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Back to Unedited Philosophy Quotes and Ramblings about Intequinism.

Author:            Bertrand Russel

Title:                History of Western Philosophy

Place:               London and New York

Publisher:        Routledge Classics

Year:                2004 by Routledge Classics

                        First published 1946 by George Allen & Unwin Ltd, London

                        ©1996 The Bertrand Russel Peace Foundation Ltd

ISBN 10:         0-415-32505-6

ISBN 13:         978-0-415-32505-9

Reader:            Mnr. M.D. Pienaar


Russell, B.  2004.  History of western philosophy.  (London and New York: Routledge Classics)


11 June 2014

"Dionysus, or Bacchus, was originally a Thracian god. The Thracians were very much less civilized than the Greeks, who regarded them as barbarians. Like all primitive agriculturists, they had fertility cults, and a god who promoted fertility. His name was Bacchus. It was never quite clear whether Bacchus had the shape of a man or a bull. When they discovered how to make beer, they thought intoxication divine, and gave honour to Bacchus. When, later, they came to know the vine and to learn to drink wine, they thought even better of him. His function in promoting fertility in general became somewhat subordinate to his function in relation to the grape and the divine madness produced by wine." (Russel, 2004:24)

"Euripides, especially, honoured the two chief gods of Orphism, Dionysis and Eros. He has no respect for the coldly self-righteous well-behaved man, who in his tragedies, is apt to be driven mad or otherwise brought to grief by the gods in resentment of his blasphemy." (Russel, 2004:29)


Orpheus reformed the Bacchic traditions with ascetism. As for the Christians wine was a symbol but the orphics did not consume large quantities of wine. (Russel, 2004:26).


14 June 2014

"Plato is always concerned to advocate views that will make people what he thinks virtuous; he is hardly ever intellectually honest, because he allows himself to judge doctrines by their social consequences. Even about this, he is not honest; he pretends to follow the argument and to be judging by purely theoretical standards, when in fact he is twisting the discussion so as to lead to a virtuous result. He introduced this vice into philosophy, where it has persisted ever since." (Russel, 2004:84).

"Let us begin with Xenophon, a military man, not very liberally endowed with brains, and on the whole conventional in his outlook. Xenophon is pained that Socrates should have been accused of impiety and of corrupting the youth; he contends that, on the contrary, Socrates was eminently pious and had a thoroughly wholesome effect on those who came under his influence. His ideas, it appears, so far from being subversive, were rather dull and commonplace. This defence goes to far, since it leaves the hostility to Socrates unexplained." (Russel, 2004:89).

"There has been a tendency to think that everything Xenophon says must be true, because he had not the wits to think of anything untrue. This is a very invalid line of argument. A stupid man's report of what a clever man says is never accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something that he can understand. I would rather be reported by my bitterest enemy among philosophers than by a friend innocent of philosophy." (Russel, 2004:90).

"Nevertheless, some of Xenophon's reminiscences are very convincing. He tells (as Plato also does) how Socrates was continually occupied with the problem of getting competent men into positions of power. He would ask such questions as: 'If I wanted a shoe mended, whom should I employ?' To which some ingenuous youth would answer: 'A shoemaker, O Socrates.' He would go on to carpenters, coppersmiths, etc., and finally ask some such question as 'who should mend the Ship of State?' When he fell into conflict with the Thirty Tyrants, Critias, their chief, who knew his ways from having studied under him, forbade him to continue teaching the young, and added: 'You had better be done with shoemakers, carpenters and coppersmiths. These must be pretty well trodden out at heel by this time, considering the circulation you have given them' (Xenophon, Memorabilia, Bk. I, chap. ii)." (Russel, 2004:90).

"With Plato's account of Socrates, the difficulty is quite a different one from what it is in the case of Xenophon, namely, that it is very hard to judge how far Plato means to portray the historical Socrates, and how far he intends the person called 'Socrates' in his dialogues to be merely the mouthpiece of his own opinions. Plato, in addition to being a philosopher, is an imaginative writer of great genius and charm. No one suppposes, and he himself does not seriously pretend, that the conversations in his dialogue took place just as he records them." (Russel, 2004:90).

Russell wrote with regard to Plato's dialogue, Apology: "He, however, proposed a fine of thirty minae, for which some of his friends (including Plato) were willing to go surety." (Russel, 2004:90). "After the verdict, and the rejection of the alternative penalty of thirty minae (in connection with which Socrates names Plato as one among his sureties, and present in court), he makes one final speech." (Russel, 2004:94).

In Apology at 33 to 34 Socrates talks about Plato, being present at the trial. From this part of the dialogue much might be learnt about who was Socrates's real friends and real enemies (Plato, 2013:634). Was the alternative sentence, of 30 minae, Socrates suggested a sarcastic reference to "the Thirty" tyrants, which perhaps included Aristotle. Today i think that perhaps the younger generation, under te influence of Critias, Plato's uncle, influenced, for Socrates's trial.

18 June 2014

"Lying, Plato says explicitly, is to be a perogative of the government, just as giving medicine is of physicians. The government, as we have already seen, is to deceive people in pretending to arrange marriages by lot, but this is not a religious matter.

There is to be 'one royal lie,' which, Plato hopes, may deceive the rulers, but will at any rate deceive the rest of the city. This 'lie' is set forth in considerable detail. The most important part of it is the dogma that God has created men of three kinds, the best made of gold, the second best of silver, and the common herd of brass and iron." (Russell, 2004:115)

The Japanese for example have been influenced much by functional disinformation since 1868. They believe that "the Mikado is descended from the sun-goddess". They also believe that Japan was created before the rest of the world. Any Japanese professor, who opposes this dogma will be dismissed. According to Russell, Plato did not realise that such functional disinformation is "incompatible with philosophy". (Russell, 2004:115)

The opinion of Russel about Plato's lies is based on Socrates's views in the Republic.

According to Russel Plato had a negative view of poetry (Russell, 2004:117). Somewhere else i read that Plato was from a line of poets, which can be compared with writing of laws.

"Christ taught that it is not wrong to pluck ears of corn on the Sabbath, but that it is wrong to hate your enemies." (Russell, 2004:119)

Russell's view about Jesus is mistaken because Jesus's love was to not break the law, like Socrates's. When they asked Jesus what love is, he said it is a synthesis of the Old Testament laws and the prophecies.

"Just as a reflection of a bed in a mirror is only apparent and not 'real', so the various particular beds are unreal, being only copies of the 'idea', which is the real bed, and is made by God." (Russell, 2004:123). "We saw that God made only one bed" (Russell, 2004:125).

Plato's view of education was against "utilitarian spirit" (Russell, 2004:130).

Reverend Benjamin Jowett said the following about Socrates: "Even for many Christians, it is second only to the death of Christ. 'There is nothing in any tragedy, ancient or modern, nothing in poetry or history (with one exception), like the last hours of Socrates in Plato.' " (Russell, 2004:132)

Russell writes "Platonic Socrates's" ascetic life style was beneficial for society but that he had "grave defects", which were dishonesty and sophistry. His actions were "treachery to truth" because he wanted to adjust the world to his view of the truth, in an unscientific way, which acted against a "disinterested search for knowledge." (Russell, 2004:140-141)

In Timaeus the "very stupidist will become fishes." (Russell, 2004:146). This view of Plato who seems to have been more in line with philosophers (Parmenides, Pythagoras etc.) around the Ionian sea than the Miletians (Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes etc. Refer to Kenny's History of philosophy). The references Plato made to Heraclitus, who was an Ionian, therefore could have been in opposition to Heraclitus if territoriality could be assumed in Plato's philosophy.

23 June 2014

In Politics by Aristotle: "We are told that children should be conceived in winter, when the wind is in the north; that there must be a careful avoidance of indecency, because 'shameful words lead to shameful acts', and that obscenity is never to be tolerated except in temples, where the law permits even ribaldry." (Russell, 2004:179-180) According to the New Oxford American Dictionary 'ribaldry' refers to liscentious talk and was derived from a Germanic word that means prostitution.

"Democratic governments are less liable to revolutions than oligarchies, because oligarchs may fall out with each other. The oligarchs seem to have been vigorous fellows. In some cities, we are told, they swore an oath: 'I will be an enemy to the people, and will devise all the harm against them which I can.' Nowadays reactionaries are not so frank." (Russell, 2004:184)

Whilst discussing Aristotle's book Politics, Russell wrote: "There is an interesting section on tyranny. A tyrant desires riches, whereas a king desires honour." (Russell, 2004:185). What follows can be imagined.

Russell paraphrased Aristotle's writing in Politics about education: "Children should learn what is useful to them, but not vulgarizing; for instance, they should not be taught any skill that deforms the body, or that would enable them to earn money. They should practise athletics in moderation, but not to the point of acquiring professional skill; the boys who train for the Olympic games suffer in health, as is shown by the fact that those who have been victors as boys are hardly ever victors as men." (Russell, 2004:186).

Aristotle's view of the state was that it should "produce cultured gentleman—men who combine the aristocratic mentality with love of learning and the arts." (Russell, 2004:187)

It seems that despots are often involved with artistic endeavours.

27 June 2014

The morning and evening star is the same star (Russell, 2004:204). The only available book of Aristarchus, On the sizes and distances of the sun and the moon, has a geocentric view of totality (Russell, 2004:205). According to Russell the moon is on average, 238 580 miles from Earth and the sun 92 635 400 miles (Russell, 2004:206-207).

25 July 2014

"Plato dabbled in politics, though unsuccessfully. Xenophon, when he was neither writing about Socrates nor being a country gentleman, spent his spare time as a general." (Russell, 2004:216)

"The temples, in the Hellenistic world, were the bankers; they owned the gold reserve, and controlled credit. In the early third century, the temple of Apollo at Delos made loans at ten percent; formerly the rate of interest had been higher." (Russell, 2004:217). Russel read this in and noted in a footnote: "'The Social Question in the Third Century', by W.T. Tarn, in The Hellenistic Age by various authors. Cambridge, 1923. This essay is exceedingly interesting, and contains many facts not elsewhere readily accessible." (Russell, 2004:217)


17 August 2014

"'Plato who would not allow poets to dwell in a well governed city, showed that his sole worth was better than those gods, that desire to be honoured with stage-plays.'[1]" (Russell, 2004:333)


10 September 2014

"The labour theory of value—i.e. the doctrine that the value of a product depends upon the labour expended upon it—which some attribute to Karl Marx and others to Ricardo, is to be found in Locke, and was suggested to him by a line of predecessors stretching back to Aquinas. As Tawney says, summarizing scholastic doctrine:

'The essence of the argument was that payment may properly be demanded by the craftsmen who make the goods, or by the merchants who transport them, for both labour in their vocation and serve the common need. The unpardonable sin is that of the speculator or middleman, who snatches private gain by the exploitation of public necessities. The true descendant of the doctrine of Aquinas is the labour theory of value. The last of the schoolmen was Karl Marx.' " (Russell, 2004:578)


Adam Smith based his arguments also on the labour theory of value. After the above quote, Russel discusses the theory for about a page and a half.

"The belief, which one finds in Locke and in most writers of his time, that any honest man can know what is just and lawful, is one that does not allow for the strength of party bias on both sides, or for the difficulty of establishing a tribunal, whether outwardly or in men's consciences, that shall be capable of pronouncing authoritatively on vexed questions. In practise, such questions, if sufficiently important, are decided simply by power, not by justice and law." (Russell, 2004:580)


13 September 2014

Russell mentioned the "doctrine of the general will", which is "both important and obscure". "The general will is not identical with the will of the majority, or even with the will of all the citizens. It seems to be conceived as the will belonging to the body politic as such. If we take Hobbes's view, that a civil society is a person, we must suppose it endowed with the attributes of personality, including will. But then we are faced with the difficulty of deciding what are the visible manifestations of this will, and here Rousseau leaves us in the dark. We are told that the general will is always right and always tends to the public advantage; but that it does not follow that the deliberations of the people are equally correct, for there is often a great deal of difference between the will of all and the general will. How, then, are we to know what is the general will? There is, in the same chapter, a sort of answer:

'If, when the people, being furnished with adequate information, held its deliberations, the citizens had no communication one with another, the grand total of the small differences would always give the general will, and the decision would always be good.'

The conception in Rousseau's mind seems to be this: every man's political opinion is governed by self-interest, but self-interest consists of two parts, one of which is peculiar to the individual, while the other is common to all the members of the community. If the citizens have no opportunity of striking logrolling bargains with each other, their individual interests, being divergent, will cancel out, and there will be left a resultant which will represent their common interest; this resultant is the general will." (Russell, 2004:634)


"What we call democracy he calls elective aristocracy; this, he [Rousseau] says, is the best of all governments, but it is not suitable to all countries." (Russell, 2004:636)


15 September 2014

"The attitude of man towards the non-human environment has differed profoundly at different times. The Greeks, with their dread of hubris and their belief in a Necessity or Fate superior even to Zeus, carefully avoided what would have seemed to them insolence towards the universe. The Middle Ages carried submission much further: humility towards God was a Christian's first duty. Initiative was cramped by this attitude, and great originality was scarcely possible. The Renaissance restored human pride, but carried it to the point where it led to anarchy and disaster. Its work was largely undone by the Reformation and the Counter-reformation. But modern technique, while not altogether favourable to the lordly individual of the Renaissance, has revived the sense of the collective power of human communities. Man, formerly too humble, begins to think of himself as almost a God. The Italian pragmatist Papini urges us to substitute the 'Imitation of God' for the 'Imitation of Christ'.

In all this I feel a grave danger, the danger of what might be called cosmic impiety. The concept of 'truth' as something dependent upon facts largely outside human control has been one of the ways in which philosophy hitherto has inculcated the necessary element of humility. When this check upon pride is removed, a further step is taken on the road towards a certain kind of madness—the intoxication of power which invaded philosophy with Fichte, and to which modern men, whether philosophers or not, are prone. I am persuaded that this intoxication is the greatest danger of our time, and that any philosophy which, however unintentionally, contributes to it is increasing the danger of vast social disaster." (Russell, 2004:737)


"Morally, a philosopher who uses his professional competence for anything except a disinterested search for truth is guilty of a kind of treachery. And when he assumes, in advance of inquiry, that certain beliefs, whether true or false, are such as to promote good behaviour, he is so limiting the scope of philosophical speculation as to make philosophy trivial; the true philosopher is prepared to examine all preconceptions. … Take such questions as: What is number? What are space and time? What is mind, and what is matter? I do not say that we can here and now give definitive answers to all these ancient questions, but I do say that a method has been discovered by which, as in science, we can make successive approximations to the truth, in which each new stage results from an improvement, not a rejection, of what has gone before.

In the welter of conflicting fanaticism, one of the few unifying forces is scientific truthfulness, by which I mean the habit of basing our beliefs upon observations and inferences as impersonal, and as much divested of local and temperamental bias, as is possible for human beings." (Russell, 2004:743-744)


New Oxford American Dictionary.  2005-20011.  (Apple Inc., version 2.2.1 (143.1))

PLATO.  2013.  Apology.  (In PLATO.  2013.  The republic and other dialogues of Plato, pp. 609-640. New York: Barnes & Noble)

RUSSELL, B.  2004.  History of western philosophy.  (London and New York: Routledge Classics)

[1] "Augustine. The City of God, II, 14." (Russell, 2004:333)