Recent Issues

February 2004 Contents

Cover / In This Issue

Society News

Russell on Nuclear Deterrence

Generality and Disimilarity

The Russell Cambridge Companion

Early News Reports on Russell

Traveler’s Diary

society news

Our Man in Istanbul. Last summer, David White, BRS Board of Directors Chair, traveled to the Bosphorus Straits to tell the people there about the Bertrand Russell Society. Here is his report:

My travels this summer were in two parts. I first spent three weeks in England, doing research at the British Library and preparing for my presentation on Lord John Russell by hanging out at the Lord John Russell Pub, which is a short walk from the library. From there I went to Istanbul for the World Congress of Philosophy. It was at the previous World Congress, five years ago in Boston, that I first learned the term "conference junkie." A "conference junkie" is someone who enjoys attending conferences, and especially associating with other conference junkies. I really didn't learn much about Lord John Russell at the pub named for him. The only association item I could find was a picture, admittedly hung right above the center of the bar.

I do wish the BRS could have made more of a showing at the World Congress. My one disappointment was that not one colleague, family member, or Rochester Russell Setter was willing to join me for the outing. Terrorists have been doing their worst for a long time, but I can't see making plans around them when bathtubs and basement stairs are so much greater hazards. Of course, I ended up with plenty of company in London and in Istanbul. All my travel plans went off without a hitch.

I was lodged in a nice enough hotel, but in a neighborhood where other establishments took advantage of tourists. The conference people had made sure we were clearly warned about them, and about the con artists in the area who would buddy-up to take advantage of tourists' reluctance to give them the brush-off right away for fear they might be an innocent citizen just trying to be friendly (they never were).

I came prepared to chair a round-table on Dewey's A Common Faith and to present my own paper in the Philosophy of Religion section. However, someone dropped out of another panel, so I was asked to do a presentation on the Bertrand Russell Society, aimed at people who might want to start their own philosophical club. Then there were some people who did not show up at all, so I mounted the stage and gave a fourth presentation. Having gone that far by myself, I was determined to make it worthwhile. My talk on the BRS had quite a large audience (100+), and was well received.

A lot of my time at the Congress was spent hanging out at the Philosophy Now booth – an excellent opportunity to connect with other conference junkies. I would urge anyone who enjoys BRS meetings or reading the BRSQ to subscribe to Philosophy Now magazine, since Rick Lewis, the editor, has proved a great friend to the Society.

As usual, the press made light of philosophers meeting, but truly the World Congress was no more and no less than what one chose to make of it. After I returned home, I gave my Lord John Russell talk, which turned out to be the last session of the GRRS at Daily Perks. We have now moved to Writers & Books.

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The Mystery of the Missing Symphony (Concluding Episode). BRSQ readers will recall that in the August BRSQ (#119), Ken Blackwell and Tom Stanley informed us that British composer Graham Whettam had dedicated his Symphony No. 4 (Sinfonia Contra Timore) to BR and "all other people who suffer imprisonment of other injustice for the expression of their beliefs or the convenience of politicians and bureaucracies", and that this dedication apparently kept the symphony off the BBC until protests by Russell and others got it performed by that network.

Robert Davis (founding member of the BRS and president of the Society from 1975-82) then wrote in and told us, in the November BRSQ (#120), that this symphony had actually been played during lunch at the Society's Annual Meeting in 1978, but that, being a modern piece, there were some complains from the membership in attendance about having been subjected to it. Davis said that he had heard of the symphony, contacted Whettam, and met him on a visit to England, where Whettam gave him a master tape of the symphony. Davis subsequently turned the master over to Warren Allen Smith, who had a recording studio at the time, and Warren transcribed it to the tape they played during lunch at the '78 Annual Meeting. Warren meanwhile notified Davis that he would keep the master tape until notified to send it either to the BRS Library or the BR Archives.

And that is the last anyone heard of it, until we received a communication from Warren just this week (mid-February). In it he says that Whettam, who was born in 1927 in East Germany, sent a stereo tape of his Sinfonia Contra Timore to the BRS in 1977, and that the BRS Librarian, Don Jackanizc of Chicago "sent the tape to board member Warren Allen Smith, who had the facilities in his New York City recording studio – Variety Recording Studio – to play the tape and master it into commercial LPs if needed. Herr Whettam, however, thought the Society operated much as a label and also a distributor. He wanted details as to how and when he would be paid. He was informed that, with his permission, the BRS would gladly make a special Bertrand Russell edition of the LP but that any profits after expenses would be entirely for the Society. He could, however, arrange for a different edition of the same work elsewhere. Whettam declined, and Smith still has the original tape."

Warren then says "the tape itself is probably worthless and is on a 10 1/2" large reel that is playable only on professional equipment. Any suggestions as to who might want the tape or where it should be sent?" The symphony is available on the web from Crotchet for $8.99 or from for $16.97. So we now know where the tape is, but are still wondering what will finally happen to it, and hope to have the full details for you in the next issue of the BRSQ.

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New York City Power Lunch. The most recent meeting of the GNYCCBRS (pronounced guh-NYKA-burrs by the acronymically gifted) took place over lunch at Ben's Kosher Deli – at W. 38th Street and 7th Avenue – on the Saturday afternoon following Thanksgiving. At the very far end of its vast main room, Ben's possesses several longish tables linked together; these make a very good place to plot, and talk. The table included Tim Madigan, Peter Stone and his father Frank, Thom Weidlich, Ruili Ye, John Ongley, David Goldman, Warren Allen Smith (our host), Dennis Middlebrooks, Peter Ross, Taslima Nasrin, Taslima's sister and niece, and myself. At one end sat W.A.S, presiding in style, at the other end sat Taslima, guest of dishonor, and her relatives. (Ms. Nasrin is an anti-Muslim dissident in exile from Bangladesh and doing research at Harvard.) I was closer to her end than the other and therefore able to spy, or at least eavesdrop while our resident psychiatrist, David Goldman, probed Ms. Nasrin's memories of childhood. What influence in her past caused her to cast off the traditional Muslim female role? I didn't quite make out the answer, focused as I was on the menu. While those among the cognoscenti ate some soup-like dish, I ordered something utterly forgettable. But we were there to talk. Peter was within shouting range, and managed to convey his satisfaction with his new position at Stanford. Weidlich sat across from me and had to endure questions from me about writing books. Being profoundly socially inept I really only felt comfortable talking to Taslima's niece. About 11 or so, she goes to school in New York and is embarrassed by her name (which means something like passionate flower of longing). Been there (age 11), done that, have the t-shirt.

After lunch, after coffee, came a period of fidgeting and shifting about: everyone changed places or stood, a phone-camera appeared from somewhere, and Taslima was invited to speak. As a speaker, Taslima is surprising rather than charismatic and powerful, and she managed to assert some extraordinary things. For example, when I asked her to discuss her attitude towards religiously moderate Muslims she immediately shot back that no Muslim is moderate – or rather, that to be a true Muslim is to be an extremist – because the true Muslim reads and follows the Koran, and the Koran is irredeemably extremist. I knew what she meant, but wanted to ask her why she permits the extremist Muslim to define "religion" or "Muslim". At one point during the long, pleasant afternoon, Taslima related her most recent collision with the government of Bangladesh. The current flap is due to a memoir in which she describes her sexual relationships with various men, who she identifies. This new book is causing great consternation among most Bangladesh men, who have either been "outed" or take issue with any expression of female sexuality. RC

(Society News is continued