If there is any appalling and spiritually murderous sensation on earth, it
is the knowledge that on a certain date or at a given time and place you
have got to be somewhere doing some set, prescribed, definite thing.
Christopher Morley (1890–1957)
John Mistletoe, 1931
quoted in A Countryman's Journal
by Roy Barrette (page 130)
[see also: CENSORSHIP, FREE SPEECH, LANGUAGE, PORNOGRAPHY, WORDS]
Many things about our bodies would not seem to us so filthy and obscene
if we did not have the idea of nobility in our heads.
G.C. Lichtenberg (1742-1799)
"Notebook D", Aphorism 6
The vocabulary of an omniscient man would embrace words and images excluded
from polite conversation. What would be base, or even obscene, to the obscene,
becomes illustrious, spoken in a new connexion of thought.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Essays: Second Series, 1844
Indecency, vulgarity, obscenity -- these are strictly confined to man; he
invented them. Among the higher animals there is no trace of them. They
hide nothing; they are not ashamed. Man, with his soiled mind, covers
himself. ...Man is the Animal that Blushes. He is the only one that does
it -- or has occasion to.
Mark Twain (1835-1910)
"The Damned Human Race"
Letters From the Earth, 1962
Edited by Bernardo DeVoto
Obscenity is whatever happens to shock some elderly and ignorant magistrate.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Look, New York
23 February 1954
Obscenity is a moral concept in the verbal arsenal of the Establishment, which
abuses the term by applying it, not to expressions of its own morality but to
those of another. Pbscene is not the picture of a naked woman who exposes her
pubic hair but that of a fully clad general who exposes his medals rewarded
in a war of aggression; obscene is not the ritual of the Hippies but the
declaration of a high dignitary of the Church that war is necessary for peace.
Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979)
A Essay on Liberation, 1969
Chapter 1 "A Biological Foundation for Socialism?"
Obscenity is the crutch of inarticulate motherfuckers.
Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.
William of Occam (c.1285-c.1349)
Quodlibeta Septem, c.1320
[see also: BELIEF, DEVIANCE, REVOLUTION]
Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing,
much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the
John Milton (1608-1674)
The Areopagitica, 1644
It is more often from pride than from ignorance that we are so obstinately
opposed to current opinions; we find the first places taken, and we do not
want to be the last.
La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)
Maxims, "Reflections or Aphorisms and Moral Maxims"
Translated from 1678 and 1827 editions by
J.W. Willis Bund and J. Hain Friswell, 1871
The imputation of Novelty is a terrible charge amongst those who judge of
men's heads, as they do of their perukes, by the fashion, and can allow
none to be right but the received doctrines. Truth scarce ever yet carried
it by vote anywhere at its first appearance: new opinions are always
suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they
are not already common. But truth, like gold, is not the less so for being
newly brought out of the mine. It is trial and examination must give it
price, and not any antique fashion; and though it be not yet current by
the public stamp, yet it may, for all that, be as old as nature, and is
certainly not the less genuine.
John Locke (1632-1704)
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690
Nothing contributes more to peace of soul than having no opinion at all.
G.C. Lichtenberg (1742-1799)
"Notebook E", Aphorism 11
Is uniformity [of opinion] attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and
children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured,
fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What
has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the
other half hypocrites.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-1785
Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
First Inaugural Address
04 March 1801
If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more
justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would
be justified in silencing mankind.
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
On Liberty, 1859
Chapter 2 "Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion"
...there is no greater mistake than the hasty conclusion that opinions are
worthless because they are badly argued.
Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)
"Natural Rights and Political Rights", 1890
Methods and Results: Essays, 1911
...to know how to say what other people only think is what makes men poets and
sages; and to dare to say what others only dare to think, makes men martyrs or
reformers, or both.
Elizabeth Charles (1828-1896)
Chronicle of the Schonberg-Cotta Family, 1863
Chapter XIV "Else's Story"
"Wittemberg, November 1, 1517. All Saints' Day"
All empty souls tend to extreme opinion. It is only in those who have
built up a rich world of memories and habits of thought that extreme
opinions affront the sense of probability. Propositions, for instance,
which set all the truth upon one side can only enter sick minds to
dislocate and strain, if they enter at all, and sooner or later the
mind expels them by instinct.
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
Estrangement: Extracts from a Diary Kept in 1909, 1926
The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that
it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of
mankind, a widespread belief is more often likely to be foolish than sensible.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Marriage and Morals, 1929
Chapter V "Christian Ethics"
Where mass opinion dominates the government, there is a morbid derangement of
the true functions of power. The derangement brings about the enfeeblement,
verging on paralysis, of the capacity to govern. This breakdown in the
constitutional order is the cause of the precipitate and catastrophic decline
of Western society. It may, if it cannot be arrested and reversed, bring
about the fall of the West.
Walter Lippmann (1889-1974)
The Public Philosophy, 1955
Chapter 1, Section 4
Opinions are formed in a process of open discussion and public debate, and
where no opportunity for the forming of opinions exists, there may be moods
-- moods of the masses and moods of individuals, the latter no less fickle
and unreliable than the former -- but no opinion.
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)
On Revolution, 1963
Chapter 6 "The Revolutionary Tradition and Its Lost Treasure"
I have opinions of my own -- strong opinions -- but I don't always agree
George Bush (b.1924)
Speech, 28 March 1987
Gridiron Club of Washington DC
"Reagan and The Gridiron's Good Sports"
The Washington Post, 30 March 1987
He proved incontestably that there is no effect without a cause, and that in
this best of all possible worlds, his lordship's country seat was the most
beautiful of mansions and her ladyship the best of all possible ladyships.
'Everything will turn out right,' reploed Candide; 'why, even the sea round
this new world is better than our European seas; it is calmer, and the winds
are less variable. It is undoubtedly the new world that is the best of all
All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.
Paraphrase of the optimism satirized in Candide
as demonstrated in above two quotations.
The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we are all afraid
for ourselves. The basis of optimism is sheer terror.
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891
The place where optimism most flourishes is the lunatic asylum.
Havelock Ellis (1859-1939)
The Dance of Life, 1923
The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and
the pessimist fears this is true.
James Branch Cabell (1879-1958)
The Silver Stallion, 1926
Somewhere out in space there was a planet where all people would be born
again. They would be fully aware of the life they had spent on earth and
of all the experience they had amassed here.
And perhaps there was still another planet, where we would all be born a
third time with the experience of our first two lives.
And perhaps there were yet more and more planets, where mankind would be
born one degree (one life) more mature.
Of course we here on earth (planet number one, the planet of inexperience)
can only fabricate vague fantasies of what will happen to man on those other
planets. Will be be wiser? Is maturity within man's power? Can he attain
it through repetition?
Only from the perspective of such a utopia is it possible to use the concepts
of pessimism and optimism with full justification: an optimist is someone who
thinks that on planet number five the history of mankind will be less bloody.
A pessimist is one who thinks otherwise.
Milan Kundera (b.1929)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 1984
Part 5 "Lightness and Weight", Chapter 16
You have to kill a pessimist. Optimists usually take care of themselves.
[see also: HASH HOUSE HARRIERS]
He that has patience may compass anything.
Francois Rabelais (c.1492-1553)
Gargantua and Pantagruel
Book IV, 1548, Chapter 48
Truth lies within a little and certain compass, but error is immense.
Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke (1678-1751)
Reflections upon Exile, 1716
Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.
Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1865
Chapter 3 "A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale"
...to find where you are going, you must know where you are.
John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
Travels With Charley: In Search of America, 1962
It is easiest to lose your way in the forest after it is cut.
Stanislaw Jerzy Lec (1909-1966)
Unkempt Thoughts, 1962
Translated by Jacek Galazka