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The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell
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The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  557 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Bertrand Russell was born in 1872 and died in 1970. One of the most influential figures of the twentieth century, he transformed philosophy and can lay claim to being one of the greatest philosophers of all time. He was a Nobel Prize winner for Literature and was imprisoned several times as a result of his pacifism. His views on religion, education, sex, politics and many...more
Paperback, 749 pages
Published March 10th 2000 by Routledge (first published January 1st 1950)
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Manny
The most memorable sentence is definitely "I went out bicycling one afternoon and, suddenly, as I was riding along a country road, I realized that I no longer loved Alys". He immediately went home and told her about his unexpected discovery.

I can't imagine anyone writing this who wasn't a mathematician. (I know a lot of mathematicians). As Tom Stoppard comments in The Real Thing: "He's cycling along, and what happens? He falls off the bike? No, he realizes he no longer loves his wife!"

I was goin...more
umberto
Some 45 years ago whenever I saw this formidable memoir by one of the great thinkers, philosophers, mathematicians, etc. in the 20th century I thought I would never finish reading it due to its presumably complex narrations as well as highly academic terms used normally by those world famous intellectuals everywhere. However, in 2002 something called fortune (or fate?) dictated to change my conviction when I came across this oldish, brownish paperback at the UQ flea market one morning and I deci...more
Kenghis Khan
One may hypothesize that all works of philosophy are in essence works of self-reflection. From blatant examples such as Augustine's "Confessions" to more subtle parts of Descartes' "Meditations," philosophers have often used their own experiences to help us understand the world we live in. In this sense, we can contrast to the former works the works of philosophers such as Aristotle or Heidegger who shy away from using the first person and deal with subject matters not only strictly of interest...more
Eric_W
The Founding Fathers obviously placed a high value on happiness or they wouldn't have insisted on pursuit of it as a basic right in a major American document. Bertrand Russell, who already as an adolescent was trying to reconcile the meaning of life and the role of reason, adopted a Millian (if that's a word) premise to "act in a manner. . . to be most likely to produce the greatest happiness, considering both the intensity of the happiness and the number of people made happy." In The Autobiogra...more
Sam Schulman
One of the funniest books I've ever read - partially intended by Russell, partly unintentional, which makes it even funnier. Don't wait until you are 60 as I did or 90 as my father did to read it (although the dirty bits are wonderfully enjoyable to a 90-year-old man, should you ever be at a loss for what to read to him. Particularly funny is Russell's upbringing (by the much-younger wife of his grandfather, the former PM, and his aunt - who are masters of guilt-induction, sexual guilt and rando...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Reading this book one can't help but feel that education is everything and that as much as you put in the eduction of a boy, it will come back to you. People in Russell's days were well-educated. I love how he talked about his aunts and grandmother and the kind of books they liked to read. These women were by no means baby machines but they are the reason we have a genius like Russell and his kind today. It is such wonderful to see his sense of humor and his witty comments here and there. He lea...more
Matthew Conroy
The first two volumes are the best, very good reading.

The third volume is quite a bit dryer, and doesn't have the personal details that make the other volumes so interesting. Still, I recommend the whole thing very highly.
Abubakar
I read this book because I wanted to find the impetus behind the passions of such a relentless activist for Peace and Logic. Russell is one of my favorite philosophers. And this books fairly describes the values he held dear, and the events that effected his intellectual development. I find it hard to write about him. He is very raw and open about himself, just the way he is about everything else. the chapters about his early life are most charming and very engrossing. This is a fine book for an...more
Erik Graff
Sep 13, 2012 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Russell fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
I became interested in Russell as a peace activist while still in high school. Later my best friend spent a college year abroad at the University of Kent in Canterbury, dating Lucy, one of Russell's grand-daughters while there. Returned, he read The History of Western Philosophy, highly recommending it. By then I'd become exposed to the philosopher/mathematician's reputation and intended to study him. Years later, having read a bit, espying the autobiography on sale at a used bookstore, I purcha...more
P.J. Sullivan
This is one of the great autobiographies of all time, for its clarity and candor, for its amazing scope, for its cast of interesting characters. Russell was driven by logic. He could see the illogic, the absurdities, in the way the world operated. His refusal to compromise with those absurdities made him conspicuous, made him a great man. He believed that human suffering could best be relieved by putting the world on a logical, a rational, basis. But the world did not understand, still does not...more
Mary
Following each section in this book are some of the correspondence from the time period. I found the letters to be the most challenging part of the book. On one hand, I understand that they are an important component. And some of the letters truly illuminated what had been described by Russell earlier in the text. I especially enjoyed the letters to Russell from his grandmother and aunt. Masters of the guilt trip they are! On the other hand, some of them weren't interesting to me at all. Midway...more
jeremy
russell's prologue is exquisite, near perfect. a remarkable man.

"three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind...."
TK Keanini
Great thinker and it really captures a very different time in society.
Ollie
Few human beings have had the kind of life Bertrand Russell has had. He was a thinker, a philosopher, a mathematician, a progressive and an activist. As a journalist he has lived through some of the most important eras in human history and actually engaged with it to the point where he almost can be called proto-Gonzo. His writings are loaded with cleverness, witticism, and charm, and are relevant nearly a century after they were written. And to top it all off, he lived to be almost 100, so it w...more
Owen
Not only was Bertrand Russell a gentleman, he was a peer. In some cases this can be seen as stepping out of the frying pan into the fire. In Lord Russell's case, it just may have helped.

Apart from stating the obvious, that Bertrand Russell needs or should need little introduction, it is as well to say that his long life was spent, as far as it was public, in defending or promoting causes. Having gone to prison at a young age because he could not stomach the Kaiser's war (at least not quietly), h...more
Louisa
On the surface, one would think that Bertrand Russell had everything a man could ever wish for. He was one of the most influential men of the 20th century. He had a brilliant mind and wrote books on a wide range of topics including mathematics, philosophy, education, politics, physics, China, bolshevism, theory of knowledge, religion, and atheism. He lectured in a number of universities and was awarded the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1950. Among his acquaintances were Joseph Conrad, Albert Eins...more
Yifan Xu
For most readers, Russell is well known for his work "A history of western philosophy". But the work that brought him the earliest fame is "Principia mathematica". In fact, Russell had extended his insights into many spectrum, which would be later revealed.

Intention to summarize the autobiography is fruitless, because Russell wrote it in such a plain language that the book's main themes are quite elusive. The word "plain" is a euphemism for "unsophisticated language but scattered thesis". None...more
Julie
Oct 08, 2010 Julie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Julie by: my grandmother
"Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man."
— Bertrand Russell

"Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth -- more than ruin -- more even than death.... Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the...more
Tim
I first found solace in Russell at the tender age of sixteen back in 1992. His ability to write luicid, candid reflections - upon what is all too often repressed - I found particularly refreshing. I was swayed by his atheism for a good six years after which I converted to a form of mystic christianity.

My only dislike is the inclusion of letters from personages that are not mentioned in the main text. This leaves one wondering who they were and what was their significance for Russell. Also he se...more
Stephen
All three volumes fascinating reading though I think first was best. I can't begin to follow his mathematical philosophy but you don't have to to enjoy the autobiog, which does not go into the latter. This man's role in stopping atmospheric testing puts him in my pantheon.
Franco
Very cool and enjoyable.
A life quest 4 truth, happiness and peace, as much as love.
Also he's been one of the few who changed more houses than me in life.
Tom
It's very brief for an autobiography, and it would have been nice if he didn't include so many letters.
R.
I take issue with the Chicago Tribune's blurb advising literates to steal the thing rather than go without, but I guess it was 1951 and Americans weren't so used to hearing frank discussions of sex. There's an acid charm to Russell's writing, and his social world is inhabited by characters who would not be out of place in Gibbon, but in my opinion, literates looking for substance should stick to his philosophical writings.
Franklin
Since I liked math, my mother thought to check this out of the library for me to read when I was 14 and home sick from school for a week. It was very well written and it fascinated me, kindling my interest in philosophy. In both philosophy and politics, today I would violently disagree with Russell, but then I knew little about either. Anyway, I still remember some of the more entertaining vignettes.
Pippa
This was disappointing in many ways. It was thin and almost mean compared with Dora in the Tamarisk Tree. She is obviously a very minor character in his story of 'myself' and there were times I really disliked him. Of course there were many times when I did like him, and forgave him, but this was not quite the inspiration that I thought it would be.
Cameron
I loved this book. I kept pulling out from it quotations that made for me perfect sense. A logician, Bertie explains methodically and never fails to impress with his reasoning. It puts into place for me his work in its era and his encounters with prominent contemporaries.
Ali
در زمینه ی زندگینامه کتاب واقعا لذت بخشی برای خواندن است. این کتاب از طرف نشر خوارزمی با ترجمه ای روان در حدود 1163 صفحه، توسط چهره ی ماندگار ریاضیات کشور،استاد بیرشک، ترجمه شده است.در این کتاب برتراند راسل با صداقتی خاص به ذکر جزییات احوال زندگی خود میپردازد
Thomas Ollendorff
he makes the startling case that British & US hostility to the Russian revolution made WWII inevitable.
he accuses both nations of greed & malice & naivte; & of causing incalculable suffering & waste for the
next 50 years & more.
Aaron
There were parts that I didn't like so much, and I skipped some pieces of the text and many of the letters written, but overall I liked this book very much. Russell is a clear and a delightful writer; I wish there were more like him.
Christina
Loved the first half, enjoyed the next third - didn't finish it. Russell is very chatty in the early part of the book - it's a great social history of the ruling classes in the UK in the late 1800s and early to mid 1900s.
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17854
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS, was a Welsh philosopher, historian, logician, mathematician, advocate for social reform, pacifist, and prominent rationalist. Although he was usually regarded as English, as he spent the majority of his life in England, he was born in Wales, where he also died.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950 "in recognition of his var...more
More about Bertrand Russell...
A History of Western Philosophy Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects The Problems of Philosophy The Conquest of Happiness Religion and Science

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“(on A History of Western Philosophy) I was sometimes accused by reviewers of writing not a true history but a biased account of the events that I arbitrarily chose to write of. But to my mind, a man without a bias cannot write interesting history - if, indeed, such man exists.” 14 likes
“I hate the world and almost all the people in it. I hate the Labour Congress and the journalists who send men to be slaughtered, and the fathers who feel a smug pride when their sons are killed, and even the pacifists who keep saying human nature is essentially good, in spite of all the daily proofs to the contrary. I hate the planet and the human race—I am ashamed to belong to such a species.” 14 likes
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