Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bertrand Russell in Quotes


“Christians hold that their faith does good, but other faiths do harm. At any rate, they hold this about the Communist faith. What I wish to maintain is that all faiths do harm. We may define 'faith' as a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. When there is evidence, no one speaks of 'faith.' We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence.”

- Bertrand Russell

Long before people such as Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) and Richard Dawkins (1941 - ) made opposition to religion if not fashionable, at least more tolerated , there was Bertrand Russell (1872-1970). Karl Marx may have declared that religion is the opiate of the masses but he was a German Commie; Russell was an Englishman, by gad, bearing the title of Earl, from a wealthy and influential aristocratic family. His paternal grandfather served as Queen Victoria’s Prime Minister on two occasions, in the 1840’s and 1860’s.

From Wikipedia:

. . . a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, social critic and political activist. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these in any profound sense. He was born in Monmouthshire, into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in Britain.

Russell led the British "revolt against idealism" in the early 20th century. He is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy along with his predecessor Gottlpb Frege, colleague G E Moore, and his protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein. He is widely held to be one of the 20th century's premier logicians. With A N Whitehead he wrote Principia Matehematica, an attempt to create a logical basis for mathematics. 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, artificial intelligence; linguistics, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science and phiolosphy. 
Russell was a prominent anti-war activist; he championed anti-imperialism and went to prison for his pacifism during World War 1. Later, he campaigned against Adolf Hitler, then criticised Stalinist totalitarianism, attacked the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War, and was an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament. In 1950 Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.”

Some further Betrand Russell quotes:

Since evolution became fashionable, the glorification of Man has taken a new form. We are told that evolution has been guided by one great Purpose: through the millions of years when there were only slime, or trilobites, throughout the ages of dinosaurs and giant ferns, of bees and wild flowers, God was preparing the Great Climax. At last, in the fullness of time, He produced Man, including such specimens as Nero and Caligula, Hitler and Mussolini, whose transcendent glory justified the long painful process. For my part, I find even eternal damnation less incredible, certainly less ridiculous, than this lame and impotent conclusion which we are asked to admire as the supreme effort of Omnipotence.

It is not by prayer and humility that you cause things to go as you wish, but by acquiring a knowledge of natural laws. The power you acquire in this way is much greater and more reliable than that formerly supposed to be acquired by prayer, because you never could tell whether your prayer would be favourably heard in Heaven. The power of prayer, moreover, had recognized limits; it would have been impious to ask too much. But the power of science has no known limits. We were told that faith could remove mountains, but no one believed it; we are now told that the atomic bomb can remove mountains, and everyone believes it.

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.

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

Dora and I are now married but just as happy as we were before.



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