Bertrand Russell Quotes

Most popular Bertrand Russell Quotes

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

father parenting

Fear is the main source of superstition and one of the main sources of cruelty.  To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom, in the pursuit of truth as in the endeavor after a worthy manner of life.

fear

Drunkenness is temporary suicide.
— Bertrand Russell

drinking

Extreme hopes are born of extreme misery.

hope

To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
— Bertrand Russell

fear wisdom

Anything you're good at contributes to happiness.
— Bertrand Russell

talent

Most people would sooner die than think, and often do.
— Bertrand Russell

critical thinking cynical funny

Folly is perennial and yet the human race has survived.

folly

Even when the experts all agree, they may well be mistaken.
— Bertrand Russell

experts

Worry is a form of fear, and all forms of fear produce fatigue.

fatigue fear worry

What hunger is in relation to food, zest is in relation to life.

enthusiasm

Too little liberty breeds stagnation, and too much brings chaos.

freedom

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

freedom

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

idealist

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

unhappiness

Obscenity is whatever happens to shock some elderly and ignorant magistrate.
— Bertrand Russell Look
Few people can be happy unless they hate some other person, nation, or creed.
— Bertrand Russell

hate

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

contentment happiness

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty.
— Bertrand Russell

fear

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

love

I have a very simple creed: that life and joy and beauty are better than dusty death.
— Bertrand Russell

death

The essence of good manners consists in making it clear that one has no wish to hurt.

manners

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

caution happiness love

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

certainty

What Galileo and Newton were to the seventeenth century, Darwin was to the nineteenth.
Human life, its growth, its hopes, fears, loves, et cetera, are the result of accidents.
— Bertrand Russell

change

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

Bible

To acquire immunity to eloquence is of the utmost importance to the citizens of a democracy.
— Bertrand Russell Power

eloquence

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

freedom

My sad conviction is that people can only agree about what they're not really interested in.
— Bertrand Russell

arguments

The average man's opinions are much less foolish than they would be if he thought for himself.
— Bertrand Russell

cynical opinions

It is only intellect that keeps me sane; perhaps this makes me overvalue intellect against feeling.
— Bertrand Russell
To understand the actual world as it is, not as we should wish it to be, is the beginning of wisdom.

wisdom

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

truth

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

potential

It is only in marriage with the world that our ideals can bear fruit: divorced from it, they remain barren.
— Bertrand Russell

ideal

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

psychology work

Mathematics possesses not only truth but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of a sculpture.
— Bertrand Russell

mathematics

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

possessions

Love as a relation between men and women was ruined by the desire to make sure of the legitimacy of children.
— Bertrand Russell

cynical love marriage

I can only say that, while my own opinions as to ethics do not satisfy me, other people's satisfy me still less.
— Bertrand Russell

ethics

True happiness for human beings is possible only to those who develop their godlike potentialities to the utmost.

happiness potential

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

hate propaganda

Religion, which may in most of its forms be defined as the belief that the gods are on the side of the Government.

religion

Rules of conduct, whatever they may be, are not sufficient to produce good results unless the ends sought are good.
— Bertrand Russell
A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live.
— Bertrand Russell
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

truth

I am compelled to fear that science will be used to promote the power of dominant groups rather than to make men happy.
— Bertrand Russell

science

Heretical views arise when the truth is uncertain, and it is only when the truth is uncertain that censorship is invoked.

censorship

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

boredom

If rational men cooperated and used their scientific knowledge to the full, they could now secure the economic welfare of all.
— Bertrand Russell
The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.

stupidity

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

conviction self-deception

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

nature

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.
— Bertrand Russell

mathematics

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

certainty

The distinctive Western character begins with the Greeks, who invented the habit of deductive reasoning and the science of geometry.
— Bertrand Russell

logic reason

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

mythology

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.

duty

To preserve hope in our world makes calls upon our intelligence and our energy. In those who despair it is frequently the energy that is lacking.

hope

I believe four ingredients are necessary for happiness: health, warm personal relations, sufficient means to keep you from want, and successful work.

happiness

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.

stupidity

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.

asking questions

The happiness that is genuinely satisfying is accompanied by the fullest exercise of our faculties, and the fullest realization of the world in which we live.

happiness

The mind is a strange machine which can combine the materials offered to it in the most astonishing ways, but without materials from the external world it is powerless.

mind

Physics is mathematical not because we know so much about the physical world, but because we know so little; it is only its mathematical properties that we can discover.
— Bertrand Russell

physics

He thought of civilized...human life as a dangerous walk on a thin crust of barely cooled lava which at any moment might break and let the unwary sink into fiery depths.
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.

charity compassion knowledge love philosophers

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.

gossip

The life of man is a long march through the night, surrounded by invisible forces, tortured by weariness and pain, towards a goal that few can hope to reach, and where none may tarry long.

life

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.
— Bertrand Russell

love

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.
— Bertrand Russell
Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cozy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigour, and the great spaces have a splendour of their own.
— Bertrand Russell

science

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.

narcissist

As soon as we abandon our own reason, and are content to rely on authority, there is no end to our trouble. Whose authority? The Old Testament? The Koran? In practice people choose the parts they like, ignoring the others.

authority

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.

opinions religion and politics

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, for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards.
— Bertrand Russell

America equality

No man treats a motor car as foolishly as he treats another human being. When the car will not go, he does not attribute its annoying behaviour to sin, he does not say, 'You are a wicked motor car, and I shall not give you any more petrol until you go.' He attempts to find out what is wrong and set it right.
— Bertrand Russell

religion

Mathematics rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show.

mathematics

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.

tact