William James

To be read later: "The Moral Equivalent of War".

I'm wondering whether this new biography of William James will be coming out in paperback over here, or whether I should just pay Amazon's price for the hardback.

Sceptical Essays

OU tutor is being a bit of a pain about essays - I still haven't received a marked copy of the last-but-one essay, and the one I submitted three weeks ago doesn't have a mark on the website yet, with the fourth due in a couple of weeks. I've got good marks for the two I know about, but if he doesn't improve soon (and start using the electronic system for marking and returning assignments, which he ought to be doing), I'm going to have to start pointing out his obligations. I wouldn't object so much if the two tutorials I've attended hadn't been so awful.

Anyway - Locke was pretty straightforward but not terribly exciting (we are basically living in Locke's ideal world of liberal democracy, and alternatives are always more interesting than the status quo). Rousseau now, who is strange enough to be fascinating (although repellent in many ways).

Re-reading Russell's Sceptical Essays, which I think is the best of his collections of popular essays. "Philosophy in the Twentieth Century" is an interesting overview of the state of things in the twenties, concentrating on the American Pragmatists, Bergson (largely forgotten now, but a bĂȘte noire of Russell's), his ambitions for analytic philosopy (or "the new philosophy"), and a discussion of the implications of Einstein's theories for philosophy.

"The Need for Political Scepticism" is a typically provoking discussion of politics. Russell never quite reconciled his liberalism with his enthusiasm for planned economies and world government, and his assessment of human psychology is by turns shrewd and daft.

Unwise people who keep beavers in their libraries find that, when wet weather is coming, the beavers build dams out of books, because they used to live on the banks of streams.

Russell's point is that we're living in a world very different from the one which our habits were formed for (or, as an evolutionary psychologist would put it, the world which we are adapted for). Perhaps not the best story to use to illustrate his idea, though.