Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)
British author, mathematician, & philosopher
A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate,
because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can
All movements go too far.
Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted
was once eccentric.
Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried
to make it precise.
Government can easily exist without laws, but law cannot exist without
I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of
doubt. I shouldn't wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy,
not even mine.
I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.
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 to his instincts, he
will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is
explained in this way.
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.
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.
In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and
often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly
knows which of those is the more annoying.
It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been
searching for evidence which could support this.
It is a waste of energy to be angry with a man who behaves badly, just
as it is to be angry with a car that won't go.
Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so.
Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme
beauty - a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture.
Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth -- more than ruin --
more even than death.... Thought is subversive and revolutionary,
destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established
institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell
and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the
world, and the chief glory of man.
No one gossips about other people's secret virtues.
Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more
likely to be honest than a clever man.
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.
Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.
Patriots always talk of dying for their country but never of killing for
Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to
So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise
The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life. I do not mean that if
you are good you will be happy - I mean that if you are happy you will
The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way
that will allow a solution.
The main things which seem to me important on their own account, and not
merely as means to other things, are knowledge, art, instinctive
happiness, and relations of friendship or affection.
The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there
is no good evidence either way.
The people who are regarded as moral luminaries are those who forego
ordinary pleasures themselves and find compensation in interfering with
the pleasures of others.
The place of the father in the modern suburban family is a very small
one, particularly if he plays golf.
The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than
Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found
in mathematics as surely as in poetry.
The universe may have a purpose, but nothing we know suggests that, if
so, this purpose has any similarity to ours.
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always
so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.
To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of
Too little liberty brings stagnation and too much brings chaos.
War does not determine who is right - only who is left. .