Bertrand Russell? Ayn Rand? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Recently, while reading my Facebook feed I saw a graphic from a major media organization (The Economist) that displayed a picture of the influential philosopher Bertrand Russell coupled with the following quotation:
I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.
Are these really the words of Russell? I could not find a proper citation.
Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in a piece by the well-known columnist Leonard Lyons in the “New York Post” in June 1964. After mentioning that Bertrand Russell was still politically active at the age of 92, Lyons discussed an exchange he had with the famous intellectual in the past. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
Incidentally, I once asked Russell if he was willing to die for his beliefs. “Of course not,” he replied. “After all, I may be wrong . . .”
The phrasing above differed from the version given by the questioner because Lyons and Russell were engaged in a question and answer interaction. But Russell’s response in context provided the match.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1964 June 23, New York Post, Section: Post Daily Magazine, The Lyons Den by Leonard Lyons, Quote Page 27 (Magazine Page 3), Column 3, New York. (Old Fulton) ↩