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Creator / Bertrand Russell

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"Man is a rational animal — so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favor of this statement, but so far I have not had the good fortune to come across it, though I have searched in many countries spread over three continents."
Bertrand Russell, An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970), was one of the foremost philosophers, mathematicians and logicians of the 20th century, famous for being the co-author (along with Alfred Whitehead) of the Principia Mathematica, one of history's most important and seminal works in mathematical logic. He also developed an analogy now called Russell's Teapot.

Equally impressive is Russell's legacy as an essayist and social critic. He was imprisoned for his involvement in pacifist activities during World War I. After World War II, he became one of the leading activists for nuclear disarmament. He won the 1950 Nobel Prize in Literature for "his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought". (Russell accepted the prize, but commented: "I feel like that intellectual but plain-looking lady who was warmly complimented on her beauty.") He remained politically active until the end of his life, vigorously protesting The Vietnam War and what he considered to be Harold Wilson's complicity in it in the 1960s.

Incidentally, the grandson of the Earl Russell, Prime Minister 1846–52 and 1865–66; the title Bertrand inherited was created for his grandfather. His grandfather, being a prominent liberal but a devout Presbyterian, would probably have had mixed feelings at worst about Bertrand's politics, which have been passed down to his descendants, the 4th through 7th (current) Earls Russell—all have been vaguely leftists and/or disarmament advocates (the 5th Earl, Conrad, was the first Liberal Democrat Lord, and also a distinguished historian, while the 6th Earl, Nicholas, was a Labour councillor; both advocated the abolition of the Lords), making them oddballs among the British aristocracy.

Bertrand Russell is associated with the following tropes:

  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Russell, an atheist, had nothing but scorn for the Christian faith. In A History of Western Philosophy, he dismisses the works of the scholastics like Thomas Aquinas, claiming that the philosopher should start with an unadorned mind and follow the argument whither it goeth, whereas Aquinas and the scholastics start with the existential antecedent that the Christian faith is true and work from there. In his eyes, what they are doing is actually theology, which "is not philosophy, but special pleading", and therefore philosophically worthless.
  • Blue Blood: The Russells were old British aristocracy, tracing themselves back at least to the time of Henry VIII, and are cousins of the Dukes of Bedford.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Did this to Vladimir Lenin after meeting him, noting that Lenin had "strength of will" and was not a hypocrite, but then went on to explain how Lenin was no better than those he fought.
  • Deadpan Snarker: From "Why I Am Not a Christian", which was a lecture and then an essay he delivered in 1927:
    "In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying."
  • Game of Chicken: Compared the nuclear arms race to this trope and harshly criticized those who blamed only the other side and not both.
  • Logic Bomb: Russell's Paradox. Set theory was a crucial part of the basic foundations of mathematics when Russell discovered a paradox within it: some sets are members of themselves, and some are not. So a set of sets that are not members of themselves must exist. Is it a member of itself? If not, then it must be, but if it is, then it can't be. Entire theories of mathematics collapsed as a result.
  • Older Than They Think: He was a scathing critic of religion whose writings wouldn't be out of place among the New Atheists.invoked
    "You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress of humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or even mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world."
  • Plato Is a Moron: Expressed in A History of Western Philosophy. Russell took his time to say that he did not think highly of Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle. Likewise, he was dismissive of medieval philosophers like Thomas Aquinas, claiming that they were theologians first and foremost who started with the existential antecedent that the Christian faith is true and therefore produced nothing of philosophical value.
  • Raised by Grandparents: His father and mother died young, leaving him at the age of four to be raised by his grandfather—the aforementioned Earl Russell (whom Bertrand remembered as "a kindly old man in a wheelchair")—and grandmother Frances, Countess Russell. The Earl died two years later—leaving the title to Bertrand's older brother Frank—and his grandmother took charge of the boys. The Countess was a formidable woman and substantially more conservative than his parents—but given that his parents were very radical for their time, this merely meant that she would allow them the same dose of freethought in secular affairs, while still raising them as Presbyterians.