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

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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.



Descartes, the father of modern philosophy … would never—so he assures us—have been led to construct his philosophy if he had had only one teacher, for then he would have believed what he had been told; but, finding that his professors disagreed with each other, he was forced to conclude that no existing doctrine was certain.
— Bertrand Russell
From 'Philosophy For Laymen', collected in Unpopular Essays (1950, 1996), 57.
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It seemed that animals always behave in a manner showing the rightness of the philosophy entertained by the man who observes them… . Throughout the reign of Queen Victoria all apes were virtuous monogamists, but during the dissolute twenties their morals underwent a disastrous deterioration.
— Bertrand Russell
From 'Theory of Knowledge', My Philosophical Development (1959), collected in Robert E. Egner and Lester E. Denonn (eds), The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (1961), 225.
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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)

Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom.
— Bertrand Russell
In 'The Value of Philosophy', The Problems of Philosophy (1912), 157.
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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 is what you know, philosophy what you don’t know.
— Bertrand Russell
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Know (1519)  |  Philosophy (382)  |  Science (3880)

Science is what you more or less know and philosophy is what you do not know.
— 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:  |  Do (1908)  |  Know (1519)  |  More (2559)  |  More Or Less (68)  |  Philosophy (382)  |  Science (3880)

Since the world is what it is, it is clear that valid reasoning from sound principles cannot lead to error; but a principle may be so nearly true as to deserve theoretical respect, and yet may lead to practical consequences which we feel to be absurd. There is therefore a justification for common sense in philosophy, but only as showing that our theoretical principles cannot be quite correct so long as their consequences are condemned by an appeal to common sense which we feel to be irresistible.
— Bertrand Russell
In A History of Western Philosophy, (1945, 1996), 553.
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The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it
— Bertrand Russell
The Philosophy of Logical Atomism (1959), 10.
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The theoretical understanding of the world, which is the aim of philosophy, is not a matter of great practical importance to animals, or to savages, or even to most civilized men.
— Bertrand Russell
…...
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There will still be things that machines cannot do. They will not produce great art or great literature or great philosophy; they will not be able to discover the secret springs of happiness in the human heart; they will know nothing of love and friendship.
— Bertrand Russell
…...
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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.
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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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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
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Alfred Wegener
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- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
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Leonardo DaVinci
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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- 10 -
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