Philosophy and Politics

Bertrand RUSSELL

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Philosophy and Politics
Philosophy and Politics


RUSSELL, Bertrand. Philosophy and Politics. London: Published for the National Book League by the Cambridge University Press, 1947. Small octavo, original navy cloth, original dust jacket; pp. 30.

First printing of Russell's lecture, an "analysis of the influence of philosophical thought upon political behavior from Plato to Karl Marx," in which he favorably mentions fellow philosopher Karl Popper and his recently published book The Open Society and Its Enemies, presented and inscribed on the front free endpaper by Popper to his longtime personal assistant Melitta Mew: "To Melitta, from Karl, with a laudatio of Russell's on p. 11, written 1946."

Russell delivered this talk on October 23, 1946 in London as the Fourth Annual Lecture of the National Book League, chaired by the Poet Laureate John Masefield. The "laudatio" Popper refers to in his inscription occurs in a discussion of Hegel, Plato, and empiricism. "In the case of Hegel this has come to be more or less recognized; in the case of Plato it is still something of a paradox, though it has been brilliantly advocated in a recent book by Dr. K.R. Popper.*" The asterisk refers to a footnote in which Russell cites Popper's 1945 book The Open Society and Its Enemies, noting "The same thesis is maintained in my History of Western Philosophy."

In The Open Society and Its Enemies, published only two years before Russell's lecture—and one year before publication of Russell's widely popular History of Western Philosophy—Austro-British economist and philosopher Karl Popper took aim at historicism, which he defined as the belief that history unfolds in an inevitable way based on universal laws. He also critically examined the idea that thinkers such as Plato, Marx, and Hegel merely presented harmless theories; instead he argued that their theories were fundamentally totalitarian and fully capable of leading to war, genocide, eugenics, and the dangerous elevation of one group of people over another. "For Karl Popper, philosophy is an attempt to get nearer to a true view of the world, that is, a view that corresponds to the facts" (New York Review of Books).

Recipient Melitta Mew (1929-2018) was Popper's longtime personal assistant, since 1982, and the executor of his estate following his death. "In addition to secretarial work, this also meant translation work, the organization of everyday life for the recently widowed philosopher [Popper's wife died in 1985] as well as accompanying him on trips all over the world to lectures, congresses and awards. Karl Popper had become a member of the Mew family" (obituary, Universität Klagenfurt website, accessible online, translated). Mew became his estate administrator after his death in 1994, and took an active part in preserving his legacy, bequeathing most of his library, manuscripts, and correspondence to the Universität Klagenfurt.

Book with light foxing to endpapers and edges, text and cloth clean; dust jacket with light toning and very shallow wear to spine ends and corners. A near-fine copy, with an excellent philosophical association.

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