Bertrand Russell was the glorious prose-writer and philosopher of the 20th century who wrote on almost all the problems human life. As a mathematician and scientist he also wrote on technical subjects as mathematics, logic, physics and philosophy. He was multi-dimensional personality with scientific, humanist and intellectual and many aspects. His profound knowledge and broad vision is ample proof of his keen interest in human life, human problems and their solution. He has a sympathetic heart and a scientific brain. His write-ups show that his heart was replete with humanity.
In his book, The Conquest of Happiness, he throws light on the causes and sources of happiness and unhappiness and very sensibly gives forth suggestions to tackle the problem of unhappiness. He eyes are very keen and heart is very sensitive. He examines the human life with his keen eyes and then analyses the human instinct and passions. Then he points out different aspects, which make cause of happiness and unhappiness. His association with humanity and contribution as a writer is indeed a great achievement. In the present hectic and tumultuous age, his book “The Conquest of Happiness” is just like an elixir, which unveils the unnoticed reasons of unhappiness, discloses the secrets of happiness and then guides to the solutions of unhappiness.
Russell when analyzing the causes of unhappiness, first of all points out that the very first cause of unhappiness is the man’s pursuit of money. Man’s craze for wealth has made him indifferent to his relations, his family and deprived him of his peace of his mind. He is running to accumulate more and more wealth to buy useful machines and to maintain his statue quo, but he is unmindful of his real moral duties. He is working as a machine, and machine is always unconscious of his surrounding. This tendency is gaining currency, which has made the life miserable. The real happiness lies in resignation and content. The true happiness is love, so dispense love to others and receive the same. Love others and be loved by the others.
According to Russell, life is great responsibility. It needs struggle, effort and an optimistic outlook. He does not agree with Krutch’s view that ours is lost cause and we have no place in universe. He is also disagreed with the view that there is nothing new in life. Rather we to explore the realm of life and there is something novel at every step. The pre-requisite of this success is effort. Russell is averse to disgust and hate the world, rather, he emphasizes on a realistic and optimistic attitude, which is the key to happiness.
Having dilated upon such broader question, Russell considers upon some other biological and psychological causes which make our life miserable. He has sensibly dilated upon these causes and mentioned ways to tackle them.
Another point is competition, which is natural human urge. Man always tries to surpass his fellows to gain some distinction. But sometimes this tendency attains negative shape and a passion of enmity develops in human heart. So competition must always be healthy. Unfortunately, the sign of prestige and intelligence in the modern age is money. When competition to achieve money and prestige occurs, it ends the sense of love and cooperation and prejudice is established among humans. It is moral duty of man not fall into a negative competition, which is detrimental to humanity and a threat to love. Again he brings boredom and excitement under discussion. He regards envy as the most important psychological cause of human unhappiness. If envy is left unchecked, it will play havoc with humanity. Envy gradually shapes into rancor, and envying person always plans to damage the other, and in this way makes not only his own life disturbed and miserable, but also that of others. And the solution is the same as of competition. Envy, if positive, helps improve the efficiency of men in many respects. But if it is negative, it pervades to humanity as a poison.
After describing the sources of unhappiness and indicating the ways to check them, Russell asks the question whether happiness is possible or not. Russell is convinced of reason and believes in recognition of facts. He regards self-absorption as another cause of unhappiness. Russell particularly holds self-absorption as the enemy of human happiness. If it goes to extreme, it will make us greatly selfish. But selfishness has also its good features. Selfishness, to limited extent, keeps a person tuned to life. But if it crosses a certain limit it makes a person greedy and self-centered. An entirely introvert man is lost in his own self and becomes a miserable person, for whom life has no charm.
Russell takes zest, affection, family, work, impersonal interests, efforts and resignation as sources of happiness. All these topics have been discussed in detail in the previous question. So reader may go to back pages for details.
To sum up: Russell is an intellectual and philosopher with broader outlook of life. He is optimistic and hopeful about life. On the sky of his thoughts, the stars of hope are shining and removing the darkness of pessimism. His words are actually rays of hope, which guide the lost people and put them on the path of struggle and effort. He observes the world not as an arid and horrible desert, but as a verdant and flowery garden, but it requires earnest effort, struggle and devotion, to convert this desert to garden. He is not in the favor of discarding life as rubbish, rather he advises to join the race of life and win it. He dictates man to be a part of this society and abandon self-absorption. The fruits in the orchard of life are not too high and distant but one has to extent his hand. Russell does not like those who are just the spectators of life, rather he likes those who dive in this ocean and conquer it. Russel is not horrified by death, because death is not separate from life. He finds himself among those who will come after him.