Introduction to writer of essay “Ideas That Have Helped Mankind”;
Bertrand Arthur William Russell was a Nobel laureate British philosopher. In addition, he was a writer, logician, mathematician, historian, social critic and a political activist. His genius mind had the capacity to write articles and essays on formal topics such as “Ideas That Have Helped Mankind”. In most of his essays, he presented philosophy of his own. He very impressively talked about philosophical ideas which were not only helpful for his nation but also for other nations of the world. He did not keep himself bound to a specific religion. While presenting his viewpoint, he went beyond religion; in fact, he ignored every religion and raised voice for the welfare of humanity. Thus, there is an element of universality in his work. Many of his essays are suggestive in nature in which he gave his best ideas and compelled the world to follow them for the sake of peace.
Summary and Critical Analysis of “Ideas That Have Helped Mankind”:
This essay is not different from other essays of the writer. Bertrand Russell thinks that there are some ideas that have helped mankind and they are worth mentioning; therefore, he does not only talk about their benefits but also appreciates their importance. These ideas have helped humanity and are still helping. Russell knows that people of Greeks were educated. He remembers their hard work; their efforts did not go waste. In time of renaissance, it was the literature of Greeks and their ideas that have helped not only writers but the whole mankind. Some ideas are scientific; some are related to politics; whereas remaining are based on math, philosophy and logic. Bertrand Russell divides these ideas into two main categories. He also sorts them by times in the following manner:-
- Pre-historical ideas that have helped mankind
- Ideas related to knowledge and technique
- Historical ideas that have helped mankind
- Ideas related to morals, politics and science
Prehistoric Ideas that have Helped Mankind:
Pre-historic age was the age of knowledge and technique. In those days, technical ideas have come in the minds of people, which helped the mankind and increased knowledge of people. Those ideas were not only helpful for them but were also adopted in modern days. It is not wrong to say that those ideas are need of the hour. Those innovative ideas are much helpful for the modern world.
Ideas Related to Knowledge and Technique:
Evolution of Language:
Language helped humanity in many ways. Strong communication is only possible through language whether it is verbal or physical. It is only language, through which people are transmitting information, gaining knowledge, expressing their feelings and emotions. It is also cultural identity for many nations. Thus, the idea of evolution of language has definitely helped mankind.
Discovery of fire and its use:
Fire is, indeed, one of the best innovations in the world. It is helping people in many ways. Though it has many drawbacks as nations are using it as weapons, yet it is helpful, if used for positive purposes. It is source of warmth and comfort. Moreover, cooking, electricity and all type of machines are dependent on fire. So, in one way or the other, the ideas of fire and its uses have helped mankind and are still helping them.
Art of writing:
Writing was the first way of distant-communication. Idea of writing helped people in communication, learning and gaining knowledge. It has also helped the people to store information related to history. If we are reading Greek literature even today then it is possibly only because of “writing-invention”.
Domestication of animals:
Animals were not source of pleasure before taming. They were harming people and the only way to survive along with animals was to domesticate them. No doubt, the ideas related to taming of animals have also helped mankind.
With the passage of time, people realized that hard work was not enough; therefore, smart work was necessary. Many agricultural inventions helped the people in producing more crops while doing less hard work.
In historic times, people made progress in the field of mathematics, astronomy and science. Although, the term “astronomy” appeared in historic times yet Bertrand Russell is of the view that Greeks predefined astronomy and mathematics; therefore, their role in defining important scientific terms helped the people; especially in Renaissance period. Hence, these ideas belonged to pre-historic times but they were enhanced in historic times; therefore, they are included in second category.
Ideas Related to Morals, Politics and Science that have Helped Mankind:
- Law of Inertia by Galileo:
Law of inertia is the base of modern scientific inventions. Newton has presented three laws of motion but they are based on law of inertia. In Russell’s eyes, this law is much helpful and laid the foundation of modern physics.
Laws of motion (especially of Newton’s):
Science of motion is the base of physics. Newton presented three laws of motion due to which, physics remembers him even today. Russell may consider it an idea but it is a pure effort of Newton to present those laws. Obviously, these laws/ideas have helped mankind.
Darwin’s theory of evolution:
Darwin’s theory of evolution shocked many religious scholars. Number of scientists believes that this theory is fictional. However, Russell sees it a greater achievement in the field of science.
Psychology (science of behavior and mind):
Science proved that there is no concept of soul in human body and it functions on the basis of some principles. Similarly, animals, birds and other lively creature behave under various circumstances. Russell considers that science of behavior and mind is also one of the cooperative ideas that have helped mankind.
Many nations created weapons for the sake of security but unfortunately, they used it against each other. Weapons destroyed first humanity and then humans. Man is mixture of both good and evil. In order to ensure goodness and for the welfare of humanity, moral principles were created. Brotherhood and the doctrine of unity are important in this context; these ideas were necessary to save the world from destruction. This doctrine was previously adopted by Alexander the great, who forced his fellowmen to marry women of different nations so as to create a single democratic nation. It is certainly a positive step and can be included in those better ideas that have helped and lead the mankind towards improvements and recreation.
Besides its negative aspects, people deem democracy as the best system. “Abraham Lincoln” once said: “democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people”. It gives people liberty and freedom whether it is religious or cultural. It also provides people the freedom of speech. In Russell’s eyes, along with other ideas, it is also one of the best ideas that have helped people.
With democracy, there comes the freedom. People can easily purchase properties; they can do business and can enjoy religious freedom; they are free to speak even against government. Thus, with democracy, freedom is also important.
Freedom of the whole nation is not enough until one has the liberty to accomplish his desires. People can adopt their desired religion and culture; they can pray, worship or celebrate religious or cultural festivals. Russell likes personal freedom along with freedom of nation.
Bertrand Russell’s Criticism:
Russell on one hand appreciates the ideas that have helped the mankind but on the other hand, he criticizes the people who misuse them. For instance, he raises voice against physical and moral corruption in democracy. He says that when a democratic country comes in power, it starts focusing on its private interests. Instead of doing something for the welfare of motherland, people in power start promoting their private concerns. This misuse of power leads a nation towards destruction. Private interests of the people in power are fulfilled, subject to risk and cost of the citizens. He considers that democracy is a safeguard against the worst abuses of power. People do not know what their selected persons are doing; thus, they do not take any step against them due to which government starts abusing its powers.
Russell is also against war and wants peace for every nation as well as religion. He wants equality for everyone. His criticism is related to misuse of power, corruption of government and laws.
At the end of essay, Russell presents his own idea. He while demonstrating his own philosophy suggests that every country should adopt the method of International Government. He supports his philosophy by subtle arguments and strong examples. Main suggestion of Bertrand Russell is of International Government.
Russell’s Idea of International Government:
Russell thinks that humanity has suffered a lot in both the world wars. Despite of too much destruction, people gained nothing. If counties and nations want survival then international government is the only option. When Russell wrote this essay, he was confident that if the ideas like international government were not adopted then in upcoming years, war would destroy each and everything. United States of America and Russia were two major powers in those days. Notwithstanding, The world had not adopted the idea of international government and fortunately, nothing happened.
In his suggestions, Russell in fact is talking about equality. He may be right but it is much difficult to adopt his idea. Although International Government can fight against hunger and disease, yet many countries do not want equality. This idea goes in favor of poor countries, and rich countries do not want equality; they want only power. Moreover, in Russell’s days, only U.S.A and U.S.S.R were in power but nowadays China is also an established country. Thus, there is a boost in opposition.
Russell, in this essay, first describes benefits of useful ideas that have helped mankind and at the end demonstrates his own philosophical idea of international government. Russell’s philosophy is the philosophy of peace and equality. He supports his arguments and philosophy with historical examples. He has vast knowledge of every field of life, which makes him a Nobel laureate.