Celia Green on Bertrand Russell

He [Nietzsche] condemns Christian love because he thinks it is an outcome of fear: I am afraid my neighbour may injure me, and so I assure him that I love him. If I were stronger and bolder, I should openly display the contempt for him which of course I feel. It does not occur to Nietzsche as possible that a man could feel universal love, obviously because he himself feels almost universal hatred and fear, which he would fain disguise as lordly indifference. His noble man – who is himself in day-dreams – is a being wholly devoid of sympathy, ruthless, cunning, cruel, concerned only with his own power. King Lear, on the verge of madness, says: "I will do such things – What they are yet I know not – but they shall be The terror of the earth." This is Nietzsche’s philosophy in a nutshell. It never occurred to Nietzsche that the lust for power, with which he endows his superman, is itself an outcome of fear. Those who do not fear their neighbours see no necessity to tyrannize over them. Men who have conquered fear have not the frantic quality of Nietzsche’s ‘artist-tyrant’ Neros, who try to enjoy music and massacre while their hearts are filled with dread of the inevitable palace revolution. I will not deny that, partly as a result of his teaching, the real world has become very like his nightmare, but that does not make it any the less horrible. (Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy)

Celia Green's Response to Russell:

"Those who do not fear their neighbours see no necessity to tyrannize over them." Bertrand Russell was brought up in a stately home with tutors paid for by his parents. He had very little reason to fear his neighbours, and any such ‘neighbours’ lived outside the boundaries of the desirable hotel environment in which he grew up. He was not exposed to the social hostility of even a fee-paying school environment.

Bertrand Russell is both unrealistic and unanalytical about the psychology of the ‘noble’ man as delineated by Nietzsche. Russell claims that Nietzsche endows his superman with a ‘lust for power’ which is ‘an outcome of fear’. He then gives a quotation from King Lear, which he uses to illustrate the motivations that he (not Nietzsche) ascribes to the ‘noble’ man. The quotation from King Lear, however, expresses Lear’s reaction to his helpless situation as a dethroned and infirm old man, cast out by his daughters, deprived of servants and exposed to the elements.

Note: There is much more that could be said in criticism of this piece by Bertrand Russell. If the philosophy department of my unrecognised and suppressed independent university were not kept unjustifiably deprived of academic status and financial support, one of the things it would be able to do would be to publish analytical critiques of various writings by Bertrand Russell, among others.

"Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin — more even than death… Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man."

(Bertrand Russell)


"Young people wonder how the adult world can be so boring. The secret is that it is not boring to adults because they have learnt to enjoy simple things like covert malice at one another's expense. This is why they talk so much about the value of human understanding and sympathy. It has a certain rarity value in their world."

(Celia Green)

Celia Green