On Mill’s Liberty: It is even more desirable in our day than it was in his to uphold the kind of outlook for which he stands.

irusseb001p1With Mill’s values, I for my part find myself in complete agreement. I think he is entirely right in emphasizing the importance of the individual in so far as values are concerned. I think, moreover, it is even more desirable in our day than it was in his to uphold the kind of outlook for which he stands. But those who care for liberty in our day have to fight different battles from those of the nineteenth century, and have to devise new expedients if liberty is not to perish. From the seventeenth century to the end of the nineteenth, “Liberty” was the watchword of the radicals and revolutionaries; but in our day the word was usurped by reactionaries, and those who think themselves most progressive are inclined to despise it. It is labelled as part of “rotten bourgeois idealism” and is regarded as a middle class fad, important only to whose who already enjoy the elegant leisure of the well-to-do. So far as any one person is responsible for this change, the blame must fall on Marx, who substituted Prussian discipline for freedom as both the means and the end of revolutionary action. But Marx would not have had the success which he has had if there had not been large changes in social organization and in technique which furthered his ideals as opposed to those of earlier reformers.

What has changed the situation since Mill’s day is, as I remarked before, the great increase of organization. Every organization is a combination of individuals for a purpose; and, if this purpose is to be achieved, it requires a certain subordination of the individuals to the whole. If the purpose is one in which all the individuals feel a keen interest, and if the executive of the organization commands confidence, the sacrifice of liberty may be very small. But if the purpose for which the organization exists inspires only its executive, to which the other members submit for extraneous reasons, the loss of liberty involved may grow until it becomes almost total. The larger the organization, the greater becomes the gap in power between those at the top and those at the bottom, and the more likelihood there is of oppression.

Russell, Bertrand. Portraits From Memory. “John Stuart Mill”. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956

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Secrets of the West


There have been only a few very rare periods in human history, and a few very sparse regions, in which spontaneous progress has occurred. There must have been spontaneous progress in Egypt and Babylonia when they developed writing and agriculture; there was spontaneous progress in Greece for about 200 years; and there has been spontaneous progress in Western Europe since the Renaissance. But I do not think there has been anything in the general social conditions at these periods and places to distinguish them from various other periods and places in which no progress has occurred. I cannot escape from the conclusion that the great ages of progress have depended upon a small number of individuals of transcendent ability. Various social and political conditions were of course necessary for their effectiveness, but not sufficient, for the conditions have often existed without the individuals, and in such cases progress has not occurred. If Kepler, Galileo, and Newton had died in infancy, the world in which we live would be vastly less different than it is from the world of the sixteenth century. This carries with it the moral that we cannot regard progress as assured: if the supply of eminent individuals should happen to fail, we should no doubt lapse into a condition of Byzantine immobility.

Russell, Bertrand. “Western Civilization.” In Praise of Idleness. London and New York: Routledge, 2006

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The primary aims of government should be security, justice and conservation

irusseb001p1The primary aims of government, I suggest, should be three: security, justice, and conservation. These are things of the utmost importance to human happiness, and they are things which only government can bring about.

Russell, Bertrand. Authority and the Individual. London and New York: Routledge, 2010

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Carlin’s comment on China’s Bullying Culture

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What the Tortoise said to Achilles shows the nature of implications.

The reason Tortoise couldn’t stop hypothesizing is that an implication never asserts its constituent propositions.


A. P is true.

B. if P is true then Q is true, (P implies Q).

B only asserts the implication.  Even if both P and Q are false, B can still be true. One is tempted to say there is an implicit hypothesis C which asserts that A  and B together imply Q:

C. If P is true and P implies Q, then Q is true.

But C, as an implication, can be true regardless whether A,  B, or Q are true or not. One is tempted to say A, B, C together implies Q:

D. If A is true, B is true and C is true than Q is true.

Since D, again, can be true by itself and insufficient to reach Q, one would say A, B, C, D together implies Q. Thus the Tortoise’s regression.

The root of the problem is that, in all the newly accepted hypotheses, Q is never asserted. Each hypothesis only asserts the implication. An implication only asserts the relation of what proposition logically follows a given proposition. An implication does not assert the constituent propositions. That is why each hypothesis can be true by itself yet still insufficient to move any closer to Q.

In order to stop the regression, we need to distinguish inference from implication. An inference deduce one true proposition from another true proposition instead of simply imply one unasserted proposition from another unasserted proposition.

*1.1 and *1.11 in PM is the primitive idea that converts asserted implications into inferences:

*1.1 Anything implied by a true elementary proposition is true. Pp

Notice that *1.1 and *1.11 are not hypotheses. They are general statements and whatever inference can be made in virtue of *1.1 or *1.11 has already been contained by *1.1 or *1.11. In other words, the inference discovers nothing new and asserts nothing that has not been asserted by *1.1 and *1.11.  *1.1 and *1.11 simply help the reader to “see” particular cases. Take the Tortoise’s case for example:

(A) Things that are equal to the same are equal to each other.

(B) The two sides of this triangle are things that are equal to the same.

(Z) The two sides of this triangle are equal to each other.

Both A and B are true means this is a particular case of *1.1. Since 1.1 is a general assertion that asserts all its individual cases, we know Z is asserted.

Another example illustrates that 1.1 is not a hypothesis:

A. Pigs Fly.

B. If Pigs Fly then I am pope.

C. If pigs fly and pigs fly implies I am pope then I am Pope.

Z. I am Pope.

Both B and C assert only implications that are true and can hold on its own but, nevertheless, assert none of its constituent propositions. Since A is false, A and B together does not make a case that belongs to the class of cases asserted by 1.1, thus Z cannot be accepted.


Russell, Bertrand. §38. The Principles of Mathematics. New York. London: W.w. Norton & Company, 1996

Alfred North Whitehead. Russell, Bertrand. *1.1. Principia Mathematica 1st ed. Merchant Books, 1910

Carroll, Lewis. What the Tortoise Said to Achilles. Mind, 1895.

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China vs. Japan from American perspective

Let snarks fight snarks.

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Is the war inspired by hate or by profit?

If it is inspired by hate, then it is pointless. If it is inspired by profit, then war will render it unprofitable.

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If we can forgive ourselves, we can forgive everyone

1948 Siege of Changchun: The Communist army starved 150,000 civilians to death.

“Changchun was like Hiroshima,” Zhang wrote. “The casualties were about the same. Hiroshima took nine seconds; Changchun took five months.”

Source: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19901122&slug=1105487


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董坚毅。哈佛大学博士,52年回国,55年支援大西北。57年被定为右派送夹边沟劳教。60年饥荒袭来,董亦不能幸免。其妻顾晓颖(也为留美生)来探视, 待寻得其遗体时,周身皮肉已被割食一空,仅剩头颅挂在骨架之上。夹边沟劳教人员2800多人,饿死2100多人,死难者掩埋草率,累累白骨外露绵延两公 里。



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