Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) 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".

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Of all forms of caution caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.

To fear love is to fear life and those who fear life are already three parts dead.

Drunkenness is temporary suicide.

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.

Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.

The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.

Against my will, in the course of my travels, the belief that everything worth knowing was known, at Cambridge gradually wore off. In this respect my travels were very useful to me.

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves.

Extreme hopes are born from extreme misery.

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.

Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.

Freedom in general may be defined as the absence of obstacles to the realization of desires.

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important.

Every philosophical problem, when it is subjected to the necessary analysis and justification, is found either to be not really philosophical at all, or else to be in the sense in which we are using the word logical.

The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists. That is why they invented Hell.

I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.

Man is a credulous animal and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.

Boredom is a vital problem for the moralist, since half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.

None but a coward dares to boast that he has never known fear.

A hallucination is a fact not an error, what is erroneous is a judgment based upon it.

Reason is a harmonising controlling force rather than a creative one.

Neither a man, nor a crowd, nor a nation, can be trusted to act humanely, or to think sanely, under the influence of a great fear.

We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought.

The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.

A life without adventure is likely to be unsatisfying, but a life in which adventure is allowed to take whatever form it will is sure to be short.

Ethics is in origin the art of recommending to others the sacrifices required for cooperation with oneself.

Dogmatism and skepticism are both in a sense absolute philosophies, one is certain of knowing the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or ignorance.

I like mathematics because it is not human and has nothing particular to do with this planet or with the whole accidental universe - because like Spinoza's God it won't love us in return.

If any philosopher had been asked for a definition of infinity he might have produced some unintelligible rigmarole but he would certainly not have been able to give a definition that had any meaning at all.

Contempt for happiness is usually contempt for other people's happiness and is an elegant disguise for hatred of the human race.

I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn't wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy not even mine.

All movements go too far.

The universe may have a purpose but nothing we know suggests that if so this purpose has any similarity to ours.

With the introduction of agriculture mankind entered upon a long period of meanness misery and madness from which they are only now being freed by the beneficent operation of the machine.

Most people would sooner die than think, in fact they do so.

The observer when he seems to himself to be observing a stone is really if physics is to be believed observing the effects of the stone upon himself.

Indignation is a submission of our thoughts but not of our desires.

Next to enjoying ourselves the next greatest pleasure consists in preventing others from enjoying themselves or more generally in the acquisition of power.

Fear is the main source of superstition and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.

It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.

Mathematics takes us into the region of absolute necessity to which not only the actual word but every possible word must conform.

Thought is subversive and revolutionary destructive and terrible Thought is merciless to privilege established institutions and comfortable habit. Thought is great and swift and free.

I do not pretend to start with precise questions. I do not think you can start with anything precise. You have to achieve such precision as you can as you go along.

The secret to happiness is to face the fact that the world is horrible.

In the revolt against idealism the ambiguities of the word experience have been perceived with the result that realists have more and more avoided the word.

No one gossips about other people's secret virtues.

One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts.

The coward wretch whose hand and heart can bear to torture aught below, is ever first to quail and start from the slightest pain or equal foe.

To understand a name you must be acquainted with the particular of which it is a name.

Freedom comes only to those who no longer ask of life that it shall yield them any of those personal goods that are subject to the mutations of time.

Many people when they fall in love look for a little haven of refuge from the world where they can be sure of being admired when they are not admirable and praised when they are not praiseworthy.

What is wanted is not the will to believe but the will to find out which is the exact opposite.

Religions which condemn the pleasures of sense drive men to seek the pleasures of power. Throughout history power has been the vice of the ascetic.

Obscenity is whatever happens to shock some elderly and ignorant magistrate.

Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.

Those who forget good and evil and seek only to know the facts are more likely to achieve good than those who view the world through the distorting medium of their own desires.

Freedom of opinion can only exist when the government thinks itself secure.

Science is what you know philosophy is what you don't know.

It is preoccupation with possessions more than anything else that prevents us from living freely and nobly.

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd.

War does not determine who is right - only who is left.

I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion as organized in its Churches has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.

Men who are unhappy like men who sleep badly are always proud of the fact.

Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim.

I remain convinced that obstinate addiction to ordinary language in our private thoughts is one of the main obstacles to progress in philosophy.

Machines are worshipped because they are beautiful and valued because they confer power, they are hated because they are hideous and loathed because they impose slavery.

Work is of two kinds: first altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relative to other matter, second telling other people to do so.

Right discipline consists not in external compulsion but in the habits of mind which lead spontaneously to desirable rather than undesirable activities.

So far as I can remember there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.

A truer image of the world I think is obtained by picturing things as entering into the stream of time from an eternal world outside than from a view which regards time as the devouring tyrant of all that is.

Democracy is the process by which people choose the man who'll get the blame.

Many people would sooner die than think, in fact they do so.

The slave is doomed to worship time and fate and death because they are greater than anything he finds in himself and because all his thoughts are of things which they devour.

In America everybody is of the opinion that he has no social superiors since all men are equal but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors for from the time of Jefferson onward the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards not downwards.

Religions that teach brotherly love have been used as an excuse for persecution and our profoundest scientific insight is made into a means of mass destruction.

The fundamental defect of fathers in our competitive society is that they want their children to be a credit to them.

The theoretical understanding of the world which is the aim of philosophy is not a matter of great practical importance to animals or to savages or even to most civilised men.

Anything you're good at contributes to happiness.

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.

Many a man will have the courage to die gallantly but will not have the courage to say or even to think that the cause for which he is asked to die is an unworthy one.

It seems to be the fate of idealists to obtain what they have struggled for in a form which destroys their ideals.

There is no need to worry about mere size. We do not necessarily respect a fat man more than a thin man. Sir Isaac Newton was very much smaller than a hippopotamus but we do not on that account value him less.

Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men, although he was twice married it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths.

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.

It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age, but if so it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door and this dragon is religion.

Love is something far more than desire for sexual intercourse, it is the principal means of escape from the loneliness which afflicts most men and women throughout the greater part of their lives.

Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country.

If all our happiness is bound up entirely in our personal circumstances it is difficult not to demand of life more than it has to give.

Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man but is nevertheless an intellectual vice.

To acquire immunity to eloquence is of the utmost importance to the citizens of a democracy.

Man needs for his happiness not only the enjoyment of this or that but hope and enterprise and change.

There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths.

I've made an odd discovery. Every time I talk to a savant I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk with my gardener I'm convinced of the opposite.

To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.

Much that passes as idealism is disguised hatred or disguised love of power.

Admiration of the proletariat like that of dams power stations and aeroplanes is part of the ideology of the machine age.

Order unity and continuity are human inventions just as truly as catalogues and encyclopedias.

A process which led from the amoeba to man appeared to the philosophers to be obviously a progress though whether the amoeba would agree with this opinion is not known.

Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling?

Awareness of universals is called conceiving and a universal of which we are aware is called a concept.

A sense of duty is useful in work but offensive in personal relations. People wish to be liked not to be endured with patient resignation.

Italy and the spring and first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy.

The most savage controversies are about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.

To teach how to live without certainty and yet without being paralysed by hesitation is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy in our age can do for those who study it.

Both in thought and in feeling even though time be real to realise the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom.

To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.

Sin is geographical.

The fundamental concept in social science is Power in the same sense in which Energy is the fundamental concept in physics.

When the intensity of emotional conviction subsides a man who is in the habit of reasoning will search for logical grounds in favour of the belief which he finds in himself.

Collective fear stimulates herd instinct and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.

Aristotle could have avoided the mistake of thinking that women have fewer teeth than men by the simple device of asking Mrs. Aristotle to keep her mouth open while he counted.

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

Liberty is the right to do what I like, license the right to do what you like.

The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming and seeks to be feared rather than loved. To this type belong many lunatics and most of the great men of history.

I believe in using words not fists. I believe in my outrage knowing people are living in boxes on the street. I believe in honesty. I believe in a good time. I believe in good food. I believe in sex.

Marriage is for women the commonest mode of livelihood, and the total amount of undesired sex endured by women is probably greater in marriage than in prostitution.

Mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about nor whether what we are saying is true.

Almost everything that distinguishes the modern world from earlier centuries is attributable to science which achieved its most spectacular triumphs in the seventeenth century.

The degree of one's emotions varies inversely with one's knowledge of the facts.

Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.

The place of the father in the modern suburban family is a very small one particularly if he plays golf.

No, we have been as usual asking the wrong question. It does not matter a hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing. The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful?

The true spirit of delight the exaltation the sense of being more than Man which is the touchstone of the highest excellence is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry.

The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.

There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.

The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.