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170 Bertrand Russell Quotes on Philosophy & Happiness

1. “To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it.”

2. “It’s easy to fall in love. The hard part is finding someone to catch you.”

3. “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.”

4. “The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.”

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

6. “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.”

7. “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.”

8. “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.”

9. “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.”

10. “There are two motives for reading a book—one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.”

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

12. “I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot prove that Satan is a fiction.”

13. “One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.”

14. “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.”

15. “To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three-parts dead.”

16. “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.”

17. “My desire and wish is that the things I start with should be so obvious that you wonder why I spend my time stating them.”

18. “Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.”

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

20. “Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth—more than ruin, more even than death.”

21. “Those who have never known the deep intimacy and the intense companionship of happy, mutual love have missed the best thing that life has to give.”

22. “I have sought love first, because it brings ecstasy—ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it next, because it relieves loneliness—that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love, I have seen in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what—at last—I have found.”

23. “Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth.”

24. “Love can flourish only as long as it is free and spontaneous; it tends to be killed by the thought of 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.”

25. “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.”

26. “Passionate, mutual love while it lasts, puts an end to this feeling; it breaks down the hard walls of the ego, producing a new being composed of two in one.”

27. “I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation.”

28. “The good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge.”

29. “Love is wise; hatred is foolish.”

30. “A habit of finding pleasure in thought rather than action is a safeguard against unwisdom and excessive love of power—a means of preserving serenity in misfortune and peace of mind among worries.”

31. “We love our habits more than our income, often more than our life.”

32. “The root of the matter is a very simple and old fashioned thing—love or compassion. If you feel this, you have a motive for existence, a guide for action, a reason for courage, an imperative necessity for intellectual honesty.”

33. “When considering marriage, one should ask oneself this question, ‘Will I be able to talk with this person into old age?’ Everything else is transitory; the most time is spent in conversation.”

34. “With equal passion, I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.”

35. “The use of self control is like the use of brakes on a train. It is useful when you find yourself in wrong direction, but merely harmful when the direction is right.”

36. “The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists. That is why they invented Hell.”

37. “If throughout your life you abstain from murder, theft, fornication, perjury, blasphemy, and disrespect toward your parents, church, and your king, you are conventionally held to deserve moral admiration even if you have never done a single kind, generous or useful action. This very inadequate notion of virtue is an outcome of taboo morality, and has done untold harm.”

38. “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. The origin of myths is explained in this way.”

39. “Sin is geographical.”

40. “Science can teach us—and I think our hearts can teach us—no longer to look around for imaginary supporters, no longer to invent allies in the , but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make the world a fit place to live.”

41. “We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world—its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and not be afraid of it.”

42. “A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.”

43. “Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.”

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

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

46. “If we were all given by the power to read each other’s thoughts, I suppose the first effect would be almost all friendships would be dissolved; the second effect, however, might be excellent, for a world without any friends would be felt to be intolerable, and we should learn to like each other without needing a veil of illusion to conceal from ourselves that we did not think each other absolutely perfect.”

47. “Patience and boredom are closely related. Boredom, a certain kind of boredom, is really impatience. You don’t like the way things are, they aren’t interesting enough for you, so you decide—and boredom is a decision—that you are bored.”

48. “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.”

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

50. “Morality in sexual relations, when it is free from superstition, consists essentially in respect for the other person, and unwillingness to use that person solely as a means of personal gratification, without regard to his or her desires.”

51. “You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending—something dead, cold, and lifeless.”

52. “The life of man is a long march through the night, surrounded by invisible foes, tortured by weariness and pain, towards a goal that few can hope to reach, and where none may tarry long.”

53. “One of the most powerful of all our passions is the desire to be admired and respected.”

54. “We have in fact, two kinds of morality, side by side—one which we preach, but do not practice, and another which we practice, but seldom preach.”

55. “I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached.”

56. “Every isolated is, in isolation, insane; sanity may be defined as synthesis of insanities.”

57. “Envy consists in seeing things never in themselves, but only in their relations.”

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

59. “Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false.”

60. “This illustrates an important truth, namely, that the worse your logic, the more interesting the consequences to which it gives rise.”

61. “The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is nevertheless an intellectual vice.”

62. “No one ever gossips about the virtues of others.”

63. “A life too full of excitement is an exhausting life, in which continually stronger stimuli are needed to give the thrill that has come to be thought an essential part of pleasure.”

64. “A man is rational in proportion as his intelligence informs and controls his desires.”

65. “If an opinion contrary to your own makes you angry, that is a sign that you are subconsciously aware of having no good reason for thinking as you do.”

66. “Official morality has always been oppressive and negative; it has said, ‘Thou shalt not,’ and has not troubled to investigate the effect of activities not forbidden by the code.”

67. “War grows out of ordinary human nature.”

68. “We need a morality based upon love of life, upon pleasure in growth, and positive achievement—not upon repression and prohibition.”

69. “Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting.”

70. “What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals is not to make people happy.”

71. “Human nature being what it is, people will insist upon getting some pleasure out of life.”

72. “One should, as a rule, respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways.”

73. “The secret of happiness is to face the fact that the world is horrible, horrible, horrible.”

74. “The secret of happiness is this: let your interest be as wide as possible and let your reactions to the things and persons who interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.”

75. “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.”

76. “Anything you’re good at contributes to happiness.”

77. “To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”

78. “Dogmatism is the greatest of mental obstacles to human happiness.”

79. “To like many people spontaneously and without effort is perhaps the greatest of all sources of personal happiness.”

80. “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 in poetry.”

81. “It is essential to happiness that our way of living should spring from our own deep impulses and not from the accidental tastes and desires of those who happen to be our neighbors, or even our relations.”

82. “The world that I should wish to see would be one freed from the virulence of group hostilities and capable of realizing that happiness for all is to be derived rather from cooperation than from strife.”

83. “The main things which seem to me important on their own account, and not merely as means to other things, are knowledge, art, instinctive happiness, and relations of friendship or affection.”

84. “The man who pursues happiness wisely will aim at the possession of a number of subsidiary interests in addition to those central ones upon which his life is built.”

85. “When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them, and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning. That’s if you want to teach them to think.”

86. “We know very little, and yet it is astonishing that we know so much, and still more astonishing that so little knowledge can give us so much power.”

87. “This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.”

88. “So long as there is death, there will be sorrow, and so long as there is sorrow, it can be no part of the duty of human beings to increase its amount, in spite of the fact that a few rare spirits know how to transmute it.”

89. “In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way. But if we are to live together, and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance, which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.”

90. “The real self is as hard to arrive at as the real table, and does not seem to have that absolute, convincing certainty that belongs to particular experiences.”

91. “Conquer the world by intelligence, and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it.”

92. “Your writing is never as good as you hoped; but never as bad as you feared.”

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

94. “There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our thoughts.”

95. “Almost everything that distinguishes the modern world from earlier centuries is attributable to science, which achieved its most spectacular triumphs in the seventeenth century.”

96. “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.”

97. “Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it?”

98. “None of our beliefs are quite true—all have at least a penumbra of vagueness and error.”

99. “I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment.”

100. “Mathematics rightly viewed possesses not only truth but supreme beauty.”

101. “It seems to me a fundamental dishonesty, and a fundamental treachery to intellectual integrity to hold a belief because you think it’s useful and not because you think it’s true.”

102. “The wise man thinks about his troubles only when there is some purpose in doing so; at other times he thinks about other things, or, if it is night, about nothing at all.”

103. “Whoever wishes to become a philosopher must learn not to be frightened by absurdities.”

104. “Men who are unhappy, like men who sleep badly, are always proud of the fact.”

105. “Every dominant passion generates a dominant fear—the fear of its non-fulfillment.”

106. “The man who wishes to preserve sanity in a dangerous world should summon in his own mind a parliament of fears, in which each in turn is voted absurd by all the others.”

107. “To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization, and at present, very few people have reached this level.”

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

109. “Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.”

110. “The search for something permanent is one of the deepest of the instincts leading men to philosophy.”

111. “Understanding human nature must be the basis of any real improvement in human life.”

112. “The wise man will be as happy as circumstances permit, and if he finds the contemplation of the universe painful beyond a point, he will contemplate something else instead.”

113. “Altogether it will be found that a quiet life is characteristic of great men, and that their pleasures have not been of the sort that would look exciting to the outward eye.”

114. “The centre of me is always and eternally in terrible pain—a searching for something beyond what the world contains, something transfiguring and infinite.”

115. “Happiness, as is evident, depends partly upon external circumstances and partly upon oneself.”

116. “Travelling, whether in the mental or the physical world, is a joy, and it is good to know that, in the mental world at least, there are vast countries still very imperfectly explored.”

117. “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.”

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

119. “That is the idea—that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion.”

120. “In the so-called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.”

121. “Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”

122. “It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.”

123. “The law of causality, I believe, like much that passes muster among philosophers, is a relic of a bygone age, surviving like the monarchy, only because it is erroneously supposed to do no harm.”

124. “Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people, a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.”

125. “The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatsoever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widely spread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.”

126. “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.”

127. “Patriots always talk of dying for their country, but never of killing for their country.”

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

129. “So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the gospels in praise of intelligence.”

130. “Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.”

131. “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.”

132. “The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holders lack of rational conviction. Opinions in politics and religion are almost always held passionately.”

133. “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.”

134. “Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cozy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor of their own.”

135. “Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise.”

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

137. “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.”

138. “Science is what you know; philosophy is what you don’t know.”

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

140. “Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim—the fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.”

141. “The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men.”

142. “Fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand.”

143. “We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages.”

144. “Religion is based primarily upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly as the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes.”

145. “How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty?”

146. “I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.”

147. “Nothing is so exhausting as indecision, and nothing is so futile.”

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

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

150. “It is not what the man of science believes that distinguishes him, but how and why he believes it. His beliefs are tentative, not dogmatic; they are based on evidence, not on authority or intuition.”

151. “Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination.”

152. “I consider the official Catholic attitude on divorce, birth control, and censorship exceedingly dangerous to mankind.”

153. “Even if all the experts agree, they may well be mistaken.”

154. “No nation was ever so virtuous as each believes itself, and none was ever so wicked as each believes the other.”

155. “Philosophy, from the earliest times, has made greater claims, and achieved fewer results, than any other branch of learning.”

156. “One must care about a world one will not see.”

157. “A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow process of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers as though they were cut flowers in a vase.”

158. “I hate the world and almost all the people in it.”

159. “Freedom of opinion can only exist when the government thinks itself secure.”

160. “Extreme hopes are born from extreme misery.”

161. “A life confined to what is personal is likely, sooner or later, to become unbearably painful; it is only by windows into a larger and less fretful cosmos that the more tragic parts of life become endurable.”

162. “Whenever you find yourself getting angry about a difference of opinion, be on your guard; you will probably find, on examination, that your belief is going beyond what the evidence warrants.”

163. “Language serves not only to express thought but to make possible thoughts which could not exist without it.”

164. “Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education.”

165. “Belief in God and a future life makes it possible to go through life with less of stoic courage than is needed by skeptics.”

166. “Philosophy, if it cannot answer so many questions as we could wish, has at least the power of asking questions which increase the interest of the world, and show the strangeness and wonder lying just below the surface even in the commonest things of daily life.”

167. “Never let yourself be diverted, either by what you wish to believe, or what you think could have beneficent social effects if it were believed; but look only and solely at what are the facts.”



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