"It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else,
that prevents us from living freely and nobly."
Bertrand Russell
[Bertrand Arthur William Russell] (1872-1970) Philosopher, educator
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Reader comments about this quote:
Almost scriptural in nature.
 -- Mike, Norwalk     
    Is he condemning the natural drive and desire of people to improve and safegaurd their lives? What "possessions" is he referring to? My house? My truck? My rifle? My refrigerator? This seems a covert attack on the right to property.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
    I'm with J on this one.
     -- jim k, Austin, Tx     
    jim, on the surface it seems a woprthy thought...but as head of my family and household, I have to wonder what possessions I am to divest in order to meet this noble ideal and put myself on par with the free and noble "cow". lol
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
    J and jim, I don't think the quote is necessarily talking about man's drive to survive or improve (adding material items around us, or tangibles in and of them selves) but rather, something a kin to that love of money thingy. My mother worked with a lady that escaped the Nazi camps (tattoo and all). I remember her describing in detail why some Jews left before the atrocities and, why so many stayed, even in the face of such known catastrophic danger. The reason they stayed was because they had too much to lose if they left (property, things, a caste status, etc.) If we live as though all life is noble, and do so in an atmosphere of freedom and liberty (not just allowing but, enhancing others to do so also) material goods will just accumulate by natural attrition to our labors. China, Singapore, and other areas in the early 50s implemented a mass brain washing program that defined materialism as the ultimate freedom with inalienable rights as a non-issue or peril to such accumulations. It is the preoccupation with possessions that mentally and in all other censorial ways precludes the nobility of life, freedom and liberty. The occupying statist theocracy infesting this land, by denying all property rights, has induced a hoarding mentality (not for the sake of life enhancement but, triggering an innate survival instinct) When you love the nobility of life, freedom and liberty, there is no condemning man's desire to improve, create life's safeguards, or to any creation of wealth or collection of possessions (by / to yourself or anyone else). Your house, truck, rifle, refrigerator, etc. are all yours by natural law's enabled enactments, having to divest yourself of none to be in harmony with the above quote. If you treasure those more than life's nobility, your family relationships, freedom or liberty, you will eventually loose all.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    The "preoccupation" of possessions I think here is the distinction. The 'keeping up with the Jones's' mentality. I have often heard the phrase that 'we are possessed by our possessions' which does ring a bit true for me. Holding property is not a right -- you have to earn it, maintain it, defend it, possibly insure it, etc.. In other words it requires the expenditure of more energy to continue to 'possess' possessions. Today, the drive for possessions often exceeds our capacity and ability to pay for them, yet we are offered 'credit' in order to possess more of what we don't need and can't afford. Debt is certainly a yoke and the debtor is bound to his debt. The quote is a little too general, but in relation to one's willingness to borrow from tomorrow to pay for today, one must eventually ask oneself, do I really need all this stuff? Even the so-called 'poor' in America have iPhones, plasma TVs, cars, and a whole slew of stuff that government cheese pays for -- they have essentially traded their freedom for possessions.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
    My first reaction was to give this a thumb's down, but after a second look and reading E Archer's statement, I notice that Russell was concerned with the OBSESSIVE passion for material things. We must have material things for our survival and for a decent standard of living, but when it gets to the point where we spend ourselves into a corner, then Russell is correct: You lose your freedoms and you are forced to do things that wouldn't be considered noble in some circumstances. It's much like an alcoholic, foodaholic, or gambler. They are obsessed with getting the things that will make them feel good--the more the merrier. As long as we don't lose sight of the fact that a certain amount of selfishness is healthy and is needed for our survival, then posessions are a good thing.
     -- GunnyCee, Durham     
    To all who have expanded on the quote, Thank you for the insight. "Obsession and Preoccupation" being key words here.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
    It is the preoccupation with those pesky things called hunger and the elements that prevent most people from living freely and nobly. They are slaves to their needs. People who are merely surviving are neither free nor particularly noble. People who have the opportunity to accumulate wealth are able to free themselves from their bellies and the cold to be free and have the time to think of nobility and those around them.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
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