Crookes

H. P. Blavatsky said about him:

Crookes has been giving ideas that are not quite orthodox about me. He says: “Oh, the old lady is getting old and is falling into her dotage. She used to know something, but now she has given out everything and knows nothing.” I am very glad he thinks so, because he would otherwise have bothered me out of my life. I made him ring the two astral bells himself. Just the last time I touched him myself. He had his hand in the glass that stood there and they produced two distinct astral bells, and therefore he knows this thing which he can do also, but he wanted me to give him the key to it. I said: “If you behave yourself, I will,” but he did not behave himself, and so he did not get it. And on that he was made to believe . . . that I was a poor medium.[3]

Master K.H. wrote:

So the great Mr. Crookes has placed one foot across the threshold for the sake of reading the Society's papers? Well and wisely done, and really brave of him. Heretofore he was bold enough to take a similar step and loyal enough to truth to disappoint his colleagues by making his facts public. When he was seeing his invaluable paper smothered in the "Sections" and the whole Royal Society trying to cough him down, metaphorically if not actually . . . he little thought how perfect a revenge Karma had in store for him. Let him know that its cornucopia is not yet emptied, and that Western Science has still three additional states of matter to discover. But he should not wait for us to condense ourselves up to the stethescopic standard as his Katy did; for we men are subject to laws of molecular affinity and polaric attraction which that sweet simulacrum was not hampered with. We have no favourites, break no rules. If Mr. Crookes would penetrate Arcana beyond the corridors the tools of modern science have already excavated, let him — Try. He tried and found the Radiometer; tried again, and found Radiant matter; may try again and find the "Kama-rupa" of matter — its fifth state. But to find it's Manas he would have to pledge himself stronger to secrecy than he seems inclined to. You know our motto, and that its practical application has erased the word "impossible" from the occultist's vocabulary. If he wearies not of trying, he may discover that that most noble of all facts, his true SELF. But he will have to penetrate many strata before he comes to It. And to begin with let him rid himself of the maya that any man living can set up "claims" upon Adepts. He may create irresistible attractions and compel their attention, but they will be spiritual, not mental or intellectual.[4]

See also

• Radiant Matter
• Phlogiston


The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists 38 articles by or about Crookes.

• Hannon, Ralph H. "Crookes, William" Theosophical Encyclopedia (Quezon City, Philippines: Theosophical Publishing House, 2006), 178-180. Link is to Theosophy World.
• William Crookes Natal Horoscope at Khaldea.


1. George E. Linton and Virginia Hanson, eds., Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 219.
2. See William Crookes in Wikipedia.
3. Michael Gomes (transcriber), The Secret Doctrine Commentaries (The Hague: I.S.I.S. foundation, 2010), 261-262.
4. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 111 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 374.
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