The Bertrand Russell Society Urges President Obama to Go for Broke in Eliminating Nukes

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Consisting of scholars from around the world, the BRS stands in lockstep with the famous philosopher, humanitarian, and British Earl, Bertrand Russell, whose ideas and ideals the Society studies and promotes. In addition to his seminal scholarly work, Russell was a strong advocate for peace and the elimination of nuclear weapons during the Cold War.

Lord Russell

The Bertrand Russell Society, a group of scholars and admirers of the late Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), a Nobel Prize winner, logician, philosopher, and social activist who advocated against nuclear weapons, has urged President Obama to intensify his activity during the remainder of his term, and to fulfill his 2009 pledge to work towards the abolition of nuclear weapons; declare a “no-first-use” policy; take ICBMs off hair-trigger alert; and invite Russia to do likewise. Raymond Perkins, a philosopher, vice chair of the Society, and professor emeritus of Plymouth State University, stated, “Whereas it is arguable that the policy of mutually assured destruction (MAD) ever worked, a policy that ignored the possibilities of accidents and assumed there were only rational players in possession of nuclear weapons, it is a certainty today that such a policy is impracticable with the proliferation of nuclear weapons among many states, political and religious instability in the world, and the rise of nihilism and martyrdom as operating principles on the part of some.” Perkins went on to say, “In many ways, a nuclear catastrophe, whether by accident or design, is more probable today than it was in the Cold War era.” The Society believes this should be brought to the front burner in political discussions as a matter of existential importance, one that renders many other issues more academic if not dealt with now.

A letter has been sent to President Obama at the direction of the Society’s board, which convened at its annual membership meeting held at Saint John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, June 24-26, 2016. Hosted by the Society’s president and a philosophy professor at Saint John Fisher, Tim Madigan, scholars from around the world presented papers on a wide range of topics, including Russell’s work in mathematical logic, his philosophy, and his social outlook. Representatives from North America, Europe, and South America were in attendance. Madigan stated, “Russell, a titan of analytic philosophy and logic, urged people in his 1955 joint statement with another intellectual titan, Albert Einstein, to ‘Remember your humanity, and forget the rest,’ in their plea for a more peaceful world with the very survival of humanity in mind, given the advent of nuclear weapons.” Madigan said, “We continue to believe that this message resonates and is vitally important, perhaps even more important, today.”

The Society also honored one of its founding members, Kenneth Blackwell, who worked with Russell on organizing his papers and many of his effects, which are now held at Russell's archives at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and where Blackwell is the honorary Russell archivist and a professor. According to one of the Society’s directors, Michael Berumen, “No single individual is more responsible for making resources by and about Russell available to scholars worldwide than Ken Blackwell, and probably no single person knows as much about the details of Russell’s life.” Other Honorary Members of the Society have included such luminaries as Nelson Mandela, Noam Chomsky, and W.V.O. Quine.

Also honored as the Society’s annual Bertrand Russell Award Winner was the magazine Philosophy Now. The magazine’s mission is to make philosophy, which nowadays can be a highly technical and inaccessible subject, more readily available to the general reader. The award was accepted on behalf of the magazine by its editor, Rick Lewis, who traveled from London, England to receive it, and who was also the conference’s keynote speaker.

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Michael E. Berumen
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