Saturday, September 18, 2010

An Introduction to Russell's Sceptical Essays

The book called Sceptical Essays contains as many as seventeen essays. While six of the essays have been discussed exhaustively in the present work, the other eleven have been considered briefly. The synopsis of each of these eleven essays is given below with critical comments on the ideas.
1. “Dreams and Facts”
Irrational beliefs held by people
The majority of the beliefs which we hold are merely an indirect expression of our desires. Freud has shown how largely our dreams at night picture a fulfilment of our wishes. The beliefs which we hold are also largely a manifestation of our wishes.
In other words, there is very little rational evidence for the beliefs by which we are guided in our daily life. Our beliefs are generally irrational—in the sphere of religion, in the sphere of politics, and in other spheres also. Often we hold beliefs which are flattering to ourselves. Such are our beliefs regarding our personal merits, regarding the excellence of our family, regarding the superiority of the class to which we belong, regarding the greatness of our nation, and regarding the nobility of mankind in general. In other words, we hold a whole hierarchy of comforting beliefs—those beliefs which are private to the individual; those which he shares with his family, those common to his class or his nation, and those that are pleasing to all mankind.
How to correct our beliefs?
There are two ways in which our beliefs are corrected:
(i) by contact with actual facts, and (ii) when our beliefs come into conflict with the opposite beliefs of other men.

The need to know our true place in the world
We seek happiness through our untrue beliefs. A search for happiness based upon untrue beliefs is neither very noble nor very glorious. We should make a strong effort to know our true place in the world. No man can be free from fear if he does not have the courage to know his true place in the world. No man can make a full use of his abilities until he has realised his own smallness.
Critical comments
The ideas in this essay have a great appeal for every right-thinking person. After all, a right-thinking person is one who is not irrational or prejudiced in holding opinions, and this essay is a plea for rationality, it is a pity that even the so-called intellectuals are not completely free from the tendency to build up their systems of thought on the foundations of their personal preferences. University professors, journalists, politicians, legal experts—all are prone to hold beliefs which are supported not by objective evidence but by their own wishes and desires.
2. “Is Science Superstitious?”
Science, the basis of modern life
Science is the basis of modern life in two respects. On the one hand, modern life depends upon scientific inventions and discoveries as regards food, physical comforts, and amusements. On the other hand, large sections of the population have now developed certain habits of mind connected with a scientific outlook.
The conservative tendency of modern scientists
While science is still the chief agent of rapid change in the world, the men of science in modern times are themselves becoming in the main conservative. The fundamental faith of most men of science in the present day is the importance of preserving the status quo. Consequently they claim for science no more than its due, and are willing to grant much of the claims of conservative forces like religion.
Science versus philosophy
Can science survive when we separate it from the superstitions which nourished its infancy? Science has been indifferent to philosophy in the past. This indifference was due to the amazing success that science achieved. But in recent times science has been compelled by its own problems to take an interest in philosophy. This is especially true of the theory of relativity with its merging of space and time into the single space-time order of events. But it is true also of the theory of quanta with its apparent need of discontinuous motion. Also in another sphere, physiology and bio-chemistry are making inroads on psychology which threaten philosophy in a vital spot. Dr. Watson’s Behaviourism is the spear-head of this attack. For such reasons science and philosophy cannot just remain indifferent to each other; they must be either friends or foes. If they cannot be friends, they can only destroy each other. Neither alone can remain master of the field.
The pleasant and unpleasant aspects of science
Science as it exists at present is partly pleasant, partly unpleasant. It is pleasant because of the power which it gives us of moulding our environment, and to a small number of people it is pleasant also because of the intellectual satisfaction which it affords. Science is unpleasant because it assumes a determinism which involves the power of predicting human actions, and in this respect it seems to diminish human power. Naturally people wish to keep the pleasant aspect of science without the unpleasant aspect; but so far efforts to do so have not proved fruitful. The future may offer some satisfactory solution to this problem.
Critical comments
The layman will find it difficult to grasp the ideas in this essay especially when Russell speaks about causality and induction which he calls the great scandals in the philosophy of science. There are brief references also to the views of men like Hume, Kant, and Dr. Whitehead. The essay is made still more difficult by Russell’s discussion of the subject-matter of two books: Burtt’s Metaphysical foundations of Modern Science (1924) and Whitehead’s Science and the Modern World (1926). It is an essay for the specialist.
3. “Can Men Be Rational?”
The meaning of rationality
This essay begins with Russell declaring himself to be a Rationalist. He defines rationality in his opinion as the habit of taking account of all relevant evidence in arriving at a belief. Where certainty is not possible a rational man will attach the greatest importance to the most probable opinion, while keeping other opinions in his mind as alternatives which subsequent evidence may show to be preferable.
The meaning of irrationality
Irrationality means disbelief in objective facts. It arises mostly from the desire to assert something for which there is no evidence, or from the desire to deny something for which there is sufficient evidence.
The usefulness of psycho analysis
Psycho-analysis can prove very useful in the cultivation of rationalism. Psycho-analysis provides a technique by which we are enabled to see ourselves as others see us. Combined with a training in the scientific outlook, this method could help people to become much more rational than they are at present regarding their beliefs about matters of fact and about the probable effects of any proposed action.
The need of rationality in human life
Complete rationality is undoubtedly an ideal that cannot be achieved. However, it is possible to attain a fair degree of rationality. All solid progress in the world consists of an increase in rationality, both practical and theoretical. A man is rational in proportion as his intelligence determines and controls his desires. The control of our actions by our intelligence is ultimately of the utmost importance, especially because science has increased the means at our disposal for harming each other. At present all the great forces in the world—education, the press, politics, religion—are on the side of irrationality. It is to intelligence that we must look for the solution of the ills from which our world is suffering. A more sane and balanced view of our relations with our neighbours and with the world is urgently necessary.
Critical comments
Thus in this essay Russell opposes people’s tendency to hold beliefs for which there are no grounds. Blind faith and prejudices belong to this category, especially where ideas about our religion and our country are concerned. Rationalism is a means whereby harmony in social and international relations can be promoted. Nor can any enlightened man of today quarrel with Russell’s thesis. Orthodox religious persons will, however, never allow their beliefs to be subjected to the test of rationalism.
4. “Machines and the Emotions”
The question discussed in this essay is whether machines will destroy emotions or emotions will destroy machines. This question, says Russell, is becoming more and more actual with the spread of machinery.
Happiness and machinery
Russell doubts whether happiness in life is proportional to one’s income. If it be accepted that happiness increases with an increase in one’s income, then machinery deserves the fullest possible praise. But if that belief be wrong, the case of machinery deserves a closer examination.
The general praise for machine-like qualities in a human being
The fact is that machines deprive us of two things which are certainly important ingredients of human happiness, namely, spontaneity and variety. The great trouble with the machine, from the point of view of the emotions, is its regularity. And of course, conversely the great objection to the emotions, from the point of view of the machine, is their irregularity. The highest praise which people dominated by machines can give to a man is to say that he has the qualities of a machine, that he is reliable, punctual, exact, etc. A man who leads an irregular life is supposed to be a bad man. Against this point of view Bergson’s philosophy was a protest.
Machines responsible for the greater ferocity of modern wars
The greater ferocity of modern wars is due to machines. Machines operate in three different ways. First, they make it possible to have larger armies. Secondly, they encourage a cheap press which flourishes by appealing to the baser passions of human beings. Thirdly, they starve the spontaneous side of human nature, producing a kind of discontent, to which the thought of war appeals as affording a possible relief. Russell believes that the modern increase in war-like instincts is due to the unconscious dissatisfaction caused by the regularity, monotony, and tameness of modern life.
The need for exciting and dangerous hobbies and pursuits
Now, machinery cannot be abolished. Such a measure would not only be reactionary but impracticable. The only way of avoiding the evils associated with machinery is to provide breaks in the monotony. People should be encouraged to enjoy the thrills of high adventure, such as mountain-climbing. People would cease to desire war if they had opportunities for taking part in some dangerous and exciting hobbies. Understanding of human nature must be the basis of any real improvement in human life. When science learns to  understand human nature, it will be able to bring a happiness into our lives which machines and the physical sciences have failed to create.
Critical comments
The evils of machinery and industrialism have been pointed out by many thinkers even though the benefits conferred by the machine have fully been recognized. Machines, according to Russell, threaten to destroy human emotions by depriving us of spontaneity and variety. However, the remedies suggested by him can hardly counter this threat. Dangerous and exciting pursuits are already available in plenty to people who have a taste for them. Human nature too has already been explored to a very large extent. But happiness remains elusive, and war remains a real danger. The only conclusion one can reach is that a paradise on earth is not possible. Man is an imperfect creature and he has to adjust himself to his imperfections including his incapacity to achieve perfect happiness. Perhaps a perfectly happy world would be a dull world, too. War cannot be totally eliminated, and the struggle for happiness will continue endlessly.
5. “Behaviourism And Values”
Certain older values of life
In this essay Russell’s purpose, as he tells us, is to state certain difficulties which are felt by persons like himself. These persons, while accepting what is modern in science, have difficulty in shedding certain values of life which prevailed in the Middle Ages and which these persons find to be worth pursuing even now.
The popular idea of behaviourism
The popular idea of behaviourism is that all human activities consist of physical or bodily functions and processes, and that there is no such thing as the mind. This view of behaviourism seems to attach great importance to motion. But there is a different conception of human excellence which prevailed in ancient Greece and medieval Europe. That conception of excellence is being gradually displaced by an outlook resulting from the domination of the machine over the imagination.
A static ideal of existence
According to the older conception of human excellence, feeling and knowing are as important as doing; art and contemplation are as admirable as movement or motion. The whole ideal according to that conception is static. Unfortunately the kind of existence desired by that ideal bores a modern man.
“Useless” knowledge and delightful art
To Russell the scientific part of behaviourism is, for practical purposes, acceptable, but the supposed ethical and aesthetic consequences of behaviourism are not acceptable. Russell feels the highest admiration for Dr. Watson, the great Behaviourist. But Russell cannot cease to admire knowledge which is now-a-days thought to be useless, and he cannot cease to admire art which gives delight but serves no practical purpose.
Critical comments
It is surprising that a philosopher who is a mathematician, an agnostic, and a rationalist with a scientific outlook should yet believe in an ideal of existence which lays stress upon contemplation and art. It is refreshing to be told that
(1) knowledge which may be “useless” from the practical point of view is yet worth pursuing and (2) art which may serve no practical end but gives delight is something to be valued. Living in an age of machinery and industrialism, we are apt to lose sight of what Russell calls the “static” ideal of human existence. The behaviouristic view of the human personality is at variance with the values which Russell and men like him continue to cherish.
6. “The Recrudescence of Puritanism”
The meaning of Puritanism
A Puritan may be defined as a man who believes that certain kinds of actions are inherently sinful, even if those actions have no bad effects upon others. A Puritan wants that such actions should be prevented through legislation, and be punished if committed.
The practical objection to Puritanism
Puritanism is a kind of fanaticism. Puritanism singles out certain evils as being worse than other evils, and it demands a suppression of such evils at all costs. The Puritan, like every fanatic, fails to realise that drastic efforts to suppress any real evil will produce other evils which are even greater. This statement could be illustrated with reference to the law against obscene publications. The laws passed against the white-slave traffic could serve as another example of Puritanism.
Another argument against Puritanism
Human nature being what it is, people will insist upon getting some pleasure out of life. Pleasures are mainly of two kinds, those of the senses or the body, and those of the mind. The Puritan approves of the pleasures of the mind, but condemns the pleasures of the body. In his efforts to suppress the pleasures of the body, the Puritan is merely trying to assert his own point of view in order to gratify his own sense of power. The greatest pleasure of the Puritan consists in this exercise of power, that is, in preventing others from enjoying themselves. Puritanism leads to an increasing desire for power, and love of power does greater harm to society than love of liquor or any of the other vices against which the Puritan protests.
The mistaken views of the Puritan
We must learn to respect each other’s privacy. We should not impose our own moral standards upon others. The Puritan thinks that his moral standard is the only right moral standard. He does not understand that other ages and other countries have different moral standards to which they have as much right as the Puritan has to his. Let us hope that with the spread of knowledge and education Puritanism will lose much of its power.
Critical comments
Here is an attack on Puritanism which will gladden the heart of every right-thinking person. It is, indeed, true, as Russell points out, that the Puritan is a kill-joy who, in putting curbs upon pleasure, seeks to satisfy his own sense of power. The Puritan, we might say, is an essentially spiteful person who is intolerant of other people’s pleasures. Russell’s views on this subject are akin to those of Aldous Huxley who too condemns Puritanism or Mrs. Grundy in no uncertain terms. The Puritan forgets that putting curbs on pleasure only leads to frustration among the people, causing much discontent and bitterness. In India we have Puritans galore. Most often the Indian Puritans are hypocrites who condemn liquor and sex as evils but who see nothing wrong in amassing wealth by dishonest means.
7. “The Need for Political Scepticism”
Two kinds of specialists, politicians and civil servants
There are at present two different kinds of specialists in political questions. On the one hand there are the practical politicians; on the other hand there are the experts, mainly civil servants but also economists, financiers, medical men, etc. Each of these two classes has a special kind of skill. The skill of the politicians consists in finding out what people can be made to think advantageous to themselves; the skill of the experts consists in finding out what really is advantageous.
A politician’s limited appeal
Wherever party politics exists, the appeal of a politician is chiefly to a section of the population, while the appeal of his opponents is to a different section. A politician’s success depends upon increasing the strength of his supporters and turning them into a majority. Since politicians are divided into rival groups, they aim at similarly dividing the nation.
Not desirable to hand over power to civil servants
The expert is a man who does not aim at political power. His purpose is to find out what would be beneficial rather than what would be popular. In certain directions, he has exceptional technical knowledge. If he is a civil servant or the head of a big business, he has considerable experience of individual men, and he may be a shrewd judge of how they will act. However, the expert suffers from a number of defects. For this reason, we cannot escape from the evils of our politicians by simply handing over the power to civil servants. Yet it seems necessary that experts should acquire more influence than they have at present.
The need of political scepticism
Our present political methods are defective and often lead to adoption of harmful policies. There seems to be no immediate solution of this problem. The best that can be hoped is that people should become political sceptics in large numbers, and refuse to believe in the various attractive party programmes that are put before them from time to time. If a political party has a policy which will do much harm on the way to some ultimate good, the call for scepticism is very great.
The need of a machinery for publicizing the opinions of civil servants
One obvious method of fighting the evils of democracy in its present form would be to encourage much more publicity and initiative on the part of civil servants. They should be given the right to frame Bills in their own names, and set forth publicly the arguments in their favour. At present, in most matters the ordinary citizen does not know the considered opinion of experts, and little machinery exists for arriving at their collective or majority opinion. In particular, civil servants are debarred from public advocacy of their views. Some method should be devised by which the opinion of civil servants can become widely known to the people.
Critical comments
Russell’s emphasis on the need for political scepticism in this essay is fully justified. We cannot take the views of politicians on trust, because their views are prompted chiefly by self-interest or by the interest of the party to which they belong. But the remedy suggested by Russell, namely that there should be a method for publicizing the views of civil servants, is not one that can appeal to us in India. Already the civil servants or the bureaucrats are having too large a share in moulding the policies of the government in different fields—social, economic, educational. The civil servants operate, of course, behind the scenes but they surely influence the government ministers to a great extent, and this influence is not always wholesome. The bureaucracy does not generally have the best of motives in moulding the views of the ministers.
8. “Free Thought and Official Propaganda”
Freedom of thought and freedom of the individual
This essay begins with a reference to a distinguished person who devoted his life to two great objects: freedom of thought, and freedom of the individual. New dangers, says Russell, threaten both these kinds of freedom at the present time. A vigorous and vigilant public opinion has to be built up to defend this two-fold freedom.
Restraints on free thought in England as well as in Russia
Thought is not free if a man, by holding or not holding certain opinions, renders himself liable to legal penalties. Similarly, thought is not free if a man incurs legal penalties by giving expression to his belief or lack of belief on certain matters. Very few countries in the world have as yet even this elementary kind of freedom. Russell narrates a few instances to illustrate his view that even in modern England free-thinking persons suffer from certain disadvantages. A free-thinker in religion may not, for instance, get a job. Even a belief in communism or in free love may involve a man in certain difficulties with the government or with society in that country. On the other hand, in Russia the advantages and disadvantages of holding or not holding certain opinions are exactly the reverse. In Russia, one can achieve prosperity and position by declaring oneself an atheist, and by professing a faith in communism and in free love, while no opportunity exists for a man who in Russia holds the contrary opinions.
The need of rational doubt
William James used to preach the will to believe. Russell, on the other hand, would like to preach the will to doubt. None of our political, social, religious, and other beliefs are quite true. We should, therefore, adopt the scientific method of verifying the element of truth in our beliefs. The scientific attitude is one of doubt, never dogmatic certainty. An attitude of rational doubt is our great need.
The forces nourishing irrationality
What we find in the world is a great deal of irrationality and a great deal of corresponding certainty. In the first place man is to some extent irrational by nature, and he is also by nature somewhat credulous. This inherent irrationality and credulity is nourished and strengthened by three other agencies—education, propaganda, and economic pressure. It is necessary, therefore, to counter and oppose all these forces.
State monopoly of elementary education
Elementary education, in all advanced countries, is in the hands of the State. The result is that children are taught whatever suits the government. To take only one example, the teaching of history is in every country biased. Every nation aims only at self-glorification, and the presentation of historical facts is biased in accordance with that aim. The result of this system of education is that persons holding political and economic views contrary to those of the State are subjected to varying degrees of persecution in different countries. In Russia the persecution of opinion is more severe than in non-communist countries. State mdnopoly of education acts as one of the chief obstacles to the freedom of thought.
The role of propaganda
Then there is propaganda. Propaganda generally appeals to irrational causes of belief rather than to serious argument. At the same time, propaganda gives an unfair advantage to those who can obtain most publicity whether through wealth or through power. On both these grounds propaganda is something highly objectionable. To protect the freedom of thought it is necessary to ensure the equality of opportunity among opinions, and propaganda makes that equality difficult to ensure.
The consequences of economic pressure
Economic pressure is another factor operating against the freedom of thought. The supreme example of economic pressure applied against freedom of thought is Soviet Russia. But even America suffers from this curb upon the freedom of thought. A man who openly rejects Christianty, or believes in a relaxation of the marriage laws, or objects to the power of the great Corporations, finds America a very uncomfortable country.
The need of observing two simple principles
All social problems can be solved by adopting two simple principles. Firstly, education should aim at teaching people only to believe those propositions for which there is sufficient ground or evidence. Secondly, jobs should be given not on the basis of the opinions that individuals hold but on the basis of fitness to do the work.
The value of the scientific temper
Russell concludes the essay by reiterating the need for spreading the scientific temper. The scientific temper, he says, is capable of regenerating mankind and providing a solution for all our troubles.
Critical comments
In this essay too Russell appears as a genuine humanist concerned with the need to protect the freedom of thought and to strengthen the forces of rationality. As elsewhere in this book (Sceptical Essays) Russell places a great emphasis on a scientific outlook which involves an attitude of doubt towards all matters unless sufficient evidence is available for holding a belief. More than anything else Russell is a rationalist if judged by this particular book which has a most appropriate title.
9. “Psychology and Politics”
Two ways of approaching psychology
In this essay Russell discusses the effects which psychology may soon come to have upon politics. There are two important ways of approaching psychology at the present time: one way is that of the physiologists, the other that of psycho-analysis. As the results in these two directions become more definite and more certain, psychology will increasingly dominate the outlook of the people.
The correct approach
There is a certain opposition between those who believe in dealing with the mind through the body, and those who believe in dealing with the mind directly. The old-fashioned medical man tends to be a materialist: he thinks that mental states have physical causes, and should be cured by removing those causes. The psycho-analyst, on the contrary, always seeks psychological causes and tries to operate upon them. The opposition between these two types of persons is unnecessary. The correct approach is to realise that sometimes it is easier to discover the physical cause of a mental ailment and that sometimes the psychological cause is easier to discover.
Various human impulses: acquisitiveness, sex, and the glory impulses
When we try to take a psychological view of politics, we have to look for the fundamental impulses of ordinary human beings. The orthodox economists of a hundred years ago thought that the desire to acquire wealth or property was the only motive which the politician should take into consideration. This view was adopted by Marx and formed the basis of his economic interpretation of history. Against this, the psycho-analysts say that the one fundamental human impulse is sex. The desire for acquiring wealth, according to them, is a morbid development of a certain sexual perversion. It is obvious that people who believe this will act quite differently from those who take the orthodox or economic view. In Russell’s opinion, sex does not explain everything. In addition to sex, there are other impulses: love of power, vanity, and rivalry. These other impulses are concerned with what may be called glory, while sex serves for the preservation and propagation of life. These other impulses play a very great part in politics. It is necessary, therefore, to tame these glory-impulses and to give them no more than their proper place.
The use of psychology by the holders of power
There is the danger that psychology will place new weapons in the hands of those who wield power. The holders of power will become capable of training the masses to become more and more timid and docile. In fact, the holders of power will produce a peace-loving population if they desire peace and a war-like population if they desire war. The holders of power will produce an intelligent population or a stupid population just as they wish. It is impossible to foresee what the holders of power might wish.

Happiness through psychology
Psychology is capable of giving ordinary men and women a truer conception of what is meant by happiness. If people were genuinely happy, they would not be filled with envy, anger and destructiveness. Apart from the necessaries of life, what is most needed by people is freedom for sex and parenthood. It should not be difficult, with our present knowledge, to make instinctive happiness almost universal, if we were not opposed by the malicious feelings of the Puritans, who want happiness neither for themselves nor for others.
Critical comments
Russell here explores the possible effects which the use of psychological methods by politicians and governments will have on people. There is no doubt that psychology has made enormous progress and that the holders of power can now greatly mould public opinion in accordance with their own wishes. (The holders of powers in communist countries are the governments, while in democratic countries power is shared by the government, the Press, the big businessmen, and others). While we agree with Russell that the holders of power can mould public opinion through psychological methods, the question is: who will mould the minds of the holders of power? As long as the holders of power aim mainly at holding power, their efforts will chiefly be directed to making the people docile and submissive. Psychology will thus become a hand-maid to the lust for power.
10. “The Danger of Creed Wars”
Two groups of nations at loggerheads with each other
There are in the world today two great powers—the United States and the U.S.S.R. Each of these powers has a large number of followers and supporters among the countries of the world. There is a great deal of conflict between these two groups of nations, each having its own political creed. Each group hates the other and regards it as wicked. Neither group can prove victorious in a war or derive any advantage from the conflict.
The prevention of a possible creed war
The conflict between the two groups of nations has in it the seeds of the Third World War. But as the forces tending to war are psychological, it is possible to control them. If the persons holding political and governmental power so desire they can avert a possible creed war in the future.
Communism versus free competition
The Russian ideal is communism. The American ideal is free competition. Where the communist thinks in terms of organisation, the typical American thinks in terms of individuals. In the communist philosophy the success which is sought is that of a group or an organisation, in the American philosophy it is that of the individual. The citizens are not angry with their, respective social systems either in America or in Russia, especially because the power to control and mould public opinion is concentrated in a few hands in both countries. The result is that there is no effective opposition in either country to the holders of power, who remain free to enjoy the advantages of a social system which gives them wealth and world-wide influence.
The need for a scientific outlook
The opposition between Russia and the western countries is fundamentally economic, but it may be expected to extend over the whole sphere of belief. The rift could be avoided by the spread of the scientific spirit, that is, by the habit of forming notions on evidence rather than on prejudice. But this seems a remote possibility.
Excessive emphasis on economic aspects of life
It is true that individualism has gone too far, and that a more cooperative spirit is necessary, if industrial societies are to be stable and are to bring contentment to the average man and woman. But the difficulty in the Bolshevik philosophy, as in that of America, is that the principle of organisation for them is economic whereas the groupings which are consonant with human instinct are biological. The family and the nation are biological, the “trust” and the “trade union” are economic. The fundamental mistake of our time is the excessive emphasis upon the economic aspects of life. What is needed is freedom of opinion and opportunity for the spread of opinion. It should be possible to educate people in such a way as to increase their powers of weighing evidence and forming rational judgments, instead of being taught patriotism and class bias.
Critical comments
By “creed wars” Russell means, of course, ideological wars—wars which are likely to be fought between Communistic Russia and the democratic West. To the ideological conflict raging between Soviet Russia and the western democracies headed by the U.S.A., we might now add the ideological rift in the Communist camp between Russia and China, a rift which Russell could not have anticipated. Of course both these conflicts ensue from excessive nationalism and from a desire to acquire positions of supremacy in world affairs.
11. “Some Prospects: Cheerful and Otherwise”
The need of a central authority for the whole world
Industrialism is one of the most striking features of the modern age. Another feature is that society has become far more organised than it was formerly. Connected with a closer social organisation is another result of science, namely, the greater unity of the world. From all this it follows that, if our civilization is to develop, there will have to be a central authority to control the whole world. If a central authority does come into existence, what should be its powers?
Some of the powers of a would-be central authority
First and foremost, a central authority may be able to decide questions of peace and war. It should ensure that, if there is war, the side which the central authority supports can win a speedy victory. Other matters to be decided by the central authority would be the allocation of territory to the different countries, movements of population across the boundaries of various countries, and the rationing of raw materials among different claimants.
Improvement in the economic position
Secure peace and adequate control of production ought to lead to a great increase of material comfort provided that there is no huge increase in the world population. Whether the world at that stage is capitalistic or socialistic, we may expect an improvement in the economic position of all classes.
A possible weakening of the family
Certain things in modern civilised communities are tending to weaken the family. The chief of these is the humanitarian sentiment towards children. Society is becoming more and more anxious to protect children against any kind of suffering or distress with the result that parents feel less concerned about the welfare of their children. If the life of children becomes safe and secure, without the parents having to bother much about this matter, family life, will gradually disappear and this will cause profound changes in men’s emotional life.
The spread of scientific knowledge and a possible decline in art
The tendency of culture in modern times is, and will probably continue to be, towards science and away from art and literature. This is due, of course, to the immense practical utility of science. The knowledge of science in these days is thought essential. Soon no one will be considered educated unless he knows something of science. There is nothing wrong in that. But what is regrettable is that the victories of science are causing an impoverishment of culture in other directions. Art is becoming more and more an affair of a small minority including a few rich persons. As a result of this trend, the decay of art is inevitable. This decay will be connected with our more careful and utilitarian way of living as compared with that of our ancestors.
More leisure and more emphasis on routine amusements
If wars are eliminated, and production is organised scientifically, it is likely that four hours work a day will suffice to keep everybody in comfort. The hours of leisure will then most certainly be spent by a majority of the people in dancing, going to the movies, and watching football. Children will have no cause for anxiety since the State will care for them. Illness will be very rare. Old age will be postponed by techniques of rejuvenation. The world will become the pleasure-seeker’s paradise, in which people will find life so tedious as to be scarcely endurable.

The need of a right kind of education in early years
In order to escape from the danger visualised above, it would be necessary to change human nature in such a way as to preserve sufficient seriousness in life. It is not impossible to change human nature, if efforts are made to do so by bringing about a change in early education. A large part of human nature is a matter of upbringing, training, and nurture, chiefly in the early years of human life. Other steps would be the development of constructive impulses in the young people and opportunities for their existence in adult life. Given the right education a very large percentage of mankind could find happiness in constructive activities.
Critical comments
In this essay, it is the prophet in Russell who speaks. Russell visualizes the kind of future which is in store for mankind. As the title of the essay shows, the prospects are both cheering and depressing. The bright prospects include
(1) elimination of war and a secure peace; (2) greater material comfort and the economic betterment of all classes; and
(3) more leisure. The dark possibilities are (1) a decline in art and literature; (2) the weakening of the bonds between parents and children; and (3) pleasure-seeking as the chief end of life resulting in a general feeling of tedium and boredom.
Russell has a sound suggestion to offer in order that mankind may be spared the dangers that threaten them. There should be an emphasis on the right kind of education during the early, formative years of human life and a directing of human energies into constructive activities.

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Hi would you mind sharing which blog platform you're using? I'm planning to start my own blog soon but I'm having a hard time choosing between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I'm looking for something completely unique.

P.S Sorry for being off-topic but I had to ask!

My blog; Generateur de Code PSN

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