Bertrand Russell the Man
THE publication of three books Ton Bertrand Russell*-one by his second wife, one by their daughter, and one by an admiring but honest biographer-hard on the appearance of Russell’s three-volume Autobiography gives us more details about Russell’s life and loves than about any philosopher who has ever lived. And it is still not the whole story. What Russell’s own account has lacked in candor, Ronald Clark has made up in large part. Those who are concerned about Russell’s image might well hope we will be spared futher revelations about the events and intimacies of his life.
This profusion of biographical detail is rather puzzling if we think of Russell’s achievement as a professional philosopher. Neither the validity of his ideas nor even their significance depends in any way upon the startling details of his domestic and public life, and the bizarre record, both comic and cruel, of his multiple extramarital adventures. Russell’s place in the history of philosophy is secure just as much as is Wagner’s in the history of music. But anyone who expects to learn why, or to deepen his insight into Russell’s contributions by reading these biographies, will be disappointed. Only Clark’s book makes passing references to Russell’s work in philosophy but hardly attempts to do it justice. A dozen other volumes are available for its critical assessment, and happily they ignore biographical details.
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