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Abstract

In his biography, Ray Monk expresses surprise and disgust that Bertrand Russell should have included a discussion of eugenics in his famous book on marriage and sexual morality, Marriage and Morals (1929). Monk is especially horrified that Russell advocated the sterilization of the “mentally defective”. He draws the conclusion that such views must have been due to a combination of Russell's negative feelings about his second wife, Dora, and his life-long fear of insanity. In fact Russell came to his views in dialogue with the dominant scientific and political communities of his day. Russell's position was the logical consequence of his fear of the rise of State intervention in society and the erosion of individual rights. When put into proper historical context, it is clear that it was Russell's engagement with early twentieth-century politics and science, not personal or psychological demons, that was the motive force behind his views on marriage and eugenics.

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