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on 28 July 2009
I bought this book on a whim and am glad I did. Many of the essays are from the 1930's and some of the ideas are dated and have been superseded by more modern ones, however the core of what Russell talks about is still incredibly relevant to modern life(if not more then when written). This book depressed me in the same way that Tressel's Ragged Trousered Philanthropists did, we are 70 years on from Russells essays and even further on from Tressel's book and very little, if anything, has changed. The problems with society discussed by Russell(& Tressell) still exist, yes conditions at the bottom of society may be somewhat better now but when compared to conditions at the top the problems are still there.
This book is well worth a read, as are Russell's other works, but don't expect an easy or happy read.
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on 13 November 2012
Since the essays in this book were written pre WWII, they address the rise of Fascism and Communism. However, these essays, while being of historical importance, also contain a warning for the people of our age. The economic chaos of our times poses great peril to the political stability of the world. Furthermore, some of his comments on economic matters echo the ideas proposed by John Maynard Keynes (problems caused by gold standard, error of economic austerity and tariff barriers during periods of depression, etc.). In addition to the criticism of the political and economic system of the 1920s and 30s, Russell asks us to question the value of work as an end in itself. Why do we place the notion of "work" on such a moral pedestal? Is it not enough to work to feed oneself, but then allow time for the "higher pursuits" of humanity, like the arts, music, pure sciences, mathematics, sport, etc.? (He apparently has a few choice words to offer about how architecture and city planning have failed humanity.)

I recommend this book unreservedly for the clear, concise, beautifully composed prose that is characteristic of Russell's writing. Some of the ideas appear dated (well, they were written 70-100 years ago, after all!) but there is much that can still speak to our time.
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on 6 September 2009
This book is a collection of essays which contain some musings, thoughts and nuggets of wisdom from Mr. Russell pertaining to our lifestyles. The essays were all written circa the 1930's so it's important that this book is read more as a classical text rather than a modern life reference point.

Many of the points Russell makes are of course persistent truths. This includes his ideas of the pleasure of knowledge, discovery and wonder. Others perhaps a bit more unorthodox for example his idea of increasing communal space and decreasing private space based on the logic there would be less work for people do, or his idea that people should only work four hours a day on the basis that this would create more jobs for people and then more leisure for everyone.

In making his points Russell's references a very wide range of other cultures and historical reference points; from King Kaniska to Aristides; from Hammurabi to Peter the Great; and from Marco Polo to Fitche. Obviously this makes the book very interesting but I must say as an Irish person I was perturbed with his remark that the "British had inflicted civilization upon (the Irish) for 800 years". Unfortunately I think his usual clinical thinking has let him down here. I don't think a man of his intellect and genuine caring for the state of human welfare could possibly forget about a million people who were ignored by an uncaring British government as they starved to death. So, I thought this remark was completly out of character for Russell especially as he goes go to great lengths in the book to show the folly of nationalism (which effectively refutes an anglophile stance) and his writings are generally very humanistic in nature.

Put the gross misjudgement of Anglo - Irish history aside, I think it's still a very good book. Obviously there's too many points to cover in a brief review but I'm sure there's plenty to stimulate the minds of most readers.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 October 2009
Besides his praise of idleness, Bertrand Russell demolishes in these lectures the philosophy of Johann Gottlieb Fichte and gives formidable comments on fascism and communism (`Scylla and Charybdis'), religion, politics and civilization.
The all important issue in his `literary' work was to save mankind from the suicidal disaster of (nuclear) war.

B. Russell demonstrates clearly that Fichte's whole philosophy develops out of the proposition `I am I'. For Fichte, the Ego is both the agent and the result of the action. The Ego exists because it wills to exist. Or more generally, `the universe is myself'.
In his `Address to the German Nation', Fichte states that `the German is superior to all other moderns, because he alone has a pure language. If the German character is to be preserved, there must be a new kind of education, which must consist essentially in this, that it completely destroys the freedom of the will' (!).

For B. Russell, civilization is a combination of knowledge and forethought. The degree of forethought involved in any act is measured by three factors: present pain, future pleasure and the length of the interval between them.

Religion is a conscious phenomenon, because `one doesn't find that believers in a future life are less afraid of illness. The reason for this apparent inconsistency is, of course, that religious belief exists only in the region of conscious thought and has not succeeded in modifying unconscious mechanisms.'

B. Russell is extremely cynical in his evaluation of modern governments: `In view of the fact that the bulk of the public expenditure of most civilized governments consists in payment for past wars or preparation for future wars, the man who lends his money to a government is in the same position as that bad men in Shakespeare who hire murderers.'

As one of the greatest philosophers of all time and as a true pacifist, Bertrand Russell's works are a must read for all those who want to understand (and change) the world we live in.
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on 6 February 2013
Brilliant mind, often the most interesting ideas are ruined by writers inability to express them eloquently. This book is enjoyable, enlightening and persausive.
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VINE VOICEon 4 August 2016
This is worth reading for The Case For Socialism essay alone – because it’s so amusingly misguided and wrong-headed. What’s fascinating is that one of the great brains of the 20th century gets it so totally wrong; this is telling - ‘experts’ can and do get it wrong (maybe Michael Gove had a point…).

Virtually everything Russell says in it has been proved not to be the case. In fact, the complete opposite has been true in many cases. For instance, he says that only socialism can give people more leisure time – nope, it’s capitalism that has given people more leisure time. He says that only public bodies can plan successfully, and predict changes in the marketplace. No, private companies are far more responsive to changes, they can react to such things with far greater speed and efficiency. All this has been demonstrably proved. Margaret Thatcher destroyed people like Russell’s arguments, and only since then have we been able to discount these damaging points of view (which is why socialists despise her).

So the book is fascinating: a learned man can get so much right (on religion, for example) and so much wrong. Learn from that. Read this book, but trust your instincts.
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The effect of mass production and elementary education is that stupidity is more firmly entrenched than at any other time since the rise of civilization. Discuss

What we feel about Russell probably depends on how we feel about Bloomsbury and how Bloomsbury we think he is. Personally, since I came to know them separately, I think both he and Katherine Mansfield stand outside it. And gosh, don't these 77ish-year-old essays hold up well? Less Chestertonian sophistry (jokey title aside) than the tweedy scientism of a JBS Haldane (also well worth seeking out) with just the hint of a wink, this puts the flashier intellectuals of what would once have been referred to airily as 'the Continent' (Sartre? Beauvoir? So last century) in the shade. Chapter X (on America)'s a good place to start; it dates from 1930. Elsewhere he refers to 'children who have been driven wild by parental tyranny (which often takes the form of solicitous affection)'; on the advance of science, 'man, in the security of his dominion, is becoming trivial, arrogant, and a little mad'. (Which is not to say we've ever been sane - and who, today, would wish to be?) The only chapter that's looking its age is Architecture and Social Questions, but those 30s visions also have their macabre fascination - and we still have to live (and increasingly) with the consequences.
But today's problems are worse than anything Russell could have envisaged (would he have been an eco-warrior or merely looked on aghast?) And now Libya, eh? what on earth compelled the West to get involved when nobody, but nobody, was in favour of it? Well OK, the Italians (so much for the EU's vastly expensive foreign policy unit..) As Russell says, children just love to fight. Heigh ho. Time for Marriage and Morals, 1929 vintage - escapism or what?
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on 15 March 2013
a brilliantly constructed and interesting number of essays , some I had to read twice, very informative and relevant WOW
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on 24 September 2015
Perfect and accurate description of item sold. Perfect condition. Perfect delivery time.
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on 24 May 2016
replaced lost copy.
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