The Conquest of Happiness, 1930, by Bertrand Russell (full text)
On Education, especially in early childhood, 1926 (full text)
Marriage and Morals, 1929 (full text)
_ _ e-texts of Bertrand Russell's writings
Bertrand Russell Quotes 366
“ The first proposition, that thu sun is the centre and does not revolve about the earth, is foolish, absurd, false in theology, and heretical, because expressly contrary to Holy Scripture. . . . The second proposition, that the earth is not the centre, but revolves i about the sun, is absurd, false in philosophy, and, from a theological point of view at least, opposed to the true faith.”Galileo, hereupon, was ordered by the Pope to appear before the Inquisition, which commanded him to abjure his errors, which he did on February 26, 1616. He solemnly promised that he would no longer hold the Copernican opinion, or teach it whether in writing or by word of mouth. It must be remembered that it was only sixteen years since the burning of Bruno.
reason’d highIf we are to have a doctrine that can be tested, it is not enough to say that the whole course of nature must be determined by causal laws. This might be true, and yet undiscoverable - for example, if what is more distant had more effect than what is nearer, for we should then need a detailed knowledge of the most distant stars before we could foresee what was going to happen on earth. If we are to be able to test our doctrine, we must be able to state it in relation to a finite part of the universe, and the laws must be sufficiently simple for us to be able to make calculations by their means. We cannot know the whole universe, and we cannot test laws which are so complicated as to require more skill than we can hope to possess for the working out of their consequences. The powers of calculation involved may exceed what is possible at the moment, but not what may probably be acquired before long. This point is fairly obvious, but there is more difficulty in stating our principle so as to be applicable when our data are confined to a finite part of the universe. Things from outside may always crash in and have unexpected effects. Sometimes a new star appears in the heavens, and these appearances cannot be predicted from data confined to the solar system. And as nothing travels faster than light, there is no way by which we can get an advance message telling us that a new star is going to appear. We can attempt to escape from this difficulty in the following manner. Let us suppose that we know everything that is happening at the beginning of 1936 within a certain sphere of which we occupy the centre. We will assume, for the sake of definiteness, that the sphere is so large that it takes just a year for light to travel from the circumference to the centre. Then, since nothing travels faster than light, everything that happens at the centre of the sphere during the year 1936 must, if determinism is true, be dependent only on what was inside the sphere at the beginning of the year, since more distant things would take more than a year to have any effect at the centre. We shall not really be able to have all our supposed data till the year is over, because it will take that length of time for light to reach us from the circumference ; but when the year is over we can investigate, retrospectively, whether the data we now have, together with known causal laws, account for everything that happened on the earth during the year.
Of Providence, Foreknowledge, Will, and Fate,
Fixt Fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute.
And found no end, in wandring mazes lost.
There are discoverable causal laws such that, given siijficient (but not superhuman) powers of calculation, a man who knows all that is happening within a certain sphere at a certain time can predict all that will happen at the centre of the sphere during the time that it takes light to travel from the circumference of the sphere to the centre.I want it to be clearly understood that I am not asserting this principle to be true ; I am only asserting that it is what must be meant by "determinism" if there is to be any evidence either for or against it. I do not know whether the principle is true, and no more docs anybody else. It may be regarded as an ideal which science has held before itself, but it cannot be regarded, unless on some a priori ground, as either certainly true or certainly false. Perhaps, when we come to examine the arguments that have been used for and against determinism, we shall find that what people have had in mind was something rather less definite than the principle at which we have arrived.