All the quotes included in this post are from The Faber Book of Aphorisms, which I am currently reading.

i. “It is never any good dwelling on good-bys. It is not the being together that it prolongs, it is the parting.” (Elizabeth Bibesco)

ii. “Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

iii. “One learns taciturnity best among people without it, and loquacity among the taciturn.” (Jean Paul Richter)

iv. “A man never reveals his character more vividly than when portraying the character of another.” (-ll-)

v. “That we seldom repent of talking too little and very often of talking too much is a … maxim that everybody knows and nobody practices.” (Jean de La Bruyère)

vi. “Never trust a man who speaks well of everybody.” (John Churton Collins)

vii. “People not used to the world … are unskillful enough to show what they have sense enough not to tell.” (Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield)

viii. “To most men, experience is like the stern lights of a ship, which illumine only the track it has passed.” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

ix. “Those who know the least obey the best.” (George Farquhar)

x. “Monkeys are superior to men in this: when a monkey looks into a mirror, he sees a monkey.” (Malcolm de Chazal)

xi. “It can be shown that a mathematical web of some kind can be woven about any universe containing several objects. The fact that our universe lends itself to mathematical treatment is not a fact of any great philosophical significance.” (Bertrand Russell)

xii. “You can change your faith without changing gods, and vice versa.” (Stanisław Jerzy Lec)

xiii. “Religion is the masterpiece of the art of animal training, for it trains people as to how they shall think.” (Arthur Schopenhauer)

xiv. “The vanity of being known to be trusted with a secret is generally one of the chief motives to disclose it.” (Samuel Johnson)

xv. “No man is exempt from saying silly things; the mischief is to say them deliberately.” (Michel de Montaigne)

xvi. “Many promising reconciliations have broken down because, while both parties came prepared to forgive, neither party came prepared to be forgiven.” (Charles Williams)

xvii. “Ambition is pitiless. Any merit that it cannot use it finds despicable.” (Joseph Joubert)

xviii. “Experience is the name everyone gives to his mistakes.” (Oscar Wilde)

xix. “Nothing is enough to the man for whom enough is too little.” (Epicurus)

xx. “To measure up to all that is demanded of him, a man must overestimate his capacities.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

March 27, 2017 Posted by | books, quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “Don’t be yourself. Be someone a little nicer.” (Mignon McLaughlin)

ii. “There are so many things that we wish we had done yesterday, so few that we feel like doing today.” (-ll-)

iii. “It’s the most unhappy people who most fear change.” (-ll-)

iv. “The essence of good manners consists in making it clear that one has no wish to hurt. When it is clearly necessary to hurt, it must be done in such a way as to make it evident that the necessity is felt to be regrettable.” (Bertrand Russell)

v. “Pretexts are not wanting when one wishes to use them.” (Carlo Goldoni)

vi. “In disputes upon moral or scientific points, ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent: so you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.” (James Burgh)

vii. “Be sure of the fact before you lose time in searching for a cause.” (-ll-)

viii. “The modest man is seldom the object of envy.” (-ll-)

ix. “Too much company is worse than none.” (-ll-)

x. “Men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.” (Samuel Johnson)

xi. “We are far more liable to catch the vices than the virtues of our associates.” (Denis Diderot)

xii. “We should measure our wealth according to the means we have of satisfying our desires.” (Antoine Francois Prevost d’Exiles)

xiii. “That virtue we appreciate is as much ours as another’s. We see so much only as we possess.” (Henry David Thoreau)

xiv. “Man soon finds what he wants to find. If he cannot find it otherwise, he creates it for his special enjoyment” (Alexander Bryan Johnson)

xv. “Whenever a man’s friends begin to compliment him about looking young, he may be sure that they think he is growing old.” (Washington Irving)

xvi. “It has been said that there is nothing more uncommon than common sense.” (Thomas Chalmers)

xvii. “If it had not been for the discontent of a few fellows who had not been satisfied with their conditions, you would still be living in caves. Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.” (Eugene Victor Debs)

xviii. “Often, the surest way to convey misinformation is to tell the strict truth.” (Mark Twain)

xviii. “He who lacks a single tael sees many bargains” (Ernest Bramah, Kai Lung’s Golden Hours)

xix. “Although there exist many thousand subjects for elegant conversation, there are persons who cannot meet a cripple without talking about feet.” (Ernest Bramah, The Wallet of Kai Lung)

xx. “When a lonely, penniless old woman dies people don’t rush up to you in the street to tell you.” (James Herriot, All Creatures Great and Small)

March 16, 2017 Posted by | quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “Fraud and falsehood only dread examination. Truth invites it.” (Thomas Cooper)

ii. “However well equipped our language, it can never be forearmed against all possible cases that may arise and call for description: fact is richer than diction.” (J. L. Austin)

iii. “There is no loneliness like the loneliness of crowds, especially to those who are unaccustomed to them.” (H. Rider Haggard)

iv. “All men are moral. Only their neighbors are not.” (John Steinbeck)

v. “The unfortunate thing is that, because wishes sometimes come true, the agony of hoping is perpetuated.” (Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour)

vi. “All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness.” (Tennessee Williams)

vii. “If you do not have the capacity for happiness with a little money, great wealth will not bring it to you.” (William Feather)

viii. “Anyone who can think clearly can write clearly. But neither is easy.” (-ll-)

ix. “No one’s reputation is quite what he himself perceives it ought to be.” (Christopher Vokes)

x. “[T]he question is not how to avoid procrastination, but how to procrastinate well. There are three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. That last type, I’d argue, is good procrastination.” (Paul Graham)

xi. “At every period of history, people have believed things that were just ridiculous, and believed them so strongly that you risked ostracism or even violence by saying otherwise. If our own time were any different, that would be remarkable. As far as I can tell it isn’t.” (-ll-)

xii. “There can be no doubt that the knowledge of logic is of considerable practical importance for everyone who desires to think and infer correctly.” (Alfred Tarski)

xiii. “Logic and truth are two very different things, but they often look the same to the mind that’s performing the logic.” (Theodore Sturgeon)

xiv.”I don’t like it; I can’t approve of it; I have always thought it most regrettable that earnest and ethical Thinkers like ourselves should go scuttling through space in this undignified manner. Is it seemly that I, at my age, should be hurled with my books of reference, and bed-clothes, and hot-water bottle, across the sky at the unthinkable rate of nineteen miles a second? As I say, I don’t at all like it.” (Logan Pearsall Smith, All Trivia).

xv. “That we should practice what we preach is generally admitted; but anyone who preaches what he and his hearers practise must incur the gravest moral disapprobation.” (-ll-)

xvi. “Our names are labels, plainly printed on the bottled essense of our past behaviour.” (-ll-)

xvii. “It’s an odd thing about this Universe that though we all disagree with each other, we are all of us always in the right.” (-ll-)

xviii. “Those who say everything is pleasant and everyone delightful, come to the awful fate of believing what they say.” (-ll-)

xix. “He who goes against the fashion is himself its slave.” (-ll-)

xx. “When I read in the Times about India and all its problems and populations; when I look at the letters in large type of important personages, and find myself face to face with the Questions, Movements, and great Activities of the Age, ‘Where do I come in?’ I ask uneasily.
Then in the great Times-reflected world I find the corner where I play my humble but necessary part. For I am one of the unpraised, unrewarded millions without whom Statistics would be a bankrupt science. It is we who are born, who marry, who die, in constant ratios; who regularly lose so many umbrellas, post just so many unaddressed letters every year. And there are enthusiasts among us, Heroes who, without the least thought of their own convenience, allow omnibuses to run over them, or throw themselves, great-heartedly, month by month, in fixed numbers, from London bridges.” (-ll-)

March 9, 2017 Posted by | books, quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.” (H. L. Mencken)

ii. “Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.” (-ll-)

iii. “No matter how happily a woman may be married, it always pleases her to discover that there is a nice man who wishes that she were not.” (-ll-)

iv. “But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.” (-ll-)

v. “What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things.” (Margaret Mead)

vi. “It is an open question whether any behavior based on fear of eternal punishment can be regarded as ethical or should be regarded as merely cowardly.” (-ll-)

vii. “Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute.” (Gladys Bronwyn Stern)

viii. “One thing that’s good about procrastination is that you always have something planned for tomorrow”. (-ll-)

ix. “Orthodoxy is a relaxation of the mind accompanied by a stiffening of the heart.” (Edward Abbey)

x. “When a wise man does not understand, he says: “I do not understand.” The fool and the uncultured are ashamed of their ignorance. They remain silent when a question could bring them wisdom.” (Frank Herbert)

xi. “Every day, no matter how you fight it, you learn a little more about yourself, and all most of it does is teach humility.” (John D. MacDonald)

xii. “No matter what side of the argument you are on, you always find people on your side that you wish were on the other.” (Jascha Heifetz)

xiii. “For a tribe to endure, it must find some way to achieve internal unity—and that way usually is external strife.” (Peter Farb)

xiv. “If swindling pays, then it will not stop. […] you cannot have a good society unless virtue pays.” (Abraham Maslow)

xv. “When we lose the right to be different, we lose the privilege to be free.” (Charles Evans Hughes)

xvi. “Each community has a curious and distorted image of itself which is always flattering.” (Carl Eckart)

xvii. “A scientist’s aim in a discussion with his colleagues is not to persuade, but to clarify.” (Leo Szilard)

xviii. “The man who is too old to learn was probably always too old to learn.” (Henry S. Haskins)

xix. “Many of us are impersonations of what we know we ought to be.” (-ll-)

xx. “The man who feels that he must be hopeful and cheerful to get along ignores the careers of some pretty successful misanthropes.” (-ll-)

March 4, 2017 Posted by | quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “Only the most uncritical minds are free from doubt.” (Aldo Leopold)

ii. “If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” (Virginia Woolf)

iii. “Though we see the same world, we see it through different eyes.” (-ll-)

iv. “No greater mistake can be made than to think that our institutions are fixed or may not be changed for the worse.” (Charles Evans Hughes)

v. “The image of ourselves in the minds of others is the picture of a stranger we shall never see.” (Elizabeth Bibesco)

vi. “Everybody continually tries to get away with as much as he can; and society is a marvelous machine which allows decent people to be cruel without realizing it.” (Émile Chartier)

vii. “When a man steals your wife, there is no better revenge than to let him keep her.” (Sacha Guitry)

viii. “Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.” (Edwin Hubble)

ix. “There are two kinds of fools: one says, “This is old, therefore it is good”; the other says, “This is new, therefore it is better.” (William Ralph Inge)

x. “We know too many things that are not true.” (Charles Kettering)

xi. “There are truths which one can only say after having won the right to say them.” (Jean Cocteau)

xii. “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” (Walter Lippmann)

xiii. “It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.” (-ll-)

xiv. “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” (L.P. Hartley)

xv. “To know is not too demanding: it merely requires memory and time. But to understand is quite a different matter: it requires intellectual ability and training, a self conscious awareness of what one is doing, experience in techniques of analysis and synthesis, and above all, perspective.” (Carroll Quigley)

xvi. “The basis of social relationships is reciprocity: if you cooperate with others, others will cooperate with you.” (-ll-. But be careful…)

xvii. “Self-pity? I see no moral objections to it, the smell drives people away, but that’s a practical objection, and occasionally an advantage.” (E. M. Forster)

xviii. “You are neither right nor wrong because people agree with you.” (Benjamin Graham)

xix. “Men substitute words for reality and then argue about the words.” (Edwin Howard Armstrong)

xx. “Science aims at constructing a world which shall be symbolic of the world of commonplace experience. It is not at all necessary that every individual symbol that is used should represent something in common experience or even something explicable in terms of common experience. The man in the street is always making this demand for concrete explanation of the things referred to in science; but of necessity he must be disappointed. It is like our experience in learning to read. That which is written in a book is symbolic of a story in real life. The whole intention of the book is that ultimately a reader will identify some symbol, say BREAD, with one of the conceptions of familiar life. But it is mischievous to attempt such identifications prematurely, before the letters are strung into words and the words into sentences. The symbol A is not the counterpart of anything in familiar life.” (Arthur Eddington)

February 24, 2017 Posted by | quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “To be good and lead a good life means to give to others more than one takes from them.” (Leo Tolstoy)

ii. “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” (Mark Twain)

iii. “When we cannot obtain a thing, we comfort ourselves with the reassuring thought that it is not worth nearly as much as we believed.” (Max Scheler)

iv. “Few persons are prevented from thinking themselves right by the reflection that, if they be right, the rest of the world is wrong.” (Arthur James Balfour)

v. “Misery loves company, but company does not reciprocate.” (Addison Mizner)

vi. “It is characteristic of the unlearned that they are forever proposing something which is old, and because it has recently come to their own attention, supposing it to be new.” (Calvin Coolidge)

vii. “To be wicked is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that you are; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil from stupidity.” (Charles Baudelaire)

viii. “A demagogue is a person with whom we disagree as to which gang should mismanage the country.” (Donald Robert Perry Marquis)

ix. “The usual judgments are judgments of interest and they tell us less about the nature of the person judged than about the interest of the one who judges.” (Constantin Brunner)

x. “Men are forever doing two things at the same time: acting egoistically and talking moralistically.” (-ll-)

xi. “I’m not young enough to know everything.” (J. M. Barrie)

xii. “History repeats itself. That’s one of the things wrong with history.” (Clarence Darrow)

xiii. “People hate the man who is a constant drain on their sympathy.” (E. W. Howe)

xiv. “Abusing the prosperous in order to curry the favor of the envious, is an old game that still works better than it should.” (-ll-)

xv. “The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to an idealised past.” (Robertson Davies)

xvi. “When a man talks with absolute sincerity and freedom he goes on a voyage of discovery. The whole company has shares in the enterprise.” (John Jay Chapman)

xvii. “Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.” (Marie Curie)

xviii. “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” (-ll-)

xix. “If people were always kind and obedient to those who are cruel and unjust; the wicked people would have it all their own way: they would never feel afraid, and so they would never alter, but would grow worse and worse. When we are struck at without a reason, we should strike back again very hard; I am sure we should — so hard as to teach the person who struck us never to do it again.” (Charlotte Brontë)

xx. “Truth disdains the aid of the law for its defence – it will stand upon its own merit.” (John Leland)

December 26, 2016 Posted by | quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


My list of quotes on goodreads now includes 1333 quotes; these days I update that list much more often than I update my quote collection here on the blog.

i. “The graveyards are full of people the world could not do without.” (Elbert Hubbard)

ii. “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” (-ll-)

iii. “Do not dump your woes upon people — keep the sad story of your life to yourself. Troubles grow by recounting them.” (-ll-)

iv. “One of the first essentials in securing a good-natured equanimity is not to expect too much of the people amongst whom you dwell.” (William Osler)

v. “L’originalité consiste à essayer de faire comme tout le monde sans y parvenir.” (Raymond Radiguet. I decided to just post the original here because I didn’t like the English translation of the quote on wikiquotes)

vi. “Life is short, even for those who live a long time, and we must live for the few who know and appreciate us, who judge and absolve us, and for whom we have the same affection and indulgence. The rest I look upon as a mere crowd, lively or sad, loyal or corrupt, from whom there is nothing to be expected but fleeting emotions, either pleasant or unpleasant, which leave no trace behind them. We ought to hate very rarely, as it is too fatiguing; remain indifferent to a great deal, forgive often and never forget.” (Sarah Bernhardt)

vii. “There are no foolish questions and no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questions.” (Charles Proteus Steinmetz)

viii. “When it is useful to them, men can believe a theory of which they know nothing more than its name.” (Vilfredo Pareto)

ix. “Opinions upon moral questions are more often the expression of strongly felt expediency than of careful ethical reasoning; and the opinions so formed by one generation become the conscientious convictions or the sacred instincts of the next.” (Robert Gascoyne-Cecil)

x. “The commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.” (-ll-)

xi. “If man knew how women pass the time when they are alone, they’d never marry.” (William Sydney Porter)

xii. “I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be.” (William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin)

xiii. “I know that I am honest and sincere in my desire to do well; but the question is whether I know enough to accomplish what I desire.” (Grover Cleveland)

xiv. “A fine quotation is a diamond on the finger of a man of wit, and a pebble in the hand of a fool.” (Joseph Roux)

xv. “There are men who are willing to marry a woman they do not care about merely because she is admired by other men. Such a relation exists between many men and their thoughts.” (Otto Weininger)

xvi. “Great inventions are never, and great discoveries are seldom, the work of any one mind. Every great invention is really an aggregation of minor inventions, or the final step of a progression. It is not usually a creation, but a growth, as truly so as is the growth of the trees in the forest.” (Robert Henry Thurston)

xvii. “Conscience is, in most men, an anticipation of the opinions of others.” (Henry Taylor)

xviii. “There is no error so monstrous that it fails to find defenders among the ablest men.” (John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton)

xix. “Originality consists in thinking for yourself, not in thinking differently from other people.” (James Fitzjames Stephen)

xx. “Does there, I wonder, exist a being who has read all, or approximately all, that the person of average culture is supposed to have read, and that not to have read is a social sin? If such a being does exist, surely he is an old, a very old man.” (Arnold Bennett)

December 14, 2016 Posted by | quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “You can no more make someone tell the truth than you can force someone to love you.” (Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint)

ii. “Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.” (Henry David Thoreau, Walden)

iii. “Nature is our kindest friend and best critic in experimental science if we only allow her intimations to fall unbiased on our minds.” (Michael Faraday)

iv. “If you stroke a cat, it will purr; and, as inevitably, if you praise a man, a sweet expression of delight will appear on his face; and even though the praise is a palpable lie, it will be welcome, if the matter is one on which he prides himself.” (Schopenhauer)

v. “Nature answers only when she is questioned.” (Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle)

vi. “Tyranny and despotism can be exercised by many, more rigorously, more vigorously, and more severely, than by one.” (Andrew Johnson)

vii. “It is hardly in human nature that a man should quite accurately gauge the limits of his own insight; but it is the duty of those who profit by his work to consider carefully where he may have been carried beyond it.” (William Kingdon Clifford, The Ethics of Belief)

viii. “Between two evils, choose neither; between two goods, choose both.” (Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts)

ix. “Any act often repeated soon forms a habit: and habit allowed, steadily gains in strength. — At first it may be but as the spider’s web, easily broken through, but if not resisted it soon binds us with chains of steel.” (-ll-)

x. “The prejudiced and obstinate man does not so much hold opinions, as his opinions hold him.” (-ll-)

xi. “We should be as careful of the books we read, as of the company we keep. The dead very often have more power than the living.” (-ll-)

xii. “Right actions for the future are the best apologies for wrong ones in the past – the best evidence of regret for them that we can offer, or the world receive.” (-ll-)

xiii. “It remains a lesson to all time, that goodness, though the indispensable adjunct to knowledge, is no substitute for it; that when conscience undertakes to dictate beyond its province, the result is only the more monstrous.” (James Anthony Froude)

xiv. “I ask no one who may read this book to accept my views. I ask him to think for himself.” (Henry George, Social Problems)

xv. “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” (Harriet Beecher Stowe)

xvi. “The greater the interest involved in a truth the more careful, self-distrustful, and patient should be the inquiry.” (-ll-)

xvii. “To a person uninstructed in natural history, his country or sea-side stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall.” (Thomas Henry Huxley)

xviii. “I can assure you that there is the greatest practical benefit in making a few failures early in life. You learn that which is of inestimable importance — that there are a great many people in the world who are just as clever as you are.” (-ll-)

xix. “Whoever is not in the possession of leisure can hardly be said to possess independence.” (Herman Melville)

xx. “Truth does not need to borrow garments from falsehood.” (José Rizal)

November 19, 2016 Posted by | quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.” (Charles Buxton)

ii. “When we meet a fact which contradicts a prevailing theory, we must accept the fact and abandon the theory, even when the theory is supported by great names and generally accepted.” (Claude Bernard)

iii. “The cheapest sort of pride is national pride; for if a man is proud of his own nation, it argues that he has no qualities of his own of which he can be proud; otherwise he would not have recourse to those which he shares with so many millions of his fellowmen. The man who is endowed with important personal qualities will be only too ready to see clearly in what respects his own nation falls short, since their failings will be constantly before his eyes. But every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud adopts, as a last resource, pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and glad to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.” (Schopenhauer)

iv. “… whoever attributes no merit to himself because he really has none is not modest, but merely honest.” (-ll-)

v. “It is the possession of a great heart or a great head, and not the mere fame of it, which is worth having, and conducive to happiness. Not fame, but that which deserves to be famous, is what a man should hold in esteem.” (-ll-)

vi. “It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not the possession of but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment.” (Gauss)

vii. “People may flatter themselves just as much by thinking that their faults are always present to other people’s minds, as if they believe that the world is always contemplating their individual charms and virtues.” (Elizabeth Gaskell)

viii. “Fools have a habit of believing that everything written by a famous author is admirable.” (Voltaire)

ix. “One always speaks badly when one has nothing to say.” (-ll-)

x. “He who dares not offend cannot be honest.” (Thomas Paine)

xi. “False opinions are like false money, struck first of all by guilty men and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they are doing.” (Joseph de Maistre)

xii. “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” (Abigail Adams)

xiii. “It is not easy to be wise for all times, not even for the present much less for the future; and those who judge the past must recollect that, when it was the present the present was future” (Gouverneur Morris)

xiv. “Praise — actual personal praise — oftener frets and embarrasses than it encourages. It is too small when too near.” (Letitia Elizabeth Landon)

xv. “Everybody is seldom to be believed. “They say” is not proof that they know.” (Samuel Laman Blanchard)

xvi. “Useless laws weaken the necessary laws.” (Montesquieu)

xvii. “Not to be loved is a misfortune, but it is an insult to be loved no longer.” (-ll-)

xviii. “Pithy sentences are like sharp nails which force truth upon our memory.” (Denis Diderot)

xix. “One may demand of me that I should seek truth, but not that I should find it.” (-ll-)

xx. “It is bad policy to fear the resentment of an enemy.” (Ethan Allen)

October 24, 2016 Posted by | quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


A few days ago I decided to have a closer look at goodreads’ quotes and how that part of the site worked. I have now added a little more than 1000 quotes to my personal quote collection on the site, many (literally hundreds) of which are quotes I have added myself to the goodreads quote library. Most of them are naturally quotes taken from the blog – the quote collection I have here is still far larger than is my goodreads collection, but at least in terms of the ‘better than average quotes’ posted here on the blog I do believe I’ve transferred/duplicated a rather substantial proportion of those quotes to goodreads by now.

Although some aspects of the site’s functionality is nice, I thoroughly dislike other aspects of the way the goodreads site works and handles specific problems. Wikiquote has for a long time been my go-to place for quotes, and it’ll remain so for the foreseeable future, barring any sudden unexpected changes of a profoundly negative nature. A really huge problem I have with the way goodreads handles these things is that if a specific quote contains an error, e.g. is missing a comma or is attributed to the wrong person, you cannot correct the error yourself, even if you know it’s an error and you literally sit there with the book in front of you, and to make matters (much) worse you often cannot even add a new quote with correct attribution; if a new quote you add is ‘sufficiently similar’ to an erroneous/misattributed quote already added to the site, you trying to add a correct quote will only lead to you automatically ‘liking’ the original flawed quote you were annoyed about and the corrected quote you tried to add will not be added. I’m still quite annoyed that one of Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach‘s really nice maxims on goodreads have been attributed by some ignorant £$@! to Jane Austen, but that’s just one of several examples I’ve encountered. There are multiple cases where I have decided not to add a specific quote because I refuse on principle to ‘like’ a quote containing an error, and/but there are also a few cases where I have bit the metaphorical bullet, after some thought, and liked a quote despite it not matching perfectly the version of the quote with which I was myself familiar (this has mostly been in the case of quotes by non-English speaking individuals, where at least some leeway can be argued to exist on account of issues pertaining to translation). I found it somewhat irritating that some really quite notable people seem to not be considered notable on goodreads (notability is a requirement for quotation, and goodreads does not allow anonymous quotes/proverbs etc. in the quotes section); for example I found myself trying in vain to add a quote by a Nobel Prize winner in Physics at some point, but the guy hadn’t written any books added to the site and so when trying to add the name after having written out the quote I realized I couldn’t do that; at least it was not immediately obvious to me how to handle this problem, and so I let it go on account of it being just one quote. Books with multiple authors also cause some problems (one specific one of which I’ve now at least partially figured out how to handle, fortunately), and books with many contributors still pose questions to which I do not know the answer; it doesn’t seem to me like the goodreads site in its current format even enables you theoretically in any way to attribute quotes taken from such books correctly – at least I haven’t found out how to do it.

So all in all I’m not particularly impressed with the site in terms of how it handles quotes, but on the other hand if you’re less interested in adding obscure quotes by people almost nobody alive today have ever heard about than I am, and would rather just like an easy way to collect/manage/remember quotes you happen to like, the site’s probably not really bad at all; it’s very easy to add new quotes to your collection if the quote is already in the goodreads library (it takes a little bit of work if it’s not). You can let my collection be a starting point if you like the sort of quotes I do; I know a few people in the past have said that they liked the quotes I’ve posted on the blog and now you have a quite easy way to just ‘grab’ those of ‘my’ quotes (quotes are posted anonymously on goodreads, so the quotes I have added are no more my quotes than they are yours) you like, and leave the rest.

Below I’ve added the 20 new quotes I usually post in my regular quotes posts, all of which (as far as I have been able to ascertain) have not been posted here before.

i. “Though what we accept be true, it is a prejudice unless we ourselves have considered and understood why and how it is true.” (John Lancaster Spalding)

ii. “However firmly thou holdest to thy opinions, if truth appears on the opposite side, throw down thy arms at once.” (-ll-)

iii. “The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with fools.” (Herbert Spencer)

iv. “We often do not see what we do not expect to see.” (Alan Lightman)

v. “The past and future are veiled; but the past wears the widow’s veil; the future, the virgin’s.” (Jean Paul Richter)

vi. “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

vii. “Science may be described as the art of systematic over-simplification — the art of discerning what we may with advantage omit.” (Karl Popper)

viii. “I hold that he who teaches that not reason but love should rule opens up the way for those who rule by hate.” (-ll-)

ix. “You cannot have a rational discussion with a man who prefers shooting you to being convinced by you.” (-ll-)

x. “There is an almost universal tendency, perhaps an inborn tendency, to suspect the good faith of a man who holds opinions that differ from our own opinions.” (-ll-)

xi. “Always remember that it is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood: there will always be some who misunderstand you.” (-ll-)

xii. “The more we learn about the world, and the deeper our learning, the more conscious, specific, and articulate will be our knowledge of what we do not know, our knowledge of our ignorance.” (-ll-)

xiii. “Methodological rules are for science what rules of law and custom are for conduct.” (Émile Durkheim)

xiv. “Men apt to promise, are apt to forget.” (Thomas Fuller)

xv. “Since people of necessity see things from their own perspective, much of what they say adds up to comforting ideas or outright propaganda for themselves and the groups to which they belong.” (Patricia Crone, Pre-Industrial Societies: Anatomy of the Pre-Modern World)

xvi. “… humans are animals. It would not occur to an ethologist studying ants, lions, wolves or giraffes to argue that ‘ultimately’ it is the animal’s need for food which determines the type of society in which it lives, or its need to reproduce, or its mechanisms of defence against predators, or whatever. On the contrary, he will see the society in question as the outcome of a compromise between a variety of fundamental needs and the environment in which it is set. Precisely the same is true of human societies. […] all attempts to explain human history in terms of a single factor are misguided.” (-ll-)

xvii. “Science doesn’t purvey absolute truth. Science is a mechanism. It’s a way of trying to improve your knowledge of nature. It’s a system for testing your thoughts against the universe and seeing whether they match.” (Isaac Asimov)

xviii. “Where any answer is possible, all answers are meaningless.” (-ll-)

xix. “There are no happy endings in history, only crisis points that pass.” (-ll-)

xx. “To write is to read one’s own self” (Max Frisch)

August 30, 2016 Posted by | books, quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “The more I write, the more I am convinced that the only way to write a popular story is to split it up into scenes, and have as little stuff between the scenes as possible.” (P. G. Wodehouse, Performing Flea. A long time ago I was working on a blog post covering this book, but I realized I’m probably not going to finish that one so I decided to include some of the quotes from the post here instead. He emphasizes the point made in this quote more than once in his letters, for example he writes in another letter that: “The longer I write, the more I realize the necessity for telling a story as far as possible in scenes, especially at the start.”)

ii. “The principle I always go on in writing a long story is to think of the characters in terms of actors in a play. I say to myself, when I invent a good character for an early scene: ‘If this were a musical comedy we should have to get somebody like Leslie Henson to play this part, and if he found that all he had was a short scene in act one, he would walk out. How, therefore, can I twist the story so as to give him more to do and keep him alive till the fall of the curtain?’ This generally works well and improves the story.” (P. G. Wodehouse, Performing Flea)

iii. “The absolute cast-iron good rule, I’m sure, in writing a story, is to introduce all your characters as early as possible – especially if they are going to play important parts later.” (-ll-)

iv. “I think the success of every novel depends largely on one or two high spots. The thing to do is to say to yourself ‘Which are my big scenes?’ and then get every drop of juice out of them.” (-ll-)

v. “I sometimes wonder if I really am a writer. When I look at the sixty-odd books in the shelf with my name on them, and reflect that ten million of them have been sold, it amazes me that I can have done it. I don’t know anything, and I seem incapable of learning … I feel like I’ve been fooling the public for fifty years.” (-ll-)

vi. “I don’t suppose that anything you say or anything I say will make the slightest damn bit of difference. You need dynamite to dislodge an idea that has got itself firmly rooted in the public mind.” (-ll-)

vii. “The day after graduating from college, I found fifty dollars in the foyer of my Chicago apartment building. The single bill had been folded into eighths and was packed with cocaine. It occurred to me then that if I played my cards right, I might never have to find a job. People lost things all the time. They left class rings on the sinks of public bathrooms and dropped gem-studded earrings at the doors of the opera house. My job was to keep my eyes open and find these things. I didn’t want to become one of those coots who combed the beaches of Lake Michigan with a metal detector, but if I paid attention and used my head, I might never have to work again.
The following afternoon, hung over from cocaine, I found twelve cents and an unopened tin of breath mints. Figuring in my previous fifty dollars, that amounted to an average of twenty-five dollars and six cents per day, which was still a decent wage. The next morning I discovered two pennies and a comb matted with short curly hairs. The day after that I found a peanut. It was then that I started to worry.” (David Sedaris, Naked)

viii. “If she’d had it her way, we would never have known about the cancer. It was our father’s idea to tell us, and she had fought it, agreeing only when he threatened to tell us himself. Our mother worried that once we found out, we would treat her differently, delicately. We might feel obliged to compliment her cooking and laugh at all her jokes, thinking always of the tumor she was trying so hard to forget. And that is exactly what we did. […] We were no longer calling our mother. Now we were picking up the telephone to call our mother with cancer.” (-ll-)

ix. “It was rather annoying to hear how kind she’d been; it entailed putting tiresome qualifications on his dislike for her.” (Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim)

x. “the most noticeable characteristic of the past, as seen by him, at least, was that there was so much more of it now than formerly, with bits that were longer ago than had once seemed possible.” (Kingsley Amis, The Old Devils)

xi. “Why, you might wonder, should prisoners wear themselves out, working hard, ten years on end, in the camps? You’d think they’d say: No thank you, and that’s that. […] But that didn’t work. To outsmart you they thought up work-teams – but not teams like the ones in freedom, where every man is paid his separate wage. Everything was so arranged in the camp that the prisoners egged one another on. It was like this: either you got a bit extra or you all croaked.” (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich)

xii. “‘Well, brothers, good-bye,’ said the captain with an embarrassed nod to his team-mates, and followed the guard out.
A few voices shouted: ‘Keep your pecker up.’ But what could you really say to him? They knew the cells, the 104th did, they’d built them. Brick walls, cement floor, no windows, a stove they lit only to melt the ice on the walls and make pools on the floor. You slept on bare boards, and if you’d any teeth left to eat with after all the chattering they’d be doing, they gave you three hundred grammes of bread day after day and hot skilly only on the third, sixth, and ninth.
Ten days. Ten days ‘hard’ in the cells – if you sat them out to the end your health would be ruined for the rest of your life. […] As for those who got fifteen ‘hard’ and sat them out – they went straight into a hole in the cold earth.” (-ll-)

xiii. “Shukhov gazed at the ceiling in silence. Now he didn’t know either whether he wanted freedom or not. At first he’d longed for it. Every night he’d counted the days of his stretch – how many had passed, how many were coming. And then he’d grown bored with counting. And then it became clear that men of his like wouldn’t ever be allowed to return home, that they’d be exiled. And whether his life would be any better there than here – who could tell?
Freedom meant one thing to him – home.
But they wouldn’t let him go home.” (-ll-)

xiv. “You want to know what I do? All right. Some guy comes in with a bandage around his head. We don’t mess about. We’ll soon have that off. He’s got a hole in his head. So what do we do. We stick a nail in it. Get the nail – a good rusty one – from the trash or wherever. And lead him out to the Waiting Room where he’s allowed to linger and holler for a while before we ferry him back to the night. […] Because I am a healer, everything I do heals, somehow. The thing called society is, I believe, insane. In the locker room the steel grilles are pasted with letters that say, Thanks for your kindness for making a tough time much easier to bear, and, If it wasn’t for all of you there at the hospital I don’t know how we would have survived. The doctors read these thankyou notes with tears in their eyes, especially when gratitude is expressed in a childish hand. Not Johnny Young, though. Perhaps he knows, as I do, that the letters are propitiatory. The children (‘7 yrs’) haven’t been here yet. They won’t be so grateful when we’re through.” (Martin Amis, Time’s Arrow.)

xv. “Like all of my friends, she’s a lousy judge of character.” (David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day)

xvi. “Nobody dreams of the things he already has.” (-ll-)

xvii. “The word phobic has its place when properly used, but lately it’s been declawed by the pompous insistence that most animosity is based upon fear rather than loathing. No credit is given for distinguishing between these two very different emotions. I fear snakes. I hate computers. My hatred is entrenched, and I nourish it daily. I’m comfortable with it, and no community outreach program will change my mind.” (-ll-)

xviii. “Of all the stumbling blocks inherent in learning this language [French], the greatest for me is the principle that each noun has a corresponding sex that affects both its articles and its adjectives. Because it is a female and lays eggs, a chicken is masculine. Vagina is masculine as well, while the word masculinity is feminine. Forced by the grammar to take a stand one way or the other, hermaphrodite is male and indecisiveness female. I spent months searching for some secret code before I realized that common sense has nothing to do with it. Hysteria, psychosis, torture, depression: I was told that if something is unpleasant, it’s probably feminine. This encouraged me, but the theory was blown by such masculine nouns as murder, toothache, and Rollerblade.” (-ll-)

xix. “By the time I reached my thirties, my brain had been strip-mined by a combination of drugs, alcohol, and the chemical solvents used at the refinishing company where I worked. Still, there were moments when, against all reason, I thought I might be a genius. These moments were provoked not by any particular accomplishment but by cocaine and crystal methamphetamine — drugs that allow you to lean over a mirror with a straw up your nose, suck up an entire week’s paycheck, and think, “God, I’m smart.”” (-ll-)

xx. “As youngsters, we participated in all the usual seaside activities — which were fun, until my father got involved and systematically chipped away at our pleasure. Miniature golf was ruined with a lengthy dissertation on impact, trajectory, and wind velocity, and our sand castles were critiqued with stifling lectures on the dynamics of the vaulted ceiling. We enjoyed swimming, until the mystery of tides was explained in such a way that the ocean seemed nothing more than an enormous saltwater toilet, flushing itself on a sad and predictable basis. […] [“]The goal is to better yourself. Meet some intellectuals. Read a book!” After all these years our father has never understood that we, his children, tend to gravitate toward the very people he’s spent his life warning us about.” (-ll-. There were several reasons why I really enjoyed Sedaris’ book, but the fact that here in this book was actually a character who in some respects seemed to find it natural to behave in a manner similar to the way I could see myself behave – in a setting where the behaviour in question might by some people be considered unusual, that is – was definitely one of them. (Though I’m also slightly conflicted here; I don’t like children very much, and there’s no conceivable universe in which I’d ever have six of them; in such a universe ‘I’ would not be ‘me‘. I’d also on a related note be much more inclined to warn children to stay away from ‘intellectuals’, rather than the opposite…)).

August 25, 2016 Posted by | books, quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “It wasn’t what was done to you. Life was what you did with what was done to you.” (Kameron Hurley)

ii. “Stepan Arkadyevitch was a truthful man in his relationship with himself. He was incapable of deceiving himself and persuading himself that he repented of his conduct. He could not at this date repent of the fact that he, a handsome, susceptible man of thirty-four, was not in love with his wife, the mother of five living and two dead children, and only a year younger than himself. All he repented of was that he had not succeeded better in hiding it from his wife.” (Tolstoy, Anna Karenina)

iii  “”And is it true the younger Vlassieva girl’s to marry Topov?”
“Yes, they say it’s quite a settled thing.”
“I wonder at the parents! They say it’s a marriage for love.”
“For love? What antediluvian notions you have! Can one talk of love in these days?” said the ambassador’s wife.
“What’s to be done? It’s a foolish old fashion that’s kept up still,” said Vronsky.
“So much the worse for those who keep up the fashion. The only happy marriages I know are marriages of prudence.” (-ll-)

iv. “To be treated with mercy, some must reveal their handicaps, while others must conceal them.” (Yahia Lababidi)

v. “It is only in appearance that time is a river. It is rather a vast landscape and it is the eye of the beholder that moves.” (Thornton Wilder)

vi. “The instinct for self-deception in human beings makes them try to banish from their minds dangers of which at bottom they are perfectly aware by declaring them non-existent.” (Stefan Zweig)

vii. “When one does another person an injustice, in some mysterious way it does one good to discover (or to persuade oneself) that the injured party has also behaved badly or unfairly in some little matter or other; it is always a relief to the conscience if one can apportion some measure of guilt to the person one has betrayed.” (-ll-)

viii. “One can run away from anything but oneself.” (-ll-)

ix. “Nothing is harder than to accept oneself.” (Max Frisch)

x. “To a certain degree we are really the person others have seen in us” (-ll-)

xi. “Time does not change us[,] it just unfolds us” (-ll-)

xii. “I feel fairly certain that my hatred harms me more than the people whom I hate.” (-ll-)

xiii. “A society needs famous people; the question is whom it chooses for that role. Any criticism of its choice is by implication a criticism of that society.” (-ll-)

xiv. “‘You know what most of the milit’ry training is, Perks?’ he went on. […] It’s to turn you into a man who will, on the word of command, stick his blade into some poor sod just like him who happens to be wearing the wrong uniform. He’s like you, you’re like him. He doesn’t really want to kill you, you don’t really want to kill him. But if you don’t kill him first, he’ll kill you. That’s the start and finish of it. It don’t come easy without trainin’.” (Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment)

xv. “Polly felt questing eyes boring into her. She was embarrassed, of course. But not for the obvious reason. It was for the other one, the little lesson that life sometimes rams home with a stick: you are not the only one watching the world. Other people are people; while you watch them they watch you, and they think about you while you think about them. The world isn’t just about you.” (-ll-)

xiv. “Fifty miles away, Lord Lynchknowle’s dinner had been interrupted by the arrival of a police car and the news of his daughter’s death. The fact that it had come between the mackerel pâté and the game pie, and on the wine side, an excellent Montrachet and a Château Lafite 1962, several bottles of which he’d opened to impress the Home Secretary and two old friends from the Foreign Office, particularly annoyed him. Not that he intended to let the news spoil his meal by announcing it before he’d finished, but he could foresee an ugly episode with his wife afterwards for no better reason than that he had come back to the table with the rather unfortunate remark that it was nothing important. Of course, he could always excuse himself on the grounds that hospitality came first, and old Freddie was the Home Secretary after all, and he wasn’t going to let that Lafite ’62 go to waste, but somehow he knew Hilary was going to kick up the devil of a fuss about it afterwards.” (Tom Sharpe, Wilt on High. As I also noted on goodreads I really liked Sharpe’s Wilt series; these books are very funny.)

xvii. “‘England’s ruin, damned Socialists,’ growled Sir Cathcart. ‘Turned the country into a benevolent society. Seem to think you can rule a nation with good intentions. Damned nonsense. Discipline. That’s what the country needs. A good dose of unemployment to bring the working classes to their senses.’ […] ‘It’s the dole. Man can earn more not working than he can at his job. All wrong. A bit of genuine starvation would soon put that right.’
‘I suppose the argument is that the wives and children suffer,’ said the Dean.
‘Can’t see much harm in that,’ the General continued. ‘Nothing like a hungry woman to put some pep into a man.” (Tom Sharpe, Porterhouse Blue. The Cathcart character is funny. He also has in his ’employment’ “A Japanese gardener, a prisoner of war, whom Sir Cathcart kept carefully ignorant of world news and who was, thanks to the language barrier, incapable of learning it for himself…” The book was published in 1974..)

xviii. “I believe that something crucial has been missing from all of the great debates of history, among philosophers, politicians, theologians, and thinkers from other and diverse backgrounds, on the issues of morality, ethics, justice, right and wrong. […] those who have tried to analyze morality have failed to treat the human traits that underlie moral behavior as outcomes of evolution […] for many conflicts of interest, compromises and enforceable contracts represent the only real solutions. Appeals to morality, I will argue, are simply the invoking of such compromises and contracts in particular ways. […] the process of natural selection that has given rise to all forms of life, including humans, operates such that success has always been relative. One consequence is that organisms resulting from the long-term cumulative effects of selection are expected to resist efforts to reveal their interests fully to others, and also efforts to place limits on their striving or to decide for them when their interests are being “fully” satisfied. These are all reasons why we should expect no “terminus” – ever – to debates on moral and ethical issues.” (Richard D. Alexander, The Biology of Moral Systems)

xix. “Should a traveller give an account of men who were entirely divested of avarice, ambition, or revenge; who knew no pleasure but friendship, generosity, and public spirit, we should immediately detect the falsehood and prove him a liar with the same certitude as if he had stuffed his narration with centaurs and dragons.” (David Hume, Essays and Treatises, 1772)

xx. “In plucking the fruit of memory one runs the risk of spoiling its bloom.” (Joseph Conrad)

July 10, 2016 Posted by | books, quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “Disgrace does not consist in the punishment, but in the crime.” (Vittorio Alfieri)

ii. “In countries and epochs in which communication is impeded, soon all other liberties wither; discussion dies by inanition, ignorance of the opinion of others becomes rampant, imposed opinions triumph. […] Intolerance is inclined to censor, and censorship promotes ignorance of the arguments of others and thus intolerance itself: a rigid, vicious circle that is hard to break.” (Primo Levi)

iii. “A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something.” (Wilson Mizner)

iv. “Any author who uses mathematics should always express in ordinary language the meaning of the assumptions he admits, as well as the significance of the results obtained. The more abstract his theory, the more imperative this obligation.” (Maurice Allais)

v. “There are no small number of people in this world who, solitary by nature, always try to go back into their shell like a hermit crab or a snail.” (Anton Chekhov)

vi. “Love, friendship, respect, do not unite people as much as a common hatred for something.” (-ll-)

vii. “Although you may tell lies, people will believe you, if only you speak with authority.” (-ll-)

viii. “What seems to us serious, significant and important will, in future times, be forgotten or won’t seem important at all.” (-ll-)

ix. “Future me is a great guy. He deals with all my problems which allows me to just relax and not worry about anything. Sometimes I worry I’m giving him too much work, but he needs the motivation.” (‘Batmaners’, here)

x. “You’re not raising a child, you’re raising an adult.” (u/DankJemo, reddit, unknown original source)

xi. “She was a good woman, a good mother, a woman of quality and character. The fact that she had left him after twenty years to marry her lover did not, could not, change those facts. For at this moment, now that the months had passed, Jordan saw clearly the justice of her decision. She had a right to be happy. […] Not that he had been a bad husband. Just an inadequate one. He had been a good father. He had done his duty in every way. His only fault was that after twenty years he no longer made his wife happy.” (Fools Die, Mario Puzo)

xii. “There warn’t nothing to do now but to look out sharp for the town, and not pass it without seeing it. He said he’d be mighty sure to see it, because he’d be a free man the minute he seen it, but if he missed it he’d be in a slave country again and no more show for freedom. […] I begun to get it through my head that he WAS most free — and who was to blame for it? Why, ME. I couldn’t get that out of my conscience, no how nor no way. It got to troubling me so I couldn’t rest; I couldn’t stay still in one place. It hadn’t ever come home to me before, what this thing was that I was doing. But now it did; and it stayed with me, and scorched me more and more. I tried to make out to myself that I warn’t to blame, because I didn’t run Jim off from his rightful owner; but it warn’t no use, conscience up and says, every time, “But you knowed he was running for his freedom, and you could a paddled ashore and told somebody.” That was so — I couldn’t get around that noway. That was where it pinched. Conscience says to me, “What had poor Miss Watson done to you that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes and never say one single word? What did that poor old woman do to you that you could treat her so mean?” (Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

xiii. “In Detroit, Mrs Dorothy Van Dorn, suing for divorce, complained that her husband 1) put all their food in a freezer, 2) kept the freezer locked, 3) made her pay for any food she ate, and 4) charged her the 3% Michigan sales tax.” (Time magazine, 10 December 1951. I came across the quote while reading The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson).

xiv. “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” (Jane Wagner)

xv. “Don’t be afraid of missing opportunities. Behind every failure is an opportunity somebody wishes they had missed.” (-ll-)

xvi. “A man has only one escape from his old self: to see a different self — in the mirror of some woman’s eyes.” (Clare Luce)

xvii. “What is success? It is a toy balloon among children armed with pins.” (Gene Fowler)

xviii. “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” (-ll-)

xix. “The best way to become a successful writer is to read good writing, remember it, and then forget where you remember it from.” (-ll-)

xx. “Just because you’re living in blissful oblivion doesn’t mean you’re not responsible.” (Arthur M. Jolly)

June 18, 2016 Posted by | books, quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “The lucky man is he who knows how much to leave to chance.” (C. S. Forester)

ii. “even the meanest person has still at his disposition high-sounding words wherewith to mask his real character.” (Henryk Sienkiewicz)

iii. “Fine, large, meaningless, general terms like romance and business can always be related. They take the place of thinking, and are highly useful to optimists and lecturers.” (Sinclair Lewis)

iv. “Indians, of course, have no ‘theology,’ and indeed no word for the system of credulity in which the white priests arrange for God, who must be entirely bewildered by it, a series of excuses for his failures.” (-ll-)

v. “Believe those who seek the truth, doubt those who find it” (André Gide)

vi. “The surest defense against Evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality, even — if you will — eccentricity. That is, something that can’t be feigned, faked, imitated; something even a seasoned imposter couldn’t be happy with. […] Evil is a sucker for solidity. It always goes for big numbers, for confident granite, for ideological purity, for drilled armies and balanced sheets. Its proclivity for such things has to do with its innate insecurity, but this realization, again, is of small comfort when Evil triumphs.” (Joseph Brodsky)

vii. “None of us can help the things life has done to us. They’re done before you realize it, and once they’re done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you’d like to be, and you’ve lost your true self forever.” (Eugene O’Neill)

viii. “Intelligence is almost useless to the person whose only quality it is.” (Alexis Carrel)

ix. “The value of a sentiment is the amount of sacrifice you are prepared to make for it.” (John Galsworthy)

x. “Vulgarized knowledge characteristically gives birth to a feeling that everything is understandable and explained. It is like a system of bridges built over chasms. One can travel boldly ahead over these bridges, ignoring the chasms. It is forbidden to look down into them; but that, alas, does not alter the fact that they exist.” (Czesław Miłosz)

xi. “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” (Steven Weinberg)

xii. “Most men resemble great deserted palaces: the owner occupies only a few rooms and has closed off wings where he never ventures.” (François Mauriac)

xiii. “You may turn a bad idea into a good idea — don’t kill the bad idea prematurely. A bad idea can evolve into a good idea.” (Martin Lewis Perl)

xiv. “When, as we must often do, we fear science, we really fear ourselves. Human dignity is better served by embracing knowledge.” (John Polanyi)

xv. “Authority in science exists to be questioned, since heresy is the spring from which new ideas flow.” (-ll-)

xvi. “no one of mature age cares to make a complete confession of his past life.” (W. B. Maxwell, The Devil’s Garden)

xvii. “Whenever a government feels the need of promising peace and prosperity to its citizens by means of a proclamation, it is time to be on guard and expect the opposite.” (Ivo Andrić)

xviii. “When we lose one we love, our bitterest tears are called forth by the memory of hours when we loved not enough.” (Maurice Maeterlinck)

xix. “War is the outcome, not mainly of evil intentions, but on the whole, of good intentions which miscarry or are frustrated. It is made, not usually by evil men knowing themselves to be wrong, but is the outcome of policies pursued by good men usually passionately convinced that they are right.” (Norman Angell)

xx. “The real point of honor [for a scientist] is not to be always right. It is to dare to propose new ideas, and then to check them.” (Pierre-Gilles de Gennes)

May 24, 2016 Posted by | books, quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “It is both more difficult and more complicated to die than people think.” (Halldór Laxness)

ii. “There’s a cruel lot of sorrow in most people’s lives.” (W. B. Maxwell, The Devil’s Garden)

iii. “the best causes sometimes need the best advocates.” (-ll-)

iv. “Mavis, taking a present of tea and sugar to one of the Cross Roads cottages, had found her digging in the garden, and, struck by her pitiful aspect, had questioned her and elicited her history. It was a common enough one in those parts. Not being wanted at home, she had been “lent” to Mrs. Neath, the cottage woman, in exchange for her keep, and was mercilessly used by the borrower. She rose at dawn, worked as the regular household drudge till within an hour of school-time, then walked into Rodchurch for the day’s schooling with a piece of dry bread in her pocket as dinner; and on her return from school worked again till late at night. She admitted that she felt always hungry, always tired, always miserable; that she suffered from cold at night in her wretched little bed; and that Mrs. Neath often beat her.” (-ll-)

v. “Despair itself if it goes on long enough, can become a kind of sanctuary in which one settles down and feels at ease.” (Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve) (Le désespoir lui-même, pour peu qu’il se prolonge, devient une sorte d’asile dans lequel on peut s’asseoir et reposer)

vi. “Most often we are judging not others, but rather our own faculties in others.” (-ll-) (Le plus souvent nous ne jugeons pas les autres, mais nous jugeons nos propres facultés dans les autres)

vii. “It is comfortable to live in the belief that you are great, though your greatness is latent.” (Italo Svevo) (È un modo comodo di vivere quello di credersi grande di una grandezza latente.)

viii. “There are some people who can receive a truth by no other way than to have their understanding shocked and insulted.” (Carl Sandburg)

ix. “More people are flattered into virtue than bullied out of vice.” (Robert Smith Surtees)

x. “Among other things Jonestown was an example of a definition well known to sociologists of religion: a cult is a religion with no political power.” (Tom Wolfe)

xi. “Life resembles a novel more often than novels resemble life.” (George Sand) (La vie ressemble plus souvent à un roman qu’un roman ne ressemble à la vie)

xii. “Life is a long ache which rarely sleeps and can never be cured.” (George Sand)

xiii. “What egotism, what stupid vanity, to suppose that a thing could not happen because you could not conceive it!” (Philip Wylie)

xiv. “All creeds and opinions are nothing but the mere result of chance and temperament.” (Joseph Henry Shorthouse)

xv. “I have no particular political views but I was and am struck by the idea that the left and the right are always entirely similar when they become extreme – they click together like two edges of a magnet.” (Alan Williams)

xvi. “We see things not as they are, but as we are ourselves.” (H. M. Tomlinson)

xvii. “Strange as it may seem, no amount of learning can cure stupidity, and formal education positively fortifies it.” (Stephen Vizinczey)

xviii. “A life postponed too long might never be lived.” (Joan Slonczewski)

xix. “Hell is being alive, and being alive is all there is.” (Michael Marshall Smith)

xx. “It is fortunate that each generation does not comprehend its own ignorance. We are thus enabled to call our ancestors barbarous.” (Charles Dudley Warner)


May 16, 2016 Posted by | quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment

Einstein quotes

“Einstein emerges from this collection of quotes, drawn from many different sources, as a complete and fully rounded human being […] Knowledge of the darker side of Einstein’s life makes his achievement in science and in public affairs even more miraculous. This book shows him as he was – not a superhuman genius but a human genius, and all the greater for being human.”

I’ve recently read The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, from the foreword of which the above quote is taken, which contains roughly 1600 quotes by or about Albert Einstein; most of the quotes are by Einstein himself, but the book also includes more than 50 pages towards the end of the book containing quotes by others about him. I was probably not in the main target group, but I do like good quote collections and I figured there might be enough good quotes in the book for it to make sense for me to give it a try. On the other hand after having read the foreword by Freeman Dyson I knew there would probably be a lot of quotes in the book which I probably wouldn’t find too interesting; I’m not really sure why I should give a crap if/why a guy who died more than 60 years ago and whom I have never met and never will was having an affair during the early 1920s, or why I should care what Einstein thought about his mother or his ex-wife, but if that kind of stuff interests you the book has stuff about those kinds of things as well. My own interest in Einstein, such as it is, is mainly in ‘Einstein the scientist’ (and perhaps also in this particular context ‘Einstein the aphorist’), not ‘Einstein the father’ or ‘Einstein the husband’. I also don’t find the political views which he held to be very interesting, but again if you want to know what Einstein thought about things like Zionism, pacifism, and world government the book includes quotes about such topics as well.

Overall I should say that I was a little underwhelmed by the book and the quotes it includes, but I would also note that people who are interested in knowing more about Einstein will likely find a lot of valuable source material here, and that I did give the book 3 stars on goodreads. I did learn a lot of new things about Einstein by reading the book, but this is not surprising given how little I knew about him before I started reading the book; for example I had no idea that he was offered the presidency of Israel a few years before his death. I noticed only two quotes which were included more than once (a quote on pages 187-188 was repeated on page 453, and a quote on page 295 was repeated on page 455), and although I cannot guarantee that there aren’t any other repeats almost all quotes included in the book are unique, in the sense that they’re only included once in the coverage. However it should also be mentioned in this context that there are a few quotes on specific themes which are very similar to other quotes included elsewhere in the coverage. I do consider this unavoidable considering the number of quotes included, though.

I have included some sample quotes from the book below – I have tried to include quotes on a wide variety of topics. All quotes without a source below are sourced quotes by Einstein (the book also contains a small collection of quotes ‘attributed to Einstein’, many of which are either not sourced or sourced in such a manner that Calaprice did not feel convinced that the quote was actually by Einstein – none of the quotes from that part of the book’s coverage are included below).

“When a blind beetle crawls over the surface of a curved branch, it doesn’t notice that the track it has covered is indeed curved. I was lucky enough to notice what the beetle didn’t notice.” (“in answer to his son Eduard’s question about why he is so famous, 1922.”)

“The most valuable thing a teacher can impart to children is not knowledge and understanding per se but a longing for knowledge and understanding” (see on a related note also Susan Engel’s book – US)

“Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty.”

“I am not prepared to accept all his conclusions, but I consider his work an immensely valuable contribution to the science of human behavior.” (Einstein said this about Sigmund Freud during an interview. Yeah…)

“I consider him the best of the living writers.” (on Bertrand Russell. Russell incidentally also admired Einstein immensely – the last part of the book, including quotes by others about Einstein, includes this one by him: “Of all the public figures that I have known, Einstein was the one who commanded my most wholehearted admiration.”)

“I cannot understand the passive response of the whole civilized world to this modern barbarism. Doesn’t the world see that Hitler is aiming for war?” (1933. Related link.)

“Children don’t heed the life experience of their parents, and nations ignore history. Bad lessons always have to be learned anew.”

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

“Sometimes one pays most for things one gets for nothing.”

“Thanks to my fortunate idea of introducing the relativity principle into physics, you (and others) now enormously overrate my scientific abilities, to the point where this makes me quite uncomfortable.” (To Arnold Sommerfeld, 1908)

“No fairer destiny could be allotted to any physical theory than that it should of itself point out the way to the introduction of a more comprehensive theory, in which it lives on as a limiting case.”

“Mother nature, or more precisely an experiment, is a resolute and seldom friendly referee […]. She never says “yes” to a theory; but only “maybe” under the best of circumstances, and in most cases simply “no”.”

“The aim of science is, on the one hand, a comprehension, as complete as possible, of the connection between the sense experiences in their totality, and, on the other hand, the accomplishment of this aim by the use of a minimum of primary concepts and relations.” A related quote from the book: “Although it is true that it is the goal of science to discover rules which permit the association and foretelling of facts, this is not its only aim. It also seeks to reduce the connections discovered to the smallest possible number of mutually independent conceptual elements. It is in this striving after the rational unification of the manifold that it encounters its greatest successes.”

“According to general relativity, the concept of space detached from any physical content does not exist. The physical reality of space is represented by a field whose components are continuous functions of four independent variables – the coordinates of space and time.”

“One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike – and yet it is the most precious thing we have.”

“”Why should I? Everybody knows me there” (upon being told by his wife to dress properly when going to the office). “Why should I? No one knows me there” (upon being told to dress properly for his first big conference).”

“Marriage is but slavery made to appear civilized.”

“Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws that cannot be enforced.”

“Einstein would be one of the greatest theoretical physicists of all time even if he had not written a single line on relativity.” (Max Born)

“Einstein’s [violin] playing is excellent, but he does not deserve his world fame; there are many others just as good.” (“A music critic on an early 1920s performance, unaware that Einstein’s fame derived from physics, not music. Quoted in Reiser, Albert Einstein, 202-203″)

April 12, 2016 Posted by | books, history, Physics, quotes/aphorisms, science | Leave a comment


i. “Only half of writing is saying what you mean. The other half is preventing people from reading what they expected you to mean.” (James Richardson)

ii. “How often feelings are circular. How embarrassing to be embarrassed. How annoying to be annoyed.” (-ll-)

iii. “I worked so hard to understand it that it must be true.” (-ll-)

iv. “Always tell the Truth: where it is not loved, it is respected and feared.” (Thomas Fuller)

v. “the wise Man that holds his Tongue, says more than the Fool who speaks.” (-ll-)

vi. “‘Tis better for thee to be wise and not seem so, than to seem wise and not be so: Yet Men, for the most Part, desire and endeavor the contrary.” (-ll-)

vii. “If any one giveth thee excessive Praises more than can handsomely belong to thee, thou art to think of him, that he taketh thee for vain and credulous, and easy to be deceived, and effectually a Fool.” (-ll-)

viii. “When thou shewest Respect to any one, see that thy Submissions be proportionable to the Homage thou owest him. There is Stupidity and Pride in doing too little; but in over acting of it, there is Abjection and Hypocrisy.” (-ll-)

ix. “The Way to think we have enough, is not to desire to have too much.” (-ll-)

x. “A Friend to all, is a Friend to none.” (-ll-)

xi. “One needs time to free oneself of wrong convictions. If it happens too suddenly, they go on festering.” (Elias Canetti)

xii. “Duty largely consists of pretending that the trivial is critical.” (John Fowles)

xiii. “You have not converted a man, because you have silenced him.” (John Morley)

xiv. “It is a test of true theories not only to account for but to predict phenomena.” (William Whewell)

xv. “Personally, I find the concept of a “final theory,” or a “theory of everything,” rather limiting. The fun of discovery will most likely last as long as the human race continues.” (F. J. Duarte)

xvi. “There is no meaning to space that is independent of the relationships among real things of the world. …Space is nothing apart from the things that exist. …If we take out all the words we are not left with an empty sentence, we are left with nothing.” (Lee Smolin)

xvii. “One should never forget, that society would rather be amused than instructed.” (Adolph Freiherr Knigge)

xviii. “Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.” (Jean-François Revel; quoted by Jeane Kirkpatrick during a speech she gave in 1984).

xix. “Democratic civilization is the first in history to blame itself because another power is working to destroy it.” (Jean-François Revel, 1983)

xx. “The only excuse for God is that He does not exist.” (Stendhal)



April 9, 2016 Posted by | quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence.” (Frederick Douglass)

ii. “To make a contented slave it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken the moral and mental vision and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason.” (-ll-)

iii. “The part of life we really live is small. For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time. […] In guarding their fortune men are often closefisted, yet, when it comes to the matter of wasting time, in the case of the one thing in which it is right to be miserly, they show themselves most prodigal.” (Seneca the Younger, On the shortness of life)

iv. “It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and — what will perhaps make you wonder more — it takes the whole of life to learn how to die.” (-ll-)

v. “those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear for the future have a life that is very brief and troubled […] They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.” (-ll-)

vi. “The best way to know your faults is to notice which ones you accuse others of.” (James Richardson)

vii. “To condemn your sin in another is hypocrisy. Not to condemn is to reserve your right to sin.” (-ll-)

viii. “Let me have my dreams but not what I dream of.” (-ll-)

ix. “The man who sticks to his plan will become what he used to want to be.” (-ll-)

x. “The new gets old much faster than the old gets older.” (-ll-)

xi. “Embarrassment is the greatest teacher, but since its lessons are exactly those we have tried hardest to conceal from ourselves, it may teach us, also, to perfect our self-deception.” (-ll-)

xii. “Bitterness is a greater failure than failure.” (-ll-)

xiii. “The surest sign that a man has a genuine taste of his own is that he is uncertain of it.” (W. H. Auden)

xiv. “All the things that happen and seem so important at the time, and yet you forget them, one after another.” (Thomas M. Disch)

xv. “Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.” (Madeleine L’Engle)

xvi. “A man who knows how little he knows is well, a man who knows how much he knows is sick.” (Witter Bynner)

xvii. “What is well done is done soon enough.” (Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas)

xviii. “Be advised that all flatterers live at the expense of those who listen to them.” (John de La Fontaine)

xix. “We are what we think. To change how people act, we must change what they believe.” (Mark Riebling)

xx. “Sometimes, only one person is missing, and the whole world seems depopulated.” (Alphonse de Lamartine)

March 23, 2016 Posted by | quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. When you counsel someone, you should appear to be reminding him of something he had forgotten, not of the light he was unable to see. (Baltasar Gracián)

ii. “If you cannot make knowledge your servant, make it your friend.” (-ll-)

iii. “Knowing how to keep a friend is more important than gaining a new one.” (-ll-)

iv. “There are persons who, when they cease to shock us, cease to interest us.” (F. H. Bradley)

v. “Never curse an illness; better ask for health.” (Andrzej Majewski)

vi. “He who makes a paradise of his bread makes a hell of his hunger.” (Antonio Porchia)

vii. “The less you think you are, the more you bear. And if you think you are nothing, you bear everything.” (-ll-)

viii. “In its last moment, the whole of my life will last only a moment.” (-ll-)

ix. “I know what I have given you, I do not know what you have received.” (-ll-)

x. “The condemnation of an error is another error.” (-ll-)

xi. “If you are good to this one and that one, this one and that one will say you are good. If you are good to everyone, no one will say that you are good.” (-ll-)

xii. “All that can’t be is almost always a reproach against what can be.” (-ll-)

xiii. “Value yourself according to the burdens you carry, and you will find everything a burden.” (James Richardson)

xiv. “The single sin is less of a problem than the good reasons for it.” (-ll-)

xv. “The first abuse of power is not realizing that you have it.” (-ll-)

xvi. “Only the dead have discovered what they cannot live without.” (-ll-)

xvii. “Success is whatever humiliation everyone has agreed to compete for.” (-ll-)

xviii. “What did you do today? Nothing say our little children, and so do I. What we most are is what we keep mistaking for nothing.” (-ll-)

xix. “A day is only a day. But a life is only a life.” (-ll-)

xx. “Beware of knowing your virtues; you may lose them. Beware of knowing your vices; you may forgive them.” (-ll-)

March 12, 2016 Posted by | quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it.” (George Santayana)

ii. “The truth is cruel, but it can be loved, and it makes free those who have loved it.” (-ll-)

iii. “[I]t is a great advantage to be intelligent and not to look it.” (Agatha Christie, Partners in Crime)

iv. “He claimed that there was no greater natural advantage in life than having an enemy overestimating your faults, unless it was to have a friend underestimate your virtues.” (Mario Puzo, The Godfather)

v. “That is the saving grace of humor, if you fail no one is laughing at you.” (A. Whitney Brown)

vi. “We may forgive those who bore us, we cannot forgive those whom we bore.” (Rochefoucauld)

vii. “A wise man changes his mind sometimes, but a fool never. To change your mind is the best evidence you have one.” (Desmond Ford)

viii. “No man was ever wise by chance.” (Nulli sapere casu obtigit. Seneca the Younger)

ix. “National unity is the basis of national security.” (Felix Frankfurter)

x. “Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.” (-ll-)

xi. “The most constructive way of resolving conflicts is to avoid them.” (-ll-)

xii. “Some men never spake a wise word, yet doe wisely; some on the other side doe never a wise deed, and yet speake wisely.” (Sir Thomas Overbury)

xiii. “One of the most interesting features of the open borders project is that it makes war obsolete by virtue of automatic surrender. Who needs tanks and rifles when your people can just walk across the border unarmed?” (‘Outis‘)

xiv. “War most often promotes the internal unity of each state involved. The state plagued by internal strife may then, instead of waiting for the accidental attack, seek the war that will bring internal peace.” (Kenneth Waltz)

xv. “War may achieve a redistribution of resources, but labor, not war, creates wealth.” (-ll-)

xvi. “Nerds do not think they are better than you. Nerds are better than you, in their particular fields, unless you happen to be an even more devoted nerd.” (Laura Penny)

xvii. “Posthumous fame, book fame, nerd fame is not like the good kind of fame. It might last for centuries and let antique egg heads torture the young from the grave, but it just doesn’t pay the bills.” (-ll-)

xviii. “Pedantry and mastery are opposite attitudes toward rules. To apply a rule to the letter, rigidly, unquestioningly, in cases where it fits and in cases where it does not fit, is pedantry. … To apply a rule with natural ease, with judgment, noticing the cases where it fits, and without ever letting the words of the rule obscure the purpose of the action or the opportunities of the situation, is mastery.” (George Pólya)

xix. “If you cannot solve the proposed problem, try to solve first a simpler related problem.” (-ll-)

xx. “Simplicity is worth buying if we do not have to pay too great a loss of precision for it.” (-ll-)


February 22, 2016 Posted by | books, quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment