I am not Socrates, but can you put me in two pages? I will be almost out of it. Yes, you can write the name of my father and the birthplace and the birth date and how many books I have written and a little bit of my life and how the life ends – but this is not philosophy.
This has nothing to do with Socrates – where he was born, when he was born. What about his vision, which provoked the whole of Greek orthodox, traditional, conventional people to such a point…and they were the most cultured in the world.
Jesus’ crucifixion can be forgiven because they were not the most cultured people of the world. Judea was an almost non-existential part of the world. Who cared about Judea? Who knew about Judea? And it was a slave country. But Athens was at the peak of its culture, sophistication, intelligence; perhaps nowhere else, in no other time, has any city reached to such a peak of wisdom as Athens reached in the time of Socrates. And I don’t think it will be possible again; Athens will remain unique.
Still that sophisticated, cultured, intelligent city decided to poison Socrates. His philosophy must have been a tremendously rebellious vision of life. In those two pages you won’t find that rebel anywhere, nor that rebelliousness anywhere.
Bertrand Russell got the Nobel prize for this book, for the simple reason that all the books written by him – all the other books – are in some way or other controversial. He himself was a man of great insight, and he was unorthodox, untraditional, unconventional.
He could write a book like Why I Am Not A Christian. He could write a book, Unpopular Essays, because every topic was against the mind of the society; it was unpopular. He could write Skeptical Essays which show his logical sharpness.
The Nobel prize awarding committee was in a difficulty. Russell was at the peak of his popularity. Not to give him the Nobel prize would be too apparently prejudiced. Fortunately he wrote this History Of Western Philosophy which, just being a history, has nothing controversial about it. What controversy could there be?
He is simply writing the history, and that too so condensed – and it has to be condensed. It is a one-thousand-page book, but two thousand years of philosophy, thousands of philosophers, many of whom are not even mentioned…. This was the most uncontroversial thing, and the Nobel prize-awarding committee thought it was a good chance to get rid of Bertrand Russell; give him the Nobel prize for this book – because he himself was a trouble-creating man.