Several months ago, I discovered Bertrand Russell’s “Ten Commandments of Liberal Inquiry” while reading a 1951 NYT Magazine article entitled The Best Answer to Fanaticism- Liberalism. Russell was a well-known British philsopher who proudly defended classical liberalism and freedom of expression during an era plagued by facism, totalitarian communism, censorship and war.
The Ten Commandments of Liberal Inquiry:
I. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
II. Do not think it worthwhile to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
III. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
IV. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your spouse or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
V. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
VI. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
VII. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
VIII. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
IX. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
X. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness
How could you apply Russell’s “Ten Commandments” in your personal or professional life? Do you find them helpful to your individual pursuit of truth? Feel free to leave your thoughts or criticisms about Russell’s “Ten Commandments of Liberal Inquiry” in the comments section.