Bertand Russell – My mental development (Cambridge)

Cambridge opened to me a new world of infinite delight. For the first time I found that, when I uttered my thoughts, they seemed to be accepted as worth considering. Whitehead, who had examined me for entrance scholar- ships, had mentioned me to various people a year or two senior to me, with the result that within a week I met a number who became my life-long friends. Whitehead, who was already a Fellow and Lecturer, was amazingly kind, but was too much my senior to be a close personal friend until some years later. I found a group of contemporaries, who were able, rather earnest, hard-working, but interested in many things outside their academic work— poetry, philosophy, politics, ethics, indeed the whole world of mental adven- ture. We used to stay up discussing till very late on Saturday nights, meet for a late breakfast on Sunday, and then go for an all-day walk. Able young men had not yet adopted the pose of cynical superiority which came in some years later, and was first made fashionable in Cambridge by Lytton Strachey. The world seemed hopeful and solid; we all felt convinced that nineteenth- century progress would continue, and that we ourselves should be able to contribute something of value. For those who have been young since 1914 it must be difficult to imagine the happiness of those days. Continue reading ”Bertand Russell – My mental development (Cambridge)”


Bertnard Russell – My mental development (reading, speak thoughts)

During these years I read widely, but as my reading was not directed, much of it was futile. I read much bad poetry, especially Tennyson and Byron; at last, at the age of seventeen, I came upon Shelley, whom no one had told me about. He remained for many years the man I loved most among great men of the past. I read a great deal of Carlyle, and admired Past and Present, but not Sartor Resartus. ‘The Everlasting Yea’ seemed to me sentimental nonsense. The man with whom I most nearly agreed was Mill. His Political Economy, Liberty, and Subjection of Women influenced me profoundly. I made elaborate notes on the whole of his Logic, but could not accept his theory that mathematical propositions are empirical generalizations, though I did not know what else they could be.

All this was before I went to Cambridge. Except during the three months when I had the Agnostic tutor mentioned above, I found no one to speak to about my thoughts. At home I concealed my religious doubts. Once I said that I was a Utilitarian, but was met with such a blast of ridicule that I never again spoke of my opinions at home.

Wandering – Hermann Hesse

You see, I’m approaching a pass in the Alps, and here the northern, German architecture, and the German countryside, and the German language come to an end.

How lovely it is to cross such a boundary. The wandering man becomes a primitive man in so many ways, in the same way that the nomad is more primitive than the farmer. But the longing to get on the other side of everything already settled, this makes me, and everybody like me, a road sign to the future. If there were many other people who loathed the borders between countries as I do, then there would be no more wars and blockades. Nothing on earth is more disgusting, more contemptible than borders. They’re like cannons, like generals: as long as peace, loving kindness and peace go on, nobody pays any attention to them — but as soon as war and insanity appear, they become urgent and sacred. While the war went on, how they were pain and prison to us wanderers. Devil take them!

Once again I love deeply everything at home, because I have to leave it. Tomorrow I will love other roofs, other cottages. I won’t leave my heart behind me, as they say in love letters. No, I am going to carry it with me over the mountains, because I need it, always. I am a nomad, not a farmer. I am an adorer of the unfaithful, the changing, the fantastic. I don’t care to secure my love to one bare place on this earth. I believe that what we love is only a symbol. Whenever our love becomes too attached to one thing, one faith, one virtue, then I become suspicious.

“L’exil et le royaume – Albert Camus

“Une belle journée commençait, mais Jonas ne s’en apercevait pas. Il avait retourné la toile contre le mur. Épuise, il attendait, assis, les mains offertes sur ses genoux. Il se disait que maintenant il ne travaillerait plus jamais, il était heureux. Il entendait les grognements de ses enfants, des bruits d’eau, les tintements de la vaisselle. Louise parlait. Les grandes vitres vibraient au passage d’un camion sur le boulevard. Le monde était encore là, jeune, adorable : Jonas écoutait la belle rumeur que font les hommes. De si loin, elle ne contrariait pas cette force joyeuse en lui, son art, ces pensées qu’il ne pouvait pas dire, à jamais silencieuses, mais qui le mettaient au-dessus de toutes choses, dans un air libre et vif. Les enfants couraient à travers les pièces, la fillette riait, Louise aussi maintenant, dont il n’avait pas entendu le rire depuis longtemps. Il les aimait ! Comme il les aimait ! Il éteignit la lampe et, dans l’obscurité revenue, là, n’était-ce pas son étoile qui brillait toujours ? C’était elle, il la reconnaissait, le cœur plein de gratitude, et il la regardait encore lorsqu’il tomba, sans bruit.

“ Ce n’est rien, déclarait un peu plus tard le médecin qu’on avait appelé. Il travaille trop. Dans une semaine, il sera debout. – Il guérira, vous en êtes sûr ? disait Louise, le visage défait. – Il guérira. » Dans l’autre pièce, Rateau regardait la toile, entièrement blanche, au centre de laquelle Jonas avait seulement écrit, en très petits caractères, un mot qu’on pouvait déchiffrer, mais dont on ne savait s’il fallait y lire solitaire ou solidaire.”


On Feynman – Gates

Incidentally, Feynman wasn’t famous just for being a great teacher and a world-class scientist; he was also quite a character. He translated Mayan hieroglyphics. He loved to play the bongos. While helping develop the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, he entertained himself by figuring out how to break into the safes that contained top-secret research. (Feynman cultivated this image as a colorful guy. His colleague Murray Gell-Mann, a Nobel Prize–winner in his own right, once remarked, “Feynman was a great scientist, but he spent a great deal of his effort generating anecdotes about himself.”)

Here are some suggestions if you’d like to know more about Feynman or his work:

  • The Messenger Lectures on Physics. These are the talks that first captivated me back in the 1980s and that you see briefly in the video above. The site is a few years old, but you can watch for free along with some helpful commentary.
  • Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher is a collection of the most accessible parts of Feynman’s famous Caltech lectures on physics.
  • He recounted his adventures in two very good books, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think? You won’t learn a lot about physics, but you’ll have a great time hearing his stories.