The History of Western Philosophy

     I’ve been (extremely) slowly reading through Bertrand Russell’s The History of Western Philosophy.  I have to take umbrage with Russell many times; he seems to think his admittedly fine intellect results in the final answer to whatever philosophical subject he covers.  He also tends to put his personal stamp of approval or disapproval on his subjects rather than allowing the reader to decide the relative merits of any particular philosopher or school of philosophy.  But overall his History is informative and gives a decent overview of Western philosophers and philosophic schools from pre-Socratics to 1930s logic.  Below are two passages that struck chords with me.  I’m simply going to post them below without commentary for now.  Enjoy!

            “The reason that Hobbes gives for supporting the State, namely that it is the only alternative to anarchy, is in the main a valid one.  A State may, however, be so bad that temporary anarchy seems preferable to its continuance, as in France in 1789 and in Russia in 1917.  Moreover the tendency of every government towards tyranny cannot be kept in check unless governments have some fear of rebellion.  Governments would be worse than they are if Hobbes’s submissive attitude were universally adopted by subjects.  This is true in the political sphere, where governments will try, if they can, to make themselves personally irremovable; it is true in the economic sphere, where they will try to enrich themselves and their friends at the public expense; it is true in the intellectual sphere, where they will suppress every new discovery or doctrine that seems to menace their power.  These are reasons for not thinking only of the risk of anarchy, but also of the danger of injustice and ossification that is bound up with omnipotence in government.”  (Russell, pg. 556)

            “As we saw, he [Spinoza] believes that hatred can be overcome by love:  “Hatred is increased by being reciprocated, and can on the other hand be destroyed by love.  Hatred which is completely vanquished by love, passes into love; and love is thereupon greater, than if hatred had not preceded it.”  I wish I could believe this, but I cannot, except in exceptional cases where the person hating is completely in the power of the person who refuses to hate in return.  In such cases, surprise at being not punished may have a reforming effect.  But so long as the wicked have power, it is not much use assuring them that you do not hate them, since they will attribute your words to the wrong motive.  And you cannot deprive them of power by non-resistance.”  (Russell, pg. 580)

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