I Wanna be Literated #179

I Wanna be Literated #179

Wednesday, 04 April 2018

In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays
by Bertrand Russell

This is the good ol’ Bertrand Russell I know and love. It’s such a joy to read In Praise of Idleness because these essays are some of the most fun, relevant, and readable essays I’ve encountered.
Russell’s books aren’t always everyone’s cup of tea. I will go on record and say that his Autobiography was a bit of a letdown, focusing heavily on letters and not on his personal accounts, and his Human Knowledge book was so heady and specific (not to mention looong) that it was impossible to penetrate. I’m not even going to bother with his Principles of Mathematics. But of course, Russell has written some fantastic books, and this is certainly one of them.

In Praise of Idleness deals with various topics but mostly on what we can do to make us happier. Surprisingly (or maybe not so), Russell argues that we are too focused on work as a goal onto itself and often forget that the goal of work is to have more leisure time in our lives. Doubly surprising, Russell also believes that it’s perfectly fine to be interested in “useless” knowledge because, historically, whenever we’ve dismissed it, we’ve ended up missing how valuable that knowledge actually is. There is a fair bit of focus also on how our societies should be run, and how involved we should all be in it, especially considering how illogically our government sometimes behaves. Russell also presents his arguments against both Fascism and Communism (and defines them in a brief but satisfying way), and argues instead for socialism, and a system which provides security for its citizens, and persuades them to work. Russell always insists on positive reinforcement. In addition, he believes that structure, truth, and mental health are important for our society and that education is paramount. No surprises there. Also that everyone should have a hand in the care of children but only for a couple hours a day.

In Praise of Idleness does much more than its title suggests. It’s fun, informative, and relevant even after all these years.

Get it from Routledge.

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