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Keeping errors at Bay – Four Levels | Adventures In English Vol II

Keeping Errors At Bay Four Levels

Unit : Four ( Critical and Creative Thinking )
Written By : Bertrand Russell(18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970).He was a British philosopher , logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist and Nobel laureate. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had “never been any of these things, in any profound sense”.

Literal Comprehension:

“Keeping errors at Bay” is an beautiful essay written by Bertrand Russell. who is regarded as one of twentieth century’s most erudite men. In this essay, Russell has clearly indicated the causes of wrong ideas or opinions. Human beings tend to have various wrong opinions which can be avoided if some precautions are taken. Firstly, observation must be made. Thinking that we know when in fact we don’t is a fatal mistake. Secondly, we must compare our opinion or idea with others’. If an opinion different from ours makes us angry, we must understand that our opinion has no ground. We must make ourselves aware of our own bias. Thirdly, we must become aware of opinions held in social circles different from our own. We must travel to different places, talk to different people and read opposite party’s magazines and newspapers.

But we must avoid copying others’ foolish customs. Fourthly, we must imagine ourselves talking to an opponent before making an opinion about anything. This helps us to be less dogmatic and cocksure. Fifthly, we must avoid self-esteem that makes us biased. Human life is a brief episode in the life of a small planet in a little corner of the universe. Other parts of the cosmos may contain beings as superior to ourselves as we are to jelly-fish. Therefore, we must avoid human conceit. Finally, we must avoid fear of any kind that’s in our mind because fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. Wisdom and the pursuit of truth begin when fear is ended.


In this essay the writer might be trying to tell us that opinions often go in a wrong way because of lack of precautions while making them. So, we must always be aware of our biased views. The essay tries to tell us why human beings are unable to see the truth. They do not see the matter. They have illusion that they know everything without knowing it properly. It says that we have some mistakes generally we do not compare our idea with that of others. We unnecessarily feel pride and ignore things. Therefore, we commit crimes or errors.

Critical Thinking:

I like this essay very much as it gives very concrete idea about errors and their solutions. I appreciate the writer’s idea for being practical in life. I agree with many things which the essayist says but there are some questions in my mind.
• Who can remain without doing any error?
• How can one know that it is error and this not?
• Can we change our mind not to doing errors? Why people cannot find out the fact easily?
• How we can compare such things to those of the others?
• What are the forms of the truth?
• How to know that whose idea is right or wrong?


After reading the essay, I understood lots of ideas about errors and their types as well as their remedies (solution). I started to realize my mistakes in my life as I sometimes used to stubborn and think everything right. I started to honour other’s ideas. I also came to know why people mistake while making ideas. I realized how much mistake I was committing while forming ideas or opinions before. Therefore, I have started to change myself into a critical thinker by applying the opinion of the writer in my everyday thinking process.

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