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Unpopular Essays

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  835 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
A classic collection of Bertrand Russell's more controversial works, reaffirming his staunch liberal values, Unpopular Essays is one of Russell's most characteristic and self-revealing books. Written to "combat... the growth in Dogmatism," on first publication in 1950 it met with critical acclaim and a wide readership and has since become one of his most accessible and pop ...more
Paperback, 180 pages
Published February 16th 2009 by Routledge (first published January 1st 1901)
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--Philosophy and Politics
--Philosophy for Laymen
--The Future of Mankind
--Philosophy's Ulterior Motives
--The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed
--On Being Modern-minded
--An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish
--The Functions of a Teacher
--Ideas that Have Helped Mankind
--Ideas that Have Harmed Mankind
--Eminent Men I Have Known
--Obituary (1937)

Maru Kun
Jan 23, 2017 Maru Kun rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bertrand Russell was one of the world’s best known public intellectuals in the latter half of the last century. This fact Britain can be proud of, being a country that has produced few public intellectuals in recent history and which looks unlikely to produce another one ever again.

Despite Russell’s past popularity his star has shone a little less brightly over the past few decades. This is not surprising in our Age of Celebrity, an age when the charms of Kim Kardashian and the brains of Kanye W
Oct 19, 2009 Greg rated it really liked it
This is kind of like common sense 101 to some, or utter bullshit and the kind of thinking that is wrong with this dirty humanist infected nation of ours 101 to others.

I wish I remember where I saw it, I think it was some Christian website, where they mock humanist ideas and have a picture of a very aged Bertrand Russell, which makes him look pretty frail and ridiculous, and it asks would you trust anything something that looks like this said. To be fair whenever I see a picture of that fat fuck
Slim Khezri
Jun 23, 2013 Slim Khezri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This work contains 10 essays written between 1935 and 1950, with the common theme being the pernicious impact of dogmatic, unsupportable beliefs. By and large, Russell is highly effective in making his case across a broad range of topics, from the debunking of philosophy's giants such as Plato ("That Plato's Republic should have been admired, on its political side, by decent people is perhaps the most astonishing example of literary snobbery in all history."), Aristotle ("Aristotle, in spite of ...more
Jan 29, 2012 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The gulf between Bertrand Russell's serious and popular writing about philosophy seems particularly wide; I have never undertaken the Principia Mathematica and might do well to admit to myself that I never will. On the other hand his writing about philosophy for lay people is widely praised, and on the evidence of this book, understandably so.
That is all by way of explaining that I picked this up for "light" reading on a late-night subway trip, a claim which might otherwise seem preposterous.

Mar 22, 2008 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes its difficult but necessary to buck the general consensus and the popular viewpoint. A recent example of this is the divisive Iraqi war: you are, afterall, "for" us or "against" us. Russell's unpopularity perhaps began when he spoke out against WWI and Britain's role in it.

Unpopular Essays is a collection of some of Russell's unpopular viewpoints. They date from the early 1900's to around the end of WWI. Because of their age, they are dated, but unfortunately humanity often repeats its
Feb 07, 2011 Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps as unpopular as they are transformative, Russell's essays collected under this title profess to dispel many myths that the general run of human beings raised in the twentieth century took, and still take for granted. Wrong-headed but popular notions concerning race, money, education, class, religion, and science are all properly distilled through that supremely skeptical intellect of Russell's. To read these essays is to purify one's mind of the hazardous and shallow opinions surrounding ...more
Mar 28, 2009 J rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good philosophical readings for the bathroom or just before bed. If one is already a skeptical humanist (as Russell most surely was by the time he collected these essays) you're in the choir for his well reasoned but also well thread thoughts on things such as science, religion and the like. I would hope have given it another star if he'd left out his ridiculous political musings on a world government, though I suppose he did warn the reader with the title.
Μιτς Γιωτίξ
I disagree with some of Russell's ideas, but the trick is to remember that the essays were written during the cold war. Apart from that, it was a good read.
Dec 16, 2008 Eric_W rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: miscellaneous
"I think that the evils that men inflict on each other, and by reflection upon themselves, have their main source in evil passions rather than in ideas or beliefs. But ideas and principles that do harm are, as a rule, though not always, cloaks for evil passions. In Lisbon when heretics were publicly burned, it sometimes happened that one of them, by a particularly edifying recantation, would be granted the boon of being strangled before being put into the flames. This would make the spectators s ...more
Jan 31, 2012 Marios rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fearless against past "authorities" (Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, Marx etc) Russel uses logic and observation against nonsense philosophy, religion, superstitions, xenophobia, misogyny and other dogmatic beliefs of his time.

It's unfortunate that his same logic led him to believe that the human race would most likely go extinct because of nuclear weapons...but well, it was cold war, that ending was more logical than not!

His essays about philosophy and ideas were my favorite part of the book (what is
Apr 28, 2011 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have recently read that the art of short story writing is making a resurgence and so what about the essay ? Surely one of the masters of this was the redoubtable Bertrand Russell. In this collection one will find some dated examples but nonetheless worth reading. Each is the result of a powerful mind giving free range over the analysis of various subjects. He is a rich source of epigram and crystallised logic all written with style and humour. "On being modern minded" was recently the subject ...more
Apr 13, 2014 Jake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good, diverse collection of essays.

Russell's writing style is clear and very witty, and although many may disagree with his political views or his harsh skepticism of organized religion (and his belief that certainty in religious claims, among other things such as feelings of pride and superiority, has had a profoundly negative impact on social/moral progress), one can't help but appreciate his straightforward approach to articulating these views.
E Sweetman
Dec 01, 2009 E Sweetman rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in history, philosphy
Recommended to E by: Dr. Jilan
Shelves: influential
Some of these essays were assigned in my European History in college. Good, enlightening, informative reading. I don't know if I could sit down and read a bunch in a row. My professor used them to make the class one of the best and most informative history classes I've ever taken. Thanks for the recall.
Andrew Macfarlane
Mar 10, 2014 Andrew Macfarlane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
About as perfect a collection of essays as one could hope for. Laser-guided thinking, and whilst it shows its age in a few places, still makes you lament at the state of modern life, thinking and politics.
Bruce Reiter
Nov 08, 2012 Bruce Reiter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
really rather remarkable and readable. one can sense the humor in "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish" and I recommended that my teacher colleagues read "The Functions of a Teacher" to give them validation and a hope for the future.
Adam Jacobs
Aug 08, 2013 Adam Jacobs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been several years, but I distinctly recall enjoying this text very much, as I do with just about all of Russell's philosophical works.
A book I return to
Jul 21, 2008 Valerie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Valerie by: Dad
Another great choice by Dad. I hope he doesn't miss his copies of these, but since he doesn't trust computers, he'll never know I have it.
He predict wrong things about word
Paul Damien
Aug 31, 2013 Paul Damien rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best essay in this collection is "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish". Sit back and get ready to laugh until you're in tears.
All that passes for knowledge can be arranged in a hierarchy of degrees of certainty, with arithmetic and the facts of perception at the top.
Jan 21, 2011 Bryce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Old school social critic. Some of his ideas and opinions are outdated and history has proved them wrong, but he's sharp and thoughtful. Wouldn't hurt to read.
Jul 12, 2007 Namrirru rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Clever and witty, he says the things that philosphers don't want to hear but are so true! His bashings of Hegel make the whole book worth while.
Prasad GR
Dec 27, 2011 Prasad GR rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Easily the best book on philosophy I've read. Russell's eloquence is unparalleled.
Karen Chung
Mar 19, 2017 Karen Chung rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unpopular Essays was written by Bertrand Russell, a British polymath, in 1950. It is a nonfiction book, consisting of eleven essays followed by a short self- obituary. Each essay discusses topics concerning one or more of Russell’s three major themes of interest: philosophy, politics, and human intellect. Each one, implicitly or explicitly, expresses concern for or provides warning against the growth of dogmatism in the post-World War II societies. Russell discusses the harm that skewed ideals a ...more
Joseph R.
Betrand Russell is a philosopher and author who has the strange combination of a strict logical background (he wrote the seminal text on symbolic logic Principia Mathematica with A. N. Whitehead) and a breezy and familiar (i.e. not academic) writing style. He is both a strict thinker and an entertaining writer. So why would these essays be "unpopular?" According to Russell, he argues against errors on both sides of the political landscape, debunking both the left and the right. He thinks his wri ...more
Isaac Baker
Mar 12, 2016 Isaac Baker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Some of the essays may be a bit dated, and some may have lost a good chunk of their relevancy, but this is still a great collection of Russell's thoughts. Particularly, the essay 'Philosophy and Politics' is a timeless and phenomenal defense of liberalism, skepticism and rationality. It includes such gem quotes as:

"The genuine Liberal does not say, 'This is true,' he says, 'I am inclined to think that under present circumstances this opinion is probably the best.'"

“Some men are so impressed by w
Jun 19, 2011 umberto rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Reading Bertrand Russell’s 12-essay “Unpopular Essays”, I think, is inspiring and illuminating due to his powerful narrations, fascinating reasons and sense of humour as we can expect to read something enriching and pleasurable from one of the great world-class thinkers in twentieth century. For instance, as we may guess from any title itself and wonder why and how he has proposed his points, defended his reasons, cited feasible solutions, etc., therefore, I would cite only three essay titles as ...more
Jun 19, 2014 Kane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked reading these essays, but a lot of it felt like standard humanism, which didn't strike me as all that provocative. Maybe I was expecting a few more bombs to be thrown here. I liked when he delves into philosophical history, as Russell makes a lot of interesting points. When he starts trying to act like an oracle and predict the future he makes some real groanworthy points though. Not sure I could really recommend this one. There are many more thought-provoking essay books out there than ...more
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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
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“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” 484 likes
“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.” 235 likes
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