Bertrand Russell Quotes of This Week, Archive (2006)

1~13(2005) 14~ 36(2006)

 It cannot be denied that tact is a virtue. The sort of person who always manages to blurt out the tactless thing, apparently by accident, is a person full of dislike of his or her fellow creatures. But although tact is a virtue, it is very closely allied to certain vices; the line between tact and hypocrisy is a very narrow one. I think the distinction comes in the motive: when it is kindliness that makes us wish to please, our tact is the right sort; when it is fear of offending, or desire to obtain some advantage by flattery, our tact is apt to be of a less amiable kind. Men accustomed to difficult negotiations learn a kind of tenderness towards the vanity of others and indeed towards all their prejudices, which is infinitely shocking to those who make a cult of sincerity. (source))
 Security depending upon exceptional priviledge is unjust, and the man who has to find excuses for an injustice by which he profits is bound to acquire a distorted moral sense. On the other hand, the powerful men of the present day who are the victors in a free fight overestimate the value of ruthlessness and of the various acts by which success in competition is achieved.
 There is only one way of preventing these opposite vices. Security would be good if it were not accomanied by injustice; there should, therefore, be security for all and not only for a fortunate few. This is possible, but not while the present competitive system survives. (source))

 There is, however, another element more profound than this. The flight of time, the transitoriness of all things, the empire of death, are the foundations of tragic feeling. Ever since men began to reflect deeply upon human life, they have sought various ways of escape: in religion, in philosophy, in poetry, in history - all of which attempt to give eternal value to what is transient. While personal memory persists, in some degree, it postpones the victory of time and gives persistence, at least in recollection, to the momentary event. The same impulse carried further causes kings to engrave their victories on monuments of stone, poets to relate old sorrows in words whose beauty (they hope) will make them immortal, and philosophers to invent systems providing that time is no more than illusion. Vain effort! The stone crumbles, the poet's words become unintelligible, and the philosopher's system are forgotten. Nonetheless, striving after eternity has ennobled the passing moment. (source))
One of the most important elements of success in becoming a man of genius is to learn the art of denunciation. You must always denounce in such a way that your reader thinks that it is the other fellow who is being denounced and not himself; in that case he will be impressed by your noble scorn, whereas if he thinks that it is himself that you are denouncing, he will consider that you are guilty of ill-bred peevishness. Carlyle remarked: 'The population of England is twenty millions, mostly fools.' Everybody who read this considered himself one of the exceptions, and therefore enjoyed the remark. You must not denounce well-defined classes, such as persons with more than a certain income, inhabitants of a certain area, or believers in some definite creed; for if you do this, some readers will know that your invective is directed against them. You must denounce persons whose emotions are atrophied, persons whose perceptions are limited, persons to whom only plodding study can reveal the truth, for we all know that these are other people, and we shall therefore view with sympathy your powerful diagnosis of the evils of the age... (source)) /FONT>
The reason for the universal interest in sensational crime is a little obscure. I think it is made up of two parts: one is the pleasure of the hunt, and the other the imaginative release in the minds of those who would like to commit murders but dare not. I am afraid the pleasure of the hunt is a stronger element in human nature than most people are willing to recognise: it plays its part in all popular outbursts of moral indignation. Among the head-hunters of Borneo it is indulged without the need of any moral claptrap, but civilised people cannot adequately enjoy the indulgence of their baser passions until they have cloaked them in a garment of lofty ethical sentiments. When people let loose supon a murderer the savage impulses of the head-hunter, they feel neither savage nor wicked but believe themselves to be causes upholders of virtue and good citizenship. The other motive for interest in crime, namely that of sympathy for the criminal, has to remain more secret and ... (source)
A simple experiment will enable the reader to judge the accuracy of his friends. Ask them the titles of the books they have read during the last few months, and you will find, almost invariably, that they make mistakes. They will make mistakes about the names and addresses of their acquaintances, except those they know very well. Whenever a fact is just so and is not a matter of sentiment or opinion, you will find that it is not accurately remembered. This is connected with the 'soft' character of modern education. Most of what was formerly taught was useless in itself but had the merit of teaching accuracy. What is taught in up-to-date schools is often worth knowing on its own account but is usually taught in such a way that the pupils do not know it at the end. The consequence is that adults have slipshod habits of mind and cease to notice distortions of fact which have a sinister motive (source)
They (=Children) have a dislike of humbug, which usually disappears in later life. The habit of screening them from the knowledge of disagreeable truths is not adopted for their sakes although adults may think it is ; it is adopted because adults themselves find candour painful (source)
Men who live on islands have been much maligned by those who live on continents, and as the latter are the majority they have made their case heard more effectually than has been possible for the minority. Having just returned from an excursion to the Scillies, which are among the smallest inhabited islands in the world, I feel impelled to take up the cause of islanders in general and to argue that, whatever else they may be, they are not 'insular' in the ordinarily accepted meaning of the term. (source)
There is no impersonal reason for regarding the interests of human beings as more important than those of animals. We can destroy animals more easily than they can destroy us; that is the only solid basis of our claim to superiority. We value art and science and literature, because these are things in which we excel. But whales might value spouting, and donkeys might maintain that a good bray is more exquisite than the music of Bach. We cannot prove them except by the exercise of arbitrary power. All ethical systems, in the last analysis, depend upon weapons of war. (source)
...Men like Einstein proclaim obvious truths about war but are not listened to. So long as Einstein is unintelligible, he is thought wise, but as soon as he says anything that people can understand, it is thought that his wisdom has departed from him. In this folly, governments take a leading part. It seems that politicians would rather lead their countries to destruction than not be in the government. A greater depth of wickedness than this it is not easy to imagine. (source)
All the higher animals have methods of expressing pleasure, but human beings alone express pleasure when they do not feel it. This is called politeness and is reckoned among the virtues. One of the most disconcerting things about infants is that they only smile when they are pleased. They stare at visitors with round grave eyes, and when the visitors try to amuse them, they display astonishment at the foolish antics of adults. But as soon as possible, their parents teach them to seem pleased by the company of people to whom they are utterly indifferent (source)
In marrying, bride and bridegroom are informed that it will henceforth be their 'duty' to love one another, although, since love is an emotion, it is not subject to the control of the will and therefore cannot come within the scope of duty. Considerate behaviour may be a duty, but love is a gift from heaven: when the gift is withdrawn, the one who has lost it is to be pitied, not blamed (source)
To make children happy is not difficult. It requires only affection, common sense, and good spirits. But I am constantly told by my friends - and not only by the highbrows among them -that those who make children happy unfit them for later life. The highbrow tells me that the world is a horrible place which can only be endured by those who have never experienced happiness and therefore do not miss it. The ordinary citizen tells me that it was not by means of happiness in his early years that he was made into the man he is. No, sir, it was by stern discipline, by the austere experience of going without, by toil and hardship and severity (source)
Throughout recent years, a vast amount of money and time and brains has been employed in overcoming sales resistance, i.e. in inducing unoffending persons to waste their money in purchasing objects which they had no desire to possess. It is characteristic of our age that this sort of thing is considered meritorious. (source)
The professions in which a man is allowed to behave in a natural manner are, of course, on the whole less lucrative than those in which a high standard of humbug is required. The corporation lawyer, the corrupt politician, and the popular psychiatrist are expected to utter moral sentiments with profound earnestness and great frequency, but in return for this hard work, they are allowed a suitable remuneration. (source)
I shudder to think what would become of immense numbers of intelligent and high-minded men and women who at present earn their livelihood by advocating some reform which is very unlikely to be carried, if, by some magician's stroke, all their various measures were to be achieved. The ranks of the unemployed would be swelled most dangerously. The motto of the secretary of a society should be 'To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive', for arrival spells ruin. Yet the secretary must continually do his best. (source)
The Don Juan type. while it believes itself very manly, is really the victim of a mother complex. Children do not know their mother as a rule at all completely - their mothers keep their adult concerns away from the children's notice. Children thus get a conception of a woman wholly devoted to them, having no life apart from them, destitute of that core of egoism without which life is impossible. Even those who like Byron, have mothers who are the exact opposite of all this derive from literature and current sentiment an ideal of motherhood and unconsciously desire of a wife what they have failed to obtain from a mother. (source)
In these days, under the influence of democracy, the virtue of co-operation has taken the place formerly held by obedience. The old-fashioned schoolmaster would say of a boy that he was disobedient; the modern schoolmistress says of an infant that he is non-co-operative. It means the same thing: the child, in either case, fails to do what the teacher wishes, but in the first case the teacher acts as the government and in the second as the representative of the People, i.e. of the other children. (source)
At present in most countries history is taught from a national standpoint, but nations grow and decay, so that purely national hopes have necessarily a chronological limit, however vague. Moreover, those elements of national greatness which are most emphasised in the teaching of history are such things as conquest and dominion, which are not contributions to the collective glory of mankind. To make this collective glory visible there should be teaching of the pre-human geological record of the early struggles of modern man and of the history of civilisation as a whole. (source
Take, for example, the behaviour of the British in India. To most English people it seems that Anglo-Indians have been struggling heroically to spread the light of civilisation in the face of obscurantism, intolerance and surperstition. To almost everybody who is not British, the British appear in India as brutal tyrants, enjoyning power and extracting tribute. If you wish to know how an Anglo-Indian feels, you must adopt the British point of view; whereas if you want to know what he does, you must adopt the point of view of the rest of the world. The same thing may be said of the doings of Americans in Haiti and Central America, and of imperialist doings generally. (source
The subject of suicide is apt to be considered not on its merits but in relation to what is called the sacredness of human life. I find, however, that it is illegal to take this phrase seriously, since those who do so are compelled to condemn war. So long as war remains part of our institutions it is mere hypocrisy to invoke the sacredness of human life against those unfortunates whose misery leads them to attempts suicide. source
For the genuine man of science I have the highest possible respect. He is the one force in the modern world at once genuinely constructive and profoundly revolutionary. When the man of science is dealing with technical matters that do not touch upon the prejudices which he shares with the average man, he is more likely to be right than anyone else. But unfortunately very few men of science are able to retain their impartiality when they come to matters about which they feel strongly. source
Real virtue is robust and in contact with facts, not with pretty-pretty fancies. We have chosen to hedge round the profession of teaching with such restrictions that, in the main, those who choose this profession are men and women who are afraid of reality, and we have done this because, while many of us recognise that contact with reality has been good for us, few of us have the courage to believe that it is good for our children. This is the fundamental reason why education, as it exists, is so unsatisfactory. source