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Bertrand Russell

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Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970), was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, pacifist, and social critic. Though he spent most of his life in England, he was born in Wales, and died there at the age of 97.

Russell led the British "revolt against idealism" in the early 1900s. He is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy along with his predecessor Gottlob Frege and his protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein, and is widely held to be one of the 20th century's premier logicians. He co-authored, with A. N. Whitehead, Principia Mathematica, an attempt to ground mathematics on logic. His philosophical essay "On Denoting" has been considered a "paradigm of philosophy." His work has had a considerable influence on logic, mathematics, set theory, linguistics, and philosophy, especially philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaphysics.

Russell was a prominent anti-war activist; he championed free trade and anti-imperialism. Russell went to prison for his pacifist activism during World War I. Later, he campaigned against Adolf Hitler, then criticised Stalinist totalitarianism, attacked the United States of America's involvement in the Vietnam War, and finally became an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament.

In 1950, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought."



Quotes

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying.
  • So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.
  • The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.
  • The universe may have a purpose, but nothing we know suggests that, if so, this purpose has any similarity to ours.
  • The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.
  • What the world needs is not dogma but an attitude of scientific inquiry combined with a belief that the torture of millions is not desirable, whether inflicted by Stalin or by a Deity imagined in the likeness of the believer.
  • Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.
  • 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.
  • Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.


See also

Russell's teapot


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