If you think that your belief is based upon reason, you will support it by argument, rather then by persecution, and will abandon it if the argument goes against you. But if your belief is based on faith, you will realize that argument is useless, and will therefore resort to force either in the form of persecution or by stunting and distorting the minds of the young in what is called "education". This last is particularly dastardly, since it takes advantage of the defencelessness of immature minds. Unfortunately it is practiced in greater or less degree in the schools of every civilised country.”
- Bertrand Russell in Human Society in Ethics and Politics (1954)
Some of my own ideas on the quote:
One could add to this fantastic quote that to be really able to speak out freely a writer should be able to forget for the brief moment that one has friends or relatives. As soon as one starts to think how somebody else would react to the ideas, a writer is not able to speak fully freely.
This kind of self-induced censorship can be one of the main reasons why people like Bertrand Russell are so rare. It is not because his level of intellect would be impossible to achieve, even if also it is undoubtedly a major challenge.
Of course, the fear of what others will think is one of the most important sources for self-censorship for all of us who are not self-employed. The later career as a free writer gave new mental freedom also to Bertrand Russell.
However, even there is always the wishes of the publisher and buyers of books to be considered. If one takes this idea to the utmost, one sees that a really free thinker and writer must be a person who does not write for money or even fame, but who just writes about what he or she really thinks.
A fine example of this is Marcus Aurelius, who’s book ‘Meditations' was found among his belongings only after his death.
In our own age, getting ones thoughts to many others to read is easier than it has ever been in human history. This is naturally thanks to blogs and all the other channels for self-publishing that are offered by the Internet.
Of course, there are masses of rubbish published in the net. However, there is also a lot of great and fresh thinking that we would perhaps never know of, if these new methods for free self-publishing would not be available.
It is true, that the subconscious part of our mind will never be completely free. We will undoubtedly take into consideration what others think of us on the subconscious level, even if we try to be as free as possible on a conscious level. However, even trying to be more free will undoubtedly result in freer way of thinking than not even trying.
(This piece was refurbished on 21th of December, 2012)
Bertrand Russell is in Facebook at:
"Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. He is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy along with his predecessor Gottlob Frege and his protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein. He is widely held to be one of the 20th century's premier logicians. He co-authored, with A. N. Whitehead, Principia Mathematica, an attempt to ground mathematics on logic. His philosophical essay "On Denoting" has been considered a "paradigm of philosophy." His work has had a considerable influence on logic, mathematics, set theory, linguistics, computer science (see type theory and type system), and philosophy, especially philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaphysics."