Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Be Scrupulously Truthful..."

Bertrand Russell once pointed out, "Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it." 

I've always had a hard time with Russell's work even though I was trained in the philosophy of language and his work was included in most of the syllabi and curricula I explored. It wasn't till after my title that I realized why Russell never rubbed off on me. I naturally and intellectually respond to aesthetics, philosophically and ontologically. Ergo, it stands to reason that I'd lack a measure of attraction to him. Of all the areas of knowledge, he was intent on leaving one particular pursuit out: aesthetics. 
Russell had a knack for concise speech, however, and some of his observations on human nature are inspiring. I'll list a few below and you can judge for yourselves. They might even inspire you to read more of his work. Or not. Maybe they'll inspire you to self-examine with more gusto and bravery. 

Truth. It's hard, this. It's hard because it rarely is purely quantifiable. Often it resides in the realm of circumstance, accidental caprice, and personal validation. Different people measure experience differently. Truth is inconvenient when it threatens to expose self-interest and damage/harm of the other. Truth, however, should not predicate itself on scruples for if it did, it becomes conditioned on them. I am certain Russell would object to this. I was attracted to his work enough to know this much about it. The more truth is concealed, the more diseased the discourse it gives birth to. Any philosopher would be repulsed by this outcome. Granted, the context Russell had in mind might have had more to do with the pernicious nature of certain religious rhetoric but be that as it may, truth, measurable truth, has to be free of personal gain. It should answer to nothing and no one. 
In sum, here are a few of Russell's observations on an array of thing. Enjoy!

1) Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
2) Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
3) Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
4) Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
5) Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
6) Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
7) Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
8) Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

1 comment:

Jess said...

Larger print on the quotes would help....
Truth is hard for most because it means a lot of work. Leave it to a philosopher not to shy away from it.