Celebrating 19 Years on the Web
TODAY IN SCIENCE HISTORY ®
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “We are here to celebrate the completion of the first survey of the entire human genome. Without a doubt, this is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by human kind.”
more quiz questions >>
Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index R > Bertrand Russell Quotes > Knowledge

Thumbnail of Bertrand Russell (source)
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.



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.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4107)  |  Arithmetic (139)  |  Arranged (4)  |  Certainty (174)  |  Degree (275)  |  Fact (1212)  |  Facts (553)  |  Hierarchy (17)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Perception (97)  |  Top (96)

Gradually, … the aspect of science as knowledge is being thrust into the background by the aspect of science as the power of manipulating nature. It is because science gives us the power of manipulating nature that it has more social importance than art. Science as the pursuit of truth is the equal, but not the superior, of art. Science as a technique, though it may have little intrinsic value, has a practical importance to which art cannot aspire.
— Bertrand Russell
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), xxiv.
Science quotes on:  |  Art (657)  |  Aspect (124)  |  Aspire (13)  |  Background (43)  |  Being (1278)  |  Equal (84)  |  Gradually (102)  |  Importance (287)  |  Intrinsic (18)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Little (708)  |  Manipulate (10)  |  More (2559)  |  Nature (1928)  |  Power (747)  |  Practical (200)  |  Pursuit (121)  |  Science (3880)  |  Science And Art (186)  |  Social (252)  |  Superior (82)  |  Technique (80)  |  Technology (261)  |  Thrust (12)  |  Truth (1062)  |  Value (368)

I conclude that, while it is true that science cannot decide questions of value, that is because they cannot be intellectually decided at all, and lie outside the realm of truth and falsehood. Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.
— Bertrand Russell
Religion and Science (1935), 243.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4107)  |  Attain (125)  |  Attainment (47)  |  Conclude (65)  |  Conclusion (255)  |  Decision (91)  |  Discover (553)  |  Discovery (785)  |  Falsehood (28)  |  Intellect (233)  |  Know (1519)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Lie (364)  |  Mankind (340)  |  Method (506)  |  Methods (204)  |  Must (1526)  |  Outside (141)  |  Question (622)  |  Realm (85)  |  Science (3880)  |  Scientific (940)  |  Scientific Method (176)  |  Truth (1062)  |  Value (368)  |  Whatever (234)

I wanted certainty in the kind of way in which people want religious faith. I thought that certainty is more likely to be found in mathematics than elsewhere. But I discovered that many mathematical demonstrations, which my teachers expected me to accept, were full of fallacies, and that, if certainty were indeed discoverable in mathematics, it would be in a new field of mathematics, with more solid foundations than those that had hitherto been thought secure. But as the work proceeded, I was continually reminded of the fable about the elephant and the tortoise. Having constructed an elephant upon which the mathematical world could rest, I found the elephant tottering, and proceeded to construct a tortoise to keep the elephant from falling. But the tortoise was no more secure than the elephant, and after some twenty years of very arduous toil, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing more that I could do in the way of making mathematical knowledge indubitable.
— Bertrand Russell
In 'Reflections on my Eightieth Birthday', Portraits from Memory (1956), 54.
Science quotes on:  |  Accept (192)  |  Arduous (3)  |  Certainty (174)  |  Conclusion (255)  |  Construct (124)  |  Continual (43)  |  Demonstration (114)  |  Discover (553)  |  Do (1908)  |  Elephant (31)  |  Expect (201)  |  Fable (12)  |  Faith (203)  |  Fall (230)  |  Fallacy (31)  |  Field (365)  |  Foundation (173)  |  Indeed (323)  |  Indubitable (3)  |  Kind (557)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Making (300)  |  Mathematics (1333)  |  More (2559)  |  New (1217)  |  Nothing (969)  |  People (1005)  |  Proceed (129)  |  Religious (126)  |  Reminded (2)  |  Rest (281)  |  Solid (116)  |  Teacher (143)  |  Thought (954)  |  Toil (25)  |  Tortoise (10)  |  Want (497)  |  Way (1216)  |  Work (1351)  |  World (1778)  |  Year (932)

Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic, because in arithmetic there is knowledge, but in theology there is only opinion. So whenever you find yourself getting angry about a difference of opinion, be on your guard, you will probably find, on examination, that your belief is going beyond what the evidence warrants?
— Bertrand Russell
In An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1943), 22.
Science quotes on:  |  Anger (20)  |  Arithmetic (139)  |  Belief (578)  |  Beyond (308)  |  Difference (337)  |  Evidence (248)  |  Examination (98)  |  Find (999)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Opinion (281)  |  Persecution (13)  |  Theology (53)  |  Warrant (8)  |  Whenever (81)  |  Will (2354)

Philosophy is that part of science which at present people chose to have opinions about, but which they have no knowledge about. Therefore every advance in knowledge robs philosophy of some problems which formerly it had …and will belong to science.
— Bertrand Russell
'The Philosophy of Logical Atomism' (1918). In Betrand Russell and Robert Charles Marsh (Ed.), Logic and Knowledge: Essays, 1901-1950 (1988), 281.
Science quotes on:  |  Advance (280)  |  Belong (162)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Opinion (281)  |  People (1005)  |  Philosophy (382)  |  Present (620)  |  Problem (679)  |  Science (3880)  |  Will (2354)

Science is what we know, and philosophy is what we don't know.
— Bertrand Russell
In Bertrand Russell Speaks his Mind (1960), 11.
Science quotes on:  |  Know (1519)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Philosophy (382)  |  Science (3880)

Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination.
— Bertrand Russell
In History of Western Philosophy (2004), 26.
Science quotes on:  |  Imagination (328)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Limit (281)  |  Science (3880)  |  Set (394)

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
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Degree (275)  |  Emotion (100)  |  Fact (1212)  |  Facts (553)  |  Hot (60)  |  Inversely (2)  |  Know (1519)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Less (103)  |  Vary (27)

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.
Science quotes on:  |  Examination (98)  |  Fact (1212)  |  Gateway (6)  |  Instruction (91)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Lead (385)  |  Livelihood (12)  |  Money (173)  |  Point (580)  |  Point Of View (82)  |  Purely (110)  |  Regard (304)  |  System (537)  |  Training (80)  |  Useful (250)  |  View (488)  |  Wisdom (221)  |  Young (228)

The good life is one inspired by life and guided by knowledge.
— Bertrand Russell
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Good (889)  |  Guide (98)  |  Inspire (52)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Life (1799)

The scientific attitude of mind involves a sweeping away of all other desires in the interest of the desire to know.
— Bertrand Russell
Mysticism and Logic: And Other Essays (1919), 44.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4107)  |  Attitude (82)  |  Desire (204)  |  Interest (386)  |  Involve (90)  |  Know (1519)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Mind (1339)  |  Other (2236)  |  Scientific (940)

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.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4107)  |  Artist (90)  |  Body (537)  |  Concern (228)  |  Differ (85)  |  Difference (337)  |  Establish (57)  |  Fact (1212)  |  Facts (553)  |  General (511)  |  Instance (33)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Law (895)  |  Notice (77)  |  Observation (560)  |  Particular (76)  |  Refute (5)  |  Relative (39)  |  Say (984)  |  Science (3880)  |  Science And Art (186)  |  Scientific (940)  |  Scientific Method (176)  |  Scientist (825)  |  Significance (113)  |  Significant (74)  |  Start (221)

There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.
— Bertrand Russell
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Gain (145)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Pleasure (179)  |  Useless (33)

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.
— Bertrand Russell
The Autobiography of Betrand Russell (1998), 9, first sentence of the Prologue.
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (242)  |  Govern (65)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Life (1799)  |  Longing (19)  |  Love (309)  |  Mankind (340)  |  Passion (114)  |  Search (162)  |  Simple (406)  |  Strong (174)  |  Suffering (67)

Throughout the last four hundred years, during which the growth of science had gradually shown men how to acquire knowledge of the ways of nature and mastery over natural forces, the clergy have fought a losing battle against science, in astronomy and geology, in anatomy and physiology, in biology and psychology and sociology. Ousted from one position, they have taken up another. After being worsted in astronomy, they did their best to prevent the rise of geology; they fought against Darwin in biology, and at the present time they fight against scientific theories of psychology and education. At each stage, they try to make the public forget their earlier obscurantism, in order that their present obscurantism may not be recognized for what it is.
— Bertrand Russell
From An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1937, 1943), 6. Collected in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (2009), 47.
Science quotes on:  |  Against (332)  |  Anatomy (69)  |  Astronomy (231)  |  Battle (34)  |  Being (1278)  |  Best (459)  |  Biology (216)  |  Clergy (4)  |  Charles Darwin (304)  |  Earlier (9)  |  Education (379)  |  Fight (44)  |  Force (488)  |  Forget (117)  |  Forgeting (2)  |  Geology (220)  |  Gradually (102)  |  Growth (188)  |  Hundred (228)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Last (426)  |  Loss (110)  |  Mastery (34)  |  Natural (796)  |  Natural Forces (6)  |  Nature (1928)  |  Obscurantism (3)  |  Order (632)  |  Physiology (95)  |  Present (620)  |  Prevent (96)  |  Prevention (35)  |  Psychology (154)  |  Public (96)  |  Recognition (88)  |  Rise (166)  |  Science (3880)  |  Science And Religion (310)  |  Scientific (940)  |  Scientific Theory (24)  |  Sociology (46)  |  Stage (143)  |  Theory (972)  |  Throughout (98)  |  Time (1877)  |  Try (283)  |  Way (1216)  |  Worst (57)  |  Year (932)

Vagueness is very much more important in the theory of knowledge than you would judge it to be from the writings of most people. Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise, and everything precise is so remote from everything that we normally think, that you cannot for a moment suppose that is what we really mean when we say what we think.
— Bertrand Russell
In The Philosophy of Logical Atomism (1918, 1919), 2.
Science quotes on:  |  Degree (275)  |  Do (1908)  |  Everything (476)  |  Important (210)  |  Judge (108)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Mean (809)  |  Moment (254)  |  More (2559)  |  Most (1729)  |  Normal (28)  |  People (1005)  |  Precise (68)  |  Realize (147)  |  Remote (83)  |  Say (984)  |  Suppose (156)  |  Theory (972)  |  Think (1086)  |  Vague (47)  |  Vagueness (15)  |  Writing (189)

We know very little, and yet it is astonishing that we know so much, and still more astonishing that so little knowledge can give us so much power.
— Bertrand Russell
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Astonishing (27)  |  Give (202)  |  Know (1519)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Little (708)  |  More (2559)  |  Power (747)  |  Still (613)

What men want is not knowledge, but certainty.
— Bertrand Russell
Uncertain attribution. Often seen, but Webmaster has not yet found this wording in a primary source, and remains uncertain that this is an actual Russell quote. It is included here to provide this caution. Contact Webmaster if you have more information.
Science quotes on:  |  Certainty (174)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Want (497)

While the dogmatist is harmful, the sceptic is useless …; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or of ignorance. Knowledge is not so precise a concept as is commonly thought. Instead of saying ‘I know this’, we ought to say ‘I more or less know something more or less like this’. … Knowledge in practical affairs has not the certainty or the precision of arithmetic.
— Bertrand Russell
From 'Philosophy For Laymen', collected in Unpopular Essays (1950, 1996), 38-39.
Science quotes on:  |  Arithmetic (139)  |  Certain (550)  |  Certainty (174)  |  Concept (221)  |  Dissipate (8)  |  Dogmatism (15)  |  Harmful (12)  |  Ignorance (240)  |  Know (1519)  |  Knowing (137)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  More (2559)  |  More Or Less (68)  |  Other (2236)  |  Philosophy (382)  |  Practical (200)  |  Precise (68)  |  Precision (68)  |  Say (984)  |  Sceptic (5)  |  Something (719)  |  Thought (954)  |  Useless (33)

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which numbers holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.
— Bertrand Russell
In 'Prologue: What I Have Lived For', The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (1969). 3-4.
Science quotes on:  |  Achieved (2)  |  Flux (21)  |  Heart (230)  |  Know (1519)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Little (708)  |  Man (2249)  |  Number (701)  |  Passion (114)  |  Power (747)  |  Seek (213)  |  Shine (46)  |  Star (430)  |  Stars (304)  |  Understand (607)  |  Why (491)  |  Wish (212)


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
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)
Sitewide search within all Today In Science History pages:
Visit our Science and Scientist Quotations index for more Science Quotes from archaeologists, biologists, chemists, geologists, inventors and inventions, mathematicians, physicists, pioneers in medicine, science events and technology.

Names index: | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Categories index: | 1 | 2 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.