Friday, 5 June 2020

In Praise of Idleness

 I have been pondering on how little I have managed to achieve in the period in which I have been confined to my home. I have read a great deal, but other than that I have done nothing of any value. I was reminded of the words of Bertrand Russell, who said that he didn't mind the time he spent in prison for his pacifism during the First World War because the lack of visitors and other interruptions meant he could get on and do something useful. Later on, in 1932, Russell wrote an essay entitled "In Praise of Idleness", in which he pointed out something that, judging by the way the UK government's financial response to the crisis has been structured, is clearly still true today: the idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich.

In addition to his fame as a philosopher, his campaigning for nuclear disarmament, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature etc, Russell was of course a very distinguished mathematician. A while ago I formed the intention of writing a post about why so many wargamers are mathematicians; or possibly it was going to be about why so many mathematicians are wargamers. That lack of clarity about the aim might be why I never got very far with the exercise. In fact the only thing I had decided, was to preface the piece with a quote from Russell: "Mathematicians neither know what they are talking about nor care whether what they say is true". I suspect that we all know at least one wargamer like that.


  1. Excellent. Not only does that last quote apply to mathematicians/wargamers, but I can think of certain Presidents and Prime Ministers too..

  2. Very good! I await your analysis on mathematicians and wargamers. Perhaps an informal poll of your readers would kick it off?