Book Club: What I Believe – “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge”

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“In human affairs, we can see that there are forces making for happiness, and forces making for misery. We do not know which will prevail, but to act wisely we must be aware of both”.


Bertrand Russel (1872 –1970) was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic and political activist.  He received 1950 Nobel Prize in Literature “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought”.

As a political activist in his 98 years of life, Russell was a prominent anti-war activist (jailed for this during WW I), and an anti-imperialist. He campaigned against Adolf Hitler and criticized Stalinist totalitarianism. He also was a vocal critic of United States’ war in the Vietnam War and an opponent of nuclear arms.

One of the many excellent writings he produced was the book titled ‘What I Believe’.

‘What I Believe’ can be summed in Bertrand Russel’s own quote: “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge“.

Again in his words:

“I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting. Many a man has borne himself proudly on the scaffold; surely the same pride should teach us to think truly about man’s place in the world. Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigour, and the great spaces have a splendour of their own.”

Before you go into book reviews, just one notice: “What I believe” has always been a pretty popular title for authors. So, if you decide to buy or borrow the book to read, make sure that in this specific case, the author’s name is Bertrand Russel….

Go deeper:

The Book: What I Believe Bertrand Russel, foreword by Alan Ryan, Routledge

Book Review: Bertrand Russell on Immortality, Why Religion Exists, and What “The Good Life” Really Means Brainpickings