50 Instructive Bertrand Russell Quotes

Last updated on May 20th, 2021

50 Instructive Bertrand Russell Quotes

Bertrand Arthur William Russell (born May 18, 1872, Trelleck, Monmouthshire, Wales—died February 2, 1970, Penrhyndeudraeth, Merioneth, Wales) was a British polymath, philosopher, logician, and social reformer best known for his work in mathematical logic and analytic philosophy.

Known as one of the founders of the modern analytical movement, Russell, together with Alfred North Whitehead, wrote Principia Mathematica (1910 – 1913), a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics.

During his long career, Russell made contributions to a broad range of subjects, including politics, ethics, educational and religious studies.

In 1950, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.”

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Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.Essay 7. An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish, Unpopular Essays (1950)

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 Quotes)
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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.Essay 6. Machines and the Emotions, Sceptical Essays (1928)

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 Quotes)
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Boredom is a vital problem for the moralist, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.Part I. Causes of Unhappiness, Chapter 4. Boredom and Excitement, The Conquest of Happiness (1930)

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Extreme hopes are born of extreme misery.Essay 3. The Future of Mankind, Unpopular Essays (1950)

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 Quotes)
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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.Chapter 11. Prostitution, Marriage and Morals (1929)

Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones. - Bertrand Russell (Unpopular Essays Quotes)
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Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.Essay 7. An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish, Unpopular Essays (1950)

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. - Bertrand Russell (A History of Western Philosophy Quotes)
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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.Book I. Ancient Philosophy, Part II. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, Chapter XI. Socrates, A History of Western Philosophy (1945)

The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. - Bertrand Russell (The Triumph of Stupidity Quotes)
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The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.The Triumph of Stupidity (May 10, 1933)

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 (The Conquest of Happiness Quotes)
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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.Part I. Causes of Unhappiness, Chapter 2. Byronic Unhappiness, The Conquest of Happiness (1930)

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 Quotes)
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No nation was ever so virtuous as each believes itself, and none was ever so wicked as each believes the other.The Future of Anglo-German Rivalry, Justice in War-Time (1916)

Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are all embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate. - Bertrand Russell (Sceptical Essays Quotes)
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Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are all embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.Essay 13. Freedom in Society, Sceptical Essays (1928)

Love can only flourish as long as it is free and spontaneous; it tends to be killed by the thought that it is a duty. To say that it is your duty to love so-and-so is the surest way to cause you to hate him or her. - Bertrand Russell (Marriage and Morals Quotes)
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Love can only flourish as long as it is free and spontaneous; it tends to be killed by the thought that it is a duty. To say that it is your duty to love so-and-so is the surest way to cause you to hate him or her.Chapter 10. Marriage, Marriage and Morals (1929)

When people begin to philosophize they seem to think it necessary to make themselves artificially stupid. - Bertrand Russell (The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell Quotes)
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When people begin to philosophize they seem to think it necessary to make themselves artificially stupid.Part V. The Epistemologist, Chapter 27. Theory of Knowledge, The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (1961)

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 (Fact and Fiction Quotes)
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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.Part II. Politics and Education, Chapter 10. University Education, Fact and Fiction (1961)

Only in thought is man a God; in action and desire we are the slaves of circumstance. - Bertrand Russell Quotes
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Only in thought is man a God; in action and desire we are the slaves of circumstance.Letter to Lucy Donnely (November 25, 1902)

Manners consist in pretending that we think as well of others as of ourselves. - Bertrand Russell (On Being Insulting Quotes)
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Manners consist in pretending that we think as well of others as of ourselves.On Being Insulting (December 21, 1934)

Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity towards those who are not regarded as members of the herd. - Bertrand Russell (An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish Quotes)
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Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity towards those who are not regarded as members of the herd.Essay 7. An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish, Unpopular Essays (1950)

To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness. - Bertrand Russell (The Conquest of Happiness Quotes)
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To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.Part I. Causes of Unhappiness, Chapter 2. Byronic Unhappiness, The Conquest of Happiness (1930)

No man is liberated from fear who dare not see his place in the world as it is; no man can achieve the greatness of which he is capable until he has allowed himself to see his own littleness. - Bertrand Russell (Sceptical Essays Quotes)
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No man is liberated from fear who dare not see his place in the world as it is; no man can achieve the greatness of which he is capable until he has allowed himself to see his own littleness.Essay 2. Dreams and Facts, Sceptical Essays (1928)

To realize the unimportance of time is the gate to wisdom. - Bertrand Russell (Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays Quotes)
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To realize the unimportance of time is the gate to wisdom.Chapter I. Mysticism and Logic, Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays (1918)

People seem good while they are oppressed, but they only wish to become oppressors in their turn: life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim. - Bertrand Russell Quotes
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People seem good while they are oppressed, but they only wish to become oppressors in their turn: life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim.Letter to Ottoline Morrell (December 17, 1920)

Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education. - Bertrand Russell (A History of Western Philosophy Quotes)
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Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education.Book III. Modern Philosophy, Part II. From Rousseau to the Present Day, Chapter XXI. Currents of Thought in the Nineteenth Century, A History of Western Philosophy (1945)

Most people would die sooner than think - in fact, they do so. - Bertrand Russell (The ABC of Relativity Quotes)
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Most people would die sooner than think – in fact, they do so. (thinking)Chapter XI. Is the Universe Finite?, The ABC of Relativity (1925)

Power, like vanity, is insatiable. Nothing short of omnipotence could satisfy it completely. - Bertrand Russell Quotes
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Power, like vanity, is insatiable. Nothing short of omnipotence could satisfy it completely.What Desires Are Politically Important?, Nobel Lecture (December 11, 1950)

The best life is the one in which the creative impulses play the largest part and the possessive impulses the smallest. - Bertrand Russell (Political Ideals Quotes)
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The best life is the one in which the creative impulses play the largest part and the possessive impulses the smallest.Chapter I. Political Ideals, Political Ideals (1917)

One must look into hell before one has any right to speak of heaven. - Bertrand Russell Quotes
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One must look into hell before one has any right to speak of heaven.Letter to Colette O'Niel (October 21, 1916)

Next to enjoying ourselves, the next greatest pleasure consists in preventing others from enjoying themselves, or, more generally, in the acquisition of power. - Bertrand Russell (Sceptical Essays Quotes)
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Next to enjoying ourselves, the next greatest pleasure consists in preventing others from enjoying themselves, or, more generally, in the acquisition of power.Essay 10. The Recrudescence of Puritanism, Sceptical Essays (1928)

Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric. - Bertrand Russell (A Liberal Decalogue Quotes)
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Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.A Liberal Decalogue, in New York Times Magazine (December 16, 1951)

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. - Bertrand Russell (Sceptical Essays Quotes)
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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.Introduction: On the Value of Scepticism, Sceptical Essays (1928)

Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it. - Bertrand Russell (A Liberal Decalogue Quotes)
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Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.A Liberal Decalogue, in New York Times Magazine (December 16, 1951)

It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly. - Bertrand Russell (Principles of Social Reconstruction Quotes)
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It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.Chapter VIII. What we can Do, Why Men Fight (1916)

Freedom of opinion can only exist when the government thinks itself secure. - Bertrand Russell (Freedom and Government Quotes)
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Freedom of opinion can only exist when the government thinks itself secure.Freedom and Government (1940)

To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead. - Bertrand Russell (Marriage and Morals Quotes)
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To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.Chapter 19. Sex and Individual Well-Being, Marriage and Morals (1929)

The fundamental defect of fathers, in our competitive society, is that they want their children to be a credit to them. - Bertrand Russell (Sceptical Essays Quotes)
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The fundamental defect of fathers, in our competitive society, is that they want their children to be a credit to them.Essay 14. Freedom Versus Authority in Education, Sceptical Essays (1928)

The more things a man is interested in, the more opportunities of happiness he has, and the less he is at the mercy of fate, since if he loses one thing he can fall back upon another. - Bertrand Russell (The Conquest of Happiness Quotes)
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The more things a man is interested in, the more opportunities of happiness he has, and the less he is at the mercy of fate, since if he loses one thing he can fall back upon another.Part II. Causes of Happiness, Chapter 11. Zest, The Conquest of Happiness (1930)

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. - Bertrand Russell (An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish Quotes)
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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.Essay 7. An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish, Unpopular Essays (1950)

There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it. - Bertrand Russell (The Conquest of Happiness Quotes)
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There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.Part I. Causes of Unhappiness, Chapter 3. Competition, The Conquest of Happiness (1930)

Love should be a tree whose roots are deep in the earth, but whose branches extend into heaven. - Bertrand Russell (Marriage and Morals Quotes)
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Love should be a tree whose roots are deep in the earth, but whose branches extend into heaven.Chapter 19. Sex and Individual Well-Being, Marriage and Morals (1929)

One of the most powerful of all our passions is the desire to be admired and respected. - Bertrand Russell (Sceptical Essays Quotes)
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One of the most powerful of all our passions is the desire to be admired and respected.Essay 6. Machines and the Emotions, Sceptical Essays (1928)

Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed. - Bertrand Russell (A Liberal Decalogue Quotes)
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Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.A Liberal Decalogue, in New York Times Magazine (December 16, 1951)

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. - Bertrand Russell (New Hopes for a Changing World Quotes)
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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.Part III. Man and Himself, Chapter XVI. Ideas Which Have Become Obsolete, New Hopes for a Changing World (1951)

Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day. - Bertrand Russell (Sceptical Essays Quotes)
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Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day.Essay 2. Dreams and Facts, Sceptical Essays (1928)

To understand the actual world as it is, not as we should wish it to be, is the beginning of wisdom. - Bertrand Russell (Censorship by Progressives Quotes)
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To understand the actual world as it is, not as we should wish it to be, is the beginning of wisdom.Censorship by Progressives (October 11, 1934)

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 Conquest of Happiness Quotes)
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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.Part I. Causes of Unhappiness, Chapter 4. Boredom and Excitement, The Conquest of Happiness (1930)

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 Quotes)
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As soon as we abandon our own reason, and are content to rely upon authority, there is no end to our troubles.Chapter 7. An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish, Unpopular Essays (1950)

Facts have to be discovered by observation, not by reasoning. - Bertrand Russell (A History of Western Philosophy Quotes)
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Facts have to be discovered by observation, not by reasoning.Book III. Modern Philosophy, Part I. From the Renaissance to Hume, Chapter X. Spinoza, A History of Western Philosophy (1945)

One of the symptoms of approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important. - Bertrand Russell (The Conquest of Happiness Quotes)
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One of the symptoms of approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.Part I. Causes of Unhappiness, Chapter 5. Fatigue, The Conquest of Happiness (1930)

Patriotism: a willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons. - Bertrand Russell (Sceptical Essays Quotes)
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Patriotism: a willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.Essay 13. Freedom in Society, Sceptical Essays (1928)

All movements go too far. - Bertrand Russell (Unpopular Essays Quotes)
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All movements go too far.Chapter 6. On Being Modern-Minded, Unpopular Essays (1950)

Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. - Bertrand Russell (The Russell-Einstein Manifesto Quotes)
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Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.The Russell-Einstein Manifesto (July 9, 1955)