Oct 3, 2017
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”
In this episode of Made You Think, we read through “In Praise of Idleness” by Bertrand Russell and discussed some of its main ideas. This episode was fun since we were able to read the whole essay throughout the show, stopping and starting as topics caught our interest. Whether you’ve read Russell before, or this is your first introduction to him, this essay is full of ideas that will make you think about whether you need to spend more time goofing off and relaxing.
We covered a wide range of topics, including:
If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to listen to our episode on The Sovereign Individual, to better prepare yourself for the cyber-economic future, and to listen to our episode on Antifragile, to learn how to turn chaos to your advantage!
Mentioned in the show:
0:00 - Intro to the discussion on In Praise of Idleness. Some background on the author Bertrand Russell and on the book itself.
4:56 - Continuation of the essay. Some perspective on spending and saving money, working, and the work system of society. Some of the issues that Bertrand sees in the world.
7:52 - Thoughts on spending money on leisure compared to spending money on business or work.
13:00 - The next passage of the book, discussing the prospect of working less, adding more idleness to your life, and balancing both of those in today’s society.
16:28 - The history of work systems throughout time and in various geographic locations. How these systems of long work hours have impacted us today and how aspects of wealth have changed.
20:40 - Thoughts on how high work hours have negatively impacted our creativity and some extreme issues in the modern workforce.
27:09 - An important technique that you can use to improve your daily productivity and to prioritize your work.
29:48 - Issues with modern companies regarding high work hours and employee productivity. Also, the mentality of people wanting and promoting hard work and long hours, and the stigmas regarding these.
37:28 - Idleness possibly leading to chaos and the importance of having meaningful leisurely time. Some thoughts on the transition from high works hours to lower work hours.
41:01 - Russell’s thoughts on keeping the idle occupied by producing munitions and objects of war. Companies doing this currently as well, by promoting spending.
48:29 - The next passages on dismissing work as nobility, keeping people contented with work, people not knowing what to do with excess leisure time, teaching people how to better spend their leisurely time, and more.
57:03 - Losing creative energy due to doing unfulfilling work and instead, doing work that you enjoy to save that creative energy for other things. Also, doing things for enjoyment rather than trying to gain something out of it, especially with reading books.
1:01:20 - Getting hooked on reading by reading books that radically change your conception of the world and reading more books to gain those types of experiences again.
1:02:39 - Thoughts on what may happen with giving people unlimited free time and discussing the issue with people who are used to receiving bite-sized pieces of information. Also, untraining yourself from stimulus to get out of passive leisure and getting into active leisure.
1:08:10 - Russell’s thoughts on leisurely time being where our greatest ideas and inspirations come from, and on needing that time to think and to study. Also, a bit on the flaws of college with original ideas and intellectual exploration being ignored.
1:14:43 - Last passage from the book. His utopian vision for the twenty hour work week and some thoughts on what would happen if this was implemented. Also, changing our viewpoint on war and the military.
1:22:13 - The challenge of defining what work and leisure actually are and how they are not well defined today compared to Russell’s days.
1:24:58 - Wrap-up, some closing thoughts, and some key takeaways.
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“The pleasures of urban populations have become mainly passive: seeing cinemas, watching football matches, listening to the radio, and so on. This results from the fact that their active energies are fully taken up with work; if they had more leisure, they would again enjoy pleasures in which they took an active part.”