You would not want to be him

Colin McGinn

  • Bertrand Russell: A Life by Caroline Moorehead
    Sinclair-Stevenson, 596 pp, £20.00, September 1992, ISBN 1 85619 180 X

Bertrand Russell’s first and formative love affair was with symbolic logic. But the relationship, though fertile, was troubled. Beginning in rapture, as he moulded and extended the new concepts and techniques, sweeping away the barren detritus of two millennia, the affair eventually foundered on a stinging paradox, unexpected and intractable, which abruptly took the shine off the whole thing. His devotion crumbled, and he was driven to seek comfort elsewhere, never quite regaining his former idealism. It must have been very disillusioning, and no doubt tainted his other romantic involvements, which also began in ecstasy and then became mired in refractoriness of one kind or another. For the antinomial is not adorable. And if logic can’t be trusted, what can?

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