Quotations by Russell, Bertrand


History is invaluable in increasing our knowledge of human nature because it shows how people may be expected to behave in new situations. Many prominent men and women are completely ordinary in character and only exceptional in their circumstances.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Understanding History, And Other Essays, “How to Read and Understand History” (1957)
Added on 25-Feb-11 | Last updated 25-Feb-11
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?” (1947)

Full text.

Added on 4-Nov-08 | Last updated 4-Nov-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” Unpopular Essays (1950)

Also in "Atheism and Agnosticism," Essays in Skepticism (1962).
Added on 16-Jul-07 | Last updated 29-Jan-14
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way. Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic, because in arithmetic there is knowledge, but in theology there is only opinion.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
Added on 23-Sep-08 | Last updated 29-Jan-14
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

As soon as we abandon our own reason, and are content to rely upon authority, there is no end to our troubles.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
Added on 11-Nov-08 | Last updated 29-Jan-14
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Be very wary of opinions that flatter your self-esteem.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
Added on 28-Nov-11 | Last updated 28-Nov-11
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Man is a rational animal — so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favor of this statement, but so far I have not had the good fortune to come across it.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
Added on 5-Dec-11 | Last updated 5-Dec-11
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

More cranks take up unfashionable errors than unfashionable truths.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
Added on 7-Dec-11 | Last updated 7-Dec-11
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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. If the matter is one that can be settled by observation, make the observation yourself. 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. He did not do so because he thought he knew. Thinking that you know when in fact you don’t is a fatal mistake, to which we are all prone. I believe myself that hedgehogs eat black beetles, because I have been told that they do; but if I were writing a book on the habits of hedgehogs, I should not commit myself until I had seen one enjoying this unappetizing diet.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
Added on 15-Mar-12 | Last updated 2-Jul-15
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish” (1943)
Added on 24-Jun-04 | Last updated 24-Jun-04
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

When one admits that nothing is certain one must, I think, also admit that some things are much more nearly certain than others.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Atheism and Agnosticism,” Essays in Skepticism (1962)
Added on 19-Mar-12 | Last updated 19-Mar-12
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

A life which goes excessively against natural impulse is […] likely to involve effects of strain that may be quite as bad as indulgence in forbidden impulses would have been. People who live a life which is unnatural beyond a point are likely to be filled with envy, malice and uncharitableness.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Authority and the Individual”
Added on 23-Apr-13 | Last updated 23-Apr-13
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

There are large parts of the Christian ethic which are universally admitted to be too good for this wicked world. We have in fact, two kinds of morality, side by side: one that we preach, but do not practice, and another that we practice, but seldom preach.

Russell - practice and preach - wist_info quote

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Eastern and Western Ideals of Happiness,” Sceptical Essays (1928)
Added on 6-Apr-09 | Last updated 23-Feb-16
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

It is clear that thought is not free if the profession of certain opinions makes it impossible to earn a living.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Free Thought and Official Propaganda,” lecture, South Place Institute, London (24 Mar 1922)

Full text
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | 2 comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

It is clear that the most elementary condition, if thought is to be free, is the absence of legal penalties for the expression of opinions. No great country has yet reached to this level, although most of them think they have. The opinions which are still persecuted strike the majority as so monstrous and immoral that the general principle of toleration can not be held to apply to them. But this is exactly the same view as that which made possible the tortures of the Inquisition. There was a time when Protestantism seemed as wicked as Bolshevism seems now.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Free Thought and Official Propaganda,” lecture, South Place Institute, London (24 Mar 1922)
Added on 7-Jan-08 | Last updated 7-Jan-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Freedom and Government” (1940)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Good Manners and Hypocrisy,” New York American (14 Dec 1934)
    (Source)
Added on 3-Jan-19 | Last updated 3-Jan-19
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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.

Russell - delusions divine will - wist_info quote

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
Added on 12-Aug-09 | Last updated 6-Jan-16
Link to this post | 3 comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

The reformative effect of punishment is a belief that dies hard, chiefly I think, because it is so satisfying to our sadistic impulses.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind,” Unpopular Essays (1951)
Added on 10-Mar-15 | Last updated 10-Mar-15
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

The instinct of conventionality, the horror of uncertainty, and vested interests, all militate against the acceptance of a new idea.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Individual Liberty and Public Control,” Atlantic (Jul 1917)
Added on 29-May-12 | Last updated 29-May-12
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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 I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Is There a God?” (1952)

Full essay
Added on 15-Oct-07 | Last updated 15-Oct-07
Link to this post | 1 comment
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

All movements go too far.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Being Modern-Minded,” The Nation (9 Jan 1937)

In context.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Neither acquiescence in skepticism nor acquiescence in dogma is what education should produce. What it should produce is a belief that knowledge is attainable in a measure, though with difficulty; that much of what passes for knowledge at any given time is likely to be more or less mistaken, but that the mistakes can be rectified by care and industry.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Education, Especially in Early Childhood” (1926)
Added on 8-Jul-08 | Last updated 8-Jul-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Knowledge, like other good things, is difficult, but not impossible; the dogmatist forgets the difficulty, the skeptic denies the possibility. Both are mistaken, and their errors, when widespread, produce social disaster.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Education, Especially in Early Childhood” (1926)
Added on 27-Jul-08 | Last updated 27-Jul-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

In acting upon our beliefs, we should be very cautious where a small error would mean disaster; nevertheless it is upon our beliefs that we must act.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Education, Especially in Early Childhood” (1926)
Added on 2-Sep-08 | Last updated 2-Sep-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Scientific Method in Philosophy,” Mysticism and Logic (1918)
Added on 11-Jan-10 | Last updated 11-Jan-10
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On the Value of Scepticism” (1928)


The essay appeared in The Will to Doubt and in Skeptical Essays, ch. 1 (1928).  Full text.

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Oct-10
Link to this post | 1 comment
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

We are now again in an epoch of wars of religion, but a religion is now called an “ideology.”

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Philosophy and Politics” (1946)
Added on 16-Dec-10 | Last updated 29-Jan-14
Link to this post | No comments
Topics:
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Philosophy and Politics” (1946)
    (Source)
Added on 9-Jul-13 | Last updated 29-Jan-14
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Philosophy for Laymen,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
Added on 21-Oct-08 | Last updated 29-Jan-14
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Science is what we know, and philosophy is what we don’t know.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Philosophy for Laymen,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
Added on 29-Jan-14 | Last updated 29-Jan-14
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

The widespread interest in gossip is inspired, not by a love of knowledge, but by malice: no one gossips about other people’s secret virtues, but only about their secret vices. Accordingly most gossip is untrue, but care is taken not to verify it. Our neighbour’s sins, like the consolations of religion, are so agreeable that we do not stop to scrutinize the evidence closely.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Aims of Education” (1929)
    (Source)

Usually shortened to "No one gossips about other people's secret virtues."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 6-Nov-15
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Best Answers to Fanaticism,” New York Times, “A Liberal Decalogue,” Commandment 7 (16 Dec 1951)

Full text.
Added on 5-Aug-08 | Last updated 5-Aug-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

One who believes as I do, that free intellect is the chief engine of human progress, cannot but be fundamentally opposed to Bolshevism as much as to the Church of Rome. The hopes which inspire communism are, in the main, as admirable as those instilled by the Sermon on the Mount, but they are held as fanatically and are as likely to do as much harm.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism” (1920)
Added on 19-May-08 | Last updated 19-May-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Every great study is not only an end in itself, but also a means of creating and sustaining a lofty habit of the mind.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Study of Mathematics,” Mysticism and Logic (1918)
    (Source)
Added on 22-Jan-15 | Last updated 22-Jan-15
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Russell - stupid cocksure - wist_info

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Triumph of Stupidity” (10 May 1933)

Often paraphrased, "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure, and the intelligent are full of doubt."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 18-Nov-15
Link to this post | 5 comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

The degree of one’s emotions varies inversely with one’s knowledge of the facts — the less you know the hotter you get.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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 (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 9-May-16
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
(Misattributed)

Attributed to many modern authors, including John Lennon,  T. S. Elliot, Lawrence J. Peter, and  Soren Kierkegaard. Most often attributed to Russell. it is actually a comment/interpretation by Peter in Peter's Quotations about a different Russell quote ("The thing that I should wish to obtain from money would be leisure with security"). In turn, the words were not original with Peter. More information.

Added on 25-May-11 | Last updated 25-May-11
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
A History of Western Philosophy, Bk. I, Part II, ch. 11 “Socrates” (1945)
Added on 7-Oct-08 | Last updated 7-Oct-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

The worse your logic, the more interesting the consequences to which it gives rise.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
A History of Western Philosophy, Book Three, part II, ch. 22 “Hegel” (1945)
Added on 1-Jul-08 | Last updated 1-Jul-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

There is no nonsense so arrant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1943)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Progress […] requires the utmost scope for personal initiative that is compatible with social order.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Authority and the Individual, ch. 6 (1949)
Added on 27-Nov-12 | Last updated 27-Nov-12
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

I was told that the Chinese said they would bury me by the Western Lake and build a shrine to my memory. I have some slight regret that this did not happen as I might have become a god, which would have been very chic for an atheist.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Autobiography (1968)
Added on 17-Mar-14 | Last updated 17-Mar-14
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Conquest of Happiness, ch. 1 “What Makes People Unhappy?” (1930)
Added on 24-Jun-08 | Last updated 24-Jun-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Conquest of Happiness, ch. 2 “Byronic Unhappiness” (1930)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Conquest of Happiness, ch. 6 “Envy” (1930)
Added on 17-Jun-08 | Last updated 17-Jun-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Conquest of Happiness, ch. 9 “Fear of Public Opinion” (1930)
Added on 22-Jul-08 | Last updated 22-Jul-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Conquest of Happiness, ch. 9 “Fear of Public Opinion” (1930)
Added on 15-Jul-08 | Last updated 15-Jul-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

It should be quite unnecessary to point the moral; the right telling of the story should be sufficient. Do not moralize, but let the facts produce their own moral in the child’s mind.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Education and the Good Life, ch. 11 (1926)
    (Source)
Added on 14-Jul-17 | Last updated 14-Jul-17
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (1948)
Added on 16-Sep-08 | Last updated 16-Sep-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Impact of Science on Society (1952)
Added on 26-Sep-07 | Last updated 26-Sep-07
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

No nation was ever so virtuous as each believes itself, and none was ever so wicked as each believes the other.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Justice in War-Time (1916)
Added on 15-May-08 | Last updated 15-May-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Righteousness cannot be born until self-righteousness is dead.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Justice in War-Time (1916)
Added on 26-Jan-15 | Last updated 26-Jan-15
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

It seems to me that science has a much greater likelihood of being true in the main than any philosophy hitherto advanced (I do not, of course, except my own). In science there are many matters about which people are agreed; in philosophy there are none. Therefore, although each proposition in a science may be false, and it is practically certain that there are some that are false, yet we shall be wise to build our philosophy upon science, because the risk of error in philosophy is pretty sure to be greater than in science. If we could hope for certainty in philosophy, the matter would be otherwise, but so far as I can see such a hope would be chimerical.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Logical Atomism (1924)
Added on 21-May-08 | Last updated 21-May-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Look (23 Feb 1954)
Added on 22-Apr-08 | Last updated 22-Apr-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Morality in sexual situations, when it is free from superstition, consists essentially of respect for the other person, and unwillingness to use that person solely as a means of personal gratification, without regard to his or her desires.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Marriage and Morals, ch. 11 (1929)
Added on 16-Jan-14 | Last updated 16-Jan-14
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Marriage and Morals, ch. 19 “Sex and Individual Well-Being” (1929)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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 widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Marriage and Morals, ch. 5 “Christian Ethics” (1929)
Added on 10-Jun-08 | Last updated 10-Jun-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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. On these grounds, although I fear that few will agree with me, I am firmly persuaded that there ought to be no law whatsoever on the subject of obscene publications.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Marriage and Morals, ch. 8 “The Taboo on Sex Knowledge” (1929)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
New York Herald Tribune Magazine (6 May 1938)
Added on 6-Mar-09 | Last updated 6-Mar-09
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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 paradise in a few years.

Russell - happiness unhappiness paradise - wist_info quote

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
New York Times (18 May 1961)
Added on 4-Feb-16 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Every man would like to be God, if it were possible; some few find it difficult to admit the impossibility.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Power: A New Social Analysis, ch. 1 “The Impulse to Power” (1938)
Added on 28-Oct-08 | Last updated 28-Oct-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Just as we teach children to avoid being destroyed by motor cars if they can, so we should teach them to avoid being destroyed by cruel fanatics, and to this end we should seek to produce independence of mind, somewhat sceptical and wholly scientific, and to preserve, as far as possible, the instinctive joy of life that is natural to healthy children. This is the task of a liberal education: to give a sense of the value of things other than domination, to help create wise citizens of a free community, and through the combination of citizenship with liberty in individual creativeness to enable men to give to human life that splendour which some few have shown that it can achieve.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Power: A New Social Analysis, ch. 18 “The Taming of Power” (1938)
Added on 9-Sep-08 | Last updated 9-Sep-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Something of the hermit’s temper is an essential element in many forms of excellence, since it enables a man 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.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Power: A New Social Analysis, ch. 2 (1938)
Added on 31-Mar-14 | Last updated 31-Mar-14
Link to this post | No comments
Topics:
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Principles of Social Reconstruction (1917)
Added on 27-May-08 | Last updated 27-May-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

The principal source of the harm done by the State is the fact that power is its chief end.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Principles of Social Reconstruction, ch. 2 (1916)
Added on 13-May-14 | Last updated 13-May-14
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

If the object were to make pupils think, rather than to make them accept certain conclusions, education would be conducted quite differently; there would be less … instruction and more discussion.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Principles of Social Reconstruction, ch. 5 (1916)
Added on 1-Feb-10 | Last updated 1-Feb-10
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Principles of Social Reconstruction, ch. 8 (1916)
Added on 31-Oct-12 | Last updated 31-Oct-12
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

A religious creed differs from a scientific theory in claiming to embody eternal and absolutely certain truth, whereas science is always tentative, expecting that modification in its present theories will sooner or later be found necessary, and aware that its method is one which is logically incapable of arriving at a complete and final demonstration.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Religion and Science, ch. 1 “Ground of Conflict” (1935)
Added on 19-Aug-08 | Last updated 19-Aug-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

The sciences have developed in an order the reverse of what might have been expected. What was most remote from ourselves was first brought under the domain of law, and then, gradually, what was nearer: first the heavens, next the earth, then animal and vegetable life, then the human body, and last of all (as yet very imperfectly) the human mind.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Religion and Science, ch. 3 (1935)
Added on 1-Jan-14 | Last updated 1-Jan-14
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

While it is true that science cannot decide questions of value, that is because they cannot be intellectually decided at all, and lie outside the realm of truth and falsehood. Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Religion and Science, ch. 9 “Science of Ethics” (1935)
Added on 25-Nov-08 | Last updated 25-Nov-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

It is natural to most men to suppose that they have enemies and to find a certain fulfillment of their nature when they embark upon a contest. What a man believes upon grossly insufficient evidence is an index to his desires — desires of which he himself is often unconscious. If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance with his instincts, he will accept it even on the slenderest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way, and much of what is currently believed in international affairs is no better than myth.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Roads to Freedom ch. 6 (1918)

Source
Added on 8-Sep-07 | Last updated 8-Sep-07
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holder’s lack of rational conviction. Opinions in politics and religion are almost always held passionately.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, Introduction (1928)
Added on 5-Jan-08 | Last updated 5-Jan-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Even when the experts all agree, they may well be mistaken.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, “Dreams and Facts” (1928)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | 2 comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, “Dreams and Facts” (1928)
Added on 4-Dec-07 | Last updated 4-Dec-07
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Education should have two objects: first, to give definite knowledge, reading and writing, language and mathematics, and so on; secondly, to create those mental habits which will enable people to acquire knowledge and form sound judgments for themselves.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, 12 (1928)
Added on 18-Jan-10 | Last updated 18-Jan-10
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, ch. 1, “The Value of Scepticism” (1928)
Added on 18-Nov-08 | Last updated 18-Nov-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Next to enjoying ourselves, the next greatest pleasure consists in preventing others from enjoying themselves, or, more generally, in the acquisition of power. Consequently those who live under the dominion of Puritanism become exceedingly desirous of power.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, ch. 10 (1928)
Added on 9-Sep-14 | Last updated 9-Sep-14
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

We must be skeptical even of our skepticism.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, ch. 11 (1928)
Added on 25-Jul-14 | Last updated 25-Jul-14
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, ch. 12 “Free Thought and Official Propaganda” (1928)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, ch. 6 (1928)
Added on 29-Jul-11 | Last updated 29-Jul-11
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The ABC of Relativity (1925)

Some sources give as "die sooner." Other variant: "Most people would rather die than think; many do."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

I was much cheered upon my arrival (in prison), by the warden at the gate, who had to take particulars about me. He asked my religion, and I replied, ‘Agnostic.’ He asked how to spell it, and remarked with a sigh, “Well, there are many religions, but I suppose they all worship the same God.”

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell: 1914-1944 (1968)
Added on 2-Apr-13 | Last updated 2-Apr-13
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

I have lived in the pursuit of a vision, both personal and social. Personal: to care for what is noble, for what is beautiful, for what is gentle; to allow moments of insight to give wisdom at more mundane times. Social: to see in imagination the society that is to be created, where individuals grow freely, and where hate and greed and envy die because there is nothing to nourish them. These things I believe, and the world, for all its horrors, has left me unshaken.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, Postscript (1967)
Added on 30-Sep-08 | Last updated 30-Sep-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

The ability to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization, and at present very few people have reached this level.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 14 (1930)
Added on 1-Jul-11 | Last updated 1-Jul-11
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

A certain power of enduring boredom is essential to a happy life. The lives of most great men have not been exciting except at a few great moments. A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 4 “Boredom and Excitement” (1930)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 4 “Boredom and Excitement” (1930)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 9 (1930)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | 2 comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they consider such departures as a criticism of themselves. They will pardon much unconventionality in a man who has enough jollity and friendliness to make it clear, even to the stupedist, that he is not engaged in criticizing them.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 9 (1930)
Added on 3-Nov-11 | Last updated 3-Nov-11
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The New York Herald-Tribune Magazine (6 Mar 1938)
Added on 14-Oct-08 | Last updated 14-Oct-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Problems of Philosophy, ch. 15 “The Value of Philosophy” (1912)
Added on 19-Jun-15 | Last updated 19-Jun-15
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

This seems plainly absurd; but whoever wishes to become a philosopher must learn not to be frightened by absurdities.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Problems of Philosophy, ch. 2 “The Existence of Matter” (1912)

Full text.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

To save the world requires faith and courage: faith in reason, and courage to proclaim what reason shows to be true.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Prospects of Industrial Civilization (1923)
Added on 3-Jun-08 | Last updated 3-Jun-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

In practice, people choose the book considered sacred by the community in which they are born, and out of that book they choose the parts they like, ignoring the others. At one time, the most influential text in the Bible was: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Nowadays, people pass over this text, in silence if possible; if not, with an apology. And so, even when we have a sacred book, we still choose truth whatever suits our own prejudices.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Unpopular Essays (1950)

Quoting Exodus 22:18.
Added on 13-Nov-18 | Last updated 13-Nov-18
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

We believe, first and foremost, that which makes us feel that we are fine fellows.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Unpopular Essays, “An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish” (1950)
Added on 17-Mar-09 | Last updated 17-Mar-09
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

When I put a question to him about socialism in agriculture, he explained with glee how he had incited the poorer peasants against the richer ones, “and they soon hanged them from the nearest tree — ha! ha! ha!” His guffaw at the thought of those massacred made my blood run cold.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Unpopular Essays, “Eminent Men I Have Known” (1950)

Referring to an 1920 interview in Moscow with V. Lenin.
Added on 16-May-17 | Last updated 16-May-17
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Unpopular Essays, “Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind” (1950)
Added on 30-Jul-09 | Last updated 30-Jul-09
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

In America everybody is of opinion that he has no social superiors, since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Unpopular Essays, ch. 10 “Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind” (1950)
Added on 28-Jul-08 | Last updated 28-Jul-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
What I Believe (1925)
Added on 26-Aug-08 | Last updated 26-Aug-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favour of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes man to seek and to accept a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Why Men Fight, ch. V “Education” (1917)

In context.
Added on 18-Oct-07 | Last updated 18-Oct-07
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

I am firm. You are obstinate. He is a pig-headed fool.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Comment, Brains Trust (BBC Radio) (26 Apr 1948)

Offered as an example of conjugating an irregular verb. Quoted in "Result of Competition No. 952" The New Statesman and Nation (15 May 1948). (Reference) Sometimes attrib. to British journalist Katharine Whitehorn.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

You mustn’t exaggerate, young man. That’s always a sign your argument is weak.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview with T. Robbins, Redbook (Sep 1954)
Added on 2-Dec-08 | Last updated 2-Dec-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

I believe four ingredients are necessary for happiness: health, warm personal relations, sufficient means to keep you from want, and successful work.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview with Tommy Robbins, Redbook (Sep 1964)
Added on 14-Jul-11 | Last updated 14-Jul-11
Link to this post | 1 comment
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

The whiter my hair becomes, the more ready people are to believe what I say.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview with Woodrew Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)
Added on 26-Nov-08 | Last updated 26-Nov-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

There are some philosophers who exist to uphold the status quo, and others who exist to upset it. … For my part, I should reject both those as not being the true business of a philosopher, and I should say the business of a philosopher is not to change the world but to understand it, which is the exact opposite to what Marx said.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview with Woodrow Wyatt, BBC television (1959)
Added on 25-Jun-15 | Last updated 25-Jun-15
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: ,
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

Wherever one finds oneself inclined to bitterness, it is a sign of emotional failure: a larger heart, and a greater self-restraint, would put a calm autumnal sadness in the place of the instinctive outcry of pain.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Letter to Lucy Donnelly (13 Apr 1903)

Full text.

Added on 12-Aug-08 | Last updated 12-Aug-08
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

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.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Woodrow Wyatt television interview, BBC, London (1959)
Added on 23-Oct-12 | Last updated 23-Oct-12
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand

If you have a good scientific imagination, you can think of all sorts of things that might be true, and that’s the essence of science. You first think of something that might be true — then you look to see if it is, and generally it isn’t.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Woodrow Wyatt TV interview, BBC (1959)
Added on 15-Jan-14 | Last updated 15-Jan-14
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Russell, Bertrand