While cleaning our garage I came across two big boxes full of books belonging to my husband. Most of the books were intact while others were mere pages here and there. Guess in his bachelor days, he, in fact was an avid reader which he claims to be.
From the picture you can easily see that the book was not in that great shape but for some reason he was really happy to have found it. So to be honest, I read this book due to sheer insistence of my husband but I am so happy that he did insist I read this book.
Only 90 pages long this book seems readable in 1 hour but do not underestimate the power of each sentence. Like me, you will be pausing and thinking or researching most of the things mentioned. This book will surely extend your thinking and questioning abilities. Though most of the essays are written prior to WWII there are some new thoughts which Russell expressed on his 90th birthday.
Bertrand Russell was a British philosopher, mathematician, logician, historian, writer, political activist, social critic and Nobel laureate. A non-conformist, his words definitely make you think and question everything around you.
Essays in Skepticism is a small compilation of his actual work both old and his new theories. The first major two-thirds of the book deals with different life philosophies while the last part dives into political philosophy. Russell talks about Man, Envy and Belief, Intellectual Rubbish, God and getting old.
The book starts off with a very interesting discussion that the humans blame the disasters not in their control to problems in the world today but according to Russell the principal cause is human. To explain it better he gives the example of famine.Famine, is something beyond human control but what about the crops and harvest which were destroyed during wars leading to famine? Wasn’t that within human control??
Then he moves on to talk about insanity in olden days which was thought to be due to demonic possession and the only way to get rid of it was to inflict more pain on the human which would in turn make the demons uncomfortable and they would leave the poor soul. Can you imagine the brutality these people had to face on year’s end. Even the kings we not expect from such beliefs. This treatment was tried on King George III when he was mad, but without any success.
These are just the beginning few pages. This book is full of interesting believes and ideas which we are or have been staunchly following. Russell just makes you think about them hard enough for you to realize that most of them do not make sense at all or if they do you will end up with a much bigger reason as to why. The best part is that you will come across a lot of things that you already agree to but Russell will give you a new insight on why those things are right and you will leave with solid reasonings to back your beliefs. That being said there were some beliefs in the book that I did not agree to at all but that does not mean in any way that Russell does not give rational reasons to back them up.
The book is full of strange anthropological studies from Polyandry in Tibet, where a wife would have many husbands since men were too poor to support a whole wife to housing shortage situation in Moscow where an un-married pregnant woman would have many contenders for the legal right to be considered the child’s father because who ever she would choose would acquire the right to share the woman’s room and as Russell comments “half a room is better than no roof”.
The book is full of very interesting anecdotes which I found very humorous and some deep philosophical studies which were thought-provoking.
One of the interesting anecdotes mentioned is that of a prophetess who lived beside a lake in Northern New York in 1820 who had announced to her followers that she possessed the power to walk on water. One day she told her followers to gather at the lake where she would demonstrate her powers. When the cult gathered she asked them “Are you all entirely persuaded that I can walk in water? When they said they are. She replied “In that case there is no need for me to do so”. The power of belief!
I would highly recommend it to anyone who is willing to challenge his/her accepted beliefs and ideas.Read it with a skeptical mind and think and question your own thoughts. It is written in clear, easy words but the message is dense.It is not one of those books which you can read with the wind but a book which needs time and presence. You might not agree with everything he says but you will end up with solid reasoning to your whys and why nots.This book pushes you to break your thinking barriers and to analyze each argument and come up with your own conclusion, most of which will be in sync with Russell’s own analysis.
Here are some of my favorite Bertand Russell’s quotes :
Since this book turned out a good read maybe I should read the other books he has been suggesting…..hmmm…… but not today as I have to bing watch my recorded series only if I could find the remote.