The power of reason by Bertrand Russell.

The following is an excerpt from Bertrand Russell’s book “power”


“It is customary nowadays to decry reason as a force in human affairs, yet the

rise of science is an overwhelming argument on the other side. The men of science

proved to intelligent laymen that a certain kind of intellectual outlook ministers to

military prowess and to wealth; these ends were so ardently desired that the new

intellectual outlook overcame that of the Middle Ages, in spite of the force of

tradition and the revenues of the Church and the sentiments associated with

Catholic theology. The world ceased to believe that Joshua caused the sun to

stand still, because Copernican astronomy was useful in navigation; it abandoned

Aristotle’s physics, because Galileo’s theory of falling bodies made it possible to

calculate the trajectory of a cannon-ball; it rejected the story of the flood because

geology is useful in mining; and so on. It is now generally recognized that science

is indispensable both in war and in peace-time industry, and that, without science,

a nation can be neither rich nor powerful.

All this effect on opinion has been achieved by science merely through

appeal to fact: what science had to say in the way of general theories might be

questionable, but its results in the way of technique were patent to all. Science

gave the white man the mastery of the world which he has begun to lose only since

the Japanese acquired his technique….

Those who maintain that reason has no power in human affairs overlook two

conditions. If, in the name of reason, you summon a man to alter his fundamental

purpose- to pursue, say, the general happiness rather than his own power- you will

fail, and you will deserve to fail, since reason alone cannot determine the ends of

life. And you will fail equally if you attack a deep- seated prejudices while your

argument is still open to question, or is so difficult that only men of science can see

its force. But if you can prove, by evidence which is convincing to every sane man

who takes the trouble to examine it, that you posses a means of facilitating the

satisfaction of existing desires, you may hope, with a certain degree of confidence,

that men will ultimately believe what you say.”


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