That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair can the soul’s habitation be safely built.
Bertrand Russell (from A Free Man's Worship, 1903)
[From this passage it is clear that Russell thinks that the case for scientific materialism is practically coercive. For purposes of philosophical discussion the grounds for his confidence are very interesting, for he seems to be implying either of the following: 1) if a non-material order of being did exist we would be able to establish it scientifically; but since science has no knowledge of it, it must not exist, or 2) a non-material order of being may indeed exist, but since science could never detect it, and since we must only believe what can be scientifically established, the intellectually responsible thing to do is ignore the possibility.]
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