Russell’s private life was even more unconventional and freewheeling than his published writings revealed, but that was not well known at the time. For example, philosopher Sidney Hook reports that Russell often spoke of his sexual prowess and of his various conquests. To uphold what you consider is rational and correct, even if it is against society’s prevalent and accepted norms and traditions is to invite thunderstorm. What price one pays or the details of how Bertrand Russell was outlawed ought not to be missed.
Russell Lost Election
He ran for Parliament in a by-election, which he lost by a wide margin.
Russell Judged Unfit To Be Professor
The Bertrand Russell Case edited by John Dewey and Horace M Kallen is a collection of articles on Bertrand Russell’s court dismissal as Professor of Philosophy at the College of the City of New York (CCNY) in 1940.
Media was against Russell
Russell’s appointment was confirmed by New York’s Board of Higher Education in spite of a media frenzy led by Dr William T. Manning, the Episcopal Bishop of New York.
Supreme Court Ruling Against Bertrand Russell
The matter was, however, taken to the New York Supreme Court by Jean Kay who was afraid that her daughter would be harmed by the appointment although her daughter was not a student at CCNY. The judge hearing the case was the Irish Catholic John E. McGeehan who on the basis of four of Russell’s popular and non-philosophic books (On Education, What I Believe, Education and the Modern World, and Marriage and Morals) ruled against ‘a chair of indecency,’ finding Russell morally unfit to teach philosophy. In the books, Russell among other things advocated sex before marriage.
Russell was prevented from appearing in court and an appeal by the American Civil Liberties Union was denied in several courts. The City of New York’s lawyers told the Board of Higher Education that the verdict would not be appealed. A few days later Mayor LaGuardia removed the funds for the position from the budget.
How Russell interpreted Social Disapproval
When Russell later published the lectures he gave at Harvard that fall as An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth he added ‘Judicially pronounced unworthy to be Professor of Philosophy at the College of the City of New York’ to the listing of distinctions and academic honours on the title page in the English version.
Russell commented on Judge McGeehan that “As an Irish Catholic, his views were perhaps prejudiced” and compared his case to the case against Socrates saying that “precisely the same accusations were brought – atheism and corrupting the young”.
Judge McGeehan’s original ruling is published as Kay v. Board of Higher Ed. of City of New York, 18 N.Y.S.2d 821 (1940).