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The Standard of Goodness According to Bertrand Russell's Essay The Harm that Good Men Do

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Abstract

Russell, a British philosopher and essayist is the founder of modern analytic philosophy. He made contribution in a broad range of subjects. Russell presents the realities of society and Concept of good man and bad man through his essay,’The Harm That Good Men Do’. According to Russell, it is a standard of goodness that public continue to do things and follow the rules of government and kings, generation after generation without knowing the actual reason and only because it is tradition set by the dominant classes.

Introduction

Bertrand Arthur William Russell (1872-1970) was a British philosopher, logician, essayist and social critic. He was famous for his best work in Mathematical logic and analytical philosophy. He is main founder of modern analytic philosophy. In his long career course, Russell also made significant contributions to a broad range of other subjects, including ethics, politics, educational theory, the history of ideas and religious studies.

‘Bertrand Russell is a slight, dark-haired man, with a prominent forehead, bright eyes, strong features except for a retreating chin, nervous hands and alert quick movements. In manner of dress and outward bearing he is most carefully trimmed, conventionally correct and punctiliously polite, and in speech he has an almost affectedly clear enunciation of words and preciseness of expression. In morals he is a puritan; in personal habits almost an ascetic, except that he lives for efficiency and therefore expects to be kept in the best physical condition. But intellectually he is audacious – an iconoclast, detesting religions or social conventions, suspecting sentiment, believing in the ‘order of thought’ and the order of things, in logic and in science. He is a delightful talker, especially in general conversation. He dislikes bores and hates any kind of self-seeking selfishness or coarse-grainedness. He looks at the world from a pinnacle of detachment, dissects persons and demolishes causes.’ – Beatrice Webb, member of the Fabian Society

In the essay, ‘The harm that good men do’, he mentioned Jeremy Bentham, who lived in a century before him and famously stated that ‘People ought to make soup of their dead grandmothers.’ Apparently this statement conveys a negative meaning, and that was used to portray a negative image of the person, due to which Jeremy was considered a wicked person. But Russell suggests that this statement was wrongly interpreted. He defines good man as a good man. We know that ‘Exercise of the virtue is its on reward.’ Russell admits that Bentham advocated his own definition of good man. His definition of good man is against the statement of the morality of the church. He says that the world of the 19th century was very good for England because in which England rapidly progressed. This period started with reform act (started in 1832 in England). Reform Act introduced some laws which are stated below:

  • The middle class were allowed to give presentation in the parliament.
  • Salary in Jamaica got banned.
  • The punishment of theft was death hanging but this punishment was confined to the crime of murder.
  • Introduced the corn law. (The corn law was tariff and other trade restrictions on import food and grain were ended in 1864)
  • Compulsory education got introduced in 1870.

· Russell says that a large portion of this development is due to the effort of Jeremy Bentham. According to Russell, Jeremy Bentham was an English reformer and founder of modern age. His philosophy was to get happiness at any cost. His philosophy was not acceptable in the church but ultimately lead to many changes in the society. He presents some qualities of good man according to the society, which are as under:

  • Good man don’t drink and smoke
  • He doesn’t use bad language
  • He communicates in sophisticated manner
  • He goes to the church regularly
  • He has a positive knowledge of things
  • His job is to end sin
  • His spends his most of time in good work
  • He helps the poor
  • He is a man of morals.

After this discussion, Russell also talks about the bad men from the society’s point of view.

  • A bad man smokes and drinks
  • A bad man uses bad language
  • He doesn’t go to church
  • He spends his time in fun
  • His ideas are generally bad.

A bad man believes in logic, rationalism and humanity. His approach is scientific even towards sins. His thinking is simply thinking and activities mostly bad. He is not considered a responsible man and even not gives any attention to the responsibilities because responsibilities and positions are only for good man.

‘Its better to be honest then to pretend to set a good example.’

A bad man is not hypocrite. He may share his own flaws and mistakes to people unlike hypocritic virtuous men. Russell says that all men of Renaissance were bad. In his opinion those who object to morality are consideeed wicked people. A good man always work for power holder, Good man have dinner with power holder and left the poor people. Russell says, ‘A good man is one whise opinion and activities are pleasing to the holder of power.’

George III was a typical virtuous man. Pitt was asked for the freedom of Catholic, he didn’t agree because it was against his coronation oath. Due to his wrong policy, America became independent. Good people are useful in politics because they show their good image towards public but inwards they are doing and playing their policies. They make scandals and keep people out of politics because they are trusted by the people. Good men try to convince people that punishment given by the government is always justified. Public continues to do things and follow the rules of government and kings, generation to generation without knowing the actual reasonings, only because of its tradition, set by the dominant classes.Primitive morality means the concept of morality prevalent in society and accepted by the public without any question.

Conclusion

According to Russell, we should leave all traditional concepts and primitive morality and start thinking in scientific way. We need morality which is based on love pleasure and achievement of positivity. He says that a man is good when he is happy with others and for others. He should not be called a good man on the basis of going to church and charity. ‘We need a morality based upon love of life, upon pleasure in growth and positive achievement, not upon repression and prohibition.’

References:

  • http://simplyknowledge.com/popular/biography/bertrand-russell.
  • https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/russell/
  • https://www.litpriest.com/browse/essay/the-harm-that-good-men-do-summary/
  • https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140612104950.htm

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The Standard Of Goodness According To Bertrand Russell’s Essay The Harm That Good Men Do. (2021, Jun 09). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-standard-of-goodness-according-to-bertrand-russells-essay-the-harm-that-good-men-do/
“The Standard Of Goodness According To Bertrand Russell’s Essay The Harm That Good Men Do.” GradesFixer, 09 Jun. 2021, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-standard-of-goodness-according-to-bertrand-russells-essay-the-harm-that-good-men-do/
The Standard Of Goodness According To Bertrand Russell’s Essay The Harm That Good Men Do. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-standard-of-goodness-according-to-bertrand-russells-essay-the-harm-that-good-men-do/> [Accessed 9 Dec. 2021].
The Standard Of Goodness According To Bertrand Russell’s Essay The Harm That Good Men Do [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Jun 09 [cited 2021 Dec 9]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-standard-of-goodness-according-to-bertrand-russells-essay-the-harm-that-good-men-do/
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