The British philosopher, mathematician and pedagogue Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was one of the keenest thinker of the 20th century. His most important work is the "Principia mathematica", co-authored with Alfred North Whitehead. He is famous for his "Russellian Antinomy", which drew attention to a lack of set theory. Popular version: A barber shaves all the men in a village, who do not shave themselves. The question, if he shaves himself immediately shows the contradiction: If he does not shave himself, then he shaves itself. And vice versa.

Bertrand Russell with John and Kate
Bertrand Russell with John and Kate

His most-read book is, on the other hand, "Why I am not a Christian", in which he i.a. exposes Jesus as a man of rather bad character: Because he is in the mood for figs, but the fig tree standing at the wayside does not yield fruit at the moment (it is not the season), he lets the tree wither without further ado. So, Jesus shows no respect for the cycle of nature, in which the time of flowering is followed by the time of maturation, before fruit can be harvested. Instead, Jesus gives free rein to his violent temper and destroys the tree. A person with such a bad character shall be the son of God?

Together with his wife Dora, Russell founded the Beacon Hill School in 1927 specifically with regard to their two children Kate and John, because existing schools did not meet their requirements. They intended the libertarian, progressive school to convey rational thinking and proved its open-mindedness, like other schools of reformed pedagogics did, i.a. through nudity during physical education. After the separation from Betrand Russell in 1932, Dora Black continued to run the school until 1943. Russell himself later stated self-critically, that the children at Beacon Hill School did not fare as well as hoped.

The book "Marriage and Morals" (1929) also dates back to this period influenced by pedagogics. Russell recognised: "So long as parents are unwilling to be seen naked by their children, the children will necessarily have Beacon Hill School Bertrand Russella sense that there is a mystery, and having that sense they will become prurient and indecent."1) A danger for children to become prurient and indecent does precisely exist, when they do not get the chance to see nude people.

He has published his commitment to naturism in the same book: "There are also many important grounds of health in favour of nudity in suitable circumstances, such as out-of-doors in sunny weather. Sunshine on the bare skin has an exceedingly health-giving effect. Moreover anyone who has watched children running about in the open-air without their clothes must have been struck by the fact that they hold themselves much better and move more freely and more gracefully than when they are dressed. The same thing is true of grown-up people. The proper place for nudity is out-of-doors in the sunshine and in the water. If our conventions allowed of this, it would soon cease to make any sexual appeal; we should all hold ourselves better, we should be healthier from the contact of air and sun with the skin, and our standards of beauty would more nearly coincide with standards of health, since they would concern themselves with the body and its carriage, not only with the face. In this respect the practice of the Greeks was to be commended."2)

 – Photos: Wikimedia Commons

Bertrand Russell as book author



1) Full cit.: "The taboo against nakedness is an obstacle to a decent attitude on the subject of sex… It is good for children to see each other and their parents naked whenever it so happens naturally. There will be a short period, probably at about three years old, when the child is interested in the differences between his father and his mother, and compares them with the differences between himself and his sister, but this period is soon over, and after this he takes no more interest in nudity than in clothes. So long as parents are unwilling to be seen naked by their children, the children will necessarily have a sense that there is a mystery, and having that sense they will become prurient and indecent. There is only one way to avoid indecency, and that is to avoid mystery.
 • Ch. 8, p. 116"
Bertrand Russell, mathematician, pedagogue and philosopher, England
in his book Marriage and Morals (1929),
cited from wikiquote on Marriage and Morals, ch. 8, p. 116*).

2) Cited from wikiquote on Marriage and Morals, ch. 8, p. 116-117*).