Quotes by Bertrand Russell
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Wikipedia Summary for Bertrand Russell
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".
The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.
A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy dare live.
The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Both in thought and in feeling, even though time be real, to realise the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom.
Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.
Reason is a harmonizing, controlling force rather than a creative one.
To save the world requires faith and courage: faith in reason, and courage to proclaim what reason shows to be true.
No great achievement is possible without persistent work.
A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live.
In all affairs, it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.
Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.
What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.
If there were in the world today any large number of people who desired their own happiness more than they desired the unhappiness of others, we could have a paradise in a few years.
To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.
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.
Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty -- a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The fundamental concept in social science is power, in the same sense in which energy is the fundamental concept in physics.
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 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.
The trouble with the world is that the stupid are so confident while the intelligent are full of doubt.
An irrational fear should never be simply let alone, but should be gradually overcome by familiarity with its fainter forms.
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.
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.
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.
The Eugenic Society ... is perpetually bewailing the fact that wage-earners breed faster than middle-class people.
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.
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.
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.
It is not by delusion, however exalted, that mankind can prosper, but only by unswerving courage in the pursuit of truth.
It is, of course, clear that a country with a large foreign population must endeavour, through its schools, to assimilate the children of immigrants. It is, however, unfortunate that a large part of this process should be effected by means of a somewhat blatant nationalism.
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.
With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway about the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.
Emphatic and reiterated assertion, especially during childhood, produces in most people a belief so firm as to have a hold even over the unconscious.
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.
Moreover, the attitude that one ought to believe such and such a proposition, independently of the question whether there is evidence in its favor, is an attitude which produces hostility to evidence and causes us to close our minds to every fact that does not suit our prejudices.
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.
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.
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.
When I was young, most teachers of philosophy in British and American universities were Hegelians, so that, until I read Hegel, I supposed there must be some truth to his system; I was cured, however, by discovering that everything he said on the philosophy of mathematics was plain nonsense.
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!'.
The pursuit of social success, in the form of prestige or power or both, is the most important obstacle in a competitive society.
The pursuit of social success, in the form of prestige or power or both, is the most important obstacle to happiness in a competitive society.
I used often to go to America during Prohibition, and there was far more drunkenness there then than before; the prohibition of pornography has much the same effect.
I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment.
William James used to preach the 'will to believe.' For my part, I should wish to preach the 'will to doubt' ... what is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite.
Moral progress has consisted in the main of protest against cruel customs, and of attempts to enlarge human sympathy.
Man is a rational animal -- so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favour of this statement, but so far I have not had the good fortune to come across it, though I have searched in many countries spread over three continents.
Naive realism leads to physics, and physics, if true, shows naive realism to be false. Therefore naive realism, if true, is false; therefore it is false.
When I found myself regarded as respectable, I began to wonder what sins I had committed. I must be very wicked, I thought. I began to engage in the most uncomfortable introspection.
Where envy is unavoidable it must be used as a stimulus to one's own efforts, not to the thwarting of the efforts of rivals.
One comes across white men occasionally who suffer under the delusion that China is not a civilized country. Such men have forgotten what constitutes civilization.
To avoid the various foolish opinions to which mankind are prone, no superhuman genius is required. A few simple rules will keep you, not from all error, but from silly error.
The ideal of an all-round education is out of date; it has been destroyed by the progress of knowledge.
For a good notation has a subtlety and suggestiveness which at times make it seem almost like a live teacher.
It seems to me a fundamental dishonesty, and a fundamental treachery to intellectual integrity to hold a belief because you think it's useful and not because you think it's true.
What the world needs is not dogma but an attitude of scientific inquiry combined with a belief that the torture of millions is not desirable, whether inflicted by Stalin or by a Deity imagined in the likeness of the believer.
The dictum that human nature cannot be changed is one of those tiresome platitudes that conceal from the ignorant the depths of their own ignorance.
It will be found, as men grow more tolerant in their instincts,
that many uniformities now insisted upon are useless and even harmful.
The man who has fed the chicken every day throughout its life at last wrings its neck instead, showing that more refined views as to the uniformity of nature would have been useful to the chicken.
If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument... The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination.
No nation was ever so virtuous as each believes itself, and none was ever so wicked as each believes the other.
You may reasonably expect a man to walk a tightrope safely for ten minutes; it would be unreasonable to do so without accident for two hundred years.
Man can be stimulated by hope or driven by fear, but the hope and the fear must be vivid and immediate if they are to be effective without producing weariness.
In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying.
A great many worries can be diminished by realizing the unimportance of the matter which is causing anxiety.
I consider the official Catholic attitude on divorce, birth control, and censorship exceedingly dangerous to mankind.
All the time that he can spare from the adornment of his person, he devotes to the neglect of his duties.
Science does not aim at establishing immutable truths and eternal dogmas; its aim is to approach the truth by successive approximations, without claiming that at any stage final and complete accuracy has been achieved.
When two great powers disagree about anything -- it doesn't matter what -- they must find a way to settle it somehow by arbitration or by negotiation, not by war or threat of war.
To expect a personality to survive the disintegration of the brain is like expecting a cricket club to survive when all of its members are dead.
Aristotle and Plato considered Greeks so innately superior to barbarians that slavery is justified so long as the master is Greek and the slave barbarian.
The objection to propaganda is not only its appeal to unreason, but still more the unfair advantage which it gives to the rich and powerful.
The skill of the politician consists in guessing what people can be brought to think advantageous to themselves; the skill of the expert consists in calculating what really is advantageous, provided people can be brought to think so.
In a logically perfect language, there will be one word and no more for every simple object, and everything that is not simple will be expressed by a combination of words, by a combination derived, of course, from the words for the simple things that enter in, one word for each simple component.
The desire to understand the world and the desire to reform it are the two great engines of progress, without which human society would stand still or retrogress.
Travelling, whether in the mental or the physical world, is a joy, and it is good to know that, in the mental world at least, there are vast countries still very imperfectly explored.
To modern educated people, it seems obvious that matters of fact are to be ascertained by observation, not by consulting ancient authorities. But this is an entirely modern conception, which hardly existed before the seventeenth century.
I never held Negroes to be inherently inferior. The statement in Marriage and Morals refers to environmental conditioning. I have had it withdrawn from subsequent editions because it is clearly ambiguous.
It might seem that the empirical philosopher is the slave of his material, but that the pure mathematician, like the musician, is a free creator of his world of ordered beauty.
In all the creative work that I have done, what has come first is a problem, a puzzle involving discomfort.
There are certain things that our age needs. It needs, above all, courageous hope and the impulse to creativeness.
Boredom is essentially a thwarted desire for events, not necessarily pleasant ones, but just occurrences such as will enable the victim of ennui to know one day from another. The opposite of boredom, in a word, is not pleasure, but excitement.
Boredom is therefore a vital problem for the moralist, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.
With civilized men..., it is, I think, chiefly love of excitement which makes the populace applaud when war breaks out; the emotion is exactly the same as at a football match, although the results are sometimes somewhat more serious.
The first essential character of civilization, I should say, is forethought. This, indeed, is what mainly distinguishes men from brutes and adults from children.
Education, which was at first made universal in order that all might be able to read and write, has been found capable of serving quite other purposes. By instilling nonsense it unifies populations and generates collective enthusiasm.
Good nature is, of all moral qualities, the one that the world needs most, and good nature is the result of ease and security, not of a life of arduous struggle.
A man votes for one party and remains miserable; he concludes that it was the other party that would bring the millennium. By the time he is disenchanted with all parties, he is an old man on the verge of death; his sons retain the belief of his youth, and the see-saw goes on.
The State is a collection of officials, different for difference purposes, drawing comfortable incomes so long as the status quo is preserved. The only alteration they are likely to desire in the status quo is an increase of bureaucracy and the power of bureaucrats.
I must confess that I am deeply troubled. I fear that human beings are intent upon acting out a vast deathwish and that it lies with us now to make every effort to promote resistance to the insanity and brutality of policies which encompass the extermination of hundreds of millions of human beings.
I do not think that the real reason why people accept religion has anything to do with argumentation. They accept religion on emotional grounds.
I am myself a dissenter from all known religions, and I hope that every kind of religious belief will die out.
Mankind is divided into two classes: those who, being artificial, praise nature, and those who, being natural, praise art.
There is an element of the busybody in our conception of virtue: unless a man makes himself a nuisance to a great many people, we do not think he can be an exceptionally good man.
I think periods of browsing during which no occupation is imposed from without are important in youth because they give time for the formation of these apparently fugitive but really vital impressions.
I do not think any reasonable person can doubt that in India, China and Japan, if the knowledge of birth control existed, the birthrate would fall very rapidly.
My own view on religion is ... It helped in early days to fix the calendar, and ... to chronicle eclipses ... These two services I am prepared to acknowledge.
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