The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell: A Collection of Online Resources and Key Quotes

Lennox Johnson Resources

This page aims to make learning about the philosophy of Bertrand Russell as easy as possible by bringing together the best articles, podcasts, and videos from across the internet onto one page. To get started, simply choose one of the resources listed below, or browse a selection of key quotes by Russell at the bottom of the page.

Encyclopedia Articles

This section features articles from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The SEP is probably the most comprehensive online philosophy resource. It features in-depth articles on a huge number of philosophical topics, however, it is aimed at an academic audience and may be too detailed and technical for beginners. The IEP is generally more beginner-friendly but is also considered to be less reliable. Wikipedia is also an option, but it is much less reliable than either of these.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Articles

This section features short articles written by professional philosophers and aimed at a general audience. These articles are ideal for anyone looking for a shorter or more beginner-friendly introduction to Russell than the encyclopedia articles listed above.

The Times Literary Supplement

The Conversation

The Guardian

Podcasts

This section features episodes from leading philosophy podcasts. These are also aimed at a general audience and are a good option for beginners who prefer audio content.

Philosophy Bites

In Our Time

Short Videos (<30 mins)

This section features short videos aimed at beginners.

Miscellaneous

Lectures/Longer Videos (>30 mins)

This section features longer videos and lectures.

Book Recommendations

This section features requests for book recommendations on philosophy forums. These can also be useful to browse when trying to find reading recommendations.

Books

There is only so much that you can learn using free online resources. This section features books that may be useful if you’re looking to learn more about Russell. This list was created using the books featured in the course syllabi and forum recommendations above.

Courses

This section features online courses on Bertrand Russell.

Quotes

This section features a selection of key quotes by Russell.


The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the cooperation or consent of his deliberate reason.

– The Problems of Philosophy, ch. 15


Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions, since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination, and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation; but above all because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good.

– The Problems of Philosophy, ch. 15


It is difficult to define knowledge, difficult to decide whether we have any knowledge, and difficult, even if it is conceded that we sometimes have knowledge to discover whether we can ever know that we have knowledge in this or that particular case.

– The Analysis of Mind, Lecture 8


The man who has fed the chicken every day throughout its life at last wrings its neck instead, showing that a more refined view as to the uniformity of nature would have been useful to the chicken.

– The Problems of Philosophy, ch. 6


Mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. People who have been puzzled by the beginnings of mathematics will, I hope, find comfort in this definition, and will probably agree that it is accurate.

– Mathematics and the Metaphysicians


Man has existed for about a million years. He has possessed writing for about 6,000 years, agriculture somewhat longer, but perhaps not much longer. Science as a dominant factor in determining the beliefs of educated men, has existed for about 300 years; as a source of economic technique, for about 150 years. In this brief period it has proved itself an incredibly powerful revolutionary force. When we consider how recently it has risen to power, we find ourselves forced to believe that we are at the very beginning of its work in transforming human life.

– Science and Tradition


Education is, as a rule, the strongest force on the side of what exists and against fundamental change: threatened institutions, while they are still powerful, possess themselves of the educational machine, and instill a respect for their own excellence into the malleable minds of the young. Reformers retort by trying to oust their opponents from their position of vantage. The children themselves are not considered by either party; they are merely so much material, to be recruited into one army or the other. If the children themselves were considered, education would not aim at making them belong to this party or that, but at enabling them to choose intelligently between the parties; it would aim at making them able to think, not making them think what their teachers think. Education as a political weapon could not exist if we respected the rights of children.

– Education


The thing, above all, that a teacher should endeavor to produce in his pupils, if democracy is to survive, is the kind of tolerance that springs from an endeavor to understand those who are different from ourselves. It is perhaps a natural human impulse to view with horror and disgust all manners and customs different from those to which we are used. Ants and savages put strangers to death. And those who have never travelled either physically or mentally find it difficult to tolerate the queer ways and outlandish beliefs of other nations and other times, other sects and other political parties. This kind of ignorant intolerance is the antithesis of a civilized outlook, and is one of the gravest dangers to which our overcrowded world is exposed.

– Unpopular Essays


Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. … But if thought is to become the possession of many, not the privilege of the few, we must have done with fear. It is fear that holds men back—fear lest their cherished beliefs should prove delusions, fear lest the institutions by which they live should prove harmful, fear lest they themselves should prove less worthy of respect than they have supposed themselves to be.

– Why Men Fight, ch. 5


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