Today (May 18) happens to be 141st Birth Anniversary of Sir Bertrand Russell, arguably the greatest thinker of our times and perhaps one of greatest philosophers of all times. In addition to being a Philosopher he was also a Logician, Mathematician and Social Critic. He was also a liberal, Socialist and a pacifist.
He was an active anti-war and anti-imperialism proponent. He criticized Hitler, Stalin’s Totalitarianism, America’s involvement in Vietnam and was an outspoken proponent of Nuclear disarmament. He authored over sixty-five books and all his books reflect deep knowledge and wisdom. One of his most famous books is “History of Western Philosophy”. But I consider his books, essays and articles on scientific temper, skepticism and rational thinking to be of everlasting value. He was awarded Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 1950 in recognition of “his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.” Perhaps he was equally worthy of Nobel Peace Prize.
One thing remarkable about Sir Bertrand Russell is that he is the least controversial in spite of his so many books and speeches over the years. I consider him to be the wisest person of the last century and can be bracketed with Albert Einstein as one of the greatest thinkers of our times.
We can recapitulate a few of his famous quotes
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.
In America everybody is of the opinion that he has no social superiors, since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors, for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards.
The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.
Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.
We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought.
I've made an odd discovery. Every time I talk to a savant I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk with my gardener, I'm convinced of the opposite.
Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.
Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn't wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine.
In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.
It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.
Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination.
So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.
Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
All these and many more are profoundly true and reflect great wisdom. I wish to addd that all these, and his writings in general, have had tremendous impact on my life and outlook.