Unit Eight The Harm That Good Men Do Bertrand Russell
Introduction to Bertrand Russell Introduction to Text Text Structure
About the author: Bertrand Russell, 3 rd Earl Russell (1872- 1970), British philosopher, mathematician, and social reformer. Nobel Prize for Literature (1950). Russell is an iconoclastic modern philosopher ( ) who writes this witty essay against conventional beliefs, arguing in it that good and evil can be defined only through the exercise of reason.
About the author: Over the course of his long career, Russell made significant contributions, not just to logic and philosophy, but to a broad range of other subjects (including education, politics, history, religion and science), and many of his writings on a wide variety of topics have influenced generations of general readers.
Introduction to Text In The Harm That Good Men Do, Russell, the inimitable British Voltaire ( evaluated the difficulty and dilemma of answering children, or their more adult versions, just what is a good man? Russell deflates, debunks and denigrates the conventionally defined good man, as generally a moralistic fop, a mere defender of the superficial status quo. Russell attacks these good men who represent the unjust power of the dominant classes.
Introduction to the Text However, on closing his critical litany against the conventional good man, Russell offers the hope of science and reason; they eventually will enable men to realize that institutions based on hatred and injustice will not produce happy societies, and that good man need a morality based on love of life … pleasure in growth, and not upon repression or exploitation. Though difficult and painful to follow, Russells criticism and positive suggestions are a positive beacon of lucidity and light for all who would like to be called good man, or woman.
Part 1: Para. 1 Part 2: Paras. 2-4 Part 3: Paras. 5-7 Part 4: Para. 8 The End
Part I (Para. 1) Comprehension Lang. Points Paraphrases
Paragraph 1 Main idea of the paragraph: A brief introduction to the generally accepted concept of good men.
Why does the author use quotation marks for the words good and morals? He indicates that the real meaning of good and morals may be debatable even though there is a general public acceptance of what they mean.
Good works that a good man does besides his professional duties : 1.encouraging patriotism and military training 2.promoting industry, sobriety and virtue 3.preserving a misguided respect for learning to allow professors who have subversive ideas to be employed
Paragraph 1 Synonyms or Definitions A. wholesome B. horror C. safeguard D. assiduous E. subversive F. irreproachable G. castigate H. sobriety 1. protect 2. diligent 3. beyond criticism 4. punish 5. healthy 6. being self- controlled 7. disgust 8. destroying
Key to the Exercises wholesome – health horror – disgust safeguard – protect assiduous – diligent subversive – destroying irreproachable – beyond criticism castigate – punish sobriety – being self- controlled/ being serious
a wholesome horror of wrongdoing a healthy/reasonable disgust of the bad behavior wholesome a. : healthy; good for you physically, morally or emotionally e.g.A healthy diet includes lots of wholesome natural food with plenty of protein and vitamins.
Question sth./whether-clause: to express ones doubt about its value or whether it is true E.g.1) Experts have questioned the usefulness of vitamin pills. 2) Two months ago, results from a European study questioned whether early treatment with the drug really improved survival. Question sb.: ask someone about sth., especially, officially E.g. 1)When questioned about the issue, the Foreign Minister declined to comment. 2) Several men were questioned by police yesterday about the burglary.
In the broad/broadest sense (of sth): If you define a term in the broad/broadest sense, it means getting causes, reasons, understandings, etc. at the root. The opposite of the broad sense is the narrow sense Irreproachable : [not gradable] without fault and therefore impossible to criticize e.g.1) If you say that someones character or behaviors is irreproachable, you mean that they behave so well that they cannot be criticized. 2) The way she tackled the problem was irreproachable.
… it is our painful duty to castigate Sin. … it is painful for us to punish someone whose behavior has broken Gods laws or has gone against principles of morality.
He has a still greater horror … by middle-aged successful citizens. (line 5) He has a still stronger dislike of wrong thinking, and consider it the business of the authorities to protect the young from being exposed to those who feel doubt about the wisdom of the view which have already been accepted by middle-aged successful citizens.
… he may promote industry, sobriety, and virtue among wage-earners and their children by seeing to it that failures in these respects receive due punishment; … (line 11) … he may encourage workers and their children to be diligent, serious, and moral by making sure that those who are not so will be punished; … See to (it that): make sure; care for; attend to E.g. 1) We must see to it that party policies are implemented. 2) Please see to it that no one comes in without identification.
… he may be a trustee of a university and prevent an ill-judged respect for learning from allowing the employment of professors with subversive idea. (line13) … he may be a person who is responsible for managing a university and he may be aware that an unwise respect for learning should be stopped in order not to allow the employment of professors with the ideas which tend to destroy, overthrow religion, a government etc. by weakening people s trust, confidence, belief.
Above all, of course, his morals, in the narrow sense, must be irreproachable. (line15) Most importantly, it should be certain that his so called standard of behavior and principles of right and wrong, superficially, must be free from blame or fault. Above all: most importantly e.g. 1) Above all dont forget to write. 2) max is fair, hardworking, and above all, honest. In the narrow sense: superficially e.g. In a narrow sense, computer can organize, allocate and project. And they can do it a lot better, a lot cheaper and a lot faster than we can.
Part II (Para. 2-4) Main Idea: Three uses of good men among politicians: 1. affording a smoke-screen (para. 2) 2. keeping undesirables out of politics (para. 3) 3. getting good men themselves murdered (para. 4) What is the implied meaning of the three uses ? These three uses of good men actually are the harm good men do.
Para. 2 What are the t wo reasons, mentioned in this part, for good men used as smoke screen? 1. Part of his goodness: a good men is quite credulous, trusting and will never suspect his friends of shady actions 2. Part of his utility: a good men will never be suspected by the public of using his goodness to screen villains
Background Knowledge An American President: probably referring to Warren Gamaliel Harding. Harding (1865-1923), 29 th president of the United States. He was elected president in 1920 by an overwhelming vote in a postwar reaction against President Wilsons international policies. The first American president to take office after World War I, Harding was also the first president to be born after the Civil war. Under Hardings tenure the White House took on the lax atmosphere of his frequent poker evenings. Among his subordinates corruption grew blatant( ). With the collapse of the war boom, with wage cuts, unemployment, growing farm distress, and urban resentment( ) of prohibition, Harding by midterm found that much of his popularity had slipped away.
Background Knowledge Hardings reputation did not long survive his death, as scandal after scandal came to light. Hardings announced ambition was to be his countrys best- loved president. Upright, limited, and overtrusting, he had the misfortune to be thrust into a position beyond his capacities. Russell is the author of The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G. Harding in His Times
Para. 2: Language Points the deserving rich (para. 2): people who are rich, but have good qualities (here sarcastic: the rich arent deserving of money taken from the general public.) It implies that the rich have gotten the money secretly and underhandedness. e.g deserving poor ; to give money to a deserving cause be deserving of: be worthy of e.g. Such people will never be deserving of trust. These are the problem deserving of public attention. c.f. deserve doing e.g. Xiao li deserves praising.
Para. 2 Paraphrases Among politicians good man … on their activities unsuspected. (line 1) Some of the politicians make use of good men and the main one of their uses is to provide smoke- screen behind which the politicians can carry on their activities without any risk of being suspected. A good man will never be suspected … of his utility.(line 4) The public will never feel that a good man is guilty of using his strict and lofty morality to prevent evil acts from being seen: this is one of the good mans use.
Para. 2 Paraphrases It is clear that this combination of qualities … of the deserving rich. (line 6) It is clear that the combination of good mans goodness and utility makes a good man extremely useful wherever public refuses to accept and objects to the transference of public money into the hands of the rich people. narrow-minded a.: not ready to listen to or tolerate the views of others e.g. 1) If you describe someone as narrow-minded, you are criticizing them because they are unwilling to consider new ideas or other peoples opinion. 2) narrow-minded views/opinions; narrow-minded person
Para. 2 Paraphrases I am told – though far be it from me … this purpose. (line 9) I am told – though I would never approve the statement -- that not long ago in American history there was an President who was a good man and used as a smoke- screen. far be it from me to do sth: I certainly would not want to do sth. e.g.1) Far be it from me to advice you what to do. 2) Far be it from me to hurt his feelings. far be it from me to disagree/criticize: neither hope nor dare e.g. Far be it from me to criticize her. I just think shes behaved extremely bad.
Para. 3 Comprehension Who are the undesirables ? (para.3) people who may or may not have committed breaches( ) of the moral law but who are not wanted for one reason or another, often chiefly political.( )
Para. 3 Comprehension Three ways to keep such people (undesirables) out of politics after his private activities has been kept track of and something has been discovered: 1. to publicize the facts and cause the person to disappear 2. to compel the person to retire into private life by treats of exposure 3. to use blackmail
Para. 3 Language Points venture into: risk going into venture into/through/out of: risk going somewhere when it could be risky e.g. Today is the first time Ive ventured out of doors since my illness. venture to do sth: risk doing sth e.g. 1) I venture to say that men will live in the moon. 2) Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Venture …. On e.g. Jeff ventured his whole fortune on one throw of the dice.
Para. 3 keep track (of): keep in touch with ; follow the course or development (of) e.g.1. I read the newspapers to keep track of current events. 2. I always make sure I keep track of all the money I spend. c.f.lose track (of): fail to follow the course or development (of)
Para. 3 derive v. : get, obtain sth derive … from … : get … from … e.g. She derives great joy (pleasure satisfaction) from playing the violin. The institute derives all its money from foreign investments.
Para. 3 Paraphrases Another of the uses of good men … by means of scandals. (line 1) Another of the uses of good men is that any undesirable people/things can avoid becoming involved in politics by means of the general feeling of indignation of the good men. keep out of: prevent sth; (cause sb to) avoid sth; not enter (a place); remain outside e.g.1) I prefer to keep out of arguments about money. 2) I kept out of their quarrel. 3) Keep that dog out of my study.
Para. 3 Paraphrases Ninety-nine men out of a hundred … does not become public. (line 2) Ninety-nine men out of a hundred break the moral law, but mainly this fact does not become known to the public. commit a breach/breaches: break or neglect e.g.commit a breach of international practice
Para. 3 Paraphrases And when in the ninety-ninth case … of being suspected (line 4) And when in the ninety-ninth case it (breaking the moral law) becomes public concerning anyone in the hundred, the one man in the hundred who is really innocent expresses his real indignation, but the other ninety-eight are reduced to doing the same (not genuinely) because they dont want to be suspected. follow suit: (fig.) do what someone else has done e.g. One of the major banks has lowered its interest rates and the other banks are expected to follow suit.
Para. 3 Understanding and Language Points When, therefore, any man of obnoxious opinions … will ruin his political career. (line 7) Therefore (according to what discussed above), when any man who has very different and disagreeable opinions risks going into political affairs and political life, people who want to keep the long-established laws or customs think it is necessary for them to watch the activities of the difficult politician (because his opinions are in conflict with the majority of other peoples) until they discover something which, if made known to the public, will destroy his political career.
Para. 3 They then have three courses open to them. (Line 12) There are three available options/activities for them to choose. (be) open to (sb.): available e.g. The competition is open to anyone over the age of sixteen.
Para. 3 All three, therefore, are to be commended, and all three are only rendered possible through the existence of good men. (Line 15) Therefore, all three courses (mentioned above) seem to be spoken favorably, and the three outlined courses are made possible because of the existence of good men. (It is a cynical statement( ) because at least one of the courses is illegal, other two perhaps unethical) render v.: cause… to become e.g. 1. I rejected his advice in term which rendered it impossible for him to address me again. 2. New technology has rendered my old computer obsolete.
Para. 4 Comprehension Tune of paragraph 4: the third use of good man, which is written in Sarcastic tune.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand : heir to the throne of the Austro- Hungarian Empire ( ) assassinated on June 28, 1914 when returning from an official visit to City Hall
Para. 4 safe for (sth): (para. 4) not causing or likely to cause harm or danger to (sth) (be) safe from: (be) not harmed by (be) safe with: not (tell) anyone who is not supposed to know e.g.1. Are these toys safe for small children? 2. Is this safe for bathing? 3. The house is not safe from theft. 4. The secret will be quite safe with her.
Para.4 Paraphrase If he had not died as he did, we might not have had the war, and then the world would not have been made safe for democracy, nor would militarism have been overthrown, nor should we be now enjoying military despotisms in Spain, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria. (line 3) If the Archduke had not gotten himself murdered, we might not have had war (we had war); and then democracy would have been endangered in the world; militarism (believing in or depending on military strength and methods) would not have been overthrown; and we should not be now enjoying military tyranny in Spain, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria. (The tone of this sentence, or rather, of the whole paragraph, is sarcastic.)
Part III (Para. 5-7) Main Idea Factors attributing to the harm that good men do
Para. 5: Language Points Sir J.G. Frazer: Sir James George (1854-1941), Scottish anthropologist. In The Golden Bough (1890-1915) he proposed an evolutionary theory of the development of human thought, from the magical and religious to the scientific.
Para. 5 Comprehension According to the author the standards of so-called goodness are not those carefully planned to make the world a happier place. Two main causes giving rise to these standards: 1. Tradition 2. The unjust power of dominant classes
Questions: Where did, historically, primitive morality originate from? The notion of taboo. What did they continue to do to people for generations? They continued to have authority over people s feelings when nobody know the original reason. What are morals nowadays? Large parts of them are still of this sort.
Language Points … on the supposed ground that they produced disaster by magical means.(para.5) … on the assumption that completely harmless acts caused tragedy through magic. on the ground(s): because Peter always declines his friends invitations on the ground that his wife would blame him for coming back late.
Language Points In this way there came to be prohibitions. Therefore the prohibitions were formed and became necessary at last. Come +to V : reach a point at which one realizes, understands, believes something e.g.She had come to see the problem in a new light. I have come to believe that the Governments economic policy is misguided.
Language Points speak of … as... : mention … as … e.g. 1)He is spoken of as a good teacher. 2)The wealth and honor of a man are usually spoken of as his credit.
Paraphrase To speak seriously: the standard of goodness which are generally recognized by public opinion are not those which are calculated to make the world a happier place.(line 1,para. 5) To speak seriously: the standards of so called the goodness which are generally accepted by public opinion are not the standards which are designed to make the world a happier place.(The sentence indicates that the standards of genuine goodness should be those which are planned to make the world a happier place.) be calculated to do sth.: be planned or arranged in order to produce a particular effect e.g. This advertisement is calculated to attract the attention of house wives.
Paraphrase Primitive morality seems to have developed out of the notion of taboo; that is to say, it was originally purely superstitious, and forbade certain perfectly harmless acts on the supposed ground that they produced disaster by magical means. (line 5) The earliest morality seems to have originated from the idea of taboo; that is to say, the earliest morality was originally only superstitious, and prohibited certain completely harmless actions because they were supposed to cause tragedy through magic means. On the ground(s) that/of: because (of) Peter always declines his friends invitations on the ground that his wife would blame him for coming back late.
Paragraph 6 Paragraph 6 is mainly about : our current ethic is a curious mixture of superstition and rationalism Why do we say our current ethic is a mixture of superstition and rationalism ? Because in social practice we now still believe that the virtue consists in not doing instead of doing.
Language Points set apart: make noticeable or different; separated from e.g. 1) The separation of words into sense groupings is one of the things that sets this dictionary apart. 2) What set her apart from the other candidates for the job was that she had a lot of original ideas.
Language Points abstain form: hold oneself back; refrain e.g.1) His doctor told him to abstain from beer and wine. 2) At the last election he abstained from voting. inculcate … in … : fix ideas, beliefs, etc., in one s mind by repetition e.g.1) We need to inculcate in young people the duty of loyalty. 2) Our football couch has worked hard to inculcate a team spirit in the players.
Language Points profit by/from sth.: to achieve an advantage from it; learn from it e.g.1) He s getting married again, after two divorces, so he obviously hasn t profited by his experience. 2) I certainly profited from the two years I spent in that company.
Language Points know of: have information about or experience of sb./sth. e.g. 1) Do you know of any way to stop a person snoring? 2) I don t know him personally, though I know of him.
Paragraph 7 Benthan advocated and expected : The greatest happiness of the greatest number as the basis of morals. The authors attitude towards Benthans ideas: Support them. (much more arduous life; make himself the champion of the oppressed; incur the enmity of the great etc.)
Comprehension official morality : morality that is held to be the norm by society but which society may or may not actually live by. Authors opinion about official morality : It has always been oppressive and negative. It seems unlikely that any large-scale improvements will come.
Main idea of paragraph 7 Traditional morality (seems) not perfect, but large-scale improvement (seems) unlikely.
Para7 language Points alienate (from) : cause someone to stop supporting and agreeing; cause someone to feel very distant from or not welcome e.g.The prime Minister s policy alienated many of his followers. Ten years in prison has alienated him from his family.
Para 7 Paraphase …but only if it is conducted with a view to nothing more than momentary pleasure. … but it will be the case only if it is done with the idea of gaining temporary pleasure.
Part IV (Para. 8) Conclusion drawn from the last paragraph: With the progress of reason and science, men gradually come to realize that the world whose institutions are based upon hatred and injustice is not the one most likely to produce happiness. The harm that good men do results from such a world.
Translation 1.So-called ideally good men, in fact, are not always of benefit to society and the standards of goodness have long been argued. 2.The morals of good men must be irreproachable and they mustnt be so indifferent to the things causing harm to society.
3.They try to be assiduous and earnest and see to it that they finish their work smoothly; they never give any thought to personal fame and position. 4.Scandals can defame a genuinely good man, while flattery can make an evil man a good man. 5.He cannot tell good men from evil ones, so bad men often use the goodness of good men to screen their villains.
6.They often elbowed out the undesirable, which made it impossible for them to continue their work. 7.Although he was forced,he was not afraid of that and continued his own experiment, which was calculated to be successful. 8.The poor man was sentenced to be imprisoned for life on the ground that he had stolen bread from a store.
9.They have kept track of his activities, but havent found any suspected behavior. 10.Many people were against him for his violation of some conventional concepts. But still some others followed suit.