This page features a collection of the best resources on Bertrand Russell. Just to be clear, there is no single best resource on Russell. The best one will depend on your preferred learning style and the amount of time you want to spend learning about him.
To get started, simply choose one of the links below:
If you want a comprehensive overview of Russell:
- Read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Russell. However, you should keep in mind that the Stanford Encyclopedia in often quite technical and this article may be difficult for beginners. It’s also quite long at around 10,000 words. Here’s a short excerpt that introduces Russell:
“Bertrand Arthur William Russell (1872–1970) was a British philosopher, logician, essayist and social critic best known for his work in mathematical logic and analytic philosophy. His most influential contributions include his championing of logicism (the view that mathematics is in some important sense reducible to logic), his refining of Gottlob Frege’s predicate calculus (which still forms the basis of most contemporary systems of logic), his defense of neutral monism (the view that the world consists of just one type of substance which is neither exclusively mental nor exclusively physical), and his theories of definite descriptions, logical atomism and logical types.
Together with G.E. Moore, Russell is generally recognized as one of the main founders of modern analytic philosophy. His famous paradox, theory of types, and work with A.N. Whitehead on Principia Mathematica reinvigorated the study of logic throughout the twentieth century (Schilpp 1944, xiii; Wilczek 2010, 74).
Over the course of a long career, Russell also made significant contributions to a broad range of other subjects, including ethics, politics, educational theory, the history of ideas and religious studies, cheerfully ignoring Hooke’s admonition to the Royal Society against “meddling with Divinity, Metaphysics, Moralls, Politicks, Grammar, Rhetorick, or Logick” (Kreisel 1973, 24). In addition, generations of general readers have benefited from his many popular writings on a wide variety of topics in both the humanities and the natural sciences. Like Voltaire, to whom he has been compared (Times of London 1970, 12)), he wrote with style and wit and had enormous influence. . . .”
If you’re looking for a somewhat shorter and more engaging introduction:
- Read Clare Carlisle’s article: Bertrand Russell: philosopher, mathematician and optimist [900 words]
If you’d prefer a video introduction:
If you prefer audio and podcasts:
If you’d like to read a short passage from a classic work of philosophy:
- Read this short passage from Russell’s ‘The Problems of Philosophy’ on the value of philosophy [1400 words]
If you’d just like to casually browse a few quotes:
Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can learn by using free online resources. If you want to learn more, check out this list of the Best Books on Bertrand Russell
For more introductory philosophy resources and reading lists check out this collection of Resources and Reading Lists.