Paul Monk on Bertrand Russell

Paul Monk’s essays have been gracing the pages of the AFR friday review for a while now.   I read them when I see them and am rarely disappointed.   But I particularly liked this review essay on the biography of Bertrand Russell by Ray Monk (I don’t konw if he’s any relation). It’s more than a review.   It’s an penetrating meditation on the (doomed?) quest for certainty in human knowledge.   And it’s got something for everyone – a bit of Popper for Rafe.   A bit of Smith, Marshall and Keynes for me. It show’s Monk’s appreciation for all these people – surely a more useful orientation than the compulsion to relate to them primarily by situating them somehow on an ideological spectrum.

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Ken Parish
17 years ago

It was an excellent article. Many thanks for the link, Nicholas.

17 years ago

Thanks for Club Troppo Ken, where would we be without access to these great pieces that other people find. Thanks Nicholas!

Ray Monk also did a major biography of Wittgenstein. The two volumes on Russell are marvellous although admirers of Russell think that he was too hostile in the second vol which revealed the full extent of the human carnage in Russell’s wake. In the course of writing that volume Monk found he had come to hate Russell as a person.

The suggestion that Russell took on a Che-type revolutionary stance at the end of his life is a tad exaggerated, that was the work of his private secretary who cut him off from his friends by taking all his calls and mail, and he wrote inflamatory stuff under Russell’s name. Eventually his friends convinced Russell that the man was having a lend of him and the fellow was dismissed.

The reference to the great philosopher Rudolph Carnap is exaggerated as well. He had the reverse of the midas touch, all the projects he touched turned to lead.