Bertrand Russell

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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

The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.

War does not determine who is right-only who is left.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

Hatred of enemies is easier and more intense than love of friends. But from men who are more anxious to injure opponents than to benefit the world at large no great good is to be expected.

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

All movements go too far.

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

No one gossips about other people's secret virtues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is obvious that 'obscenity' is not a term capable of exact legal definition; in the practice of the Courts, it means 'anything that shocks the magistrate.'

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

All exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation.

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

Too little liberty brings stagnation and too much brings chaos.

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 understand.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

Organic life, we are told, has developed gradually from the protozoan to the philosopher, and this development, we are assured, is indubitably an advance. Unfortunately it is the philosopher, not the protozoan, who gives us this assurance.

I found one day in school a boy of medium size ill- treating a smaller boy. I expostulated, but he replied: ’The bigs hit me, so I hit the babies; that’s fair.’ In these words he epitomized the history of the human race.

The universe may have a purpose, but nothing we know suggests that, if so, this purpose has any similarity to ours.

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

War does not determine who is right - only who is left.

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

When he followed the instincts which God had transmitted to him from his ancestry of beasts of prey, he called it sin and asked God to forgive him.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.