Food For Thought

A Collection of Heretical Notions and Wretched Adages
compiled by Jack Tourette

author index



[see also: FOOD]

Some time later King Ben-hadad of Aram mustered his entire army; he marched against Samaria and laid siege to it. As the siege continued, famine in Samaria became so great that a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver.

Now as the king of Israel was walking on the city wall, a woman cried out to him, "Help, my lord king!"

He said, "No! Let the Lord help you. How can I help you? From the threshing-floor or from the wine press?" But then the king asked her, "What is your complaint?"

She answered, "This woman said to me, 'Give up your son; we will eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.' So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, 'Give up your son and we will eat him.' But she has hidden her son."

Bible, 2 Kings 6:24-29

Cannibalism is a fascinating subject to most people, and in some way a sin. Possibly the deep feeling is that if people learn to eat one another the food supply would be so generous and so available that no one would be either safe or hungry.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
and Edward Flanders Ricketts (1897-1948)
The Log from the Sea of Cortez, 1951
Chapter 24 "April 3"



Confucius said, "The superior man understands righteousness; the inferior man understands profit."

Confucius (551-479 BC)
Analects, Section IV, Part 16
Translated by Wing-tsit Chan
in A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, 1963

Make money, money by fair means if you can, if not, by any means money.

Horace (65-8 BC)
Book I, epistle i, line 66

Free trade, one of the greatest blessings which a government can confer on a people, is in almost every country unpopular.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859)
Essay on Mitford's History of Greece, 1824

But owing to our wage system, this increase of wealth -- due to the combined efforts of men of science, of managers, and workmen as well -- has resulted only in an unprecedented accumulation of wealth in the hands of the owners of capital; while an increase of misery for the great numbers, and an insecurity of life for all, have been the lot of the workmen; the unskilled labourers, in continuous search for labour, are falling into an unheard-of destitution. And even the best paid artisans and skilled workmen labour under the permanent menace of being thrown, in their turn, into the same conditions as the unskilled paupers, in consequence of some of the continuous and unavoidable fluctuations of industry and caprices of capital.

Pyotr Alekseyevich Kropotkin (1842-1921)
"Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles"
Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, 1957
Edited by Roger N. Baldwin

The commercial prostitution of love is the last outcome of our whole social system, and its most clear condemnation. It flaunts in our streets, it hides itself in the garment of respectability under the name of matrimony, it eats in actual physical disease and death rigt through our midst; it is fed by the oppression and the ignorance of women, by their poverty and denied means of livelihood, and by the hypocritical puritanism which forbids them by millions not only to gratify but even to speak of their natural desires; and it is encouraged by the callousness of an age which has accustomed men to buy and sell for money every most precious thing -- even the life-long labor of their brothers, therefore why not also the very bodies of their sisters?

Edward Carpenter (1844-1929)
"Woman In Freedom"
Love's Coming of Age, 1906

...Capitalism has destroyed our belief in any effective power but that of self-interest backed by force.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism, 1928
Chapter 50 "Divide and Govern"

Capital as such is not evil; it is its wrong use that is evil. Capital in some form or other will always be needed.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
Harijan, 28 July 1940

The control of the production of wealth is the control of human life itself.

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)
The Servile State, 1912

The fundamental idea of modern capitalism is not the right of the individual to possess and enjoy what he has earned, but the thesis that the exercise of this right redounds to the general good.

Ralph Barton Perry (1876-1957)
Puritanism and Democracy, 1944
Chapter 12 "The Economic Virtues"
Section 7 "Profit and Competition"

Let us suppose it is possible, while preserving the capitalist system, to reduce unemployment to a certain minimum. But surely, no capitalist would ever agree to the complete abolition of unemployment, to the abolition of the reserve army of unemployed, the purpose of which is to bring pressure on the labor market, to ensure a supply of cheap labor.

Joseph Stalin (1879-1953)
Interview with H.G. Wells, 23 July 1934
Marxism VS. Liberalism: An Interview
published September 1937

Normally speaking, it may be said that the forces of a capitalist society, if left unchecked, tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and thus increase the gap between them.

Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)
New York Times Magazine
07 September 1958

The most fundamental thing about a society is its method of production. Capitalism did not arise because capitalists stole the land or the workmen's tools, but because it was more efficient than feudalism. It will perish because it is not merely less efficient than socialism, but actually self-destructive. It is shaking itself to pieces at the present moment in a series of economic crises like the oscillations of a shaft that is whirling too fast. - J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964)
I Believe, 1939
Edited by Clifton Fadiman

Only in time of peace can the wastes of capitalism be tolerated.

Francis Reginald Scott (1899-1985)
"The Efficiency of Socialism", 1935
A New Endeavour: Selected Political Essays, Letters, and Addresses, 1986
Edited by Michiel Horn

Capitalism in the United States has undergone profound modification, not just under the New Deal but through a consensus that continued to grow after the New Deal and that is now beyond major political debate. Government in the United States today is a senior partner in every business in the country. It has done this through its power to tax, which has become as important as management's power to operate.

Norman Cousins (1912-1990)
World, Volume 1, Number 1
04 July 1972

Capitalism, it is said, is a system wherein man exploits man. And communism -- is vice versa.

Daniel Bell (b.1919)
The End of Ideology, 1960

Now those who object to nationalizing our resources in the name of free enterprise must be reminded that the free enterprise system ended in the United States a good many years ago. Big oil, big steel, big agriculture avoid the open marketplace. Big corporations fix prices among themselves and thus drive out of business the small entrepreneur. Also, in their conglomerate form, the huge corporations have begun to challenge the very legitimacy of the state.

Gore Vidal (b.1925)
"The State of the Union: 1975"
Esquire, May 1975

Slavery in one form or another is typical of all large-scale economic activities. The pyramids are a monument to the power of the slave teams that built them; wage-slavery laid the foundations of the industrial advances of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The slavery of earliest times was relatively stable. Revolts were uncommon. But its eventual supersedence by capitalist forms of slavery was inevitable, for all men were not equally slaves. Under capitalism, the idea of slavery was denied while the practice of it was extended to every level of society.

Thomas Michael Disch (b.1940)
"Thesis on Social Forms and Social Controls in the U.S.A."
Fun With Your New Head, 1968

Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)
Bob Marshall interview
22 October 1988


There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to....

Joseph Heller (1923-1999)
Catch-22, 1961
Chapter 5


We don't call a man mad who believes that he eats God, but we do the one who says he is Jesus Christ.

Claude-Adrien Helvetius (1715-1771)
De l'Esprit, 1758, preface

Many a sober Christian would rather admit that a wafer is God, than that God is a cruel and capricious tyrant.

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)
History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire
Chapter LIV: Origin And Doctrine Of The Paulicians, Part II

Even when she was a Presbyterian and I was a Catholic, I remember that she was horrified by the Eucharist: Eating the body of Christ. That's pagan and barbaric, she said. What she meant and what horrified her was the mixing up of body and spirit, Catholic trafficking in bread, wine, oil, salt, water, body, blood, spit -- things. What does the Holy Spirit need with things? Body does body things. Spirit does spirit things.

Walker Percy (1916-1990)
The Thanatos Syndrome, 1987
Part V, Chapter 10

If you're going to do a thing, you should do it thoroughly. If you're going to be a Christian, you may as well be a Catholic.

Muriel Spark (1918-2006)
Independent, London
02 August 1989


[see also: ANIMALS]

When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me?

Montaigne (1533-1592)
Essays, Book II, 1580
Chapter 12

Scalded Cats fear even cold Water.

Thomas Fuller (1608-1661)
Gnomologia, Adagies and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and
Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British
, 1732
Number 4075

The thing that astonished him was that cats should have two holes cut in their coats exactly at the place where their eyes were.

G.C. Lichtenberg (1742-1799)
"Notebook G", Aphorism 26
Aphorisms, 1765-1799

Mrs. Crupp had indignantly assured him that there wasn't room to swing a cat there; but, as Mr. Dick justly observed to me, sitting down on the foot of the bed, nursing his leg, "You know, Trotwood, I don't want to swing a cat. I never do swing a cat. Therefore, what does that signify to me!"

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
David Copperfield, 1850
Chapter 35

...the person that had took a bull by the tail once had learnt sixty or seventy times as much as a person that hadn't, and said a person that started in to carry a cat home by the tail was getting knowledge that was always going to be useful to him, and warn't ever going to grow dim or doubtful. Chances are, he isn't likely to carry the cat that way again, either. But if he wants to, I say let him!

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Tom Sawyer Abroad, 1894
Chapter 10 "The Treasure-Hill"

Of all God's creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with a cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Notebook, 1935, 1884 entry
edited by Albert Bigelow Paine

A cat is more intelligent than people believe, and can be taught any crime.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Notebook, 1935, 1895 entry
edited by Albert Bigelow Paine

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it -- and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again -- and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one any more.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Following the Equator, 1897
Chapter 11 epigram: Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

By what right has the dog come to be regarded as a "noble" animal? The more brutal and cruel and unjust you are to him the more your fawning and adoring slave he becomes; whereas, if you shamefully misuse a cat once she will always maintain a dignified reserve toward you afterward - you will never get her full confidence again.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Mark Twain, A Biography, 1912
by Albert Bigelow Paine (1861-1937)

Cats are packed full of music -- just as full as they can hold; and when they die, people remove it from them and sell it to the fiddle-makers.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
"A Cat-Tale"
Concerning Cats, 1959
Edited by Frederick Anderson

Cats are loose in their morals, but not consciously so. Man, in his descent from the cat, has brought the cat's looseness with him but has left the unconsciousness behind -- the saving grace which excuses the cat. The cat is innocent, man is not.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
"The Damned Human Race"
Letters From the Earth, 1962
Edited by Bernardo DeVoto

In the case of those domestic animals which are honorific and are reputed beautiful, there is a subsidiary basis of merit that should be spoken of. Apart from the birds which belong in the honorific class of domestic animals, and which owe their place in this class to their non-lucrative character alone, the animals which merit particular attention are cats, dogs, and fast horses. The cat is less reputable than the other two just named, because she is less wasteful; she may even serve a useful end. At the same time the cat's temperament does not fit her for the honorific purpose. She lives with man on terms of equality, knows nothing of that relation of status which is the ancient basis of all distinctions of worth, honor, and repute, and she does not lend herself with facility to an invidious comparison between her owner and his neighbors.

Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929)
The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899
Chapter 6 "Pecuniary Canons of Taste"

Confront a child, a puppy, and a kitten with a sudden danger; the child will turn instinctively for assistance, the puppy will grovel in abject submission to the impending visitation, the kitten will brace its tiny body for a frantic resistance.

Saki (1870-1916)
"The Achievement of the Cat", 1924

...But nature does not say that cats are more valuable than mice; nature makes no remark on the subject. She does not even say that the cat is enviable or the mouse pitiable. We think the cat superior because we have (or most of us have) a particular philosophy to the effect that life is better than death. But if the mouse were a German pessimist mouse, he might not think that the cat had beaten him at all. He might think he had beaten the cat by getting to the grave first.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Orthodoxy: The Romance of Faith, 1909
Chapter VII "The Eternal Revolution"

You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
When asked to describe radio
According to Barbara Wolff of the Einstein Archives, this
is an old Jewish joke and can be found in various compendia.
The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, 2010
"Attributed to Einstein"
Collected and Edited by Alice Calaprice

The only mystery about the cat is why it ever decided to become a domesticated animal.

Compton MacKenzie (1883-1972)

Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want.

Joseph Wood Krutch (1893-1970)
The Twelve Seasons, 1949

It is not liberty not to bury the mess one makes.... No animal has more liberty than the cat, but it buries the mess it makes. The cat is the best anarchist.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
For Whom the Bell Tolls, 1940
Chapter 36

When one opens the door for the cat, the animal stops precariously between in and out, surveying the prospect before submitting to it. This intelligent circumspection compares favorably with the rashness of our own exits and entries.

Rudolf Arnheim (1904-2007)
Parables of Sun Light:
Observations on Psychology, the Arts, and the Rest
, 1989
13 June 1980

He remembered uneasily someone saying what a blessing it was cats did not have hands....

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988)
The Star Beast, 1954
Chapter X "The Cygnus Decision"

If a fish is the movement of water embodied, given shape, then cat is a diagram and pattern of subtle air.

Doris Lessing (b.1919)
Particularly Cats, 1967
Chapter 5

Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly.

Arnold Edinborough (b.1922)

Cat lovers don't know cats. You can't love all cats if you know cats, and the ones you can love if you know them are the ones the cat lovers don't even like.

Walter M. Miller, Jr. (1923-1997)
A Canticle for Leibowitz, 1959
Chapter 28

I don't know what the cat can have eaten. Usually I know exactly what the cat has eaten. Not only have I fed it to the cat, at the cat's keen insistence, but the cat has thrown it up on the rug and someone has tracked it all the way over on to the other rug. I don't know why cats are such habitual vomitors. They don't seem to enjoy it, judging by the sounds they make while doing it. It's in their nature. A dog is going to bark. A cat is going to vomit.

Roy Blount, Jr. (b.1941)
Esquire, 1984

Cats are like Baptists. They make a lot of noise when they do it but you can never catch them at it.

Jim Stafford (b.1944)
San Francisco, 23 November 1974
Quoted in review in Billboard by Jack McDonough
21 December 1974

Curiosity killed the cat, but for awhile I was a suspect.

Steven Wright (b.1955)



Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad; and we will desire mothers and nurses to tell their children the authorized ones only.

Plato (c.428-348 BC)

As good almost kill a man as kill a good book; who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were in the eye.

John Milton (1608-1674)
Areopagitica, 1644

They have a Right to censure, that have a Heart to help: The rest is Cruelty, not Justice.

William Penn (1644-1718)
Some Fruits of Solitude In Reflections And Maxims, 1682
Part I "Censoriousness"

To endeavor to work upon the vulgar with fine sense, is like attempting to hew blocks with a razor.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
Thoughts on Various Subjects, 1706

It is the very nature of violent censure to give credibility to the opinions it attacks.

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Preface to the "Poem on the Lisbon Disaster", 1756
Selected Works of Voltaire, 1911
Edited and translated by Joseph McCabe

I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offense against religion; that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of religion? Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to N.G. Dufief, bookseller
19 April 1814 (Concerning civil authorities in Philadelphia who
had prevented the sale of a book on the origin of the world)

They keep telling us that in war truth is the first casualty, which is nonsense since it implies that in times of peace truth stays out of the sick bay or the graveyard.

Alexander Cockburn (1802-1880)
The Nation, 04 February 1991

Every burned book or house enlightens the world; every suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth from side to side.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Essays: First Series, 1841

Damn the expurgated books! I say damn 'em.... In a day and month and year of weakness I yielded to the idea that the English reader could not stand a dose of Walt Whitman. It was an evil decision growing out of the best intentions.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Quoted in Walt Whitman in England, 1934
by Harold W. Blodgett

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written, That is all.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
The Picture of Dorian Gray
1891, Preface

Assassination is the extreme form of censorship.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
The Rejected Statement, part 1
Document submitted by Shaw to Select Committee on Stage
Plays (Censorship) 1909 which they refused to consider

If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools and next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers.... Ignorance and fanaticism are ever busy and need feeding. Always feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers; tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lecturers, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, Your Honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted faggots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.

Clarence Seward Darrow (1857-1938)
Scopes Monkey Trial
Dayton, Tennessee
July 1925

Let no one mistake it for comedy, farcical though it may be in all its details. It serves notice on the country that Neanderthal man is organizing in these forlorn backwaters of the land, led by a fanatic, rid of sense and devoid of conscience. Tennessee, challenging him too timorously and too late, now sees its courts converted into camp meetings and its Bill of Rights made a mock of by its sworn officers of the law.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
D-Days at Dayton, 1965
"THE MONKEY TRIAL": A Reporter's Account
18 July 1925
About the Scopes Monkey Trial

Ah, good taste, what a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
"Picasso, 75, Gets a Surprise Present"
by Sam White
The Evening Standard, 26 October 1956

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.

Harry S Truman (1884-1972)
message to Congress
08 August 1950

Don't think you're going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book, as long as any document does not offend our own ideas of decency. That should be the only censorship.

How will we defeat communism unless we know what it is, what it teaches, and why does it have such an appeal for men, why are so many people swearing allegiance to it? It's almost a religion, albeit one of the nether regions.

And we have got to fight it with something better, not try to conceal the thinking of our own people. They are part of America. And even if they think ideas that are contrary to ours, their right to say them, their right to record them, and their right to have them at places where they're accessible to others is unquestioned, or it's not America.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)
Dartmouth College Commencement
14 June 1953

When truth is no longer free, freedom is no longer real: the truths of the police are the truths of today.

Jacques Prevert (1900-1977)
Spectacle, 1951

Censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion. In the long run it will create a generation incapable of appreciating the difference between independence of thought and subservience.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998)
Freedom, Loyalty and Dissent, 1954

...I cannot convince myself that there is anyone so wise, so universally comprehensive in his judgment, that he can be trusted with the power to tell others: "You shall not express yourself thus, you shall not describe your own experiences; or depict the fantasies which your mind has created; or laugh at what others set up as respectable; or question old beliefs; or contradict the dogmas of the church, of our society, our economic system, and our political orthodoxy."

Jake Zeitlin (1902-1987)
"Who Shall Silence All the Airs and Madrigals?"
Library Journal
Volume 90, Number 11
01 June 1965

Censorship, like charity, should begin at home, but, unlike charity, it should end there.

Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987)
"Problem of Pornography"
McCall's, 94:15 October 1966

Purity is the ability to contemplate defilement.

Simone Weil (1909-1943)
"Attention and Will"
Gravity and Grace, 1947

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasent facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963)
Remarks made on the 20th anniversary of
the Voice of America at H.E.W. Auditorium
26 February 1962

A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to.

Laurence Peter (1919-1990)
Editorial comment to Granville Hicks quotation
Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time, 1977
See anonymous below

At least one way of measuring the freedom of any society is the amount of comedy that is permitted, and clearly a healthy society permits more satirical comment than a repressive, so that if comedy is to function in some way as a safety release then it must obviously deal with these taboo areas. This is part of the responsibility we accord our licensed jesters, that nothing be excused the searching light of comedy. If anything can survive the probe of humour it is clearly of value, and conversely all groups who claim immunity from laughter are claiming special privileges which should not be granted.

Eric Idle (b.1943)
Quoted in Monty Python: The Case Against, 1981
By Robert Hewison

The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.

John Gilmore (b.1955)
Quoted in "First Nation in Cyberspace"
by Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Time Magazine, 06 December 1993

There is no law that vulgarity and literary excellence cannot coexist.

Alfred Trevor Hodge

Although Poles suffer official censorship, a pervasive secret police and laws similar to those in the USSR, there are thousands of underground publications, a legal independent Church, private agriculture, and the East bloc's first and only independent trade union federation, NSZZ Solidarnosc, which is an affiliate of both the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the World Confederation of Labor. There is literally a world of difference between Poland - even in its present state of collapse - and Soviet society at the peak of its "glasnost." This difference has been maintained at great cost by the Poles since 1944.

David Phillips
SUNY at Buffalo
"An EARN-Poland Link"
NetMonth, September 1988
Volume 3, Number 3
About establishing a gateway from EARN
(European Academic Research Network) to Poland

Censor: a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to know.

Handbook of Humour for All Occasions, 1958
Compiled and edited by Jacob Morton Braude
Borrowed by Laurence Peter (1919-1990)?


[see also: BELIEF, OPINION]

So as this only point among the rest remaineth sure and certain, namely, that nothing is certain....

Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79)
Historia Naturalis
Book II, Chapter 7

If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
The Advancement of Learning, 1605
Book I, Chapter 5, section 8

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Letter to Frederick William, Prince of Russia
(Frederick the Great), 1790

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Letter to M. Leroy
13 November 1789

Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Mark Twain, A Biography, 1912
by Albert Bigelow Paine (1861-1937)
Chapter 69, "A Lecture Tour"

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

In all affairs -- love, religion, politics, or business -- it's a healthy idea, now and then, to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Attributed, but not found in his works
See Ashley Montagu (1905-1999)

The public demands certainties; it must be told definitely and a bit raucously that this is true and that is false. But there are no certainties.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Prejudices, First Series, 1919
Chapter 3

Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on "I am not too sure."

H.L.Mencken (1880-1956)
Minority Report: H.L. Mencken's Notebooks, 1956
Number 418

When the answer cannot be put into words, neither can the question be put into words. The riddle does not exist. If a question can be framed at all, it is also possible to answer it.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1921
Section 6.5

One doesn't question the axioms upon which one's science and one's activities in it are based -- at least, not usually. One simply takes them for granted.

But in science, as in life, it is a good practice to attach from time to time a question mark to the facts one takes most for granted. In science such questioning is important, because without it there is a very real danger that certain erroneous or arbitrary ideas, which may originally have been used merely as a convenience, may become so fortified by technicality and so dignified by time that their original infirmities may eventually be wholly concealed.

Ashley Montagu (1905-1999)
Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race, 1942
Chapter 2 "The Meaninglessness of the Older Anthropological Conception of 'Race'"

You see, I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live nor knowing than to have answers that might be wrong. I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I'm not absolutely sure of anything. There are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask "Why are we here?" I might think about it a little bit, and if I can't figure it out then I'll go on to something else. But I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose -- which is the way it is, so far as I can tell. Possibly. It doesn't frighten me.

Richard Phillips Feynman (1918-1988)
No Ordinary Genius: The Illustrated Richard Feynman, 1994
Chapter 10 "Dying"
by Christopher Sykes


[see also: PROGRESS]

They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.

Confucius (551-479 BC)
The Citizen of the World, 1790
Number 123
by Oliver Goldsmith (c.1730-1774)

All is flux, nothing stays still.

Heraclitus (c.540-c.480 BC)
from Lives of Eminent Philosophers
Book IX, section 8
by Diogenes Laertius (fl. 2nd century)

Nothing endures but change.

Heraclitus (c.540-c.480 BC)
from Lives of Eminent Philosophers
Book IX, section 8
by Diogenes Laertius (fl. 2nd century)

You could not step twice into the same rivers; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.

Heraclitus (c.540-c.480 BC)
On the Universe
by Hippocrates (c.460-c.377 BC)
Aphorism 41

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Essays: First Series, 1841

Change is inevitable in a progressive country. Change is constant.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
Speech at Edinburgh, 29 October 1867
The Times, 30 October 1867

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Alphonse Karr (1808-1890)
Les Guepes, January 1849

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Address to the Wisconson State Agricultural Society
Milwaukee, 30 September 1859

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
"The Relation of Dress to Art"
Pall Mall Gazette
London, 28 February 1885

Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.

Bernard Berenson (1865-1959)
From Berenson's Notebook, 10 June 1892
The Bernard Berenson Treasury, 1962
Selected and edited by Hanna Kiel

No idea is so antiquated that it was not once modern. No idea is so modern that it will not someday be antiquated.

Ellen Glasgow (1873-1945)
Address to the Modern Language Association, 1936

Most of the change we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favor.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)
"The Black Cottage", line 109-110
North of Boston, 1914

The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
The Devils of Loudun, 1952

In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983)
Reflections on the Human Condition
1973, Aphorism 32

Even while I protest the assembly-line production of our food, our songs, our language, and eventually our souls, I know that it was a rare home that baked good bread in the old days. Mother's cooking was with rare exceptions poor, that good unpasteurized milk touched only by flies and bits of manure crawled with bacteria, the healthy old-time life was riddled with aches, sudden death from unknown causes, and that sweet local speech I mourn was the child of illiteracy and ignorance. It is the nature of a man as he grows older, a small bridge in time, to protest against change, particularly change for the better. But it is true that we have exchanged corpulence for starvation, and either one will kill us. The lines of change are down. We, or at least I, can have no conception of human life and human thought in a hundred years or fifty years. Perhaps my greatest wisdom is the knowledge that I do not know. The sad ones are those who waste their energy in trying to hold it back, for they can only feel bitterness in loss and no joy in gain.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
Travels With Charley: In Search of America, 1962
Part Two

The tendency to believe that things never change, the inertia of daily existence, is a staple of living. It has always been a delusion.

Donald Allen Wollheim (1914-1990)


[see also: IDENTITY]

Character is long-standing habit.

Plutarch (AD c.46-c.119)
Moralia: On Moral Virtues, Volume VI
Translated by W.C. Helmbold, 1957

If a person were to try stripping the disguises from actors while they play a scene upon stage, showing to the audience their real looks and the faces they were born with, would not such a one spoil the whole play? And would not the spectators think he deserved to be driven out of the theatre with brickbats, as a drunken disturber? ... Now what else is the whole life of mortals but a sort of comedy, in which the various actors, disguised by various costumes and masks, walk on and play each one his part, until the manager waves them off the stage? Moreover, this manager frequently bids the same actor to go back in a different costume, so that he who has but lately played the king in scarlet now acts the flunkey in patched clothes. Thus all things are presented by shadows.

Desiderius Erasmus (c.1466-1536)
Praise of Folly, 1509

The discipline of desire is the background of character.

John Locke (1632-1704)

Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with few; friend to one; enemy to none.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Poor Richard, 1756

If all else fails, the character of a man can be recognized by nothing so surely as by a jest which he takes badly.

G.C. Lichtenberg (1742-1799)
"Notebook K", Aphorism 46
Aphorisms, 1765-1799

A talent is formed in stillness, a character in the world's torrent.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Torquato Tasso, 1790
Act I, scene ii

If you wish to appear agreeable in society, you must consent to be taught many things which you know already.

Talleyrand (1754-1838)
Reminiscences of Prince Talleyrand, Volume 2, 1848
"Prince Talleyrand's Maxims for Seasoning Conversation"
By Édouard Colmache

The intoxication of anger, like that of the grape, shows us to others, but hides us from ourselves; and we injure our own cause, in the opinion of the world, when we too passionately and eagerly defend it; like the father of Virginia, who murdered his daughter to prevent her violation. Neither will all men be disposed to view our quarrels precisely in the same light that we do; and a man's blindness to his own defects will ever increase, in proportion as he is angry with others, or pleased with himself.

C.C. Colton (1780-1832)
Lacon Or Many Things in Few Words:
Addressed to Those Who Think
, 1820
Article CCXL

The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859)

Let us treat the men and women well: treat them as if they were real: perhaps they are.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Essays: Second Series, 1844

Every man possesses three characters: that which he exhibits, that which he really has, and that which he believes he has.

Alphonse Karr (1808-1890)
A Tour Round My Garden, 1855
Letter LII
Edited by The Reverend John George Wood

...Though no man hates himself, the coldest among us having too much self-love for that, yet most men unconsciously judge the world from themselves, and it will be very generally found that those who sneer habitually at human nature, and affect to despise it, are among its worst and least pleasant samples.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, 1838-1839
Chapter 44

...there is no man that lives who does not need to be drilled, disciplined, and broken into something higher and nobler and better than he is by nature.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)
Sunshine in the Soul, 1875
"Importance of Realising God"

Character is determined more by the lack of certain experiences than by those one has had.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Human, All Too Human, 1878
Volume II, Part Two "Assorted Opinions and Maxims"
Number 36

The tests of character come to us silently, unawares, by slow and inauduble approaches. We hardly know they are there, till lo! the hour has struck, and the choice has been made, well or ill, but whether well or ill, a choice. The heroic hours of life do not announce their presence by drum and trumpet, challenging us to be true to ourselves by appeals to the martial spirit that keeps the blood at heat. Some little, unassuming, unobtrusive choice presents itself before us slyly and craftily, glib and insinuating, in the modest garb of innocence. To yield to its blandishments is so easy. The wrong, it seems, is venial. Only hyper-sensitiveness, we assure ourselves, would call it a wrong at all. These are the moments when you will need to remember the game that you are playing. Then it is that you will be summoned to show the courage of adventurous youth.

Benjamin Nathan Cardozo (1870-1938)
"The Game of the Law and Its Prizes"
Law and Literature and Other Essays and Addresses, 1931

What lies behind us
And what lies before us
Are tiny matters
Compared to what lies within us.

No evidence can be found that this was ever expressed by
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894),
Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935), Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), or
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When, 2006
by Ralph Keyes


[see also: REFORM]

Help a man against his will and you do the same as murder him.

Horace (65-8 BC)
Ars Poetica, c.13 BC

Charity degrades those who receive it and hardens those who dispense it.

George Sand (1804-1876)
Consuelo, 1842

Philanthropy is almost the only virtue which is sufficiently appreciated by mankind.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Walden, 1854
Chapter 1, "Economy"

Perhaps the most overrated virtue in our list of shoddy virtues is that of giving. Giving builds up the ego of the giver, makes him superior and higher and larger than the receiver. Nearly always, giving is a selfish pleasure, and in many cases it is a downright destructive and evil thing. One has only to remember some of our wolfish financiers who spend two-thirds of their lives clawing fortunes out of the guts of society and the latter third pushing it back. It is not enough to suppose that their philanthropy is a kind frightened restitution, or that their natures change when they have enough. Such a nature never has enough and natures do not change that readily. I think that the impulse is the same in both cases. For giving can bring the same sense of superiority as getting does, and philanthropy may be another kind of spiritual avarice.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
and Edward Flanders Ricketts (1897-1948)
The Log from the Sea of Cortez, 1951
Appendix "About Ed Ricketts"

Almsgiving tends to perpetuate poverty; aid does away with it once and for all. Almsgiving leaves a man just where he was before. Aid restores him to society as an individual worthy of all respect and not as a man with a grievance. Almsgiving is the generosity of the rich; social aid levels up social inequalities. Charity separates the rich from the poor; aid raises the needy and sets him on the same level with the rich.

Eva Peron (1919-1952)
"My Labour in the Field of Social Aid"
Address to the American Congress of Industrial Medicine
05 December 1949

Think that you will help others in the proper ways, and if that is not possible, at least you will refrain from harming them.

Dalai Lama (b.1935)
The World of Tibetan Buddhism:
An Overview of Its Philosophy and Practice
, 1995

One of the complicating factors in the Occupy movement is that so many of the thrown-away people of our society -- the homeless, the marginal, the mentally ill, the addicted -- have come to Occupy encampments for safe sleeping space, food, and medical care. And these economic refugees were generously taken in by the new civil society, having been thrown out by the old uncivil one.

Complicating everything further was the fact that the politicians and the mainstream media were more than happy to blame the occupiers for taking in what society as a whole created, and for the complications that then ensued. (No mayor, no paper now complains about the unsanitariness of throwing the homeless and others back onto the streets of our cities as winter approaches.)

Rebecca Solnit (b.1961)
"Civil Society at Ground Zero" blog, 22 November 2011


[see also: SEX]

Yet she increased her whorings, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose emission was like that of stallions. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians fondled your bosom and caressed your young breasts.

Bible, Ezekiel 23:19-21

Give me chastity and continence, but not just now.

Saint Augustine (354-430)
Confessions, 397-401, VIII, 7

It is amusing that a virtue is made of the vice of chastity; and it's a pretty odd sort of chastity at that, which leads men straight into the sin of Onan, and girls to the waning of their colour.

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Letter to M. Mariott, 28 March 1766
in Voltaire Foundation (ed.) Complete Works vol. 30 (1973)

It is one of the superstitions of the human mind to have imagined that virginity could be a virtue.

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Notebooks, 1778

The best way to recommend anyone to him is to talk ill of that person. He applies the same specious varnish to women who enjoy his favour. He suspects the innocent among them. Virtue, in the fair sex, is an infirmity. He is always in a hurry over his idylls. Modesty is only found in the badly made. Chastity exists perhaps in the torpid who have no temperament. It ought to be treated, like anaemia or tuberculosis.

Anatole France (1844-1924)
Anatole France Himself, 1925
"The Infirmity of Virtue"
Translated by John Pollock

Of all sexual aberrations, chastity is the strangest.

Anatole France (1844-1924)
Paraphrase of above?
See caveat

Of all sexual aberrations perhaps the most peculiar is chastity.

Remy de Gourmont (1858-1915)
The Natural Philosophy of Love, 1922
Chapter XVIII "The Question of Aberrations"
Translated by Ezra Pound

Sexual life was given to man to distract him perhaps from his true path. It's his opium. With it everything falls asleep. Outside it, things resume life. At the same time, chastity kills the species, which is perhaps the truth.

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
Notebooks, 1942-1951, 1965
Notebook IV, January 1942 - September 1945

Sex leads to nothing. It is not immoral but it is unproductive. One can indulge in it so long as one does not want to produce. But only chastity is linked to a personal progress.

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
Notebooks, 1942-1951, 1965
Notebook IV, January 1942 - September 1945

Unbridled sex leads to a philosophy of the non-significance of the world. Chastity on the other hand gives the world a meaning.

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
Notebooks, 1942-1951, 1965
Notebook IV, January 1942 - September 1945

We might as well make up our minds that chastity is no more a virtue than malnutrition.

Alexander Comfort (1920-2000)
The Joy of Sex, 1986


[see also: YOUTH]

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child, well nursed, is at a Year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome Food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled, and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a Fricassee, or a Ragout.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
"A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People
from Being a Burden to Their Parents or the Country, and for
Making Them Beneficial to the Public", 1729



Et ait dominus servo: Exi in vias et sepes et compelle intrare, ut impleatur domus mea.
(And the lord said to the servant, "Go out into the roads and hedges and compel [them] to come in, so that my house may be filled".)

Bible, Luke 14:23

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Bible, Luke 14:26 (Jesus)

From what has been said, it seems that one can infer that the [Christian] faith is in the Indians very imperfectly and that, since preaching has not sufficed, rigorous punishment is needed, because, being -- as they are -- children of terror, it may be that punishment may accomplish what reason has not been sufficient to, since the Apostle said, compellite eos intrare.

Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon (16th century)
Treatise on the Heathen Superstitions that Today Live Among the
Indians Native to This New Spain
, 1629
First Treatise, Chapter 6 "About the Superstition Concerning Ololiuhqui"
Translated and edited by James Richard Andrews (b.1924) and
Ross Hassig (b.1945), 1984
Latin should read "compelle intrare" (compel them to come in), Luke 14:23

You desire to know something of my religion. It is the first time I have been questioned upon it. But I cannot take your curiosity amiss, and shall endeavor in a few words to gratify it. Here is my creed. I believe in one God, the creator of the universe. That he governs by his providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.

As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequences, as probably it has, of making his doctrines more respected and more observed; especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
To Ezra Stiles, 09 March 1790
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, 1904
Chapter 12
edited by John Bigelow

Sir, I think all Christians, whether Papists or Protestants, agree in the essential articles, and that their differences are trivial, and rather political than religious.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Life Of Johnson, 1791
March 1759

Twenty times, in the course of my late Reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, "This would be the best of all possible Worlds, if there were no Religion in it." ! ! ! But in this exclamati[on] I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without Religion this World would be Something not fit to be mentioned in polite Company, I mean Hell. So far from believing in the total and universal depravity of human Nature; I believe there is no Individual totally depraved. The most abandoned Scoundrel that ever existed, never Yet Wholly extinguished his Conscience, and while Conscience remains there is some Religion. Popes, Jesuits and Sorbonists and Inquisitors have some Conscience and some Religion. So had Marius and Sylla, Caesar Cataline and Anthony, an Augustus had not much more, let Virgil and Horace say what they will.

What shall We think of Virgil and Horace, Sallust Quintillian, Plin and even Tacitus? and even Cicero, Brutus and Seneca? Pompey I leave out of the question, as a mere politician and Soldier. Every One of the great Creatures has left indelible marks of Conscience and consequent of Religion, tho' every one of them has left abundant proofs of profligate violations of their Consciences by their little and great Passions and paltry Interests.

John Adams (1735-1826)
Excerpt of letter to Thomas Jefferson
19 April 1817

Where do we find a praecept in the Gospell, requiring Ecclesiastical Synods, Convocations, Councils, Decrees, Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Subscriptions and whole Cartloads of other trumpery, that we find Religion incumbered with in these Days?

John Adams (1735-1826)
Diary entry
18 February 1756

...the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to John Adams, from Monticello
11 April 1823

I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Quoted in Six Historic Americans, 1906
by John E. Remsburg
Considered bogus: Never traced to actual primary source material
See caveat

...there is one single fact that one may oppose to all the wit and argument of infidelity, that no man ever repented of Christianity on his deathbed.

Hannah More (1745-1833)
Letter to William Weller Pepys, 1786
Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Mrs. Hannah More, 1837
by William Roberts

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, -- as it has in itself no character or enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Musselmen, -- and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Treaty of Tripoli
Article XI
04 November 1796

I have found no churches suitable for my own form of worship. I could not give assent without mental reservations to the long, complicated statements of Christian doctrine which characterize their Articles of Belief and Confessions of Faith.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Abe Lincoln in Illinois, 1937
by Robert Emmet Sherwood
[Fiction: play produced in 1938]

The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Probable fabrication - possibly taken from
Abe Lincoln in Illinois, 1937
by Robert Emmet Sherwood
See caveat

Many men are lamenting their misfortunes, and wishing that their place was changed that they might the more easily live Christianly. If a man cannot be a Christian in the place where he is, he cannot be a Christian any where.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)
Life Thoughts Gathered from the Extemporaneous
Discourses of Henry Ward Beecher
, 1858

There is no wild beast so ferocious as Christians who differ concerning their faith.

William Lecky (1838-1903)
Paraphrase taken from the next quotation
See caveat

By the confession of all parties, the Christian religion was designed to be a religion of philanthropy, and love was represented as the distinctive test or characteristic of its true members. As a matter of fact, it has probably done more to quicken the affections of mankind, to promote pity, to create a pure and merciful ideal, than any other influence that has ever acted on the world. But while the marvellous influence of Christianity in this respect has been acknowledged by all who have mastered the teachings of history, while the religious minds of every land and of every opinion have recognised in its Founder the highest conceivable ideal and embodiment of compassion as of purity, it is a no less incontestable truth that for many centuries the Christian priesthood pursued a policy, at least towards those who differed from their opinions, implying a callousness and absence of the emotional part of humanity which has seldom been paralleled, and perhaps never surpassed. From Julian, who observed that no wild beasts were so ferocious as angry theologians, to Montesquieu, who discussed as a psychological phenomenon the inhumanity of monks, the fact has been constantly recognised. The monks, the Inquisitors, and in general the mediæval clergy, present a type that is singularly well defined, and is in many respects exceedingly noble, but which is continually marked by a total absence of mere natural affection. In zeal, in courage, in perseverance, in self-sacrifice, they towered far above the average of mankind; but they were always as ready to inflict as to endure suffering. These were the men who chanted their Te Deums over the massacre of the Albigenses or of St. Bartholomew, who fanned and stimulated the Crusades and the religious wars, who exulted over the carnage, and strained every nerve to prolong the struggle, -- and, when the zeal of the warrior had begun to flag, mourned over the languor of faith, and contemplated the sufferings they had caused with a satisfaction that was as pitiless as it was unselfish. These were the men who were at once the instigators and the agents of that horrible detailed persecution that stained almost every province of Europe with the blood of Jews and heretics, and which exhibits an amount of cold, passionless, studied, and deliberate barbarity unrivalled in the history of mankind.

William Lecky (1838-1903)
Rationalism in Europe, 1879
III. Aesthetic, Scientific, and Moral Developments of Rationalism

The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Die Frohliche Wissenschaft, 1882

Jesus died too soon. If he had lived to my age he would have repudiated his doctrine.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Thus Spake Zarathustra, 1883-85
Zarathustra's Speeches, Chapter 21 "On Free Death"

Christianity is called the religion of pity.-- Pity stands in opposition to all the tonic passions that augment the energy of the feeling of aliveness: it is a depressant. A man loses power when he pities. Through pity that drain upon strength which suffering works is multiplied a thousandfold. Suffering is made contagious by pity....

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
The Antichrist, 1895
Aphorism 7
Translation by H.L. Mencken, 1920

Under Christianity neither morality nor religion has any point of contact with actuality. It offers purely imaginary causes ("God," "soul," "ego," "spirit," "free will," -- or even ""unfree"), and purely imaginary effects ("sin," "salvation," "grace," "punishment," "forgiveness of sins").

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
The Anti-Christ, 1895
Aphorism 15
translated by H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

I call Christianity the one great curse, the one enormous and innermost perversion, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no means are too venomous, too underhand, too underground and too petty -- I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
The Anti-Christ, 1895
Aphorism 62
translated by H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
What's Wrong with the World, 1910
Part I, Chapter 5

Tertullian was born in Carthage somewhere about 160 AD. He was a pagan, and he abandoned himself to the lascivious life of his city until about his 35th year, when he became a Christian.... To him is ascribed the sublime confession: Credo quia absurdum est (I believe because it is absurd). This does not altogether accord with historical fact, for he merely said:

And the Son of God died, which is immediately credible because it is absurd. And buried he rose again, which is certain because it is impossible.
Thanks to the acuteness of his mind, he saw through the poverty of philosophical and Gnostic knowledge, and contemptuously rejected it.
Carl Gustave Jung (1875-1961)
Psychological Types, 1923
(Tertullian was one of the founders of the Catholic Church)

The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Surprised by Joy, 1955
Chapter 14 "Checkmate"

The idea of an Incarnation of God is absurd: why should the human race think itself so superior to bees, ants and elephants as to be put in this unique relation to its maker? And why should God choose to come to men as a Jew? The Christian idea of a special providence is nonsense, an insult to the deity. Christians are like a council of frogs in a marsh or a synod of worms on a dunghill, croaking and squeaking, "For our sakes was the world created."

Unsigned article in The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910
Eleventh Edition, Volume 5
Edited by Hugh Chisholm (1866-1924)


[see also: RELIGION]

[T]hough I liked clergymen as I liked bears, I had as little wish to be in the Church as in the zoo.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Surprised by Joy, 1955
Chapter 15 "The Beginning"


I think there is a desire to establish a religion in America known as secularism.

Mitt Romney (b.1947)
Milwaukee WI, 02 April 2012

Once again: the opposite of secularism is sectarianism.

Those are the choices. Pick one.

Romney chooses sectarianism.

Next question for everyone who, like Romney, rejects secularism: Which sect do you think should be established as the official one?

Because if you don't want a secular government, then you're going to have to tell us which sect should be in charge.

Fred Clark (b.1968)
"Secular or sectarian: Pick one or the other"
20 April 2012
Response to Romney statement on 02 April 2012


Any ordinary city is in fact two cities, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich, each at war with the other; and in either division there are smaller ones -- you would make a great mistake if you treated them as single states.

Plato (c.428-348 BC)

The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said, "This is mine," and found people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
Discourse upon the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality
Among Mankind
, 1754

A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Life of Johnson, 1791
26 October 1769
by James Boswell (1740-1795)

Civilization bestows on man knowledge and gratifications; and knowledge and the pursuits of intellectual life counterbalance in cultivated minds the enervating effects of these gratifications. But barbarians suddenly transported into a state of civilization for which they are unprepared, only clutch at its gratifications. There is nothing surprising, therefore, in their being absorbed by it, and melting away in it, so to speak, as snow before a blazing fire.

Jules Michelet (1798-1874)
History of France from the Earliest Period to the Present Time, 1851
Book 2 "The Germans"
Chapter I, "Equal weakness of the Celtic Church and of the Monarchy"
Translated by G.H. Smith

The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Misattribution? See Edmond de Goncourt (1822-1896)

The crimes of extreme civilization are certainly more atrocious than those of extreme barbarism.

Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly (1808-1889)
"La Vengeance d'une Femme"
Les Diaboliques, 1925

In a theatre it happened that a fire started off stage. The clown came out to tell the audience. They thought it was a joke and applauded. He told them again, and they became still more hilarious. This is the way, I suppose, that the world will be destroyed -- amid the universal hilarity of wits and wags who think it is all a joke.

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
Either/Or, 1843

The savage in man is never quite eradicated.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Journal, 26 September 1859

Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Walking, 1862

Theory of the true civilization. It is not to be found in gas or steam or table turning. It consists in the diminution of the traces of original sin.

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
Mon Coeur Mis a Nu, 1887, LIX

The degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)
The House of the Dead, 1861
Translated by Constance Garnett, 1957

Savagery is necessary every four or five hundred years in order to bring the world back to life. Otherwise the world would die of civilization.

Edmond de Goncourt (1822-1896)
and Jules de Goncourt (1830-1870)
Journal, 03 September 1855
Pages from the Goncourt Journal, 1962
Translated and Edited by Robert Baldick

What is a civilization, rightly considered? Morally, it is the evil passions repressed, the level of conduct raised; spiritually, idols cast down, God enthroned; materially, bread and fair treatment for the greatest number. This is the common formula, the common definition; everybody accepts it and is satisfied with it.

Our civilization is wonderful, in certain spectacular and meretricious ways; wonderful in scientific marvels and inventive miracles; wonderful in material inflation, which it calls advancement, progress, and other pet names; wonderful in its spying-out of the deep secrets of Nature and its vanquishment of her stubborn laws; wonderful in its extraordinary financial and commercial achievements; wonderful in its hunger for money, and in its indifference as to how it is acquired; wonderful in the hitherto undreamed-of magnitude of its private fortunes and the prodigal fashion in which they are given away to institutions devoted to the public culture; wonderful in its exhibitions of poverty; wonderful in the surprises which it gets out of that great new birth, Organization, the latest and most potent creation and miracle-worker of the commercialized intellect, as applied in transportation systems, in manufactures, in systems of communication, in news-gathering, book-publishing, journalism; in protecting labor; in oppressing labor; in herding the national parties and keeping the sheep docile and usable; in closing the public service against brains and character; in electing purchasable legislatures, blatherskike Congresses, and city governments which rob the town and sell municipal protection to gamblers, thieves, prostitutes, and professional seducers for cash. It is a civilization which has destroyed the simplicity and repose of life; replaced its contentment, its poetry, its soft romance-dreams and visions with the money-fever, sordid ideals, vulgar ambitions, and the sleep which does not refresh; it has invented a thousand useless luxuries, and turned them into necessities; it has created a thousand vicious appetites and satisfies none of them; it has dethroned God and set up a shekel in His place.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
"Papers of the Adam Family"
Letters From the Earth, 1962
Edited by Bernardo DeVoto

Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessaries.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
More Maxims of Mark, 1927
edited by Merle Johnson (d.1935)

America is the only nation in history which miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilization.

Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929)
Quoted in Saturday Review of Literature, New York
01 December 1945
(Also attributed to Oscar Wilde)

Civilization is the process of reducing the infinite to the finite.

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935)
Letter to Frederick Pollock
19 November 1922
The Essential Holmes: Selections from the Letters, Speeches,
Judicial Opinions, and Other Writings
, 1997
edited by Richard A. Posner

Inventor, n. A person who makes an ingenious arrangement of wheels, levers and springs, and believes it civilization.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

Civilization is paralysis.

Eugene-Henri-Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Modern Plutarch, 1928
by John Cournos (1881-1966)

What a pitiable thing it is that our civilization can do no better for us than to make us slaves to indoor life, so that we have to go and take artificial exercise in order to preserve our health.

George Wharton James (1858-1923)
What the White Race May Learn from the Indian, 1908
Chapter IV "The Indian and Out-Of-Door Life"

It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle - they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments.

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
An Introduction to Mathematics, 1911
Chapter 5 "The Symbolism of Mathematics"

Does the thoughtful man suppose that...the present experiment in civilization is the last world we will see?

George Santayana (1863-1952)
Life of Reason, Vol. ii, 127

I think it would be a good idea.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
When asked what he thought of Western civilization
Authenticity doubtful
See The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When, 2006
By Ralph Keyes

Our civilization is still in a middle stage, scarcely beast, in that it is no longer wholly guided by instinct; scarcely human, in that it is not yet wholly guided by reason.

Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945)
Sister Carrie, 1900
Chapter VIII "Intimations By Winter: An Ambassador Summoned"

Civilization, that great fraud of our times, has promised man that by complicating his existence it would multiply his pleasures.... Civilization has promised man freedom, at the cost of giving up everything dear to him, which it arrogantly treated as lies and fantasies.... Hour by hour needs increase and are nearly always unsatisfied, peopling the earth with discontented rebels. The superfluous has become a necessity and luxuries indispensable.

Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904)
The Life of Isabelle Eberhardt, 1988
by Annette Kobak (b.1943)
(In RE/Search's Angry Women)

what man calls civilization always results in deserts

Don Marquis (1878-1937)
"what the ants are saying"
archy does his part, 1935

I believe that the horrifying deterioration in the ethical conduct of people today stems primarily from the mechanization and dehumanization of our lives -- a disastrous byproduct of the development of the scientific and technical mentality. Nostra culpa! I don't see any way to tackle this disastrous short-coming. Man grows cold faster than the planet he inhabits.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Letter to Dr. Otto Juliusburger
11 April 1946

You can't say that civilization don't advance...for in every war they kill you a new way.

Will Rogers (1879-1935)
The Autobiography of Will Rogers, 1949
Chapter 14

A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Rome's decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars.

Will Durant (1885-1981)
Caesar and Christ, 1944

Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing the things historians usually record, while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river.

Will Durant (1885-1981)
Life, 18 October 1963

When man learns to understand and control his own behavior as well as he is learning to understand and control the behavior of crop plants and domestic animals, he may be justified in believing that he has become civilized.

Elwin Charles Stakman (1885-1979)

It is so stupid of modern civilization to have given up believing in the devil when he is the only explanation of it.

Ronald Knox (1888-1957)
Let Dons Delight, 1939

Civilization is a movement and not a condition, a voyage and not a harbor.

A.J. Toynbee (1889-1975)
The Reader's Digest
October 1958

Civilization is drugs, alcohol, engines of war, prostitution, machines and machine slaves, low wages, bad food, bad taste, prisons, reformatories, lunatic asylums, divorce, perversion, brutal sports, suicides, infanticide, cinema, quackery, demagogy, strikes, lockouts, revolutions, putsches, colonization, electric chairs, guillotines, sabotage, floods, famine, disease, gangsters, money barons, horse racing, fashion shows, poodle dogs, chow dogs, Siamese cats, condoms, pessaries, syphilis, gonorrhea, insanity, neuroses, etc., etc.

Henry Miller (1891-1980)
"An Open Letter to Surrealists Everywhere"
The Cosmological Eye, 1939

One of the most pathetic aspects of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
"The Tower of Babel", Part III
Beyond Tragedy: Essays on the Christian Interpretation of History, 1937

In every civilization its most impressive period seems to precede death by only a moment. Like the woods of autumn, life defies death in a glorious pageantry of color. But the riot of this color has been distilled by an alchemy in which life has already been touched by death. Thus man claims immortality for his spiritual achievements just when their mortal fate becomes apparent; and death and mortality are strangely mixed into, and potent in, the very pretension of immortality.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
"The Tower of Babel", Part III
Beyond Tragedy: Essays on the Christian Interpretation of History, 1937

To know only one thing well is to have a barbaric mind: civilization implies the graceful relation of all varieties of experience to a central humane system of thought. The present age is peculiarly barbaric: introduce, say, a Hebrew scholar to an ichthyologist or an authority on Danish place names and the pair of them would have no single topic in common but the weather or the war (if there happened to be a war in progress, which is usual in this barbaric age).

Robert Ranke Graves (1895-1985)
The White Goddess : A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, 1948
Chapter 13 "Palamedes and the Cranes"

A sentimental misanthropist coined the often cited aphorism "The more I see of human beings, the more I like animals". I maintain the contrary: only the person who knows animals, including the highest and most nearly related to ourselves, and who has gained insight into evolution, will be able to apprehend the unique position of man. We are the highest achievement reached so far by the great constructors of evolution. We are their 'latest' but certainly not their last word. The scientist must not regard anything as absolute, not even the laws of pure reason. He must remain aware of the great fact, discovered by Heraclitus, that nothing whatever really remains the same even for one moment, but that everything is perpetually changing. To regard man, the most ephemeral and rapidly evolving of all species, as the final and unsurpassable achievement of creation, especially at his present-day particularly dangerous and disagreeable stage of development, is certainly the most arrogant and dangerous of all untenable doctrines. If I thought of man as the final image of God, I should not know what to think of God. But when I consider that our ancestors, at a time fairly recent in relation to the earth's history, were perfectly ordinary apes, closely related to chimpanzees, I see a glimmer of hope. It does not require very great optimism to assume that from us human beings something better and higher may evolve. Far from seeing in man the irrevocable and unsurpassable image of God, I assert - more modestly and, I believe, in greater awe of the Creation and its infinite possibilities - that the long-sought missing link between animals and the really humane being is ourselves!

Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989)
On Aggression, 1963
Chapter XII "On the Virtue of Scientific Humility"

Modern social practices have done four things to the household. First, by converting the village into a city, they have replaced the personalized village neighborhood by an agglomeration of human beings, most of whose relations are as impersonal as those between passers-by on a busy street or fellow passengers in a bus or subway car. Second, they have stripped the household of many of its old-time tasks: the barnyard, the woodpile, food preservation, cooking, the workshop, construction, the making of implements and utensils, the making of cloth and clothing, laundering, and transferred these and other activities to factories and stores. Third, they have taken adults out of the household into factories, stores, and offices and children into schools and playgrounds. Fourth, through organizing an extensive amusement industry, they have induced both adult and juvenile members of the household to spend a great deal of their spare time away from home. Such changes have gone a long way toward destroying the villages of households and have done much to break up the family.

Helen Nearing (1904-1995)
and Scott Nearing (1883-1983)
The Maple Sugar Book, 1950
Chapter 11 "The Money in Maple"

Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.

Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
The Fountainhead, 1943
Part IV, Chapter 18

Unfortunately, there are nearly twice as many people in the poor countries as in the rich. Further, there will -- nothing can stop it -- be an extra billion people added to the world population in the next ten years. Of those, rather more than three-quarters will be added to the poor. All these statements, as Mr McNamara remarked with great force, are cliches. A lot of us -- and most urgently of all, American demographers and food scientists -- have been uttering them for years past. Here is another. The gap between the rich and poor countries is growing. Take the average daily income in a large slice of the poor countries. It is something like thity-five cents a day. The average daily income in the US is about eight dollars a day. Twenty times greater. In ten years it is likely to be thirty times greater.

Yes, those statements are cliches, all right. Some of them are dreadful cliches: and I am using dreadful in its first meaning, that is full of dread. The most dreadful of all -- again, men of sober judgment have been saying it for years -- is that many millions of people in the poor countries are going to starve to death before our eyes -- or, to complete the domestic picture, we shall see them doing so upon our television sets.

Charles Percy Snow (1905-1980)
The State of Siege, 1969 page 25
Public Affairs, 1971 page 211

The chief product of an automated society is a widespread and deepening sense of boredom.

C. Northcote Parkinson (1909-1993)
The New Republic, 01 June 1987

We are born princes and the civilizing process turns us into frogs.

Eric Berne (1910-1970)
Paraphrased by Tom Harris in Kenneth Lamott interview (below)
See caveat

...teachers of children in the United States of America wrote this date on blackboards again and again, and asked the children to memorize it with pride and joy: 1492.

The teachers told the children that this was when their continent was discovered by human beings. Actually, millions of human beings were already living full and imaginative lives on the continent in 1492. That was simply the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007)
Breakfast of Champions, 1973
Chapter 1

Civilization is the art of living in towns of such size the everyone does not know everyone else.

Julian Jaynes (b.1923)
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
Book II The witness of history
Chapter 1 Gods, Graves, and Idols

The first position (I'm not O.K., you're O.K.) [Tom] Harris maintains, in the face of much criticism, in the universal position occupied by the child, who is small, dirty, and clumsy in a world controlled by tall, clean, and deft adults. (Or so it seems to the child.) Here lies a critical theoretical difference between Harris and Eric Berne; for as Harris described it to me, Berne believed that we are born princes and the civilizing process turns us into frogs, while he himself believes that we are all born frogs.

Kenneth Church Lamott (1923-1979)
"The four possible life positions:;
1. I'm not O.K. -- you're O.K.
2. I'm not O.K. -- you're not O.K.
3. I'm O.K. -- you're not O.K.
4. I'm O.K. -- you're O.K."
New York Times magazine
19 November 1972

...civilization is reckoned as the distance man has placed between himself and his excreta.

Brian Aldiss (b.1925)
The Dark Light Years, 1964
Chapter 5

I believe humanity made a serious mistake when our ancestors gave up the hunting and gathering life for agriculture and towns. That's when they invented the slave, the serf, the master, the commissar, the bureaucrat, the capitalist, and the five-star general. Wasn't it farming made a murderer out of Cain? Nothing but trouble and grief ever since, with a few comforts thrown in here and there, now and then, like bourbon and ice cubes and free beer on the Fourth of July, mainly to stretch out the misery.

Edward Abbey (1927-1989)
"Merry Christmas, Pigs!"
Abbey's Road, 1979

The desire to impose upon the disorder of nature some orderly pattern or arrangement makes men into poets, painters and gardeners; it also makes them prey to the illusion that a highly organized state will be civilized and preferable to a disorganized and muddled one.

Len Deighton (b.1929)
"Chancellor Hitler"
Blitzkrieg: From the rise of Hitler to the fall of Dunkirk, 1979

When the vultures watching your civilization begin dropping is time to pause and wonder.

Ken Brower (b.1944)
Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the
Disappearance of Species
, 1981
by Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich

The living arrangement Americans now think of as normal is bankrupting us economically, socially, ecologically, and spiritually. The physical setting itself - the cartoon landscape of car-clogged highways, strip malls, tract houses, franchise fry pits, parking lots, junked cities and ravaged countryside - is not merely a symptom of our troubled culture but in many ways a primary cause of our troubles.

James Howard Kunstler (b.1948)
"A Wicked Civilization: An Interview with James Howard Kunstler"
No More Prisons, 1999
by William Upski Wimsatt

Just like the body of man, the body of civilization has its own balances -- right and wrong, good and ill, inane and meaningful. I don't know why, but all the opposites need to be present in order for the balance to work.

Mike McQuay (1949-1995)
Memories, 1987

The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases.

For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question 'How can we eat?' the second by the question 'Why do we eat?' and the third by the question 'Where shall we have lunch?'

Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 1979
Chapter 35

The man who first abused his fellows with swear-words instead of bashing their brains out with a club should be counted among those who laid the foundations of civilization.

John Cohen

The difficulty with this is, of course, that Modern Man does not see, hear, or most importantly believe anything which does not take place before the glassy stare of the television camera. How inconvenient, then, that millions of starving children and fallen heroes lack the foresight to die in the right places for the right causes.

Zaccariah Michaelson
Essays on the Inhuman Race

The slum is the measure of civilization.

Paraphrase of a theme of The Battle of the Slum, 1902
By Jacob Riis (1849-1914)
Book review in The Nation, 23 April 1903


Develop your own set of cliches.

Robert Fripp (b.1946)

Some people are quick to criticize cliches, but what is a cliche? It is a truth that has retained its validity through time. Mankind would lose half its hard-earned wisdom, built up patiently over the ages, if it ever lost its cliches.

Marvin G. Gregory


Clowns are best in their own Company; but Gentlemen are best every where.

Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs, 1732
Number 1117
Collected by Thomas Fuller (1608-1661)


All literary style, especially national style, is made up of such coincidences, which are a spiritual sort of puns. That is why style is untranslatable....

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Irish Impressions, 1919
Chapter VIII "An Example and a Question"

Coincidences are spiritual puns.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Paraphrase of above?
See caveat



I have often repented speaking, but never of holding my tongue.

Xenocrates (396-315 BC)
Quoted by Valerius Maximus in
Annals, Book 7, Chapter 2, Section 7
(Also attributed to Simonides by Plutarch)

There is no pleasure to me without communication: there is not so much as a sprightly thought comes into my mind that it does not grieve me to have produced alone, and that I have no one to tell it to.

Montaigne (1533-1592)
Essays, Book III, 1588
Chapter 9, "Of Vanity"

When you fall into a man's conversation, the first thing you should consider is, whether he has a greater inclination to hear you, or that you should hear him.

Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729)
The Spectator, number 49
26 April 1711

When the speaker and he to whom he speaks do not understand, that is metaphysics.

Voltaire (1694-1778)

No one would talk much in company if he realized how often he himself misunderstands others.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Elective Affinities, 1808
Book II, Chapter 4, "From Ottilie's Diary"

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving in words evidence of the fact.

George Eliot (1819-1880)
Impressions of Theophrastus Such, 1879

There is, indeed, no wild beast more to be dreaded than a communicative man having nothing to communicate.

Christian Nestell Bovee (1820-1904)
Intuitions and Summaries of Thought, 1862
"Conversation: Fluency"

The little girl had the making of a poet in her who, being told to be sure of her meaning before she spoke, said, "How can I know what I think till I see what I say?"

Graham Wallas (1858-1932)
The Art of Thought, 1926
Chapter 4

After the expression of negative emotions one notices in oneself or in other people another curious mechanical feature. This is talking. There is no harm in talking by itself. But with some people, especially with those who notice it least, it really becomes a vice. They talk all the time, everywhere they happen to be, while working, while traveling, even while sleeping. They never stop talking to someone if there is someone to talk to, and if there is no one, they talk to themselves.

Peter Ouspensky (1878-1947)
The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution, 1974
"Second Lecture"

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1921
Section 7

...the fantastic advances in the field of electronic communication constitute a great danger to the privacy of the individual; that indiscriminate use of such devices in law enforcement raises grave constitutional questions under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments; and that these considerations impose a heavier responsibility on this Court in its supervision of the fairness of procedures in the federal court system.

Earl Warren (1891-1974)
Concurring opinion
Lopez v. United States, 373 U.S. 427, 441 d 462 (1963)

We had had many discussions at the galley table and there had been many honest attempts to understand each other's thinking. There are several kinds of reception possible. There is the mind which lies in wait with traps for flaws, so set that it may miss, through not grasping it, a soundness. There is a second which is not reception at all, but blind flight because of laziness, or because some pattern is disturbed by the processes the discussion. The best reception of all is that which is easy and relaxed, which says in effect, "Let me absorb this thing. Let me try to understand it without private barriers. When I have understood what you are saying, only then will I subject it to my own scrutiny and my own criticism." This is the finest of all critical approaches, and the rarest.

The smallest and meanest of all is that which, being frightened or outraged by thinking outside or beyond its pattern, revenges itself senselessly; leaps on a misspelled word or a mispronunciation, drags tricky definition in by the scruff of the neck, and, ranging like a small unpleasant dog, rags and tears the structure to shreds. We have known a critic to base a vicious criticism on a misplaced letter in a word, when actually he was venting rage on an idea he hated. These are the suspicious ones, the self-protective ones, living lives of difficult defense, insuring themselves against folly with folly -- stubbornly self-protective at too high a cost.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
and Edward Flanders Ricketts (1897-1948)
The Log from the Sea of Cortez, 1951
Chapter 27 "April 8"

[G]ive a good Fourth of July orator the word "Americanism" to play with, and he can worry it for hours, exalting "Americanism," making dreadful thundering noises at "foreign-isms," and evoking great applause from his hearers. There is no way of stopping this process by which free associations, one word "implying" another, can be made to go on and on. That is why, of course, there are so many people in the world whom one calls windbags. That is why many orators, newspaper columnists, commencement-day speakers, politicians, and high-school elocutionists can speak at a moment's notice on any subject whatever. Indeed, a great many of the "English" and "speech" courses in our schools are merely training in this very thing -- how to keep on talking importantly even when one hasn't a thing to say.

The kind of "thinking" which is the product of intensional orientation, is called circular, because, since all the possible conclusions are contained in the connotations of the word to start with, we are bound, no matter how hard or how long we "think," to come back to our starting point. Indeed, we can hardly be said ever to leave our starting point. Of course, as soon as we are face to face with a fact, we are compelled to shut up, or start over again somewhere else. That is why it is so "rude" in certain kinds of meetings and conversations to bring up any facts. They spoil everybody's good time.

Samuel Ichiyé Hayakawa (1906-1992)
Language in Thought and Action, 1949
Chapter 14 "The Two-Values Orientation: Oververbalization"

Eschew obfuscation.

Samuel Ichiyé Hayakawa (1906-1992)
Chapter title (chapter contains no text)
Through the Communication Barrier:
On Speaking, Listening, and Understanding
, 1979
Part III "The Theory and the Practice"

Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media with which men communicate than by the content of the communication.

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980)
Playboy interview
March 1969

I feel that if a person can't communicate, the least he can do is to shut up.

Tom Lehrer (b.1928)
Tom Foolery: the words and music of Tom Lehrer, 1986
Act Two
Adapted by Cameron Mackintosh and Robin Ray

While people are fairly young and the musical composition of their lives is still in its opening bars, they can go about writing it together and exchange motifs..., but if they meet when they are older...their musical compositions are more or less complete, and every motif, every object, every word means something different to each of them.

Milan Kundera (b.1929)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 1984
Part 3 "Words Misunderstood", Chapter 2

If I don't have something stupid to say, I don't say anything at all.

Ellis Praecox (b.1943)


It contributes greatly toward a man's moral and intellectual health, to be brought into habits of companionship with individuals unlike himself, who care little for his pursuits, and whose sphere and abilities he must go out of himself to appreciate.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)
The Scarlet Letter, 1850
"The Custom House", Introduction



On applause: They named it Ovation from the Latin ovis, a sheep.

Plutarch (AD c.46-c.119)
"Marcellus", Lives
Translated by John Dryden

How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180)
Meditations, IV, 18

Singularity in the right, hath ruined many: Happy those who are convinced of the general Opinion.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Poor Richard Improved, 1757

The this life are esteem and admiration of others - the punishments are neglect and contempt - nor may anyone imagine that these are not as real as the others. The desire of the esteem of others is as real a want of nature as hunger - and the neglect and contempt of the world as severe a pain as the gout or stone. It sooner and oftener produces despair, and a detestation of existence....

John Adams (1735-1826)
Discourses on Davila: A Series of Papers on Political History, 1790

To do the opposite of something is also a form of imitation.

G.C. Lichtenberg (1742-1799)
"Notebook D", Aphorism 96
Aphorisms, 1765-1799

Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it bee goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself and you shall have the suffrage of the world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Essays: First Series, 1841

It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Essays: First Series, 1841

A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times.

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)
The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, 1858
Chapter 1

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Walden, 1854
Chapter 18, "Conclusion"

The thing is, you see, that the strongest man in the world is the man who stands alone.

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)
An Enemy of the People
1882, Act 5

Originality consists in thinking for yourself, not in thinking differently from other people.

James Fitzjames Stephen (1829-1894)
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, 1873
Chapter 2 "On the Liberty of Thought and Discussion"

With the exception of the instinct of self-preservation, the propensity for emulation is probably the strongest and most alert and persistent of the economic motives proper.

Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929)
The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899
Chapter 5 "The Pecuniary Standard of Living"

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)
"The Road Not Taken", 1916
Stanza 4

How is it that the American, once he has attained his majority, appears to us as the perfect conformist? It is, perhaps, because he has exhausted during his childhood and adolescence practically all his indiscipline and anarchy, so that he has no difficulty later in life in integrating himself into a collective society, which he himself fully accepts.

Andre Siegfried (1875-1959)
America at Mid-Century, 1955
Chapter 24 "The Different Stages of Life"
Translated by Margaret Ledésert

Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
"Aphorisms For Leo Baeck", 1953
Ideas and Opinions, 1964

In a world of fugitives,
The person taking the opposite direction
Will appear to run away.

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
"The Family Reunion"
Part I, Scene II

Lots of times you have to pretend to join a parade in which you're not really interested, in order to get where you're going.

Christopher Morley (1890-1957)
Kitty Foyle, 1940
Chapter 1

On March 28, 1957, Christopher Morley died at age 66 in Roslyn Heights, New York. After his death, the New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune published a message he had written for his fans and friends:

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.

Christopher Morley (1890-1957)
The Man Who Made Friends with Himself, 1949

To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best to, night and day, to make you everybody else -- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

E.E. Cummings (1894-1962)
A Miscellany, 1958

When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other. A society which gives unlimited freedom to the individual, more often than not attains a disconcerting sameness. On the other hand, where communal discipline is strict but not ruthless...originality is likely to thrive.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983)
A Passionate State of Mind, 1955
Aphorism 33

Nonconformists travel as a rule in bunches. You rarely find a nonconformist who goes it alone. And woe to him inside a nonconformist clique who does not conform with nonconformity.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983)
Reflections on the Human Condition, 1973
Number 50
Chapter II "Troublemakers"

There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the "fashionable non-conformist".

Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
"The 'Inexplicable Personal Alchemy'"
The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 1971

Personne ne se rend compte que certaines personnes dépensent une force herculéenne pour être seulement normales. (Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.)

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
Notebooks, 1942-1951, 1965
Notebook IV, January 1942 - September 1945

If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist it's another nonconformist who doesn't conform to the prevailing standard of nonconformity.

Bill Vaughan (1915-1977)


Men never do evil so fully and cheerfully as when we do it out of conscience.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Pensees, 1670, Number 813
Edited by A.J. Krailsheimer (b.1921)

I take it that conscience is the guardian in the individual of the rules which the community has evolved for its own preservation.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
The Moon and Sixpence, 1919
Chapter 14

Conscience is the inner voice which warns us somebody may be looking.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
"Sententiae: The Mind of Men"
A Mencken Chrestomathy, 1949

I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions.

Lillian Hellman (1905-1984)
Letter to the Honorable John S. Wood,
Chairman of the House of Representatives
Committee on un-American Activities,
19 May 1952 merely instinct socialized into guilt.

Robert Coover (b.1932)
The Origin of the Brunists, 1966
Part IV, Chapter 1



Man is but a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water, suffices to kill him. But if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Pensees, 1670, number 347

Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.

William James (1842-1910)
The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902
Lectures 16-17 "Mysticism"

Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make use of a very small portion of their possible consciousness, and of their soul's resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger. Great emergencies and crises show us how much greater our vital resources are than we had supposed.

William James (1842-1910)
Letter to W. Lutoslawski
06 May 1906
The Letters of William James, 1920

It is by undermining the idea of reason, of order, of harmony, that we gain consciousness of ourselves.

E.M. Cioran (1911-1995)
The Temptation to Exist, 1956

Human consciousness arose but a minute before midnight on the geological clock. Yet we mayflies try to bend an ancient world to our purposes, ignorant perhaps of the messages buried in its long history. Let us hope that we are still in the early morning of our April day.

Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002)
"Our Allotted Lifetimes"
The Panda's Thumb, 1980


...the value of the constitution depends on the good will of government itself. If the Supreme Court rules that the Bill of Rights should not interfere with the important business of government (which they have done on at least two occasions), then the constitution is meaningless.

John Kormylo (b.1950?)

The U.S. Constitution isn't perfect -- but it's a hell of a lot better than what we have now....




Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

Debt, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

No one in this world, so far as I know...has ever lost money by under-estimating the intelligence of the great masses of plain people.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
"Notes on Journalism"
Chicago Tribune
19 September 1926

I was now definitely a part of that strange race of people, aptly described in an editorial in the Herald Tribune, as spending their lives doing work they detest to make money they don't want to buy things they don't need in order to impress people they dislike.

Emile Henry Gauvreau (1891-1956)
My Last Million Readers, 1941
Book III "Muscling In"

Nothing so well indicates to me the difference between my own generation and the present one as the fact that I do not, without a certain inner resistance and resentment, accept a system of marketing in which all the decisions have been taken out of the hands of both the shopkeeper and the customer and put under the remote control of the market researcher and the packaging expert, the advertising agency and the wholesale distributor. Those who have grown up in this packaged world accept such external controls and compulsions as normal: their loss of choice, their loss of taste, they do not even notice for they have never known anything different. We have now exchanged autonomy for automation.

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990)
Sketches From Life: The Autobiography of Lewis Mumford: The Early Years, 1983
Chapter 2 "All Around the Town"

American cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash - all of them - surrounded by piles of wrecked and rusting automobiles, and almost smothered with rubbish. Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much. The mountains of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use. In this, if in no other way, we can see the wild and reckless exuberance of our production, and waste seems to be the index. Driving along I thought how in France or Italy every item of these throw-out things would have been saved and used for something. This is not said in criticism of one system or the other but I do wonder whether there will come a time when we can no longer afford our wastefulness - chemical wastes in the rivers, metal wastes everywhere, and atomic wastes buried deep in the earth or sunk in the sea. When an Indian village became too deep in its own filth, the inhabitants moved. And we have no place to which to move.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
Travels With Charley: In Search of America, 1962
Part Two

Junk is the ideal product...the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy.... The junk merchant does not sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to the product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client.

William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)
Naked Lunch, 1959
Introduction, "Deposition: Testimony Concerning a Sickness"
(ellipses in original)

The car, the furniture, the wife, the children -- everything has to be disposable. Because you see the main thing today is -- shopping.

Arthur Miller (1915-2005)
The Price, 1968
Act 1

In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.

Ivan Illich (b.1926)
Tools for Conviviality, 1973

All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.

Noam Chomsky (b.1928)

What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Lix Taylor knows it, the president knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
From A to B and Back Again, 1975
Chapter 6 "Work"

Children live their lives most fully at school, fathers at work. Mother is the dead heart of the family, spending father's earnings on consumer goods to enhance the environment in which he eats, sleeps and watches television.

Germaine Greer (b.1939)
"Love: Family"
The Female Eunuch, 1970

I take Him shopping with me. I say, "Okay, Jesus, help me find a bargain."

Tammy Faye Bakker (1942-2007)
"Flashy Tammy Faye Says God Is With Her"
By Sarah Bond, Associated Press
Rock Hill [South Carolina] Herald
04 December 1979

Occupational regulation has served to limit consumer choice, raise consumer costs, increase practitioner income, limit practitioner mobility, deprive the poor of adequate service, and restrict job opportunities for minorities -- all without a demonstrated improvement in quality or safety....

Critics of this hypothesis believe to the contrary, however, that regulators' and professional groups' self-interest has been and still is the primary motivator of regulatory legislation. And indeed the evidence shows that consumers rarely engage in campaigns to license occupations. If the purpose of licensing were to improve the quality of service, one would expect consumers, who might be the prime beneficiaries, to promote licensure, but licensing is systematically promoted by practitioners....

S. David Young (b.1955)
The Rule of Experts - Occupational Licensing in America, 1987

Predictably, as we bailed on our farms, most of us bailed on food production all together. The magic act that is consumerism depends upon a certain sleight of hand to convince us that it is always better to outsource to others those things that we once did for ourselves. Now, we find ourselves subject to the magician's greatest trick -- in the curious position of having to buy, from total strangers who live many thousands of kilometers away, one of the few key things that we actually require to survive. It makes about as much sense as paying to have somebody blow air into your lungs through an extremely long tube. Only, the air has kind of a stale, farty taste after travelling so far, and the mechanical pump that is doing all of the work is a real bitch of a gas-guzzler.

Clayton Dach
"Grandma vs. Carbon"
Adbusters, Number 73 (U.S. Edition)

"Harley is a Rust Belt success story," said Robert W. Hall, a professor at the Indiana University School of Business. "They did the really hard thing, which is to change the attitude of management."

Harley had some help, to be sure, during the past tumultuous decade, a period in which it came close to bankruptcy. The company was the beneficiary of a stiff, 49 percent, tariff on Japanese imports from 1983 to 1986. It has also benefited from having an unusually loyal core group of customers, so loyal that some wear Harley tattoos.

The old saying is that if you can persuade the customer to tattoo your name on their chest, they probably will not switch brands.

Robert W. Hall (b.1937)
Indiana University professor
Regarding Harley-Davidson owners
Quoted in "How Harley Outfoxed Japan With Exports"
By John Holusha
New York Times
12 August 1990


It is easy to be brave from a safe distance.

Aesop (620-560 BC)
"The Wolf and the Kid"

Courage charms us, because it indicates that a man loves an idea better than all things in the world, that he is thinking neither of his bed, nor his dinner, nor his money, but will venture all to put in the act the invisible thought of his mind.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Journals, 1909-1914
Entry in 1859

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Orthodoxy, 1909
Chapter 6 "The Paradoxes of Christianity"

He may be tolerant in one realm and not in another. In fact, the test of tolerance comes when we are in a majority; the test of courage comes when we are in a minority.

Ralph Washington Sockman (1889-1970)
"Clarification of Term Salvation Demanded By Sockman in Plotting Role of the Church"
New York Times, 11 January 1943

The test of courage: we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority. The question is, can we contend earnestly for our convictions and at the same time be fair in allowing others to work for theirs.

Ralph Washington Sockman (1889-1970)
"Might of Minority Applied to Church; Forces of Good Can
Leaven Far Beyond Numerical Strength, Sockman Declares"
New York Times, 10 May 1943


[see also: SHIT]

Ninety percent of what passes for science fiction today is crap.

John W. Campbell (1910-1971)
Editor of Amazing
In conversation with Theodore Sturgeon

But John, ninety percent of everything is crap.

Theodore Sturgeon (1918-1985)
Response to John W. Campbell
Now known as Sturgeon's Law


Some foolish men declare that Creator made the world.
The doctrine that the world was created is ill-advised, and should be rejected.

If God created the world, where was he before creation?
If you say he was transcendent then, and need no support, where is he now?

No single being had the skill to make this world --
For how can an immaterial god create that which is material?

How could God have made the world without any raw material?
If you say he made this first, and then the world, you are faced with an endless regression.

If you declare that this raw material arose naturally you fall into another fallacy,
For the whole universe might thus have been its own creator, and have arisen equally naturally.

If God created the world by an act of his own will, without any raw material,
Then it is just his will and nothing else -- and who will believe this silly stuff?
If he is ever perfect and complete, how could the will to create have arisen in him?
If, on the other hand, he is not perfect, he could no more create the universe than a potter could.

If he is formless, actionless, and all-embracing, how could he have created the world?
Such a soul, devoid of all modality, would have no desire to create anything.

If he is perfect, he does not strive for the three aims of man,
So what advantage would be gianed by creating the universe?

If you say that he created to no purpose, because it was his nature to do so, then God is pointless.
If he created in some kind of sport, it was the sport of a foolish child, leading to trouble.

If he created because of the karma of embodied beings [acquired in a previous creation],
He is not the Almightly Lord, but subordinate to something else....

If out of love for living things and need of them he made the world,
Why did he not make creation wholly blissful, free from misfortune?

If he were transcendent he would not create, for he would be free;
Nor if involved in transmigration, for then he would not be almightly.

Thus the doctrine that the world was created by God makes no sense at all.

And God commits great sin in slaying the children whom he himself created.
If you say he slays only to destroy evil beings, why did he create such beings in the first place?....

Good people should rebuke the believer in divine creation, maddened by an evil doctrine.

Know that the world is uncreated, as time itself is without beginning and end,
And is based on the [Seven] Tattvas, Jiva and the rest.

Uncreated and indestructible, it endures under the compulsion of its own nature,
Divided into three sections -- hell, the middle world, and the heavens.

Jinasena (fl.778-838)

The first creature of God, in the works of the day, was the light of the sense; the last was the light of the reason; and his Sabbath work ever since is the illumination of the Spirit. First he breathed light, upon the face of the matter or chaos; then he breathed light, into the face of man; and still he breatheth and inspireth light, into the face of his chosen.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
"Of Truth"
The Essays, or Counsels, Civil and Moral, 1597

Man was created by the Trinity about the third hour of the day, or nine of the clock in the morning.

John Lightfoot (1602-1675)
1644, quoted in
"From Ussher to Slusher, from Archbish to
Gish: or, not in a million years..."
by Colin Groves
in Archaeology in Oceania, 1996

The universe is a thought of God. After this ideal thought-fabric passed out into reality, and the new-born world fulfilled the plan of its Creator —- permit me to use this human simile —- the first duty of all thinking beings has been to retrace the original design in this great reality; to find the principle in the mechanism, the unity in the compound, the law in the phenomenon, and to pass back from the structure to its primitive foundation. Accordingly to me there is only one appearance in nature —- the thinking being. The great compound called the world is only remarkable to me because it is present to shadow forth symbolically the manifold expressions of that being. All in me and out of me is only the hieroglyph of a power which is like to me. The laws of nature are the cyphers which the thinking mind adds on to make itself understandable to intelligence —- the alphabet by means of which all spirits communicate with the most perfect Spirit and with one another. Harmony, truth, order, beauty, excellence, give me joy, because they transport me into the active state of their author, of their possessor, because they betray the presence of a rational and feeling Being, and let me perceive my relationship with that Being.

Johann von Schiller (1759-1805)
"Letter 4: Theosophy of Julius", 1786
Philosophical Letters of Frederich Schiller

God created the world out of nothing, but the nothingness still shows through.

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
Paraphrase? Also see Paul Valery (1871-1945)

An artist has no need to express his mind directly in his work for it to express the quality of that mind; it has indeed been said that the highest praise of God consists in the denial of Him by the atheist, who finds creation so perfect that it can dispense with a creator.

Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
The Guermantes Way, 1921
Chapter 2
Translated by Charles Kenneth Scott-Moncrieff, 1925

Dieu a tout fait de rien. Mais le rien perce.
(God made everything out of nothing, but the nothingness shows through.)

Paul Valery (1871-1945)
Mauvaises Pensées et Autres, 1942
Pléiade II, page 907

To think is first of all to create a world (or to limit one's own world, which comes to the same thing).

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942
"Absurd Creation: Philosophy and Fiction"

Si Dios no hubiera descansado el domingo
habria tenido tiempo de terminar el mundo.
(If God hadn't rested on Sunday,
He would have had time to finish the world.)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (b.1928)
"Los Funerales de Mama Grande", 1974


[see also: LAW]

Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea (The act is not criminal unless the intent is criminal).

legal maxim

A sin is fat and strong when it is committed willfully rather than under constraint. He says that they committed wrong when they had plenty, rather than that they pondered some crime with the excuse of poverty, so their guilt should be intensified.

Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus (490-575)
Explanation of the Psalms
Commentary on Psalm 72
Translated and Annotated by Patrick Gerard Walsh, 1991

Crime like virtue has its degrees; and timid innocence was never known to blossom suddenly into extreme license.

Jean Racine (1639-1699)
Phedre, 1677
Act IV, scene ii

Crime, si la pauvreté est la mère des crimes, le défaut d'esprit en est le père.
(If poverty is the mother of crime, then want of sense is its father.)

Jean de La Bruyere (1654-1696)
Caractères, 1688
Table Analytique des Matieres

It is certain that stealing nourishes courage, strength, skill, tact, in a word, all the virtues useful to a republican system and consequently to our own. Lay partiality aside, and answer me: is theft, whose effect is to distribute wealth more evenly, to be branded as a wrong in our day, under our government which aims at equality? Plainly, the answer is no.

Marquis de Sade (1740-1814)
"Dialogue the Fifth: Yet Another Effort, Frenchmen, If
You Would Become Republicans"
Philosophy in the Bedroom, 1795

There is a heroism in crime as well as in virtue. Vice and infamy have their altars and their religion.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
"Characteristics: In the Manner of Rochefoucauld's Maxims"
1823, number 354
The Complete Works of William Hazlitt, 1932, Volume 9
Edited by P.P. Howe

The crimes which are annually committed seem to be a necessary result of our social organization...society prepares crime, and the guilty are only the instruments by which it is executed.

Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet (1796-1874)
A Treatise on Man, 1842

The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual crime.

Max Stirner (1806-1856)
The Ego and His Own, 1845

Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property. Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another. Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. Unlike crimes, they imply no malice toward others, and no interference with their persons or property.

In vices, the very essence of crime -- that is, the design to injure the person or property of another -- is wanting. It is a maxim of the law that there can be no crime without a criminal intent; that is, without the intent to invade the person or property of another. But no one ever practises a vice with any such criminal intent. He practises his vice for his own happiness solely, and not from any malice toward others.

Unless this clear distinction between vices and crimes be made and recognized by the laws, there can be on earth no such thing as individual right, liberty, or property; no such things as the right of one man to the control of his own person and property, and the corresponding and coequal rights of another man to the control of his own person and property.

For a government to declare a vice to be a crime, and to punish it as such, is an attempt to falsify the very nature of things. It is as absurd as it would be to declare truth to be falsehood, or falsehood truth.

Lysander Spooner (1808-1887)
"Vices Are Not Crimes", 1875

...the offences of men are the result not so much of the vices of the individual offender as of the state of society into which that individual is thrown.

Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-1862)
History of Civilization in England, 1862
Chapter I "General Introduction"

Society prepares the crime; the criminal commits it.

Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-1862)
I cannot find evidence that Buckle wrote this;
In a footnote to the actual quotation (previous),
Buckle quotes Quetelet's A Treatise on Man, 1842 (above)

Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat.

John Morley (1838-1923)
Voltaire, 1872

Squeeze human nature into the straitjacket of criminal justice and crime will appear.

Karl Krause (1874-1936)
"The Riehl Case"
Morality and Criminal Justice, 1908

The common argument that crime is caused by poverty is a kind of slander on the poor.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
"Minority Report", Number 273
Notebooks, 1956

If it is committed in the name of God or country, there is no crime so heinous that the public will not forgive it.

Tom Robbins (b.1936)
Skinny Legs and All, 1990
"The Sixth Veil"


Modeste tamen, et circumspecto judicio, de tantis viris pronunciandum est, ne, quod plerisque accidit, damnent, quae non intelligunt. (In judging however of those great men, we ought to be diffident of ourselves and circumspect, for it often happens that we condemn what we do not understand.)

Quintilian (AD c.35-c.100)
Quintilian's Institutes of Eloquence, 1805
Volume I, Book X, Chapter I "Concerning the Benefit of Reading"
Translated by W. Guthrie

You need good strong ears to hear yourself frankly judged; and since there are few who can undergo it without being hurt, those who risk undertaking it do us a singular act of love, for it is to love soundly to wound and vex a man in the interests of his improvement. I find it harsh to have to judge anyone in whom the bad qualities exceed the good.

Montaigne (1533-1592)
The Complete Essays, 1991
Book II, Chapter 8 "On the affection of fathers for their children"
"For Madame d'Estissac"
Translated by Michael Andrew Screech (b.1926)

While an author is yet living we estimate his powers by his worst performance, and when he is dead we rate them by his best.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
"Preface to Shakespeare"
Works, Vol IX

It is easier to discover a deficiency in individuals, in states, and in Providence, than to see their real import and value.

Georg Hegel (1770-1831)
Philosophy of History, 1832

How much easier to be critical than to be correct.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
Speech at the House of Commons
24 January 1860

You know who critics are? -- the men who have failed in literature and art.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
Lothair, 1870
Chapter 30

Nature fits all her children with something to do, He who would write and can't write, can surely review.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)
A Fable for Critics, 1848

You should not say it is not good. You should say you do not like it; and then, you know, you're perfectly safe.

James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Whistler Stories, 1913
by D.C. Seitz

Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain - and most fools do.

Dale Carnegie (1888-1955)
How To Win Friends And Influence People, 1936
Part I "Fundamental Techniques in Handling People"
Chapter 1 "'If You Want to Gather Honey, Don't Kick Over the Beehive'"


[see also: SOCIETY]

The great law of culture is: Let each become all that he was created capable of becoming.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
Critical and Miscelaneous Essays, 1839-1857

What men call social virtues, good fellowship, is commonly but the virtue of pigs in a litter, which lie close together to keep each other warm.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Journal, 13 October 1852

Ah, these good, efficient, healthy-minded people, they always remind me of those optimistic tadpoles who bask in a puddle in the sun, in the shallowest of waters, crowding together and amiably wriggling their tails, totally unaware that the next morning the puddle will have dried up and left them stranded.

Carl Gustave Jung (1875-1961)
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 1963
Chapter I "First Years"

Wenn ich Kultur hore...entsichere ich meinen Browning!
(Whenever I hear the word culture...I release the safety-catch of my Browning!)

Hanns Johst (1890-1978)
Schlageter, 1933
Act 1, scene 1

From within, every culture appears as seamless as a dream. To Jivaro warriors, for example, head-hunting is a high social and religious duty, not the barbarity it appears to us. If you accept without question premises of profit and private property and if you pursue those ends, even in the best of faith, then eventually the cultural mall we call America will stand before you, the product of your cumulative actions. No one will know precisely how it was built or for what purpose, and like goldfish in a bowl, we will no longer be able to imagine living outside the aquarium.

Peter Coyote (b.1941)
Sleeping Where I Fall, 1998
Chapter 6 "Growing a New Skin"

What makes for a great carnival? I've pondered this question, as I've watched, year by year, the Notting Hill Carnival in London expanding to become the world's second largest (after Rio's).

My conclusions: Carnival is good when the number of participants isn't grossly outweighed by the number of spectators. Carnival is good when many of the 'spectators' are actually also joining in (dancing and singing along). Carnival is good when the participants exhibit a range of skills from the absolutely minimal to the absolutely astonishing (the first being an invitation not to be intimidated -- "Hey! I could do that!" -- and the second an invitation to be amazed). Carnival is good when people of all ages, sexes, races, shapes, sizes, beauties, inclinations, and professions are involved. Carnival is good when there's too much to look at and everything's mixed up and you have to sort it all out for yourself. Carnival is good when it dignifies and rewards all sorts of abilities -- singing, jumping, laughing infectiously, dressing weirdly, writing the hit song of the carnival, wiggling your backside, standing on a soapbox praising Jesus or the local hardware store, frying salt fish over an oil drum in public, inventing symphonic arrangements for steel bands, designing and building fabulously impossible things. Carnival is good when people try to outdo each other, and then applaud with delight those who in turn outdo them. Carnival is good when it gives people an alibi to become someone different. Carnival is good when it lets people present the best part of themselves, and be, for a little while, as they'd like to be all the time. Carnival is good when it gives people the feeling that they're really lucky to be alive right here and now. Carnival is good when it leaves people with the feeling that life in all its bizarre manifestations is unbeatably lovely and touching and funny and worthwhile.

Now substitute 'culture' for 'carnival'. There's a vision for the future of culture.

Brian Eno (b.1948)
Whole Earth Review
Winter 1998

[Richard] Florida writes that the "physical attractions that most cities focus on building - sports stadiums, freeways, urban malls, and tourism-and-entertainment districts that resemble theme-parks - are irrelevant, insufficient, or actually unattractive to many creative class people." In Florida's calculations, a good system of bike paths outweighs a football stadium; bars that stay open late and an engaging street life trump a professional symphony. The communities that attract the creative class have "high-quality amenities and experiences, an openness to diversity of all kinds, and above all else the opportunity to validate their identities as creative people." As Florida repeats throughout the book [The Rise of the Creative Class, 2002], people want to live in cities that "get it."

Richard Gorelick (b.1960?)
"Getting Creative"
[Baltimore] City Paper
09 June 2004


[see also: INQUIRY]

Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
The Rambler
Number 103, 12 March 1751

The positive emotion which should supply the motive in education is curiosity, but the curiosity of the young is severely repressed in many directions -- sexual, theological, and political. Instead of being encouraged in the practice of free inquiry, children are instructed in some brand of orthodoxy, with the result that unfamiliar ideas inspire them with terror rather than with interest. All these bad results spring from a pursuit of security -- a pursuit inspired by irrational fears; the fears have become irrational, since in the modern world fearlessness and intelligence, if embodied in social organization, would in themselves suffice to produce security.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Living Philosophies, 1931

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty. To the contrary, I believe that it would be possible to rob even a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness, if it were possible, with the aid of a whip, to force the beast to devour continuously, even when not hungry, especially if the food, handed out under such coercion, were to be selected accordingly.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
"Autobiographical Notes"
Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist: Volume 1, 1949
Edited by Paul Arthur Schilpp

Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly.

Arnold Edinborough (b.1922)

Curiosity killed the cat, but for awhile I was a suspect.

Steven Wright (b.1955)

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.

Commonly attributed to Dorothy Parker or Ellen Parr


[see also: ALPHA/OMEGA]

One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose.

Bible, Ecclesiastes 1:4-5

Whoso desireth to know what will be hereafter, let him think of what is past, for the world hath ever been in a circular revolution; whatsoever is now, was heretofore; and things past or present, are no other than such as shall be again: Redit orbis in orbem.

Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618)
"A Collection of Political Observations"
The Cabinet Council
Chapter 25

Line in nature is not found;
Unit and universe are round;
In vain produced, all rays return;
Evil will bless, and ice will burn.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
"Uriel", stanza 2
Poems, 1847


Cynic, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Lady Windermere's Fan, 1892

...that power of accurate observation which is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it....

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Shaw on Music, 1955
Part 2 "The Main Tradition"
"Weber's Der Freischutz"

One of the most curious of human delusions lies in the theory that cynics are unhappy men -- that cynicism makes for a general biliousness and malaise. It is a false deduction, I believe, from the obvious fact that cynics make other men unhappy. But they are themselves among the most comfortable and serene of mammals; perhaps only bishops, pet dogs and actors are happier. For what a cynic believes, though it may be too dreadful to be put into formal words, at least usually has the merit of being true....

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Prejudices: Fifth Series, 1926
XVII "Miscellaneous Notes"
6. "On Cynicism"

Only the stoical and the cynical can preserve a measure of stability; yet stoicism is the wisdom of madness and cynicism the madness of wisdom. So none escapes.

Bergen Evans (1904-1978)
The Natural History of Nonsense, 1945

Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us.

Stephen Colbert (b.1964)
2006 Commencement Address
Knox College, Galesburg Illinois
03 June 2006

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