If the child has a generally friendly environment and is happy, he will without much trouble get over the pain of any one loss that may happen to him. The impulse of life and hope ought to be sufficient, provided the normal opportunities for growth and happiness exist.

During adolescence, however, there is need of something more positive in the way of attitude towards death, if adult life is to be satisfactory. The adult should think little about death, either his own or that of people whom he loves, not because he deliberately turns his thoughts to other things, for that is a useless exercise which never really succeeds, but because of the multiplicity of his interests and activities. When he does think of a death it is best to think with a certain stoicism, deliberately and calmly, not attempting to minimise the importance, but feeling a certain pride in rising above it. The principle is the same as in the case of any other terror: resolute contemplation of the terrifying object is the only possible treatment. One must say to oneself: ‘Well, yes, that might happen, but what of it?’ People achieve this in such a case as death in battle, because they are then firmly persuaded of the importance of the cause to which they have given their life, or the life of someone dear to them. Something of this way of feeling is desirable at all times. At all times, a man should feel that there are matters of importance for which he lives, and that his death, or the death of wife or child, does not put an end to all that interests him in the world. If this attitude is to be genuine and profound in adult life, it is necessary that, in adolescence, a youth should be fired with generous enthusiasms, and that he should build his life and career about them. Adolescence is the period of generosity, and it should be utilised for the formation of generous habits.


The place of stoicism in life has, perhaps been somewhat underestimated in recent times, particularly by progressive educationists. When misfortune threatens, there are two ways of dealing with the situation: we may try to avoid the misfortune, or we may decide that we will meet it with fortitude. The former method is admirable where it is available without cowardice; but the latter is necessary, sooner or later, for anyone who is not prepared to be the slave of fear.


The adults should display in their own conduct a certain gay courage, which the young will unconsciously acquire from their example. In adolescence, large impersonal interests should be set before the young, and education should be so conducted as to give them the idea (by suggestion) of living for purposes outside themselves. They should be taught to endure misfortune, when it comes, by remembering that there are still things to live for; but they should not brood on possible misfortunes, even for the purpose of being prepared to meet them. Those whose business it is to deal with the young must keep a close watch upon themselves to see that they do not derive a sadistic pleasure from the necessary elements of discipline in education; the motive for discipline must always be the development of character or intelligence. For the intellect, also, requires discipline, without which accuracy will never be achieved.


Discipline is best when it springs from an inner impulse. In order that this may be possible, it is necessary that the child or adolescent should feel the ambition to achieve something difficult, and should be willing to make efforts to that end. Such ambition is usually suggested by some person in the environment; thus even self-discipline depends, in the end, upon an educational stimulus.
Bertrand Russell (1935) In Praise of Idleness: ‘Stoicism and Mental Health’

Conviction is the belief that in some point of knowledge one possesses absolute truth. Such a belief presumes, then, that absolute truth exists; likewise, that the perfect methods for arriving at them have been found; finally, that every man who has convictions makes use of these perfect methods. All three assertions prove at once that the man of convictions is not the man of scientific thinking; he stands before us still in the age of theoretical innocence, a child, however grown-up he might be otherwise. But throughout thousands of years, people have lived in such childlike assumptions, and from out of them mankind’s mightiest sources of power have flowed.

The countless people who sacrificed themselves for their convictions thought they were doing it for absolute truth. All of them were wrong: probably no man has ever sacrificed himself for truth; at least the dogmatic expression of his belief will have been unscientific or half-scientific. But actually one wanted to be right because one thought he had to be right. To let his belief be torn from him meant perhaps to put his eternal happiness in question. With a matter of this extreme importance, the ‘will’ was all too audibly the intellect’s prompter. Every believer of every persuasion assumed he could not be refuted; if the counterarguments proved very strong, he could still malign reason in general and perhaps even raise as a banner of extreme fanaticism the ‘credo quia absurdum est.’1 it is not the struggle of opinions that has made history so violent, but rather the struggle of belief in opinions, that is, the struggle of convictions.

If only all those people who thought so highly of their convictions, who sacrificed all sorts of things to it and spared neither their honour, body nor life in its service, had devoted only half their strength to investigating by what right they clung to this or that conviction, how they arrived at it, then how peaceable the history of mankind would appear! How much more would be known! All the cruel scenes during the persecution of every kind of heretic would have been spared us for two reasons: first, because the inquisitors would above all have inquired within themselves, and got beyond the arrogant idea that they were defending the absolute truth; and second, because the heretics themselves would not have granted such poorly established tenets as those of all the sectarians and ‘orthodox’ any further attention, once they had investigated them.Nietzsche, Friedrich (1878) Man Alone With Himself (excerpts from ‘Human, All Too Human’)

1 I believe because it is absurd

Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for the others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish for ever.Bertrand Russell (1935) In Praise of Idleness