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Originally delivered in 1971 as the first Cambridge lectures in memory of Bertrand Russell, Problems of Knowledge and Freedom is a masterful and cogent synthesis of Noam Chomsky’s moral philosophy, linguistic analysis, and emergent political critique of America’s war in Vietnam. In the first half of this wide-ranging work, Chomsky takes up Russell’s lifelong search for the Originally delivered in 1971 as the first Cambridge lectures in memory of Bertrand Russell, Problems of Knowledge and Freedom is a masterful and cogent synthesis of Noam Chomsky’s moral philosophy, linguistic analysis, and emergent political critique of America’s war in Vietnam. In the first half of this wide-ranging work, Chomsky takes up Russell’s lifelong search for the empirical principles of human understanding, in a philosophical overview referencing Hume, Wittgenstein, von Humboldt, and others. In the following half, aptly titled “On Changing the World,” Chomsky applies these concepts to the issues that would remain the focus of his increasingly political work of the period—his criticisms of the war in Indochina and the Cold War ideology that supported it, of the centralization of U.S. decision-making in the Pentagon and the growing influence of multinational corporations in those circles, and of the politicization of American universities in the post–World War II years, as well as his analyses of the Cuban Missile Crisis and Nixon’s foreign policies.


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Originally delivered in 1971 as the first Cambridge lectures in memory of Bertrand Russell, Problems of Knowledge and Freedom is a masterful and cogent synthesis of Noam Chomsky’s moral philosophy, linguistic analysis, and emergent political critique of America’s war in Vietnam. In the first half of this wide-ranging work, Chomsky takes up Russell’s lifelong search for the Originally delivered in 1971 as the first Cambridge lectures in memory of Bertrand Russell, Problems of Knowledge and Freedom is a masterful and cogent synthesis of Noam Chomsky’s moral philosophy, linguistic analysis, and emergent political critique of America’s war in Vietnam. In the first half of this wide-ranging work, Chomsky takes up Russell’s lifelong search for the empirical principles of human understanding, in a philosophical overview referencing Hume, Wittgenstein, von Humboldt, and others. In the following half, aptly titled “On Changing the World,” Chomsky applies these concepts to the issues that would remain the focus of his increasingly political work of the period—his criticisms of the war in Indochina and the Cold War ideology that supported it, of the centralization of U.S. decision-making in the Pentagon and the growing influence of multinational corporations in those circles, and of the politicization of American universities in the post–World War II years, as well as his analyses of the Cuban Missile Crisis and Nixon’s foreign policies.

30 review for Problems of Knowledge and Freedom: The Russell Lectures

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rookie

    The Left and its role as the ‘true bearers of consciousness”. I wonder if the Right consciously sees itself as the opposite?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Billie Pritchett

    Problems of Knowledge and Freedom are two long lectures Noam Chomsky gave in memory of philosopher and political activist Bertrand Russell. Fittingly, the lectures are entitled "How to Interpret the World" and "How to Change the World." The first lecture begins by discussing Russell's attempt to understand how human beings come to have knowledge, and the second lecture begins by discussing Russell's political activism relative to war and education, among others. However, both lectures wind up be Problems of Knowledge and Freedom are two long lectures Noam Chomsky gave in memory of philosopher and political activist Bertrand Russell. Fittingly, the lectures are entitled "How to Interpret the World" and "How to Change the World." The first lecture begins by discussing Russell's attempt to understand how human beings come to have knowledge, and the second lecture begins by discussing Russell's political activism relative to war and education, among others. However, both lectures wind up being a springboard for Chomsky's own interests. The first lecture comes to be about how Russell's and other philosopher's methods for investigating how human beings come to acquire knowledge is wrong and that a more fitting understanding would have to deal with the innate cognitive capacities of human beings, which is what Chomsky investigates himself. The second lecture comes to be about Chomsky's opposition to the Vietnam War and his agreement with Russell that a democratic socialism is the proper way to organize government. The book does wind up, though, being a decent introduction to Chomsky's two main intellectual pursuits, namely cognitive science and politics.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Berkay Aras

    "Hümanist anlayış bir çocuğa, tıpkı bir bahçıvanın bir fidana baktığı gibi, yani içsel bir doğaya sahip olan ve elverişli toprak, hava ışık sağlandığındığında hayranlık uyandırıcı bir şekilde gelişecek bir şey gibi bakar" (...) "Bu arada var olduğumuz dünyanın başka amaçları da var. Ama bu dünya kendi hiddetli tutkularının ateşinde yanarak yok olup gidecek ve onun küllerinden, taze bir umutla dolu, gözlerinde sabahın aydınlığı olan yeni ve genç bir dünya yeşerecek" "Hümanist anlayış bir çocuğa, tıpkı bir bahçıvanın bir fidana baktığı gibi, yani içsel bir doğaya sahip olan ve elverişli toprak, hava ışık sağlandığındığında hayranlık uyandırıcı bir şekilde gelişecek bir şey gibi bakar" (...) "Bu arada var olduğumuz dünyanın başka amaçları da var. Ama bu dünya kendi hiddetli tutkularının ateşinde yanarak yok olup gidecek ve onun küllerinden, taze bir umutla dolu, gözlerinde sabahın aydınlığı olan yeni ve genç bir dünya yeşerecek"

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rhys

    Already almost 50 years in print, this book shows how consistently humanist and critical of hypocrisy Chomsky's thought has been. From the introduction: "The task of a liberal education, Bertrand Russell once wrote, is 'to give a sense of the value of things other than domination, to help to create wise citizens of a free community, and through the combination of citizenship with liberty in individual creativeness to enable men to give to human life that splendor which some few have shown that it Already almost 50 years in print, this book shows how consistently humanist and critical of hypocrisy Chomsky's thought has been. From the introduction: "The task of a liberal education, Bertrand Russell once wrote, is 'to give a sense of the value of things other than domination, to help to create wise citizens of a free community, and through the combination of citizenship with liberty in individual creativeness to enable men to give to human life that splendor which some few have shown that it can achieve.'"

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mick Pletcher

    Although Chomsky is one of my favorite philosophers and authors, this book was really two books meshed into one. The first half is Chomsky discussing linguistics and the second half is about the Vietnam war. Both parts are very interesting and I learned some about the Vietnam’s war that I did not know, but it does kind of throw you when the subject changes half way through the book. I actually put the book down at that point and came back to finish it up days later.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brian Beatty

    The second essay, On Changing the World, is the better of the two.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Fanymoon

    Interesante.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bree Barile

    Repetitive and not recommend as a first choice for Chomsky readers. I wish I had read On Anarchism first. It was a quick read though.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Grant

    It’s quite hard to get into Chomsky’s language lectures sometimes but the second half of this book is quite indispensable when it comes to his views on US foreign policy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Larsson

    I really like Chomsky, I think many of his theories and opinions regarding linguistics are fascinating, I also think that Chomsky is a succinct and important political intellectual and I agree with a lot of the ideas he brings up in this book. More than that I am also a big fan of Russell and I think his legacy is of huge importance. You can thus imagine my excitement when I realized that all of these elements were brought together in this book called "Problems of Knowledge and Freedom" My main i I really like Chomsky, I think many of his theories and opinions regarding linguistics are fascinating, I also think that Chomsky is a succinct and important political intellectual and I agree with a lot of the ideas he brings up in this book. More than that I am also a big fan of Russell and I think his legacy is of huge importance. You can thus imagine my excitement when I realized that all of these elements were brought together in this book called "Problems of Knowledge and Freedom" My main issue with this book is that I'm not quite sure who this book is directed toward. I mean as I previously said I am a big fan of the subjects (philosophy, linguistics, politics), the author and Russell himself but I felt like I wasn't really engaged during the majority of the book. In both parts of the book, I felt like Chomsky used Russell as a platform to propagate many of his own thoughts and viewpoints with little regard to how this actually related to Russell. About 3/4 into the book I found myself really engaged when Chomsky discussed his and Russell's dream of a liberal socialist utopia, in this chapter Chomsky ran his discourse alongside what Russell's writing and I found this interaction immensely capturing. If this was the case throughout the entire book I could easily see this being a great read, but I unfortunately, left this book with a mellow feeling of "this could have been much better".

  11. 5 out of 5

    Son Tung

    Many points Chomsky drew open my mind to new ideas, especially his comments on freedom, goverment, corporation and VietNam War. Favorite quotes: - As the physicists are busing engineering the world of annihilation, the social scientists can be entrusted with a smaller mission of engineering the world of consent. - Argue as much as you like, whatever you like, but, OBEY! Russell often expressed this: - Man's true life consisted in art and love and the creation and contemplation of beauty and in the s Many points Chomsky drew open my mind to new ideas, especially his comments on freedom, goverment, corporation and VietNam War. Favorite quotes: - As the physicists are busing engineering the world of annihilation, the social scientists can be entrusted with a smaller mission of engineering the world of consent. - Argue as much as you like, whatever you like, but, OBEY! Russell often expressed this: - Man's true life consisted in art and love and the creation and contemplation of beauty and in the scientific understanding of the world. If this is the true glory of man, then it is the intrinsic principle of mind that should be the object of our awe and if possible our inquiry. - Education should not aim at a passive awareness of dead facts but at an activity directed towards the world that our efforts are to create.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Leonardo Fontes

    Noam Chomsky discorre sobre os ideais de humanismo de Bertrand Russel através de estudos e digressões de lingüística e política, em particular as incursões americanas na Indochina e no Vietnan. As palestras de 1971 são do início de uma carreira que viria a ser brilhante e prenúncio da oposiçao de Noam ao chamado modo americano de ver o mundo, com todas suas interferências "humanitárias". Embora seja um ótimo começo na obra de Chomsk, existem livros de produção mais recente com um pensamento já ma Noam Chomsky discorre sobre os ideais de humanismo de Bertrand Russel através de estudos e digressões de lingüística e política, em particular as incursões americanas na Indochina e no Vietnan. As palestras de 1971 são do início de uma carreira que viria a ser brilhante e prenúncio da oposiçao de Noam ao chamado modo americano de ver o mundo, com todas suas interferências "humanitárias". Embora seja um ótimo começo na obra de Chomsk, existem livros de produção mais recente com um pensamento já mais maduro, fortemente ligado a conceitos de liberalismo e anarquismo. Leitura rápida, porém não essencial para conhecer melhor Noam Chomsk.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Matteo

    It contains two lectures given by Noam Chomsky - one on linguistics, that is hard for a non-linguist such as myself to follow. The other one has to do with the US invasion and destruction of Vietnam. I read it a long time ago and rememebr it vaguely at best, but it was part of my political awakening - and it draws a direct line between Chomsky and Bertrand Russell (another hero).

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nativeabuse

    These two lectures really don't go at all together, other than the fact that they are both about russell, they just don't really go together. Also the lectures themselves were not very good and didn't amount to much in the end. I was really disappointed. These two lectures really don't go at all together, other than the fact that they are both about russell, they just don't really go together. Also the lectures themselves were not very good and didn't amount to much in the end. I was really disappointed.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Casper Borly

    I especially liked the first part about knowledge.

  16. 5 out of 5

    John

    This is the book I got Chomsky to sign in Florida. His most concrete political analysis about a potential future society.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Signe White

    A bit dense, but interesting.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Miller

    Exceptional, thought-provoking ideas from a man that truly has no equals in contemporary philosophy.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mattia Pedrazzoli

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  21. 4 out of 5

    heba abdelall

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alven

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael Voyles

  24. 4 out of 5

    Charles Marlow

  25. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

  26. 4 out of 5

    Aila

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hmmm

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ankit Yadav

  29. 4 out of 5

    Veeler.Play

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mohamed Lotfy

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