The Philosopher's Wit and Anger; Bertrand Russell Against the Modern World, by Toshihiko MIURA (Text in Japanese)
[English Summary of a Master Thesis, University of Tokyo: Accepted, Dec. 18, 1984]
Chapters 1 and 2:
Bertrand Russell(1872〜1970) came to Japan in July 1921 at the invitation of the Kaizo. The Japanese intel1ectual world took great notice of him, either as the British philosopher who had attacked the British government and been imprisoned, or the Western inte1lectual who was one of the first to inspect the Bolshevik Russia. Around his two weeks in Japan, there was a kind of "Russell boom".
The reactions of the Japanese intellects were various. The socialists, such as Sakai Toshihiko, expressed their disappointment in Russell's criticism against the New Russia, and oommented that he exposed himself to be in a shameful bourgeois position, pretending to be a sooial reformer. Most Japanese, however, commented on him admiringly and veneratingly. For instance, Fukuda Tokuzo, one of the leaders of Taisho Democracy, declared himself to be influenced by Russell's social theory and called himself "a Russell of Japan". There was also a study which compared Fukuda with Russell pointing out how different they were, and stating that Fukuda was a mere chauvinist compared with Russell. This should be seen as the self-criticism of the Japanese democracy via one Western philosopher. Also, Hasegawa Manjiro, Tsuchida Kyoson, Kuwaki Genyoku and others discussed Russell in some interesting ways.
Though some of them contained some important insights of Russell, they were in general, superficial recognitions. It is probably because the Taisho Japan was standing rather aloof from the serious current affairs of the world with which Russell's thought was deeply concerned, and because systematic religion, a struggle against which was a main driving force of Russell's thought, was absent in Japan. Japanese intellects generally liked to appreciate Russell's personality rather than receive his thoughts systematically. After all, it may be said that they tried to imagine what was going on in the world, and undersand the position of Japan in it, by using Russell as a sort of stimulus. Before coming to Japan, Russell had been in China for ten months as a lecturer at the Peking Government University. His thoughts were received and studied enthusiastically by Young China which was much concerned about the conditions of its country. Russell also loved the Chinese character and culture deeply. On the other hand, he was ill-impressed by Japan and the Japanese. The most cospicuous episode in Japan was that when his party arrived at Yokohama station, he feared that the photograpers' flashes might be bad for his pregnant lover Dora Black, which caused him to pursue them with a stick. Later he compared this experience to the passion that must have been felt by Anglo-Indians surrounded by a rebel coloured population. So there was not an intimate contact between Japan and Russell compared with the case of China.
But it becomes doubtful whether the reaction between China and Russell was so genuine when we notice the following points. First, that some of the progressive Chinese got angry that Russell admired the old Chinese culture without reserve. Secondly, Russell and Dora, who often used to clash with each other, found, in China, themselves in perfect agreement about everything. This means that China was a so foreign, incomprehensible environment that they became more aware of what they had in common than of what divided them.
In short, Japan and China, seemingly quite different for Russell, were equally out of his scope. In The Problem of China, Russell wrote something to the effect that the Chinese reminded him of the English in their merits. Then it may be concluded that Russell merely read merits and demerits of his true object of interest, England or the West, into the two of the Eastern countries.
Chapters 3 and 4:
Originally Russell had been a scholar in an ivory tower, but was pulled down to the human world violently by World War I. For his anti-government movement he had been suffering in many ways, ending up in being imprisoned in May 1918. His true suffering, however, was that he was astonished by the people's attitude of welcoming the war, and was forced to become aware that human beings are essentially irrational. Here, the optimistic intellectual Russell came to an end and he began always to be conscious of his inner unstable conditions composed of the sceptic, sometimes cynical nature and his furious passion against the world.
Before World War I, there were no serious relations between his passion and scepticism. In the ten years' hard work of Principia Mathematica his passion and analytic intellect were completely cooperating with each other in the form that the analytical subject was developed in a passionate way. But after the war, his subject of study was transferred from logic to the human society, so his passion and scepticism appeared his anger by wit and pity when confronted with man's disaster and made him a little happy. On other occasions, his earnest longings to feel a passionate union with the pacifists was interfered with by his natural scepticism and he felt lonely and unhappy.
There were, however, not only such dilemma as these but also the fusion of passion and scepticism. War and other social evils were for him the objects of both a passionate anger and a cynical contempt. What particularly interests us about Russell is this kind of quality which can be called cold anger or hot scepticism, namely satire.
We can find an ideal fusion of the philosopher's wit and anger in The God Citizen's Alphabet (1953), a small illustrated book. It shows that the fusion, the satire, was often presented in the form of pretending to be sinful himself but actually blaming the world for its evils. For example in the Alphabet there is the phrase, "Queer--Basing opinions on evidence. Rational--Not basing opinions on evidence." This suggests that the empirical philosopher Russell who makes much of evidence is "queer", which ironically accuses the irrational world whose morals are generally not evidential. This kind of subtle mixture of wit and anger, by its indirectness, blames the world in a sophisticated and perhaps an effective way. This type of satire we can call "the logic as immorality".
In the Alphabet, however, different kinds of phrases are found, for example, "Holy--Maintained by fools for centuries", or "Objective--A delusion which other lunatics share". These are directly aggresive ironies compred with "the logic as immorality", and have a tint of non-sceptic anger. Interestingly enough, moreover, Russell depicted himself as "Pedant--A man who likes his statements to be true." This seems to predict the later figure of the dogmatically shouting Russell. In 1954, the year after the Alphabet was published, confronted with the Bikini H-bomb tests, his wit and analytical cool sense were killed by the sweeping fear of man's annihilation.
We can see among the illustrations of the Alphabet, all sorts of clowns which remind us of Russell's last years. The Alphabet itself, however, was the product of his living wit, though it had in it some symptoms of his wit's unhappy destiny.
Chapters 5 and 6:
"The logic as immorality" was maintained in the case of his second imprisonment in 1961, but it was only outwardly, because the equilibrium between his wit and anger was then completely broken. The so-called wit was seen in him until his death, but that had no pattern of action of its own, merely sent out to serve the persuasive writings or addressese, driven by a rage and the passionate belief that mankind should have a future. Here, wit was from not a sceptic, but a dogmatic mind, namely, a "dead" wit.
In truth, Russsell's living wit or analytical recognition toward the world sometimes took a dangerous form. After World War II, during the years when only the U.S.A. had the A-bomb or the H-bomb, Russell claimed that U.S.A. should threaten Russia with the Bomb and set up a world government. The reactions to his assertion were mainly anger and abuses, while on the other hand Russell became useful to the Western camp, got the world-wide fame and won a Nobel Prize in 1950. In this way a former rebel found himself a revered magnate, but these days did not last long. The Bikini led him to make the famous broadcast on the B.B.C. warning of "Man's Peril"--all of a sudden the one-time absolute pacifist was resurrected. He then began to go to the other extreme, arguing that the Western camp should reduce its armaments even if it would be unilateral. This so-called "Better Red Than Dead" argument aroused the world's anger of a different kind from the former. Since then to his death he was absorbed in a passionate nuclear protest, often refquiring the citizens, including his daughter Katharine, to work for the protest at the sacrifice of their own life. This perplexed Katharine very much, and she pointed out as another strange affair that his shouting at the stump speeches had nothing to do with his scientific and ethically neutral philosophy. He was then standing forth not as an analytic philosopher but as one religioner or, according to his daughter, a saint.
Seeing that his idealistic effort had after all little effect on the world peace problem, however, we are induced to regard him not only as a saint but also as a Don Quixote. As a matter of fact, Russell's actions were often ridiculed or caricatured by journalism, and even when he was imprisoned in 1961, his penalty was mitigated largely and he was sent not to prison but hospital, where he was given a week's comfortable rest. Russell was no longer an anti-establishmental element to be feared as in 1918, but a feeble 89-year old man who was to be respected and to be kind to. On Russell's side, however, his rage against the world was vivid. For example, in 1965, at a public meeting, he tore up his Labour Party card after 50 years' membership, in protest at what he called the "Labour Party's complacency over the Vietnam astrocities."
Though Russell's speech and action were like Don Quixote's from a practical point of view, it can be said that he was, from an aesthetic point of view a sort of necessary figure, because it is aesthetically natural for humanity to react sharpely against the unparalleled situation like the nuclear world, and Russell was a symbol of that human reaction. Moreover, the affairs were more serious than the case of Don Quixote because of Russell's actual intellect, honour and saneness (at least psychopathologically). If Russell's apparently mad figure contained some ingredients of same rationality, which side is to be ridiculed, Russell or the world?
When Russell appeared as a riduculous clown, the world(particularly the West) could use him as a mascot to discharge and forget its own evil, or as a scapegoat that was a symbolical proof of the world's self-criticism bringing an indulgence of its moral defect. But perhaps neither of these is the true solution. It is certain that Russell was a fool in an atomic age, but (or therefore) his way of existence showed paradoxically the degraded state of the world just as, or more strongly than, Don Quixote. This type of accusation we may call "the ideal as ridiculousness".
Chapters 7 and 8:
Russell himself was an idealist driven by the altruistic motive, free from adherence to his life because of his old age, while the members of the peace movement following him, most of them being young, were driven only by the selfish motive of not wanting to die. Russell resorted to the people's self-interest to realize his utopian ideal by preaching "enlighted self-interest." According to this, the aims of self-interest are, in a nuclear age, attained not by a struggle but only by cooperation and harmony of love. There was the union of a saint's altruism and the people's enlightened self-interest, as a revolutionary power that appealed to the enlightened self-interest of the government.
Nevertheless, the scheme of a philanthropist with a complete altruism guiding selfish people is too simple. There maybe a selfish motive in Russell too. Being of the aristocracy in the leading nation of the West, and conscious of contributing himself to mathematics, philosophy or the whole human civilization, Russell surely felt the world to be his own. So the problem of life or death of the world was directly a matter of self-interest.
In him thus an altruistic pity for man's suffering and his self-interest were tightly connected with each other, fusing into one. He himself depicted this fusion by the metaphor, "An individual human existence should be like a river... they become merged in the sea..." Of cource, the sea stands for mankind or the world. This is a saintly image, so we may call Russell's self-interest the "holy self-interest."
The selfishness of Russell's peace movement, however, had one more different phase. In the Autobiography he says that his life before and after World War I was as sharply separated as Faust's life before and after meeting Maphistopheless. Certainly, the war or the nuclear situation could be regarded as a devilish company that wanted to do evil but to do good for him, in the sense that it stimulated him and gave him chances of devotion and self-improvement. For example, it may be said that Russell was displeased with the deadlock of his philosophy like Faust was at his failure in the sciences, and embarked on a public enterprise in compensation for it. His ardent longing to feel the oneness with large bodies of himan beings which might be experienced in the peace movement corresponded to Faust's "expansion of self into mankind."
But in spite of his own declaration that he was a Faust or "a vampire", we can recognize that in truth he did not believe in this nature of his, or at least, he tried to reject a sense of it, if we examine his description closely or his reaction to D. H. Lawrence who pointed out Russell's vampiric nature. However, no matter how vague his consciousness was, we can see a Faust in him who utilized the war or other evils as the energy sources of his own life.
Thus we see a Russell-Faust who acted only for himself contrary to a Russell-Don Quixote who served only the external world. Or, focusing on self-interest, it can be said Russell was the triple existence that contained an altruistic idealist concerned about the world (preacher of enlightened self-interest), an altruistic and selfish old man feeling his life to be the world's life (the holy self-interest), and a person concerned with his inner problems (Faust).
Taking a step further, we can consider whether the nuclear situation, proper to this age, has done more good than Mephistopheles had done for Faust. Since World War I, Russell had gone through calamities of the world, not by practical experience, but almost only by his remarkable imagination. A vision of man's annihilation actuated his imagination more vividly. Concretely, Russell, an auditory may by nature, suddenly became interested in visual designs and adoped them in his later works. This means that he became able to look at human textual agonies closely by the visual image rather than by the auditory stuructual scepticism.
In spite of positive changes brought about in his thoughts, the nuclear situation was intrinsically bad for him, so he blamed some works of art for prettifying the situation. On the other hand, there is the opinion that the nuclear situation is positively good for literature and other human cultures. Then we can proceed with this kind of view until arguing that the nuclear world is inherently good or beautiful. We have recognized Russell as a kind of aethetics, literacy character. As he was a world-wide eminent personage, his life was open to the world and permeated into it, so the world itself may have more or less the same quality as his. Russell was a unified character having the one ideal toward man's future, a complex character having incompatible factors, and a character with the intense human qualities shown in his peace movement, so we should ragard him as a good aesthetic object, and the nuclear world as the same.
There is the biggest paradox of Russell, that his figure exclusively accusing the evil of the nuclear world could not but reveal the beauty of one. As a matter of fact, we can find a particular aesthetic significance in the state that mankind is still living despite of its ablility to kill itself gained for the first time in history. Though this could be said only so long as man's death is merely a concept, not a reality.
After a Japanese Russell fever in Taisho and then a more than 30 years' blank, there revived an ardent interest in Russell among Japanese intellects, and four groups for Russell were establihed in 1964, 1965 and 1966. They were in the main stimulated by Russell's nuclear protest, and because of the difference in Japan's positon in the world, the relation between Russell and Japan was this time much deeper than that in Taisho. Generally speaking, Japn is the symbol of a nuclear age in two ways. First, it is the only nation bombed by nuclear weapons in the war and thus has enough reason to plunge into the nuclear protest (with Russell). Secondly, it can be the representitive of non-Western power criticizing the nuclear strategy that is a kind of the extremity of Western civilization. Russell was an aggressor against it from Western scientific humanism itself, and Japan is to respond to this self-criticism from the non-Western point of view supplementarily.
The above two factors were representdd respectively by Iwamatsu Shigetoshi, professor at Nagasaki University and a founder of the Bertrand Russell Material Center of Japan, and by Yukawa Hideki a participant of the Russell-Einstein declaration and the first Pugwash Conference of which Russell was the advocate and president. Aetheatically speaking, their responses was necessary. Iwamatsu, who had experienced the Bomb, is the enthusiastic admirer of Russell, and Yukawa was the scientist who was conscious of the possible concert of the Eastern thought with Russell's.
However, Japan had an intellect lively enought to be sometimes sceptical to Russell's movement, and particularly as Russell's utterances of the Vietnam War were becoming violent, there were brought about more and more disturbances and divsions among Russell's supporters. At present, in Japan, there remains no acting group concerning Russell. As well as Russell's paradox of passion and scepticism, in Japan there was the same kind of paradox on the very man. It may be one of the intrinsic paradoxes of the world or the human being.