i. “That’s another trouble with education as we now have it – it is for the young and people think of education as something that they can finish. And what’s more, when they finish that’s a rite of passage into manhood. […] ‘I’ve finished with school, I’m no more a child’ – and therefore anything that reminds you of school; reading books, having ideas, asking questions – that’s kids’ stuff. Now you’re an adult you don’t do that sort of thing anymore.” […] What’s wrong with it is you have everybody looking forward to no longer learning, and you make them ashamed afterwards of going back to learning.” […] The trouble with learning is most people don’t enjoy it because of the circumstances. Make it possible for them to enjoy learning and they’ll keep it up” (Isaac Asimov. I’ve posted the Asimov discussion here on the blog before, but people may have missed it and I really liked this. In terms of the prevailing societal norms things have likely changed somewhat since then, but perhaps less than many people would like to think.)

ii. “We confess our faults in the plural, and deny them in the singular.” (Richard Fulke Greville)

iii. “is being stupid really a disadvantage? Frankly some of the most self-satisfied people I know are the stupid affluent. They are stupid enough that they can unreflectively enjoy their affluence. The correlation between income and intelligence is weak enough that there will be many stupid affluent and intelligent poor. The former are probably the happiest, and the latter the most miserable.” (Razib Khan)

iv. “If a friend tell thee a fault, imagine always that he telleth thee not the whole.” (Thomas Fuller)

v. “A fool’s paradise is a wise man’s hell.” (-ll-)

vi. “If we would please in society, we must be prepared to be taught many things we know already by people wo do not know them.” (Chamfort)

vii. “The test of good manners is to be patient with bad ones.” (Solomon Ibn Gabirol)

viii. “Could we but enter into the hearts of mankind, and see the motives and springs that prompt them to the undertaking of many illustrious actions, we should very probably see fewer of them performed.” (anon.)

ix. “A secret may be sometimes best kept by keeping the secret of its being a secret.” (Sir Henry Taylor)

x. “The cruellest lies are often told in silence.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

xi. “The chief use to which we put our love of the truth is in persuading ourselves that what we love is true.” (Pierre Nicole)

xii. “Openness of mind means accessibility of mind to any and every consideration that will throw light upon the situation that needs to be cleared up, and that will help determine the consequences of acting this way or that. Efficiency in accomplishing ends which have been settled upon as unalterable can coexist with a narrowly opened mind. But intellectual growth means constant expansion of horizons and consequent formation of new purposes and new responses. These are impossible without an active disposition to welcome points of view hitherto alien; an active desire to entertain considerations which modify existing purposes. Retention of capacity to grow is the reward of such intellectual hospitality. The worst thing about stubbornness of mind, about prejudices, is that they arrest development; they shut off the mind from new stimuli. Open-mindedness means retention of the childlike attitude; closed-mindedness means premature intellectual old age.” (John Dewey)

xiii. “Doth any man doubt, that if there were taken out of men’s minds, vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations as one would, and the like; but it would leave the minds of a number of men poor shrunken things, full of melancholy, and indisposition, and unpleasing to themselves.” (Francis Bacon. Related link.)

xiv. “There is no living in the world without a complaisant indulgence for people’s weaknesses, and innocent, though ridiculous vanities. If  a man has a mind to be thought wiser, and a woman handsomer than they really are, their error is a comfortable one to themselves, and an innocent one with regard to other people; and I would rather make them my friends, by indulging them in it, than my enemies, by endeavouring (and that to no purpose) to undeceive them.” (Lord Chesterfield. In case you feel the need to ask: No, I’m not sure if I agree with this sentiment.)

xv. “As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand.” (Josh Billings)

xvi. “It is easier to say new things than to reconcile those which have already been said.” (Vauvenargues)

xvii. “To show resentment at a reproach is to acknowledge that one may have deserved it.” (Tacitus)

xviii. “A fool always finds someone more foolish than he is to admire him.” (Boileau)


September 14, 2012 - Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms


  1. I have high respect for Razib Khan, and he makes great points in the rest of the post, but I think this argument is very weak. He questions that stupidity is a disadvantage when considering its outcomes in terms of happiness based on… the happiness of people who are rich and stupid, or intelligent and poor, or, in statistical terms, P(happy|stupid AND rich) and P(happy|intelligent AND poor). But how many people are stupid and rich, or intelligent and poor? His claim of “many” is under-defined to me… sure, say, 5% of 7 billion people is “many”, but 95% of 7 billion is “much more many”. I think (I hope I am not putting words in his mouth) he’s conflating “stupid” with “not super intelligent”. I would posit the number of rich (and I mean rich, not just comfortably middle class) people with IQ >P(happy|stupid). Either I am totally missing something, or he’s drawing conclusions from the outliers of the happiness-wealth correlation.

    Comment by Plamus | September 15, 2012 | Reply

  2. Ugh, I think wordpress treated some of my “>” signs as HTML tags, and ate a good chunk of the last part of my statement. The next-to-last sentence should be replaced with (with some reworking): “I would posit the number of rich (and I mean rich, not just comfortably middle class) people with IQ less than 90 is vanishingly small, and bet Razib that the probability of being happy given that one is intelligent is till much higher than the probability of being happy given that one is stupid.”

    Of course, happiness is one of those concepts that do not mesh well with economics – one should treat it much like utility. It’s very hard to compare it among individuals, and even to the extent that you can (self-reported scales of 1-7, with 1 being…. what exactly?…. and 7 being.. the opposite of 1?), you should apply a healthy dose of Bayesian “holy water” to it. Still, probably because I am parsing this wrong, Razib fails to convince me.

    Comment by Plamus | September 15, 2012 | Reply

    • The way I conceptualized it was to think in terms of a utility-function dependent on two variables; income and IQ. Rich people are generally both smarter and happier (there’s I believe a somewhat convincing log-linear relationship between income and happiness found in the literature, at least when doing cross-country analyses), and poor people are generally not as smart and not as happy as are rich people. If ‘smart’ people who are poor are more likely to be unhappy than are ‘stupid’ people who are poor, and stupid people who are rich are more likely to be happy than are smart people who are rich, then one might very well argue that IQ has a negative effect on utility/happiness. It’s not clear how to deal with the IQ-income relationship in that framework, but even so that was the way I conceptualized RK’s argument and from that perspective it sort of makes sense.

      A thing to note though is that one might argue that the statistical link between IQ and income is not particularly relevant to the poor person with high IQ if he cannot find a way to increase his income, and thus that the argued direct negative effect from IQ to utility is much stronger/more relevant to the individual than is the indirect effect from IQ via income to utility. On the population level this is not true, but on the individual level it might very well be – it’s not that hard to come up with a semi-realistic wage formation scheme which makes the individual IQ-income link age-dependent and strongly related to factors which are effectively irreversible (education). Note also that ignoring the indirect effect is not just something a small minority of poor smart people do; rich smart people do as well, as very few rich people openly are willing to admit that the reason why they are rich is likely to a significant degree simply because they are smart, not because they are hard-working.

      In this framework, stupid people are unhappy because they are poor but despite the fact that they are stupid, whereas smart people are happy because they are rich and despite the fact that they are smart. Or to make it very clear: If you find yourself being rich, all else equal you’ll be happier if you’re stupid. And if you find yourself being poor, all else equal you’ll probably also be happier if you’re stupid. When the state has been determined, stupidity is better. But the states are not exogenous even though they may look that way to the individual when he’s estimating his utility, and the utility levels associated with the two states are not identical.

      I may of course also have read Razib wrong. I was thinking twice before I posted that quote.

      Comment by US | September 15, 2012 | Reply

  3. “When the state has been determined, stupidity is better. But the states are not exogenous …”

    Excellent summary – exactly what I was trying to express – hence the Bayesian reference. I argue that the states (rich or poor) are strongly dependent on IQ – in part causally (stupid people are precluded from many high-income jobs and educational opportunities) and in part through IQ’s correlation to other factors – discipline, diligence, impulse control, etc.

    Comment by Plamus | September 15, 2012 | Reply

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