Bertrand Russell’s Advice for Future Generations

Bertrand Russell, in a 1959 interview for the BBC:

Interviewer: Suppose, Lord Russell, this film would be looked at by our descendants, like a Dead Sea scroll in a thousand years’ time. What would you think it’s worth telling that generation about the life you’ve lived and the lessons you’ve learned from it?

Russell: I should like to say two things, one intellectual and one moral. The intellectual thing I should want to say to them is this: When you are studying any matter or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe, or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed, but look only — and solely — at what are the facts. That is the intellectual thing that I should wish to say. The moral thing I should wish to say to them is very simple: I should say love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other; we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things we don’t like. We can only live together in that way and if we are to live together and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance, which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.

Although the interview is sixty years old, Russell’s advice is more relevant today than ever before. These instructions should be part of the onboarding process of all online social platforms:

  1. Look only at the facts and the truths they bear out.
  2. People will say things you don’t like; practice charity and tolerance.

Love is wise, hatred is foolish.

Bertrand Russell’s Advice for Future Generations