[Humanist] 22.670 a recommendation and a kind offer

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Apr 6 07:55:23 CEST 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 670.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    "Michael S. Hart" <hart at pglaf.org>                        (13)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist]  22.669 a recommendation, some laughter and a

  [2]   From:    "David L. Hoover" <david.hoover at nyu.edu>                 (152)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist]  22.669 a recommendation, some laughter and a

        Date: Sat, 4 Apr 2009 00:52:39 -0700 (PDT)
        From: "Michael S. Hart" <hart at pglaf.org>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist]  22.669 a recommendation, some laughter and a sigh
        In-Reply-To: <20090404072527.AD3FE2F2AF at woodward.joyent.us>

If any of you find a particular title at The Internet Archive
and would like it OCR'd and/or converted in Project Gutenberg
formats, proofread by the Distributed Proofreaders, etc. just
let me know and I will put in a request for you.

Of course, since we are all volunteers at Project Gutenberg--
there is no guarantee how long this might take if ever, but I
will see what I can do.

I can always put in a second request if nothing happens. . ..

Michael S. Hart
Project Gutenberg
Censored Humanist
Inventor of eBooks

        Date: Sun, 05 Apr 2009 11:48:13 -0400
        From: "David L. Hoover" <david.hoover at nyu.edu>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist]  22.669 a recommendation, some laughter and a sigh
        In-Reply-To: <20090404072527.AD3FE2F2AF at woodward.joyent.us>

Thanks, Willard for the charming Russell stories. He's too little read 
these days.

My own favorite Russell story is the often-told one of his incarceration 
for resisting World War I. When he was being processed, he was asked his 
name, address, and so forth, and then was asked his religion. When he 
replied, "Agnostic," the jailer look puzzled, then said, "Well, I guess 
we all worship the same God." Russell said that used the memory of the 
incident to cheer himself up while in prison.

Perhaps his best known essay, "A Free Man's Worship" is full of good 
stuff, but nothing much better than this:

    That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end
    they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and
    fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental
    collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of
    thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the
    grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the
    inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are
    destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and
    that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried
    beneath the debris of a universe in ruins--all these things, if not
    quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy
    which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of
    these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can
    the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built.

Much less read, but a real eye-opener, is his 1929 /Marriage and 
Morals,/ of which a snippet:

    The view of the orthodox moralist (this includes the police and the
    magistrates, but hardly any modern educators) on the question of sex
    knowledge may, I fancy, be fairly stated as follows. . . . There is
    no doubt that sexual misconduct is promoted by sexual thoughts and
    the best road to virtue is to keep the young occupied in mind and
    body with matters wholly unconnected with sex. They must, therefore,
    be told nothing whatever about sex; they must as far as possible be
    prevented from talking about it with each other, and grownups must
    pretend that there is no such topic. It is possible by these means
    to keep a girl in ignorance until the night of her marriage, when it
    is to be expected that the facts will so shock her as to produce
    exactly that attitude towards sex which every sound moralist
    considers desirable in women (53-54).

Finally, in "Why I am not a Christian," Russell refutes proofs of the 
existence of God in sequence. At the end of the refutation of the the 
moral arguments for Deity, Russell suggests one "could take up the line 
that some of the gnostics took up -- a line which I often thought was a 
very plausible one -- that as a matter of fact this world that we know 
was made by the devil at a moment when God was not looking. There is a 
good deal to be said for that, and I am not concerned to refute it."

Always a reasonable man, Russell

David L. Hoover

Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 669.
>          Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>         Date: Sat, 04 Apr 2009 08:20:55 +0100
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         >
> In case those here do not know of the great treasures contained in the 
> Internet Archive, www.archive.org/index.php, under its Texts section, 
> let me point you to the site and suggest you look for anything, esp out 
> of copyright but not necessarily by age, you're in need of. It's not a 
> tightly edited collection, but it is massive, and there are things there 
> that scholars across all the disciplines will find useful to have in 
> digital form. For most of what I have seen, the pdfs need to be OCR'd 
> once you've downloaded them.
> Allow me to suggest, for something off-target of most research interests 
> but nevertheless wonderful to read and wonderfully informative, Bertrand 
> Russell's Portraits from Memory (thanks to the Kansas City Public 
> Library). "How to Grow Old" is delightful. But in these late and 
> degenerate times, with respect to so-called higher education at least, I 
> recommend "Some Cambridge Dons of the Nineties" -- Russell *is* talking 
> about the 1890s. Some of the tales he tells of the odd ones are 
> hilarious but would furnish just the excuse some nowadays might
> be looking for.
> Russell starts out with the odd ones:
>> Some of the oddities, it must be said, were very odd. There was a
>> Fellow who had a game leg and was known to be addicted to the amiable
>> practice of putting the poker in the fire and when it became red-hot
>> running after his guests with a view to murder. I discovered at last
>> that he was only roused to homicidal fury when people sneezed. Owing
>> to his game leg, those whom he attacked always escaped, and nobody
>> minded his little peculiarities. I used to go to tea with him myself
>> but I went away if I saw him put the poker into the fire. Except in
>> his moments of aberration he was charming, and it never occurred to
>> anyone to place him under restraint. My mathematical coach was less
>> fortunate. He went mad, but none of his pupils noticed it. At last he
>> had to be shut up. That, however, was exceptional.
> At the end he takes up those whom one might envy for the liberties they 
> had, though perhaps not for what they did with their truly free time:
>> One of the characteristics of academic personages was longevity. When
>> I was a freshman, the College was dominated by three elderly
>> dignitaries: the Master, the Vice-Master, and the Senior Fellow. When
>> I returned to the College twenty years later as a lecturer, they were
>> still going strong, and seemed no older. The Master had been Head
>> Master of Harrow when my father was a boy there. I breakfasted at the
>> Master's Lodge on a day which happened to be his sister-inlaw's
>> birthday, and when she came into the room he said, "Now, my dear, you
>> have lasted just as long as the Peloponnesian War." The Vice-Master,
>> who always stood as stiffly upright as a ramrod, never appeared out
>> of doors except in a top hat, even when he was wakened by a fire at
>> three in the morning. It was said that he never read a line of
>> Tennyson after witnessing the poet putting water into the '34 port.
>> Before dinner in Hall the Master and the Vice-Master used to read a
>> long Latin Grace in alternate sentences. The Master adopted the
>> Continental pronunciation but the Vice-Master adhered
>> uncompromisingly to the old English style. The contrast was curious
>> and enlivening. The Senior Fellow was the last survivor of the old
>> system by which men got life Fellowships at twenty-two and had no
>> further duties except to draw their dividend. This duty he performed
>> punctiliously, but otherwise he was not known to have done any work
>> whatever since the age of twenty-two.
> But then -- and this is the point -- Russell goes on to observe,
>> As the case of the Senior Fellow shows, security of tenure was
>> carried very far. The result was partly good, partly bad. Very good
>> men flourished, and so did some who were not so good. Incompetence,
>> oddity and even insanity were tolerated, but so was real merit. In
>> spite of some lunacy and some laziness, Cambridge was a good place,
>> where independence of mind could exist undeterred.
> I think in the balance we have perhaps lost more than we have gained. 
> Yes, I know, the social conditions of that time would not have favoured 
> anyone born at the stratum of society from which I originated, nor were 
> women allowed at all, and so forth and so on. But surely our choices, 
> unlike our computers, are not crudely binary.
> Yours,
> WM

          David L. Hoover, Professor of English, NYU
       212-998-8832       http://homepages.nyu.edu/~dh3/

    Most of her friends had an anxious, haggard look, . . .  
Basil Ransom wondered who they all were; he had a general idea 
they were mediums, communists, vegetarians. 
           -- Henry James, The Bostonians (1886)

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