Ray Monk

Ray Monk is the biographer of Russell and Wittgenstein.

Only Sentences

Ray Monk, 31 October 1996

A feeling has been growing that analytic philosophy is in crisis. Once proud and disdainful of other traditions, it has become unsure of itself; uncertain about its past and fearful of its future. One sign of this insecurity is the debate now being conducted among leading analytic philosophers about their own history. Previously, they cared little about this. Confident in the superiority of their methods over those of earlier philosophers, they regarded an interest in history as a perverse preoccupation with the mistakes of the past. History was for second-class minds; first-class minds could safely ignore it and get on with the job in hand.

Russell and Ramsey

Ray Monk, 29 August 1991

It may surprise those who do not already know it that the world centre for the study of the life and work of Bertrand Russell is at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. Shortly before he died Russell sold his vast collection of manuscripts and personal papers to McMaster for a huge sum of money in order to finance the various projects of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation. The sale has proved fortunate, not only for the work of the Peace Foundation, but also for Russellian scholarship. For the Bertrand Russell Archives, established at McMaster under the leadership of Kenneth Blackwell, have made exemplary use of the material acquired for them.

Private Lives

Ray Monk, 22 November 1990

After five years of beavering away in isolation and complete obscurity, it is tremendously exciting to pick up a nationally distributed newspaper or magazine and read a review of one’s own book. This has been my happy situation for the last two weeks, during which time most quality newspapers have carried a review of my biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein. The impact on me has been that of saturation coverage, but that’s because I’ve bought every single paper or journal that has carried a review. The cumulative effect has been to provide me, momentarily, with the delightful illusion that I am famous, an illusion that is, however, cruelly shattered whenever I ask friends if they have seen the reviews. No, they reply, they don’t read the literary sections, they just glance at the news headlines and the sports pages.

The history of nuclear weapons lays bare the contradictions at the core of Enlightenment culture.

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In the introduction to the first volume of his biography of Russell, Bertrand Russell: The Spirit of Solitude, Ray Monk was clear, as his title indicated, about the story he had to tell, though...

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Frank Kermode, 4 April 1996

This enormous book covers the first 49 years of Bertrand Russell’s life, from his own birth in 1872 to the birth of his first son in 1921. It is not clear how many volumes are still to come;...

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My Wicked Heart

Colin McGinn, 22 November 1990

Was Wittgenstein a spiritual as well as a philosophical genius? Ray Monk’s exceptionally fine and fat biography puts us in a better position to answer this question than we have been...

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