Bertrand Russell, was an aristocrat born in May of 1872 and had a varied career as a philosopher, mathematician, logician, writer, activist and Nobel laureate. Despite being born into a prominent aristocratic family, he viewed his own beliefs as liberal, labelling himself a socialist and pacifist, perhaps somewhat at odds with his family history. He is mentioned alongside Gottlob Frege and others, as a founder of analytic philosophy.
Russell is widely regarded as one of the leading logicians in the 20th century, co-writing one of the leading pieces of classic logic in mathematics, titled Principia Mathematica. His writing influenced a plethora of fields including mathematics, artificial intelligence, computer science and philosophy. Away from mathematics, he actively campaigned against war and imperialism, ending up being imprisoned during WW1 for his beliefs. Despite this, he also had some controversial views, including at one point being an advocate for preventative nuclear war, later changing to championing nuclear disarmament.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950, not for a single piece of work but for his collective writings where he celebrated freedom of thought and humanity.
1 Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling?
2. The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.
3. There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge
4. 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 poetry
5. Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education
6. One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important
7. 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
8. Sin is geographical
9. The observer, when he seems to himself to be observing a stone, is really, if physics is to be believed, observing the effects of the stone upon himself
10. 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
11. Order, unity, and continuity are human inventions, just as truly as catalogues and encyclopedias
12. Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind
13. To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead
14. Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so
15. I’ve made an odd discovery. Every time I talk to a savant I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk with my gardener, I’m convinced of the opposite
16. I like mathematics because it is not human and has nothing particular to do with this planet or with the whole accidental universe – because, like Spinoza’s God, it won’t love us in return
17. The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd
18. The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time
19. The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is nevertheless an intellectual vice
20. Mathematics takes us into the region of absolute necessity, to which not only the actual word, but every possible word, must conform
21. To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness
22. The universe may have a purpose, but nothing we know suggests that, if so, this purpose has any similarity to ours
23. Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons
24. 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 a paradise in a few years
25. In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted
26. The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper
27. Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves
28. None but a coward dares to boast that he has never known fear
29. Freedom of opinion can only exist when the government thinks itself secure
30. Much that passes as idealism is disguised hatred or disguised love of power.
31. Religions that teach brotherly love have been used as an excuse for persecution, and our profoundest scientific insight is made into a means of mass destruction
32. The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts
33. The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile
34. Science is what you know, philosophy is what you don’t know
35. It seems to be the fate of idealists to obtain what they have struggled for in a form which destroys their ideals
36. 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
37. I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn’t wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine
38. Next to enjoying ourselves, the next greatest pleasure consists in preventing others from enjoying themselves, or, more generally, in the acquisition of power
39. Man needs, for his happiness, not only the enjoyment of this or that, but hope and enterprise and change
40. I believe in using words, not fists. I believe in my outrage knowing people are living in boxes on the street. I believe in honesty. I believe in a good time. I believe in good food. I believe in sex.
41. It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly
42. So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence
43. All movements go too far
44. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom
45. Democracy is the process by which people choose the man who’ll get the blame
46. Almost everything that distinguishes the modern world from earlier centuries is attributable to science, which achieved its most spectacular triumphs in the seventeenth century
47. 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
48. Many people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so
49. What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite
50. Love is something far more than desire for sexual intercourse; it is the principal means of escape from the loneliness which afflicts most men and women throughout the greater part of their lives
51. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, Thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought is great and swift and free
52. We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought
53. No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues
54. Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country
55. To teach how to live without certainty and yet without being paralysed by hesitation is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can do for those who study it
56. Both in thought and in feeling, even though time be real, to realise the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom
57. Anything you’re good at contributes to happiness
58. The place of the father in the modern suburban family is a very small one, particularly if he plays golf
59. Italy, and the spring and first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy
60. Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.