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Quotes of the day

Published Friday, May 18, 2012 @ 6:01 AM EDT
May 18 2012

Bertrand Russell (May 18, 1872-February 2, 1970)

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

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.

All movements go too far.

An adult is a kernel of instinct surrounded by a vast husk of education.

An individual human existence should be like a river: small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.

And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence.

Ants and savages put strangers to death.

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

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

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

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

Drunkenness is temporary suicide: the happiness that it brings is merely negative, a momentary cessation of unhappiness.

Education is one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought.

Envy is the basis of democracy.

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

Few people can be happy unless they hate some other person, nation, or creed.

God and Satan alike are essentially human figures, the one a projection of ourselves, the other of our enemies.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

&lsqbI&rsqbt is worth while to observe that the modern doctrines as to minute phenomena have no bearing upon anything that is of practical importance.

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

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

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.

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

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.

No one gossips about other people's secret virtues.

One of the most interesting and harmful delusions to which men and nations can be subjected is that of imagining themselves special instruments of the Divine Will.

One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.

One of the symptoms of an impending 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.

Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man, and our politicians take advantage of this prejudice by pretending to be even more stupid than nature made them.

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

Philosophy is an unusually ingenious attempt to think fallaciously.

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

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

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 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 wide-spread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.

The fundamental defect of fathers is that they want their children to be a credit to them.

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.

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

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.

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

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

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.

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

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

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.

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

We must be skeptical even of our skepticism.

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

What men want is not knowledge, but certainty.

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. The first kind is unpleasant and ill-paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.

Categories: Bertrand Russell


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