Bertrand Russell’s Liberal Decalogue

In 1951, Bertrand Russell’s wrote a piece for New York Times Magazine called “The Best Answer to Fanaticism: Liberalism.” I’m not a great follower of his work, though I have fairly enjoyed what I have come across thus far and it seems this one is one of his lesser-known pro-secular works.

In this particular piece, he wrote what has been dubbed by many as a “Liberal Decalogue,”, i.e, a Liberal (or Secular) 10 Commandments. Personally I feel that naming it such is not ideal as it once again panders to a certain religious familiarity which a real secular thought would want to disconnect from – but I understand the catchiness of it so I’m going to set that point aside.

Why post this? Because more and more I find myself not negative but certainly less tolerant of the narrow-minded, the bigots, the haters and all the many others whose attitudes and ideologies so clash with any good reason or the very poorly named “common sense”.

So, here for your consideration is a list of 10 thought exercises to help you consider things and perhaps reach a better place personally, as well as maybe become a better and more thoughtful person:

  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, endeavour 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.

Personally I liked #1 and #7 the most. What about you?


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