Bertrand Russell's advice to internet commenters


32 Responses to “Bertrand Russell's advice to internet commenters”

  1. Xof says:

    Yeah, yeah, whatever. Can we complain about the new commenting system more now?

    • sdnative1958 says:

      No complaints from me.

      • sdnative1958 says:

        …except one. Why aren’t “Replies” posted (nested) under the poster one is replying to? This works on other sites that utilize Disqus – doesn’t seem that way here.

        • Daemonworks says:

          No idea, but the lack of readily visible threading here always bugged me. At least the “reply to” bits actually point to specific messages rather than just the user… which was annoying when trying to track a conversation when there are anons in the comments.

        • onepieceman says:

          Seems broken when using on iPad.

          • sdnative1958 says:

            But only on THIS forum – on others, even on iPad, the reply comments nest under perfectly.

  2. Jellodyne says:

    Yeah, every flame war on the Internet could be averted if people were sensible. That reminds me of that Tupac song where he wishes for a place thugs could hang out where there would be no violence.

  3. knoxblox says:

     Two minutes? Too long, didn’t listen…

    Just kidding.

  4. Nylund says:

    I have little doubt that if you sequestered two people involved in a very uncivil argument both would claim to have followed Mr. Russell’s advice, and both would claim the other had not.

    And, in many cases, arguments stem not from ignoring the facts, but over a disagreement over what is indeed a true fact, and what is not.

    • Jacasimov says:

      This is why we have moderators (supposedly). I’m a firm believer that during an argument a third disinterested party should be present to keep the tone civil and the discussion on topic, and the “yeah, but you’re the one”s to a minimum.  Wait, hey, that’s couples therapy!

      • csforstall says:

        Ah, but this idea of “moderation” isn’t ever completely true. There is no such thing as a “disinterested third party” on a “community” or really any other website. Not to discount the work these people do, but the simple fact is that these moderators have an active interest in both their’s and the website’s interest. Objectivity, in any medium, is a bit of a strawman. Some sites interests are explicit, but a good many of them aren’t.

    • s2redux says:

      What you’re describing isn’t really an argument so much as a fight. In such a case it would help to have a 3rd party standing guard at the door, to throw in two copies of Plato’s The Phaedrus and advise the combatants that they can only leave the room when, together, they can guide a first-time reader of the play in discovering its meaning. (And, once they’re able to leave the room, give them a copy of the Allegory of the Cave; with a bit of luck it will quench any rage they feel toward the door guard ;-)

  5. Narmitaj says:

    He looks like he lived his whole life in the 19th century, but famously protested against nuclear weapons, and only died a couple of months before Apollo 13 blew up on the way to the moon – even though he was 32 before the Wright Brothers made their first flight.

  6. Marktech says:

    …and Usenet never happened, and I got a surprising amount of time from my twenties back.

    “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

  7. Anne Onimos says:

    “Moore, I said . . .”

  8. RJ says:

    I love Bertrand Russell. The man positively exudes decency and nobility, without a hint of arrogance or cynicism.

    By the way, you’re all wrong and you should all just be quiet and do what I say do. It’s your fault things are the way they are (whatever that means).


  9. in other words “haters gonna hate”, “don’t feed the trolls”, and otherwise “that’s just, like, your opinion, man”…

  10. querent says:

    Thanks for this, Maggie.  Russell is one of my heroes, both as a mathematician and as an anti-war activist.

    I was hoping the one intellectual thing he wanted to say was, “There does not exists the set of all sets.  Suppose such a thing did exists, and consider the subset of it which contains all sets that do not contain themselves.  Does this set contain itself?  If it does, then it does not.  And if it does not, then it does.”

    • zombienietzsche says:

      I love a good Set Contradiction!

      Also, “If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way.”

    • DavidPursel says:

      Math koan.

  11. someoneElsesUserName says:

    Even better advice for the US Congress. Gawd, I wish they had followed this the past month… year… decade.

  12. Teller says:

    “…don’t feed the trolls and no hair castles…AW what did I JUST SAY!”

  13. Blaine says:


  14. Nice video and nice message.

  15. jaworskirob says:

    +1 for BR, all the way!  That guy was a tack.  Been my intellectual hero since college days.  I’d love to have a first edition signed copy of Principia Mathematica. If one even exists.

  16. ocker3 says:

    Be the moderator you seek to find in others. I’ve been known to have heated discussions about many topics, but I always try to argue the point, and not the person.

  17. adwkiwi says:

    Could the man be any more English? :)

  18. Daemonworks says:

    Never actually saw video of him before. He really reminds me of William Hartnell, but less tetchy.

  19. csforstall says:

    Yet you couldn’t avoid the snark at the end of your own post.

  20. mexcellent says:

    And then he had sex with someone else’s wife.

  21. Bailey Alexander says:

    Aim high, as oft as possible.

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