Food For Thought

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

author index



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 (18901957)
John Mistletoe, 1931
quoted in A Countryman's Journal
by Roy Barrette (page 130)



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
Aphorisms, 1765-1799

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)
"The Poet"
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



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 making.

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"
Number 234
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
Aphorisms, 1765-1799

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
Query 17

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 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
Extract XXI

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 with them.

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.

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Candide, 1759
Chapter I

'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 possible universes.'

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Candide, 1759
Chapter X

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

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Paraphrase of the optimism satirized in Candide,
as demonstrated in above two quotations.
See caveat

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
Chapter 6

The place where optimism most flourishes is the lunatic asylum.

Havelock Ellis (1859-1939)
The Dance of Life, 1923
Chapter 3

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
Chapter 26

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.




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" find where you are going, you must know where you are.

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

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
page 116

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Last update: 03-July-2015
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