Bertrand Russell

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Summarize "The Harm that Good Men Do" by Bertrand Russell.

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Russell begins by mentioning a philosopher named Jeremy Bentham who lived a century before him and famously stated that "people ought to make soup of their dead grandmothers." Many people disapproved of Bentham's philosophical ideas and considered him a "bad man." Russell then describes the social reforms of the Victorian Era and mentions that much of the progress was influenced by the progressive ideas of Bentham who promoted utilitarianism.

He then describes the ideal "good man" who behaves amiably, attends church, and has "irreproachable" morals. He then contrasts society's idea of a "bad man" by describing a person who is a nonconformist, has subversive opinions, seeks enjoyment without consquences, and is honest with himself and others. Russell then mentions how Wordsworth and Coleridge were considered "bad men" when they did not abide by Christain standards despite producing some of their most extraordinary works. He proceeds to list famous poets, philosophers, and scientists who were considered "bad men" simply because their views did not align with the ideals of their government. In the modern era, Russell believes that a "good man" is simply a person whose opinions and activities please those in authority.

Russell then discusses what society considers "good men" like George III who oppressed Catholics and Kaiser Wilhelm who caused immense harm to humanity. According to Russell, the purpose of a "good man" is to provide a smoke-screen to the public so that villainous individuals can secretly carry out their actions. "Good men" also ruin the political careers of those who disagree with the majority in power. Russell also argues that "good men" suppress knowledge, particularly concerning the prevention of venereal diseases, in order to maintain Biblical precepts. Russell comments on the wars which have been started over the deaths of "good men," and argues that standards of "goodness" do not make the world a happier place. Russell feels that the dominant class promotes traditional ideas and customs essentially based on superstitious,...

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