A man's acts are partly determined by spontaneous impulse, partly by the conscious and unconscious effects of the various groups to which he belongs.
Even if we could be certain that one of the world's religions were perfectly true, given the sheer number of conflicting faiths on offer, every believer should expect damnation purely as a matter of probability.
Our instinctive emotions are those that we have inherited from a much more dangerous world, and contain, therefore, a larger portion of fear than they should.
I have come to realize that an early symptom of approaching mental illness is the belief that one's work is terribly important. If you consider your work very important you should take a day off.
One of the most interesting and harmful delusions to which men and nations can be subjected is that of imagining themselves special instruments of the Divine Will.
Skilled work, of no matter what kind, is only done well by those who take a certain pleasure in it, quite apart from its utility, either to themselves in earning a living, or to the world through its outcome.
I suggest to young professors that their first work should be written in a jargon only to be understood by the erudite few. With that behind them, they can ever after say what they have to say in a language 'understand of the people.'
The nonexistence of God makes more difference to some of us than to others. To me, it means that there is no absolute morality, that moralities are sets of social conventions devised by humans to satisfy their needs.
All the labor of all the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction. So now, my friends, if that is true, and it is true, what is the point?
It is no credit to the orthodox that they do not now believe all the absurdities that were believed 150 years ago. The gradual emasculation of the Christian doctrine has been effected in spite of the most vigorous resistance, and solely as the result of the onslaughts of freethinkers.
Always remember that true happiness is not in getting what you want, but wanting what you already have. He who dies with the most toys is still dead. What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.
There will still be things that machines cannot do. They will not produce great art or great literature or great philosophy; they will not be able to discover the secret springs of happiness in the human heart; they will know nothing of love and friendship.
Aristotle is the last Greek philosopher who faces the world cheerfully; after him, all have, in one form or another, a philosophy of retreat.
Politics is concerned with herds rather than with individuals, and the passions which are important in politics are, therefore, those in which the various members of a given herd can feel alike.
The most essential characteristic of scientific technique is that it proceeds from experiment, not from tradition. The experimental habit of mind is a difficult one for most people to maintain; indeed, the science of one generation has already become the tradition of the next.
The conception of the necessary unit of all that is resolves itself into the poverty of the imagination, and a freer logic emancipates us from the straitwaistcoated benevolent institution, which idealism palms off as the totality of being.
The method of postulating what we want has many advantages; they are the same as the advantages of theft over honest toil.
Love as a relation between men and women was ruined by the desire to make sure of the legitimacy of children.
Love can only flourish as long as it is free and spontaneous; it tends to be killed by the thought that it is a duty. To say that it is your duty to love so-and-so is the surest way to cause you to hate him or her.
A man of Seville is shaved by the Barber of Seville if and only if the man does not shave himself. Does the barber shave himself?
Broadly speaking, we are in the middle of a race between human skill as a means and human folly as an end.
Uncertainty in the pressure of vivid hopes and fears is painful, but must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales.
Every housemaid expects at least once a week as much excitement as would have lasted a Jane Austen heroine throughout a whole novel.
Perhaps the best hope for the future of mankind is that ways will be found of increasing the scope and intensity of sympathy.
The qualities most needed are charity and tolerance, not some form of fanatical faith such as is offered to us by the various rampant isms.
The happiness that is genuinely satisfying is accompanied by the fullest exercise of our faculties and the fullest realization of the world in which we live.
Joy of life... depends upon a certain spontaneity in regard to sex. Where sex is repressed, only work remains, and a gospel of work for work's sake never produced any work worth doing.
Marx's father became a Christian when Marx was a little boy, and some, at least, of the dogmas he must have then accepted seem to have born fruit in his son's psychology.
There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom. Shall we instead choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? I appeal as a human being to human beings; remember your humanity, and forget the rest.
Although it is a gloomy view to suppose that life will die out, sometimes when I contemplate the things that people do with their lives I think it is almost a consolation.
The world that we must seek is a world in which the creative spirit is alive, in which life is an adventure full of joy and hope, based rather upon the impulse to construct than upon the desire to retain what we possess or to seize what is possessed by others.
One of the chief obstacles to intelligence is credulity, and credulity could be enormously diminished by instructions as to the prevalent forms of mendacity.
For my part I distrust all generalizations about women, favorable and unfavorable, masculine and feminine, ancient and modern; all alike, I should say, result from paucity of experience.
Is a man what he seems to the astronomer, a tiny lump of impure carbon and water crawling impotently on a small and unimportant planet? Or is he what he appears to Hamlet? Is he perhaps both as once?
Moral indignation is one of the most harmful forces in the modern world, the more so as it can always be diverted to sinister uses by those who control propaganda.
After ages during which the earth produced harmless trilobites and butterflies, evolution progressed to the point at which it generated Neros, Genghis Khans, and Hitlers. This, however, is a passing nightmare; in time the earth will become again incapable of supporting life, and peace will return.
In mass cruelty, the expulsions of Germans ordered by the Russians fall not very far short of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis.
When you come to look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all the things that are in it, with all its defects, should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience has been able to produce in millions of years.
But I simply can't stand a view limited to this earth, I feel life is so small unless it has windows into other worlds...I like mathematics largely because it is not human.
There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our thoughts.
Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom.
Organic life, we are told, has developed gradually from the protozoon to the philosopher, and this development, we are assured, is indubitably an advance. Unfortunately it is the philosopher, not the protozoon, who gives us this assurance.
I think it would be just to say the most essential characteristic of mind is memory, using this word in its broadest sense to include every influence of past experience on present reactions.
No man is liberated from fear who dare not see his place in the world as it is; no man can achieve the greatness of which he is capable until he has allowed himself to see his own littleness.
Science can teach us, and I think our hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supporters, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make the world a fit place to live.
There have been poverty, pestilence, and famine, which were due to man's inadequate mastery of nature. There have been wars, oppressions and tortures which have been due to men's hostility to their fellow men.
Boys and girls should be taught respect for each other's liberty... and that jealousy and possessiveness kill love.
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones. Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty.
Broadly speaking, Protestants like to be good and have invented theology in order to keep themselves so, whereas Catholics like to be bad and have invented theology in order to keep their neighbors good. Hence, the social character of Catholicism and the individual character of Protestantism.
Protestants, from the first, have been distinguished from their opponents by what they do not believe; to throw over one more dogma is, therefore, merely to carry the movement one stage further. Moral fervor is the essence of the matter.
The more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs.
Everybody can do something toward creating in his own environment kindly feelings rather than anger, reasonableness rather than hysteria, happiness rather than misery.
Children, after being limbs of Satan in traditional theology and mystically illuminated angels in the minds of educational reformers, have reverted to being little devils; not theological demons inspired by the evil one, but scientific Freudian abominations inspired by the unconscious.
If one lived for ever the joys of life would inevitably in the end lose their savour. As it is, they remain perennially fresh.
They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom. Those who continually search for happiness will never find it. Happiness is made, not found. To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.
Real life is, to most men, a long second best, a perpetual compromise between the ideal and the possible.
Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake.
If a law were passed giving six months to every writer of a first book, only the good ones would do it.
I cannot escape from the conclusion that the great ages of progress have depended upon a small number of individuals of transcendent ability.
Measures of sterilization should, in my opinion, be very definitely confined to persons who are mentally defective.
Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man.
I believe four ingredients are necessary for happiness: health, warm personal relations, sufficient means to keep you from want, and successful work.
Upon hearing via Littlewood an exposition on the theory of relativity: To think I have spent my life on absolute muck.
No man can be a good teacher unless he has feelings of warm affection toward his pupils and a genuine desire to impart to them what he believes to be of value.
Any philosophy worth taking seriously would have to be built upon a firm foundation of unyielding despair.
I do not believe that I am now dreaming, but I cannot prove that I am not. I am, however, quite certain that I am having certain experiences, whether they be those of a dream or those of waking life.
A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow process of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers as though they were cut flowers in a vase.
Whenever you find yourself getting angry about a difference of opinion, be on your guard; you will probably find, on examination, that your belief is going beyond what the evidence warrants.
He will see himself and life and the world as truly as our human limitations will permit; realizing the brevity and minuteness of human life, he will realize also that in individual minds is concentrated whatever of value the known universe contains.
Arithmetic must be discovered in just the same sense in which Columbus discovered the West Indies, and we no more create numbers than he created the Indians.
What was exciting in the Victorian Age, would leave a man of franker epoch quite unmoved. The more prudes restrict the permissible degree of sexual appeal, the less is required to make such an appeal effective.
(on A History of Western Philosophy) I was sometimes accused by reviewers of writing not a true history but a biased account of the events that I arbitrarily chose to write of. But to my mind, a man without a bias cannot write interesting history -- if, indeed, such man exists.
The typical Westerner wishes to be the cause of as many changes as possible in his environment; the typical Chinaman wishes to enjoy as much and as delicately as possible.
A democrat need not believe that the majority will always reach a wise decision. He should however believe in the necessity of accepting the decision of the majority, be it wise or unwise, until such a time that the majority reaches another decision.
If a Black Death could be spread throughout the world once in every generation survivors could procreate freely without making the world too full.
Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion go hand in hand.
By self-interest, Man has become gregarious, but in instinct he has remained to a great extent solitary; hence the need of religion and morality to reinforce self-interest.
A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.
In emancipation from the fears that beset the slave of circumstance he will experience a profound joy, and through all the vicissitudes of his outward life he will remain in the depths of his being a happy man.
The human animal, like others, is adapted to a certain amount of struggle for life and the mere absence of effort from his life removes an essential ingredient of happiness... He forgets that to be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.
Machines deprive us of two things which are certainly important ingredients of human happiness, namely, spontaneity and variety.
A world full of happiness is not beyond human power to create; the obstacles imposed by inanimate nature are not insuperable. The real obstacles lie in the heart of man, and the cure for these is a firm hope, informed and fortified by thought.
It can be shown that a mathematical web of some kind can be woven about any universe containing several objects. The fact that our universe lends itself to mathematical treatment is not a fact of any great philosophical significance.
Ordinary language is totally unsuited for expressing what physics really asserts, since the words of everyday life are not sufficiently abstract. Only mathematics and mathematical logic can say as little as the physicist means to say.
Something of the hermit's temper is an essential element in many forms of excellence, since it enables men to resist the lure of popularity, to pursue important work in spite of general indifference or hostility, and arrive at opinions which are opposed to prevalent errors.
The more we realize our minuteness and our impotence in the face of cosmic forces, the more amazing becomes what human beings have achieved.
If the ordinary wage-earner worked four hours a day, there would be enough for everybody, and no unemployment -- assuming a certain very moderate amount of sensible organization. This idea shocks the well-to-do, because they are convinced that the poor would not know how to use so much leisure.
The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. Even those of the intelligent who believe that they have a nostrum are too individualistic to combine with other intelligent men from whom they differ on minor points.
Our individual life is brief, and perhaps the whole life of mankind will be brief if measured in astronomical scale.
When the state intervenes to insure the indoctrination of some doctrine, it does so because there is no conclusive evidence in favor of that doctrine.
Science tells us what we can know, but what we can know is little, and if we forget how much we cannot know we become insensitive to many things of great importance.
It is because modern education is so seldom inspired by a great hope that it so seldom achieves great results.
The three main extra-rational activities in modern life are religion, war, and love. all these are extra-rational, but love is not anti-rational, that is to say, a reasonable man may reasonably rejoice in its existence.
Law in origin was merely a codification of the power of dominant groups, and did not aim at anything that to a modern man would appear to be justice.
The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake.
The desire for legitimate offspring is, in fact, according to the Catholic Church, the only motive which can justify sexual intercourse.
I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of WORK, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in the organised diminution of work.
I am compelled to fear that science will be used to promote the power of dominant groups rather than to make men happy.
Adventurous men enjoy shipwrecks, mutinies, earthquakes, conflagrations, and all kinds of unpleasant experiences. They say to themselves, for example, 'So this is what an earthquake is like,' and it gives them pleasure to have their knowledge of the world increased by this new item.
I resolved from the beginning of my quest that I would not be misled by sentiment and desire into beliefs for which there was no good evidence.
You could live without the opera singer, but not without the services of the baker. On this ground you might say that the baker performs a greater service; but no lover of music would agree.
The search for something permanent is one of the deepest of the instincts leading men to philosophy.
It is not known why the Lord made the human body as he did, since one might suppose that omnipotence could have made it such as would not have shocked the nice people.
Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is nevertheless an intellectual vice. If you take your children for a picnic on a doubtful day, they will demand a dogmatic answer as to whether it will be fine or wet, and be disappointed in you when you cannot be sure.
The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists -- that is why they invented hell.
It is amusing to hear the modern Christian telling you how mild and rationalistic Christianity really is and ignoring the fact that all its mildness and rationalism is due to the teaching of men who in their own day were persecuted by all orthodox Christians.
Nine-tenths of the appeal of pornography is due to the indecent feelings concerning sex which moralists inculcate in the young; the other tenth is physiological, and will occur in one way or another whatever the state of the law may be.
Cynicism such as one finds very frequently among the most highly educated young men and women of the West, results from the combination of comfort and powerlessness.
At all times, except when a monarch could enforce his will, war has been facilitated by the fact that vigorous males, confident of victory, enjoyed it, while their females admired them for their prowess.
It is permissible with certain precautions to speak in print of coitus, but it is not permissible to employ the monosyllabic synonym for this word.
It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
That which exists through itself is called The Eternal. The Eternal has neither name nor shape. It is the one essence, the one primal spirit. Essence and life cannot be seen. They are contained in the light of heaven. The light of heaven cannot be seen. It is contained in the two eyes.
God and Satan alike are essentially human figures, the one a projection of ourselves, the other of our enemies.
There is as much difference between a collection of mentally free citizens and a community molded by modern methods of propaganda as there is between a heap of raw materials and a battleship.
Altogether it will be found that a quiet life is characteristic of great men, and that their pleasures have not been of the sort that would look exciting to the outward eye.
Inferences of Science and Common Sense differ from those of deductive logic and mathematics in a very important respect, namely, when the premises are true and the reasoning correct, the conclusion is only probable.
There is little of the true philosophic spirit in Aquinas. He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead.
The world in which we live can be understood as a result of muddle and accident; but if it is the outcome of deliberate purpose, the purpose must have been that of a fiend. For my part, I find accident a less painful and more plausible hypothesis.
Modern technique has made it possible for leisure, within limits, to be not the prerogative of small privileged classes, but a right evenly distributed throughout the community. The morality of work is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery.
The fundamental principle in the analysis of propositions containing descriptions is this: Every proposition which we can understand must be composed wholly of constituents with which we are acquainted.
My own belief is that in most ages and in most places obscure psychological forces led men to adopt systems involving quite unnecessary cruelty, and that this is still the case among the most civilized races at the present day.
Curious learning not only makes unpleasant things less unpleasant but also makes pleasant things more pleasant.
Punctuality is a quality the need of which is bound up with social co-operation. It has nothing to do with the relation of the soul to God, or with mystic insight, or with any of the matters with which the more elevated and spiritual moralists are concerned.
Modern life cannot be constructed on ... physically strenuous principles. A great deal of work is sedentary, and most manual work exercises only a few specialized muscles.
Change is scientific; progress is ethical; change is indubitable, whereas progress is a matter of controversy.
No satisfaction based upon self-deception is solid, and however unpleasant the truth may be, it is better to face it once and for all, to get used to it, and to proceed to build your life in accordance with it.
It is flattering to suppose that the universe is controlled by a Being who shares our taste and prejudices.
As soon as absolute truth is supposed to be contained in the saying of a certain man, there is a body of experts to interpret his sayings, and these experts infallibly acquire power, since they hold the key to truth. like any other privileged caste, they use their power for their own advantage.
Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear.....Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion has gone hand-in-hand.
It is not what the man of science believes that distinguishes him, but how and why he believes it. His beliefs are tentative, not dogmatic; they are based on evidence, not on authority or intuition.
The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widely spread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.
To choose one sock from each of infinitely many pairs of socks requires the Axiom of Choice, but for shoes the Axiom is not needed.
The Axiom of Choice is necessary to select a set from an infinite number of socks, but not an infinite number of shoes.
Another merit of home is that it preserves the diversity between individuals. If we were all alike, it might be convenient for the bureaucrat and the statistician, but it would be very dull, and would lead to a very unprogressive society.
For my part, the thing I would wish to obtain from money would be leisure with security. But what the typical modern man desires to get with it is more money, with a view to ostentation, splendour, and the outshining of those who have hitherto been his equals.
Collective wisdom, alas, is no adequate substitute for the intelligence of individuals. Individuals who opposed received opinions have been the source of all progress, both moral and intellectual. They have been unpopular, as was natural.
It is one of the defects of modern higher education that it has become too much a training in the acquisition of certain kinds of skill, and too little an enlargement of the mind and heart by an impartial survey of the world.
For the learning of every virtue there is an appropriate discipline, and for the learning of suspended judgment the best discipline is philosophy.
Humanistic ethics is based on the principle that only humans themselves can determine the criterion for virtue and not an authority transcending us.
I am aware that many divines are far more marvelous than I am, and that I cannot wholly appreciate merits so far transcending my own. Nevertheless, even after making allowances under this head, I cannot but think that Omnipotence operating through all eternity might have produced something better.
Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man, and our politicians take advantage of this prejudice by pretending to be even more stupid than nature has made them.
The fact that all Mathematics is Symbolic Logic is one of the greatest discoveries of our age; and when this fact has been established, the remainder of the principles of mathematics consists of the analysis of Symbolic Logic itself.
Those who advocate common usage in philosophy sometimes speak in a manner that suggests the mystique of the 'common man.'
The degree of one's emotions varies inversely with one's knowledge of the facts -- the less you know the hotter you get.
There is darkness without and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, nor vastness anywhere; only triviality for a moment and then nothing.
The examination system, and the fact that instruction is treated mainly as a training for a livelihood, leads the young to regard knowledge from a purely utilitarian point of view as the road to money, not as the gateway to wisdom.
I wish to propose for the reader's favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.
Men have physical needs, and they have emotions. While physical needs are unsatisfied, they take first place; but when they are satisfied, emotions unconnected with them become important in deciding whether a man is to be happy or unhappy.
True happiness for human beings is possible only to those who develop their godlike potentialities to the utmost.
Both men and women who have children as a rule regulate their lives largely with reference to them, and children cause perfectly ordinary men and women to act unselfishly in certain ways, of which perhaps life insurance is the most definite and measurable.
A habit of basing convictions upon evidence, and of giving to them only that degree or certainty which the evidence warrants, would, if it became general, cure most of the ills from which the world suffers.
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