This book is not an easy read. In fact, some portions are most difficult especially when Russell speaks of applied mathematics and Euclidian geometry. It may help if the reader has knowledge of those areas, but more than likely it will not. Probably, the most important comparison is the realization that Russell’s life spanned the 19th and 20th centuries, which profoundly affected his thinking.
This is a difficult but excellent book, which explains the author’s philosophical development from his birth until his death. It is an interesting and phenomenal insight into one of the great minds of the 20th century. Just to emphasize how difficult the book may be, here is an example describing a portion of what led Russell to some of his philosophical thoughts before changing them.
“After Tripos, the next academic step was the writing of a Fellowship dissertation. I chose for my subject ‘he Foundations of Geometry’ and paid special attention to the effects of non-Euclidian geometry on Kant’s transcendental aesthetic. “
This is a remote piece of the books wealth of information and it gets more difficult with each chapter until it reaches his theories on knowledge where he discusses perception, reality and experience as arbiters of knowledge. Interesting, a couple of chapters later he changes his stance on the subject if for no other reason because of his intellectual growth, which he attributes to new observation and information.
He misses no corner in discussing his development as he takes on his own evaluation of language and it use. His point was that language was a creation of utility to give structure and identification of the world. That is a gross over simplification but it sums up the idea behind his theory on language.
Probably, one of the more interesting chapters is his development concerning truth and reality. For atheists and non-religious believers, this is probably the Russell they are more familiar with as his thoughts on universals and particulars come to the surface as well as his deep examination of what accounts for truth.
The Bottom Line?
If you’re looking to acquire knowledge about a man whose name is often associated with humanism and non-theism, this is the book for you, but this is not a weekend read. It is not a two-weekend read. If you are retired, this may require a week of uninterrupted reading, otherwise settle in and learn.