Saturday, September 24, 2022

Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)

Bertrand Russell is a wonderful example of an idea that has almost disappeared from the world. The idea is that there is great value in what may be referred to as a classical education. In the American context, you may think of it as a "liberal education." Either way, the value that was once commonly derived from such an education has now gone out of fashion. 

How would it profit a university student to learn all of the conjugations and declinations of ancient Greek? Not to mention Latin as well. Consider all of that vocabulary! We are now disposed to consider that all to be a waste of time. The liberal, or classical, education also included a close reading of a great number of large books by or about the great philosophers. Also the great writers, in multiple languages, ideally in the original text. 

What they were teaching those students was how to read closely, how to understand what you are reading, and how to remember things that are important. They were teaching, on a good day, how to take a huge amount of information and use it to create, explain, and defend certain huge ideas that were important to you. 

They considered the university to be the beginning of a student's education, not the end unto itself. The student had learned how to identify and locate the further information that he needed to continue his education. A process that was held to continue until one died. 

Bertrand Russell had such an education, worked at it for the rest of his life, got great results, and shared them generously. I salute him. 

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