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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index R > Bertrand Russell Quotes > Fact

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Bertrand Russell
(18 May 1872 - 2 Feb 1970)

Welsh mathematician, logician and philosopher known for his work in mathematical logic, but was also active in social and political campaigns, advocating pacifism and nuclear disarmament.



A fact, in science, is not a mere fact, but an instance.
— Bertrand Russell
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), 38.
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A hallucination is a fact, not an error; what is erroneous is a judgment based upon it.
— Bertrand Russell
The Monist (Apr 1914), 24:2, 173.
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All that passes for knowledge can be arranged in a hierarchy of degrees of certainty, with arithmetic and the facts of perception at the top.
— Bertrand Russell
From 'Philosophy For Laymen', collected in Unpopular Essays (1950, 1996), 39.
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In attempting to understand the elements out of which mental phenomena are compounded, it is of the greatest importance to remember that from the protozoa to man there is nowhere a very wide gap either in structure or in behaviour. From this fact it is a highly probable inference that there is also nowhere a very wide mental gap.
— Bertrand Russell
Lecture II, 'Instinct and Habit', The Analysis of Mind
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It is a curious and painful fact that almost all the completely futile treatments that have been believed in during the long history of medical folly have been such as caused acute suffering to the patient. When anesthetics were discovered, pious people considered them an attempt to evade the will of God. It was pointed out, however, that when God extracted Adam's rib He put him into a deep sleep. This proved that anesthetics are all right for men; women, however, ought to suffer, because of the curse of Eve.
— Bertrand Russell
In An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1943), 13.
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Many people would sooner die than think. In fact they do.
— Bertrand Russell
…...
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Men who are unhappy, like men who sleep badly, are always proud of the fact.
— Bertrand Russell
In The Conquest of Happiness (1930), Chap. 1, 24.
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Physical science is thus approaching the stage when it will be complete, and therefore uninteresting. Given the laws governing the motions of electrons and protons, the rest is merely geography—a collection of particular facts.
— Bertrand Russell
In What I Believe (1925), 2.
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Remote from human passions, remote even from the pitiful facts of nature, the generations have gradually created an ordered cosmos [mathematics], where pure thought can dwell in its natural home...
— Bertrand Russell
'The Study of Mathematics', Philosophical Essays (1910), 73-74. In J. E. Creighton (Ed.), Evander Bradley McGilvary, 'Reviews of Books', The Philosophical Review (1911), Vol 20, 422.
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Science, in its ultimate ideal, consists of a set of propositions arranged in a hierarchy, the lowest level of the hierarchy being concerned with particular facts, and the highest with some general law, governing everything in the universe. The various levels in the hierarchy have a two-fold logical connection, travelling one up, one down; the upward connection proceeds by induction, the downward by deduction.
— Bertrand Russell
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), 38.
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Scientific method, although in its more refined forms it may seem complicated, is in essence remarkably simply. It consists in observing such facts as will enable the observer to discover general laws governing facts of the kind in question. The two stages, first of observation, and second of inference to a law, are both essential, and each is susceptible of almost indefinite refinement. (1931)
— Bertrand Russell
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), 3.
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Sir Arthur Eddington deduces religion from the fact that atoms do not obey the laws of mathematics. Sir James Jeans deduces it from the fact that they do.
— Bertrand Russell
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), 77.
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The degree of one’s emotions varies inversely with one’s knowledge of the facts—the less you know the hotter you get.
— Bertrand Russell
…...
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The examination system, and the fact that instruction is treated mainly as a training for a livelihood, leads the young to regard knowledge from a purely utilitarian point of view as the road to money, not as the gateway to wisdom.
— Bertrand Russell
In 'Education as a Political Institution', Atlantic Monthly, (Jun 1916), 117 755. Also in Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916, 2013), 113.
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The fact that all Mathematics is Symbolic Logic is one of the greatest discoveries of our age; and when this fact has been established, the remainder of the principles of mathematics consists of the analysis of Symbolic Logic itself.
— Bertrand Russell
In Bertrand Russell, The Principles of Mathematics (1903), 5.
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The first man who said “fire burns” was employing scientific method, at any rate if he had allowed himself to be burnt several times. This man had already passed through the two stages of observation and generalization. He had not, however, what scientific technique demands—a careful choice of significant facts on the one hand, and, on the other hand, various means of arriving at laws otherwise than my mere generalization. (1931)
— Bertrand Russell
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), 3.
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The significance of a fact is relative to [the general body of scientific] knowledge. To say that a fact is significant in science, is to say that it helps to establish or refute some general law; for science, though it starts from observation of the particular, is not concerned essentially with the particular, but with the general. A fact, in science, is not a mere fact, but an instance. In this the scientist differs from the artist, who, if he deigns to notice facts at all, is likely to notice them in all their particularity.
— Bertrand Russell
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), 38.
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The world of mathematics, which you condemn, is really a beautiful world; it has nothing to do with life and death and human sordidness, but is eternal, cold and passionless. To me, pure, mathematics is one of the highest forms of art; it has a sublimity quite special to itself, and an immense dignity derived, from the fact that its world is exempt I, from change and time. I am quite serious in this. The only difficulty is that none but mathematicians can enter this enchanted region, and they hardly ever have a sense of beauty. And mathematics is the only thing we know of that is capable of perfection; in thinking about it we become Gods.
— Bertrand Russell
Letter to Helen Thomas (30 Dec 1901). Quoted in Nicholas Griffin (ed.), The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell (1992), Vol. 1, 224.
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We all have a tendency to think that the world must conform to our prejudices. The opposite view involves some effort of thought, and most people would die sooner than think–in fact they do so.
— Bertrand Russell
In The ABC of Relativity (1925), 166. A paraphrase from this quote is often seen as, “Most people would rather die than think; many do.”
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When a man of science speaks of his “data,” he knows very well in practice what he means. Certain experiments have been conducted, and have yielded certain observed results, which have been recorded. But when we try to define a “datum” theoretically, the task is not altogether easy. A datum, obviously, must be a fact known by perception. But it is very difficult to arrive at a fact in which there is no element of inference, and yet it would seem improper to call something a “datum” if it involved inferences as well as observation. This constitutes a problem. …
— Bertrand Russell
In The Analysis of Matter (1954).
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See also:
  • 18 May - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Russell's birth.
  • Bertrand Russell - context of quote “A process which led from the amoeba to man” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Bertrand Russell - context of quote “A process which led from the amoeba to man” - Large image (800 x 600 px)

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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