Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Unpopular Essays

By Bertrand Russell

Quotes from Unpopular Essays

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

Chapters:

Themes: Doubt

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

Chapters:

Themes: Evil

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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.”

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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.”

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Themes: Conformity

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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.”

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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.”

Chapters:

Themes: Wisdom

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

Chapters:

Themes: Democracy War

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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.”

Chapters:

Themes: Skillful Means

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

Chapters:

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.”

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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.”

Chapters:

Themes: Marriage

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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.”

Chapters:

Themes: Sex Love

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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.”

Chapters:

Themes: Belief

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“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.”

Chapters:

Themes: Delusion

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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.”

Chapters:

Themes: Belief

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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”

Chapters:

Themes: Philosophy

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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.”

Chapters: 26. The Still Rule the Restless

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“the demand for certainty is an intellectual vice”

Chapters: 65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

Themes: Doubt

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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.”

Chapters:

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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.’”

Chapters:

Themes: Opinion

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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.”

Chapters:

Themes: Capitalism Travel

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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.”

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