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Bertrand Russell

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

Works

„We love those who hate our enemies, and if we had no enemies there would be very few people whom we should love.“

—  Bertrand Russell

1950s, What Desires Are Politically Important? (1950)
Context: We love those who hate our enemies, and if we had no enemies there would be very few people whom we should love.
All this, however, is only true so long as we are concerned solely with attitudes towards other human beings. You might regard the soil as your enemy because it yields reluctantly a niggardly subsistence. You might regard Mother Nature in general as your enemy, and envisage human life as a struggle to get the better of Mother Nature. If men viewed life in this way, cooperation of the whole human race would become easy. And men could easily be brought to view life in this way if schools, newspapers, and politicians devoted themselves to this end. But schools are out to teach patriotism; newspapers are out to stir up excitement; and politicians are out to get re-elected. None of the three, therefore, can do anything towards saving the human race from reciprocal suicide.

„The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.“

—  Bertrand Russell

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.“

—  Bertrand Russell

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.

„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.“

—  Bertrand Russell

Source: 1910s, Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays http://archive.org/stream/mysticism00russuoft/mysticism00russuoft_djvu.txt (1918), Ch. 1: Mysticism and Logic

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

—  Bertrand Russell

"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
1950s
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.

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

—  Bertrand Russell

1920s, Marriage and Morals (1929)

„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

Bertrand Russell's Best: Silhouettes in Satire (1958), "On Religion".<!--originally taken from What is an Agnostic? (1953).-->
1950s
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.“

—  Bertrand Russell

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.“

—  Bertrand Russell

As quoted in The Reader's Digest, Vol. 37 (1940), p. 90; no specific source given.
Disputed
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.

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