The 10 Commandments of Critical Thinking, According to Bertrand Russell

by | Jun 19, 2017

The proponents of critical thinking in our history are many and diverse. From psychologists (Carl Jung) to scientists (Albert Einstein) to authors (Jack Kerouac) and more, our timeline is graced with a who’s who of critical thinkers that transformed the world in their own way. One among them, British philosopher Bertrand Russell, even dedicated a piece in a 1951 edition of the New York Times Magazine to what he called the 10 “commandments” of critical thinking.


They’re a bit antiquated as far as language goes, and so shouldn’t be misunderstood. For example, the authority mentioned in No.5 refers to intellectual authority (that realization will keep us out of a whole lot of trouble for sure). What else do you see in the language that can be reinterpreted for modern-day society? For instance, what would it mean to be “eccentric” in opinion?

How could Russell’s 10 commandments of critical thinking lead our students to developing their own philosophies for independent transformational thought? Have a look below and draw your own conclusions.

Bertrand Russell’s 10 Commandments of Critical Thinking

  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worthwhile to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. 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.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. 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.




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