Welcome to our collection of quotes (with shareable picture quotes) by Bertrand Russell. We hope you enjoy pondering them and that you will share them widely.
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British polymath. As an academic, he worked in philosophy, mathematics, and logic. His work has had a considerable influence on mathematics, logic, set theory, linguistics, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science (see type theory and type system) and various areas of analytic philosophy, especially logic, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of language, epistemology and metaphysics. Russell was also a public intellectual, historian, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate.
He was born in Monmouthshire into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in the United Kingdom.
Russell was one of the early 20th century's most prominent logicians, and one of the founders of analytic philosophy, along with his predecessor Gottlob Frege, his friend and colleague G. E. Moore and his student and protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein. Russell with Moore led the British "revolt against idealism". Together with his former teacher A. N. Whitehead, Russell wrote Principia Mathematica, a milestone in the development of classical logic, and a major attempt to reduce the whole of mathematics to logic (see Logicism). Russell's article "On Denoting" has been considered a "paradigm of philosophy".
Russell was a pacifist who championed anti-imperialism and chaired the India League. He occasionally advocated preventive nuclear war, before the opportunity provided by the atomic monopoly had passed and he decided he would "welcome with enthusiasm" world government. He went to prison for his pacifism during World War I. Later, Russell concluded that the war against Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany was a necessary "lesser of two evils" and also criticized Stalinist totalitarianism, condemned the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War and was an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament. In 1950, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought". He was also the recipient of the De Morgan Medal (1932), Sylvester Medal (1934), Kalinga Prize (1957), and Jerusalem Prize (1963).
Throughout his life, Russell considered himself a liberal, a socialist and a pacifist, although he later wrote he had "never been any of these things, in any profound sense".
Boredom is a vital problem for the moralist, since half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.
There is no nonsense so arrant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action.
The resistance to a new idea increases by the square of its importance.
The camera is as subjective as we are.
Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty -- a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture.
What men want is not knowledge, but certainty.
To the primitive mind, everything is either friendly or hostile; but experience has shown that friendliness and hostility are not the conceptions by which the world is to be understood.
It's a waste of energy to be angry with a man who behaves badly, just as it is to be angry with a car that won't go.
The place of the father in the modern suburban family is very small one, particularly if he plays golf.
Organizing your leisure effectively is the highest level of civilization.
One must care about a world one will never see.
The very best proof that something can be done is that someone has already done it.
It is a waste of energy to be angry with a man who behaves badly just as it is to be angry with a car that won't go.
The essence of the liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment.
To be able to concentrate for a considerable time is essential to difficult achievement.
The first effect of emancipation from the Church was not to make men think rationally, but to open their minds to every sort of antique nonsense.
Human life, its growth, its hopes, fears, loves, et cetera, are the result of accidents.
But the discipline you have in your life should be one determined by your own desires and your own needs, not put upon you by society or authority.
Those who in principle oppose birth control are either incapable of arithmetic or else in favor of war, pestilence and famine as permanent features of human life.
Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty.
The fundamental concept in social science is power, in the same sense in which energy is the fundamental concept in physics.
Every sane and sensible and quiet thing we do is absolutely ignored by the press.
Much that passes as idealism is disguised hatred or disguised love of power.
The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life. I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy; I mean that if you are happy you will be good.
Boredom is a vital problem for the moralist, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.
The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.
The pure mathematician, like the musician, is a free creator of his world of ordered beauty.
Most people would sooner die than start to think. In fact -- they do so.
The biggest cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid people are so sure about things and the intelligent folks are so full of doubts.
Time you enjoy wasting, was is wasted time.
The trouble with the world is that the stupid are so confident while the intelligent are full of doubt.
Keeping an open mind is a virtue, but not so open that your brains fall out.
An irrational fear should never be simply let alone, but should be gradually overcome by familiarity with its fainter forms.
Reason is a harmonizing, controlling force rather than a creative one.
Unless a man has been taught what to do with success after getting it, the achievement of it must inevitably leave him a prey to boredom.
I dislike Communism because it is undemocratic, and capitalism because it favors exploitation.
Love can flourish only as long as it is free and spontaneous; it tends to be killed by the thought of duty. To say that it is your duty to love so-and-so is the surest way to cause you to hate him of her.
Human nature is so constructed that it gives affection most readily to those who seem least to demand it.
In adolescence, I hated life and was continually on the verge of suicide, from which, however, I was restrained by the desire to know more mathematics. Now, on the contrary, I enjoy life; I might almost say that with every year that passes I enjoy it more.
In considering irregular appearances, there are certain very natural mistakes which must be avoided.
No matter how eloquently a dog may bark, he cannot tell you that his parents were poor, but honest.
There's a Bible on that shelf there. But I keep it next to Voltaire -- poison and antidote.
Suppose atomic bombs had reduced the population of the world to one brother and sister; should they let the human race die out?
The atomic bomb embodies the results of a combination genius and patience as remarkable as any in the history of mankind.
One who believes, as I do, that the free intellect is the chief engine of human progress, cannot but be fundamentally opposed to Bolshevism, as much as to the Church of Rome.
You may, if you are an old-fashioned schoolmaster, wish to consider yourself full of universal benevolence and at the same time derive great pleasure from caning boys. In order to reconcile these two desires you have to persuade yourself that caning.
All the conditions of happiness are realized in the life of the man of science.
Every advance in civilization has been denounced as unnatural while it was recent.
The Eugenic Society ... is perpetually bewailing the fact that wage-earners breed faster than middle-class people.
What will be the good of the conquest of leisure and health, if no one remembers how to use them?
I went to Russia a Communist; but contact with those who have no doubts has intensified a thousandfold my own doubts, not as to Communism in itself, but as to the wisdom of holding a creed so firmly that for its sake men are willing to inflict widespread misery.
Whether science-and indeed civilization in general-can long survive depends upon psychology, that is to say, it depends upon what human beings desire.
Through the greatness of the universe, which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good.
Calculus required continuity, and continuity was supposed to require the infinitely little; but nobody could discover what the infinitely little might be.
The true spirit of delight...is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.
Plato has dramatic strength ... but is quite unaware of the strength of the argument against his position ... and allows himself to be grossly unfair in arguing against it.
Dread of disaster makes everybody act in the very way that increases the disaster.
One of the main causes of trouble in the world is dogmatic and fanatical belief in some doctrine for which there is no adequate evidence.
Drunkenness is temporary suicide: the happiness that it brings is merely negative, a momentary cessation of unhappiness.
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so sure of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts.
Even when the experts all agree, they may well be mistaken.
It is the things for which there is no evidence that are believed with passion.
It is not by delusion, however exalted, that mankind can prosper, but only by unswerving courage in the pursuit of truth.
The essence of nice people is that they hate life as manifested in tendencies to co-operation, in the boisterousness of children, and above all in sex, with the thought of which they are obsessed. In a word, nice people are those who have nasty minds.
Mathematics is, I believe, the chief source of the belief in eternal and exact truth, as well as a sensible intelligible world.
Ethical metaphysics is fundamentally an attempt, however disguised, to give legislative force to our own wishes.
The essence of good manners consists in making it clear that one has no wish to hurt. When it is clearly necessary to hurt, it must be done in such a way as to make it evident that the necessity is felt to be regrettable.
When the journey from means to end is not too long, the means themselves are enjoyed if the end is ardently desired.
Mathematics takes us still further from what is human into the region of absolute necessity, to which not only the actual world, but ever possible world, must conform.
Emphatic and reiterated assertion, especially during childhood, produces in most people a belief so firm as to have a hold even over the unconscious.
A widespread belief is more often likely to be foolish than sensible.
The luxury to disparage freedom is the privilege of those who already possess it.
The faculty of being acquainted with things other than itself is the main characteristic of a mind.
Belief in a Divine mission is one of the many forms of certainty that have afflicted the human race.
I was made to learn Latin and Greek, but I resented it, being of opinion that it was silly to learn a language that was no longer spoken. I believe that all the little good I got from years of classical studies I could have got in adult life in a month.
Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
Perhaps the nuclear physicists have come so near to the ultimate secrets that He thinks it time to bring their activities to a stop. And what simpler method could He devise than to let them carry their ingenuity to the point where they exterminate the human race?
This is one of those views which are so absurd that only very learned men could possibly adopt them.
Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
Even in the most purely logical realms, it is insight that first arrives at what is new.
Extreme hopes are born of extreme misery, and in such a world hopes could only be irrational.
Hatred of enemies is easier and more intense than love of friends. But from men who are more anxious to injure opponents than to benefit the world at large no great good is to be expected.
All the important human advances that we know of since historical times began have been due to individuals of whom the majority faced virulent public opposition.
When I was a child ... Only virtue was prized, virtue at the expense of intellect, health, happiness, and every mundane good.
Many of the actions by which men have become rich are far more harmful to the community than the obscure crimes of poor men, yet they go unpunished because they do not interfere with the existing order.
I often long to ... give up my life to love of my neighbour. This is really a temptation.
Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
Mystery is delightful, but unscientific, since it depends upon ignorance.
Orthodoxy is the death of intelligence.
If I were granted omnipotence, and millions of years to experiment in, I should not think Man much to boast of as the final result of all my efforts.
In a democracy it is necessary that people should learn to endure having their sentiments outraged.
Animal rights, taken to their logical conclusion, mean votes for oysters.
Patriots always talk of dying for their country but never of killing for their country.
Dread of disaster makes everybody act in the very way that increases the disaster. Psychologically the situation is analogous to that of people trampled to death when there is a panic in a theatre caused by a cry of 'Fire!'.
Quotes by Bertrand Russell are featured in: