Bertrand Russell quotes
Birthdate: 18. May 1872
Date of death: 2. February 1970
Other names: Bertrand Arthur William Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, essayist, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate. At various points in his life, Russell considered himself a liberal, a socialist and a pacifist, although he also confessed that his sceptical nature had led him to feel that he had "never been any of these things, in any profound sense." Russell was born in Monmouthshire into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in the United Kingdom.In the early 20th century, Russell led the British "revolt against idealism". He is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy along with his predecessor Gottlob Frege, colleague G. E. Moore and protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein. He is widely held to be one of the 20th century's premier logicians. With A. N. Whitehead he wrote Principia Mathematica, an attempt to create a logical basis for mathematics, the quintessential work of classical logic. His philosophical essay "On Denoting" has been considered a "paradigm of philosophy". His work has had a considerable influence on mathematics, logic, set theory, linguistics, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science and philosophy, especially the philosophy of language, epistemology and metaphysics.
Russell was a prominent anti-war activist and he championed anti-imperialism. Occasionally, he 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 war against Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany was a necessary "lesser of two evils" and criticised Stalinist totalitarianism, attacked 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". Wikipedia
Quotes Bertrand Russell
„The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.“
Often paraphrased as "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts."
Compare: "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision." B. Russell, New Hopes for a Changing World (1951). Compare also: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity." W. B. Yeats, The Second Coming (1919).
See also: Dunning-Kruger effect, Historical Antecedents https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect#Historical_antecedents.
1930s, Mortals and Others (1931-35)
„The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.“
Variant: The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.
„A stupid man's report of what a clever man says is never accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something that he can understand.“
Source: 1940s, A History of Western Philosophy (1945)
„The facts of science, as they appeared to him [Heraclitus], fed the flame in his soul, and in its light, he saw into the depths of the world.“
Source: 1910s, Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays http://archive.org/stream/mysticism00russuoft/mysticism00russuoft_djvu.txt (1918), Ch. 1: Mysticism and Logic
„You will have seen that my brother died suddenly in Marseilles. I inherit from him a title, but not a penny of money, as he was bankrupt. A title is a great nuisance to me, and I am at a loss what to do, but at any rate I do not wish it employed in connection with any of my literary work. There is, so far as I know, only one method of getting rid of it, which is to be attainted of high treason, and this would involve my head being cut off on Tower Hill. This method seems to me perhaps somewhat extreme…“
Letter to W. W. Norton, 11 March, 1931
"A Liberal Decalogue" http://www.panarchy.org/russell/decalogue.1951.html, from "The Best Answer to Fanaticism: Liberalism", New York Times Magazine (16/December/1951); later printed in The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (1969), vol. 3: 1944-1967, pp. 71-2
Context: The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:
1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.
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Source: 1930s, The Conquest of Happiness (1930)
„And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence“
Bertrand Russell's Best: Silhouettes in Satire (1958), "On Religion".<!--originally taken from What is an Agnostic? (1953).-->
Context: I observe that a very large portion of the human race does not believe in God and suffers no visible punishment in consequence. And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that he would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt his existence.
„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.“
1960s, The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (1967-1969)
Context: 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. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.
„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.“
As quoted in The Reader's Digest, Vol. 37 (1940), p. 90; no specific source given.
Variant: In all affairs – love, religion, politics, or business – it's a healthy idea, now and then, to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.
„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 made them.“
Part III: Man and Himself, Ch. 16: Ideas Which Have Become Obsolete, p. 158
Source: 1950s, New Hopes for a Changing World (1951)
1950s, The Russell-Einstein Manifesto (1955)
Context: We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties?
„The pursuit of philosophy is founded on the belief that knowledge is good, even if what is known is painful.“
1940s, Philosophy for Laymen (1946)
Context: The pursuit of philosophy is founded on the belief that knowledge is good, even if what is known is painful. A man imbued with the philosophic spirit, whether a professional philosopher or not, will wish his beliefs to be as true as he can make them, and will, in equal measure, love to know and hate to be in error. This principle has a wider scope than may be apparent at first sight.
„The place of the father in the modern suburban family is a very small one – particularly if he plays golf“
Introduction http://www.utilitarian.org/texts/newgeneration.html to The New Generation (1930)
Context: The place of the father in the modern suburban family is a very small one – particularly if he plays golf, which he usually does.