- I was told that the Chinese said they would bury me by the Western Lake and build a shrine to my memory. I have some slight regret that this did not happen as I might have become a god, which would have been very chic for an atheist.
- Impulse has more effect than conscious purpose in moulding men's lives.
- To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.
The Conquest of Happiness (1930)
- Men who are unhappy, like men who sleep badly, are always proud of the fact.
The Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 1
- Boredom is…a vital problem for the moralist, since half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.
The Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 4
- One of the symptoms of approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important, and that to take a holiday would bring all kinds of disaster.
The Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 5
- 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.
The Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9
- 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.
The Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 10
- Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.
The Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 12
- To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization.
The Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 14
- What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is its exact opposite.
Free Thought and Official Propaganda (1922)
- 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.
The Impact of Science on Society (1952)
- Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.
In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (1986) title essay (1932)
- Religion, which may in most of its forms be defined as the belief that the gods are on the side of the Government.
Marriage and Morals (1929) ch. 3
- To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.
Marriage and Morals (1929) ch. 19
- Mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true.
Mysticism and Logic (1918) ch. 4
- 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.
Mysticism and Logic (1918) ch. 9
- No one gossips about other people's secret virtues.
On Education Especially in Early Childhood (1926)
- Only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built.
Philosophical Essays (1910) no. 2
- Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture.
Philosophical Essays (1910) no. 4
- 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.
The Philosophy of Logical Atomism (1918)
- The man who has fed the chicken every day throughout its life at last wrings its neck instead, showing that a more refined view as to the uniformity of nature would have been useful to the chicken.
The Problems of Philosophy (1912) ch. 6
- The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the cooperation or consent of his deliberate reason.
The Problems of Philosophy (1912) ch. 15
- The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holder's lack of rational conviction.
Sceptical Essays (1928)
- Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day.
Sceptical Essays (1928) ‘Dreams and Facts’
- The fundamental defect of fathers, in our competitive society, is that they want their children to be a credit to them.
Sceptical Essays (1928) ‘Freedom versus Authority in Education’
- Machines are worshipped because they are beautiful, and valued because they confer power; they are hated because they are hideous, and loathed because they impose slavery.
Sceptical Essays (1928) ‘Machines and Emotions’
- The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists. That is why they invented Hell.
Sceptical Essays (1928) ‘On the Value of Scepticism’
- It is obvious that ‘obscenity’ is not a term capable of exact legal definition; in the practice of the Courts, it means ‘anything that shocks the magistrate’.
Sceptical Essays (1928) ‘The Recrudescence of Puritanism’
- Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
Unpopular Essays (1950) ‘An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish’
- Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty.
Unpopular Essays (1950) ‘An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish’
- ‘Change’ is scientific, ‘progress’ is ethical; change is indubitable, whereas progress is a matter of controversy.
Unpopular Essays (1950) ‘Philosophy and Politics’
- If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes.But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense.
‘Is There a God?’, commissioned (but not published) by The Illustrated Magazine, 1952; first published in Collected Papers vol. 11 (1997)
- There's a Bible on that shelf there. But I keep it next to Voltaire—poison and antidote.
in Kenneth Harris Talking To (1971) ‘Bertrand Russell’
- Many people would sooner die than think. In fact they do.