Sunday, April 22, 2012

What I Am Reading

Books on my pile include:
  • Katherine Tait, My Father Bertrand Russell (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1975).
  • Chris Mooney, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science - and Reality (John Wiley & Sons, 2012)
Tait describes how Russell's vision of how children should be raised erected barriers between her father, herself, and other family members. (Tait and her older brother John were by Russell's second wife, Dora Winifred Black.) If only men and women were raised rationally and to live by reason, life would be much improved. But this belief did not work out all that well for her in many ways.

And that humans do not follow reason is a theme of Mooney's. The science of motivated reasoning, behavioral economics, etc., shows that humans cannot be made to follow reasoning. I've previously noted some of the studies on which Mooney draws.

So these two books share a common anti-utopian theme.


Will said...

I have always wanted to know more about Russell, and particularly the development of his social thought. Is there any insight on this subject in his daughter's book?

Robert Vienneau said...

I don't think this book is particularly good on the development of Russell's social thought, although Tait recounts the impact of his thought on her. For example, she attended the experimental progressive school that Russell and his wife founded to put ideas into practice. Besides the impact of Russell's ideas, Tait's development was shaped by her parents bending over backwards not to show her any favoritism, as compared to the other students in school.

You also get to see Russell at work in this book, but it is not an intellectual history of her father.