Reading: Bertrand Russell — In Praise of Idleness

Because all the books at the top of my reading list cost bonkers amounts for some incoherent reason, and simultaneously, none of my triumvirate of science-fiction writers have anything due for at least a few months, leaving me with the dread experience of considering labels on bottles as stimulating reading, except my eyes can’t focus on small blurriness, and further, all the philosophers I used to love (Deleuze, Derrida, I’m looking at you — or at least, your corpses), I find prattle on far too much about the boring continental philosopher standards of Marx and Freud, not to mention a dazzling absence of feminism (it’s easy to write about Man as the single, solitary experiencer of the universe when you aren’t a woman raising a child), so I’m in a bit of a conundrum, a bit of a fix.

Bertrand Russell, I choose you! Mostly for the title. Well, and he was a champion of Wittgenstein. who I still adore (probably for the comedy value in his unintentional bleakness), and who, it turns out, writing in the ’30s, was far more of a feminist and other things of equality and human rights than a good deal of philosophy since. One for positivism then. He does say some decidedly weird things though, which seem to come from taking the idea of analytic philosophy and logic a little too literally, and often entirely missing the messy parts of humanity, emotion, irrationality, selfishness and altruism, things that can’t be reduced to sensible conclusions. It’s quite embarrassing at times. His attack on Marxism was also lacking, though has some useful points to consider, given my next reading task (and task it is).

But anyway, idleness and useless knowledge. Yes. Much needed. In abundance would be satisfactory.

These — especially for me the latter of the two — are often points of private and public contention. For example, what is the point and use of my long-standing interest in Central Asia? My interest in China can perhaps be explained through a use model in that I lived there, and have friends there, and so it’s maintaining an interest that serves a purpose. But Central Asia (or let’s be specific here, the Pamirs and that vast, tangled knot of mountains in the east)? Why? Will I ever write an essay on the subject, or otherwise contribute other than apparently passively through acres of reading? Probably not. So then, useless. And more examples abound.

But suppose that useless knowledge — knowledge that doesn’t serve a purpose, isn’t for something, doesn’t produce a measurable outcome — suppose it was held in esteem as stocks and shares, capital and investment is now. Useless then, only in the frame of reference.