Bertrand Russell Quotes

A hallucination is a fact, not an error; what is erroneous is a judgment based upon it.

A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy dare live.

A life without adventure is likely to be unsatisfying, but a life in which adventure is allowed to take whatever form it will is sure to be short.

A process which led from the amoeba to man appeared to the philosophers to be obviously a progress though whether the amoeba would agree with this opinion is not known.

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

A truer image of the world, I think, is obtained by picturing things as entering into the stream of time from an eternal world outside, than from a view which regards time as the devouring tyrant of all that is.

Admiration of the proletariat, like that of dams, power stations, and aeroplanes, is part of the ideology of the machine age.

Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.

Against my will, in the course of my travels, the belief that everything worth knowing was known at Cambridge gradually wore off. In this respect my travels were very useful to me.

All movements go too far.

Almost everything that distinguishes the modern world from earlier centuries is attributable to science, which achieved its most spectacular triumphs in the seventeenth century.

Anything you’re good at contributes to happiness.

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.

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.

Awareness of universals is called conceiving, and a universal of which we are aware is called a concept.

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

Both in thought and in feeling, even though time be real, to realise the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom.

Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.

Contempt for happiness is usually contempt for other people’s happiness, and is an elegant disguise for hatred of the human race.

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

Democracy is the process by which people choose the man who’ll get the blame.

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

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.

Drunkenness is temporary suicide.

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

Every philosophical problem, when it is subjected to the necessary analysis and justification, is found either to be not really philosophical at all, or else to be, in the sense in which we are using the word, logical.

Extreme hopes are born from extreme misery.

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

Freedom comes only to those who no longer ask of life that it shall yield them any of those personal goods that are subject to the mutations of time.

Freedom in general may be defined as the absence of obstacles to the realization of desires.

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

I believe in using words, not fists. I believe in my outrage knowing people are living in boxes on the street. I believe in honesty. I believe in a good time. I believe in good food. I believe in sex.

I do not pretend to start with precise questions. I do not think you can start with anything precise. You have to achieve such precision as you can, as you go along.

I like mathematics because it is not human and has nothing particular to do with this planet or with the whole accidental universe – because, like Spinoza’s God, it won’t love us in return.

I remain convinced that obstinate addiction to ordinary language in our private thoughts is one of the main obstacles to progress in philosophy.

I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its Churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.

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.

I’ve made an odd discovery. Every time I talk to a savant I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk with my gardener, I’m convinced of the opposite.

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.

If any philosopher had been asked for a definition of infinity, he might have produced some unintelligible rigmarole, but he would certainly not have been able to give a definition that had any meaning at all.

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 a 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 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.

In the revolt against idealism, the ambiguities of the word experience have been perceived, with the result that realists have more and more avoided the word.

Indignation is a submission of our thoughts, but not of our desires.

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 possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion.

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

It seems to be the fate of idealists to obtain what they have struggled for in a form which destroys their ideals.

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

Liberty is the right to do what I like; license, the right to do what you like.

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

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.

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.

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

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

Many a man will have the courage to die gallantly, but will not have the courage to say, or even to think, that the cause for which he is asked to die is an unworthy one.

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.

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

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.

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.

Mathematics takes us into the region of absolute necessity, to which not only the actual word, but every possible word, must conform.

Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.

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

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

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

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.

Next to enjoying ourselves, the next greatest pleasure consists in preventing others from enjoying themselves, or, more generally, in the acquisition of power.

No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues.

No, we have been as usual asking the wrong question. It does not matter a hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing. The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful?

None but a coward dares to boast that he has never known fear.

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

Reason is a harmonising, controlling force rather than a creative one.

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

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.

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

Right discipline consists, not in external compulsion, but in the habits of mind which lead spontaneously to desirable rather than undesirable activities.

Science is what you know, philosophy is what you don’t know.

Sin is geographical.

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

The coward wretch whose hand and heart Can bear to torture aught below, Is ever first to quail and start From the slightest pain or equal foe.

The degree of one’s emotions varies inversely with one’s knowledge of the facts.

The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is nevertheless an intellectual vice.

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd.

The fundamental concept in social science is Power, in the same sense in which Energy is the fundamental concept in physics.

The fundamental defect of fathers, in our competitive society, is that they want their children to be a credit to them.

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

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

The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved. To this type belong many lunatics and most of the great men of history.

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

The observer, when he seems to himself to be observing a stone, is really, if physics is to be believed, observing the effects of the stone upon himself.

The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.

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

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 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 than hostile.

The secret to happiness is to face the fact that the world is horrible.

The slave is doomed to worship time and fate and death, because they are greater than anything he finds in himself, and because all his thoughts are of things which they devour.

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.

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

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

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 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, and wiser people so full of doubts.

The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.

There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.

There is no need to worry about mere size. We do not necessarily respect a fat man more than a thin man. Sir Isaac Newton was very much smaller than a hippopotamus, but we do not on that account value him less.

There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths.

Those who forget good and evil and seek only to know the facts are more likely to achieve good than those who view the world through the distorting medium of their own desires.

Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, Thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought is great and swift and free.

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.

To acquire immunity to eloquence is of the utmost importance to the citizens of a democracy.

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

To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.

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

To teach how to live without certainty and yet without being paralysed by hesitation is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can do for those who study it.

To understand a name you must be acquainted with the particular of which it is a name.

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

We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought.

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

When the intensity of emotional conviction subsides, a man who is in the habit of reasoning will search for logical grounds in favour of the belief which he finds in himself.

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

With the introduction of agriculture mankind entered upon a long period of meanness, misery, and madness, from which they are only now being freed by the beneficent operation of the machine.

Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relative to other matter; second, telling other people to do so.