History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Bertrand Russell’s narrow view of philosophy

July 24th, 2015 · 2 Comments

More on the Harris reading list: Bertrand Russell’s History of Philosophy is very popular with beginners, and is a fun read for anyone, but noone seems to realize just how poor a book it is. Since its cast is in part responsible for the general weakness of the new atheist movement (to oversimplify slightly), it is a point worth noting. He misses almost the whole core of real philosophy and the dramatic phase of German classical philosophy. I fear this man because, as with Dawkins and the new atheists, these people are going to try and take over the core social ideology of modernity with a form of british scientism that is crackpot and as any reader of WHEE can soon discover modernity is a highly elusive subject.

Tags: General

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 NK // Jul 25, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Beginners should really start with Bryan Magee’s book…much better than Russell’s:


  • 2 NK // Jul 25, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Yet the irony of this situation is that the philosophical foundations of materialism, in a proper metaphysics, are in worse shape now than they have ever been. The “new atheists,” and other commentators, like Stephen Hawking, whose scientific ideas begin to lead them into philosophical reflection, are philosophically very naive and seem to have only the shallowest familiarity or understanding of the history of philosophy, let alone of metaphysics proper. Metaphysical materialism should not have survived the progression of ideas through Berkeley, Hume, and Kant; but perhaps because this outcome was muddled in the treatment of German Idealists (like Hegel), a simple version of Democritean Atomism returned in the 19th century among those more impressed with the progress of science than with the jargon and obscurantism of Idealism. That is when materialism gained some traction as the default metaphysics of generally sensible, critical, conscientious, and empirical opinion. Even the denial of Marx that his “materialism” was an ontological theory (rather than about material economic conditions of production) was ignored and forgotten in the general impression that, after all, it must be just that.


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