Culture & Literature
Philosophy Now

Philosophy Now June/July 2017

Philosophy Now is a magazine for everyone interested in ideas. It isn't afraid to tackle all the major questions of life, the universe and everything. It tries to corrupt innocent citizens by convincing them that philosophy can be exciting, worthwhile and comprehensible, and also to provide some light and enjoyable reading matter for those already ensnared by the muse, such as philosophy students and academics. It contains articles on all aspects of philosophy, plus book reviews, film reviews, news, cartoons, and the occasional short story.

United Kingdom
Anja Publications Ltd
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$9.20(Incl. tax)
$33.75(Incl. tax)
6 Issues

in this issue

4 min.
russell now!

One of the most quoted phrases in current popular culture is “six degrees of separation.” It expresses the idea that, on average, any human being is connected with any other human being by at most six acquaintances. While there is much debate as to whether this is literally true, it is an interesting thought-experiment, as well as the basis for many fun parlor games. One of these is entitled ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’, in which film fans try to connect the aforementioned actor with any other movie star with as few links as possible. I have been thinking of launching a similar parlor game called ‘Six Degrees of Bertrand Russell’, in which any figure from the past 200 years or so could be connected with Russell in as few steps…

4 min.

Robert Pirsig Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, died on 24 April. At the heart of the book is a fictionalised account of a motorcycle journey across America made by Pirsig and his young son Chris in 1968. The novel combined reflections on Greek philosophy, Zen Buddhism, technology and culture in a profound inquiry into the nature of values. Pirsig wrote it mainly in the small hours of each morning and had immense difficulty finding a publisher. On publication in 1974, it immediately became enormously popular, selling 5 million copies. Macronomics The newly-elected President of France, Emmanuel Macron, who has a degree in philosophy, was once an assistant to the famed French philosopher Paul Ricouer (1913-2005). In the acknowledgements of his last book La Mémoire, l’Histoire, l’Oubli (Memory,…

10 min.
the passionate bertrand russell

Philosophy today is intimately associated with the life of the mind – with intellect, thought, and reason. Because of this, it is often thought to be opposed to emotion, feeling, spirit – to passion. It is thought to be a bloodless occupation, practiced by bloodless men and women. This has a lot to do with how philosophy has come to be practiced in universities, particularly the analytic philosophy which has dominated the Anglo-American philosophy world over the past century. And perhaps nobody is more closely associated with analytic philosophy than Bertrand Russell (1872-1970). As such, one might expect Russell to be the exact opposite of the man of passion. And indeed, many people have viewed Russell this way. Will Durant, for example, once described Russell as “cold-blooded… a temporarily animated…

10 min.
bertrand russell on the value of philosophy for life

Bertrand Russell did a disservice to philosophy by defining the word. Early in his career he defined philosophy as the logical-analytic method. This definition was so restricting that although he spent the next fifty years writing one book after another on topics such as war, peace, happiness, science and society, and the future of mankind, it forced him to describe most of them as ‘popular’ or ‘nonphilosophical’. In fact, he gradually developed an alternative view of philosophy and its value for humanity. His many popular books are unfairly ignored by historians of ideas and those interested in Russell as a philosopher. Of course, his many-sided activities, popular writings and work for peace are well-known and beloved. But these are usually left for his biography as opposed to his supposed ‘real’ academically-…

7 min.
“to be happy, one must first not be unhappy”

In 1930, Bertrand Russell published The Conquest of Happiness, a book that predates the contemporary fascination with self-help publications by decades. It was described by Russell in the Preface as “not addressed to highbrows, or to those who regard a practical problem merely as something to be talked about” (p.ix). Russell’s use of the word ‘conquest’ in the title emphasizes his primary contention that, except in rare cases, happiness does not simply present itself to people, but rather must be achieved. He argues that the multitudes of men and women who suffer from unhappiness could achieve happiness if they heed the advice he offers in the book. Unhappiness Russell spends more time in Conquest discussing the causes of unhappiness than he does the causes of happiness. He acknowledges that some of the…

5 min.
the philosopher & the scientist

“He was not only a great scientist but a great man, a man whom it is good to have known and consoling to contemplate.” With these words Bertrand Russell concluded his Preface to Einstein on Peace (1960). Down the years, Russell and Albert Einstein had met from time to time, but they did not see much of each other except in 1943, when they were both living in Princeton. Then they would meet weekly at Einstein’s house to discuss “various matters in the philosophy of science.” Wolfgang Pauli and Kurt Gödel also attended. “I found these informal discussions very illuminating and exceedingly valuable,” said Russell. Later, the US hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean in March 1954 had spread radioactive fall-out across wide areas, contaminating Japanese fishermen…