Bertrand Russell: The 10 Commandments For a Better Life

Have you ever thought about all the little things we do every day and how they affect our lives? If we were to distil our actions to their barest essentials, what would that look like?

How can we streamline our daily activities so we can focus on the things that really matter? This is exactly what the renowned philosopher, mathematician, and logician Bertrand Russell contemplated one day.

He began thinking about those things in life that he felt were important and worthy of his time. He made a list of rules for living, which he saw as essential for leading a happy and fulfilling life.

Russell was one of the foremost thinkers of the early 20th century. In addition to being a mathematician, logician, and philosopher, he was also an activist and social critic.

His views on society, religion, war, marriage, sex, education and self-culture are all outlined in his book “An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding”, published in 1919.

In his book “The Principles of Logic” (1919), Russell included this set of rules for living that he had come across in reading the work of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. They are simple insights about how to live with purpose, intention, and integrity.

In 1951 Russell published an article in The New York Times Magazine, “The best answer to fanaticism: Liberalism.” At the end of the article, he wrote: “The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:”

  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.
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