i. “Mathematics is a tool which ideally permits mediocre minds to solve complicated problems expeditiously.” (Floyd Alburn Firestone)

ii. “Growing old’s like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven’t committed.” (Anthony Dymoke Powell)

iii. “To make a discovery is not necessarily the same as to understand a discovery.” (Abraham Pais)

iv. “People usually take for granted that the way things are is the way things must be.” (Poul William Anderson)

v. ” Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.” (Fred Hoyle)

vi. “One can never pay in gratitude; one can only pay “in kind” somewhere else in life.” (Anne Morrow Lindbergh)

vii. “When a nice quote comes to mind, I always attribute it to Montesquieu, or to La Rochefoucauld. They’ve never complained.” (Indro Montanelli)

viii. “Program testing can be a very effective way to show the presence of bugs, but it is hopelessly inadequate for showing their absence.” (Edsger Wybe Dijkstra)

ix. “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.” (Abba Eban)

x. “Scientific research is not conducted in a social vacuum.” (Robert K. Merton)

xi. “No man knows fully what has shaped his own thinking” (-ll-)

xii. “I write as clearly as I am able to. I sometimes tackle ideas and notions that are relatively complex, and it is very difficult to be sure that I am conveying them in the best way. Anyone who goes beyond cliche phrases and cliche ideas will have this trouble.” (Raphael Aloysius Lafferty)

xiii. “Change should be a friend. It should happen by plan, not by accident.” (Philip B. Crosby)

xiv. “The universe of all things that exist may be understood as a universe of systems where a system is defined as any set of related and interacting elements. This concept is primitive and powerful and has been used increasingly over the last half-century to organize knowledge in virtually all domains of interest to investigators. As human inventions and social interactions grow more complex, general conceptual frameworks that integrate knowledge among different disciplines studying those emerging systems grow more important.” (Gale Alden Swanson & James Grier Miller, Living Systems Theory)

xv. “When I die it’s not me that will be affected. It’s the ones I leave behind.” (Cameron Troy Duncan)

xvi. “I was always deeply uncertain about my own intellectual capacity; I thought I was unintelligent. And it is true that I was, and still am, rather slow. I need time to seize things because I always need to understand them fully. […] At the end of the eleventh grade, I […] came to the conclusion that rapidity doesn’t have a precise relation to intelligence. What is important is to deeply understand things and their relations to each other. This is where intelligence lies. The fact of being quick or slow isn’t really relevant. Naturally, it’s helpful to be quick, like it is to have a good memory. But it’s neither necessary nor sufficient for intellectual success.” (Laurent-Moïse Schwartz)

xvii. “A slowly moving queue does not move uniformly. Rather, waves of motion pass down the queue. The frequency and amplitude of these waves is inversely related to the speed at which the queue is served.” (Anthony Stafford Beer)

xviii. “It is terribly important to appreciate that some things remain obscure to the bitter end.” (-ll-)

xix. “Definitions, like questions and metaphors, are instruments for thinking. Their authority rests entirely on their usefulness, not their correctness. We use definitions in order to delineate problems we wish to investigate, or to further interests we wish to promote. In other words, we invent definitions and discard them as suits our purposes. […] definitions are hypotheses, and […] embedded in them is a particular philosophical, sociological, or epistemological point of view.” (Neil Postman)

xx. “There’s no system foolproof enough to defeat a sufficiently great fool.” (Edward Teller)

July 15, 2017 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


(The Pestallozzi quotes below are from The Education of Man, a short and poor aphorism collection I can not possibly recommend despite the inclusion of quotes from it in this post.)

i. “Only a good conscience always gives man the courage to handle his affairs straightforwardly, openly and without evasion.” (Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi)

ii. “An intimate relationship in its full power is always a source of human wisdom and strength in relationships less intimate.” (-ll-)

iii. “Whoever is unwilling to help himself can be helped by no one.” (-ll-)

iv. “He who has filled his pockets in the service of injustice will have little good to say on behalf of justice.” (-ll-)

v. “It is Man’s fate that no one knows the truth alone; we all possess it, but it is divided up among us. He who learns from one man only, will never learn what the others know.” (-ll-)

vi. “No scoundrel is so wicked that he cannot at some point truthfully reprove some honest man” (-ll-)

vii. “The man too keenly aware of his good reputation is likely to have a bad one.” (-ll-)

viii. “Many words make an excuse anything but convincing.” (-ll-)

ix. “Fashions are usually seen in their true perspective only when they have gone out of fashion.” (-ll-)

x. “A thing that nobody looks for is seldom found.” (-ll-)

xi. “Many discoveries must have been stillborn or smothered at birth. We know only those which survived.” (William Ian Beardmore Beveridge)

xii. “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” (Theophrastus)

xiii. “The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything.” (Theodore Roosevelt)

xiv. “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” (-ll-)

xv. “From their appearance in the Triassic until the end of the Creta­ceous, a span of 140 million years, mam­mals remained small and inconspicuous while all the ecological roles of large ter­restrial herbivores and carnivores were monopolized by dinosaurs; mammals did not begin to radiate and produce large species until after the dinosaurs had al­ready become extinct at the end of the Cretaceous. One is forced to conclude that dinosaurs were competitively su­perior to mammals as large land vertebrates.” (Robert T. Bakker)

xvi. “Plants and plant-eaters co-evolved. And plants aren’t the passive partners in the chain of terrestrial life. […] A birch tree doesn’t feel cosmic fulfillment when a moose munches its leaves; the tree species, in fact, evolves to fight the moose, to keep the animal’s munching lips away from vulnerable young leaves and twigs. In the final analysis, the merciless hand of natural selection will favor the birch genes that make the tree less and less palatable to the moose in generation after generation. No plant species could survive for long by offering itself as unprotected fodder.” (-ll-)

xvii. “… if you look at crocodiles today, they aren’t really representative of what the lineage of crocodiles look like. Crocodiles are represented by about 23 species, plus or minus a couple. Along that lineage the more primitive members weren’t aquatic. A lot of them were bipedal, a lot of them looked like little dinosaurs. Some were armored, others had no teeth. They were all fully terrestrial. So this is just the last vestige of that radiation that we’re seeing. And the ancestor of both dinosaurs and crocodiles would have, to the untrained eye, looked much more like a dinosaur.” (Mark Norell)

xviii. “If we are to understand the interactions of a large number of agents, we must first be able to describe the capabilities of individual agents.” (John Henry Holland)

xix. “Evolution continually innovates, but at each level it conserves the elements that are recombined to yield the innovations.” (-ll-)

xx. “Model building is the art of selecting those aspects of a process that are relevant to the question being asked. […] High science depends on this art.” (-ll-)

June 19, 2017 Posted by | Biology, Books, Botany, Evolutionary biology, Paleontology, Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “Fools hate knowledge.” (Joseph Heller)

ii. “Most people like to believe something is or is not true. Great scientists tolerate ambiguity very well. They believe the theory enough to go ahead; they doubt it enough to notice the errors and faults so they can step forward and create the new replacement theory. If you believe too much you’ll never notice the flaws; if you doubt too much you won’t get started. It requires a lovely balance.” (Richard Hamming)

iii. “It is not easy to become an educated person.” (-ll-)

iv. “The world attributes its misfortunes to the schemes and plottings of the very evil and powerful. I think stupidity is underestimated.” (Adolfo Bioy Casares)

v. “Life’s hard. To be in peace with oneself, one must speak the truth. To be in peace with others, one must lie.” (-ll-)

vi. “An information retrieval system will tend not to be used whenever it is more painful and troublesome for a customer to have information than for him not to have it… Where an information retrieval system tends not to be used, a more capable information retrieval system may tend to be used even less.” (Calvin Mooers)

vii. “I believe that there are very few scientists who deliberately falsify their work, cheat on their colleagues, or steal from their students. On the other hand, I am afraid that a great many scientists deceive themselves from time to time in their treatment of data, gloss over problems involving systematic errors, or understate the contributions of others. These are the ‘honest mistakes’ of science. The scientific equivalent of the ‘little white lie’ of social discourse. The scientific community has no way to protect itself from sloppy or deceptive literature except to learn whose work is suspect as unreliable.” (Lewis M. Branscomb. Related link.)

viii. “Scientists lie, especially if the result reinforces what they want to be true. Contemporary scientists strongly trend in a certain ideological direction, and so there’s a blizzard of false results pointing in that direction. The replication crisis produces correlated noise.” (A slightly different take on this issue, I figured I should include both quotes here… This quote is by Gregory Cochran)

ix. “The young always have the same problem — how to rebel and conform at the same time. They have now solved this problem by defying their elders and copying each other.” (Quentin Crisp)

x. “Even a monotonously undeviating path of self-examination does not necessarily lead to self-knowledge. I stumble towards my grave confused and hurt and hungry.” (-ll-)

xi. “There is no substitute for the comfort supplied by the utterly taken-for-granted relationship.” (Iris Murdoch)

xii. “Bereavement is a darkness impenetrable to the imagination of the unbereaved.” (-ll-)

xiii. “Serious reflexion about one’s own character will often induce a curious sense of emptiness; and if one knows another person well, one may sometimes intuit a similar void in him. (This is one of the strange privileges of friendship.)” (-ll-)

xiv. “An ignorant doctor is the aide-de-camp of death.” (Avicenna)

xv. “The universal aptitude for ineptitude makes any human accomplishment an incredible miracle.” (John Stapp)

xvi. “Forget whatever should be forgotten, so that you can remember what should be remembered.” (Bing Xin)

xvii. “War has been with us ever since the dawn of civilization. Nothing has been more constant in history than war.” (Robert Aumann)

xviii. “A fundamental value in the scientific outlook is concern with the best available map of reality. The scientist will always seek a description of events which enables him to predict most by assuming least.” (Anatol Rapoport)

xix. “There may be occasions when it is best to behave irrationally, but whether there are should be decided rationally.” (Irving J. Good)

xx. “Why should I worry about dying? It’s not going to happen in my lifetime!” (Raymond Smullyan)

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “The rare individual who has learned to govern himself is too fed up with the labor of it to want to govern anybody else.” (Henry S. Haskins)

ii. “I prefer true but imperfect knowledge, even if it leaves much indetermined and unpredictable, to a pretence of exact knowledge that is likely to be false.” (Friedrich Hayek)

iii. “The history of science shows that the progress of science has constantly been hampered by the tyrannical influence of certain conceptions that finally came to be considered as dogma. For this reason, it is proper to submit periodically to a very searching examination, principles that we have come to assume without any more discussion.” (Louis de Broglie)

iv. “The circle of knowledge commences close round a man and thence stretches out concentrically.” (Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi)

v. “It is easier to forgive an Enemy than to forgive a Friend.” (William Blake)

vi. “Life is not long, and too much of it must not pass in idle deliberation how it shall be spent.” (Samuel Johnson)

vii. “For an idea ever to be fashionable is ominous, since it must afterwards be always old-fashioned.” (George Santayana)

viii. “Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding. It comes as no particular surprise to discover that a scientist formulates problems in a way which requires for their solution just those techniques in which he himself is especially skilled.” (Abraham Kaplan)

ix. “Friendship is like money, easier made than kept.” (Samuel Butler)

x. “With most men, unbelief in one thing springs from blind belief in another.” (Georg Christoph Lichtenberg)

xi. “To many people virtue consists chiefly in repenting faults, not in avoiding them.” (-ll-)

xii. “A man has virtues enough if, on account of them, he deserves forgiveness for his faults.” (-ll-)

xiii. “What is a committee? A group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary” (Richard Harkness)

xiv. “There is nothing so easily made offensive as good reasoning; and men of clear logical minds, if not gifted at the same time with tact, make more enemies than men with bad hearts and unsound understandings.” (Arthur Helps)

xv. “Nothing so sharpens the thought process as writing down one’s arguments. Weaknesses overlooked in oral discussion become painfully obvious on the written page.” (Hyman G. Rickover)

xvi. “The outcome of any serious research can only be to make two questions grow where only one grew before.” (Thorstein Veblen)

xvii. “A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn’t know.” (Henry Louis Mencken)

xviii. “Harpo, she’s a lovely person. She deserves a good husband. Marry her before she finds one.” (Harpo Marx, Harpo Speaks!)

xix. “A minimum of comfort is necessary for the practice of virtue.” (Patrice Lumumba)

xx. “Blind commitment to a theory is not an intellectual virtue: it is an intellectual crime.” (Imre Lakatos)

May 16, 2017 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment

Quotes (and a brief administrative note)

(Brief admin note: I have been doing a bit of ‘spring cleaning’ on the blog these last few days, as I have been trying to improve upon the category system I currently use. If people have been bothered by old posts of mine showing up in their feeds this is the reason. The changes I have made will make it easier for me to find stuff I might be looking for in the future, but as the changes might also make it easier for other people reading along to find stuff here on the blog in which they might be interested I figured I should mention the fact that these changes have been made to the readers as well. The primary change to the category system which has been made is that I have increased the number of sub-topics used in the context of coverage of topics dealing with biology and medicine. I have also increased the number of topics displayed in the category cloud in the sidebar.)

i. “I do not greatly care whether I have been right or wrong on any point, but I care a good deal about knowing which of the two I have been.” (Samuel Butler)

ii. “Our minds want clothes as much as our bodies.” (-ll-)

iii. “Some like to understand what they believe in. Others like to believe in what they understand” (Stanisław Jerzy Lec)

iv. “The struggle for existence holds as much in the intellectual as in the physical world. A theory is a species of thinking, and its right to exist is coextensive with its power of resisting extinction by its rivals.” (Thomas Henry Huxley)

v. “We should treat our minds, that is, ourselves, as innocent and ingenuous children, whose guardians we are, and be careful what objects and what subjects we thrust on their attention.” (Henry David Thoreau)

vi. “Where there is no bread, there is no philosophy.” (Avram Davidson)

vii. “The price of training is always a certain “trained incapacity”: the more we know how to do something, the harder it is to learn to do it differently.” (Abraham Kaplan)

viii. “We are endowed with genes which code out our reaction to beavers and otters, maybe our reaction to each other as well. We are stamped with stereotyped, unalterable patterns of response, ready to be released. And the behavior released in us, by such confrontations, is, essentially, a surprised affection. It is compulsory behavior and we can avoid it only by straining with the full power of our conscious minds, making up conscious excuses all the way. Left to ourselves, mechanistic and autonomic, we hanker for friends.” (Lewis Thomas)

ix. “I have always had a bad memory, as far back as I can remember.” (-ll-)

x. “It isn’t what people think that’s important, but the reason they think what they think.” (Eugène Ionesco)

xi. “The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt but in spite of doubt.” (Rollo May)

xii. “People will resist information unless the price of not knowing it greatly exceeds the price of learning it.” (Calvin Mooers)

xiii. “Beware of averages. The average person has one breast and one testicle.” (Dixy Lee Ray)

xiv. “I saw an advertisement the other day for the secret of life. It said “The secret of life can be yours for twenty-five shillings. Send to Secret of Life Institute, Willesden.” So I wrote away, seemed a good bargain, secret of life, twenty-five shillings. And I got a letter back saying, “If you think you can get the secret of life for twenty-five shillings, you don’t deserve to have it. Send fifty shillings for the secret of life.”” (Peter Cook)

xv. “We believe this to be the work of thieves, and I’ll tell you why. The whole pattern is very reminiscent of past robberies where we have found thieves to be involved. The tell-tale loss of property — that’s one of the signs we look for.” (-ll-)

xvi. “I’ve been reading a very interesting book recently. It’s called The Universe and All That Surrounds It by T J Bleendreeble. It’s an extremely good book about it. It’s about seventy pages long, so it’s fairly comprehensive about the whole thing and it’s fairly interesting. Bleendreeble specialises in the universe. He doesn’t branch out much beyond that. But he’s quite interested in this limited field.” (-ll-)

xvii. “It is the great glory of the quest for human knowledge that, while making some small contribution to that quest, we can also continue to learn and to take pleasure in learning.” (William Alfred Fowler)

xviii. “In science, it is not speed that is the most important. It is the dedication, the commitment, the interest and the will to know something and to understand it — these are the things that come first.” (Eugene Wigner)

xix. “It is not enough to be in the right place at the right time. You should also have an open mind at the right time.” (Paul Erdős)

xx. “If you want to change the way people respond to you, change the way you respond to people.” (Timothy Leary)

April 27, 2017 Posted by | meta, Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “Self-love is often rather arrogant than blind; it does not hide our faults from ourselves, but persuades us that they escape the notice of others.” (Samuel Johnson)

ii. “So much are the modes of excellence settled by time and place, that men may be heard boasting in one street of that which they would anxiously conceal in another.” (-ll-)

iii. “The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.” (Thomas Carlyle)

iv. “Like most of those who study history, he learned from the mistakes of the past how to make new ones.” (Alan John Percivale Taylor)

v. “A method of reasoning may lead to conclusions which are invariably true, even though it start from false premises.” (Francesco Maria Zanotti)

vi. “We are much harder on people who betray us in small ways than on people who betray others in great ones.” (Rochefoucauld)

vii. “Most people are good only so long as they believe others so.” (Friedrich Hebbel)

viii. “Men are more ready to offend one who desires to be beloved than one who wishes to be feared.” (Niccolò Machiavelli)

ix. “Some have been thought brave because they were afraid to run away.” (Thomas Fuller)

x. “Calumny is like counterfeit money: many people who would not coin it circulate it without qualms.” (Diane De Poitiers)

xi. “Let us leave the labels to those who have little else wherewith to cover their nakedness.” (Walter Sickert)

xii. “…there are few truths important enough to justify paining and reproving others for not knowing them…” (Montesquieu)

xiii. “To make astute people believe one is what one is not is, in most cases, harder than actually to become what one wishes to appear.” (Georg Christoph Lichtenberg)

xiv. “It is a trick among the dishonest to offer sacrifices that are not needed, or not possible, to avoid making those that are required.” (Ivan Goncharov)

xv. “It is seldom that the miserable can help regarding their misery as a wrong inflicted by those who are less miserable” (George Eliot)

xvi. “Thousands upon thousands are yearly brought into a state of real poverty by their great anxiety not to be thought poor.” (William Cobbett)

xvii. “The woman whose behavior indicates that she will make a scene if she is told the truth asks to be deceived.” (Elizabeth Jenkins)

xviii. “My business is to teach my aspirations to confirm themselves to facts, not to try and make facts harmonize with my aspirations.” (Thomas Henry Huxley)

xix. “The art of doing mathematics consists in finding that special case which contains all the germs of generality.” (David Hilbert)

xx. “”Obvious” is the most dangerous word in mathematics.” (Eric Temple Bell)

April 15, 2017 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


i. “No man is rich enough to buy back his past.” (Oscar Wilde)

ii. “There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves we feel that no one else has a right to blame us.” (-ll-)

iii. “Each new generation asks – What is the meaning of life? A more fertile way of putting the question would be – Why does man need a meaning to life?” (Peter Wessel Zapffe)

iv. “One man’s constant is another man’s variable.” (Alan Perlis)

v. “All scientific work is incomplete – whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or to postpone the action that it appears to demand at a given time.” (Austin Bradford Hill)

vi. “Most women set out to try to change a man, and when they have changed him they do not like him.” (Marlene Dietrich)

vii. “We speak with our lips to explain, with our throats to convince.” (Malcolm de Chazal)

viii. “Those who do not complain are never pitied.” (Jane Austen)

ix. “It is an aspect of all happiness to suppose that we deserve it.” (Joseph Joubert)

x. “Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble.” (Samuel Johnson)

xi. “Nothing so much prevents our being natural as the desire to seem so.” (Rochefoucauld)

xii. “It is harder to hide feelings we have than to feign those we lack.” (-ll-)

xiii. “Almost all our faults are more pardonable than the methods we resort to to hide them.” (-ll-)

xiv. “Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.” (George Santayana)

xv. “There is nothing that fear or hope does not make men believe.” (Vauvenargues)

xvi. “There is no rule more invariable than that we are paid for our suspicions by finding what we suspected.” (Henry David Thoreau)

xvii. “It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.” (H.L. Mencken)

xviii. “Conscience is thoroughly well bred and soon leaves off talking to those who do not wish to hear it.” (Samuel Butler)

xix. “History is not written as it was experienced, nor should it be. The inhabitants of the past know better than we do what it was like to live there, but they were not well placed, most of them, to understand what was happening to them and why.” (Tony Judt)

xx. “Stability is much underappreciated, especially by those who enjoy its benefits.” (Curtis Yarvin)

April 5, 2017 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment


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