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robertogreco : bertrandrussell   18

Ten guidelines for nurturing a thriving democracy by Bertrand Russell
"In December 1951, British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote a piece for the NY Times Magazine titled The Best Answer to Fanaticism — Liberalism with a subhead that says “Its calm search for truth, viewed as dangerous in many places, remains the hope of humanity.” At the end of the article, he offers a list of ten commandments for living in the spirit of liberalism:

1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

2. Do not think it worthwhile to produce belief by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

3. Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.

4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

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

8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

9. Be scrupulously truthful, even when truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

Over the past few years, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to keep an open mind about many issues, particularly on those related to politics. Remaining curious and generous about new & different ideas, especially in public, is perhaps more challenging than it was in Russell’s time. We are bombarded on all sides by propaganda, conspiracy theories, and broadly discredited theories from the past pushed upon us by entertainment news outlets and social media algorithms — we’re under a constant denial-of-service attack on our ability to think and reason.

We can’t reasonably be expected to give serious consideration to ideas like “the Holocaust didn’t happen”, “the Earth is flat”, “the Newtown massacre was faked”, “let’s try slavery again”, “vaccines cause autism”, and “anthropogenic climate change is a myth” — the evidence just doesn’t support any of it — but playing constant defense against all this crap makes it difficult to have good & important discussions with those we might disagree with about things like education, the role of national borders in a extremely mobile world, how to address our changing climate, systemic racism & discrimination, gun violence, healthcare, and dozens of other important issues. Perhaps with Russell’s guidelines in mind, we can make some progress on that front."
bertrandrussell  rules  guidelines  howto  democracy  politics  fanaticism  liberalism  truth  thinking  criticalthinking  evidence  authority  opposition  opinions  happiness  curiosity 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Welcome to the new age of uncertainty | World news | The Guardian
"Much of our current mood of uncertainty has specific causes. Some of it is due to the consequences of the 2008 financial meltdown. The resultant rise of zero-hour contracts, exploitative internships and the Sisyphean labour of so-called portfolio careers has made the future seem head-spinningly uncertain. That mood is also due to the agenda, pursued by successive governments, of introducing choice into public services, from education to hospitals. The reason I was sitting in a school hall listening to a headteacher make her case to look after my daughter for five years was that the government has extended choice to state education. Thanks to that policy, I’m encouraged to explore a dizzying array of choices (girls only, mixed, grammar, mixed, faith, academy, comp) and yet I’m uncertain which is the best option. My only consolation is what Bertrand Russell wrote in The Triumph of Stupidity: “In the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” The parents who know, with vexing self-confidence, which school would be best for their little horrors are really deluded, while I’m a genius because of my very uncertainty. That must be what’s happening."

"What the headteacher meant, I suspect, when she said she would prepare children for jobs that don’t yet exist, is that kids should emerge from her school literate, numerate, with some experience of coding, probably little French but maybe some Mandarin, be unlikely to respond to a teacher telling them to pipe down by pulling a knife and generally able to initiate social interactions without going pre-verbal or sub-automatic. But most of all, I suspect she was extolling the virtues of a very old way of being, one set out by the poet John Keats nearly 200 years ago, when he wrote about “negative capability” – roughly, the ability to thrive in uncertain circumstances – of which more later."

"Good for Jonathan Fields. His life story is a homily to mastering uncertain conditions. There is, though, another option. Instead of mastering uncertainty, go with the proverbial flow and accept that uncertainty is the cosmic deal. Keats, when he coined the phrase “negative capability”, imagined something along these lines. Negative capability, he supposed, was “when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason” – and Keats took that passivity or willingness to let things remain uncertain to be essential to literary achievement."

"In 1996, Belgian Ilya Prigogine, a Nobel laureate, argued in The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos, and the New Laws of Nature that uncertainty is an inherent cosmic expression, deeply embedded within the core of reality. To be fair, Buddhists got there before Prigogine. But what is striking is that some psychologists have applied the Nobel laureate’s thoughts on uncertainty in physics to our human lot. We may think we’re particularly cursed, that our current uncertainty is an unusual fate, but rather, uncertainty is deeply embedded in the structure of reality. In the face of that (possible) truth, what’s the best solution to living in uncertainty? Acceptance – even of the very anxiety we feel in the face of that uncertainty."
uncertainty  anxiety  brexit  ilyaprigogine  2016  stuartjeffries  choice  paradoxofchoise  wernerkarlheisenberg  jonathanfields  bertrandrussell  stupidity  confidence  self-confidence  genius  fate  psychology  politics  education  parenting  johnkeats  nagativecapability 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Science Compared Every Diet, and the Winner Is Real Food - James Hamblin - The Atlantic
"A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention."

"I think Bertrand Russell nailed it," Katz told me, "when he said that the whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so sure, and wise people always have doubts. Something like that."
food  diet  research  wisdom  2014  bertrandrussell  certainty  doubt  uncertainty  eating  health  via:lukeneff 
april 2014 by robertogreco
To see is to forget the name of the thing one sees | Grand Strategy: The View from Oregon
"“To see is to forget the name of the thing one sees.” This is a quote frequently attributed to Paul Valéry, and the line has a quality that is at once both searching and poetic, making the attribution reasonable. I don’t know if Valéry actually said it (I can’t find the source of the quote), but I think of this line every once in a while: my mind returns to it as to an object of fascination. A good aphorism is perennially pregnant with meaning, and always repays further meditation.

If seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees, and mutatis mutandis for the aesthetic experiences that follow from the other senses — e.g., to taste is to forget the name of thing one tastes, and so forth — we may take the idea further and insist that it is the forgetting of not only the name but of all the linguistic (i.e., formal) accretions, all categorizations, and all predications, that enables us to experience the thing in itself (to employ a Kantian locution). What we are describing is the pursuit of prepredicative experience after the fact (to employ a Husserlian locution).

This is nothing other than the familiar theme of seeking a pure aesthetic experience unmediated by the intellect, undistracted by conceptualization, unmarred by thought — seeing without thinking the seen. In view of this, can we take the further step, beyond the generalization of naming, extending the conceit to all linguistic formalizations, so that we arrive at a pure aesthesis of thought? Can we say that to think is to forget the name of the thing one thinks?

The pure aesthesis of thought, to feel a thought as one feels an experience of the senses, would be thought unmediated by the conventions of naming, categories, predication, and all the familiar machinery of the intellect, i.e., thought unmediated by the accretions of consciousness. It would be thought without all that we usually think of as being thought. Is such thought even possible? Is this, perhaps, unconscious thought? Is Freud the proper model for a pure aesthesis of thought? Possible or not, conscious or not, Freudian or not, the pursuit of such thought would constitute an effort of thought that must enlarge our intellectual imagination, and the enlargement of our imagination is ultimately the enlargement of our world.

Wittgenstein famously wrote that the limits of my language are the limits of my world (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 5.6 — this is another wonderful aphorism that always repays further meditation). But the limits of language can be extended; we can systematically seek to transcend the limits of our language and thus the limits of our world, or we can augment our language and thus augment our world. Russell, Wittgenstein’s mentor and one-time collaborator, rather than focusing on limits of the self, developed an ethic of impersonal self-enlargement, i.e., the transgression of limits. In the last chapter of his The Problems of Philosophy Russell wrote:
All acquisition of knowledge is an enlargement of the Self, but this enlargement is best attained when it is not directly sought. It is obtained when the desire for knowledge is alone operative, by a study which does not wish in advance that its objects should have this or that character, but adapts the Self to the characters which it finds in its objects. This enlargement of Self is not obtained when, taking the Self as it is, we try to show that the world is so similar to this Self that knowledge of it is possible without any admission of what seems alien. The desire to prove this is a form of self-assertion and, like all self-assertion, it is an obstacle to the growth of Self which it desires, and of which the Self knows that it is capable. Self-assertion, in philosophic speculation as elsewhere, views the world as a means to its own ends; thus it makes the world of less account than Self, and the Self sets bounds to the greatness of its goods. In contemplation, on the contrary, we start from the not-Self, and through its greatness the boundaries of Self are enlarged; through the infinity of the universe the mind which contemplates it achieves some share in infinity.

The obvious extension of this conception of impersonal self-enlargement to an ethics of thought enjoins the self-enlargement of the intellect, the transgression of the limits of the intellect. It is the exercise of imagination that enlarges the intellect, and a great many human failures that we put to failures of understanding and cognition are in fact failures of imagination.

The moral obligation of self-enlargement is a duty of intellectual self-transgression. As Nietzsche put it: “A very popular error: having the courage of one’s convictions; rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack on one’s convictions!”"

[Came here today because + +
thus the tagging with Robert Irwin, Lawrence Weschler, and Clarice Lispector]
paulvaléry  wittgenstein  thought  language  aphorism  mind  memory  senses  familiarization  robertirwin  lawrenceweschler  naming  categorization  predication  freud  bertrandrussell  self  philosophy  claricelispector  knowledge  knowledgeacquisition  self-enlargement  nietzsche  brasil  brazil  literature 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Demystification versus Understanding
"So in general, Russell was correct: when the experts disagree, the lay person had best reserve judgment.

But there is an exception to the rule. Expertise also comes with taking many basic things for granted. So when radical changes happen, sometimes it is the naive novice, wrestling with the basics, who ends up innocently asking the right questions. You can only re-examine foundational assumptions if they are not ingrained second nature for you.

Thinking like a novice: the Zen idea of “beginner’s mind” is really hard for an expert. Which is one reason disruptive changes are often triggered by relative outsiders and smart novices. But not so often as romantics like to think. I suspect “experts thinking like novices” happens more often than novices serendipitously asking the brilliant right questions."
judgement  questioning  askingquestions  thinking  beginner'smind  beginners  zen  bertrandrussell  priorities  expertise  disruption  disruptivechanges  learning  demystification  venkateshrao  2012  novices  experts  understanding  questionasking 
september 2012 by robertogreco
What Work Is Really For -
"Everything depends on how we understand leisure. Is it mere idleness, simply doing nothing? Then a life of leisure is at best boring (a lesson of Voltaire’s “Candide”), and at worst terrifying (leaving us, as Pascal says, with nothing to distract from the thought of death). No, the leisure Aristotle has in mind is productive activity enjoyed for its own sake, while work is done for something else.

We can pass by for now the question of just what activities are truly enjoyable for their own sake — perhaps eating and drinking, sports, love, adventure, art, contemplation? The point is that engaging in such activities — and sharing them with others — is what makes a good life. Leisure, not work, should be our primary goal."

"From our infancy the market itself has worked to make us consumers, primed to buy whatever it is selling regardless of its relevance to human flourishing. True freedom requires that we take part in the market as fully formed agents, with life goals determined not by ad campaigns but by our own experience of & reflection on the various possibilities of human fulfillment. Such freedom in turn requires a liberating education, one centered not on indoctrination, social conditioning or technical training but on developing persons capable of informed & intelligent commitments to the values that guide their lives.

This is why, especially in our capitalist society, education must not be primarily for training workers or consumers (both tools of capitalism, as Marxists might say). Rather… should aim to produce self-determining agents who can see through the blandishments of the market & insist that the market provide what they themselves have decided they need to lead fulfilling lives."

[via: ]
play  recreation  adamsmith  life  leisure  economics  idleness  bertrandrussell  work  criticalthinking  training  indoctrination  markets  freedom  consumers  comsumerism  society  selfdetermination  unschooling  deschooling  capitalism  liberation  education  garygutting  leisurearts  artleisure 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Bertrand Russell on the Ten Commandments of Teaching on Listgeeks
1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
2. Do not think it worthwhile to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory.
5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement.
9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

[Also here: AND ]
life  learning  thinking  truth  happiness  power  bertrandrussell  certainty  uncertainty  evidence  opposition  authority  opinions  dissent  passivity  passiveness  foolishness  inconvenience  via:tealtan 
may 2012 by robertogreco
The Historic Election: Four Views by Ronald Dworkin, Mark Lilla, and David Bromwich | The New York Review of Books
"Capitalist utopianism and unqualified loathing for all that remains of the welfare state are the dispositions that now unite the Republican Party from the bottom up. George Orwell wrote in The Road to Wigan Pier that while it might be too much to hope for economic equality, he liked the idea of a world where the richest man was only ten times richer than the poorest. Bertrand Russell in Freedom versus Organization wrote that since money is a form of power, a high degree of economic inequality is not compatible with political democracy. Those statements did not seem radical seventy years ago. Today no national politician would dare assent to either."

[via: ]
capitalism  2010  georgeorwell  bertrandrussell  inequality  incomegap  wealth  economics  us  policy  poverty  inequity  politics  freedom  democracy  incompatibility  welfarestate  republicans  washingtonstate  elections  ronalddworkin  marklilla  davidbromwich 
may 2011 by robertogreco
Javier Arce's Wardian case - Indifferent to myself
“In adolescence, I hated life and was continually on the verge of suicide, from which, however, I was restrained by the desire to know more mathematics. Now, on the contrary, I enjoy life; I might almost say that with every year that passes I enjoy it more. This is due partly to having discovered what were the things that I most desired and having gradually acquired many of these things. Partly it is due to having successfully dismissed certain objects of desire… as essentially unattainable. But very largely it is due to a diminishing preoccupation with myself… I learned to be indifferent to myself and my deficiencies; I came to center my attention increasingly upon external objects.” — Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness
bertrandrussell  happiness  self  externality  attention  age  adolescence  life  wisdom 
october 2010 by robertogreco
The Public School Nightmare
"Bertrand Russell once observed that American schooling was among the most radical experiments in human history, that America was deliberately denying its children the tools of critical thinking. When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them, and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning. That's if you want to teach them to think. There is no evidence that this has been a State purpose since the start of compulsion schooling."
johntaylorgatto  bertrandrussell  education  history  unschooling  deschooling  frederichfroebel  kindergarten  schools  schooling  us  criticalthinking  tcsnmy  compulsory  responsibility  privacy  lcproject  solitude  respect  children 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Jorge Luis Borges interview
"Encyclopedias have been, I’d say, my life’s chief reading...used to go to the Biblioteca Nacional in Buenos Aires — and since I was so shy, I felt I could not cope with asking for a book, or a librarian, so I looked on the shelves for the Encyclopædia night I was richly rewarded, because I read all about the Druses, Dryden, and the Druids — a treasure trove, no? — all in the same volume...I thought, well, I’d write a story of the fancy encyclopedia [previously described]. Then of course that would need many different people to write it, to get together and to discuss many things — the mathematicians, philosophers, men of letters, architects, engineers, then also novelists or historians....
borges  literature  interviews  writing  academia  philosophy  books  shyness  encyclopedias  libraries  bertrandrussell 
april 2010 by robertogreco
A. S. Neill - Wikipedia
"Neill's biggest mentor in education was the British educator Homer Lane. Neill was also an admirer and close friend of psychoanalytical innovator Wilhelm Reich and a student of Freudian psychoanalysis, though in his autobiography he wrote that "Much of what I thought I had learned from the psychoanalysts has disappeared with time". [2] Another major contributor to the field of Libertarian Education was Bertrand Russell whose own self-founded Beacon Hill School (England) (one of several schools bearing this name) is often compared with Summerhill. Russell was a correspondent of Neill and offered his support. ... Summerhill School, which Neill founded, has recently (2007) been accepted by the UK educational establishment, in particular OFSTED, as providing a good quality of academic education for children. Summerhill has also been recognised by the United Nations for its exceptionally good treatment of children."
asneill  sumerhill  schools  schooling  democratic  education  history  bertrandrussell  tcsnmy  progressive  unschooling  deschooling  alternative  uk  games  lcproject 
december 2009 by robertogreco
Dora Russell
"In 1927 Dora and Bertrand Russell opened their own progressive boarding school, Beacon Hill, in West Sussex. The school reflected Bertrand's view that children should not be forced to follow a strictly academic curriculum. Other aspects of the school illustrated Dora's ideas on education. The school was run on the principle that freedom, if understood early enough, would result in maturity and self-discipline. Dora also emphasized co-operation rather than competition and believed that the best way to teach the benefits of democracy was to run the school on democratic lines. Dora's educational philosophy was expressed in her book In Defence of Children (1932)."
history  bertrandrussell  dorawinifredrussell  education  progressive  beaconhillschool  uk  1930s  1920s  schools  unschooling  deschooling  lcproject  alternative  tcsnmy 
december 2009 by robertogreco
Book Review - 'Logicomix' - A Comic Book About Logic, Math and Madness - Review -
"Well, this is unexpected — a comic book about the quest for logical certainty in mathematics. The story spans the decades from the late 19th century to World War II, a period when the nature of mathematical truth was being furiously debated. The stellar cast, headed up by Bertrand Russell, includes the greatest philosophers, logicians and mathematicians of the era, along with sundry wives and mistresses, plus a couple of homicidal maniacs, an apocryphal barber and Adolf Hitler. Improbable material for comic-book treatment? Not really. The principals in this intellectual drama are superheroes of a sort. They go up against a powerful nemesis, who might be called Dark Antinomy. Each is haunted by an inner demon, the Specter of Madness. Their quest has a tragic arc, not unlike that of Superman or Donald Duck."
books  toread  comics  bertrandrussell  mathematics  infinity  logic  philosophy 
october 2009 by robertogreco
Powell's Books - The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell
"The Conquest of Happiness, a primer of self-regeneration, is a most excellent book. This manual of systematized common sense, sane and forthright, should be read by every parent, teacher, minister, and Congressman in the land." Atlantic Monthly"
bertrandrussell  books  toread  happiness  life  philosophy  commonsense  parenting  teaching 
march 2008 by robertogreco
russell davies: sums it all up really
"The secret to happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and personas that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile" (Bertrand Russell)
happiness  human  generalists  bertrandrussell  russelldavies  life  quotes 
march 2008 by robertogreco
In Praise of Idleness By Bertrand Russell
"I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached."
psychology  life  leisure  philosophy  happiness  health  idle  society  simplicity  reading  productivity  wisdom  lifestyle  yearoff  culture  advice  slow  time  sociology  work  people  meaning  economics  anarchy  bertrandrussell  anthropology  socialism  anarchism  revolution  procrastination  cv  1932  idleness 
may 2007 by robertogreco

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