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British philosopher and social critic (1872-1970)

Bertrand Russell quote

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

BERTRAND RUSSELL, An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish

Brief and powerless is man's life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Philosophical Essays

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.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Sceptical Essays

Extreme hopes are born of extreme misery.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Unpopular Essays

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

BERTRAND RUSSELL, The Conquest of Happiness

Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver ... in the end, the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor of their own.


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

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Marriage and Morals

Civilized people cannot fully satisfy their sexual instinct without love.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Marriage and Morals

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

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Mysticism and Logic

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

BERTRAND RUSSELL, "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish," Unpopular Essays

The reformative effect of punishment is a belief that dies hard, chiefly I think, because it is so satisfying to our sadistic impulses.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind

After ages during which the earth produced harmless trilobites and butterflies, evolution progressed to the point at which it generated Neros, Genghis Khans, and Hitlers. This, however, is a passing nightmare; in time the earth will become again incapable of supporting life, and peace will return.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Unpopular Essays

A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, A History of Western Philosophy

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

BERTRAND RUSSELL, An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish

To realize the unimportance of time is the gate to wisdom.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Mysticism and Logic

The habit of looking to the future and thinking that the whole meaning of the present lies in what it will bring forth is a pernicious one. There can be no value in the whole unless there is value in the parts.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Conquest of Happiness

There is no logical impossibility in the hypothesis that the world sprang into being five minutes ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that "remembered" a wholly unreal past. There is no logically necessary connection between events at different times; therefore nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can disprove the hypothesis that the world began five minutes ago.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, The Analysis of Mind

The man who is unhappy will, as a rule, adopt an unhappy creed, while the man who is happy will adopt a happy creed; each may attribute his happiness or unhappiness to his beliefs, while the real causation is the other way round.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, The Conquest of Happiness

No nation was ever so virtuous as each believes itself, and none was ever so wicked as each believes the other.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Justice in War-Time

One must look into hell before one has any right to speak of heaven.

As soon as we abandon our own reason, and are content to rely upon authority, there is no end to our troubles.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish

If I were a medical man, I should prescribe a holiday to any patient who considered his work important.


The best type of affection is reciprocally life-giving: each receives affection with joy and gives it without effort, and each finds the whole world more interesting in consequence of the existence of this reciprocal happiness. There is, however, another kind, by no means uncommon, in which one person sucks the vitality of the other, one receives what the other gives, but gives almost nothing in return. Some very vital people belong to this bloodsucking type. They extract the vitality from one victim after another, but while they prosper and grow interesting, those upon whom they live grow pale and dim and dull.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, The Conquest of Happiness

If I were granted omnipotence, and millions of years to experiment in, I should not think Man much to boast of as the final result of all my efforts.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Religion and Science

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.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, "Freedom in Society"

I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting. Many a man has borne himself proudly on the scaffold; surely the same pride should teach us to think truly about man's place in the world. Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigour, and the great spaces have a splendour of their own.


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

BERTRAND RUSSELL, The Bertrand Russell Society Quarterly

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.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, The Philosophy of Logical Atomism

Love can flourish only as long as it is free and spontaneous; it tends to be killed by the thought of duty. To say that it is your duty to love so-and-so is the surest way to cause you to hate him of her.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Marriage and Morals

When people begin to philosophize they seem to think it necessary to make themselves artificially stupid.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Theory of Knowledge

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

BERTRAND RUSSELL, The Conquest of Happiness

Truth is a shining goddess, always veiled, always distant, never wholly approachable, but worthy of all the devotion of which the human spirit is capable.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, "University Education," Fact and Fiction

Whoever wishes to become a philosopher must learn not to be frightened by absurdities.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, The Problems of Philosophy

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 widely spread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Marriage and Morals

Only in thought is man a God; in action and desire we are the slaves of circumstance.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, letter to Lucy Donnely, Nov. 25, 1902

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.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Sceptical Essays

It cannot be denied that tact is a virtue. The sort of person who always manages to blurt out the tactless thing, apparently by accident, is a person full of dislike of his or her fellow creatures. But 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.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Mortals and Others

Manners are necessary because, as a rule, there is a pretence; when our good opinion of others is genuine, manners look after themselves.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Mortals and Others

The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays


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