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Bertrand Russell: The Spirit of Solitude 1872-1921

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  83 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
A definitive biography presents a portrait of the Nobel Prize-winning philosopher, uses unpublished letters, manuscripts, and papers that reveal his philosophical creativity, social conscience, and erotic drives.
Hardcover, 693 pages
Published October 11th 1996 by Free Press (first published 1996)
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Christine Sandgren
Jul 08, 2008 Christine Sandgren rated it it was amazing
No one can capture the philosopher's life like a fellow philosopher. One of the more interesting character of the 20th century. Russell was a daring thinker and fearlessly applied his conclusions on life to his own-- with disasterous results. Turns out that thousands of years of human mores may have been there for a reason. Now we know.
John Harder
Sep 29, 2014 John Harder rated it did not like it
What a crummy book. I pick this out of the bargain bin to learn a little of the philosophy and mathematical theory of Mr. Russell. True this is a biography not a dissertation, but a man is his thoughts. So when you tell a man’s life it should be a manifestation of his mind. However after slogging through this poorly written book I still have no idea who this man was – I just know the names of all his girlfriends and his romantic tribulations. Who cares who he was kissing under the bleachers at t ...more
Yannis Theocharis
Jul 30, 2015 Yannis Theocharis rated it it was amazing
Ray Monk’s book is by far the best biography of Bertrand Russell out there. It is also a book that, if you are a great admirer of Russell’s (like I was, and still am), you need to read with your eyes open. What distinguishes this biography from others written about Russell is (except from its size) is (a) the fact that it is written by a philosopher (of mathematics and science), thus offering an insight on how Russell’s personal life influences his scientific thinking and philosophy, but also th ...more
Marcus Speh
Jan 09, 2011 Marcus Speh added it
Shelves: reviewed
i read this book before and i'm reading it again. i don't want to rate it because i do loathe the message of the book as much as i admire the man russell. why am i reading it? because it is after all well written and the spirit of russell comes through anyway. worth getting if, after russell's autobiography, which is marvelous, you want to know more. but monk is a body-stripper, in my view.
Apr 02, 2014 H added it
Shelves: biography
ray monk's vol.1: spirit of solitude


"I remember an instant of the same pain at Southgate once in thinking of the sadness which is always suggested by natural beauty, when the idea flashed across my mind that when most in harmony with Nature I felt most sad, and that therefore the spirit of Nature must be sad and the Universe a mistake. Then I could not have borne it another instant, for though it came and went like a flash I felt as though I had been stabbed." (40

"What Spinoza calls the 'inte
Hugh Coverly
May 14, 2016 Hugh Coverly rated it really liked it
Making Sense of Bertrand Russell's Complicated Life

I waited a long time to get a hold of this book, and it was definitely worth the wait. Ray Monk presents a detailed life of the great philosopher, including Bertrand Russell's considerable achievements and romantic entanglements. What makes Monk's biography a worthy, albeit time-consuming, read is the amount of material he draws from: Russell's writings and letters, and the letters and memoirs of those who knew him best, his wives and mistresse
Dozy Pilchard
Dec 10, 2013 Dozy Pilchard rated it liked it
At times brilliant, at other times tedious. This book lacks consistency. I spotted a couple of local places misnamed which undermined my faith in some of the other information. it is a monumental first part but I would have preferred it with 300 pages edited out. Far too much relationship info. Not needed. Also excessively negative much of the time. Monk being true to his feelings but not the best Russell biog in my opinion. Need a break before I pick up my copy of pt 2.
Feb 21, 2012 Phillip rated it liked it
Ray Monk is very good at what he does. I think this book would have been better if Russell had lived a shorter life. There wasn't that much cross over between the events of Russell's life and his philosophy.

If you are looking for a well written biography that shows how miserable Bertrand Russell was and why then this is the book for you. Unfortunately, that is what it is and it is hard bare.
May 06, 2017 Dschreiber rated it liked it
After reading three hundred pages of rather smallish print, I noticed that World War I hadn't even started. How could Russell's life ever get covered in the remaining 300 pages? Then I noticed that this was just Volume 1. Oops!

So much of this is unnecessary, except perhaps to fulfil some ideal of documenting just about everything that can be documented. The material about Bertie's love life just goes on and on. One wishes he hadn't written so many letters. It seems a nearly week-by-week account
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Ray Monk is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton, where he has taught since 1992.

He won the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the 1991 Duff Cooper Prize for Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. His interests lie in the philosophy of mathematics, the history of analytic philosophy, and philosophical aspects of biographical writing. He is currently working on a b
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