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Russell: The Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies 42 (1):52-62 (2022)
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In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:Social and Moral Aspects of the WarBertrand Russell and Introduced by Andrew G. BoneAmong nine loose-leaf folders of typed transcriptions of Russell's History of Western Philosophy lectures at the Barnes Foundation1 are two copies of a fourteen-page stenographic record of a political talk he gave there on 2 March 1941.2 The bulk of this significant new accrual to the Russell Archives, bearing as it does on Russell's most successful philosophical work, could stimulate much further research and textual study. But his isolated Barnes lecture, about the politics of American neutrality, Nazi Germany's brutal and expansionist dictatorship, and the causes and possible consequences of the war against it, is also of considerable interest.The transcription reads more like detailed notes than a verbatim account, and there is no evidence that Russell approved this text.3 The stenographer initially recorded Russell in the third person, dispensed with this device before the second [End Page 52] paragraph, but then occasionally returned to it.4 There is also more enumeration of Russell's points than he would have supplied in a prepared script. Even the title may not be his: there is nothing in the text on any social changes wrought by the war. But this title has been retained in the absence of a more plausible alternative in a short report of the speech (quoting sixteen sentences) in the next day's Philadelphia Evening Bulletin.5 Russell's hour-long address on the "Social and Moral Aspects of the War" appears to have been the only occasion when he "laid philosophy aside"6 at the Barnes Foundation. It was delivered on a Sunday to an audience of 160 students (and possibly some invitees, although none are mentioned in the newspaper article), sandwiched between two of his weekly philosophical lectures (on Socrates and Sparta7) in the series scheduled for each Thursday.In opening his case for the United States joining the Allied war effort, Russell challenged the arguments for the "policy of conciliation" which, by his own recent admission in the New York Times,8 he had earlier endorsed. Published two weeks before Russell spoke on a similar topic at the Barnes Foundation, this 2,000-word letter to the editor served as a very detailed and public renunciation of the pacifist viewpoint—neutrality for national governments combined with non-resistance for individuals—which Russell had promoted in Which Way to Peace? (1936) and continued to condone after the Munich Agreement (September 1938) and even the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia (March 1939).Yet Russell the "relative political pacifist"9 also admitted in this most programmatic statement of his prewar position that "In other times and other circumstances, I should be prepared to consider gains and losses, and to concede that war might be worth while" (WWP, pp. 151–2).That moment had obviously arrived and may have done so already when on 15 October 1939 Russell confided to Constance Malleson that his passionate desire for a British victory made a "thorough-going pacifism difficult" (ra Rec. Acq. 596). But six months later he still did "not feel sufficiently sure of the opposite to say anything publicly by way of recantation"—before adding in this letter to Gilbert Murray that "it may come to that" (21 April 1940, ra Rec. Acq. 71g). It clearly did shortly afterwards—when the "phoney war" in Western Europe was dramatically ended by the invasion of France and the [End Page 53] Low Countries. On 13 May Russell asked the editor of the New Statesman and Nation to notify its readers that he had abandoned his once strongly held pacifist convictions.10In his lecture to the Barnes Foundation, Russell turned next to the defence of American non-intervention by Robert M. Hutchins (see n. 16 below)—which he had already critiqued in the New York Times. Although rather precariously situated as a resident alien in the United States, Russell was hardly circumspect about pushing a policy that so sharply divided American opinion.11 He also listed the faults of the League of Nations and the most grievous diplomatic mistakes made since the end of the last war and the fatally...

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