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    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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Understanding History, And Other Essays, “How to Read and Understand History” (1957)
 
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Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.

russell - not to be absolutely certain is i think one of the essential things in rationality - wist.info quote

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Am I an Atheist or an Agnostic?” sec. “Don’t Be Too Certain!” (1949)
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Originally given as a speech, "Agnosticism v. Atheism," Rationalist Press Assoc. Annual Dinner, London (1949-05-20), then printed as "Agnosticism v. Atheism," The Literary Guide and Rationalist Review (1949-07), then released as an essay under this title later in 1949.
 
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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
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).
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
 
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As soon as we abandon our own reason, and are content to rely upon authority, there is no end to our troubles.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
 
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Be very wary of opinions that flatter your self-esteem.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
 
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More cranks take up unfashionable errors than unfashionable truths.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish” (1943)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Atheism and Agnosticism,” Essays in Skepticism (1962)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Authority and the Individual”
 
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I remember a man whom I knew when I was young, who was small, anaemic, and timid, but used to proclaim himself an anarchist. He never realised that his whole existence depended upon police protection, or that in a world without government he would be robbed of all his possessions and left to starve.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Back to Nature?,” New York American (1934-04-30)
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To understand the actual world as it is, not as we should wish it to be, is the beginning of wisdom.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Censorship by Progressives,” New York American (1934-10-11)
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Competition, as an ideal, had its part to play in the pioneer days of both industrialism and Western agriculture. But its day is past, and a new type of man is needed. The problem of producing goods in sufficient quantities to make general material well-being technically possible was solved by the men of the competitive era. The problem that remains is one of distribution, not of production; it can be solved only by economic justice, not by economic war. For this problem, the mentality of the competitive era is unfitted, since it is only to be solved by co-operation.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Competitive Ethics,” New York American (1934-03-19)
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I do not know whether dogs can think, or what thinking is, or whether human beings can think. But whether human beings can think or not, I know that those who love dogs think that dogs can think. This, I am afraid, is the sum total of my contribution to human knowledge on this important subject.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Do Dogs Think?,” New York American (1932-06-15)
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Eastern and Western Ideals of Happiness,” Sceptical Essays (1928)
 
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Why do people read? The answer, as regards the great majority, is: “They don’t.”

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Flight from Reality,” New York American (1932-03-02)
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It is clear that thought is not free if the profession of certain opinions makes it impossible to earn a living.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Free Thought and Official Propaganda,” lecture, South Place Institute, London (1922-03-24)
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Free Thought and Official Propaganda,” lecture, South Place Institute, London (1922-03-24)
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Freedom of opinion can only exist when the government thinks itself secure.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Freedom and Government” (1940)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Good Manners and Hypocrisy,” New York American (1934-12-14)
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind,” Unpopular Essays (1951)
 
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I have often wondered what turkeys would think of Christmas if they were capable of thought. I am afraid they would hardly regard it as a season of peace and goodwill.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“If animals could talk,” New York American (1932-09-14)
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There is no impersonal reason for regarding the interests of human beings as more important than those of animals. We can destroy animals more easily than they can destroy us; that is the only solid basis of our claim to superiority. We value art and science and literature, because these are things in which we excel. But whales might value spouting, and donkeys might maintain that a good bray is more exquisite than the music of Bach. We cannot prove them wrong except by the exercise of arbitrary power. All ethical systems, in the last analysis, depend upon weapons of war.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“If animals could talk,” New York American (1932-09-14)
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The instinct of conventionality, the horror of uncertainty, and vested interests, all militate against the acceptance of a new idea.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Individual Liberty and Public Control,” Atlantic (1917-07)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Is There a God?” (1952)

Full essay
 
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Manners consist in pretending that we think as well of others as of ourselves. Manners are necessary because, as a rule, there is a pretence; when our good opinion of others is genuine, manners look after themselves. Perhaps instead of teaching manners, parents should teach the statistical probability that the person you are speaking to is just as good as you are. It is difficult to believe this; very few of us do, in our instincts, believe it. One’s own ego seems so incomparably more sensitive, more perceptive, wiser and more profound than other people’s. Yet there must be very few of whom this is true, and it is not likely that oneself is one of those few. There is nothing like viewing oneself statistically as a means both to good manners and to good morals.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Being Insulting,” New York American (1934-12-21)
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All movements go too far.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Being Modern-Minded,” The Nation (1937-01-09)
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A physician would not cure his patients more effectually if he were angry with them for being ill, and the criminal law is not more effective when it is inspired by anger against the criminal. The criminal presents a problem, psychological, educational, sociological, and economic; this difficult problem is not best handled in a state of blind rage. All arguments for corporal punishment spring from anger, not from scientific understanding. As men become more scientific, such barbaric practices will be no longer tolerated.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On corporal punishment,” New York American (1932-09-07)
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Education, Especially in Early Childhood” (1926)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Education, Especially in Early Childhood” (1926)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Education, Especially in Early Childhood” (1926)
 
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When an illness is incurable and painful, and makes useful activity impossible, it is mere cruelty to prolong life; at any rate if the sufferer is anxious to die, or has lost his reason. The prolongation of his life can be neither a happiness to himself nor a benefit to society, and is therefore equally unjustified from the standpoint of the individual and from that of the community.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Euthanasia,” New York American (1934-01-01)
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Expect of the young the very best of which they are capable, and you will get it. Expect less, and it is only too likely that you will get no more than you expect.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On National Greatness,” New York American (1932-01-20)
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The supposed wisdom of proverbs is mainly imaginary. As a rule, proverbs go in pairs which say opposite things. The opposite of “More haste, less speed” is “A stitch in time saves nine.” The opposite of “Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves,” “Penny wise, pound foolish.” The opposite of “Two heads are better than one,” is “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” And so on. The great advantage of a proverb in argument is that it is supposed to be incontrovertible, as embodying the quintessential sagacity of our ancestors. But when once you have realised that proverbs go in pairs which say opposite things you can never again be downed by a proverb; you merely quote the opposite.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Proverbs,” New York American (1932-11-16)
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Race hatred is one of the most cruel and least civilised emotions to which men in the mass are liable, and it is of the utmost importance for human progress that every possible method of diminishing it should be adopted.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Race Hatred,” New York American (1933-05-24)
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Ethics is in origin the art of recommending to others the sacrifices required for cooperation with oneself.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Scientific Method in Philosophy,” Mysticism and Logic (1918)
 
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All the higher animals have methods of expressing pleasure, but human beings alone express pleasure when they do not feel it. This is called politeness and is reckoned among the virtues.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On smiling,” New York American (1932-08-17)
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One of the most disconcerting things about infants is that they only smile when they are pleased. They stare at visitors with round grave eyes, and when the visitors try to amuse them, they display astonishment at the foolish antics of adults. But as soon as possible, their parents teach them to seem pleased by the company of people to whom they are utterly indifferent.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On smiling,” New York American (1932-08-17)
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But although tact is a virtue, it is very closely allied to certain vices; the line between tact and hypocrisy is a very narrow one. I think the distinction comes in the motive: when it is kindliness that makes us wish to please, our tact is the right sort; when it is fear of offending, or desire to obtain some advantage by flattery, our tact is apt to be of a less amiable kind.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Tact,” New York American (1933-02-01)
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I think the gist of the matter is that a saint can live without politeness, and indeed that politeness is incompatible with a saintly character. But the man who is always to be sincere must be free from spite and envy and malice and pettiness. Most of us have a dose of these vices in our composition and therefore have to excerise tact to avoid giving offence. We cannot all be saints, and if saintliness is impossible, we may at least try not to be too disagreeable.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Tact,” New York American (1933-02-01)
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The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists. That is why they invented Hell.

Bertrand Russell
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.

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

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Philosophy and Politics” (1946)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Philosophy and Politics” (1946)
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Philosophy for Laymen,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
 
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Science is what we know, and philosophy is what we don’t know.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Philosophy for Laymen,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
 
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You mustn’t exaggerate, young man. That’s always a sign your argument is weak.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Redbook Dialogue,” interview by Tommy Robbins, Redbook (1964-09)
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Reprinted in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02), p. 24.
 
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I believe four ingredients are necessary for happiness: health, warm personal relations, sufficient means to keep you from want, and successful work.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Redbook Dialogue,” interview by Tommy Robbins, Redbook (1964-09)
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Reprinted in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02), p. 25.
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Aims of Education” (1929)
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Usually shortened to "No one gossips about other people's secret virtues."
 
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Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Best Answers to Fanaticism,” New York Times, “A Liberal Decalogue,” Commandment 7 (1951-12-16)

Full text.
 
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If we spent half an hour every day in silent immobility, I am convinced that we should conduct all our affairs, personal, national, and international, far more sanely than we do at present.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Decay of Meditation,” New York American (1931-11-04)
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Most people learn nothing from experience, except confirmation of their prejudices.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Lessons of Experience,” New York American (1931-09-23)
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism” (1920)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Study of Mathematics,” Mysticism and Logic (1918)
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Brute force plays a much larger part in the government of the world than it did before 1914, and what is especially alarming, force tends increasingly to fall into the hands of those who are enemies of civilization. The danger is profound and terrible; it cannot be waved aside with easy optimism. 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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Triumph of Stupidity,” New York American (1933-05-10)
    (Source)

Often paraphrased, "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure, and the intelligent are full of doubt." See also Yeats and Bukowski.

More examination of this quotation: The Best Lack All Conviction While the Worst Are Full of Passionate Intensity – Quote Investigator.
 
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Heretical views arise when the truth is uncertain, and it is only when the truth is uncertain that censorship is invoked.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Value of Free Thought” (1944)
    (Source)
 
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It is generally admitted that most grown-up people, however regrettably, will try to have a good time.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Who May Use Lipstick?” New York American (1931-09-14)
    (Source)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
(Attributed)

Widely attributed to Russell, but not found in any of his online published works or cited to any source.
 
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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.

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

Widely attributed to Russell, but not found in any of his online published works or cited to any source.

There are numerous variations on this quote, e.g.,

In all affairs it's a healthy idea now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have taken for granted.

And mixes and matches between those two.

Earliest references of long-form quotation I could find: I also found in Alexander Chittick, Social Evolution, "The Evolution of Capital and Labor" (1919), regarding the plight of laborers:

They should be taught [...] to take nothing for granted in love, religion, politics, or business.

The combination of taking for granted and the same list of four affair topics seems more than coincidence. Was Chittick riffing off of an unfound Russell comment? Did someone attribute a variation of Chittick's passage to Russell? The answer is unclear.
 
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The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

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

Misattributed to many modern authors besides Russell, including John Lennon, T. S. Elliot, and Soren Kierkegaard.

The frequent misattribution to Russell is from the phrase being used by Lawrence J. Peter in Peter's Quotations (1977) 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: the earliest citation for this quote is Marthe Troly-Curtin, Phyrnette Married, ch. 29 (1912).

More information on the history of this quotation: Time You Enjoy Wasting Is Not Wasted Time – Quote Investigator®.
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
A History of Western Philosophy, Bk. I, Part II, ch. 11 “Socrates” (1945)
 
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The worse your logic, the more interesting the consequences to which it gives rise.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
A History of Western Philosophy, Book Three, part II, ch. 22 “Hegel” (1945)
 
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There is no nonsense so arrant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1943)
 
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Progress […] requires the utmost scope for personal initiative that is compatible with social order.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Authority and the Individual, ch. 6 (1949)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Autobiography (1968)
 
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To my mind, a man without a bias cannot write interesting history — if, indeed, such a man exists. I regard it as mere humbug to pretend to a lack of bias.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Autobiography, ch. 13 (1968)
    (Source)
 
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Since I do not admit that a person without bias exists, I think the best that can be done with a large-scale history is to admit one’s bias and for dissatisfied readers to look for other writers to express an opposite bias. Which bias is nearer to the truth must be left to posterity.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Autobiography, ch. 13 (1968)
    (Source)
 
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Men who are unhappy, like men who sleep badly, are always proud of the fact.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Conquest of Happiness, ch. 1 “What Makes People Unhappy?” (1930)
 
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To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Conquest of Happiness, ch. 2 “Byronic Unhappiness” (1930)
 
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Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling?

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Conquest of Happiness, ch. 6 “Envy” (1930)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Conquest of Happiness, ch. 9 “Fear of Public Opinion” (1930)
 
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Conventional people are roused to fury by departures from convention, largely because they regard such departures as a criticism of themselves.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Conquest of Happiness, ch. 9 “Fear of Public Opinion” (1930)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Education and the Good Life, ch. 11 (1926)
    (Source)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (1948)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Impact of Science on Society (1952)
 
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No nation was ever so virtuous as each believes itself, and none was ever so wicked as each believes the other.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Justice in War-Time (1916)
 
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Righteousness cannot be born until self-righteousness is dead.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Justice in War-Time (1916)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Logical Atomism (1924)
 
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Obscenity is whatever happens to shock some elderly and ignorant magistrate.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Look, “What They Are Saying” (1954-02-23)
    (Source)

This column was a regular feature quoting notable comments by notable people. The actual source of the quotation, presumably made around this time, is unknown.
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Marriage and Morals, ch. 11 (1929)
 
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To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Marriage and Morals, ch. 19 “Sex and Individual Well-Being” (1929)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Marriage and Morals, ch. 5 “Christian Ethics” (1929)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Marriage and Morals, ch. 8 “The Taboo on Sex Knowledge” (1929)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
New York Herald Tribune Magazine (1928-05-06)
    (Source)
 
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Every man would like to be God, if it were possible; some few find it difficult to admit the impossibility.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Power: A New Social Analysis, ch. 1 “The Impulse to Power” (1938)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Power: A New Social Analysis, ch. 18 “The Taming of Power” (1938)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Power: A New Social Analysis, ch. 2 (1938)
 
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It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Principles of Social Reconstruction [Why Men Fight], ch. 8 (1916)
 
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The principal source of the harm done by the State is the fact that power is its chief end.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Principles of Social Reconstruction, ch. 2 (1916)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Principles of Social Reconstruction, ch. 5 (1916)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Religion and Science, ch. 1 “Ground of Conflict” (1935)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Religion and Science, ch. 3 (1935)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Religion and Science, ch. 9 “Science of Ethics” (1935)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Roads to Freedom ch. 6 (1918)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, Introduction (1928)
 
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Even when the experts all agree, they may well be mistaken.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, “Dreams and Facts” (1928)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, “Dreams and Facts” (1928)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, 12 (1928)
 
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It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, ch. 1, “The Value of Scepticism” (1928)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, ch. 10 (1928)
 
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We must be skeptical even of our skepticism.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, ch. 11 (1928)
 
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What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, ch. 12 “Free Thought and Official Propaganda” (1928)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, ch. 6 (1928)
 
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Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.

Bertrand Russell
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."
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell: 1914-1944 (1968)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, Postscript (1967)
 
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Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 12 (1930)
    (Source)
 
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The ability to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization, and at present very few people have reached this level.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 14 (1930)
 
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Most people, when they are left free to fill their own time according to their own choice, are at a loss to think of anything sufficiently pleasant to be worth doing. And whatever they decide on, they are troubled by the feeling that something else would have been pleasanter. To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization, and at present very few people have reached this level.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 14 (1930)
    (Source)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 4 “Boredom and Excitement” (1930)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 4 “Boredom and Excitement” (1930)
    (Source)
 
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One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 5 (1930)
    (Source)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 9 (1930)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 9 (1930)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Problems of Philosophy, ch. 15 “The Value of Philosophy” (1912)
 
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This seems plainly absurd; but whoever wishes to become a philosopher must learn not to be frightened by absurdities.

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

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

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Prospects of Industrial Civilization (1923)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Unpopular Essays (1950)

Quoting Exodus 22:18.
 
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We believe, first and foremost, that which makes us feel that we are fine fellows.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Unpopular Essays, “An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish” (1950)
 
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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
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.
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Unpopular Essays, “Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind” (1950)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Unpopular Essays, ch. 10 “Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind” (1950)
 
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The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
What I Believe (1925)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Why Men Fight, ch. V “Education” (1917)

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

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Comment, The Brains Trust, BBC Radio (1948-04-26)
    (Source)

Offered as a game, "Conjugations" (today referred to by linguists as "Russell Conjugations" or "Emotive Conjugations"). The publication The New Statesman and Nation subsequently ran a competition for similar "irregular verbs," which were later printed (1948-05-15), along with the quote from Russell.

Sometimes misattributed to British journalist Katharine Whitehorn.
 
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The moral thing I wish to say to [future generations] is very simple. I should say love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other. We have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way, and if we are to live together and not die together we must learn the kind of charity and kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by John Freeman, Face to Face, BBC TV (1959-03-04)
    (Source)
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Seth King, New York Times (1961-05-18)

Interview on his 89th Birthday. The article does not presently show up in the NYT archives, but the quotation is mentioned in Newsweek, "Newsmakers" (1961-05-29), and in Think Magazine, "Thoughts" (1961-12).
 
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The whiter my hair becomes, the more ready people are to believe what I say.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US].
 
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There are some philosophers who exist to uphold the status quo, and others who exist to upset it — Marx, of course, belongs to the second lot. 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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
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On the one hand, philosophy is to keep us thinking about things that we may come to know, and on the other hand to keep us modestly aware of how much what seems like knowledge isn’t knowledge.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)
    (Source)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
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There are a number of things that science can’t deal with. All questions of values. for example. Science won’t tell you what is good and what is bad — what is good or bad as an end, not just as a means.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)
    (Source)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
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I think nobody should be certain of anything. If you’re certain, you’re certainly wrong, because nothing deserves certainty, and so one ought always to hold all one’s beliefs with a certain element of doubt and one ought to be able to act vigorously in spite of the doubt.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)
    (Source)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
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I think [the effects of religion] have been bad because it was held important that people should believe something for which there did not exist good evidence and that falsified everybody’s thinking, falsified systems of education, and set up also, what I think a complete moral heresy: namely, that it is right to believe certain things, and wrong to believe certain others, apart from the question of whether the things in question are true or false.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)
    (Source)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
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In the main, I think religion has done a great deal of harm. Largely by sanctifying conservatism and adhesion to ancient habits, and still more by sanctifying intolerance and hatred. The amount of intolerance that has gone into religion, especially in Europe, is quite terrible.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
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I think that if there go on being great wars and great oppressions and many people leading very unhappy lives, probably religion will go on, because I’ve observed that the belief in the goodness of God is inversely proportional to the evidence. When there’s no evidence for it at all, people believe it, and, when things are going well and you might believe it, they don’t.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)
    (Source)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
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Only about 1 percent of my writings are concerned with sex, but the conventional public is so obsessed with sex that it hasn’t noticed the other 99 percent of my writings.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)
    (Source)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
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A fanatical group all together have a comfortable feeling that they’re all friends with one another. They are all very much excited about the same thing. You can see it in any political party. There’s always a fringe of fanatics in any political party, and they feel very cozy with one another; and when that is spread about and is combined with a propensity to hate some other group, you get fanaticism well developed.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)
    (Source)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
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One of the things that militates against happiness is worry, and that’s one respect in which I’ve become much happier as I’ve grown older. I worry much less and I found a very useful plan in regard to worry, which is to think, “Now what is the very worst thing that could happen?” And then think, “Well, after all it wouldn’t be so very bad a hundred years hence; it probably won`t matter.” After you’ve really made yourself think that, you won`t worry so much. Worry comes from not facing unpleasant possibilities.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
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In fact the state is primarily an organization for killing foreigners, that’s its main purpose. There are, of course, other things they do. They do a certain amount of educating, but, in the course of educating you, try very hard to make the young think it is a grand thing to kill foreigners.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US].
 
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There’s a great deal to be said for nationalism, for keeping diversity — in literature, in art, in language, and in all kinds of cultural things. But when it comes to politics, I think nationalism is an unmitigated evil. I don’t think there’s a single thing to be said in its favor.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
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Well, it is part of our emotional apparatus that we are liable to both love and hate, and we like to exercise them. We love our compatriots and we hate foreigners. Of course, we love our compatriots only when we’re thinking of foreigners. When we’ve forgotten foreigners, we don’t love them so much.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
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Every human being, like every animal, wants to live in what is felt to be a safe environment — an environment where you won’t be exposed to unexpected peril. Now, when a man tells you that something you’ve always believed was in fact not true, it gives you a frightful shock and you think, “Oh! I don’t know where I am. When I think I’m planting my foot upon the ground, perhaps I’m not.” And you get into a terror.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)

On resistance to scientific discovery.

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).

 
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I should like to say that you have, through your knowledge, powers which humans have never had before. You can use these powers well or you can use them ill. You will use them well if you realize that humankind is all one family and that we can all be happy or we can all be miserable.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US].
 
Added on 10-Jan-24 | Last updated 10-Jan-24
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The time is passed when you could have a happy minority living upon the misery of the great mass. That time is passed. People won’t acquiesce in it, and you will have to learn to put up with the knowledge that your neighbor is also happy, if you want to be happy yourself. I think, if people are wisely educated, they will have a more expansive nature and will find no difficulty in allowing the happiness of others as a necessary condition of their own.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US].
 
Added on 17-Jan-24 | Last updated 17-Jan-24
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Sometimes in a vision, I see a world of happy human beings, all vigorous, all intelligent, none of them oppressing, none of them oppressed. A world of human beings aware that their common interests outweigh those in which they compete, striving toward those really splendid possibilities that the human intellect and the human imagination make possible such a world as I was speaking of can exist if everyone chooses that it should. And if it does exist, if it does come to exist, we shall have a world very much more glorious, very much more splendid, more happy, more full of imagination and happy emotions, than any world that the world has ever known before.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
Added on 25-Jan-24 | Last updated 25-Jan-24
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WYATT: Do you think that philosophy contribute to happiness?

RUSSELL: Yes, if you happen to be interested in philosophy and good at it, but not otherwise – but so does bricklaying. Anything you’re good at contributes to happiness.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US].
 
Added on 7-Feb-24 | Last updated 7-Feb-24
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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
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Letter to Lucy Donnelly (13 Apr 1903)

Full text.

 
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