[Ads-l] Quote: Most people would die sooner than think - in fact, they do so. Request "The ABC of Relativity" 1925 by Bertrand Russell

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 23 20:23:27 EDT 2018

A psychology professor asked me to explore the following expression.

Most people would rather die than think, and many of them do.

I've conducted a preliminary search, and it appears that "The ABC of
Relativity" (1925 & 1927 edition) by Bertrand Russell does contain an
instance although the phrasing differs from the statement above (see
below for the correct phrasing). The Google Books database contains a
snippet match in the 1927 edition.

If you have access to the 1925 edition would you please verify the
presence of the excerpt below? It should be appear within the page
range 160 to 170. Later editions (1958 and after) have removed the

Year: 1927 (Edition in Google Books)
Title: The ABC of Relativity
Author: Bertrand Russell
Quote Page 166 (According to Google Books; please check nearby pages)
Database: Google Books (Data may be inaccurate and must be verified
with hardcopy or scans)

[Begin excerpt from "The ABC of Relativity" and "Psyche". Verification
We all have a tendency to think that the world must conform to our
prejudices. The opposite view involves some effort of thought, and
most people would die sooner than think — in fact, they do so. But the
fact that a spherical universe seems odd to people who have been
brought up on Euclidean prejudices is no evidence that it is
[End excerpt]

Here is some additional optional background. Interesting citations
from list members would be welcome.

Below is a match in 1913 with the comical addendum "and they do". I do
not know the identity of "Sheldon".

Date: September 4, 1913
Periodical: Printers' Ink: A Journal for Advertisers
Volume 84, Number 10
Article: (Advertisement encouraging the purchase of newspaper
advertisements in the "Standard Union" of Brooklyn)
Quote Page 54


[Begin excerpt]
Most people would rather fail, sicken and die than think—and they do. —Sheldon
[End excerpt]

Below is a match in 1857 without the comical addendum. I do not know
who wrote "Editor's Table".

Date: August 1857
Periodical: Harper's New Monthly Magazine
Article: Editor's Table
Start Page 410, Quote Page 406


[Begin excerpt]
There are men who will dare death for glory or for country, who could
not dare scorn or contumely for the truth; and people generally would
rather die than think. Nothing but that enrapturing sentiment and
vivid vision implied in the love of truth--nothing but that
transporting thrill which imparadises the soul in the perception of a
new thought, can lift a wise and good man above the wholesome
prejudices of prudence, custom, country, and common belief, and make
him let loose the immortal idea his mind imprisons, and send it forth
to war against false systems and tenacious errors, with the firm faith
that it will result in eventual good, though at first it seems to
trail along with it the pernicious consequences of a lie.
[End excerpt]

Garson O'Toole

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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