Monday, December 30, 2013

Next Up: In Praise of Idleness

My slavish/sloven devotion to The Plan continues apace (OK, a very leisurely apace). In Praise of Idleness (speaking of leisure) is now the subject/victim of the Reading Bertrand Russell method. The full title is In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays. (Recall, not that there is much of a need to, that the full title of Portraits From Memory is Portraits From Memory and Other Essays; I sense a theme.) In Praise of Idleness – I will often use this title as shorthand for the entire book – first was published in 1935; my version is a Routledge paperback from 2003. This edition, unlike the original, starts with an Introduction of approximately 14 pages by Howard Woodhouse, a scholar of education at the University of Saskatchewan. I believe this Introduction was itself introduced for the second Routledge reprint of 1996 – the initial Routledge edition was issued in 1994. The Woodhousean Introduction is followed by a Russellian Preface of a bit more than one page. The Preface is followed in turn by the fifteen essays that constitute the remainder (pages 11-174) of the book. The numbering system at the beginning is opaque – why the Preface begins (apparently) on page 9 subsequent to the end of the Introduction on page xx – there are no pages labeled 1, 2, … 8 – remains a mystery that Reading Bertrand Russell cannot penetrate. Further, the mystery is recurring, for Unpopular Essays presents a similar page-numbering conundrum.

Here are the titles of the fifteen chapters of In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays:

1. In Praise of Idleness
2. ‘Useless’ Knowledge
3. Architecture and Social Questions
4. The Modern Midas
5. The Ancestry of Fascism
6. Scylla and Charybdis, or Communism and Fascism
7. The Case for Socialism
8. Western Civilisation
9. On Youthful Cynicism
10. Modern Homogeneity
11. Man versus Insects
12. Education and Discipline
13. Stoicism and Mental Health
14. On Comets
15. What is the Soul?

Here we go, in search of plan fulfillment (and hence with more than the usual frisson of excitement), to In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays.

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