Bertrand Russell - In His Own Words

Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim. --Bertrand Russell

I ran across this Bertrand Russell quotation the other day and was a bit taken aback. Cynical was not really his style. Critical yes, but not cynical. I realized this would be my second Russell quote in as many months, which led me to today's litany of quotes from the esteemed philosopher, mathematician and social commentator.

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. - also B. Russell

I was with him right up until the last line. I too think that we tend to reject any evidence that goes against our engrained belief system and accept all types of nonsense that supports what we already think we know to be true, factual or real. I don't quite see how he got to the origin of myths with this. Besides the best quote on that subject is: "History becomes legend, legend becomes myth."

All movements go too far. - B. Russell

My favorite BR quote even though when I was younger I completely disagreed with its main point. "Our" movement after all was going to change the world.

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. --

Bertrand Russell

I phrase it a bit differently - I have one big prejudice, I abhor voluntary stupidity.

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. -B. Russell

One of the hallmark slogans of the sixties - 'Question Authority' became the more universal - 'Question Everything.' Bertrand and I would add - 'Question Yourself.'

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence. -Bertrand Russell

While I wholeheartedly endorse the sentiment, the point needs to be pushed further. Intelligence is spoken of in the bible, but god is credited with having an exclusive.
photograph from National Geographic