Archive for October, 2009


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*(Note by me: “Men” in Quotations below means “Humans” [He or She]: The Literary Works mentioned here were written before “politically correct era”  ((o;)


:: Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) :: Quotations::

“Conquest of Happiness, 1930”

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

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

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

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

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

• 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.

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

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

• To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already
three parts dead. (Bertrand Russell, Marriage and Morals (1929)

• 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. (Bertrand Russell, Impact of
Science on Society (1952)

• 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.

• 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.

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

• The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

• 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 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, but wiser people so full of doubts.

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

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

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

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

• 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.

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

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

• 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.

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

• 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. (Bertrand Russell, Skeptical Essays (1928)

• It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground
whatsoever for supposing it is true. (BR “On the Value of Scepticism”)

• 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.’

• 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)

• Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the
absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad
ones. 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, Unpopular Essays (1950), “Outline of Intellectual

• 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.

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

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

• 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.

• No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues.

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

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

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

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

• 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.


More by Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) online:



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