Man is a rational animal—so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favor of this statement, but so far I have not had the good fortune to come across it.
Some old people are oppressed by the fear of death. In the young there is justification for this feeling. But in an old man the fear of death is somewhat abject and ignoble.
Bertrand Russell has consistently advocated ideals and expressed beliefs which have made him, along with Shaw and Wells, if not quite with Marx and Freud, one of the formative influences on the modem mind.
A good man is one whose opinions and activities are pleasing to the holders of power.
In these days rationality has received many hard knocks, so that it is difficult to know what one means by it, or whether, if that were known, it is something which human beings can achieve.
Will machines destroy emotions, or will emotions destroy machines? This question was suggested long ago by Samuel Butler in Erewhon, but it is growing more and more actual as the empire of machinery is enlarged.
Knowledge, everywhere, is coming to be regarded not as a good in itself, or as a means of creating a broad and humane outlook on life in general, but as merely an ingredient in technical skill.
Man’s Peril is an in-depth analysis of the dangers confronting the modern world and repercussions of atomic warfare.
The subject of sex is so surrounded by superstitions and taboos that I approach it with trepidation. I fear lest those readers who have hitherto accepted my principles may suspect them when they are applied in this sphere; they may have admitted readily enough that fearlessness and freedom are good for a child, and yet desire, where sex is concerned, to impose slavery and terror.
In the celebrated essay “A Free Man’s Worship,” Bertrand Russel maintains that a new and deeper faith can be constructed, not faith in a theological sense but faith in the power of reason; his faith in man’s capacity to create his own world through his own effort.
A community of men and women possessing vitality, courage, sensitiveness, and intelligence, in the highest degree that education can produce, would be very different from anything that has hitherto existed. Very few people would be unhappy.
If the long and stormy life of Bertrand Arthur Russell can be said to possess any unifying thread, it is an enduring attitude of passionate skepticism, a lifelong refusal to accept any truth as immutable, any law as infallible or any faith as sacred.
I wish to propose for the reader’s favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive.
Marx’s doctrine was bad enough, but the developments which it underwent under Lenin and Stalin made it much worse.
Having soothed themselves with these comfortable falsehoods, people proceeded on their way to make Orwell’s prognostications come true. Bit by bit, and step by step, the world has been marching toward the realization of Orwell’s nightmares; but because the march has been gradual, people have not realized how far it has taken them on this fatal road.
Mankind is in mortal peril, and fear now, as in the past, is inclining men to seek refuge in God. Throughout the West there is a very general revival of religion. Nazis and Communists dismissed Christianity and did things which we deplore. It is easy to conclude that the repudiation of Christianity by Hitler and the Soviet Government is at least in part the cause of our troubles…
Romney Wheeler interviews British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic Bertrand Russell at Russell’s home in Surrey, England.
Bertrand Russell first delivered this lecture on March 6, 1927 to the National Secular Society, South London Branch, at Battersea Town Hall.