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If you wish to become a philosopher, you must try, as far as you can, to get rid of beliefs which solely depend upon the place and time of your education, and upon what your parents and teachers told you.

No one can do this completely, and no one can be a perfect philosopher, but up to a point we can all achieve it if we wish to.

“But why should we wish to?" you may ask.

There are several reasons. One of them is that irrational opinions have a great deal to do with war and other forms of violent strife.

The only way in which a society can live for any length of time without violent strife is by the establishment of social justice, and social justice appears to each person to be injustice if he is persuaded that he is superior to his neighbor (see: Bosnia).

Justice between classes is difficult where there is a class that believes itself to have a right to more than a proportionate share of power or wealth (see: Czech Romanies).

Justice between nations is only possible through the power of neutrals, because each nation believes in its own superiority or excellence (see: Palestine).

Justice between creeds is even more difficult, since each creed is convinced that it has a monopoly of the truth on the most important of all subjects; religion (see: the Crusades).

It would be increasingly easier that it is to arrange disputes amicably and justly if the philosophic outlook were more widespread.

A second reason for wishing to be philosophical is that mistaken beliefs do not, as a rule, enable you to realize good purposes. In the middle ages when there was an epidemic of the Plague, people crowded into the churches to pray, thinking that their piety would move their god to take pity on them; in fact, the crowds in ill-ventilated buildings provided ideal conditions for the spread of the infection.

If your means are to be adequate to your ends, you must have knowledge, not merely superstition or prejudice.

A third reason is that truth is better than falsehood.
 

There is something ridiculous in going about sustained by comfortable lies:  The deceived husband is traditionally ludicrous and there is something of the same laughable or pitiable quality about all happiness that depends upon being deceived 
or deluded.

Think about it.


- From The Art of Philosophizing: and Other Essays by Bertrand Russell. Photo by Jeffree Benet

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