Food For Thought

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

author index

Bogus Quotations

These are quotations which are frequently attributed to the wrong person, or are suspected to be fabricated, or have been paraphrased. All these quotations can be found in the main collection.



There is a metaphysical honour in ending the world's absurdity. Conquest or play-acting, multiple loves, absurd revolt are tributes that man pays to his dignity in a campaign in which he is defeated in advance.... War cannot be negated. One must live it or die of it. So it is with the absurd: it is a question of breathing with it, of recognizing its lessons and recovering their flesh. In this regard the absurd joy par excellence is creation. "Art and nothing but art", said Nietzsche, "we have art in order not to die of the truth."

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
The Myth of Sisyphus, 1955
"Absurd Creation"
Nietzsche quotation paraphrase of above?


Belief is not the beginning, but the end of all knowledge.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
The Doctrine of Descent and Darwinism, 1876
Chapter V
by Eduard Oscar Schmidt (1823-1886)
Paraphrase of Minna Steele Smith translation of
Poetry and Truth From My Own Life, 1908?


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


To read without reflecting, is like eating without digesting.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Apocryphal; may be paraphrase of Whately's annotation in
Bacon's Essays: With Annotations by Richard Whately, 1856
Essay XXV "Of Dispatch", 1612
Whately quotes his own title,
Elements of Rhetoric, 1869


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?


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

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

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

William Lecky (1838-1903)
Paraphrase taken from passage in Rationalism in Europe, 1879


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?


Society prepares the crime; the criminal commits it.

Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-1862)
Paraphrase of Quetelet in A Treatise on Man?


A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence:

1. From bondage to spiritual faith.
2. From spiritual faith to great courage.
3. From courage to liberty.
4. From liberty to abundance.
5. From abundance to selfishness.
6. From selfishness to complacency.
7. From complacency to apathy.
8. From apathy to dependency.
9. From dependency back again into bondage.

Alexander Fraser Tytler (1742-1813)
The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic, 1801
This quotation has been discredited


The dog is a creation especially made for children. Our Noble has been at least equal to one hand and one foot extra for frolic and mischief, to each of the urchins.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)
Star Papers: Or, Experiences of Art and Nature, 1855
Chapter XXIX "Mid-October Days"
Lenox, October 1854

The dog was created especially for children. He is the god of frolic.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)
Apocryphal; taken from above?


Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Speech in the Illinois House of Representatives, 18 December 1840
[Fabricated by anti-Prohibition forces in Atlanta Georgia, 1887]

The "just say no" campaign at this point is a lot like drawing sea-monsters over certain unexplored areas of the map and expecting people to stay away. It may work for some, but explorers live for this kind of thing.

Terence McKenna (1946-2000)


We have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

John Brashear (1840-1920)
and Phoebe Brashear (d.1910)
Paraphrase from "The Old Astronomer to His Pupil"
by Sarah Williams


The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
Attributed, 1599
Very doubtful source; see quotation from
Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents,
23 April 1770

Success is the sole earthly judge of right and wrong.

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)
Paraphrase from Mein Kampf quotation


Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.

Misattributed to Mark Twain
"Many of Mark Twain's Famed Humorous Sayings Are
Found to Have Been Misattributed to Him"
by Kim A. McDonald
Chronicle of Higher Education
04 September 1991


I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Evelyn Beatrice Hall (1868-1919)
The Friends of Voltaire, 1906
Written as Stephen G. Tallentyre, paraphrasing Voltaire's
attitude regarding a book censorship case in 1798

The primary function of a university is to discover and disseminate knowledge by means of research and teaching. To fulfill this function a free interchange of ideas is necessary not only within its walls but with the world beyond as well. It follows that the university must do everything possible to ensure within it the fullest degree of intellectual freedom. The history of intellectual growth and discovery clearly demonstrates the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable. To curtail free expression strikes twice at intellectual freedom, for whoever deprives another of the right to state unpopular views necessarily also deprives others of the right to listen to those views.

The Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at Yale University
08 January 1975
Misattributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 1841-1935

Free speech is a barrier to the tyranny of authoritarian or even majority opinion as to the rightness or wrongness of particular doctrines or thoughts.

The Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at Yale University
08 January 1975
Misattributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 1841-1935

Shock, hurt, and anger are not consequences to be weighed lightly. No member of the community with a decent respect for others should use, or encourage others to use, slurs and epithets intended to discredit another's race, ethnic group, religion, or sex. It may sometimes be necessary in a university for civility and mutual respect to be superseded by the need to guarantee free expression. The values superseded are nevertheless important, and every member of the university community should consider them in exercising the fundamental right to free expression.

The Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at Yale University
08 January 1975
Erroneously credited to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 1841-1935


The best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Paraphrase of next quotation?

Do you wish to make of your enemy a friend? Then become a friend to your enemy.

Andrew Jackson Davis (1826-1910)
The History & Philosophy of Evil, 1858
Chapter IX "The Harmonial Cure of Evil"


I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Paraphrase of next?

The genius of the heart, as it is possessed by that great hidden one, the tempter god and born pied piper of consciences, whose voice knows how to descend into the underworld of every soul, whose every word and every glance conveys both consideration and a wrinkle of temptation, whose mastery includes an understanding of how to seem -- not like what he is but rather like one more compulsion for his followers to keep pressing closer to him, to keep following him more inwardly and thoroughly: -- the genius of the heart, that makes everything loud and complacent fall silent and learn to listen, that smoothes out rough souls and gives them the taste of a new desire, -- to lie still, like a mirror that the deep sky can mirror itself upon --; the genius of the heart, that teaches the foolish and over-hasty hand to hesitate and reach out more delicately; that guesses the hidden and forgotten treasure, the drop of goodness and sweet spirituality under thick, dull ice, and is a divining rod for every speck of gold that has long been buried in a prison of mud and sand; the genius of the heart, that enriches everyone who has come into contact with it, not making them blessed or surprised, or leaving them feeling as if they have been gladdened or saddened by external goods; rather, they are made richer in themselves, newer than before, broken open, blown on, and sounded out by a thawing wind, perhaps less certain, more gentle, fragile, and broken, but full of hopes that do not have names yet, full of new wills and currents, full of new indignations and countercurrents...but what am I doing, my friends? Who am I talking about? Have I forgotten myself so much that I haven't even told you his name? Unless you have already guessed on your own who this questionable spirit and god is, who wants to be praised in this way?

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, 1886
Part 9 "What is Noble?"
Edited by Rolf-Peter Horstmann, 2002
Translated by Judith Norman


Government is not reason, it is not eloquence - it is force! Like fire is a dangerous servant and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.

George Washington (1732-1799)
Authenticity doubtful - origin unknown


1935 will go down in history! For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient and the world will follow our lead into the future!

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)
No proof can be found that Hitler ever said this


The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Paraphrase of next quotation?

It was the peculiar artifice of Habit not to suffer her power to be felt at first. Those whom she led, she had the address of appearing only to attend, but was continually doubling her chains upon her companions; which were so slender in themselves, and so silently fastened, that while the attention was engaged by other objects, they were not easily perceived. Each link grew tighter as it had been longer worn; and when by continual additions they became so heavy as to be felt, they were very frequently too strong to be broken.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
"The Vision of Theodore, the Hermit of Teneriffe,
found in his cell", 1748


Wer nicht liebt Weib, Wein und Gesang,
A Der bleibt ein Narr sein Leben lang.
(Who loves not wine, women, and song
Remains a fool his whole life long.)

Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Inscribed in the Luther room in Wartburg,
but with no proof of authorship


Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)
Paraphrase of next?

People fare badly only because they themselves live badly. And there is no more injurious thought for people than that the causes of the wretchedness of their position is not in themselves, but in external conditions. A man or a society of men need but imagine that the evil experienced by them is due to external conditions and to direct their attention and efforts to the change of these external conditions, and the evil will be increased. But a man or a society of men need but sincerely direct their attention to themselves, and in themselves and their lives look for the causes of that evil from which they suffer, in order that these causes may be at once found and destroyed.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)
"To the Working People", 1902
Section 15
Translated by Leo Wiener


The "just say no" campaign at this point is a lot like drawing sea-monsters over certain unexplored areas of the map and expecting people to stay away. It may work for some, but explorers live for this kind of thing.

Terence McKenna (1946-2000)


When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.

John B. Bogart (1848-1921)
The Story of the [New York] Sun, 1918
by Frank M. O'Brien
(Also attributed to Amos Cummings, Charles Anderson Dana, 1819-1897)


A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter "c" would be dropped to be replased either by "k" or "s", and likewise "x" would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which "c" would be retained would be the "ch" formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform "w" spelling, so that "which" and "one" would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish "y" replasing it with "i" and Iear 4 might fiks the "g/j" anomali wonse and for all.

Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez "c", "y" and "x" -- bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez -- tu riplais "ch", "sh", and "th" rispektivli.

Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
True authorship of this piece is in question


No tendency is quite so strong in human nature as the desire to lay down rules of conduct for other people.

William Howard Taft (1857-1930)
Paraphrase of next?

I know how irritating it is to have somebody else lay down rules for your moral uplift, but you've got to stand a great deal in order to make progress....

William Howard Taft (1857-1930)
"Taft Seeks to Lure Back Party Voters"
New York Times, 04 October 1911


It has been said, then, by the most learned men, that none but the wise man is free. For what is liberty? The power of living as you please. Who, then, is he who lives as he pleases, but the man who follows righteousness, who rejoices in fulfilling his duty, and whose path of life has been well considered and preconcerted; the man who obeys the laws of his country, not out of dread, but pays them respect and reverence, because he thinks that course the most salutary; who neither does nor thinks anything otherwise than cheerfully and freely; the man, all whose designs and all the actions he performs arise from and are terminated in his proper self; the man who is swayed by nothing so much as by his own inclination and judgment; the man who is master of fortune herself, whose influence is said to be sovereign, agreeably to what the sage poet says, "the fortune of every man is moulded by his character." To the wise man alone it happens, that he does nothing against his will, nothing with pain, nothing by coercion. It would, it is true, require a large discourse to prove that this is so, but it is a briefly stated and admitted principle, that no man but he who is thus constituted can be free.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
"Paradoxes", Number 5
Cicero's Three Books Of Offices, Or Moral Duties, 1856
Translated by Cyrus R. Edmonds

Liberty consists in the power of doing that which is permitted by law.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
Paraphrase of above?

[Freedom is] the power to live as you will. Who then lives as he wills?

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
Paraphrase of above?

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.... Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Quoted in The Iron Heel, 1907
by Jack London (1876-1916)
Probable fabrication; see They Never Said It, page 85


Such is the audacity of man, that he hath learned to counterfeit Nature, yea, and is so bold as to challenge her in her work.

Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79)
Paraphrase of next?

What audacity in man! What criminal perverseness! thus to sow a thing in the ground for the purpose of catching the winds and the tempests, it being not enough for him, forsooth, to be borne upon the waves alone! Nay, still more than this, sails even that are bigger than the very ships themselves will not suffice for him, and although it takes a whole tree to make a mast to carry the cross-yards, above those cross-yards sails upon sails must still be added, with others swelling at the prow and at the stern as well -- so many devices, in fact, to challenge death! Only to think, in fine, that that which moves to and fro, as it were, the various countries of the earth, should spring from a seed so minute, and make its appearance in a stem so fine, so little elevated above the surface of the earth! And then, besides, it is not in all its native strength that it is employed for the purposes of a tissue; no, it must first be rent asunder, and then tawed and beaten, till it is reduced to the softness of wool; indeed, it is only by such violence done to its nature, and prompted by the extreme audacity of man, and that it is rendered subservient to his purposes.

Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79)
The Natural History of Pliny, 1856
Book XIX "The Nature and Cultivation of Flax, and
an Account of Various Garden Plants"
Chapter 1
Translated by John Bostock and Henry Thomas Riley

We shall never understand peace, justice and the living of life until we recognize that all people are human and that humans are the most precious things on earth.

Wally Hickel (1919-2010)
Misquotation from U.N. speech?


If Heaven had looked upon riches to be a valuable thing, it would not have given them to such a scoundrel.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
Letter to Miss Vanhomrigh, 12-13 August 1720
[Is this the original source of "If you want to know what God thinks
of money, look at the people he gives it to"), by Dorothy Parker?]


All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Paraphrase of the optimism satirized in Candide


An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.

Simon Cameron (1799-1889)
Reputed statement; no evidence he actually said it
Quoted in Lincoln's War Cabinet, 1946
by Burton J. Hendrick


Unfortunately, however, power is sweet, and the man who in the beginning seeks power merely in order to have scope for his benevolence is likely, before long, to love the power for its own sake.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
"Benevolence and Love of Power"
New York American, 13 July 1934

Men who allow their love of power to give them a distorted view of the world are to be found in every asylum: one man will think he is the Governor of the Bank of England, another will think he is the King, and yet another will think he is God. Highly similar delusions, if expressed by educated men in obscure language, lead to professorships of philosophy; and if expressed by emotional men in eloquent language, lead to dictatorships.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1967)
Power: A New Social Anaysis, 1938
Chapter 16 "Power Philosophies"

Power is sweet; it is a drug, the desire for which increases with a habit.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Paraphrase of above (1920, 1934)?


There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance -- that principle is contempt prior to investigation.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
Alcoholics Anonymous, 1976
Not original to Spencer: See Paley and Poole quotations

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.

William James (1842-1910)
Attributed and unverified
American Treasury, 1455-1955, 1955
Edited by Clifton Fadiman (1904-1999)


Inventions reached their limit long ago, and I see no hope for further development.

Julius Frontinus (c.40-103)
Paraphrase of next?

Laying aside also all considerations of works and engines of war, the invention of which has long since reached its limit, and for the improvement of which I see no further hope in the applied arts, I shall recognize the following types of stratagems connected with siege operations....

Sextus Julius Frontinus (c.40-103)
Stratagems, Book III, preface
Translated by Charles Edwin Bennett 1925


It is true that liberty is precious -- so precious that it must be rationed.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924)
Attributed in Soviet Communism, 1936
By Sidney and Beatrice Webb
Very doubtful Lenin ever said this


The national budget must be balanced. The public debt must be reduced; the arrogance of the authorities must be moderated and controlled. Payments to foreign governments must be reduced, if the nation doesn't want to go bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
Attributed without source in Kansas City Star, 15 January 1986


There's a sucker born every minute.

Phineas Taylor Barnum (1810-1891)
Attributed; No evidence found that he ever said this
P.T. Barnum: The Legend and the Man, 1989
by A.H. Saxon
Appendix, "Barnum Apocrypha"


The root of all superstition is that men observe when a thing hits, but not when it misses.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Paraphrase of next?

...the mind of man is far from the nature of a clear and equal glass, wherein the beams of things should reflect according to their true incidence; nay, it is rather like an enchanted glass, full of superstition and imposture, if it be not delivered and reduced. For this purpose, let us consider the false appearances that are imposed upon us by the general nature of the mind, beholding them in an example or two; as first, in that instance which is the root of all superstition, namely, That to the nature of the mind of all men it is consonant for the affirmative or active to affect more than the negative or privative: so that a few times hitting or presence, countervails oft-times failing, or absence....

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
The Advancement of Learning, 1605
Book II
Collected and Edited by James Spedding, et alia, 1854


The American Republic will endure, until politicians find they can bribe the people with their own money.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
Paraphrase in Families, 1999
by Jerry Jensen, Larry Jensen


Si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more; si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi. (If you are at Rome, live in the Roman style; if you are elsewhere, live as they live elsewhere.)

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)
Ductor Dubitantium, 1660
Usually quoted "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."


It was proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority were the majority. Truth does not change because it is or is not believed by a majority of people.

Giordano Bruno (1548-1600)
Paraphrase in Life and Teachings of Giordano Bruno, 1913
by Coulson Turnbull


Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.

George Jean Nathan (1882-1958)
The American Treasury, 1455-1955, 1955
Edited by Clifton Fadiman
[Unverified in Nathan's works]


It is well that this is so terrible! we should grow too fond of it!

Robert E. Lee (1807-1870)
On seeing a Federal charge repulsed at Fredericksburg
13 December 1862
A Life of Gen. Robert E. Lee, 1871
by John Esten Cook

It is well that war is so terrible -- we should grow too fond of it!

Robert E. Lee (1807-1870)
Robert E. Lee, 1934
Volume II, Chapter XXXI "It Is Well That War Is So Terrible..."
by Douglas Southall Freeman
Rewritten for dramatic effect? See Cook version


Melancholy men of all others are most witty, which causeth many times a divine ravishment, and a kinde of Enthusiasmus, which stirreth them up to bee excellent Philosophers, Poets, Prophets, etc.

Aristotle (384-322 BC)
Paraphrased by Robert Burton in
The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621-1651
Part I, Section 3, Member 1, Subsection 3

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Last update: 03-July-2015
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