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Bertrand Russell’s Ten Commandments
The philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote his own personal set of ten commandments. They were published under the title “My Ten Commandments” in Everyman magazine in 1930.
They ran as follows: -
1. Do not lie to yourself.
2. Do not lie to other people unless they are exercising tyranny.
3. When you think it is your duty to inflict pain, scrutinize your reasons closely.
4. When you desire power, examine yourself closely as to why you deserve it.
5. When you have power, use it to build up people, not to constrict them.
6. Do not attempt to live without vanity, since this is impossible, but choose the right audience from which to seek admiration.
7. Do not think of yourself as a wholly self-contained unit.
8. Be reliable.
9. Be just.
10. Be good-natured.
Years later he wrote another set of ten commandments, this one just for teachers. It was published in an article entitled “The Best Answer to Fanaticism – Liberalism” in the New York Times Magazine in 1951.
This set ran as follows: -
1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
2. Do not think it worthwhile 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 is happiness.
I am indebted to Kenneth Blackwell, editor of Russell: the Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies, for the sources of these quotes.