Little known fact: Bertrand Russell, in 1950
, won the Nobel Prize for Literature
. At the time, he had never published a work of fiction - he went on to publish serveral short stories. His stories are often humorous, somewhat dark, and mostly blatantly anti-religious
(while still being really funny and not bombastic
He was also responsible for Russell's Paradox
, which has been popularized as the Barber Paradox
. He worked with Alfred North Whitehead
on the Principia Mathematica
to try to defeat it. Godel, however, showed that it could not be rooted out of mathematics entirely.
Russell also opposed
marital fidelity - he was a strong believer in what is now called "Free Love
", well before it was cool. This didn't stop him from marrying 4 times.
Quotes providing examples of his humor:
"Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relative to other matter; second, telling other people to do so."
"Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know
what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true."
Quotes about religion:
"What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite."
(from "Skeptical Essays", 1928)
"Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth but supreme beauty --
a beauty cold and austere, like that of a sculpture, without appeal to any
part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trapping of painting or music,
yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the
greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense
of being more than man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is
to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry."
On people and opinion:
"The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not
utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind,
a widespread belief is more often likely to be foolish than sensible."
(from "Marriage and Morals", 1929)
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so
certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts."
"It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this."
"If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it's still a foolish thing."