Bertrand Russell: Love is Wise, Hatred is Foolish

“Love is wise, hatred is foolish.”
— Bertrand Russell


The British philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) gave us some of the more enduring developments in 20th-century philosophy. His 10 commandments of teaching and writing on avoiding foolish opinions demonstrate how Russell wanted philosophy to speak to ordinary people.

In this rare 1959 interview with BBC, Russell is asked to pass along advice to a later generation. In just under two minutes he articulates two things: one intellectual and one moral that still resonate today and cut through our noisy world.


Interviewer: Suppose Lord Russell that this film were to 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 that 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.