Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Bertrand Russell

1872 – 1970 CE

“20th century Voltaire”

Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)
Nobel laureate for championing “humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought,” famous logician, polymath, historian, writer, and social critic; Russell promoted a world government and a "scientific society.” From one of the UK’s most prominent aristocratic families, he dedicated his life to political and social activism trying to abolish war, poverty, prejudice, and imperialism. A prominent anti-war activist, he went to prison during World War I. In his early 70’s he recreated himself; continued a strong, active and relevant life being arrested and jailed for 7 days because of an anti-nuke protest when he was 89; and persevered using his considerable political influence up until days before he died at 97. A major influence on the development of computer science and artificial intelligence, he worked for nuclear disarmament, gay rights, and world peace.

Eras

Sources

Autobiography of Bertrand Russell

History of Western Philosophy

Unpopular Essays

Unlisted Sources

An Outline of Intellectual Nonsense

Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind, 1946

Mysticism and Logic, 1910

The Freeman's Worship, 1903

The Impact of Science on Society

Quotes by Bertrand Russell (167 quotes)

“Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false.”

from Unpopular Essays

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“Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Belief

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“Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Fanaticism Fear

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“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Nationalism

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“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Wisdom

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“Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.”

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“I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.”

Themes: Christianity

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“the only thing that will redeem mankind is co-operation”

Themes: Competition

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

Themes: Crazy Wisdom

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“Sin is geographical.”

Themes: Nationalism

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“Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.”

Themes: Death and Dying

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“Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it?”

Themes: Doubt

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“Every time I talk to a savant, I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk with my gardener, I’m convinced of the opposite.”

Themes: Gardening

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“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.”

Themes: God

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“The secret of happiness is this: let your interest be as wide as possible and let your reactions to the things and persons who interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.”

Themes: Happiness

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“We do not like to be robbed of an enemy; we want someone to hate when we suffer. It is so depressing to think that we suffer because we are fools.”

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“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.”

Themes: Health

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“I have lived in the pursuit of a vision… to see in imagination the society that is to be created, where individuals grow freely, and where hate and greed and envy die because there is nothing to nourish them.”

Themes: Shambhala

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“To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”

Themes: Less is More

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“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.”

Themes: Livelihood

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“Love can flourish only as long as it is free and spontaneous; it tends to be killed by the thought of duty. To say that it is your duty to love so-and-so is the surest way to cause you to hate him of her.”

Themes: Freedom Love

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“It's easy to fall in love. The hard part is finding someone to catch you.”

Themes: Love

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“When considering marriage one should ask oneself this question; 'will I be able to talk with this person into old age?' Everything else is transitory, the most time is spent in conversation”

Themes: Marriage

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“It is the preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else that prevents us from living freely and nobly.”

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To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it.
Themes: Philosophy

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“Religion is a disease born of fear and a source of untold misery to the human race.”

Themes: Religion

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“Science is what you know, philosophy is what you don't know.”

Themes: Science

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“One must care about a world one will not see.”

Themes: Shambhala

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“A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live.”

Themes: Simplicity

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“I believe in my outrage knowing people are living in boxes on the street. I believe in honesty. I believe in a good time. I believe in good food. I believe in sex.”

Themes: Sex

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“I don't like the spirit of socialism – I think freedom is the basis of everything.”

Themes: Socialism

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“The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.”

Themes: Skillful Means

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“Righteousness cannot be born until self-righteousness is dead.”

Themes: Virtue

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“Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.”

Themes: War Aggression

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“Of all evils of war the greatest is the purely spiritual evil: the hatred, the injustice, the repudiation of truth, the artificial conflict.”

Themes: Truth Conflict

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“My whole religion is this: do every duty, and expect no reward for it, either here or hereafter.”

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“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

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“The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.”

Themes: Middle Way

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“Dogmatism is the greatest of mental obstacles to human happiness.”

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“We tend to believe the premises because we can see that their consequences are true, instead of believing the consequences because we know the premises to be true.”

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“the demand for certainty is an intellectual vice”

from Unpopular Essays

Chapters: 65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

Themes: Doubt

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“philosophy can give certain things that will greatly increase the student’s value as a human being… by enlarging the objects of his thoughts, it supplies an antidote to anxieties… and makes possible the nearest approach to serenity available to a sensitive mind in our tortured and uncertain world”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Philosophy

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“in the past as well as in the present, an... increase of skill has not, of itself, insured any increase of human happiness or well-being.”

from Unpopular Essays

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“wisdom is... more needed now than ever before, because the rapid growth of technique has made ancient habits of thought and action more inadequate than in any earlier time.”

from Unpopular Essays

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“Dogmatism is an enemy to peace and an insuperable barrier to democracy... the greatest of the mental obstacles to human happiness.”

from Unpopular Essays

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“so long as men are not trained to withhold judgement in the absence of evidence, they will be led astray by cocksure prophets, and it is likely that their leaders will be either ignorant fanatics or dishonest charlatans.”

from Unpopular Essays

Chapters: 26. The Still Rule the Restless

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“an uncertain hypothesis cannot justify a certain evil unless an equal evil is equally certain on the opposite hypothesis.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Evil

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“I feel I shall find the truth on my deathbed and be surrounded by people too stupid to understand—fussing about medicines instead of searching for wisdom.”

from Autobiography of Bertrand Russell

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“What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or ignorance.”

from Autobiography of Bertrand Russell

Chapters: 14. Finding and Following the Formless Form

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“To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

Themes: Fear

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“I hate being all tidy like a book in a library where nobody reads”

from Autobiography of Bertrand Russell

Themes: True Self

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“I have lived in the pursuit of a vision, both personal and social. Personal: to care for what is noble, for what is beautiful, for what is gentle; to allow moments of insight to give wisdom at more mundane times. Social: to see in imagination the society that is to be created, where individuals grow freely, and where hate and greed and envy die because there is nothing to nourish them. These things I believe, and the world, for all its horrors, has left me unshaken”

from Autobiography of Bertrand Russell

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“In general, I find that things that have happened to me out of doors have made a deeper impression than things that have happened indoors.”

from Autobiography of Bertrand Russell

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“Love is something far more than desire for sexual intercourse it is the principal means of escape from the loneliness which afflicts most men and women throughout the greater part of their lives.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Sex Love

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“It seems clear to me that marriage ought to be constituted by children, and relations not involving children ought to be ignored by the law and treated as indifferent by public opinion. It is only through children that relations cease to be a purely private matter.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Marriage

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“Change is one thing, progress is another. Change is scientific, progress is ethical; change is indubitable, progress is a matter of controversy.”

from Unpopular Essays

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“Trade brings men into contact with tribal customs different from their own, and in so doing destroys the dogmatism of the untravelled.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Capitalism Travel

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“In every important war since 1700, the more democratic side has been victorious.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Democracy War

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“The genuine Liberal does not say ‘this is true’, he says ‘I am inclined to think that under present circumstances this opinion is probably the best.’”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Opinion

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“Almost all knowledge is in some degree doubtful... the doubtfulness of what passes for knowledge is a matter of degree”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Doubt

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“Philosophy is a stage of intellectual development, and is not compatible with mental maturity... for it to flourish, traditional doctrines must still be believed.”

Themes: Philosophy

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“The distinction between words and what they designate is one which it is difficult always to remember... [the confused believe that ] Sentences have subjects and predicates, therefore the world consists of substances with attributes.”

from Unpopular Essays

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“What is demanded is a change in our imaginative picture of the world.”

Themes: Imagination

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“It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground for supporting it to be true.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Belief

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“It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true... if such an opinion became common, it would completely transform our social and political systems.”

from Unpopular Essays

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“Keynes's intellect was the sharpest and clearest that I have ever known. When I argued with him, I felt that I took my life in my hands, and I seldom emerged without feeling something of a fool.”

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“If we do not get rid of these dreadful weapons, they will get rid of us.”

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“Pythagoras is one of the most interesting and puzzling men in history… a combination of Einstein and Mrs. Eddy, he was intellectually one of the most important men that ever lived… I do not know of any other man who has been as influential”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Pythagoras, like Saint Francis, preached to animals. In the society that he founded, men and women were admitted on equal terms; property was held in common, and there was a common way of life.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Almost all the hypotheses that have dominated modern philosophy were first thought of by the Greeks… they gave birth to theories that have had an independent life and though at first infantile, have proved capable of serving and developing though more than 2000 years; their imaginative inventiveness in abstract matters can hardly be be too highly praised.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“The doctrine of the perpetual flux, as taught by Heraclitus, is painful, and science can do nothing to refute it.”

from History of Western Philosophy

Themes: Impermanence

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“What subsequent philosophy, down to quite modern times, accepted from Parmenides, was not the impossibility of all change, which was too violent a paradox, but the indestructibility of substance.”

from History of Western Philosophy

Themes: Change

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“Arabic philosophy is not important as original thought… Mohammedan civilization in its great days was admirable in the arts and an many technical ways, but it showed no capacity for independent speculation in theoretical matters. It’s import—which must not be underrated—is as a transmitter.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Averroes is more important in Christian than in Mohammedan philosophy. In the latter he was a dead end; in the former, a beginning… [he] regarded religion as containing philosophic truth in allegorical form.”

from History of Western Philosophy

Themes: Truth

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“According to the mystics, every text of the Koran has 7 or 70 or 700 layers of interpretation, the literal meaning being only for the ignorant vulgar… they believed that the populace should take the Koran literally but wise people need not do so.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.”

Themes: Reason

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“More scientific than Parmenides, Plato, and Aristotle… The originality of Empedocles' originality, outside science, consists in the doctrine of the four elements and in the use of the two principles of Life and Strife to explain change.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“The age of Pericles was the happiest and most glorious time in the history of Athens... These achievements are perhaps the most astonishing thing in all history.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Anaxagoras was the first to introduce philosophy to the Athenians, the first to suggest mind as the primary cause of physical changes... and one of the influences that helped to form Socrates.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“It is the excellence of Plato as a writer of fiction that throws doubt on him as an historian.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“[Socrates] was the perfect Orphic saint... a man very sure of himself, high-minded, indifferent to worldly success, believing that he is guided by a divine voice, and persuaded that clear thinking is the most important requisite for right living.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“The Stoics held that supreme good is virtue, and that a man cannot be deprived of virtue by outside causes; this doctrine is implicit in the contention of Socrates that his judges cannot harm him.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“The Cynics despised worldly goods, and showed their contempt by eschewing the comforts of civilization; this is the same point of view that led Socrates to go barefoot and ill-clad.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“The close connection between virtue and knowledge is characteristic of Socrates and Plato, in all Greek thought, as opposed to that of Christianity. In Christian ethics, a pure heart is essential, and is at least as likely to found among the ignorant as among the learned. This difference between Greek and Christian ethics has persisted down to the present day.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Schopenhauer is in many ways peculiar among philosophers... a pessimist, not fully academic, as much interested in art as ethics, unusually free from nationalism... His appeal has always been less to professional philosophers than to artistic and literary people in search of a philosophy that they could believe.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Plato was most important to early Christianity, Aristotle to the medieval Church; but when, after the Renaissance, men began to value political freedom, it was above all to Plutarch that they turned. His influence profoundly influenced 18th century English and French liberals, the founders of the USA, the romantic movement in Germany, and German thought down to the present day.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Xenophon, a military man, not very liberally endowed with brains, and on the whole conventional in his outlook... his ideas so far from being subversive, were rather dull and commonplace.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Dante, though as a poet he was a great innovator, was, as a thinker, somewhat behind the times. His thought is interesting but it was not influential, and was hopelessly out of date.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“A witty, skilled, and highly skilled writer... Erasmus was incurably and unashamedly literary... he lived too long, into an age of new virtues and new vices—heroism and intolerance—neither of which he could acquire.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Regarded as the greatest of scholastic philosophers in the battle for Aristotle against Plato, there is little of the true philosophic spirit in Aquinas. Before he begins to philosophize, he believes he already knows the truth. I cannot, therefore, feel that he deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or of modern times.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“The temper of the romantics is best studied in fiction. They liked what was strange: ghosts, ancient decayed castles, the last melancholy descendants of once-great families, practitioners of mesmerism and the occult sciences, falling tyrants and levantine pirates.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“The ancient law giver was a benevolent myth; the modern law giver is a terrifying reality. The world has become more like that of Machiavelli than it was, and the modern man who hope to refute his philosophy must think more deeply than seemed necessary in the 19th century.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“For the only eminent disciple of Epicurus, Lucretius, hardly any other great poet has had to wait so long for recognition. But in modern times, his merits have been almost universally acknowledged. For example, he and Benjamin Franklin were Shelley's favorite authors.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“The criminals with whom Dostoevsky associated were better than he was, because they were more self-respecting... he would have nothing to do with 'proper pride'; he would sin in order to repent and enjoy the luxury of confession... I agree with Nietzsche in thinking Dostoevsky's prostration contemptible.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Plato's most important dialogue, The Republic consists in the construction of an ideal commonwealth, the earliest of Utopias. One of the conclusions arrived at is that the rulers must be philosophers... If this is true, we must decide what constitutes a philosopher, and the consequent discussion is the most famous part of The Republic, and has perhaps been the most influential.”

from History of Western Philosophy

Themes: Philosophy

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“The myth is of even more importance, historically, than the reality... For the reality was the source of the myth.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“The sole business of a Spartan citizen was war, to which he was trained from birth... There was no nonsense about cultural or scientific education; the sole aim was to produce good soldiers, wholly devoted to the state.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“All the land belonged to the Spartans, who, however were forbidden by law and custom to cultivate it themselves, both on the ground that such labor was degrading, and in order that they might always be free for military service.”

from History of Western Philosophy

Themes: Agriculture

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“The instinctive part of our character is very malleable. It may be changed by beliefs, by material circumstances, by social circumstances, and by institutions... [education can] promote all that is creative, and so diminish the impulses and desires that center around possession [with] the growth of one individual or one community as little as possible at the expense of another.”

from Mysticism and Logic, 1910

Themes: Education

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“One should respect public opinion in so far as it is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.”

Themes: Opinion

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“Santayana also liked religion, but in a very different way. He liked it aesthetically and historically, not as a help towards a moral life... He did not intellectually accept any of the Christian dogmas, but he was content that others should believe them, and himself appreciated what he regarded as the Christian myth.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“William James used to preach the ‘will to believe.’ For my part, I should wish to preach the ‘will-to-doubt.’ None of our beliefs are quite true; all at least have a penumbra of vagueness and error What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.”

Themes: Science

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“James’ doctrine is an attempt to build a superstructure of belief upon a foundation of skepticism, and like all such attempts, it is dependent on fallacies… a form of the subjectivistic madness which is characteristic of most modern philosophy.”

Themes: Philosophy Belief

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“Kindi, the first to write philosophy in Arabic, and the only philosopher of note who was himself an Arab... introduced great confusion into Arabic ideas of Aristotle, from which it took Arabic philosophy centuries to recover.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Omar Kyayyam, the only man known to me who was both a poet and a mathematician, reformed the calendar in 1079. His best friend, oddly endough, was the founder of the sect of the Assassins, the 'Old Man of the Mountain' of legendary fame.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Avicenna spent his life in the sort of places that one used to think only exist it poetry. Even more famous in medicine than in philosophy and with a passion for wine and women, he was suspect to the orthodox but befriended by princes on account of his medical skill




from History of Western Philosophy

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“Averroes was accused of cultivating the philosophy of the ancients at the expense of the true faith. All the books that could be found on logic and metaphysics were given to the flames and Muslim philosophy in Spain ended with Averroes; and in the rest of the Mohammedan world a rigid orthodoxy put an end to speculation.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Considered purely as a philosopher, Marx has grave shortcomings. He is too practical, too much wrapped up in the problems of his time… It is only because of the belief in the inevitability of progress that Marx thought it possible to dispense with ethical considerations… Marx professed himself an atheist, but retained a cosmic optimism which only theism could justify… He hopes for little from persuasion, everything from the class war. He is committed in practice to power politics.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“[William] refused altogether to follow his brother Henry into fastidious snobbishness.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Every advance in civilization has been denounced as unnatural while is was recent.”

from An Outline of Intellectual Nonsense

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“compassion... If you feel this, you have a motive for existence, a guide for action, a reason for courage, an imperative necessity for intellectual honesty.”

from The Impact of Science on Society

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“Fate itself if subdued by the mind which leaves nothing to be purged by the purifying fire of Time.”

from The Freeman's Worship, 1903

Themes: Fate / Destiny

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“Dark terror and misfortunes in the life to come oppressed the Egyptians and Etruscans, but never reached their full development until the victory of Christianity.”

from Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind, 1946

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“The reformative effect of punishment is a belief that dies hard, chiefly I think, because it is so satisfying to our sadistic impulses.”

from Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind, 1946

Themes: Punishment

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“In all history, nothing is so surprising or so difficult to account for as the sudden rise of civilization in Greece. What they achieved in art and literature is familiar to everybody, but what they did in the purely intellectual realm is even more exceptional… Deductive reasoning from general premises was a Greek innovation… they speculated freely about the nature of the world and the ends of life, without being bound in the fetter of any inherited orthodoxy. What occurred was so astonishing that—until very recent time—men were content to gape and talk mystically about the Greek genius.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Babylonian religion—unlike that of Egypt—was more concerned with prosperity in this world than with happiness in the next. Magic, divination, and astrology were more developed there than elsewhere… From Babylon come some thing that belong to science: the division of the day into 24 hours, and of the circle into 360 degrees; also the discovery of a cycle in eclipses which enabled lunar eclipses to be predicted with certainty”

from History of Western Philosophy

Themes: Magic

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“The religions of Egypt and Babylonia were originally fertility cults… In Babylon, Ishtar, the earth-goddess, was supreme among female divinities. Throughout western Asia, the Great Mother was worshipped under various names. Greek colonists named her Artemis… Christianity transformed her into the Virgin Mary, and it was Council at Ephesus that legitimated the title Mother of God”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“It does not occur to Nietzsche as possible that a man should genuinely feel universal love, obviously because he himself feels almost universal hatred and fear... it never occurred to him that the lust for power, with which he endows his superman, is itself an outcome of fear.”

from History of Western Philosophy

Themes: Power

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“Rousseau, not unnaturally, had come to suffer from the persecution mania which ultimately drove him insane... But in the end his delusions won the day and he fled. His last years were spent in Paris in great poverty, and when he died suicide was suspected.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“To Musset, it was only after Napoleon that Byron and Goethe were the greatest geniuses of the century... To Carlyle, Goethe and Byron were antitheses; to Alfred de Musset, they were accomplices in the wicked work of instilling the poisoning of melancholy into the cheerful Gallic soul.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“the historical truth that man is by nature oppressor and oppressed, and that it is only slowly by law, education, and the spirit of love in the world that men can be made happy and free.”

from History of Western Philosophy

Themes: Basic Goodness

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“Descartes is usually considered the founder of modern philosophy, and, I think, rightly. He is the first man of high philosophic capacity whose outlook is profoundly affected by the new physics and astronomy... he does not accept foundations laid by predecessors, but endeavors to construct a complete philosophic edifice de novo. This had not happened since Aristotle... There is a freshness about his work that is not to be found in any eminent previous philosopher since Plato... Descartes writes, not as a teacher, but as a discoverer and explorer”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“The belief in a happy 'state of nature' in the remote past is derived partly from the biblical narrative of the age of the patriarchs, partly from the classical myth of a golden age. The general belief in the badness of the remote past only came with the doctrine of evolution.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“What Galileo and Newton were to the 17th century, Darwin was the the 19th... Darwin himself was a liberal, but his theories had consequences in some degree inimical to traditional liberalism... like Kant [he] gave rise to a movement which he would have detested.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Kant, like Darwin, gave rise to a movement which he would have detested... The stages in the evolution of ideas have... developed by steps that each seem natural, into their opposites... governed throughout by external circumstances and the reflection of these circumstances in human emotions.”

from History of Western Philosophy

Themes: Paradox Evolution

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“Hitler is an outcome of Rousseau; Roosevelt and Churchill, that of Locke... Liberty is the nominal goal of Rousseau's thought, but in fact it is equality that he values, and he seeks to secure even at the expense of liberty.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Hume is one of the most important among philosophers, because he developed to its logical conclusion the empirical philosophy of Locke and Berkeley, and by making it self-consistent made it incredible. He represents, in a certain sense, a dead end: in his direction, it is impossible to go further”

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“Hume's philosophy represents the bankruptcy of 18th century reasonableness... It was inevitable that such a self-refutation of rationality should be followed by a great outburst of irrational faith. Rousseau was mad but influential; Hume was sane but had no followers.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Everyone knows that 'mind' is what an idealist thinks there is nothing else but, and 'matter' is what a materialist thinks the same about... the 'mind' to which a given mental event belongs is the group of events connected with the given event by memory-chains, backwards or forwards... a mind and a piece of matter are, each of them, a group of events.”

from History of Western Philosophy

Themes: Mind

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“Mary Shelley's Frankenstein... contains what might be regarded as an allegorical prophetic history of the development of romanticism.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“It is not the psychology of the romantics that is at fault: it is their standard of values. They admire strong passions, of no matter what kind... hence the type of man encouraged by romanticism is violent and anti-social, an anarchic rebel or a conquering tyrant.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“By self-interest, Man has become gregarious, but in instinct he has remained to a great extent solitary; hence the need of religion and morality to reinforce self-interest... The mystic becomes one with God, and feels himself absolved from duty to his neighbor.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Leibniz was one of the supreme intellects of all time, but as a human being he was not admirable... he was wholly destitute of those higher philosophic virtues... What he proclaimed was optimistic, orthodox, fantastic, and shallow... unpublished in his desk... profound, coherent, largely Spinozistic, and amazingly logical.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“A man may be a cheerful pessimist or a melancholy optimist. Perhaps Samuel Butler may serve as an example of the first; Plotinus is an admirable example of the second.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Plotinus is both an end and a beginning—an end as regards the Greeks, a beginning as regards Christendom... [He was] the founder of Neoplatonism and the last of the great philosophers of antiquity... He represents better than any other philosopher, an important type of theory... subjectivism invaded men's feelings as well as their doctrines.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“perhaps the most perfect example I have ever known of genius as traditionally conceived; passionate, profound, intense, and dominating... His disposition is that of an artist, intuitive and moody”

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“logic and theory of knowledge had become dependent on metaphysics and theology. Occam set to work to separate them again... [his] political works are written in the style of philosophic disputations, with arguments for and against , sometimes not reaching any conclusion.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim.”

Themes: Competition Crime

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“One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.”

Themes: Conformity

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“I must confess that I am unable to appreciate the merits of Confucius. His writings are largely occupied with trivial points of etiquette, and his main concern is to teach people how to behave correctly on various occasions. When one compares him, however, with the traditional religious teachers of some other ages and races, one must admit that he has great merits... It certainly has succeeded in producing a whole nation possessed of exquisite manners and perfect courtesy. Nor is Chinese courtesy merely conventional; it is quite as reliable in situations for which no precedent has been provided.”

Themes: Confucianism

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“It is humiliating to watch the brutal insolence of white men received by the Chinese with a quiet dignity which cannot demean itself to answer rudeness with rudeness. Europeans often regard this as weakness, but it is really strength, the strength by which the Chinese have hitherto conquered all their conquerors.”

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“The true spirit of delight, the exultation—the sense of being more than Man—is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.”

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“Hobbes is a philosopher whom it is difficult to classify... He is completely free from superstition... He is clear and logical... he is the first really modern writer on political theory... To occupy his leisure, he wrote, at 84, an autobiography in Latin verse, and published, at 87, a translation of Homer.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“In 1651, he published the Leviathan, it pleased no one Its rationalism offended most of the refugees, and its bitter attacks on the Catholic huh offended the French government... There is not a word in Leviathan to suggest any relation between [states] except war and conquest... Every argument that he adduces in favor of government, in so far as it is valid at all, is valid in favor of international government. So long as national States exist and fight each other, only inefficiency can preserve the human race. To improve the fighting quality of separate States without having any means of preventing war is the road to universal destruction.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Every community is faced with two dangers, anarchy and despotism... This led Locke to the doctrine of division of powers, and of checks and balances.”

from History of Western Philosophy

Themes: Middle Way

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

Themes: Confidence

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“Contact with the Mohammedans in Spain, and to a lesser extent in Sicily, made the West aware of Aristotle; also of Arabic numerals, algebra, and chemistry... words we derive from Arabic such as: algebra, alcohol, alchemy, alembic, alkali, azimuth, zenith.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“After the Middle Ages, the Jews still contributed largely to civilization as individuals, but no longer as a race.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Orthodox Judaism became more orthodox and more narrow after the fall of Jerusalem. After the first century, Christianity also crystallized and the relations of Judaism and Christianity were wholly hostile and external... Christianity powerfully stimulated anti-Semitism.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“The Sufi sect allowed itself great latitude in the mystical and allegorical interpretation of orthodox dogma; it was more less Neoplatonic.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Only Archimedes foreshadowed the modern use of mathematics by inventing engines of war for the defense of Syracuse against the Romans. A Roman soldier killed him and the mathematicians retired again into their ivory tower.”

from Unpopular Essays

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“After the 3rd century BCE, no very important progress was made. At the time of the Renaissance, however, something of what the Greeks had done became known, and greatly facilitated the rise of modern science.”

from Unpopular Essays

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“Before Galileo it was held that there was a radical difference between regions below the moon and regions from the moon upwards... below there was change and decay... From the moon upwards... there was no such thing as change or decay”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Moon

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“scientific progress without a corresponding moral and political progress may only increase the magnitude of the disaster that misdirected skill may bring about.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Progress

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“We know what the Nazis did to Jews at Auschwitz. In mass cruelty, the expulsions of Germans ordered by the Russians fall not far short of the atrocities perpetuated by the Nazis.”

from Unpopular Essays

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“It was the Stoics who invented the conception of the brotherhood of man. They taught that all men are children of Zeus and that the sage will ignore the distinctions of Greek and barbarian, bond and free. When Rome brought the whole civilized world under one government, the political environment was favorable to the spread of this doctrine.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Pluralism

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“Government can easily exist without law, but law cannot exist without government... government is necessary if anything worthy to be called civilization is to exist, but all history shows that any set of men entrusted with power over another set will abuse their power if they can do so with impunity.”

from Unpopular Essays

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“international government is at least as important to mankind as national government... either man must again become a rare species as in the days of Homo Pekiniensis, or we must learn to submit to an international government. Any such government, whether good, bad or indifferent, will make the continuation of the human species possible”

from Unpopular Essays

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“Christianity also did much to soften the lot of slaves. It established charity on a large scale and inaugurated hospitals. Although the great majority of Christians failed lamentably in Christian charity, the ideal remained alive and in every age inspired some notable saints... it passed over into modern Liberalism and remains the inspiration of much that is most hopeful in our sombre world.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Christianity

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“We suffer not only the evils that actually befall us, but all those what our intelligence tells us we have reason to fear... forethought averts physical disaster at the cost of worry, and general lack of joy.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Evil Strategy

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“Within the herd we are more friendly to each other than are many species of animals, but in our attitude toward those outside the herd, in spite of all that has been done by moralists and religious teachers, our emotions are as ferocious as those of any animal, and our intelligence enables us to give them a scope which is denied to even the most savage beast.”

from Unpopular Essays

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“Even more important that the domestication of animals was the invention of agriculture, which however, introduced bloodthirsty practices into religion that last for many centuries. Fertility rites tended to involve human sacrifice and cannibalism.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Agriculture

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“People attempted to tame whatever animal their religion taught them to worship. The tribes that worshiped lions and crocodiles died out, while those to whom the cow or the sheep was a sacred animal prospered.”

from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Religion

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“It is to the Greeks that we owe ways of thinking and investigating that have ever since been found fruitful... by the sixth century BCE some of them achieved a degree of enlightened rationalism which cannot be surpassed in the present day.”

from Unpopular Essays

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“Xenophanes has his place in the succession of rationalists who were opposed to the mystical tendencies of Pythagoras and others, but as an independent thinker he is not in the first rank.”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Buddhism, at this time, was a vigorous proselytizing religion. Ashoka, the saintly Buddhist king, records, in a still extant inscription, that he sent missionaries to all the Macedonian kings”

from History of Western Philosophy

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“Mathematics possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of a sculpture.”

Themes: Beauty

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Quotes about Bertrand Russell (3 quotes)

“When Cambridge dismissed him for his pacifism, this new Pythagoras made the world his university, and became a traveling Sophist (in the original sense of that once noble word)... All in all, a very lovable man: capable of the profoundest metaphysics and the subtlest mathematics, and yet speaking always simply, with the clarity which comes only to those who are sincere

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from The Story of Philosophy, 1926

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“Russell’s books should be bound in two colors…those dealing with mathematical logic in red – and all students of philosophy should read them; those dealing with ethics and politics in blue – and no one should be allowed to read them.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein 1889 – 1951 CE
One of the world's most famous philosophers

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“Bertrand Russell, a scientific humanist, found it difficult to see why people should take unhappily to news that the universe is running down, inasmuch as 'I do not see how an unpleasant process can be made less so by being indefinitely repeated.'”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE
from World's Religions

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