can’t see the forest

Quotations from Bertrand Russell

Posted in Bertrand Russell, philosophy, Quotations, Uncategorized by Curtis on 9/28/06

Bertrand RussellBertrand Russell (1872-1970) was a British philosopher, writer, and mathematician. He was a strong and vocal proponent of nuclear disarmament and, even in his very old age, actively participated in protests of the Vietnam War. He was a socialist thinker and a liberal (in the correct sense), a quite frequently cited author and a profound influence on contemporary thought in many areas.

Russell had controversial viewpoints on some issues, such as his early comments in favor of certain types of eugenics. Over the course of his career he often shifted in his stances, which provided ammunition for critics. Russell might have argued that there is nothing wrong or inconsistent with learning from one’s education.

From Wikiquote, here are some sundry quotations.

– 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.

– It is sometimes maintained that racial mixture is biologically undesirable. There is no evidence whatever for this view. Nor is there, apparently, any reason to think that Negroes are congenitally less intelligent than white people, but as to that it will be difficult to judge until they have equal scope and equally good social conditions.

– For my part, while I am as convinced a Socialist as the most ardent Marxian, I do not regard socialism as a gospel of proletarian revenge, nor even, primarily, as a means of securing economic justice. I regard it primarily as an adjustment to machine production demanded by considerations of common sense, and calculated to increase the happiness, not only of proletarians, but of all except a tiny minority of the human race.
      The Case For Socialism, 1935

– Man is a rational animal—so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favor of this statement, but so far I have not had the good fortune to come across it, though I have searched in many countries spread over three continents.
      An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish

– No nation was ever so virtuous as each believes itself, and none was ever so wicked as each believes the other.
      Justice in War-Time

– I found one day in school a boy of medium size ill-treating a smaller boy. I expostulated, but he replied: “The bigs hit me, I hit the babies; that’s fair.” In these words he epitomized the history of the human race.
      Education and the Social Order

– Christ said “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” and when asked “who is thy neighbor?” went on to the parable of the Good Samaritan. If you wish to understand this parable as it was understood by his hearers, you should substitute “Germans and Japanese” for Samaritan. I fear my modern day Christians would resent such a substitution, because it would compel them to realize how far they have departed from the teachings of the founder of their religion.

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

– What science cannot tell us, mankind cannot know.

– After ages during which the earth produced harmless trilobytes 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.
      Unpopular Essays, 1950

– The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was ‘given’ by a foreign power to another people for the creation of a new state. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their numbers increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent just settlement of the refugees in their homeland is an essential ingredient of any genuine settlement in the Middle East.
      Speech in Cairo, 1970

– The Universe may have a purpose, but nothing we know suggests that, if so, this purpose has any similarity to ours.

– Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.
     Am I An Atheist or an Agnostic?

– If you wish to be happy yourself, you must resign yourself to seeing others also be happy.

– If a religion is defined to be a system of of ideas that contains unprovable statements, then Gödel taught us that not only is mathematics a religion, it is the only religion that can prove itself to be one.

– One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything beyond this is voluntary submission to unnecessary tyranny.

Online text editions of Bertrand Russell


One Response

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  1. mark santos said, on 1/14/08 at 5:27 am

    Mr. Russell?
    He was one big Man from England! Thinksfreeier!
    Russell, Nietzsche, Marx, Holbach, Onfray, Buggle,
    Bense! The Pacifist-people! The People of Future!

    The Bible and the war! Deut.20:1., Psalm.144.

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