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Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy" by Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945

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Bertrand Russell

From the Introduction (on Romanticism)

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page XXII

"The romantic movement, in art, in literature, and in politics, is bound up with this subjective way of judging men, not as members of a community, but as aesthetically delightful objects of contemplation. Tigers are more beautiful than sheep, but we prefer them behind bars. The typical romantic removes the bars and enjoys the magnificent leaps with which the tiger annihilates the sheep. He exhorts men to imagine themselves tigers, and when he succeeds the results are not wholly pleasant".

From Chapter III: Pythagoras

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 31

Pythagoras is one of the most interesting and puzzling men in history. Not only are the traditions concerning him an almost inextricable mixture of truth and falsehood, but even in their barest and least disputable form they present us with a very curious psychology. He may be described, briefly, as a combination of Einstein and Mrs. Eddy. He founded a religion, of which the main tenets were the transmigration of souls and the sinfulness of eating beans. His religion was embodied in a religious order, which, here and there, acquired control of the State and established a rule of the saints. But the unregenerate hankered after beans, and sooner or later rebelled.

Some of the rules of the Pythagorean order were:

  1. To abstain from beans.
  2. Not to pick up what has fallen.
  3. Not to touch a white cock.
  4. Not to break bread.
  5. Not to step over a crossbar.
  6. Not to stir the fire with iron.
  7. Not to eat from a whole loaf.
  8. Not to pluck a garland.
  9. Not to sit on a quart measure.
  10. Not to eat the heart.
  11. Not to walk on highways.
  12. Not to let swallows share one's roof.
  13. When the pot is taken off the fire, not to leave the mark of it in the ashes, but to stir them together.
  14. Do not look in a mirror beside a light.
  15. When you rise from the bedclothes, roll them together and smooth out the impress of the body.

All these precepts belong to primitive tabu-conceptions.

From Chapter 6: Empedocles

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 57

What his sin had been, we do not know; perhaps nothing that we should think very grievous. For he says:

"Ah, woe is me that the pitiless day of death did not destroy me ere ever I wrought evil deeds of devouring with my lips! . . . . .

"Abstain wholly from laurel leaves . . . . .

"Wretches, utter wretches, keep your hands from beans!"

So perhaps he had done nothing worse than munching laurel leaves or guzzling beans.

From Chapter 12: The Influence of Sparta

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 98

To us, the Spartan state appears as a model, in miniature, of the state that the Nazis would establish if victorious. To the Greeks it seemed otherwise. As Bury says:

"A stranger from Athens or Miletus in the fifth century visiting the straggling villages which formed her unwalled unpretentious city must have had a feeling of being transported into an age long past, when men were braver, better and simpler, unspoiled by wealth, undisturbed by ideas. To a philosopher, like Plato, speculating in political science, the Spartan State seemed the nearest approach to the ideal. The ordinary Greek looked upon it as a structure of severe and simple beauty, a Dorian city stately as a Dorian temple, far nobler than his own abode but not so comfortable to dwell in."

One reason for the admiration felt for Sparta by other Greeks was its stability. All other Greek cities had revolutions, but the Spartan constitution remained unchanged for centuries, except for a gradual increase in the powers of the ephors, which occurred by legal means, without violence.

From Chapter 14: Plato's Utopia

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 98

There is to be "one royal lie," which, Plato hopes, may deceive the rulers, but will at any rate deceive the rest of the city. This "lie" is set forth in considerable detail. The most important part of it is the dogma that God has created men of three kinds, the best made of gold, the second best of silver, and the common herd of brass and iron. Those made of gold are fit to be guardians; those made of silver should be soldiers; the others should do the manual work. Usually, but by no means always, children will belong to the same grade as their parents; when they do not, they must be promoted or degraded accordingly. It is thought hardly possible to make the present generation believe this myth, but the next, and all subsequent generations can be so educated as not to doubt it.

Plato is right in thinking that belief in this myth could be generated in two generations. The Japanese have been taught that the Mikado is descended from the sun-goddess, and that Japan was created earlier than the rest of the world. Any university professor, who, even in a learned work, throws doubt on these dogmas, is dismissed for unJapanese activities. What Plato does not seem to realize is that the compulsory acceptance of such myths is incompatible with philosophy and involves a kind of education which stunts intelligence.

From Chapter 17: Plato's Theory of Immortality

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 142

His end, and his farewells, are described. His last words are: "Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt? " Men paid a cock to Asclepius when they recovered from an illness, and Socrates has recovered from life's fitful fever.

"Of all the men of his time," Phaedo concludes, "he was the wisest and justest and best."

The Platonic Socrates was a pattern to subsequent philosophers for many ages. What are we to think of him ethically? (I am concerned only with the man as Plato portrays him.) His merits are obvious. He is indifferent to worldly success, so devoid of fear that he remains calm and urbane and humourous to the last moment, caring more for what he believes to be truth than for anything else whatever. He has, however, some very grave defects. He is dishonest and sophistical in argument, and in his private thinking he uses intellect to prove conclusions that are to him agreeable, rather than in a disinterested search for knowledge. There is something smug and unctuous about him, which reminds one of a bad type of cleric. His courage in the face of death would have been more remarkable if he had not believed that he was in to en . o eternal bliss in the company of the gods.

From Chapter 24: Greek Mathematics and Astronomy

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 214-217

To this various observations contributed. Oenopides, who was slightly later than Anaxagoras, discovered the obliquity of the ecliptic. It soon became clear that the sun must be much larger than the earth, which fact supported those who denied that the earth is the centre of the universe. The central fire and the counter-earth were dropped by the Pythagoreans soon after the time of Plato. Heraclides of Pontus (whose dates are about 388 to 315 B.C., contemporary with Aristotle) discovered that Venus and Mercury revolve about the sun, and adopted the view that the earth rotates on its own axis once every twenty-four hours. This last was a very important step, which no predecessor had taken. Heraclides was of Plato's school, and must have been a great man, but was not as much respected as one would expect; he is described as a fat dandy.

Aristarchus of Samos, who lived approximately from 310 to 230 B.C., and was thus about twenty-five years older than Archimedes, is the most interesting of all ancient astronomers, because he advanced the complete Copernican hypothesis, that all the planets, including the earth, revolve in circles round the sun, and that the earth rotates on its axis once in twenty-four hours. It is a little disappointing to find that the only extant work of Aristarchus, On the Sizes and Distances of the Sun and the Moon, adheres to the geocentric view. It is true that, for the problems with which this book deals, it makes no difference which theory is adopted, and he may therefore have thought it unwise to burden his calculations with an unnecessary opposition to the general opinion of astronomers; or he may have only arrived at the Copernican hypothesis after writing this book. Sir Thomas Heath, in his work on Aristarchus, which contains the text of this book with a translation, inclines to the latter view. The evidence that Aristarchus suggested the Copernican view is, in any case, quite conclusive.

The first and best evidence is that of Archimedes, who, as we have seen, was a younger contemporary of Aristarchus. Writing to Gelon, King of Syracuse, he says that Aristarchus brought out "a book consisting of certain hypotheses," and continues: "His hypotheses are that the fixed stars and the sun remain unmoved, that the earth revolves about the sun in the circumference of a circle, the sun lying in the middle of the orbit." There is a passage in Plutarch saying that Cleanthes "thought it was the duty of the Greeks to indict Aristarchus of Samos on the charge of impiety for putting in motion the Hearth of the Universe (i.e. the earth), this being the effect of his attempt to save the phenomena by supposing the heaven to remain at rest and the earth to revolve in an oblique circle, while it rotates, at the same time, about its own axis." Cleanthes was a contemporary of A.ristarchus, and died about 232 B.C. In another passage, Plutarch says that Aristarchus advanced this view only as a hypothesis, but that his successor Seleucus maintained it as a definite opinion. (Seleucus flourished about 150 B.C.). Adtius and Sextus Empiricus also assert that Aristarchus advanced the heliocentric hypothesis, but do not say that it was set forth by him only as a hypothesis. Even if he did so, it seems not unlikely that he, like Galileo two thousand years later, was influenced by the fear of offending religious prejudices, a fear which the attitude of Cleanthes (mentioned above) shows to have been well grounded.

The Copernican hypothesis, after being advanced, whether positively or tentatively, by Aristarchus, was definitely adopted by Seleucus, but by no other ancient astronomer. This general rejection was mainly due to Hipparchus, who flourished from 161 to 126 B.C. He is described by Heath as "the greatest astronomer of antiquity." He was the first to write systematically on trigonometry; he discovered the precession of the equinoxes; he estimated the length of the lunar month with an error of less than one second; he improved Aristarchus's estimates of the sizes and distances of the sun and moon, he made a catalogue of eight hundred and fifty fixed stars, giving

their latitude and longitude. As against the heliocentric hypothesis of Aristarchus, he adopted and improved the theory of epicycles which had been invented by Apollonius, who flourished about 220 B.C.; it was a development of this theory that came to be known, later, as the Ptolemaic system, after the astronomer Ptolemy, who flourished in the middle of the second century A.D.

Copernicus came to know something, though not much, of the almost forgotten hypothesis of Aristarchus, and was encouraged by finding ancient authority for his innovation. Otherwise, the effect of this hypothesis on subsequent astronomy was practically nil.

Ancient astronomers, in estimating the sizes of the earth, moon, and sun, and the distances of the moon and sun, used methods which were theoretically valid, but they were hampered by the lack of instruments of precision. Many of their results, in view of this lack, were surprisingly good. Eratosthenes estimated the earth's diameter at 7850 miles, which is only about fifty miles short of the truth. Ptolemy estimated the mean distance of the moon at 29 1/2 times the earth's diameter; the correct figure is about 30.2. None of them got anywhere near the size and distance of the sun, which all underestimated. Their estimates, in terms of the earth's diameter, were:

Aristarchus, 180;
Hipparchus, 1245;
Posidonius, 6545.

The correct figure is 11,726. It will be seen that these estimates continually improved (that of Ptolemy, however, showed a retrogression); that of Posidonius is about half the correct figure. On the whole, their picture of the solar system was not so very far from the truth.

Greek astronomy was geometrical, not dynamic. The ancients thought of the motions of the heavenly bodies as uniform and circular, or compounded of circular motions. They had not the conception of force. There were spheres which moved as a whole, and on which the various heavenly bodies were fixed. With Newton and gravitation a new point of view, less geometrical, was introduced. It is curious to observe that there is a reversion to the geometrical point of view in Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, from which the conception of force, in the Newtonian sense, has been banished.

The problem for the astronomer is this: given the apparent motiom of the heavenly bodies on the celestial sphere, to introduce, by hypothesis, a third co-ordinate, depth, in such a way as to make the description of the phenomena as simple as possible. The merit of the Copemican hypothesis is not trutb, but simplicity; in view of the relativity of motion, no question of truth is involved. The Greeks, in their search for hypotheses which would "save the phenomena," were in effect, though not altogether in intention, tackling the problem in the scientifically correct way. A comparison with their predecessors, and with their successors until Copemicus, must convince every student of their truly astonishing genius.

Two very great men, Archimedes and Apolionius, in the third century B.C., complete the list of first-class Greek mathematicians. Archimedes was a friend, probably a cousin, of the king of Syracuse, and was killed when that city was captured by the Romans in 212 B.C. Apollonius, from his youth, lived at Alexandria. Archimedes was not only a mathematician, but also a physicist and student of hydrostatics. Apollonius is chiefly noted for his work on conic sections. I shall say no more about them, as they came too late to influence philosophy.

After these two men, though respectable work continued to he done in Alexandria, the great age was ended. Under the Roman domination, the Greeks lost the self-confidence that belongs to political liberty, and in losing it acquired a paralysing respect for their predecessors. The Roman soldier who killed Archimedes was a symbol of the death of original thought that Rome caused throughout the Hellenic world.

From Chapter 25: Then Hellenistic World

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 227

The influence of non-Greek religion and superstition in the Hellenistic world was mainly, but not wholly, bad. This might not have been the case. Jews, Persians, and Buddhists all had religions that were very definitely superior to the popular Greek polytheism, and could even have been studied with profit by the best philosophers. Unfortunately it was the Babylonians, or Chaldeans, who most impressed the imagination of the Greeks. There was, first of all, their fabulous antiquity; the priestly records went back for thousands of years, and professed to go back for thousands more. Then there was some genuine wisdom: the Babylonians could more or less predict eclipses long before the Greeks could. But these were merely causes of receptiveness; what was received was mainly astrology and magic. "Astrology," says Professor Gilbert Murray, "fell upon the Hellenistic mind as a new disease falls upon some remote island people. The tomb of Ozymandias, as described by Diodorus, was covered with astrological symbols, and that of Antiochus I, which has been discovered in Commagene, is of the same character. It was natural for monarchs to believe that the stars watched over them. But every one was ready to receive the germ." * It appears that astrology was first taught to the Greeks in the time of Alexander, by a Chaldean named Berosus, who taught in Cos, and, according to Seneca, "interpreted Bel." "This," says Professor Murray, "must mean that he translated into Greek the 'Eye of Bel,' atreatise in seventy tablets found in the library of Assur-bani-pal (686-26 B.c.) but composed for Sargon I in the third millennium B.C." (ib. P. 176).

As we shall see, the majority even of the best philosophers fell in with the belief in astrology. It involved, since it thought the future predictable, a belief in necessity or fate, which could be set against the prevalent belief in fortune. No doubt most men believed in both, and never noticed the inconsistency.

The general confusion was bound to bring moral decay, even more than intellectual enfeeblement. Ages of prolonged uncertainty, while they are compatible with the highest degree of saintliness in a few, are inimical to the prosaic every-day virtues of respectable citizen. There seems no use in thrift, when tomorrow all your savings may be dissipated; no advantage in honesty, when the man towards whom you practise it is pretty sure to swindle you; no point in steadfast adherence to a cause, when no cause is important or has a chance of stable victory; no argument in favour of truthfulness, when only supple tergiversation makes the preservation of life and fortune possible. The man whose virtue has no source except a purely terrestrial prudence will, in such a world, become an adventurer if he has the courage, and, if not, will seek obscurity as a timid time-server.

Menander, who belongs to this age, says:

So many cases I have known
Of men who, though not naturally rogues,
Became so, through misfortune, by constraint.

This sums up the moral character of the third century B.C., except for a few exceptional men. Even among these few, fear took the place of hope; the purpose of life was rather to escape misfortune than to achieve any positive good. "Metaphysics sink into the background, and ethics, now individual, become of the first importance. Philosophy is no longer the pillar of fire going before a few intrepid seekers after truth: it is rather an ambulance following in the wake of the struggle for existence and picking up the weak and wounded."

From Chapter 26: Cynics and Sceptics

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 231

The fame of Antisthenes was surpassed by that of his disciple Diogenes, "a young man from Sinope, on the Euxine, whom he [Antisthenes] did not take to at first sight; the son of a disreputable money-changer who had been sent to prison for defacing the coinage. Antisthenes ordered the lad away, but he paid no attention; he beat him with his stick, but he never moved. He wanted 'wisdom,' and saw that Antisthenes had it to give. His aim in life was to do as his father had done, to 'deface the coinage,' but on a much larger scale. He would deface all the coinage current in the world. Every conventional stamp was false. The men stamped as generals and kings; the things stamped as honour and wisdom and happiness and riches; all were base metal with lying superscription."

He decided to live like a dog, and was therefore called a '(cynic," which means "canine." He rejected all conventions-whether of religion, of manners, of dress, of housing, of food, or of decency. One is told that he lived in a tub, but Gilbert Murray assures us that this is a mistake: it was a large pitcher, of the sort used in primitive times for burials. He lived, like an Indian fakir, by begging. He proclaimed his brotherhood, not only with the whole human race, but also with animals. He was a man about whom stories gathered, even in his lifetime. Every one knows how Alexander visited him, and asked if he desired favour; "only to stand out of my light," he replied.

From Chapter 26: The Epicureans

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 247

As for the gods, Epicurus firmly believes in their existence, since he cannot otherwise account for the wide-spread existence of the idea of gods. But he is persuaded that they do not trouble themselves with the affairs of our human world. They are rational hedonists, who follow his precepts, and abstain from public life; government would be an unnecessary labour, to which, in their life of complete blessedness, they feel no temptation. Of course, divination and augury and all such practices are purely superstitions, and so is the belief in Providence.

There is therefore no ground for the fear that we may incur the anger of the gods, or that we may suffer in Hades after death. Though subject to the powers of nature, which can be studied scientifically, we yet have free will, and are, within limits, the masters of our fate. We cannot escape death, but death, rightly understood, is no evil. If we live prudently, according to the maxims of Epicurus, we shall probably achieve a measure of freedom from pain. This is a moderate gospel, but to a man impressed with human misery it sufficed to inspire enthusiasm.

From Chapter 28: Stoicism

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 261

Gibbon, whose detailed history begins with the vices of Commodus agrees with most eighteenth-century writers in regarding the period of the Antonines as a golden age. "If a man were called upon," he says, "to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus." It is impossible to agree altogether with this judgement' The evil of slavery involved immense suffering, and was sapping the vigour of the ancient world. There were gladiatorial shows and fights with wild beasts, which were intolerably cruel and must have debased the populations that enjoyed the spectacle. Marcus Aurelius, it is true, decreed that gladiators should fight with blunted swords; but this reform was short lived, and he did nothing about fights with wild beasts. The economic system was very bad; Italy was going out of cultivation, and the population of Rome depended upon the free distribution of grain from the provinces. All initiative was concentrated in the Emperor and his ministers; throughout the vast extent of the Empire, no one, except an occasional rebellious general, could do anything but submit. Men looked to the past for what was best; the future, they felt, would be at best a weariness, and at worst a horror. When we compare the tone of Marcus Aurelius with that of Bacon, or Locke, or Condorcet, we see the difference between a tired and a hopeful age. In a hopeful age, great present evils can be endured, because it is thought that they will pass; but in a tired age even real goods lose their savour. The Stoic ethic suited the times of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, because its gospel was one of endurance rather than hope.

Undoubtedly the age of the Antonines was much better than any later age until the Renaissance, from the point of view of the general happiness. But careful study shows that it was not so prosperous as its architectural remains would lead one to suppose. Graeco-Roman civilization had made very little impression on the agricultural regions; it was practically limited to the cities. Even in the cities, there was proletariat which suffered very great poverty, and there was a I slave class. Rostovtseff sums up a discussion of social and economic conditions in the cities as follows:

"The picture of their social conditions is not so attractive as the picture of their external appearance. The impression conveyed by our sources is that the splendour of the cities was created by, and existed for, a rather small minority of their population; that the welfare even of this small minority was based on comparatively weak foundations; that the large masses of the city population had either a very moderate income or lived in extreme poverty. In a word, we must not exaggerate the wealth of the cities: their external aspect is misleading."

On earth, says Epictetus, we are prisoners, and in an earthly body. According to Marcus Aurelius, he used to say "Thou art a little soul bearing about a corpse." Zeus could not make the body free, but he gave us a portion of his divinity. God is the father of men, and we are all brothers. We should not say "I am an Athenian" or "I am a Roman," but "I am a citizen of the universe." If you were a kinsman of Caesar, you would feel safe; how much more should you feel safe in being a kinsman of God? If we understand that virtue is the only true good, we shall see that no real evil can befall us.

I must die. But must I die groaning? I must be imprisoned. But must I whine as well? I must suffer exile. Can any one then hinder me from going with a smile, and a good courage, and at peace? "Tell the secret." I refuse to tell, for this is in my power. "But I will chain you." What say you, fellow? Chain me? My leg you will chain-yes, but my will-no, not even Zeus can conquer that. "I will imprison you." My bit of a body, you mean. "I will behead you." Why? When did I ever tell you that I was the only man in the world that could not he beheaded?

These are the thoughts that those who pursue philosophy should ponder, these are the lessons they should write down day by day, in these they should exercise themselves.

Slaves are the equals of other men, because all alike are sons of God.

We must submit to God as a good citizen submits to the law. "The soldier swears to respect no man above Caesar, but we to respect ourselves first of all." "When you appear before the mighty of the earth, remember that Another looks from above on what is happening, and that you must please Him rather than this man."

From Book 2, Chapter 3: Three Doctors of the Church (following on Saint Augustine)

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 346

So much for the pears. Let us now see what the Confessions have to say on some other subjects.

Augustine relates how he leamt Latin, painlessly, at his mother's knee, but hated Greek, which they tried to teach him at school, because he was "urged vehemently with cruel threats and punishments." To the end of his life, his knowledge of Greek remained slight. One might have supposed that he would go on, from this contrast, to draw a moral in favor of gentle methods in education. What he says, however, is:

"It is quite clear, then, that a free curiosity has more power to make us learn these things than a terrifying obligation. Only this obligation restrains the waverings of that freedom by Thy laws, 0 my God, Thy laws, from the master's rod to the martyr's trials, for Thy laws have the effect of mingling for us certain wholesale bitters, which recall us to Thee away from that pernicious blithesomeness, by means of which we depart from Thee."

The schoolmaster's blows, though they failed to make him know Greek, cured him of being perniciously blithesome, and were, on this ground, a desirable part of education. For those who make sin the most important of all human concerns, this view is logical. He goes on to point out that he sinned, not only as a schoolboy, when he told lies and stole food, but even earlier; indeed he devotes a whole chapter (Bk. 1, Ch. VII) to proving that even infants at the breast are full of sin-gluttony, jealousy, and other horrible vices.

When he reached adolescence, the lusts of the flesh overcame him. "Where was I, and how far was I exiled from the delights of Thy house, in that sixteenth year of the age of my flesh, when the madness of lust which hath licence through man's viciousness, though forbidden by Thy laws, took the rule over me, and I resigned myself wholly to it?"

His father took no pains to prevent this evil, but confined himself to giving help in Augustine's studies. His mother, Saint Monica, on the contrary, exhorted him to chastity, but in vain. And even she did not, at that time, suggest marriage, "lest my prospects might be embarrassed by the clog of a wife."

At the age of sixteen he went to Carthage, "where there seethed all around me a cauldron of lawless loves. I loved not yet, yet I loved to love, and out of a deep-seated want, I hated myself for wanting not. I sought what I might love, in love with loving, and I hated safety. . . . To love then, and to be beloved, was sweet to me; but more, when I obtained to enjoy the person I loved. 1 defiled, therefore, the spring of friendship with the filth of concupiscence, and I beclouded its brightness with the hell of lustfulness." These words describe his relation to a mistress whom he loved faithfully for many years, and by whom he had a son, whom he also loved, and to whom, after his conversion, he gave much care in religious education.

The time came when he and his mother thought he ought to begin to think of marrying. He became engaged to a girl of whom she approved, and it was held necessary that he should break with his mistress. "My mistress," he says, "being torn from my side as a hindrance to my marriage, my heart which clave unto her was tom and wounded and bleeding. And she returned to Africa [Augustine was at this time in Milan], vowing unto Thee never to know any other man, leaving with me my son by her." As, however, the marriage could not take place for two years, owing to the girl's youth, he took meanwhile another mistress, less official and less acknowledged. His conscience increasingly troubled him, and he used to pray: "Give me chastity and continence, only not yet." At last, before the time had come for his marriage, religion won a complete victory, and he dedicated the rest of his life to celibacy.

From Book 2, Chapter 6: Saint Benedict and Gregory the Great

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 378

Organizations have a life of their own, independent of the intentions of their founders. Of this fact, the most striking example is the Catholic Church, which would astonish Jesus, and even Paul. The Benedictine Order is a lesser example. The monks take a vow of poverty, obedience, and chastity. As to this, Gibbon remarks: "I have somewhere heard or read the frank confession of a Benedictine abbot: 'My vow of poverty has given me an hundred thousand crowns a year; my vow of obedience has raised me to the rank of a sovereign prince.' I forget the consequences of his vow of chastity." The departures of the Order from the founder's intentions were, however, by no means all regrettable. This is true, in particular, of learning. The library of Monte Cassino is famous, and in various ways the world is much indebted to the scholarly tastes of later Benedictines.

From Book 2, Chapter 8: John the Scot

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 400

John the Scot, or Johannes Scotus, to which is sometimes added Eriugena or Erigena, (This addition is redundant; it would make his name "Irish John from Ireland." In the ninth century "Scotus" means "Irishman.") is the most astonishing person of the ninth century; he would have been less surprising if he had lived in the fifth or the fifteenth century. He was an Irishman, a Neoplatonist, an accomplished Greek scholar, a Pelagian, a pantheist. He spent much of his life under the patronage of Charles the Bald, king of France, and though he was certainly far from orthodox, yet, so far as we know, he escaped persecution. He set reason above faith, and cared nothing for the authority of ecclesiastics; yet his arbitrament was invoked to settle their controversies.

To understand the occurrence of such a man, we must turn our attention first to Irish culture in the centuries following Saint Patrick. Apart from the extremely painful fact that Saint Patrick was an Englishman, there are two other scarcely less painful circumstances: first, that there were Christians in Ireland before he went there; second, that, whatever he may have done for Irish Christianity, it was not to him that Irish culture was due. At the time of the invasion of Gaul (says a Gaulish author), first by Attila, then by the Goths, Vandals, and Alaric, "all the learned men on their side the sea fled, and in the countries beyond sea, namely Ireland, and wherever else they betook themselves, brought to the inhabitants of; those regions an enormous advance in learning." If any of these men sought refuge in England, the Angles and Saxons and Jutes must have mopped them up; but those who went to Ireland succeeded, in combination with the missionaries, in transplanting a great deal of the knowledge and civilization that was disappearing from the Continent. There is good reason to believe that, throughout the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries, a knowledge of Greek, as well as a considerable familiarity with Latin classics, survived among the Irish. Greek was known in England from the time of Theodore, archbishop of Canterbury (669-690), who was himself a Greek, educated at Athens; it may also have become known, in the North, through Irish missionaries. "During the latter part of the seventh century," says Montague James, "it was in Ireland that the thirst for knowledge was keenest, and the work of teaching was most actively carried on. There the Latin language (and in a less degree the Greek), was studied from a scholar's point of view. . . . It was when, impelled in the first instance by missionary zeal, and later by troubled conditions at home, they passed over in large numbers to the Continent, that they became instrumental in rescuing fragments of the literature which they had already learnt to value." Heiric of Auxerre, about 876, describes this influx of Irish scholars: "Ireland, despising the dangers of the sea, is migrating almost en masse with her crowd of philosophers to our shores, and all the most learned doom themselves to voluntary exile to attend the bidding of Solomon the wise" -i.e., King Charles the Bald.*

The lives of learned men have at many times been perforce nomadic. At the beginning of Greek philosophy, many of the philosophers were refugees from the Persians; at the end of it, in the time of Justinian, they became refugees to the Persians. In the fifth century, as we have just seen, men of learning fled from Gaul to the Western Isles to escape the Germans; in the ninth century, they fled back from England and Ireland to escape the Scandinavians. In our own day, German philosophers have to fly even further West to escape their compatriots. I wonder whether it will be equally long before a return flight takes place.

From Book 2, Chapter 12: The Thirteenth Century

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 448

The only other popular heresy that I shall consider is that of the Waldenses. These were the followers of Peter Waldo, an enthusiast who, in 1170, started a "crusade" for observance of the law of Christ. He gave all his goods to the poor, and founded a society called the "Poor Men of Lyons," who practised poverty and a strictly virtuous life. At first they had papal approval, but they inveighed somewhat too forcibly against the immorality of the clergy, and were condemned by the Council of Verona in 1184. Thereupon they decided that every good man is competent to preach and expound the Scriptures; they appointed their own ministers, and dispensed with the services of the Catholic priesthood. They spread to Lombardy, and to Bohernia, where they paved the way for the Hussites. In the Albigensian persecution, which affected them also, many fled to Piedmont; it was their persecution in Piedmont in Milton's time that occasioned his sonnet "Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints." They survive to this day in remote Alpine valleys and in the United States.

From Book 2, Chapter 14: Franciscan Schoolmen (on William of Occam)

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 475

By insisting on the possibility of studying logic and human knowledge without reference to metaphysics and theology, Occam's work encouraged scientific research. The Augustinians, he said, erred in first supposing things unintelligible and men unintelligent, and then adding a light from Infinity by which knowledge became possible. He agreed in this with Aquinas, but differed in emphasis, for Aquinas was primarily a theologian, and Occam was, so far as logic is concerned, primarily a secular philosopher.

His attitude gave confidence to students of particular problems, for instance, his immediate follower Nicholas of Oresme (d. 1382), who investigated planetary theory. This man was, to a certain extent, a precursor of Copernicus; he set forth both the geocentric and the heliocentric theories, and said that each would explain all the facts known in his day, so that there was no way of deciding between them.

After William of Occam there are no more great scholastics. The next period for great philosophers began in the late Renaissance.

From Book 3, Chapter 1: General Characteristics

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 494

Berkeley, after abolishing matter, is only saved from complete subjectivism by a use of God which most subsequent philosophers have regarded as illegitimate. In Hume, the empiricist philosophy culminated in a scepticism which none could refute and none could accept. Kant and Fichte were subjective in temperament as well as in doctrine; Hegel saved himself by means of the influence of Spinoza. Rousseau and the romantic movement extended subjectivity from theory of knowledge to ethics and politics, and ended, logically, in complete anarchism such as that of Bakunin. This extreme of subjectivism is a form of madness.

Meanwhile science as technique was building up in practical men a quite different outlook from any that was to be found among theoretical philosophers. Technique conferred a sense of power: man is now much less at the mercy of his environment than he was in former times. But the power conferred by technique is social, not individual; an average individual wrecked on a desert island could have achieved more in the seventeenth century than he could now. Scientific technique requires the co-operation of a large number of individuals organized under a single direction. Its tendency, therefore, is against anarchism and even individualism, since it demands a well-knit social structure. Unlike religion, it is ethically neutral: it assures men that they can perform wonders, but does not tell them what wonders to perform. In this way it is incomplete. In practice, the purposes to which scientific skill will be devoted depend largely on chance. The men at the head of the vast organizations which it necessitates can, within limits, turn it this way or that as they please. The power impulse thus has a scope which it never had before. The philosophies that have been inspired by scientific technique are power philosophies, and tend to regard everything non-human as mere raw material. Ends are no longer considered; only the skilfulness of the process is valued. This also is a form of madness. It is, in our day, the most dangerous form, and the one against which a sane philosophy should provide an antidote.

From Book 3, Chapter 3: Machiavelli

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 504

Machiavelli (1467-1527) was a Florentine, whose father, a lawyer, was neither rich nor poor. When he was in his twenties, Savonarola dominated Florence; his miserable end evidently made a great impression on Machiavelli, for he remarks that "all armed prophets have conquered and unarmed ones failed," proceeding to give Savonarola as an instance of the latter class. On the other side he mentions Moses, Cyrus, Theseus, and Romulus. It is typical of the Renaissance that Christ is not mentioned.

Immediatelv after Savonarola's execution. Machiavelli obtained a minor post in the Florentine govermnent (1498). He remained in its service, at times on important diplomatic missions, until the restoration of the Medici in 1512; then, having always opposed them, he was arrested, but acquitted, and allowed to live in retirement in the country near Florence. He became an author for want of other occupation. His most famous work, The Prince, was written in 1513, and dedicated to Lorenzo the Magnificent, since he hoped (vainly, as it proved) to win the favour of the Medici. Its tone is perhaps partly due to this practical purpose; his longer work, the Discourses, which he was writing at the same time, is markedly more republican and more liberal. He says at the beginning of The Prince that he will not speak of republics in this book, since he has dealt with them elsewhere. Those who do not read also the Discourses are likely to get a very one-sided view of his doctrine.

[text deleted]

The tone of the Discourses, which are nominally a commentary on Livy, is very different. There are whole chapters which seem almost as if they had been written by Montesquieu; most of the book could have been read with approval by an eighteenth-century liberal. The doctrine of checks and balances is set forth explicitly. Princes, nobles, and people should all have a part in the Constitution; "then these three powers will keep each other reciprocally in check." The constitution of Sparta, as established by Lycurgus, was the best, because it embodied the most perfect balance; that of Solon was too democratic, and therefore led to the tyranny of Peisistratus. The Roman republican constitution was good, owing to the conflict of Senate and people.

The word "liberty" is used throughout as denoting something precious, though what it denotes is not very clear. This, of course, comes from antiquity, and was passed on to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Tuscany has reserved its liberties, because it contains no castles or gentlemen. ("Gentlemen" is of course a mistranslation, but a pleasing one.) It seems to be recognized that political liberty requires a certain kind of personal virtue in the citizens. In Germany alone, we are told, probity and religion are still common. and therefore in Germany there are many republics. In general, the people are wiser and more constant than princes, although Livy and most other writers maintain the opposite. It is not without good reason that it is said, "The voice of the people is the voice of God."

It is interesting to observe how the political thought of the Greeks and Romans, in their republican days, acquired an actuality in the fifteenth century which it had not had in Greece since Alexander or in Rome since Augustus. The Neoplatonists, the Arabs, and the Schoolmen took a passionate interest in the metaphysics of Plato and Aristotle, but none at all in their political writings, because the political systems of the age of City States had completely disappeared. The growth of City States in Italy synchronized with the revival of learning, and made it possible for humanists to profit by the political theories of republican Greeks and Romans. The love of "liberty," and the theory of checks and balances, came to the Renaissance from antiquity, and to modem times largely from the Renaissance, though also directly from antiquity. This aspect of Machiavelli is at least as important as the more famous "immoral" doctrines of The Prince.

It is to be noted that Machiavelli never bases any political argument on Christian or biblical grounds. Medieval writers had a conception of "legitimate" power, which was that of the Pope and the Emperor, or derived from them. Northern writers, even so late as Locke, argue as to what happened in the Garden of Eden, and think that they can thence derive proofs that certain kinds of power are "legitimate". In Machiavelli there is no such conception. Power is for those who have the skill to seize it in a free competition. His preference for popular government is not derived from any idea of "rights," but from the observation that popular governments are less cruel, unscrupulous, and inconstant than tyrannies.

Niccolò Machiavelli, Discourses (Upon The First Ten (Books) of Titus Livy)

From Book 3, Chapter 6: The Rise of Science

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 534

Galileo ardently adopted the heliocentric system; he corresponded with Kepler, and accepted his discoveries. Having heard that a Dutchman had lately invented a telescope, Galileo made one himself, and very quickly discovered a number of important things. He found that the Milky Way consists of a multitude of separate stars. He observed the phases of Venus, which Copernicus knew to be implied by his theory, but which the naked eye was unable to perceive. He discovered the satellites of Jupiter, which, in honour of his employer, he called "sidera medicea." It was found that these satellites obey Kepler's laws. There was, however, a difficulty. There had always been seven heavenly bodies, the five planets and the sun and moon; now seven is a sacred number. Is not the Sabbath the seventh day? Were there not the seven-branched candlesticks and the seven churches of Asia? What, then, could be more appropriate than that there should be seven heavenly bodies? But if we have to add Jupiter's four moons, that makes eleven-a number which has no mystic properties. On this ground the traditionalists denounced the telescope, refused to look through it, and maintained that it revealed only delusions. Galileo wrote to Kepler wishing they could have a good laugh together at the stupidity of "the mob"; the rest of his letter makes it plain that "the mob" consisted of the professors of philosophy, who tried to conjure away Jupiter's moons, using "logic-chopping arguments as though they were magical incantations."

Galileo, as every one knows, was condemned by the Inquisition, first privately in 1616, and then publicly in 1633, on which latter occasion he recanted, and promised never again to maintain that the earth rotates or revolves. The Inquisition was successful in putting an end to science in Italy, which did not revive there for centuries. But it failed to prevent men of science from adopting the heliocentric theory, and did considerable damage to the Church by its stupidity. Fortunately there were Protestant countries, where the clergy, however anxious to do harm to science, were unable to gain control of the State.

Newton (1642-1727) achieved the final and complete triumph for which Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo had prepared the way. Starting from his three laws of motion-of which the first two are due to Galileo-he proved that Kepler's three laws are equivalent to the proposition that every planet, at every moment, has an acceleration towards the sun which varies inversely as the square of the distance from the sun. He showed that accelerations towards the earth and the sun, following the same formula, explain the moon's motion, and that the acceleration of falling bodies on the earth' s surface is again related to that of the moon according to the inverse square law. He defined "force" as the cause of change of motion, i.e., of acceleration. He was thus able to enunciate his law of universal gravitation: "Every body attracts every other with a force directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them." From this formula he was able to deduce everything in planetary theory: the motions of the planets and their satellites, the orbits of comets, the tides. It appeared later that even the minute departures from elliptical orbits on the part of the planets were deducible from Newton's law. The triumph was so complete that Newton was in danger of becoming another Aristotle, and imposing an insuperable barrier to progress. In England, it was not till a century after his death that men freed themselves from his authority sufficiently to do important original work in the subjects of which he had treated.

The seventeenth century was remarkable, not only in astronomy and dynamics, but in many other ways connected with science.

Take first the question of scientific instruments. (On this subject, see the chapter "Scientific Instruments" in A History of Science, Technology, and Philosophy in the Sixteentb and Seventeentb Centuries, by A. Wolf.) The compound microscope was invented just before the seventeenth century, about 1590. The telescope was invented in 1608, by a Dutchman named Lippershey, though it was Galileo who first made serious use of it for scientific purposes. Galileo also invented the thermometer - at least, this seems most probable. His pupil Torricelli invented the barometer. Guericke (1602-86) invented the airpump. Clocks, though not new, were greatly improved in the seventeenth century, largely by the work of Galileo. Owing to these inventions, scientific observation became immensely more exact and more extensive than it had been at any former time.

Next, there was important work in other sciences than astronomy and dynamics. Gilbert (1540-1603) published his great book on the magnet in 1600. Harvey (1578-1657) discovered the circulation of the blood, and published his discovery in 1628. Leeuwenhoek (16321723) discovered spermatozoa, though another man, Stephen Hamm, had discovered them, apparently, a few months earlier; Leeuwenhoek also discovered protozoa or unicellular organisms, and even bacteria. Robert Boyle (1627-91) was, as children were taught when I was young, "the father of chemistry and son of the Earl of Cork"; he is now chiefly remembered on account of "Boyle's Law," that in a given quantity of gas at a given temperature, pressure is inversely proportional to volume.

I have hitherto said nothing of the advances in pure mathematics, but these were very great indeed, and were indispensable to much of the work in the physical sciences. Napier published his invention of logarithms in i 614. Co-ordinate geometry resulted from the work of several seventeenth-century mathematicians, among whom the greatest contribution was made by Descartes. The differential and integral calculus was invented independently by Newton and Leibniz; it is the instrument for almost all higher mathematics. These are only the most outstanding achievements in pure mathematics; there were innumerable others of great importance.

The consequence of the scientific work we have been considering was that the outlook of educated men was completely transformed. At the beginning of the century, Sir Thomas Browne took part in trials for witchcraft; at the end, such a thing would have been impossible. In Shakespeare's time, comets were still portents; after the publication of Newton's Principia in 1687, it was known that he and Halley had calculated the orbits of certain comets, and that they were as obedient as the planets to the law of gravitation. The reign of law had established its hold on men's imaginations, making such things as magic and sorcery incredible. In 1700 the mental outlook of educated men was completely modem; in 1600, except among a very few, it was still largely medieval.

From Book 3, Chapter 7: Francis Bacon

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 543

Bacon was the first of the long line of scientifically minded philosophers who have emphasized the importance of induction as opposed to deduction. Like most of his successors, he tried to find some better kind of induction than what is called "induction by simple enumeration." Induction by simple enumeration may be illustrated by a parable. There was once upon a time a census officer who had to record the names of all householders in a certain Welsh village. The first that he questioned was called William Williams; so were the second, third, fourth,. . . . At last he said to himself: "This is tedious; evidently they are all called William Williams. I shall put them down so and take a holiday." But he was wrong; there was just one whose name was John Jones. This shows that we may go astray if we trust too implicitly in induction by simple enumeration.

From Book 3, Chapter 8: Hobbe's Leviathan

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 550

Unlike most defenders of despotic government, Hobbes holds that all men are naturally equal. In a state of nature, before there is any government, every man desires to preserve his own liberty, but to acquire dominion over others; both these desires are dictated by the impulse to self-preservation. From their conflict arises a war of all against all, which makes life "nasty, brutish, and short." In a state of nature, there is no property, no justice or injustice; there is only war, and "force and fraud are, in war, the two cardinal virtues."

The second part tells how men escape from these evils by combining into communities each subject to a central authority. This is represented as happening by means of a social contract. It is supposed that a number of people come together and agree to choose a sovereign, or a sovereign body, which shall exercise authority over them and put an end to the universal war. I do not think this "covenant" (as Hobbes usually calls it) is thought of as a definite historical event; it is certainly irrelevant to the argument to think of it as such. It is an explanatory myth, used to explain why men submit, and should submit, to the limitations on personal freedom entailed in submission to authority. The purpose of the restraint men put upon themselves, says Hobbes, is self-preservation from the universal war resulting from our love of liberty for ourselves and of dominion over others.

Hobbes considers the question why men cannot co-operate like ants and bees. Bees in the same hive, he says, do not compete; they have no desire for honour; and they do not use reason to criticize the government. Their agreement is natural, but that of men can only be artificial, by covenant. The covenant must confer power on one man or one assembly, since otherwise it cannot be enforced. "Covenants, without the sword, are but words." (President Wilson unfortunately forgot this.) The covenant is not, as afterwards in Locke and Rousseau, between the citizens and the ruling power; it is a covenant made by the citizens with each other to obey such ruling power as the majority shall choose. When they have chosen, their political power is at an end. The minority is as much bound as the majority, since the covenant was to obey the government chosen by the majority. When the government has been chosen, the citizens lose all rights except such as the government may find it expedient to grant. There is no right of rebellion, because the ruler is not bound by any contract, whereas the subjects are.

A multitude so united is called a commonwealth. This "Leviathan" is a mortal God.

From Book 3, Chapter 10: Spinoza

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 569

Spinoza (1634-77) is the noblest and most lovable of the great philosophers. Intellectually, some others have surpassed him, but ethically he is supreme. As a natural consequence, he was considered, during his lifetime and for a century after his death, a man of appalling wickedness. He was born a Jew, but the Jews excommunicated him. Christians abhorred him equally; although his whole philosophy is dominated by the idea of God, the orthodox accused him of atheism. Leibniz, who owed much to him, concealed his debt, and carefully abstained from saying a word in his praise; he even went so far as to lie about the extent of his personal acquaintance with the heretic Jew.

The life of Spinoza was very simple. His family had come to Holland from Spain, or perhaps Portugal, to escape the Inquisition. He himself was educated in Jewish learning, but found it impossible to remain orthodox. He was offered 1000 florins a year to conceal his doubts; when he refused, an attempt was made to assassinate him; when this failed, he was cursed with all the curses in Deuteronomy and with the curse that Elisha pronounced on the children who, in consequence, were tom to pieces by the she-bears. But no she-bears attacked Spinoza. He lived quietly, first at Amsterdam and then at the Hague, making his living by polishing lenses. His wants were few and simple, and he showed throughout his life a rare indifference to money. The few who knew him loved him, even if they disapproved of his principles. The Dutch government, with its usual liberalism, tolerated his opinions on theological matters, though at one time he was in bad odour politically because he sided with the De Witts against the House of Orange. At the early age of forty-three he died of phthisis.

From Book 3, Chapter 11: Leibniz

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 582

Leibniz was somewhat mean about money. When any young lady at the court of Hanover married, he used to give her what he called a "wedding present", consisting of useful maxims, ending up with the advice not to give up washing now that she had secured a husband. History does not record whether the brides were grateful.

From Book 3, Chapter 14: Locke's Political Philosophy

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 620

But apart from all these considerations, it would not occur to any modem man outside Japan to suppose that political power should be in any way assimilated to that of parents over children. In Japan, it is true, a theory closely similar to Filmer's is still held, and must be taught by all professors and school-teachers. The Mikado can trace his descent from the Sun Goddess, whose heir he is; other Japanese are also descended from her, but belong to cadet branches of her family. Therefore the Mikado is divine, and all resistance to him is impious. This theory was, in the main, invented in i 868, but is now alleged in Japan to have been handed down by tradition ever since the creation of the world.

The attempt to impose a similar theory upon Europe-of which attempt Filmer's Patriarcba is part-was a failure. Why? The acceptance of such a theory is in no way repugnant to human nature; for example, it was held, apart from Japan, by the ancient Egyptians, and by the Mexicans and Peruvians before the Spanish conquest. At certain stage of human development it is natural. Stuart England had passed this stage, but modern Japan has not.

From Book 3, Chapter 14: Locke's Political Philosophy

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 624

Many doctrines which survived the belief in natural law owe their origin to it; for example, laissez-faire and the rights of man. These doctrines are connected, and both have their origins in puritanism. Two quotations given by Tawney will illustrate this. A committee of the House of Commons in 1604 stated:

"All free subjects are born inheritable, as to their land, and also as to the free exercise of their industry, in those trades whereto they apply themselves and whereby they are to live."

And in 1656 Joseph Lee writes:

"It is an undeniable maxim that every one by the light of nature and reason will do that which makes for his greatest advantage. . . . The advancement of private persons will be the advantage of the public."

Except for the words "by the light of nature and reason," this might have been written in the nineteenth century.

In Locke's theory of government, I repeat, there is little that is original. In this Locke resembles most of the men who have won fame for their ideas. As a rule, the man who first thinks of a new idea is so much ahead of his time that every one thinks him silly, so that he remains obscure and is soon forgotten. Then, gradually, the world becomes ready for the idea, and the man who proclaims it at the fortunate moment gets all the credit. So it was, for example, with Darwin; poor Lord Monboddo was a laughing-stock.

In regard to the state of nature, Locke was less original than Hobbes, who regarded it as one in which there was war of all against all, and life was nasty, brutish, and short. But Hobbes was reputed an atheist. The view of the state of nature and of natural law which Locke accepted from his predecessors cannot be freed from its theological basis; where it survives without this, as in much modem liberalism, it is destitute of clear logical foundation.

The belief in a happy 'state of nature" in the remote past is derived partly from the biblical narrative of the age of the patriarchs, partly from the classical myth of the golden age. The general belief in the badness of the remote past only came with the doctrine of evolution.

From Book 3, Chapter 14: Locke's Political Philosophy

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 631

Absolute monarchy is as if men protected themselves against polecats and foxes, "but are content, nay think it safety, to be devoured by lions."

From Book 3, Chapter 17: Hume

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 672

There is no reason for studying philosophy-so Hume except that, to certain temperaments, this is an agreeable way of passing the time. "In all the incidents of life we ought still to preserve our scepticism. If we believe, that fire warms, or water refreshes, 'tis only because it costs us too much pains to think otherwise. Nay if we are philosophers, it ought only to be upon sceptical principles, and from an inclination, which we feel to be employing ourselves after that manner." If he abandoned speculation, "I feel I should be a loser in point of pleasure; and this is the origin of my philosophy."

Hume's philosophy, whether true or false, represents the bankruptcy of eighteenth-century reasonableness. He starts out, like Locke, with the intention of being sensible and empirical, taking nothing on trust, but seeking whatever instruction is to be obtained from experience and observation. But having a better intellect than Locke's, a greater acuteness in analysis, and a smaller capacity for accepting comfortable inconsistencies, he arrives at the disastrous conclusion that from experience and observation nothing is to be learnt. There is no such thing as a rational belief: "If we believe that fire warms, or water refreshes, 'tis only because it costs us too much pains to think otherwise." We cannot help believing, but no belief can be grounded in reason. Nor can one line of action be more rational than another, since all alike are based upon irrational convictions. This last conclusion, however, Hume seems not to have drawn. Even in his most sceptical chapter, in which he sums up the conclusions of Book 1, he says: "Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous." He has no right to say this. "Dangerous" is a causal word, and a sceptic as to causation cannot know that anything is "dangerous."

In fact, in the later portions of the Treatise, Hume forgets all about his fundamental doubts, and writes much as any other enlightened moralist of his time might have written; he applies to his doubts the remedy that he recommends, namely "carelessness and inattention." In a sense, his scepticism is insincere, since he cannot maintain it in practice. It has, however, this awkward consequence, that it paralyses every effort to prove one line of action better than another.

It was inevitable that such a self-refutation of rationality should )c followed by a great outburst of irrational faith. The quarrel en Hume and Rousseau is symbolic: Rousseau was mad but influential, Hume was sane but had no followers. Subsequent British empiricists rejected his scepticism without refuting it; Rousseau and his followers agreed with Hume that no belief is based on reason, but thought the heart superior to reason, and allowed it to lead them to convictions very different from those that Hume retained in practice. German philosophers, from Kant to Hegel, had not assimilated Hume's arguments. I say this deliberately, in spite of the belief which many philosophers share with Kant, that his Critique of Pure Reason answered Hume. In fact, these philosophers - at least Kant and Hegel-represent a pre-Humian type of rationalism, and can be refuted by Humian arguments. The philosophers who cannot be refuted in this way are those who do not pretend to be rational, such as Rousseau, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. The growth of unreason throughout the nineteenth century and what has passed of the twentieth is a natural sequel to Hume's destruction of empiricism.

It is therefore important to discover whether there is any answer to Hume within the framework of a philosophy that is wholly or mainly empirical. If not, there is no intellectual difference between sanity and insanity. The lunatic who believes that he is a poached egg is to be condemned solely on the ground that he is in a minority, or rather-since we must not assume democracy-on the ground that the government does not agree with him. This is a desperate point of view, and it must be hoped that there is some way of escaping

From Book 3, Chapter 19: Rousseau

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 688

The origin of civil society and of the consequent social inequalities is to be found in private property. "The first man who, having enclosed a piece of land, bethought himself of saying 'this is mine,' and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society." He goes on to say that a deplorable revolution introduced metallurgy and agriculture; grain is the symbol of our misfortune. Europe is the unhappiest Continent, because it has the most grain and the most iron. To undo the evil, it is only necessary to abandon civilization, for man is naturally good, and savage man, when he has dined, is at peace with all nature and the friend of all his fellow-creatures (my italics).

Rousseau sent this essay to Voltaire, who replied (1755): "I have received your new book against the human race, and thank you for it. Never was such a cleverness used in the design of making us all stupid. One longs, in reading your book, to walk on all fours. But as I have lost that habit for more than sixty years, I feel unhappily the impossibility of resuming it. Nor can I embark in search of the savages of Canada, because the maladies to which I am condemned render a European surgeon necessary to me; because war is going on in those regions; and because the example of our actions has made the savages nearly as bad as ourselves."

It is not surprising that Rousseau and Voltaire ultimately quarrelled; the marvel is that the did not quarrel sooner.

From Book 3, Chapter 21: Thought in the 19th Century

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 711

Helvetius (1715-1771) had the honour of having his book De l'Esprit (1758) condemned by the Sorbonne and burnt by the hangman. Bentham read him in 1769 and immediately determined to devote his life to the principles of legislation, saying: "What Bacon was to the physical world, Helvetius was to the moral. The moral world has therefore had its Bacon, but its Newton is still to come." James Mill took Helvetius as his guide in the education of his son John Stuart.

Following Locke's doctrine that the mind is a tabuta rasa, Helvetius considered the differences between individuals entirely due to differences of education: in every individual, his talents and his virtues are the effect of his instruction. Genius, he maintains, is often due to chance: if Shakespeare had not been caught poaching, he would have been a wool merchant. His interest in legislation comes from the doctrine that the principal instructors of adolescence are the forms of government and the consequent manners and customs. Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education.

In ethics, Helvetius was a utilitarian; he considered pleasure to be the good. In religion, he was a deist, and vehemently anti-clerical. In theory of knowledge, he adopted a simplified version of Locke: "Enlightened by Locke, we know that it is to the sense-organs we owe our ideas, and consequently our mind." Physical sensibility, he says, is the sole cause of our actions, our thoughts, our passions, and our sociability. He strongly disagrees with Rousseau as to the value of knowledge, which he rates very highly.

His doctrine is optimistic, since only a perfect education is needed to make men perfect. There is a suggestion that it would be easy to find a perfect education if the priests were got out of the way.

From Book 3, Chapter 21: Thought in the 19th Century

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 725

What Galileo and Newton were to the seventeenth century, Darwin was to the nineteenth. Darwin's theory had two parts. On the one hand, there was the doctrine of evolution, which maintained that the different forms of life had developed gradually from a common ancestry. This doctrine, which is now generally accepted, was not new. It had been maintained by Lamarck and by Darwin's grandfather Erasmus, not to mention Anaximander. Darwin supplied an immense mass of evidence for the doctrine, and in the second part of his theory believed himself to have discovered the cause of evolution. He thus gave to the doctrine a popularity and a scientific force which it had not previously possessed, but he by no means originated it.

From Book 3, Chapter 22: Hegel

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 737

In the historical development of Spirit there have been three main phases: The Orientals, the Greeks and Romans, and the Germans. "The history of the world is the discipline of the uncontrolled natural will, bringing it into obedience to a universal principle and conferring subjective freedom. The East knew, and to the present day knows, only that One is free; the Greek and Roman world, that some am free; the German world knows that All are free." One might have supposed that democracy would be the appropriate form of government where all are free, but not so. Democracy and aristocracy alike belong to the stage where some are free, despotism to that where one is free, and monarchy to that in which all are free. This is connected with the very odd sense in which Hegel uses the word "freedom." For him (and so far we may agree) there is no freedom without law; but he tends to convert this, and to argue that wherever there is law there is freedom. Thus "freedom," for him, means little more than the right to obey the law.

As might be expected, he assigns the highest role to the Germans in the terrestrial development of Spirit. "The German spirit is the spirit of the new world. Its aim is the realization of absolute Truth as the unlimited self-determination of freedom that freedom which has its own absolute from itself as its purport."

This is a very superfine brand of freedom. It does not mean that you will be able to keep out of a concentration camp. It does not imply democracy, or a free press, (Freedom of the press, he says, does not consist in being allowed to write what one wants; this view is crude and superficial. For instance, the Press should not be allowed to render the Government or the Police contemptible) or any of the usual Liberal watchwords, which Hegel rejects with contempt. When Spirit gives laws to itself, it does so freely. To our mundane vision, it may seem that the Spirit that gives laws is embodied in the monarch, and the Spirit to which laws are given is embodied in his subjects. But from the point of view of the Absolute the distinction between monarch and subjects, like all other distinctions, is illusory, and when the monarch imprisons a liberal-minded subject, that is still Spirit freely determining itself. Hegel praises Rousseau for distinguishing between the general will and the will of all. One gathers that the monarch embodies the general will, whereas a parliamentary majority only embodies the will of all. A very convenient doctrine.

German history is divided by Hegel into three periods: the first, up to Charlemagne; the second, from Charlemagne to the Reformation; the third, from the Reformation onwards. These three periods are distinguished as the Kingdoms of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, respectively. It seems a little odd that the Kingdom of the Holy Ghost should have begun with the bloody and utterly abominable atrocities committed in suppressing the Peasants' War, but Hegel, naturally, does not mention so trivial an incident. Instead, he goes off, as might be expected, into praises of Machiavelli.

Hegel's interpretation of history since the fall of the Roman Empire is partly the effect, and partly the cause, of the teaching of world history in German schools. In Italy and France, while there has been a romantic admiration of the Germans on the part of a w men such as Tacitus and Machiavelli, they have been viewed, in general, as, the authors of the "barbarian" invasion, and as enemies of the Church, first under the great Emperors, and later as the leaders of the Reformation. Until the nineteenth century the Latin nations looked upon the Germans as their inferiors in civilization. Protestants in Germany naturally took a different view. They regarded the late Romans as effete, and considered the German conquest of the Western Empire an essential step towards revivification. In relation to the conflict of Empire and Papacy in the Middle Ages, they took a Ghibelline view: to this day, German schoolboys are taught a boundless admiration of Charlemagne and Barbarossa. In the times after the Reformation, the political weakness and disunity of Germany was deplored, and the gradual rise of Prussia was welcomed as making Germany strong under Protestant leadership, not under the Catholic and somewhat feeble leadership of Austria. Hegel, in philosophizing about history, has in mind such men as Theodoric, Charlemagne, Barbarossa, Luther, and Frederick the Great. He is to be interpreted in the light of their exploits, and in the light of the then recent humiliation of Germany by Napoleon.

So much is Germany glorified that one might expect to find it the final embodiment of the Absolute Idea, beyond which no further development would be possible. But this is not Hegel's view. On the contrary, he says that America is the land of the future, "where, in the ages that lie before us, the burden of the world's history shall reveal itself-perhaps [he adds characteristically] in a contest between North and South America." He seems to think that everything important takes the form of war. If it were suggested to him that the contribution of America to world history might be the development of a society without extreme poverty, he would not be interested. On the contrary, he says that, as yet, there is no real State in America, because a real State requires a division of classes into rich and poor.

Nations, in Hegel, play the part that classes play in Marx. The principle of historical development, he says, is national genius. In every age, there is some one nation which is charged with the mission of carrying the world through the stage of the dialectic that it has reached. In our age, of course, this nation is Germany. But in addition to nations, we must also take account of world-historical individuals; these are men in whose aims are embodied the dialectical transitions that are due to take place in their time. These men are heroes, and may justifiably contravene ordinary moral rules. Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon are given as examples. 1 doubt whether, in Hegel's opinion a man could be a "hero" without being a military conqueror.

From Book 3, Chapter 23: Byron

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 749

Byron, though he felt himself the equal of Satan, never quite ventured to put himself in the place of God. This next step in the growth of pride was taken by Nietzsche, who says: "If there were Gods, how could I endure it to be not God! Therefore there are no Gods." Observe the suppressed premiss of this reasoning: "Whatever humbles my pride is to be judged false." Nietzsche, like Byron, and even to a greater degree, had a pious upbringing, but having a better intellect, he found a better escape than Satanism. He remained, however, very sympathetic to Byron.

From Book 3, Chapter 24: Schopenhauer

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 758

Nor is the doctrine sincere, if we may judge by Schopenhauer's life. He habitually dined well, at a good restaurant; he had many trivial love-affairs, which were sensual but not passionate; he was exceedingly quarrelsome and unusually avaricious. On one occasion he was annoyed by an elderly seamstress who was talking to a friend outside the door of his apartment. He threw her downstairs, causing her permanent injury. She obtained a court order compelling him to pay her a certain sum (15 thalers) every quarter as long as she lived. When at last she died, after twenty years, he noted in his account-book: "Obit anus, abit onus." (The old woman dies, the burden departs.) It is hard to find in his life evidences of any virtue except kindness to animals, which he carried to the point of objecting to vivisection in the interests of science. In all other respects he was completely selfish. It is difficult to believe that a man who was profoundly convinced of the virtue of asceticism and resignation would never have made any attempt to embody his convictions in his practice.

From Book 3, Chapter 25: Nietzsche

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 762 and 764

Nietzsche's criticism of religions and philosophies is dominated entirely by ethical motives. He admires certain qualities which he believes (perhaps rightly) to be only possible for an aristocratic minority; the majority, in his opinion, should be only means to the excellence of the few, and should not be regarded as having any independent claim to happiness or well-being. He alludes habitually to ordinary human beings as the "bungled and botched," and sees no objection to their suffering if it is necessary for the production of a great man. Thus the whole importance of the period from 1789 to 1815 is summed up in Napoleon: "The Revolution made Napoleon possible: that is its justification. We ought to desire the anarchical collapse of the whole of our civilization if such a reward were to be its result. Napoleon made nationalism possible: that is the latter's excuse." Almost all of the higher hopes of this century, he says, are due to Napoleon.

He is fond of expressing himself paradoxically and with a view to shocking conventional readers. He does this by employing the words "good" and "evil" with their ordinary connotations, and then saying that he prefers "evil" to "good." His book, Beyond Good and Evil, really aims at changing the reader's opinion as to what is good and what is evil, but professes, except at moments, to be praising what is "evil" and decrying what is "good." He says, for instance, that it is a mistake to regard it as a duty to aim at the victory of good and the annihilation of evil; this view is English, and typical of "that blockhead, John Stuart Mill," a man for whom he has a specially virulent contempt. Of him he says:

"I abhor the man's vulgarity when he says 'What is right for one man is right for another'; 'Do not to others that which you would not that they should do unto you.' (I seem to remember that some one anticipated Mill in this dictum.) Such principles would fain establish the whole of human traffic upon mutual services, so that every action would appear to be a cash payment for something done to us. The hypothesis here is ignoble to the last degree: it is taken for granted that there is some sort of equivalence in value between my actions and thine." *

True virtue, as opposed to the conventional sort, is not for all, but should remain the characteristic of an aristocratic minority. It is not profitable or prudent; it isolates its possessor from other men; it is hostile to order, and does harm to inferiors. It is necessary, for higher men to make war upon the masses, and resist the democratic tendencies of the age, for in all directions mediocre people are joining han& to make themselves masters. "Everything that pampers, that softens, and that brings the 'people' or 'woman' to the front, operates in favour of universal suffrage-that is to say, the dominion of 'inferior' men." The seducer was Rousseau, who made woman interesting; then came Harriet Beecher Stowe and the slaves; then the Socialists with their championship of workmen and the poor. All these are to be combated.

Nietzsche's ethic is not one of self-indulgence in any ordinary sense; he believes in Spartan discipline and the capacity to endure U well as inflict pain for important ends. He admires strength of will above all things. "I test the power of a will," he says, "according to the amount of resistance it can offer and the amount of pain and torture it can endure and know how to turn to its own advantage; 1 do not point to the evil and pain of existence with the finger of reproach, but rather entertain the hope that life may one day become more evil and more full of suffering than it has ever been." He regards compassion as a weakness to be combated. "The object is to attain that enormous energy of greatness which can model the man of the future by means of discipline and also by means of the annihilation of millions of the bungled and botched, and which can yet avoid going to ruin at the sight of the suffering created thereby, the like of which has never been seen before." He prophesied with a certain glee an era of great wars; one wonders whether he would have been happy if he had lived to see the fulfilment of his prophecy.

He is not, however, a worshipper of the State; far from it. He is a passionate individualist, a believer in the hero. The misery of a whole nation, he says, is of less importance than the suffering of a great individual.. "The misfortunes of all these small folk do not together constitute a sum-total, except in the feelings of mighty men."

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Two applications of his ethic deserve notice: first, his contempt for women; second, his bitter critique of Christianity.

He is never tired of inveighing against women. In his pseudoprophetical book, Thus Spake Zaratbustra, he says that women are not, as yet, capable of friendship; they are still cats, or birds, or at best cows. "Man shall be trained for war and woman for the recreation of the warrior. All else is folly." The recreation of the warrior is to be of a peculiar sort if one may trust his most emphatic aphorism on this subject: "Thou goest to woman? Do not forget thy whip."

He is not always quite so fierce, though always equally contemptuous. In the Will to Power he says: "We take pleasure in woman as in a perhaps daintier, more delicate, and more ethereal kind of creature. What a treat it is to meet creatures who have only dancing and nonsense and finery in their minds! They have always been the delight of every tense and profound male soul." However, even these graces are only to be found in women so long as they are kept in order by manly men; as soon as they achieve any independence they become intolerable. "Woman has so much cause for shame; in woman there is so much pedantry, superficiality, schoolmasterliness, petty presumption, unbridledness, and indiscretion concealed . . . which has really been best restrained and dominated hitherto by the fear of man." So he says in Beyond Good and Evil, where lie adds that we should think of women as property, as Orientals do. The whole of his abuse of women is offered as self-evident truth; it is not backed up by evidence from history or from his own experience, which, so far as women were concerned, was almost confined to his sister.

Nietzsche's objection to Christianity is that it caused acceptance of what he calls "slave morality." It is curious to observe the contrast between his arguments and those of the French philosophers who preceded the Revolution. They argued that Christian dogmas are untrue; that Christianity teaches submission to what is deemed to be the will of God, whereas self-respecting human beings should not bow before any higher Power; and that the Christian Churches have become the allies of tyrants, and are helping the enemies of democracy to deny liberty and continue to grind the faces of the poor. Nietzsche is not interested in the metaphysical truth of either Christianity or any other religion; being convinced that no religion is really true, he judges all religions entirely by their social effects. He agrees with the philosophers in objecting to submission to the supposed will of God, but he would substitute for it the will of earthly "artist-tyrants." Submission is right, except for these supermen, but not submission to the Christian God. As for the Christian Churches' being allies of tyrants and enemies of democracy, that, he says, is the very reverse of the truth. The French Revolution and Socialism are, according to him, essentially identical in spirit with Christianity; to all alike he is opposed, and for the same reason: that he will not treat all men as equal in any respect whatever.

From Book 3, Chapter 26: The Utilitarians

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 776

Bentham's ideal, like that of Epicurus, was security, not liberty. "Wars and storms are best to read of, but peace and calms are better to endure."

His gradual evolution towards Radicalism had two sources: on the one hand, a belief in equality, deduced from the calculus of pleasures and pains; on the other hand, an inflexible determination to submit everything to the arbitrament of reason as he understood it. His love of equality early led him to advocate equal division of a man property among his children, and to oppose testamentary freedom. In later years it led him to oppose monarchy and hereditary aristocracy, and to advocate complete democracy, including votes for women. His refusal to believe without rational grounds led him to reject religion, including belief in God; it made him keenly critical of absurdities and anomalies in the law, however venerable their historical origin. He would not excuse anything on the ground that it was traditional. From early youth he was opposed to imperialism, whether that of the British in America, or that of other nations; he considered colonies a folly.

[text deleted]

Throughout the middle portion of the nineteenth century, the influence of the Benthanites on British legislation and policy was astonishingly great, considering their complete absence of emotional appeal.

Bentham advanced various arguments in favour of the view that the general happiness is the summum bonun. Some of these arguments were acute criticisms of other ethical theories. In his treatise on political sophisms he says, in language which seems to anticipate Marx, that sentimental and ascetic moralities serve the interests of the governing class, and are the product of an aristocratic regime. Those, who teach the morality of sacrifice, he continues, are not victims of error: they want others to sacrifice to them. The moral order, he says, results from equilibrium of interests. Governing corporations pretend. that there is already identity of interests between the governors and the governed, but reformers make it clear that this identity does not yet exist, and try to bring it about. He maintains that only the principle of utility can give a criterion in morals and legislation, and lay the foundation of a social science. His main positive argument in favour of his principle is that it is really implied by apparently different ethical systems. This, however, is only made plausible by a severe, restriction of his survey.

From Book 3, Chapter 28: Bergson

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 805 and 810

Zeno belonged to the Eleatic school, whose object was to prove that there could be no such thing as change. The natural view to take of the world is that there are things which change; for example, there is an arrow which is now here, now there. By bisection of this view, philosophers have developed two paradoxes. The Eleatics said that there were things but no changes; Heraclitus and Bergson said there were changes but no things. The Eleatics said there was an arrow, but no flight; Heraclitus and Bergson said there was a flight but no arrow. Each party conducted its argument by refutation of the other party. How ridiculous to say there is no arrow! say the "static" party. How ridiculous to say there is no flight! say the "dynamic" party. The unfortunate man who stands in the middle and maintains that there is both the arrow and its flight is assumed by the disputants to deny both; he is therefore pierced, like Saint Sebastian, by the arrow from one side and by its flight from the other. But we have still not discovered wherein lies the force of Zeno's argument.

[text deleted]

Of course a large part of Bergson's philosophy, probably the part to which most of its popularity is due, does not depend upon argument, and cannot be upset by argument. His imaginative picture of the world, regarded as a poetic effort, is in the main not capable of either proof or disproof. Shakespeare says life's but a walking shadow, Shelley says it is like a dome of many-coloured glass, Bergson says it is a shell which bursts into parts that are again shells. If you like Bergson's image better, it is just as legitimate.

From Book 3, Chapter 29: William James

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 811

Willam James (1842-1910) was primarily a psychologist, but was important philosophy on two accounts: he invented the doctrine which he called "radical empiricism," and he was one of the three protagonists of the theory called "pragmatism" or "instrumentalism." In later life he, was, as he deserved to be, the recognized leader of American philosophy. He was led by the study of medicine to the consideration of psychology; his great book on the subject, published in i 89o, had the highest possible excellence. I shall not, however, deal with it, since it was a contribution to science rather than to philosophy.

There were two sides to William James's philosophical interests one scientific, the other religious. On the scientific side, the study of medicine had given his thoughts a tendency towards materialism, which, however, was held in check by his religious emotions. His religious feelings were very Protestant, very democratic, and very full of a warmth of human kindness. He refused altogether to follow his brother Henry into fastidious snobbishness. "The prince of darkness," he said, "may be a gentleman, as we are told he is, but whatever the God of earth and heaven is, he can surely be no gentleman." This is a very characteristic pronouncement.

His warm-heartedness and his delightful humour caused him to be almost universally beloved. The only man I know of who did not feel any affection for him was Santayana, whose doctor's thesis William James had described as "the perfection of rottenness." There was between these two men a temperamental opposition which nothing could have overcome. Santayana also liked religion, but in a very different way. He liked it aesthetically and historically, not as a help towards a moral life; as was natural, he greatly preferred Catholicism to Protestantism. He did not intellectually accept any of the Christian dogmas, but he was content that others should believe them, and himself appreciated what he regarded as the Christian myth. To James, such an attitude could not but appear immoral. He retained from his Puritan ancestry a deep-seated belief that what is of most importance is good conduct, and his democratic feeling made him unable to acquiesce in the notion of one truth for philosophers and another for the vulgar. The temperamental opposition between Protestant and Catholic persists among the unorthodox; Santayana was a Catholic free-thinker, William James a Protestant, however heretical.

From Book 3, Chapter 30: John Dewey

Extracts from "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell, First Published 1945, Page 820

Other social and political questions have also had a large share of his thought. Like myself, he was much influenced by visits to Russia and China, negatively in the first case, positively in the second. He was reluctantly a supporter of the first World War. He had an important part in the inquiry as to Trotsky's alleged guilt, and, while he was convinced that the charges were unfounded, he did not think that the Soviet regime would have been satisfactory if Trotsky instead of Stalin had been Lenin's successor. He became persuaded that violent revolution leading to dictatorship is not the way to achieve a good society. Although very liberal in all economic questions, he has never been a Marxist. I heard him say once that, having emancipated himself with some difficulty from the traditional orthodox theology, he was not going to shackle himself with another. In all this his point of view is almost identical with my own.

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