Editor's comment

Famous for his controversial opinions and vocal pacifism in wartime this mathematician and philosopher was also a brilliant writer. "A Free Man's Worship" is a moving stoic reaction to the world-view of a purposeless universe.

A universe where "all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and [where] the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins."

When this was written the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics [the spreading out of energy] dominated thinking about
the distant future. There did not seem to be any positive organizational processes at work in the universe.


Russell, Bertrand, A Free Man’s Worship, 1918 [abstract—110 words] read the full version of the essay, the literary masterpiece of defiance in a seemingly purposeless universe

[Editor's note: Any abstract of this famous essay could not do it justice. The abridged document is one-third the length of the original. But the original deserves to be read for the beauty of its language alone.]

Science shows Russell a universe without purpose or plan. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics predicts that the universe will cool to extinction and no matter how humans may strive, their end, decreed by nature, is death.

Yet, humans have some freedom of choice, some ways of acting that Russell describes. They can thereby assert a “subtle mastery over the thoughtless forces of Nature” and then they can stand “proudly defiant of the irresistible forces.”