Review of The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell edited by P.A. Schilpp
This is Volume V in the admirable series of the "Library of Living Philosophers," which began to appear in 1939. The four that have been published deal with John Dewey, George Santayana, Alfred North Whitehead, and G. E. Moore. Similar volumes on Benedetto Croce and on Ernst Cassirer are in preparation, and others are to be announced.
The body of this work consists of "Critical and Descriptive Essays on the Philosophy of Bertrand Russell" by twenty-one eminent and competent contemporaries, which occupy some 650 pages. Russell replies to each of his critics, in turn, in another 60 pages. There is a bibliography of Russell of some 345 titles, covering a period of forty-nine years. A charmingly written autobiographical account of his mental development is included as well as an attractive portrait.
In commenting on the brevity of Russell's answers to his critics, the editor tells us that Russell declared in a conversation that his greatest surprise had come from the discovery that "over half of the authors" had misunderstood him. This fact amazed Russell all the more because he always thought that he was making every effort to write clearly. He seems to have decided that, not having made his ideas clear in the first place, it was hopeless to expect any better understanding for a renewed attempt in his "Reply" and, therefore, useless to waste words on anything more than, seemed absolutely called for. Those who read the discussions—some of which are far from easy going—will take a crumb of comfort from this, even though it be cold comfort if they, in turn, do not understand.
Barely to summarize the twenty-one papers is forbidden for lack of space. Some I found interesting and helpful, but several were beyond me—too technical for my competence. The brilliant essay by Boyd H. Bode on "Educational Philosophy," dealing, as it does, with the relation of the individual and the group, will interest sociologists, but it did not please Russell, who writes that Bode is the only one of the twenty-one whom he recognizes as an enemy. The reply reveals that they are indeed enemies (in an impersonal sense) and that Russell can-not understand his enemy either. His reply to Bode hardly merits being called fair or chivalrous, but neither of these virtues flourishes in wartime.
Books like this are expensive to produce and do not have a wide sale, at least immediately. Funds to publish the first five of the volumes have been contributed by the Carnegie Corporation, the Alumni Fund of Northwestern University, Mr. Lessing Rosenwald, and the Social Science Research Council of North-western University. The editor records his thanks to these donors, and the readers will wish to add their own expression of appreciation.
The promoters of this enterprise deserve the thanks of all scholars everywhere. Would that we had such a book with Hume as its subject, or Kant! And the difficulties in mutual under-
( 408) -standing, even while all are alive and can try to clear up ambiguities, should make us modest in our interpretations of the writings of the past.
Lake Forest, Illinois