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Why I Am Not A Christian And Other Essays Pdf

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First published in Alan Montefiore ed.

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Why I am so very unFrench, and other essays

First published in Alan Montefiore ed. My participation in a project of this nature has, at first sight, a totally paradoxical aspect in that 1 I can in no sense be considered a representative or influential contemporary French philosopher, 2 I do not claim, and have never claimed, any genuine originality in my manner of treating the questions that have interested me, and 3 what I have tried to do will certainly be much more comprehensible to the English-speaking philosophical public than to that to which I have addressed myself or which I have tried to help create in France.

The only thing that would need to be explained to the English-speaking reader is, no doubt, the fact that I should have adopted from the start such an unorthodox position in relation to my own native philosophical milieu and that I should have shown so little interest in the productions most characteristic of contemporary French philosophy.

For want of producing anything really important and lasting, French philosophy of today can at least flatter itself with producing things which resemble nothing else and which, indeed, do not seem possible anywhere else. When Frege referred to the reaction of philosophers who, at the mere sight of a formula, exclaimed: mathematica sunt, non leguntur, he doubtless did not foresee that this same reaction would also be provoked by works which contain no formulae at all, that is, not only by logic as such, but also by the philosophy of logic, because of the relatively technical character which springs necessarily from the nature of its object, by all those philosophies which are inspired in various ways directly or indirectly by logic, and finally even by the commentaries and discussions, however nuanced and critical, to which these philosophies give rise.

A French philosopher who openly displayed his sympathy for the analytic tradition at the time I began to do so — I do not believe that, in my case, one could speak exactly of belonging to it — could even in the best of cases, never hope to be considered as anything but marginal or eccentric by the French philosophical milieu or as anything more than a mere chronicler or a more or less gifted imitator by the official representatives of the tradition in question. It is obvious that someone working on his own and almost entirely self-taught, and who is forced to confront an indifferent or hostile environment, can hardly hope to entertain the ambition of obtaining results in any way comparable to those of philosophers benefiting from the decisive advantages offered by the fact of belonging to a well-established tradition and by their use of proven methods of research and discussion, methods which have long formed part of their philosophical consensus.

As regards analytic philosophy, it is certain that the situation in France is today incomparably better than it was when I first started to become interested in it. The interest it appears to generate at the present time is basically due to the relative vacuum that has prevailed during the past few years and to the temporary openness to new ideas that has resulted from it.

This has reminded me of the epoch in the not so distant past when someone had only to succeed in publishing a modest article on Carnap or Quine, without any particular apologetic intention, for the guardians of the integrity of our national philosophical culture to rush to warn the innocent public against the secret invasion of logical positivism.

When it is said that analytic philosophy has become fashionable, this must be understood as meaning simply that to speak about it is no longer absolutely forbidden — which, for those for whom even this relaxation seems already much too much, is more or less tantamount to saying that no one any longer talks about anything else.

The truth is that the way in which it is talked about at the present time could provide serious reasons for those who did not wait to be authorized by the current philosophical situation to take an interest in analytic philosophy, to regret the days when it was not talked about at all. On this point the scenario is always the same: at the moment when new things appear, all sorts of good or bad reasons are found to prevent their importance from being recognized; and when there is no longer any apparent obstacle to acknowledging it, then the decisive argument becomes, precisely, that they are by now no longer of any importance.

There is nothing more comical, and at the same time more distressing, than the self-assured way in which the people who make news always claim to have passed beyond that which they have never passed through: without ever having made the slightest effort to understand anything at all about what philosophers like Frege, Wittgenstein, Russell or Carnap tried to do, they preserve their good conscience with the banal and reassuring observation that even those who are taken to be the successors of these philosophers have long ago ceased to do exactly the same thing and are indeed, for the most part, engaged in something quite different.

In other words, the earlier stages of this movement can safely be ignored because they belong nowadays only to past history or to prehistory; and the latter can be ignored just as well either because, despite a few minor changes, they represent an inexplicable persistence in the initial error, or because they consist essentially in the rediscovery of certain self-evident truths, truths which had always been known to those lucky enough to have avoided this useless experience entirely.

In short, one might as well say, as much from an historical as from a philosophical point of view, absolutely nothing has happened that merits reflecting upon. The only merit that I should claim for myself personally is that of having contributed to a certain extent, both in writing and in teaching, to this evolution. One must not underestimate the importance of this first step, which is always the most difficult to take, and make the mistake of requiring those who are coming into contact for the first time with a foreign tradition to judge it straightaway from the necessary historical and critical distance.

Since any hope of modifying the opinions of those already in place is completely vain, one must count, for a long-term improvement, essentially on the change which seems to have occurred in the attitudes of the younger generation and which at least means that the case is no longer judged entirely in advance. There was a time when it was reproached above all with having what was held to be an anti-philosophical character.

If the analytic tradition arose, as Dummett thinks, out of the dismissal of the theory of knowledge as the fundamental part of philosophy in favour of the theory of meaning or, more broadly, the philosophy of language, it will never find favour in the eyes of those who have renounced once and for all not only any effort to seek a new paradigm for first philosophy, but also any idea that there exists some sort of domain reserved for philosophy alone, that is to say, a range of philosophical problems specifically different from those that are posed elsewhere, in particular in the sciences.

For example, it cannot be said that the current situation of philosophy in Germany is itself, despite a traditional prejudice in its favour, much better known or appreciated in any more exact manner. Everything leads one to believe that the opposition between the analytic and continental traditions is gradually being transformed into a marked anachronism. But it is probable that France will for some time to come continue to make itself ridiculous by combating as a threat that which the philosophy of most other countries will have long ago integrated as a positive and essential contribution.

What is considered just about unanimously everywhere else as the current state of philosophy is, it seems, always too modern for our university teaching and too traditional for our avant-garde. Consequently, one could, in an epoch like that of today, unconcernedly affirm that which one does not know to be objective fact and one would be justified, if the thing is done with an elegant hand, in counting on a greater success than would one who hesitates.

I shall have more to say about this later; for the moment it is enough for me to say that it can be more modest to talk about oneself than to talk about ideas.

We are witnessing, in particular, the proliferation of a type of work which attempts, with a very relative degree of success, to compensate for the absence of properly philosophical argumentation by means of literary effects and for the absence of properly literary qualities by means of philosophical pretensions. In general, contemporary French philosophers are past masters in the art of making themselves quite impossible to grasp, that is to say, they are never to be found at the precise point where criticism might possibly reach them.

As Vincent Descombes remarks:. It has not taken much more to make a hardened disbeliever of me. It is always fascinating to observe the unimaginable forms of blindness and idolatry to which authors reputed essentially for their exceptional mastery in the art of stripping off masks and casting down idols can in their turn give rise.

One of the reasons why I have never really been attracted by Marxism and psychoanalysis has been simply the fact that everything that counted at the time as reflection and creation had necessarily to refer to them. It is as difficult to believe in theory as it is incontestable in practice that a privileged minority, holding symbolic power and innocently exerting the violence which this power authorizes, may determine arbitrarily and at every instant what is and is not to be discussed, for the sake of a crowd of followers persuaded that they are wholly free in choosing their subjects on the basis of their intrinsic importance alone.

The consequence for France, where the phenomenon is, like the influence of fashion, clearly more perceptible and more spectacular than in most other countries, is that only a minute fraction of the information relevant to philosophical reflection on the world of today is actually considered or used.

And I can only hope that men of the new generation may be moved by this book to devote themselves to technics instead of lyrics, the sea instead of the paint-brush, and politics instead of epistemology. Better they could not do. Systematic philosophy, then, lies immensely far behind us, and ethical philosophy has been wound up. But a third possibility, corresponding to the Classical Scepticism, still remains to the soul-world of the present-day West, and it can be brought to light by hitherto unknown methods of historical morphology.

That which is a possibility is a necessity. The Classical scepticism is ahistoric, it doubts by denying outright. But that of the West, if it is an inward necessity, a symbol of the autumn of our spirituality, is obliged to be historical through and through. Its solutions are got by treating everything as relative, as an historical phenomenon. If I have mentioned his name, knowing well that it is enough to set off unanimous reactions of horror and indignation on the part of French philosophers, this is first because contemporary French philosophy has produced, in a different manner and style, a certain number of false prophets of the same species as Spengler, and secondly because I have always had the feeling that there was something typically Spenglerian in the historicism — whether explicit or latent — of French philosophy, with its obsession with the decline and exhaustion of possibilities, its recurrent pessimism concerning the future of philosophy in general, its submission to the fait accompli and to what is unavoidable in the development of philosophical thought, its haste to give in to the necessity of the epoch and its resolve not to go beyond what it considers to be its limits and its historical obligations.

It is rare indeed to find a philosopher who, in addition to his philosophy properly speaking, does not offer a sort of historical plea pro domo, which allows him to make his philosophy appear as the only one possible and necessary and to transform the mood of the time into an imperative of world history.

History has become, in a certain sense, our Darstellungsform, to such an extent that it is from now on difficult to envisage classical philosophical problems from an angle that is not above all and in essence historical, or to imagine that these problems may have any sort of present or future existence as such.

The only way to reconcile this view of things with the periodical reappearance of the same basic philosophical problems which were believed to have been settled definitively is, of course, to claim that one invents them at the time at which one rediscovers them.

As, in its own way, by virtue of a more audacious — if not more convincing — utilization of history, the avant-garde tended to the conclusion that we are, in one way or another, already in the era of post-philosophy, so analytic philosophy offered the image, doubtless somewhat naive but distinctly more reassuring and encouraging, of a philosophical universe in which the great traditional problems preserve a certain contemporary relevance and can be treated in a relatively fruitful way through the application of new methods.

This is the reason why I am not sure whether I have ever quite managed to do justice to historical works as exemplary and as indispensable as those of Martial Gueroult, which have always given me the impression of offering stones to someone who is asking for bread.

As Putnam writes:. The school to which Carnap belongs — the so-called Logical Empiricist school — has often been criticized for oversimplification and dogmatism.

Oversimplification it has, indeed, been guilty of; but dogmatism seems a highly unfair accusation. I know of no group of philosophers who have been more willing to abandon their own cherished beliefs when careful logical analysis showed those beliefs to be untenable. Those who are sceptical or recalcitrant are generally treated by the representatives of the orthodoxy of the moment as an anomaly to be explained rather than as an honourable opposition one might possibly attempt to win over.

And if the propositions all turn out to be false — well, getting agreement on even that is surely an important progress. And even today I continue to hold him in great admiration not only for the substantial contribution he made to numerous areas of exact philosophy, but also because of the remarkable serenity and total absence of proselytism or fanaticism that characterizes his philosophical efforts and style.

One must, doubtless, have been acquainted with the extraordinarily pretentious, provocative and disdainful tone of some of the most typical productions of French philosophy and the aggressive militantism — not to say the militarism — of certain politico-philosophical programmes, which have experienced a success as surprising as it was ephemeral, in order to appreciate fully an enterprise conducted with as much measure, method and perseverance as was that of Carnap.

Contemporary French epistemologists have always categorically opposed any philosophy of science more or less directly inspired by logic. Inasmuch as the efforts to clarify or to explain fundamental meta-scientific concepts made by the logical positivists and their more or less direct descendants seemed to me not only interesting from a purely philosophical point of view but also to be dictated more or less directly by scientific practice itself, one would surely have just as much right to judge historical epistemology in terms of the contribution it may make towards the solution of questions of this sort; and I have never really understood why the sole response to such questions acknowledged as permissible by French epistemologists consisted in simply decreeing that they were not to be raised.

Feyerabend himself finally concludes that the philosophy of the sciences should not be reformed but simply allowed to die its own death. This type of declaration, which I have heard repeated as a leitmotiv by the epistemologists of my generation, would obviously be much more comprehensible and more plausible if it were only explained in what way the case of the philosophy of the sciences, considered as the bastard and parasitical discipline par excellence, is fundamentally different from that of the philosophy of morality, of religion or of art and finally from that of philosophy as such.

What is far more disturbing is the general tendency denounced by Musil as early as in his critique of The Decline of the West : there exists today in intellectual circles in particular in philosophical circles. Exact philosophy, which cannot be said to have occupied a position of high prestige in France for the past forty years or so and whose representatives might rather have the impression of being on the whole in a state of legitimate intellectual self-defence, is nevertheless regularly treated as a potential aggressor threatening the most fundamental of philosophical freedoms.

The same type of favourable prejudice naturally works to the benefit of obscurity and hermeticism with the result that an insistence on clarity and intelligibility finishes by being itself considered as a sort of abuse of inquisitorial power.

But the practical consequences of this purely reactive and defensive attitude, by virtue of which the sole manner in which scientific knowledge can directly interest philosophy lies in the clarification and denunciation of its unavowed and unavowable presuppositions, are always the same. The intellectual masters who have dominated the French philosophical stage over the past few decades may be, in general, little disposed to assume the objective consequences of their explicit or implicit teaching; but it is difficult not to see anti-scientific, anti-rationalist and anti-analytical bias as partly responsible for the disastrous weakening of the critical sense, the progressive transformation of the knowledgeable or presumed to be knowledgeable public into a sort of religious community dedicated to the cult of a few consecrated stars, the uniformly admiring, not to say out-and-out dithyrambic, style of authorized criticism, the regrettable disappearance of intermediary ranks between genius and pure and simple nonentity and the tendency systematically to absolve errors of reasoning and method to the extent that these are still actually perceived in order to retain only what is essential, namely the literary qualities.

In a context such as this, the mere fact that it continues to conceive of philosophy as an argumentative discipline already constitutes by itself a weighty argument in favour of analytic philosophy. In France the development of a political position remains the decisive test, disclosing as it does the definitive meaning of a mode of thought.

It is as if the heart of the matter had not been reached until, from suppositions about the One and the Many, or about the nature of knowledge, the subject shifted to the issue of the next elections or the attitude of the Communist Party.

The first is that this omnipresence of politics in philosophy has always gone hand in hand with an almost total absence of any philosophical reflection worthy of the name on the subject of politics. The second is that the accumulated disappointments and errors, notably in political matters, do not appear capable of really bringing into question the characteristic tendency of French philosophers to attribute to themselves a sort of monopoly of critical lucidity, considered once and for all as their basic professional virtue, so that in the end it would be altogether small-minded and out of place to ask them for any concrete proof of it.

The resistance to any type of refutation by results shown by the postulate according to which philosophy is considered to be the critical discipline par excellence is nothing short of astounding. One probably has to admit that the refined conceptions of literary men, and in particular those of philosophers, have never made, and never could make, humanity run risks of this sort.

In France, where philosophy is a discipline which is supposed at one and the same time to participate actively in the transformation of society and to represent, in relation to the scientific and political establishment, the vigilant and disinterested awareness of the stakes and the risks involved, it is not surprising that it is constantly torn between the determination to be taken seriously and the fear that this will actually happen.

For language […] is thought by the layman to be uninteresting in itself and irrelevant to the Great Questions. In an interview published in Le Monde, Desanti has contrasted two sorts of philosophy, one which is concerned with the problems and reflections of each and every one of us and another which he characterizes in the following way:.

Alongside this, and in opposition to it, there is what I shall call the philosophy of professionals. It includes various schools, often competitive but also often working together, with strict forms of learning and with initiation rituals.

Out of this come extremely important, subtle and useful works: but these works remain academic. They are developed within the field of the discipline, just as algebra or differential topology are developed within their own field.

This inevitably gives rise, in ordinary people, in the worst case to a feeling of intimidation or exclusion and in the best case to a reaction of disinterest, of not being concerned. Morever, even if it is true that the great moral and political questions are more directly related to the preoccupations of the ordinary person, one may easily realize that any serious philosophical discussion of this sort of question ends up being hardly less technical and esoterical than questions dealing with the theory of knowledge or epistemology.

The true problem would, in fact, be to know why the gap between the philosophy of the professionals and the presumed expectations of the general public which, by definition, is never consulted gives the impression of having become today more radical and more intolerable than in the past, from a point of view which in reality is essentially that of the professionals themselves.

But there is indisputably a great difference between philosophers who, like Sartre, Marcuse or Foucault, give the impression of having more or less transformed the mentality of their time in their respective areas, and others, like most analytic philosophers and, in fact, philosophers in general, who address themselves almost exclusively to the members of their confraternity.

And it is entirely understandable that the former give the impression of more closely corresponding to what philosophy today can and should be if it is to remain faithful to its traditional vocation or perhaps, more precisely, to the idea we form of it. Moreover, it is clear that when philosophers claim to deal with the problems which we all have, they are actually dealing, in a good many cases, with nothing but their own individual and collective problems, such, for example, as has been seen in a number of recent cases, as the problem of their own relation to politics.

Finally, if it is normal to require of philosophy that it deepen our reflection on the great moral, social and political questions of the age, it would certainly be wholly unreasonable and absurd to require of any given philosopher that he justify his position by a contribution of this sort which would probably, in most cases, be fairly trivial and of no great interest. There is, on the other hand, a definite mistrust of philosophy in large chunks, which is simply considered impossible.

But the benefit that one can expect in such cases from this type of philosophy is, whatever way you look at it, incomparably more indirect, more ambiguous, less substantial and, to be blunt, frankly more disappointing than that which the majority of French philosophers have recently acquired the to my mind most regrettable habit of immediately requiring of the most abstract philosophical reflection.

It would obviously be absurd to deny that it has produced extremely brilliant individuals and works of such specific originality that one can at least acknowledge, as I have done at the beginning of this essay, the merit French philosophy is due for having made a totally novel contribution to contemporary philosophy, one probably incon ceivable in any other context.

But the individual successes that the entire world is supposed to envy us cannot completely hide the dramatic fragility, instability and inconsistency of its deep structures of thought, the lack of taste for intellectual enterprises that are not likely to lead to immediate and rather spectacular results which are then to be echoed and amplified on the level of the general public, the eclecticism, the superficiality and the confusion of interests and crazes, the rather infantile predilection for systematic excesses and provocations, the profound indifference concerning reasons and consequences, which explains the levity and the irresponsibility with which ethical and political choices are made.

However, this indisputable advantage to which French intellectuals are so ready to refer in their own support, is in fact probably much more symbolic than substantive, to the extent that talkative bad conscience is too often substituted for effective action, verbal denunciation of abuses and injustices for the resolve really to contribute to their abolition, and the production of a political mythology intended essentially for domestic consumption for the elaboration of a political thought capable of bringing any weight to bear on the ways in which things actually evolve.

For a French intellectual, to take up a political position is generally nothing more than a sort of statutory obligation that has to be fulfilled at every moment, without there being any need either to justify it by means of real arguments or to answer for it later.

We must give fashion the credit for giving a chance, one day or another, to all ideas, including those which may appear to contradict it most directly. In other words, if the worst is never entirely certain, the best is probably never entirely impossible.

As a collection the essays convey the style, tone and preoccupations, as well as the range and diversity, of French philosophical thinking as it is being practised today. Scott Fox and J. Check if your institution has already acquired this book: authentification to OpenEdition Freemium for Books.

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Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects

In an Appendix, Professor Edwards contributes a full account of the highly controversial "Bertrand Russell Case" of , in which Russell was judicially declared "unfit" to teach philosophy at the College of the City of New York. Whether the reader shares or rejects Bertrand Russell's views, he will find this book an invigorating challenge to set notions, a masterly statement of a philosophical position, and a pure joy to read. Why I am not a Christian -- Has religion made useful contributions to civilization? Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read.

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required. To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number. He brings to his treatment of these questions the same courage, scrupulous logic, and lofty wisdom for which his other work as philosopher, writer, and teacher has been famous. These qualities make the essays included in this book perhaps the most graceful and moving presentation of the freethinker's position since the days of Hume and Voltaire. Read more Read less. Previous page.

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Bertrand Arthur William Russell — was a British philosopher, logician, essayist and social critic best known for his work in mathematical logic and analytic philosophy. Together with G. Moore , Russell is generally recognized as one of the founders of modern analytic philosophy. His famous paradox , theory of types and work with A. Whitehead on Principia Mathematica invigorated the study of logic throughout the twentieth century Schilpp , xiii; Wilczek ,

A fellow freethinker by the name of John Ransom engaged me to compose a statement of why I am not a Christian. I should summarize my case, he said, simply and clearly so everyone can understand where I'm coming from. John was especially frustrated by Christians who routinely come up with implausible excuses to defend their faith, which they don't really examine -- as if defending the faith with any excuse mattered more than having a genuinely good reason to believe in the first place. Discussing our experiences, we realized we'd both encountered many Christians like this, who color their entire perception of reality with the assumption that they have to be right, and therefore the evidence must somehow fit.

Bertrand Russell


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At a time when most movements that are thought to be progressive advocate further encroachments on individual liberty, those who cherish freedom are likely to expend their energies in opposition. In this they find themselves much of the time on the same side as those who habitually resist change. In matters of current politics today they generally have little choice but to support the conservative parties.

the essay subsequently achieved new fame with Paul Edwards' edition of Russell's book,. Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays ().

(PDF) Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects Free

Why I am so very unFrench, and other essays

Originally a talk given 6 March at Battersea Town Hall, under the auspices of the South London Branch of the National Secular Society , it was published that year as a pamphlet and has been republished several times in English and in translation. Russell begins by defining what he means by the term Christian and sets out to explain why he does not "believe in God and in immortality" and why he does not "think that Christ was the best and wisest of men", the two things he identifies as "essential to anybody calling himself a Christian". He considers a number of logical arguments for the existence of God and goes into specifics about Christian theology. He argues against the " argument from design ", and favors Darwin's theories. Russell also expresses doubt over the historical existence of Jesus and questions the morality of religion, which is, in his view, predominantly based on fear.

Bertrand Russell - Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects

Ведь я слишком много знаю. - Успокойся, Грег. Сирена продолжала завывать.

Why I Am Not a Christian (2006)

Хейл сдавил горло Сьюзан немного сильнее, и она вскрикнула от боли.


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Based on this evidence, we should never resort to it again.

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