Bertrand Russell

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What is the central idea of the essay "Machines and the Emotions" by Bertrand Russell?

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In “Machines and the Emotions,” Bertrand Russell describes some of humanity’s natural instincts, desires and cultural practices. Then Russell explains how machines are beneficial or harmful to our general nature and our nurtured, or learned, cultural practices.

He makes the argument that people want wealth in order to be able to obtain material goods but more so to gain respect from other people. In other cultures, he gives examples of how respect is achieved by some other standard: by birth (aristocracy), artistry or wisdom, all depending on their cultures and historical periods. Therefore, it is not wealth that we naturally believe is necessary in order to obtain happiness; it is respect born out of competition. (This is Russell’s logical argument for what we would probably call an obvious ethical argument.) Since wealth is not inherently necessary for happiness, then the...

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