THE PHILOSOPHY OF MR. BERTRAND RUSSELL
In its chase after idols this age has not wholly forgotten the gods, and reason and faith in reason are not left without advocates. Some years ago, at Trinity College, Cambridge, Mr. G.E. Moore began to produce a very deep impression amongst the younger spirits by his powerful and luminous dialectic. Like Socrates, he used all the sharp arts of a disputant in the interests of common sense and of an almost archaic dogmatism. Those who heard him felt how superior his position was, both in rigour and in force, to the prevailing inversions and idealisms. The abuse of psychology, rampant for two hundred years, seemed at last to be detected and challenged; and the impressionistic rhetoric that philosophy was saturated with began to be squeezed out by clear questions, and by a disconcerting demand for literal sincerity. German idealism, when we study it as a product of its own age and country, is a most engaging phenomenon; it is full of afflatus, sweep, and deep searchings of heart; but it is essentially romantic and egotistical, and all in it that is not soliloquy is mere system-making and sophistry. Therefore when it is taught by unromantic people ex cathedra, in stentorian tones, and represented as the rational foundation of science and religion, with neither of which it has any honest sympathy, it becomes positively odious—one of the worst imposture and blights to which a youthful imagination could be subjected. It is chiefly against the incubus of this celestial monster that Mr. Moore dared to lift up his eyes; and many a less courageous or less clear-sighted person was thankful to him for it. But a man with such a mission requires a certain narrowness and concentration of mind; he has to be intolerant and to pound a good deal on the same notes. We need not wonder if Mr. Moore has written rather meagerly, and with a certain vehemence and want of imagination.
All this, however, was more than made up by the powerful ally who soon came to his aid. Mr. Bertrand Russell began by adopting Mr. Moore’s metaphysics, but he has given as much as he has received. Apart from his well-known mathematical attainments, he possesses by inheritance the political and historical mind, and an intrepid determination to pierce convention and look to ultimate things. He has written abundantly and, where the subject permits, with a singular lucidity, candour, and charm. Especially his Philosophical Essays and his little book on The Problems of Philosophy can be read with pleasure by any intelligent person, and give a tolerably rounded picture of the tenets of the school. Yet it must be remembered that Mr. Russell, like Mr. Moore, is still young and his thoughts have not assumed their ultimate form. Moreover, he lives in an atmosphere of academic disputation