Bertrand Arthur William Russell (1872-1970), popularly known as Russell, was an intellectual giant among the philosophers of the 20th century. His unsurpassable talent in both academic and practical domain had enthralled all the people in the last century.
Although Russell is best known for his mathematical and philosophical sophistication, his life-long dedication to the distressed and war-torn people brought him the spotlight of the un-extinct history of mankind.
His unremitting efforts to stop first and second world wars have been among the glaring historical pacifistic events of the twentieth century. Russell was a free thinker, public speaker, historian, and a remarkable social critic.
A Nobel laureate and Cambridge scholar Bertrand Russell was taken by the authority as creative and controversial because a great many people thought that his contribution to public knowledge was unparalleled.
Some others reprimanded him by saying that he profligately educated the learners who do not believe in conventional Christian morality. Moreover, the major allegation against him was his anti-war campaign during the First World War, brought by the British administration.
He was sent to prison time and again for his campaign and helping to the Conscientious Objectors, a group who objected to the government's move on forcibly incorporating the British army.
And, because of his pacifist stance, he was once termed as "one of the most mischievous cranks in the United Kingdom.
A life-long unflagging activist, Russell was born on May 18, 1872 in a very aristocratic family in England. His grandfather Lord John Russell was a Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1846–1852, and 1865–1866. He also became an icon of the famous Reform Bill in British parliament in 1832.
Despite being brought up in morality, Bertrand Russell's free thoughts and heresy sometimes made him an enemy of the conventionalist.
An incredibly prolific writer, Russell had very costly political ideals like Plato when he thought about an ideology of politics or a frame of political justification which the world is to be governed by.
Inspired by J S Mill's utilitarianism, Russell sought happiness for the greatest number of people in society and also explored an ideal state that may serve the maximum interest of the individuals. His proposal for world government is thereby very encouraging.
From the beginning of his intellectual adventure, Russell approached a different pace of political and social paradigm that should be largely responsible to the conscience of the scientific mind.
For obvious reasons, he falls for an ideology which is commonly called the knowledge based society. He contests in British parliamentary elections for woman freedom and gender parity but fails repeatedly. In spite of his relentless involvement with serious philosophical issues, he leaves no stone unturned to bring peace in society, particularly the case he faced during two great wars in 1914 and 1945.
In his autobiography, he wrote, "three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong have governed my life: the longing for love, the search of knowledge, and unbearable pity for the sufferings of mankind". Although Russell was an epistemological agnostic, his political view was much more clear - it only propelled around peace, civil and human rights within a humanitarian state.
Russell's affiliation to politics is much older than his epistemological pursuit. In 1910, he failed to receive Liberal Party nomination because of his socio-political ideology. He contested alone but the result was frustrating. His anti-war campaign had made the British government furious and as a result, he was fined 100 pounds; consequently, he was also dismissed from Trinity College.
He was again imprisoned for five months in 1918 for opposing to accept British involvement in homicidal tendencies.
Again, the second phase of his movement was started in 1938 just a year ahead of the Second World War. He wrote Power with a view to make a moral framework of a state and how to tame political in-suavity. He thought that power is the fundamental convulsion of human instinct that is stretched in numerous ways like kingly, priestly, economic, technical, etc. Lastly, he showed how to establish a state on humanitarian basis that may maintain justice and humanity.
Russell also defined the nature of the contending countries that essentially took them to war. In fact, all the countries finally became blind and insanely attacked others without thinking about the result. He anticipated the havoc which was lurking behind the deadly game.
The devastation of the Second World War broke his heart and he could apprehend how intensely another war can claim further lives and wealth. The last and final phase of his life was much more important for his direct involvement with the political climate in the post-war world.
In 1954, he made an outstanding deliberation to BBC named "Man's Peril" following the H-bomb test by many countries. The following year, a joint declaration of Russell-Einstein manifesto was published to appraise the devastation of a possible war.
Russell and Einstein jointly issued a manifesto on 9 July 1955 in London, which Einstein signed a day before his death. The manifesto was explicitly discussed in Man's peril during his BBC talk. Nine most famous scientists agreed upon the joint proposal, in addition to Einstein and Russell. The signatories were Max Born, Percy W Bridgman, Leopold Infeld, Frederic Joliot-Curie, Herman J Muller, Linus Pauling, Cecil F Powell, Joseph Rotblat, Bertrand Russell, and Hideki Yukawa. Except Leopold all were Nobel laureates.
With the advent of a new global climax after the Second World War, the world had been in war-like tension due to improving technology of nuclear bombs. The USSR and USA occupied most of the lands of the world and developed H-bomb, 2500 times more powerful than the ordinary nuclear bomb of Hiroshima.
Russell appealed to the world leaders to revisit their activities in order to save the innocents. He warned that, "such a bomb, if exploded near the ground or under water, sends radio-active particles into the upper air. They sink gradually and reach the surface of the earth in the form of a deadly dust or rain. It was the same dust that infected the Japanese fishermen and their catch of fish in 1954. No one knew how widely such lethal radio-active particles might be diffused, but the best authorities unanimously said that a war with H-bombs can potentially put an end to the human race".
Russell was very critical against American invasion in Vietnam. Before his death, he appealed to the United Nations to support a commission that brought charges against America for the grisly killing of innocent people in Southeast Asia. He wanted to create a happier world where all people may sleep in quietude.
Russell strongly believed that a good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Love can diminish hatred and knowledge would show the light of the future. These two convictions can contribute in leading a better and promising life.
This reflected in his personal life too. His political philosophy was developed during the time of the topsy-turviest geo-political atmosphere, where the world has been suffering from unwise and imbecilic decisions of political leaders in east and west.
As a member of a British aristocracy, he acquired a love of history and politics from his family tradition. In many cases, he became the centre of public controversy but his love to mankind is certainly un-reproachable.
Dr Siddhartha Shankar Joarder, Professor, Dept of Philosophy, Jagannath University, Dhaka, Bangladesh.