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Bertrand Russell
1872 - 1970

British philosopher, mathematician, logician, pacifist, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1950), author of A History of Western Philosophy. Russell was a liberal socialist who spent much of his life campaigning for peace and for the one-world government which he felt would bring it about.

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Philosophical Essays (1994)
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The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.

1950 - from Marriage and Morals
What the world needs is not dogma, but an attitude of scientific inquiry...

1954 - from Human Society in Ethics and Politics
Dogma demands authority, rather than intelligent thought, as the source of opinion; it requires persecution of heretics and hostility to unbelievers; it asks of its disciples that they should inhibit natural kindness in favor of systematic hatred.

quoted in The Degeration of Belief by Laird Wilcox
Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

1951 - from A Liberal Decalogue
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.

1929 - from Marriage and Morals
Nine tenths of the activities of modern government are harmful. Therefore the worse they are performed the better.

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 an unnecessary tyranny.

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.

from University Education
What men really want is not knowledge but certainty.

Real life is, to most men, a long second-best, a perpetual compromise between the ideal and the possible; but the world of pure reason knows no compromise, no practical limitations, no barrier to the creative activity.

Most human beings, though in varying degrees, desire to control not only their own lives but also the lives of others.

from Freedom and Government
One must care about a world one will not see.

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

1950 - from Unpopular Essays
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.

from Selected Papers
I believe there are still some people who think that a democratic State is scarcely distinguishable from the people. This, however, is a delusion. The State is a collection of officials, different for different purposes, drawing comfortable incomes so long as the status quo is preserved. The only alteration they are likely to desire in the status quo is an increase of bureaucracy and of the power of the bureaucrats.

1922 - from a lecture
I say this with all the emphasis of which I am capable--that there can ever be any good excuse for refusing to face the evidence in favour of something unwelcome. It is not by delusion, however exalted, that mankind can prosper, but only by unswerving courage in the pursuit of truth.

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

Obviousness is always the enemy of correctness.

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

quoted in The MacMillan Dictionary of Quotations
I think the subject which will be of utmost importance politically is mass psychology. ... Various results will soon be arrived at [including] that the influence of home is obstructive ... in time anybody will be able to persuade anybody of anything if he can reach the patient young and is provided by the State with money and equipment. ... Although this science will be diligently studied, it will be rigidly confined to the governing class. The populace will not be allowed to know how its convictions were generated. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for a generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen. ... Educational propaganda, with government help, could achieve this result in a generation. There are, however, two powerful forces opposed to such a policy: one is religion; the other is nationalism.

1953 - from The Impact of Science on Society
I wish to propose for the reader's favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true, I must of course admit that if such an opinion became common it would completely transform our social life and our political system; since both are at present faultless, this must weigh against it.

from The Skeptical Essays
Even when the experts all agree, they may well be mistaken.

from The Skeptical Essays
The argument against the persecution of opinion does not depend upon what the excuse for persecution may be. The argument is that we none of us know all truth, that the discovery of new truth is promoted by free discussion and rendered very difficult by suppression, and that, in the long run, human welfare is increased by the discovery of truth and hindered by action based on error. New truth is often inconvenient to some vested interest ... But it is in the interest of the community at large that new truth should be freely promulgated. And since, at first, it cannot be known whether a new doctrine is true, freedom for new truth involves equal freedom for error.

1935 - from his book Religion and Science, Henry Holt
Freedom of opinion can only exist when the government thinks itself secure.

...there are still some people who think that a democratic State is scarcely distinguishable from the people. This, however, is a delusion.

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

The tragedy of one successful politician after another is the gradual substitution of narcissism for an interest in the community.

... since one never knows what will be the line of advance, it is always most rash to condemn what is not quite in the fashion of the moment.

Probably in time physiologists will be able to make nerves connecting the bodies of different people; this will have the advantage that we shall be able to feel another man's tooth aching.

To acquire immunity to eloquence is of the utmost importance to the citizens of democracy.

The governors of the world believe, and have always believed, that virtue can only be taught by teaching falsehood, and that any man who knew the truth would be wicked. I disbelieve this, absolutely and entirely. I believe that love of truth is the basis of all real virtue, and that virtues based upon lies can only do harm.

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

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

Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.