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The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:
September 25, 2011 10:16 AM   Subscribe

A Liberal Decalogue - Bertrand Russell
posted by thatwhichfalls (31 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ten things I can agree with.
posted by Renoroc at 10:37 AM on September 25, 2011


I've always liked Russell for his 'lighter' writing - his journalism and essays as opposed to his philosophy or mathematics, in other words. I hadn't come across this before, so thanks for the link!
posted by anaximander at 10:39 AM on September 25, 2011


Amen, Brother Russell.
posted by rain at 10:59 AM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


But isn't there something here we could argue about?
posted by philip-random at 11:20 AM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is timely - last night I read Logicomix, which is a graphic novel laying out his early struggles with logic (up to Godel, basically).

For lighter writing, 'Nightmares of Eminent Persons' is a brief and hilarious book.
posted by Sebmojo at 11:23 AM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Excellent, thanks for this.
posted by Auguris at 11:30 AM on September 25, 2011


But isn't there something here we could argue about?

sure, number seven. Having eccentric opinions doesn't mean that they will someday be accepted.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 11:42 AM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


These principles, right here, are what we should be striving for when the Fox-watching GOP fuckheads decry "the liberal media". These are precisely the principles you should want a news organization to have.

Of course, the fact that we don't actually have "liberal" media in this sense in the US just makes the whole accusation that much more teeth-grindingly infuriating but, hey, one battle at a time.
posted by kcds at 11:57 AM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


But isn't there something here we could argue about?

Sure there is; after all, that's what we liberals do best.

Let's take Commandment 7: that really seems to be saying that if you're an anti-vaccination activist, our insist on giving your sick children homeopathic remedies because "Big Pharma, man", then your attitudes should be accepted. Which I think is kind of dangerous.

How eccentric is still just eccentric? Does "AIDS was created by the CIA" count as eccentric? How about "Islam is inherently violent"? Does "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are true" count as an eccentricity we should just
posted by happyroach at 12:00 PM on September 25, 2011


I think Russel's point is the eccentricity of opinion is not, in and of itself, an indication of the invalidity of said opinion.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:01 PM on September 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


OH GOD THEY GOT HAPPYROACH
posted by mkb at 12:02 PM on September 25, 2011 [13 favorites]


shakespeherian beat me to it. 7 doesn't say "your opinion is eccentric, therefore it will be proven correct".
posted by Bangaioh at 12:04 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think unfortunately Russel overestimates the ability of people to have their opinions changed by rational discussion. Anyone who's been online will see that it's obviously not possible to change people's opinions based on logic and reason.
posted by delmoi at 12:29 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's take Commandment 7: that really seems to be saying that if you're an anti-vaccination activist, our insist on giving your sick children homeopathic remedies because "Big Pharma, man", then your attitudes should be accepted. Which I think is kind of dangerous.

Uh, no. #7 doesn't say that you have to accept other people's eccentric opinions. Just that you yourself shouldn't be afraid to believe in them merely because they are eccentric. As for the dangerousness, see #8.
posted by DU at 12:56 PM on September 25, 2011


sure, number seven. Having eccentric opinions doesn't mean that they will someday be accepted.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:42 PM on September 25


Logic 101 fail, dude. Saying that all B were once A is not logically equivalent to saying all A will become B.

Russell was not a stupid man, you know.
posted by Decani at 12:59 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Russell was relentlessly rational (he, like Socrates, even accepted the state's punishment for refusing to recant beliefs that he believed were rational), but I doubt that most humans can even approach Russell's level of clear-minded rationality, or the ability to follow those beliefs through to their logical conclusions. We just aren't designed for that kind of thing, for the most part.
posted by Avenger at 1:00 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also: Benjamin Franklin's Thirteen Virtues
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:30 PM on September 25, 2011


>imitate jesus and socrates

:|
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:18 PM on September 25, 2011


I find Franklin's take on chastity particularly amusing.
posted by cthuljew at 2:29 PM on September 25, 2011


Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversations
Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time
Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve
Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing
Industry: Lose not time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions
Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; speak accordingly


Ben was not online
posted by Cranberry at 2:39 PM on September 25, 2011


Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

THEY LAUGHED AT EINSTEIN!
(When he made that funny face sticking out his tongue. Not because of his physics papers.)
posted by straight at 4:25 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Russell was relentlessly rational (he, like Socrates, even accepted the state's punishment for refusing to recant beliefs that he believed were rational), but I doubt that most humans can even approach Russell's level of clear-minded rationality, or the ability to follow those beliefs through to their logical conclusions. We just aren't designed for that kind of thing, for the most part.

I don't think it has as much to do with our wiring as with our upbringing. Emotions interfere with reason, and humanity is emotional by nature for sure. But I think it's just as true that reason interferes with our emotions, and human nature is inherently reasonable. The two play off each other, and I don't think there is any clear evidence that one part of our nature is naturally stronger than the other. It just happens that excessively rational people don't make compulsive purchases, so they're bad for business. Excessively emotional people are always looking for their next fix, so they're good for business. Thus, a media infrastructure that is owned and operated by the business class should be expected to cultivate a more emotional public.

I know that this is an example of starting from the conclusion and rationalizing backward. This model of the media isn't very scientific, but I think it's plausible. In any case if it were true, one could easily imagine a public in which reason and logic are cultivated in the same way compulsive sentimentality is in current age.

And if anyone is interested, there's a torrent somewhere out there of Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy on audiobook. I've heard that it's weak as far as historical accounts of philosophy go, but I still think it's wonderful.
posted by jwhite1979 at 5:13 PM on September 25, 2011


Or lord, some days, on reading the Internet, I want to send everyone large posters with #1 printed in large type. Granted, I sometimes think the only way to persevere through unlikely odds is an overwhelming, irrational belief that you are right, all progress depending on the irrational man and all that.
posted by zabuni at 6:35 PM on September 25, 2011


.....but I doubt that most humans can even approach Russell's level of clear-minded rationality.....

"It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it".....Rabbi Tarfon.
posted by lalochezia at 8:16 PM on September 25, 2011


> Let's take Commandment 7: that really seems to be saying that if you're an anti-vaccination activist, our insist on giving your sick children homeopathic remedies because "Big Pharma, man", then your attitudes should be accepted. Which I think is kind of dangerous.

No, because 7 does not exist without the other nine commandments; you still have to be knowledgeable, truthful, forthright, and so on. This means being able to distinguish that which is a matter of opinion from that which is a matter of phenomena, and holding forth on it when surrounded by those who have them confused.
posted by ardgedee at 8:23 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I prefer to think that reasoning can emerge from feeling, but feelings do not always give rise reasoning.
posted by wobh at 9:11 PM on September 25, 2011


Glad to see that an argument has broken out! But what about number six? How can an opinion "suppress" me? For I am flesh and blood while it is a mere idea. Unless it were written on a very hard piece of cardboard, perhaps, but I think this unlikely.

I think that this proves unequivocally that I am smarter than Bertrand Russell. I will accept congratulations by MeMail for a period of one week.
posted by No-sword at 12:02 AM on September 26, 2011


ahhhh good old Bertie! Even by arguing about the finer points of the decalogue, you are participating in it's spirit....

(Is Bertie's ghost a lurking Metafilter member? only to delurk and put us all right? (and then deny it's own existence?(as there's no evidence for ghosts?)))
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 3:45 AM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found."
posted by joannemullen at 4:56 AM on September 26, 2011


Bertie's Ghost would be a great band name
posted by willie11 at 5:35 PM on September 26, 2011


1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

Is he certain that we shouldn't feel certain about anything?

I prefer this quote from him:

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts."

posted by akindoftune at 2:38 AM on September 27, 2011


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