Bertrand Russell on Criteria

April 11, 2014
Jaap Hollander

“All human activity is prompted by desire. There is a wholly fallacious theory advanced by some earnest moralists to the effect that it is possible to resist desire in the interests of duty and moral principle. I say this is fallacious, not because no man ever acts from a sense of duty, but because duty has no hold on him unless he desires to be dutiful. If you wish to know what men will do, you must know not only, or principally, their material circumstances, but rather the whole system of their desires with their relative strengths”.

Bertrand Russell accepting his Nobel prize in 1950

About the author 

Jaap Hollander

Psychologist, living in the Netherlands. Founded MindSonar in 1995. Directs MindSonar Global, which manages the ICT development, applications and the curriculum of the MS Certification Trainings. Working part time as a trainer, writer and coach as well as being an expressionist painter (artist name JAAPH, see Has written 10 books on NLP and Provocative Coaching.

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  1. Interesting quote! What stood out for me is how close Bertrand’s assertions are to modern economic theory. The heart of economics is the belief that people act rationally in their (self-defined) best interest.

  2. A great quote indeed it is truly inspirational, Bertrand Russell was in my eyes an influential figure who achieved so much.

  3. Very interesting quote, and of course very true. I was just talking with a few members of my team today about something similar. Rather than work against our desires and have to put up artificial constructs to keep us on the straight and narrow in spite of our desires, I think that we could be a lot more effective if we made sure our desires were in line with or desires – we’d work harder and happier if we knew that we were working toward our desired outcome.

  4. Great quote that perfectly ties in to what MindSonar is trying to do. It would be amazing if the time came when everyone’s self-interests were tied into global interests as a whole. Maybe then we would all work together better. In my mind, some countries are already in line with that way of thinking, but I haven’t seen too much of that here in the U.S. unfortunately. 🙁

  5. The desire is pure energy, some of them are looking for deterrence, but in the end, always look for outputs, such as the water that comes out even in another way. It is better, I think, focus on the positive way to satisfy the desire and where it comes from – what form – that suppress it although I see many rules that seek inhibit a desire without providing alternatives and that causes problems. What color is someone to be passed by inhibiting their wishes? Turquoise? Green? Red?

  6. Me parece muy seductor el tema del deseo, creo que es una palabra llena de significados y que en diferentes contextos opera de manera sorprendente y que también a mi juicio, observo como es “temida”, quizá por su propio poder generativo. Socialmente y culturalmente por sobre todo, utilizamos mucho más el vocablo NECESIDAD que DESEO y desde nuestro “lenguajear”, como dice el Dr. Maturana, nos inventamos espacios de realidad que comunmente nos conducen a la angustia, la ansiedad y la insatisfacción. El ser humano, parece ser que no necesita nada para ser feliz, más que ser feliz. La Necesidad aparece con el lenguaje y por lo tanto es cultural, sin embargo, el DESEO, es propio de la condición humana…..cuál será entonces esa ganancia secundaria que quizá nos tiene muchos más cerca del espacio de las necesidades inventadas, que de nuestros reales deseos?

  7. What do you think about the phrase “the man is the wolf of man”? It seems to me sad but true, the man never ceases to be desired, and this is why we have been complicated to all existence, even when what we want is positive, if you do not have order ends with us

  8. It seems very alluring theme of desire, I think it is a word full of meanings in different contexts and surprisingly operates and also in my view, watch as is ” feared” , perhaps because of its own generative power . Socially and culturally , above all , we use more the word I WANT and NEED from our ” languaging ” , as Dr. Maturana , we invent spaces reality that commonly lead us to distress , anxiety and dissatisfaction. Humans , it seems that does not need anything to be happy rather than be happy . The Need appears to language and therefore is cultural, however, DESIRE , is characteristic of the human condition … ..cuál secondary gain is then that we may have a lot closer invented space needs , which our real desires ?

  9. What happens when our ways of thinking are aligned to our motivations?

    What happens when the way we think does not help us achieve the goals we seek?

    What happens when the context does not contribute to achieving our motivations?

    We can conclude that these reflections are profound and revealing ..

    In this context Mindsonar gives structure and method to analyze in depth the different circumstances surrounding a coaching process

  10. I wonder if there is too many of us desiring to be dutiful when we act from the “Should be” instead of the “I am” connected with our wishes. Discovering our own system of desires is a revelation to choose and enjoy living, actually this is what I most love about mindsonar, the possibility to explore our own actions from our desires and choose the thinking patterns we need to go on softly on that direction.

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