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Q: Bertrand Russell quotation ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Bertrand Russell quotation
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: sylk-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 23 Jun 2003 18:55 PDT
Expires: 23 Jul 2003 18:55 PDT
Question ID: 220976
Where exactly did Bertrand Russell say, "Aristotle could have avoided
the mistake of thinking that women have fewer teeth than men by the
simple device of asking Mrs. Aristotle to open her mouth?

Note:  the internet has many references to fact that Russell said this
quote, but I have not been able to find the exact source in Russell's
work of it.
Subject: Re: Bertrand Russell quotation
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 23 Jun 2003 19:42 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
The quote can be found in one of Russell's well-known essays:

An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish

"If the matter is one that can be settled by observation, make the
observation yourself. Aristotle could have avoided the mistake of
thinking that women have fewer teeth than men, by the simple device of
asking Mrs. Aristotle to keep her mouth open while he counted. He did
not do so because he thought he knew. Thinking that you know when in
fact you don't is a fatal mistake, to which we are all prone. I
believe myself that hedgehogs eat black beetles, because I have been
told that they do; but if I were writing a book on the habits of
hedgehogs, I should not commit myself until I had seen one enjoying
this unappetizing diet. Aristotle, however, was less cautious. Ancient
and medieval authors knew all about unicorns and salamanders; not one
of them thought it necessary to avoid dogmatic statements about them
because he had never seen one of them."

The full essay is on the web at:

and if you want a more formal cite, it would be:

The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, 1903-1959
Book by Lester E. Denonn, Robert E. Egner, Bertrand Russell; Simon and
Schuster, 1961

Chapter 7 

search strategy:  searches on several full-text databases for various
excerpts from the quote

Request for Answer Clarification by sylk-ga on 25 Jun 2003 17:23 PDT
I also found the exact quote in Russell's Essay The Impact of Science
on Society.  I find it strange that Russell would use the exact same
quote in two diferent essays.  I would have to check the essay you
refer to before I can give credit to this answer.  I have been getting
so much incorrect information lately that I cannot give credit until I
see it myself.  In any case, I am satisfied with the source I found
Thank you,

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 25 Jun 2003 17:48 PDT
Probably not so unusual that a writer might use the same example more
than once in his works -- even verbatim.  Was it just the Aristotle
quote you found, or the whole paragraph, as I excerpted in my answer.

Anyway, the Russell essay is on the web, as I noted, so you have the
entire document at your ready disposal, and it also appears in the
print volume "The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell" as I indicated.

So it appears now you have not just one, but two, viable answers to
your question.
sylk-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
I was finally able to corroborate your answer by finding the reference
in the source given for Russell.  Yes, indeed, your answer is correct
(even though it is a different source from the one I found on my own.)
 Thank you very much for your efforts. sylkar

Subject: Re: Bertrand Russell quotation
From: pafalafa-ga on 30 Jun 2003 09:35 PDT
Glad you were able to pin this one down.  Thanks for the stars and the
tip...they're always appreciated.


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