On Politics
On Economics
On Morality
On Morality, Religion and Life
On morality
'Why is dishonesty excused as well as explained by depression, but not by indigestion?' [1959, Social Science and Social Pathology, p.240]
'Statements about the moral responsibility of other people are...really only statements about the speaker's own state of mind.' [1959, Social Science and Social Pathology,p.246]
'All the science in the world cannot prove that happiness is better than misery.' [1962, 'Socrates, Science and Social Problems', New Society p.16]
'...moral judgments may lie concealed in what appears to be the neutral language of science or medicine.' [1959, Social Science and Social Pathology, p.283]
On war and killing
'I am ashamed that men can be found who, for a suitable wage, will build and maintain in good repair an apparatus for strangling their fellow men.' [1969, 'The Baroness Who Was Ashamed of Being British', Time and Tide, pp.2026]
'To deprive another human being of life is, in my opinion, an inherently immoral action... So far as we know, the interval between birth and death is the total span of any human being's experience. For one human being deliberately and irrevocably to curtail another human being's share of this experience is an act of unsurpassable arrogance....killing, because of its utter finality, is a uniquely destructive act, whether the killer is a soldier in battle, an executioner or a murderer.' [1969, 'Morality and Mistakes' in The Hanging Question, pp.13-19].
'What...I cannot even begin to understand is the attitude of those who professedly uphold, on religious grounds, the sanctity of human life in individual instances, but nevertheless condone the mass murder involved in modern warfare. Either life is sacred, or it is not. If it is, how can it be right to engage in indiscriminate slaughter, and yet a sin to put a merciful end to one who longs for death in the last stages of a lingering illness?' [1967, In a World I Never Made, p.175]
'Between the institution of the nation-state and the institution of war there is an altogether devilish interaction...The long prestige of the two institutions taken together grievously inhibits clear thought as to whether, in modern situations, international war is more likely to promote or to obstruct the ends in view; whether using force against one set of individuals is the best available way of modifying the behaviour of another set of individuals...; and whether we could not devise better alternatives. It is not legitimate to evade these issues by emphasising the overwhelming and admitted importance of doing something...When the house is on fire and no water is available, it is immensely urgent to do something, but no one suggests that this is an argument for using petrol instead of water.' [1939, 'Wanted: A new Science of Politics', The Highway, pp.50-52]
'As the years have gone by, the conclusion has been forced upon me that to a large part of the human race war is in some way profoundly satisfying, if not actually enjoyable.' [1967, In a World I Never Made, p.176]
'It was, I think, Aldous Huxley who first observed that although civilised young men can be trained to throw fire on babies, it is hardly conceivable that they could be similarly trained to throw babies on to a fire. Only perhaps when we realise that from the babies' point of view the difference is imperceptible will it be possible sanely to assess the morality or immorality of modern warfare.' [1966, 'What I Believe' in What I Believe, pp.205-218]
'...I continue to cherish the hope that just as we have had an International Geophysical Year and a World Refugee Year, so one day we may celebrate the Year in which No One was Killed on Purpose.' [1966, 'What I Believe' in What I Believe, pp.205-218]
On humanism
'My own secular morality, like that of many other agnostics, rests ultimately upon utilitarian principles. We hold...that virtue resides in qualities such as integrity which are necessary to maintain the fabric of human society, and in those actions which promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number.' [1967, In a World I Never Made, p.173]
On religion
'One day we shall all be gone. Meanwhile the sufferings to which individuals are exposed...are treated by the cosmos with complete indifference. If, in the face of all this, we are still to believe that the human soul is the centrepiece of some great design, one can only conclude that the Designer has gone to remarkable lengths to conceal his purpose.' [1967, In a World I Never Made, p.162]
'When [Bertrand] Russell was asked if after death he found that after all there is an almighty god reigning in heaven and there is an after-life, what he would say, he replied, "I should say, 'Lord, you did not give us enough evidence'".' [1972, Russell Remembered: A Tribute', New Humanist, 88, p326]
'The freshness of the dawn, the evening sunlight on the pine-trunks, the passionate love of man for woman and of woman for man, the deep satisfactions of parenthood and of artistic creation, the laughter of friends, the varieties and absurdities of animal life, even the daily pleasure of trivial things these are what give warmth and colour and gaiety to agnostic lives as much as to any others. None of this has anything to do with the claim to divinity of a preacher who was shamefully put to death nearly 2,000 years ago; and the intensity of these joys is not dimmed if they appear to come and go in the brief flash that illumines the interval between birth and death.' [1967, In a World I Never Made, p.190]
On gender
'...if men behaved like women, the courts would be idle and the prisons empty.' [1959, Social Science and Social Pathology, p.32]
'One of the few established features of criminality, and one which is repeated right round the world is the fact that at all ages many more males than females are convicted. In scale and constancy, the sex difference far outweighs any other factor which we have yet been able to associate with delinquent behaviour. No one seems to have any idea why; but hardly anyone seems to have thought it worth while to try to find out.' [1959, Social Science and Social Pathology, p.318]
'A woman...is expected to regard it as complimentary to be told that she is in any respect the equal of a man: I do not know how many times in my life I have been graciously informed that I have a "masculine brain".' [1967, In a World I Never Made, p.153]
'One reason why women seldom reach senior positions is the curious, but widespread, pretence that they do not exist.' [1962, 'Senior Posts for Women', Letter, The Times, 26 March]
'The attitude of our society to women is highly ambivalent. On the one hand, a tradition of chivalry and a convention about their frailty make women objects of formal respect...On the other hand, in industry and in the world of affairs the assumption that women should normally occupy the humbler positions is still strongly entrenched.' [1955, The Social Foundations of Wage Policy, p.69]
'I should like myself to think that we deserved the name of the gentler sex, for gentleness seems to me to be a greatly underestimated virtue in this crazy, armament-mongering, go-getting world.' [1962, 'The Second Sex? Women Must Work', Punch, 30 May]
On prejudice, mystiques, opinions, and dreams
'It is the foolish dreams of one generation which become the commonplaces of the next.' [1967, In a World I Never Made, p.98]
'The potential significance of the growth of the social sciences and still more of the general adoption of a scientific attitude to social questions is, I think, incalculable, for the developments that we are now witnessing may well prove to be the harbingers of a massive invasion of science into areas previously ruled by hunch and guess-work. Inevitably these invaders, with their computers and their calculations, threaten our sentimental attachment to the conventional wisdom and to the mystique of judgment, no less than the new factories of an earlier century threatened the handloom weavers.' [1967, In a World I Never Made, pp.216-7]
'In social research generally, constant vigilance is necessary against the risks of prejudice.....Such theories as that delinquents come from broken homes or have mothers who go out to work...have certainly originated in the value-judgments of those who put them forward...the maternal deprivation hypothesis, it has been whispered, may not be unconnected with the desire to see women safely confined to domestic occupations.' [1959, Social Science and Social Pathology, p.317]
'...the fact that other people do not already agree with an opinion is the silliest possible reason for keeping quiet about it.' [1942, 'A Plague on All Your Isms', The Political Quarterly, 13, pp.44-56]
'Resistance to all science, both natural and social, involves an element of self-esteem: science begins with somebody else's more careful observation of phenomena which we have less accurately observed for ourselves.' [1950, Testament for Social Science, p.67]
'Socrates went about Athens asking, but not answering, questions, a practice which the Athenians found so tiresome and disturbing that they put him to death.' [1938, Lament for Economics, p.310]
On cars
'In half a century the invention of the internal combustion engine has completely revolutionized the business of our criminal courts. The typical criminal of to-day is certainly not the thief, nor the thug who hits an old lady on the head in order to possess himself of her handbag or to ransack her house; the typical criminal of today is the motorist.' [1959, Social Science and Social Pathology, p.25]
'Year after year killer drivers substantially outnumber convicted murderers...' [1967, In a World I Never Made, p.231]
'The motoring community could indeed make a magnificent contribution to the reduction of crime in general, if they would conscientiously observe all the provisions of the Road Traffic Acts, thus enabling the great body of police now engaged in prosecuting traffic offenders to turn their attention to other forms of crime.' [1971, Contemporary Britain, p.75]

On the environment
'...in regard to the prevention of environmental pollution we have not tried and failed: we have never yet seriously tried...' [1971, Contemporary Britain, p.26]