Bertrand Russell Quotes

Bertrand Russell

British author, mathematician, & philosopher (1872 - 1970)

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Change is one thing, progress is another.

Categorized under Change

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

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

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Man needs, for his happiness, not only the enjoyment of this or that, but hope and enterprise and change.

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Italy, and the spring and first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy.

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If all our happiness is bound up entirely in our personal circumstances it is difficult not to demand of life more than it has to give.

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Much that passes as idealism is disguised hatred or disguised love of power.

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In America everybody is of the opinion that he has no social superiors, since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors, for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards.

Categorized under Individuality

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Many people when they fall in love look for a little haven of refuge from the world, where they can be sure of being admired when they are not admirable, and praised when they are not praiseworthy.

Categorized under Love

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Love is something far more than desire for sexual intercourse; it is the principal means of escape from the loneliness which afflicts most men and women throughout the greater part of their lives.

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Marriage is for women the commonest mode of livelihood, and the total amount of undesired sex endured by women is probably greater in marriage than in prostitution.

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Religions that teach brotherly love have been used as an excuse for persecution, and our profoundest scientific insight is made into a means of mass destruction.

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The theoretical understanding of the world, which is the aim of philosophy, is not a matter of great practical importance to animals, or to savages, or even to most civilised men.

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I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.

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The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.

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The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.

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Many people would rather die than think; in fact, most do.

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In all things it is a good idea to hang a question mark now and then on the things we have taken for granted.

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The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

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Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.

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

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Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.

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Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education.

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Sin is geographical.

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Few people can be happy unless they hate some other person, nation, or creed.

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Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.

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

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All movements go too far.

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Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim.

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

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Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.

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So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.

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The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists - that is why they invented hell.

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Even in civilized mankind faint traces of monogamous instincts can be perceived.

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The human race may well become extinct before the end of the century.

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Order, unity and continuity are human inventions just as truly as catalogues and encyclopedias.

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So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.

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There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.

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The secret of happiness is this: Let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather that hostile.

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Mathematics, rightly viewed, posses not only truth, but supreme beauty - a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture.

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So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.

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

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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.

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We know very little, and yet it is astonishing that we know so much, and still more astonishing that so little knowledge can give us so much power.

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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.

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This is one of those views which are so absolutely absurd that only very learned men could possibly adopt them.

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A sense of duty is useful in work, but offensive in personal relations. People wish to be liked, not be endured with patient resignation.

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Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man.

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Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim.

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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.

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The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

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

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Too little liberty brings stagnation and too much brings chaos.

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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.

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

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One should as a rule 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, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways.

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Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

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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.

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

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Mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true.

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

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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.

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We have, in fact, two kinds of morality side by side: one which we preach but do not practice, and another which we practice but seldom preach.

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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.

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Every living thing is a sort of imperialist, seeking to transform as much as possible of its environment into itself.

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

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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.

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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. It is much more nearly certain that we are assembled here tonight than it is that this or that political party is in the right. Certainly there are degrees of certainty, and one should be very careful to emphasize that fact, because otherwise one is landed in an utter skepticism, and complete skepticism would, of course, be totally barren and completely useless.

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Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country.

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Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education.

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Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise.

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The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.

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The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.

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There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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 be good.

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What the world needs is not dogma but an attitude of scientific inquiry combined with a belief that the torture of millions is not desirable, whether inflicted by Stalin or by a Deity imagined in the likeness of the believer.

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Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination.

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The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

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But all who are not lunitics are agreed about certain things: That it is better to be alive than dead, better to be adequately fed than starved, better to be free than to be a slave. Many people desire these things only for themselves and their friends; they are quite content that their enemies should suffer. These people can be refuted by science: Mankind has become so much one family that we cannot insure our own prosperity except by insuring that of everyone else. If you wish to be happy yourself, you must resign yourself to seeing others also happy.

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Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.

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Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country.

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Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.

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I should wish to see a world in which education aimed at mental freedom rather than imprisoning the minds of the young in a rigid armor of dogma calculated to protect them though life against the shafts of impartial evidence.

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The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.

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Government can easily exist without laws, but law cannot exist without government.

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The man who suffers from a sense of sin is suffering from a particular kind of self-love. In all this vast universe the thing that appears to him of most importance is that he himself should be virtuous. It is a grave defect in certain forms of traditional religion that they have encouraged this particular kind of self-absorption.

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Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.

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The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

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I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.

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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.

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Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so.

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

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Change is scientific, progress is ethical; change is indubitable, whereas progress is a matter of controversy.

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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.

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All exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation.

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

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Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.

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The place of the father in the modern suburban family is a very small one, particularly if he plays golf.

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It is because modern education is so seldom inspired by a great hope that it so seldom achieves great results. The wish to preserve the past rather that the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young.

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We know too much and feel too little. At least, we feel too little of those creative emotions from which a good life springs.

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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.

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It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.

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The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

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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.

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Whereas in art nothing worth doing can be done without genius, in science even a very moderate capacity can contribute to a supreme achievement.

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The wise man thinks about his troubles only when there is some purpose in doing so; at other times he thinks about others things.

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All movements go too far.

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The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.

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