Today: 50 years since Russell’s death

50 years ago today, at 97 years of age, Bertrand Arthur William Russell died. The Bertrand Russell Society wishes to take this occasion to mark and celebrate his legacy.

Russell was a Nobel Laureate, a peace activist strongly opposed to nuclear armaments and the Vietnam War, and deeply concerned with the plight of humankind. As he puts it in the prologue of his Autobiography:

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. […] Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

For all his active participation in political affairs – he exchanged telegrams with Kennedy and Kruschev during the Cuban Missile Crisis – Russell was also an insightful and brilliant philosopher. His works on the foundations of mathematics contributed a great deal to philosophy of that subject, and also induced a revolution into mathematically-inspired scientific philosophy, an approach to philosophizing that privileged piecemeal, careful, and collaborative work, which stressed taking patient stock of patent facts over the heroic systematic and a prioristic philosophizing of his contemporaries.

This forward-looking methodology, besides doing a great deal to inspire our own philosophical age, was equally applied by Russell in political and ethical philosophy, leading him to proposed roadmaps for humankind that, he believed, would alleviate the enormous suffering that pained him so much.

Today, 50 years since his death, we are very far from that utopia, but we think and feel that the clearest vision of that hopeful future appears in his works. And despite the shortcomings of the present age, we are delighted to celebrate his life and legacy today. These words from Russell’s Autobiography ring ever the more true because of the joy that reading Russell has brought to many of us:

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

Finally, we will be updating this page today with Russell-related links from others, including their favorite Russell quotes and clips. Please feel free to share these in comments below, or tag us on Twitter so that we can add them.

Celebrations of Russell, 2nd February 1970 – 50 years since his death

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