Great thinkers have been envied and hated at the same time. In the world we live in, several individuals have expressed their ideas and thoughts in many ways, and the most contentious of these thoughts have attracted to study as well as critics. Examples of these great thinkers include Martin Luther King Jr, and Bertrand Russell. This essay looks to study the thoughts, writings and the prevailing condition that influenced these two great thinkers.
Bertrand Arthur William Russell was born on the 18 May 1872 in Wales, into one of the most famous noble families in Britain. Young Russell grew under good schooling to be one of the greatest British philosophers of the twentieth century. Additionally, Russell was great logician, historian, mathematician and social critic though he sometime considered himself a pacifist, a liberal and socialist. He is famously known for leading the British revolt against idealism thereby he is considered one of the founders of analytical philosophy .
During his lifetime, Russell responded to many aspects of the society in a prominent manner and in some cases leading to him to prison. He championed free trade and anti-imperialism by ardently campaigning against Adolf Hitler and criticizing Stalinist totalitarianism. He was also a prominent anti-war activist attacking the United States of America’s participation in the Vietnam War, and was a candid supporter of nuclear disarmament. In his last contribution to the society, Russell condemned Israeli hostility and aggressive tendency in the Middle East. Later in 1950, Russell was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature in recognition of his varied and significant writings that champion humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought .
Russell lived at a time of great political upheaval characterized by wars and social challenges of races and religion. This prevailing situation made him question much of what was considered as ideal in the society basing much of his writing on logic and mathematics. He lived through the world wars, both the First and the Second World War, being one of a very small number of intellectuals engaged in pacifist (peace advocating) activities . These engagement in pacifism, largely contributed to his way of thought and creativity. His ideas of religion were so radical prompting him to write one of the most famous articles “Why I Am Not A Christian.”
Russell, in his article, describes his understanding of the existing religions to be a low-level thinking and a result of poor judgment. For most of his adult life Russell insisted that religion was much like superstition and, despite any positive effects that religion might have, it is largely harmful to people. He insisted that religion and the religious outlook served to hinder knowledge, advanced fear and dependency, maintaining that it largely was responsible for much of the war, misery and tyranny that had overwhelmed the world at the time. He also considered religion a form of communism in which oppressive states and regimes thrived .
Therefore, to be different from the rest and to show an example to the society, Russell engaged in finding solutions to this low-level living. As a young man, Russell led a life of Platonism, a concept that tries to find a distinction between that reality which is perceptible, but not intelligible, and that which is intelligible, but imperceptible . He longed for eternal truths, making this clear in his famous essay, “A Free Man’s Worship”. While rejecting the paranormal or supernatural existence of higher power, Russell liberally admitted that he desired a deeper meaning to life. He suggests that religion should not be the ultimate reason for irrational actions like wars .
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Was an American clergyman born on 15 January 1929. He is famously known for his relentless struggle for the civil rights of the African-Americans becoming the most prominent figure in the advancement of civil rights in the twentieth century. Martin Luther Jr. professed the use of non violent methods in his struggle for freedom following the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. He is widely regarded as a heroic leader in the history of modern American liberalism one the most cherished values of the present American Society. He was awarded a Nobel Prize for his campaign for civil liberties. He was also known to have worked effortless to ending poverty in the country .
Being an African American, King lived at a time when racial segregation was at the highest level in the United States, experiencing the worst phase of racial segregation of the twentieth century . In the 1950s, there were legal and social enforcement that separated of facilities, services, and opportunities such as education, housing, employment, medical care, and transportation along racial lines. Kirk (2005), stresses that the situation was so severe in the south of the country to a point that there were set out laws to enforce racial segregation. Around the same time, the USA was also involved in the Vietnam War.
King considered the segregation of the other citizens along racial line to be unfortunate and unfair to the underprivileged. In 1955, laws provided that African Americans were to give up their seats on public buses for the whites and those who did not comply were arrested. Additionally, African Americans were not allowed to vote in the United States, neither were they accorded any labor rights .
Russell was a very educated person and great philosopher. His work greatly influenced many aspect of science including set theory, mathematics, logic, computer science, and metaphysics. This knowledge would influence his thinking process, basing most of his arguments on logics and complex aspects of science. He thought so deeply to a point of comparing religion to mere superstition.
In stark contrast, King was born to a clergyman and this influenced him to attend a theology school. He was trained at the Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester. Therefore, King’s thinking towards of life challenges were reduced to simply doing the right thing which was equitable, socially just and morally acceptable. King is known to have been largely influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. In his speeches, he spoke of all human as God’s children and that freedom and equality was a right to all.
Russell arguments that the definition of present is vague, draws many critics. Critics argue that Russell assumed that his audience would be more likely to run into the contemporary muddy attitude and therefore chose to refute the less enthusiastic form of Christianity. By doing so Russell has not brought the more vigorous form of Christianity into light choosing to speak about the less indulgent form. He should have instead thought of Christianity as a whole.
King’s arguments also drew quite a number of critics. His main critics looked to his lifestyle as a political one rather than a cleric form of life. In his arguments, King allowed what was deemed non-Christian in his protests.
Frady, M. (2005). Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Life. Penguin Group USA.
King, M. L., & King, C. S. (2007). I Have A Dream. Scholastic Inc.
Kirk, J. (2005). Martin Luther King Jr;Profiles in power. Pearson Longman.
Monk, R. (1999). Bertrand Russell :Volume 7 of Great philosophers. Routledge, .
Russell, B. (1998). Autobiography. Routledge.