Shayne Wissler
“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” – Greek proverb

Quotes

12 May 2017

A witty saying proves nothing.

— Voltaire

The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.

— Nikola Tesla

Cynicism is nothing more than soul-rot. It’s nothing more than a coward dressed up in a tweed blazer smoking a Peterson pipe. It is dismissive and disengaged while looking invested and astute.

— Matthew Perryman Jones

The end of the law is, not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.

— John Locke

A political philosopher who does not raise some kind of hell is not a very good political philosopher.

I have no right to force anyone to be religious, charitable, well educated, or industrious; but I have the right to force him to be just: this is a case of legitimate self-defense.

— Frederic Bastiat, Economic Harmonies

MEN being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent. The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it. This any number of men may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left as they were in the liberty of the state of nature. When any number of men have so consented to make one community or government, they are thereby presently incorporated, and make one body politic, wherein the majority have a right to act and conclude the rest.

— John Locke

Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.

— Bertrand Russell

… the human race will not be free of evils until either the stock of those who rightly and truly follow philosophy acquire political authority, or the class who have power in the cities be led by some dispensation of providence to become real philosophers.

— Plato

Once a paradigm is well-ensconced it becomes a power in itself, a set of reflexes to sort the true and false. Any exception spoils the web of interpretation through which art seeks to make human experience intelligible. Only the young, the brave, the energetic, the sincere and the skeptical can break off such fetters.

— Mason Gaffney

In [corporate] religions as in others, the heretic must be cast out not because of the probability that he is wrong but because of the possibility that he is right.

— as quoted twice by Edsger W. Dijkstra

It argues more wisdom to contrive at the first fabric of the world with such perfect foresight, that, of itself, and by its proper operation, it may serve all the purposes of providence, than if the great Creator were obliged every moment to adjust its parts, and animate by his breath all the wheels of that stupendous machine.

— David Hume

Those who are never certain are never certain that they can judge whether something is right or wrong, and thus their potential anger over injustice is quelled before it ever had a chance of emerging. Status quo philosophy, therefore, preaches uncertainty as the highest virtue, for this will certainly preemptively subdue any reformative political action.

Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.

— Issac Asimov

Civilization can only revive when there shall come into being in a number of individuals a new tone of mind, independent of the prevalent one among the crowds, and in opposition to it – a tone of mind which will gradually win influence over the collective one, and in the end determine its character. Only an ethical movement can rescue us from barbarism, and the ethical comes into existence only in individuals.

— Albert Schweitzer

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

— H. L. Mencken

Cannibals prefer those who have no spines.

— Stanislaw Lem.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

— Leonardo da Vinci

Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.

— Isaac Asimov

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

— Steve Jobs

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

— Robert Heinlein

You know the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don’t alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit the views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.

— The Doctor, Dr. Who: The Face of Evil (1977)

Every man is his own prophet; every prophet, just a man.

— Sheryl Crow

An army of principles will penetrate where an army of soliders cannot. It will succeed where diplomatic management would fail. It is neither the Rhine, the Channel, or the Ocean, that can arrest its progress. It will march on the horizon of the world, and it will conquer.

— Thomas Paine

It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.

— Thomas Paine

The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall.

— Thomas Paine

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

— Mahatma Gandhi

I must confess that a man is guilty of unpardonable arrogance who concludes, because an argument has escaped his own investigation, that therefore it does not really exist.

— David Hume

Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.

— Christopher Hitchens

Debating stupid fools is worthless, but debating intelligent fools has at least the limited value of encouraging precision in expression, for if there is any lack thereof, the intelligent fool is sure to find it.

Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.

— Ayn Rand

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.

— Attributed to Antoine de Saint Exupéry

I criticize by creation.

— Cicero

The more laws, the less justice.

— Cicero

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

— Thomas Jefferson

Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.

— Bertrand Russell

The truth never hurt anyone unless a lie got there first.

— Anthony Bruce

Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned.

— Avicenna

Verily I say unto you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

— Mathew 18:3

A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves.

— Bertrand de Jouvenel

Don’t let the little thing of not having hope get in the way of having heart.

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

— Buddha

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.

— Galileo

The fact therefore must be that the individuals themselves, each in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a contract with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.

— Thomas Paine, Rights of Man

It is hard to free fools from the chains they revere.

— Voltaire

As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities

— Voltaire

Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied.

— Arthur Miller

And who can doubt that it will lead to the worst disorders when minds created free by God are compelled to submit slavishly to an outside will? When we are told to deny our senses and subject them to the whim of others? When people devoid of whatsoever competence are made judges over experts and are granted authority to treat them as they please? These are the novelties which are apt to bring about the ruin of commonwealths and the subversion of the state.

— Galileo Galilei

Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.

— George Carlin

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit a world full of bullies.

— R.W.B.

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

— Thomas Paine

Those who advocate, support, and defend government action against individuals for alleged crimes bear the burden of proof that such action is justified, that the alleged crime is really a crime and that the individual really committed it. Those who do not bear this burden of proof and yet support the violation of the individual are themselves party to a crime.

Some claim that majoritarianism, despite its faults, is an alternative preferable to physical conflict. They’re wrong: majoritarianism is physical conflict. Elections are a process of counting fists, rather than noses, and saying, “We outnumber you – we could beat you up and kill you – you might as well give in and save everyone a lot of trouble.”

— L. Neil Smith

Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles.

— George Jean Nathan

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.

— Noam Chomsky

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.

— Noam Chomsky

The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it.

— H.L. Mencken

O how they cling and wrangle, some who claim For preacher and monk the honored name! For, quarreling, each to his view they cling. Such folk see only one side of a thing.

— Buddha

To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead …

— Thomas Paine, The American Crisis

The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.

— Leo Tolstoy

Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

— John F Kennedy.

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

— William James

It isn’t the consumers’ job to know what they want.

— Steve Jobs

If you’re not upset about the difference between what the world could be and what the world is then you’re living the unexamined life.

— Anonymous

He who takes nature for his guide is not easily beaten out of his argument …

— Thomas Paine

Idealism is about effortful change for the better. It is a central fact of human nature that we have the ability to conceive an ideal; and then, if our ideal is properly grounded in truth, if we put in the effort, and if we are not too unlucky, to finally attain it. For the weak, striving for an ideal may demand too much effort, and because of their weakness, they may learn to resent that which is unattainable by them. They may even learn to pretend that ideals are impossible folly. Idealists should be patient with such infirmities, but they should not sacrifice a better tomorrow for the sake of the emotional problems of the weak, for not only is our failure to achieve an ideal our own loss, in the end it is their loss too. So for our good and theirs, we should ignore their cynicism as we reach for the ideal.

They’ll be no peace in the world until every man is free, because to every man, he is the world.

— unattributed

It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs.

— Einstein

Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.

— Einstein

I have always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way.

— Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols

If you don’t strike the root, you just alter the problem.

— Chris George

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

— Issac Asimov

One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved. One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one’s greatest efforts.

— Albert Einstein

A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.

— Aristotle

Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.

— Aristotle

Boycotting is generally futile in today’s corporatist climate. It’s like a slave who refuses to sleep in the house his master provided on the grounds that he wants to hurt the master’s home-building business, and not even because the slave opposes slavery in principle, but because the slave is angry at the food choices provided to him.

Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and little minds discuss people.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

It is better to risk letting a guilty man go free, than to condemn an innocent one.

— Voltaire

You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a bitch.

— Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 astronaut, People magazine, 8 April 1974

The proposal of any new law or regulation which comes from [businessmen], ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.

— Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Cause of the Wealth of Nations, vol. 1, pt. xi, p.10 (at the conclusion of the chapter)(1776)

The first priest was the first rogue who met the first fool.

— Voltaire

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.

— Lucius Annaeus Seneca

I’m a Christian, so I’m committed to taking a dim view of humanity.

— Richard Goode

Who is this ‘we’, kimosabe?

— Tonto

A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.

— Bertrand Russell

From quotations which I had seen, I had a high notion of Aristotle’s merits, but I had not the most remote notion what a wonderful man he was. Linnaeus and Cuvier have been my two gods, though in very different ways, but they were mere schoolboys to old Aristotle.

— Charles Darwin

Whoever is lead to believe that the species are mutable will do good service by conscientiously expressing his conviction; for thus only can the load of prejudice by which this subject is overwhelmed be removed.

— Charles Darwin

Irrationality is just an adult version of a temper tantrum. If you want a spoiled child, then when the child throws a temper tantrum, let the child have his way. If you want an irrational adult to be even more irrational, then when someone is unreasonable, make room for their irrationality. Play the political correctness game and let them seem to get their way. Give them an “out.” But if you would prefer to encourage reasonable behavior, then never let them “save face”; if what they are saying is nonsense, say so, and why.

Our government is sick because our culture is sick, and our culture is sick because masses of individuals are sick.

Induction is rooted in experience; faith is rooted in imagination.

I realize many will call my little work useless; these people, as far as I’m concerned, are like those whom Demetrius was talking about when he said that he cared no more for the wind that issued from their mouths than the wind that issued from their lower extremities. These men desire only material wealth and are utterly lacking in wisdom, which is the only true food and wealth for the mind. The soul is so much greater than the body, its possessions so much nobler than those of the body. So, whenever a person of this sort picks up any of my works to read, I half expect him to put it to his nose the way a monkey does, or ask me if it’s good to eat.

I also realize that I am not a literary man, and that certain people who know too much that is good for them will blame me, saying that I’m not a man of letters. Fools! Dolts! I may refute them the way Marius did to the Roman patricians when he said that some who adorn themselves with other people’s labor won’t allow me to do my own labor. These folks will say that since I have no skill at literature, I will not be able to decorously express what I’m talking about. What they don’t know is that the subjects I am dealing with are to be dealt with by experience rather than by words, and experience is the muse of all who write well. And so, as my muse, I will cite her in every case.

Although, unlike my critics, I am not able to facilely quote other writers, I will rely on an authority much greater and much more noble: on Experience, the Mistress of their Masters. These fellows waddle about puffed up and pretentious, all dressed up in the fruits, not of their own labors, but of other people’s labors; these fellows will not allow me my own labors. They will scorn me as an inventor and a discoverer, but they should be blamed more, since they have invented and discovered nothing but rather go about holding forth and declaiming the ideas and works of others.

There are men who are discoverers and intermediaries and interpreters between Nature and Man, rather than boasters and declaimers of other people’s work, and these must be admired and esteemed as the object in front of a mirror in comparison to the image seen in the mirror. The first is a real object in and of itself, the second is nothing. These people owe nothing to Nature; it is only good fortune that they wear a human form and, if it weren’t for this good fortune, I’d classify them with the cattle and the animals.

There are many who would, with reason, blame me by pointing out that my proofs are contrary to established authority, which is, after all, held in great reverence by their inexperienced minds. They do not realize that my works arise from unadulterated and simple experience, which is the one true mistress, the one true muse. The rules of experience are all that is needed to discern the true from the false; experience is what helps all men to look temperately for the possible, rather than cloaking oneself in ignorance, which can result in no good thing, so that, in the end, one abandons oneself to despair and melancholy.

— Leonardo Da Vinci

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.

— Albert Einstein

Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.

— Albert Einstein

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.

— Albert Einstein

Only a fool does nothing because he can only do a little.

— Chinese Proverb

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.

— Albert Einstein

True arrogance is revealed through its hatred of what it counterfeits: pride, self-confidence, and self-esteem.

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

— Thomas Jefferson

Many different kinds of government could work in a moral society, but no kind of government can save you from an immoral society.

The reason why religious leaders say “judge not” is that they pimp morality for money, and they don’t want anyone cutting in on their business.

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.

— Marie Curie

All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage – torture, the use of hostages, forced labor, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians – which does not change its moral color when committed by ‘our’ side. … The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

— George Orwell, Notes on Nationalism

America is the spirit of human exploration distilled.

— Elon Musk

Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.

— Howard Aiken

A revolution in thought is of more consequence than a revolution in politics.

When we discuss whether numbers should be put into this column or that, we evade a discussion of whether people should be put into prison for this or for that. Economics is the handmaiden of moral treason.

‎”Every man is more than just himself; he also represents the unique, the very special and always significant and remarkable point at which the world’s phenomena intersect, only once in this way, and never again. That is why every man’s story is important, eternal, sacred; that is why every man, as long as he lives and fulfills the will of nature, is wondrous, and worthy of consideration.” – Hermann Hesse

Americans increasingly fear that they are losing their culture to barbarity. The irony is that they refuse to look in the mirror.

There is not one human problem that could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.

— Gore Vidal, 1925-2012

I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.

— Thomas Paine

And here without anger or resentment I bid you farewell. Sincerely wishing, that as men and Christians, ye may always fully and uninterruptedly enjoy every civil and religious right; and be, in your turn, the means of securing it to others; but that the example which ye have unwisely set, of mingling religion with politics, may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of AMERICA.

— Thomas Paine

Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst; every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but this attempts to stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity.

— Thomas Paine

‎”Independence” does not mean the liberation of one group from the tyranny of another. It means the liberation of the individual from the tyranny of the group.

Wisdom consists not in questioning everything, but in knowing what to question.

There are two possible fundamental errors of inductive thought: 1) confusing one’s perspective with reality, and 2) concluding that because one’s perspective is necessarily limited, that one can never know anything.

Actual knowledge of reality is never direct, but is always arrived at through a process of inference.

When someone precedes a proposition by “in my experience,” then it is usually the case that what you are about to hear is not only not an example of “experience”, but is in contradiction to their actual experience.

You can’t have the rule of law without the rule of logic. The continuing degeneration of society is the inexorable result of not correcting contradictions between beliefs. Those who refuse to resolve the contradictions in their own beliefs but decry society’s degeneration have only themselves to blame.

Any strategy for redeeming the culture that depends on “politely” not identifying the fact that barbarians are barbarians is designed to fail.

Yield not precision to concision.

‎”Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense.” – V for Vendetta

Why modern philosophy is in shambles: It doesn’t consider as its main goal the perfection of the human mind as a faculty of knowing what’s what, but rather, the degradation of it into a state of never knowing anything, and most importantly, the utter hypocrisy of “knowing” that one doesn’t know anything.

Fascism, like communism, is always a matter of degree. There never was and never can be no perfectly fascist or communist state in total, but only in aspects and degrees. If you can’t look at the patent system, the fiat money system, the mountains of regulations and licensing and other restrictions on peaceful activity, and in those things clearly see the fascism staring you in the face, then you aren’t seeing.

Let me just tell you something: for hundreds and thousands of years, this kind of discussion would have been in most places impossible to have, or Sam and I would have been having it at the risk of our lives. Religion now comes to us in this smiling-face, ingratiating way, because it’s had to give so much ground, and because we know so much more. But you’ve no right to forget the way it behaved when it was strong, and when it really did believe that it had God on its side.

— Christopher Hitchens

In the beginning of a change, the Patriot is a scarce man, brave, hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a Patriot.

— Mark Twain quoted by Mr Nick Scott.

In a child’s power to master the multiplication table, there is more sanctity than in all your shouted “amens” and “holy holies” and “hosannas.” An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral. And the advance of man’s knowledge is a greater miracle than all the sticks turned to snakes or the parting of the waters.

— Inherit The Wind

I know that most men – not only those considered clever, but even those who are very clever and capable of understanding most difficult scientific, mathematical, or philosophic, problems – can seldom discern even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as obliges them to admit the falsity of conclusions they have formed, perhaps with much difficulty – conclusions of which they are proud, which they have taught to others, and on which they have built their lives.

— Leo Tolstoy

‎”I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.” – Thomas Paine

Our government is an expression of the babbling incoherent will of the people. It’s a conspiracy of stupid.

Civilization can only revive when there shall come into being in a number of individuals a new tone of mind, independent of the prevalent one among the crowds, and in opposition to it – a tone of mind which will gradually win influence over the collective one, and in the end determine its character. Only an ethical movement can rescue us from barbarism, and the ethical comes into existence only in individuals.

— Albert Schweitzer

Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.

— Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool.

— Mark Twain

I hate it when people call themselves ‘entrepreneurs’ when what they’re really trying to do is launch a startup, so they can cash in and move on. They’re unwilling to do the work it takes to build a real company, which is the hardest work in business.

— Steve Jobs

If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.

— Nikola Tesla

For nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident (literally, known through itself) or known by experience …

— William of Ockham

I am first affrighted and confounded with that forelorn solitude, in which I am plac’d in my philosophy, and fancy myself some strange uncouth monster, who not being able to mingle and unite in society, has been expell’d all human commerce, and left utterly abandon’d and disconsolate. Fain wou’d I run into the crowd for shelter and warmth; but cannot prevail with myself to mix with such deformity. I call upon others to join me, in order to make a company apart; but no one will hearken to me. Every one keeps at a distance, and dreads that storm, which beats upon me from every side. I have expos’d myself to the enmity of all metaphysicians, logicians, mathematicians, and even theologians; and can I wonder at the insults I must suffer? I have declar’d my disapprobation of their systems; and can I be surpriz’d, if they shou’d express a hatred of mine and of my person? When I look abroad, I foresee on every side, dispute, contradiction, anger, calumny and detraction. When I turn my eye inward, I find nothing but doubt and ignorance. All the world conspires to oppose and contradict me; tho’ such is my weakness, that I feel all my opinions loosen and fall of themselves, when unsupported by the approbation of others. Every step I take is with hesitation, and every new reflection makes me dread an error and absurdity in my reasoning.

— David Hume

Nothing is more dangerous to reason than the flights of the imagination, and nothing has been the occasion of more mistakes among philosophers.

— David Hume

Truth scarce ever yet carried it by vote anywhere at its first appearance: new opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common. But truth, like gold, is not the less so for being newly brought out of the mine.

— John Locke

If society is going to have some vaguely patent-like legislation, it’s going to have to be radically different from what we now think of when we think of patents, something far more modest than this insane binding of other people’s thoughts for the sake of the childish whine: “But I thought of it first!”

I confess that in 1901, I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for fifty years. Ever since, I have distrusted myself and avoided all predictions.

— Wilbur Wright, in a speech to the Aero Club of France on November 5, 1908.

Metaphors in law are to be narrowly watched, for starting as devices to liberate thought, they end often by enslaving it.

— Supreme Court Justice Cardozo (1926)

To love truth for truth’s sake is the principal part of human perfection in this world, and the seed plot of all the other virtues.

— John Locke

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with fools.

— Herbert Spencer

Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy name! Every fool, from king to policeman, from the flatheaded parson to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak authoritatively of human nature. The greater the mental charlatan, the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of human nature. Yet, how can any one speak of it today, with every soul in a prison, with every heart fettered, wounded, and maimed?

John Burroughs has stated that experimental study of animals in captivity is absolutely useless. Their character, their habits, their appetites undergo a complete transformation when torn from their soil in field and forest. With human nature caged in a narrow space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its potentialities?

Freedom, expansion, opportunity, and, above all, peace and repose, alone can teach us the real dominant factors of human nature and all its wonderful possibilities.

— Emma Goldman

Many libertarians think that the “profit motive” is the ultimate nostrum for society’s ills. But all the “profit motive” does is let people vote with their wallet. It doesn’t cause them to vote for sanity. Not everyone desires prosperity as a top value; they have other values, often insane ones, that are more important to them. And those are the values they’d vote for, with their wallet, on a free market.

Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.

— Joseph Stalin

Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?

— Joseph Stalin

A declaration of rights is not a creation of them, nor a donation of them. It is a manifest of the principle by which they exist, followed by a detail of what the rights are; for every civil right has a natural right for its foundation, and it includes the principle of a reciprocal guarantee of those rights from man to man. As, therefore, it is impossible to discover any origin of rights otherwise than in the origin of man, it consequently follows, that rights appertain to man in right of his existence only, and must therefore be equal to every man.

— Thomas Paine

The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on Earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but only to have the law of nature for his rule.

— Samuel Adams

It is possible that I could disgrace myself. But there’s always a bit of Dialectic to help out. I have naturally expressed my statements so that I am also right if the opposite thing happens.

— Karl Marx

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

— Aristotle (paraphrased by Will Durant)

But God has not been so sparing to men to make them barely two-legged creatures, and left it to Aristotle to make them rational, i.e. those few of them that he could get so to examine the grounds of syllogisms, as to see that, in above three score ways that three propositions may be laid together, there are but about fourteen wherein one may be sure that the conclusion is right; and upon what grounds it is, that, in these few, the conclusion is certain, and in the other not. God has been more bountiful to mankind than so. He has given them a mind that can reason, without being instructed in methods of syllogizing: the understanding is not taught to reason by these rules; it has a native faculty to perceive the coherence or incoherence of its ideas, and can range them right, without any such perplexing repetitions.

— John Locke

I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.

— Richard P. Feynman

… an individual immersed for some length of time in a crowd soon finds himself … in a special state, which much resembles the state of fascination in which the hypnotized individual finds himself in the hands of the hypnotizer.

— Gustave Le Bon

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

— Richard Buckminster Fuller

As to the history of the revolution, my ideas may be peculiar, perhaps singular. What do we mean by the revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington.

— John Adams

I don’t need to refute you – you’re not important enough; you’re not even coherent enough. Certainly not original enough. You should be in the background meekly asking questions.

— George H. Smith

It is certainly a well-established observation that true knowledge or science never makes its possessor [arrogant]. On the contrary, only those allow themselves to be inflated with [arrogance] who, through inability to extend the branch of knowledge itself, are engaged in clearing up obscure points in its history, or are able to narrate what others have done. For they regard this occupation, which is mainly mechanical, as the exercise of the branch of knowledge itself. I could support all this by examples, but they would be odious.

— Litchtenberg

It is characteristic of a tyrant to dislike every one who has dignity or independence; he wants to be alone in his glory, but any one who claims a like dignity or asserts his independence encroaches upon his prerogative, and is hated by him as an enemy to his power.

— Aristotle, Politics

But the secret of intellectual excellence is the spirit of criticism; it is intellectual independence. And this leads to difficulties which must prove insurmountable for any kind of authoritarianism. The authoritarian will in general select those who obey, who believe, who respond to his influence. But in doing so, he is bound to select mediocrities. For he excludes those who revolt, who doubt, who dare to resist his influence. Never can an authority admit that the intellectually courageous, i.e. those who dare to defy his authority, may be the most valuable type. Of course, the authorities will always remain convinced of their ability to detect initiative. But what they mean by this is only a quick grasp of their intentions, and they will remain for ever incapable of seeing the difference.

— Karl Popper

I recall an incident involving the late George Stigler at a conference in Spain in the 1980s. Hearing that I had written a book on reason and natural law, Stigler started to ridicule reason, going so far as to say that there is as much reason in a monkey’s antics as in any human act. At that point I asked him whether he was trying to tell me something about how he wrote his books; he gave me a blank stare and stormed out of the room.

— Frank Van Dun

It is at all times necessary, and more particularly so during the progress of a revolution, and until right ideas confirm themselves by habit, that we frequently refresh our patriotism by reference to first principles. It is by tracing things to their origin that we learn to understand them: and it is by keeping that line and that origin always in view that we never forget them.

— Thomas Paine

Government, in my humble opinion, should be formed to secure and to enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government, which has not this in view, as its principal object, is not a government of the legitimate kind.

— James Wilson

An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

— Thomas Paine

No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.

— Samuel Adams, letter to James Warren, November 4, 1775

Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue.

— John Witherspoon, The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men, 1776

The fact is that we have a natural right to associate, a natural right to come to another’s defense (that is, to further justice), and so, we have a natural right to form governments. It is a also fact that if those with good ethical principles abandon government, they leave it in the hands of those with evil ethical principles. One must wonder whether that is the aim of anarchism or merely the result.

The science of law should, in some measure, and in some degree, be the study of every free citizen, and of every free man.

— James Wilson

Aim at something great; aim at things which are difficult; and there is no great thing which is not difficult. Do not pare down your undertaking to what you can hope to see successful in the next few years, or in the years of your own life. Fear not the reproach of Quixotism and impracticability, or to be pointed at as the knight-errants of an idea. After you have well weighed what you undertake, if you see your way clearly, and are convinced that you are right, go forward, even though you […] do it at the risk of being torn to pieces by the very men through whose changed hearts your purpose will one day be accomplished. Fight on with all your strength against whatever odds, and with however small a band of supporters. If you are right, the time will come when that small band will swell into a multitude: you will at least lay the foundations of something memorable, and you may […] – though you ought not to need or expect so great a reward – be spared to see that work completed which, when you began it, you only hoped it might be given to you to help forward a few stages on its way.

— John Stuart Mill

To permit a qualified good (a free market) to trespass or eclipse a more fundamental good (reason and liberty) is to foster evil.

A person who thinks of value creation only in terms of what increases his own bank account or the national GDP is a slave.

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

— Greek proverb

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial of human pursuits. It works in the minutest crannies and it opens out the widest vistas.

— William James

Upon the whole, I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit.

— Adam Smith on David Hume

Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.

— Adam Smith

The fundamental choice an individual faces is whether to engineer his beliefs or to be engineered by them, which in a social setting becomes the choice of whether he will join with others in engineer institutions that govern him, or will be content to be subjugated to them. No one who participates in society is exempt from the latter choice, for whether they choose to admit it or not, their actions are to a significant extent governed and determined by society’s rules.

Amidst all this bustle it is not reason, which carries the prize, but eloquence; and no man needs ever despair of gaining proselytes to the most extravagant hypothesis, who has art enough to represent it in any favourable colours. The victory is not gained by the men at arms, who manage the pike and the sword; but by the trumpeters, drummers, and musicians of the army.

— David Hume

One of the most important problems in practical political philosophy is that those who should engage do not, and those who should not engage do.

Nothing is more free than the imagination of man; and though it cannot exceed that original stock of ideas, furnished by the internal and external senses, it has unlimited power of mixing, compounding, separating, and dividing these ideas, in all the varieties of fiction and vision.

— David Hume

We praise a man who feels angry on the right grounds and against the right persons and also in the right manner at the right moment and for the right length of time.

— Aristotle

Physical loneliness is a real terror to the gregarious animal, and that association with the herd causes a feeling of security. In man this fear of loneliness creates a desire for identification with the herd in matters of opinion.

— Bernays

The average citizen is the world’s most efficient censor. His own mind is the greatest barrier between him and the facts. His own ‘logic proof compartments,’ his own absolutism are the obstacles which prevent him from seeing in terms of experience and thought rather than in terms of group reaction.

— Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion

Pay attention to your enemies, for they are first to discover your mistake.

— Antisthenes

But the power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy, except in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous.

— Edward Gibbon

If all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison. They’ll have enough to eat, a bed and a roof over their heads. But if an American wants to preserve his dignity and his equality as a human being, he must not bow his neck to any dictatorial government.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

The dreamer is the designer of tomorrow. The practical man […] can laugh at the dreamer; they do not know that he, the dreamer, is the true dymanic force that pushes the world forward. Suppress the dreamer, and the world will deteriorate towards barbarism.

— Ricardo Flores Magon

I see men assassinated around me every day. I walk through rooms of the dead, streets of the dead, cities of the dead; men without eyes, men without voices; men with manufactured feelings and standard reactions; men with newspaper brains, television souls and high school ideas.

— Charles Bukowski

What better way for a ruling class to claim and hold power than to pose as the defenders of the nation.

— Christopher Hitchens

The idea that government is a “necessary evil” is itself a license to do evil.

Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.

— George Orwell

Politicians don’t hand the reigns of power to themselves.

Question authority, think for yourself – but don’t use that as an excuse to be a fool.

— Johnathan Hubbard

Liberty will not descend to a people; a people must raise themselves to liberty.

— Charles Caleb Colton

Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth – more than ruin, more even than death.

Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages.

Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. It sees man, a feeble speck, surrounded by unfathomable depths of silence; yet it bears itself proudly, as unmoved as if it were lord of the universe.

Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.

— Bertrand Russell

A demand that discourse always be polite is a demand that certain evils never be mentioned, which is a demand that these evils be a perpetual fixture in society. What sort of person is it, then, that makes such a demand?

The final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure criticism without resentment.

— Elbert Hubbard

An error made on your own is safer than the ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.

— Ayn Rand

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.

— Buddha

Nature never deceives us; it is always we who deceive ourselves.

— Rousseau

Politeness is wasted on the dishonest, who will always take advantage of any well-intended concession.

— Barret Brown

The importance of philosophy to politics is this: If you do not stay above the fray long enough to discern the true battle lines, you will not know what side you are actually fighting for.

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

— Jiddu Krishnamurti

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is a hard business. If you try it, you’ll be lonely often and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.

— Rudyard Kipling

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.’

— G.K. Chesterton

Kant originated the technique required to sell irrational notions to the men of a skeptical, cynical age who have formally rejected mysticism without grasping the rudiments of rationality. The technique is as follows: if you want to propagate an outrageous evil idea (based on traditionally accepted doctrines), your conclusion must be brazenly clear, but your proof unintelligible. Your proof must be so tangled a mess that it will paralyze a reader’s critical faculty – a mess of evasions, equivocations, obfuscations, circumlocutions, non-sequiturs, endless sentences leading nowhere, irrelevant side issues, clauses, sub-clauses and sub-sub-clauses, a meticulously lengthy proving of the obvious, and big chunks of the arbitrary thrown in as self-evident, erudite references to sciences, to pseudo-sciences, to the never-to-be-sciences, to the untraceable and the unprovable – all of it resting on a zero: the absence of definitions. I offer in evidence the Critique of Pure Reason.

— Ayn Rand

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independant, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, & to institute new government, laying it’s foundation on such principles & organizing it’s powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

— Thomas Jefferson, from the original Declaration of Independence

Philosophy is to be studied [for many reasons;] but above all because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good.

— Bertrand Russell

Be wary of those who teach what to think, but not how to think. Believing someone who teaches you only the conclusions, but not how they are arrived at them, is like believing that a magician can really do magic.

There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.

— Charles De Montesquieu

Chaos is a name for any order that produces confusion in our minds.

— George Santayana

The law will never make men free, it is men that have to make the law free.

— Henry David Thoreau

Secrecy begets tyranny.

— Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

Even a fool learns something once it hits him.

— Homer, The Iliad

I don’t know where I am going, but I am on my way.

— Voltaire

You should fight on the merits of the cause, not play some Machiavellian game where you agree to support things that are bad in order to get some things that are good passed.

— Elon Musk on politics

Think in terms of cause and effect. The cause of widespread injustice is false ideas in the minds of too many people. A corrupt government is just an effect, an ultimate consequence of these false ideas. Until you have reached a tipping point, where true ideas have established themselves in the minds of enough people, trying to fight the evils of government by direct opposition is like trying to cure cancer by applying makeup.

Actions are the silhouette of the soul.

‘Vulgar libertarian apologists for capitalism use the term “free market” in an equivocal sense: they seem to have trouble remembering, from one moment to the next, whether they’re defending actually existing capitalism or free market principles. So we get the standard boilerplate article arguing that the rich can’t get rich at the expense of the poor, because “that’s not how the free market works” — implicitly assuming that this is a free market. When prodded, they’ll grudgingly admit that the present system is not a free market, and that it includes a lot of state intervention on behalf of the rich. But as soon as they think they can get away with it, they go right back to defending the wealth of existing corporations on the basis of “free market principles.”’ – Kevin Carson

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

— Anne Frank

The genius of the public education system is that people tend to come out of it only wanting to learn those things that happen to maximize tax revenue.

UNIVERSAL empire is the prerogative of a writer. His concerns are with all mankind, and though he cannot command their obedience, he can assign them their duty. The Republic of Letters is more ancient than monarchy, and of far higher character in the world than the vassal court of Britain; he that rebels against reason is a real rebel, but he that in defence of reason rebels against tyranny has a better title to ‘Defender of the Faith,’ than George the Third.

— Thomas Paine

The argument for liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful tools human reason can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from doing better.

— F.A. Hayek

It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.

— Mark Twain

Give me the private ownership of all the land, and… I will undertake to make slaves of all the human beings on the face of it. Not chattel slaves exactly, but slaves nevertheless. What an idiot I would be to make chattel slaves of them. I would have to find them salts and senna when they were sick, and whip them to work when they were lazy.

No, it is not good enough. Under the system I propose the fools would imagine they were all free. I would get a maximum of results, and have no responsibility whatever. They would cultivate the soil; they would dive into the bowels of the earth for its hidden treasures; they would build cities and construct railways and telegraphs; their ships would navigate the ocean; they would work and work, and invent and contrive; their warehouses would be full, their markets glutted, and… everything they made would belong to me. It would be this way, you see: As I owned all the land, they would of course, have to pay me rent.

— Mark Twain, “Archimedes”

Tolerance of irrationality is treason to civilization.

When we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.

— Thomas Paine, “Common Sense”

[T]he three aims of the tyrant [are:] (1) the humiliation of his subjects; he knows that a mean-spirited man will not conspire against anybody; (2) the creation of mistrust among them; for a tyrant is not overthrown until men begin to have confidence in one another; and this is the reason why tyrants are at war with the good; they are under the idea that their power is endangered by them, not only because they would not be ruled despotically but also because they are loyal to one another, and to other men, and do not inform against one another or against other men; (3) the tyrant desires that his subjects shall be incapable of action, for no one attempts what is impossible, and they will not attempt to overthrow a tyranny, if they are powerless. Under these three heads the whole policy of a tyrant may be summed up, and to one or other of them all his ideas may be referred: (1) he sows distrust among his subjects; (2) he takes away their power; (3) he humbles them.

— Aristotle, Politics

I know not what treason is, if sapping and betraying the liberties of a people be not treason.

— Thomas Gordon

No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.

— Thomas Jefferson to Francis Gilmer, 1816

Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.

— (mis?)attributed to Aristotle

Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed, by the masses.

— Plato

If we are not ashamed to think it, we should not be ashamed to say it.

— Cicero

Did you really think we want those laws observed? We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against… We’re after power and we mean it… There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.

— Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, and drunkenness sobered, but stupid lasts forever.

— Aristophanes

The weakness of reason is that the irrational are not governed by it, but the power is that only the rational can have true agreement and unity; the irrational are doomed forever to superficial agreement, and therefore, to petty conflicts.

There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.

— Howard Zinn

My principles are [so] remote from all the vulgar sentiments on the subject, that were they to take place, they would produce almost a total alteration in philosophy; and you know revolutions of this kind are not easily brought about.

— David Hume

Only nobodies are modest.

— Goethe

Thinking of yourself as perfectly rational is the perfect recipe for becoming totally irrational.

Deception, flattering, lying, deluding, talking behind the back, putting up a false front, living in borrowed splendor, wearing a mask, hiding behind convention, playing a role for others and for oneself — in short, a continuous fluttering around the solitary flame of vanity — is so much the rule and the law among men that there is almost nothing which is less comprehensible than how an honest and pure drive for truth could have arisen among them.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.

— Kierkegaard

The American of today, in fact, probably enjoys less personal liberty than any other man of Christendom, and even his political liberty is fast succumbing to the new dogma that certain theories of government are virtuous and lawful, and others abhorrent and felonious. Laws limiting the radius of his free activity multiply year by year: It is now practically impossible for him to exhibit anything describable as genuine individuality, either in action or in thought, without running afoul of some harsh and unintelligible penalty. It would surprise no impartial observer if the motto “In God we trust” were one day expunged from the coins of the republic by the Junkers at Washington, and the far more appropriate word, “verboten,” substituted. Nor would it astound any save the most romantic if, at the same time, the goddess of liberty were taken off the silver dollars to make room for a bas-relief of a policeman in a spiked helmet. Moreover, this gradual (and, of late, rapidly progressive) decay of freedom goes almost without challenge; the American has grown so accustomed to the denial of his constitutional rights and to the minute regulation of his conduct by swarms of spies, letter-openers, informers and agents provocateurs that he no longer makes any serious protest.

— H.L. Mencken, The American Credo, 1920

One may say that as a rule no man is equal to his book, though there are, I believe, exceptions. All the best products of his mental activity he puts into his book; where they are separated from the mass of inferior products with which they are mingled in his daily talk. And yet the usual supposition is that the unselected thoughts will be as good as the selected thoughts.

— Herbert Spencer

Never trust an economist who tells you the allegedly ideal qualities of money and what kind you should prefer. The purpose of a free market is precisely to determine what the best units of wealth are, and in an organic, bottom-up, and individualist fashion – not to have arrogant intellectuals prescribe these units for you. An economist’s proper role is to maximize the ease in which this organic process can proceed, not to declare the monetary winners and losers ahead of time. When you hear an economist pimping this or that unit of wealth, consider the fact that being able to direct unsuspecting fools this way or that makes the herd ripe for shearing, and then look into his portfolio or into his benefactors’ portfolios.

An autocratic system of coercion, in my opinion, soon degenerates. For force always attracts men of low morality, and I believe it to be an invariable rule that tyrants of genius are succeeded by scoundrels.

— Albert Einstein

The interlocking power of stupidity below and love of power above paralyzes the efforts of rational men.

— Bertrand Russell, from “Freedom and the Colleges”, an article published in 1940.

Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few; and the implicit submission, with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we enquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find, that, as Force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is, therefore, on opinion only that government is founded; and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as well as to the most free and most popular.

— David Hume

When men act in a faction, they are apt, without shame or remorse, to neglect all the ties of honour and morality, in order to serve their party; and yet, when a faction is formed upon a point of right or principle, there is no occasion, where men discover a greater obstinacy, and a more determined sense of justice and equity. The same social disposition of mankind is the cause of these contradictory appearances.

— David Hume

The heart and soul of true civility is rationality and sincerity, not the hollow politeness of biting one’s tongue when confronted by their opposite.

First, It may be said, that, in ancient times, during the flourishing period of Greek and Roman learning, the municipal laws, in every state, were but few and simple, and the decision of causes was, in a great measure, left to the equity and common sense of the judges. The study of the laws was not then a laborious occupation, requiring the drudgery of a whole life to finish it, and incompatible with every other study or profession. The great statesmen and generals among the Romans were all lawyers; and Cicero, to show the facility of acquiring this science, declares, that in the midst of all his occupations, he would undertake, in a few days, to make himself a complete civilian.

— David Hume

Every expressed thought is a mere tiny string of words; however, the meaning of that thought is dependent on a web of countless other thoughts and observations ultimately rooted in the experience and mental activity of one’s life. Communication therefore depends on similar enough experience and mental activity. Arguably we all share a common enough experience to be able to communicate most thoughts; irreconcilable differences between people therefore lies in fundamental differences in the way they choose to use their minds.

I listen to all these complaints about rudeness and intemperateness, and the opinion that I come to is that there is no polite way of asking somebody: have you considered the possibility that your entire life has been devoted to a delusion? But that’s a good question to ask. Of course we should ask that question and of course it’s going to offend people. Tough.

— Daniel C. Dennett

Treating the irrational as though they have legitimate things to offer is a mistake – they should have no place at the table of any kind – allowing them a forum to train to become better liars only makes it harder to defeat irrationality. The irrational can be the object of study and discussions but not participants in intellectual discussions.

— Dennis May

What then is freedom? The power to live as one wishes.

— Cicero

There’s a big difference between civilization and servilization.

— Johnathan Hubbard

A crank is a very elegant device. It’s small, it’s strong, it’s lightweight, energy efficient, and it makes revolutions.

— E. F. Schumacher, responding to accusations that he was a “crank”

A reliable way to detect whether somebody is part of a cult is to claim that they are and then observe how irretrievably irrational and angry they get.

If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.

— Oscar Wilde

When it comes to stating important truths, the polite route does not and cannot work, because the truth is that there a heinously criminal things being advocated, and there is simply no polite way to tell the advocates that they are advocating heinous crimes against their fellow man without obscuring the truth that they are in the process. There is also no polite way to tell someone that they their pattern of thinking is critically deficient, without obscuring the message and thereby minimizing the chance that their deficient intellect is even capable of understanding what you are saying.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

— Upton Sinclair

Your ability to misconstrue exceeds my ability to clarify.

— A friend

Some ideas are so bad that they gain currency only because of currency.

There comes a point where the act of explaining something becomes an endorsement of gross irrationality.

Hint for anarchists: redefining government to be a synonym of tyranny may help you rationalize your rage, but it doesn’t actually solve your problem.

Definitions of terms hold a strange tyranny over the minds of some people.

A “science” where only its own experts can authoritatively determine what objects of study lie within its realm is not a science, it is a religion.

In a disagreement, people who say “that’s just semantics” might as well just say “that’s just what I mean, pay no mind to that, it’s completely irrelevant.” Okay.

To [concrete bound] mentalities, higher concepts are indeterminate splinters flickering in the abyss, which they seize and use at random, with a nameless sense of guilt, with the chronic terror of a dreadful avenger that appears in the form of the question: “What do you mean?

— Ayn Rand

There are of course apparent barriers to human knowledge – the very distant past, the future, the very far away, and the very tiny. But it is a gross non-sequitur to claim that since we can’t know some things, then we can’t know anything. To trot out quantum mechanics in a discussion of political philosophy is therefore extremely wrongheaded at best and ill-motivated at worst.

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.

— Albert Camus

To err is human; to admit it, divine.

A society that embraces the ideal that we should politely tiptoe around others’ nonsense effectively worships nonsense, and is bound to have a lot of it.

Were we to distinguish the Ranks of Men by the Genius and Capacity more than by their Virtue and Usefulness to the Public, great Philosophers would certainly challenge the first Rank, and must be plac’d at the Top of human Kind. So rare is this Character, that, perhaps, there has not, as yet, been above two in the World, who can lay a just Claim to it. At least, Galileo and Newton seem to me so far to excel all the rest.

— David Hume

A rational, sincere person insists on fidelity to the truth; a charlatan insists on politeness and decorum. A good way to detect which you are dealing with is to be blunt; a good way to help the charlatan conceal himself is to obscure your sincere thoughts such that they do not offend.

The single biggest problem with libertarianism is that it’s not regarded as a rigorous scientific discipline by libertarians, which makes it a mushy contradictory hash, a rambling laundry list of incongruous elements and factions, a cacophony of hysteria and paranoia on the one hand and tedious “scholarly” nonsense on the other, a parade of charlatans and cheerleaders impotently chanting in an echo chamber, a stale fountain of perpetually regurgitated history. The fact that this fact bothers next to no one, and indeed, that some revel in it like pigs rolling in the mud, means that libertarianism just isn’t serious.

If reason is divine, then, in comparison with man, the life according to it is divine in comparison with human life. But we must not follow those who advise us, being men, to think of human things, and, being mortal, of mortal things, but must, so far as we can, make ourselves immortal, and strain every nerve to live in accordance with the best thing in us; for even if it be small in bulk, much more does it in power and worth surpass everything.

— Aristotle

Would you believe in what you believe in if you were the only one who believed it?

— Kanye West

The irrational separates us, the rational unites us.

— Bertrand Russell, on Aristotle’s philosophy

[The great-souled man] must also be open in his hate and in his love (for to conceal one’s feelings, i.e. to care less for truth than for what people will think, is a coward’s part), and must speak and act openly; for he is free of speech because he is contemptuous, and he is given to telling the truth, except when he speaks in irony to the vulgar.

— Aristotle

[To retain power, a tyrant] must prevent the rise of any person of exceptional merit, by execution or assassination if necessary. He must prohibit common meals, clubs, and any education likely to produce hostile sentiment. There must be no literary assemblies or discussions. He must prevent people from knowing each other well, and compel them to live in public at his gates. He should employ spies, like the female detectives at Syracuse. He must sow quarrels, and impoverish his subjects. He should keep them occupied in great works, as the king of Egypt did in getting the pyramids built. He should give power to women and slaves, to make them informers. He should make war, in order that his subjects may have something to do and be always in want of a leader.

— Bertrand Russell, summarizing Aristotle

Like the flies and mosquitoes pestering explorers of the vast wilderness, peddlers of irrationality and mysticism have been an ever-present nuisance for those who explore the frontiers of human knowledge about nature. In our era, that frontier happens to be in the realm of quantum mechanics and particle physics. What is evident to every rational and sincere thinker is that our present lack of definite interpretations in these areas is not a sign of a failure of Aristotelian logic; on the contrary, it is only logic that makes it possible to ultimately find correct interpretations in any sphere.

Nature has been quite clear. She doesn’t conceal the danger. She has left a record. She sends us gentle reminders often. At any moment, mankind could be decimated by a natural disaster, such as an asteroid. We all pretty much understand and agree on this. But instead of adjusting our priorities accordingly, most of us neglect the very tool that Nature gave us to solve such problems: reason. The solution to such a large problem requires not only scientific and engineering prowess, but political prowess as well, which itself depends on a culture that embraces reason as the means of solving all problems whatsoever. A widespread irrationality is virtually a death sentence for mankind.

The self-evident is that to which one can refer, but not argue for the existence of; it is any truth which irreducible, and therefore, necessarily axiomatic. It is necessary to the understanding that some truths be self-evident, for all true understanding is based on finite argument, and without the self-evident, there would be an infinite regress in explanation and therefore no understanding.

Laws are spider-webs, which catch the little flies, but cannot hold the big ones.

— Anarcharsis

If you want to learn about the cause of widespread mental health problems, try suggesting that they can be caused: 1) by bad personal beliefs, choices, and habits; 2) by widespread abuse of individuals by societal institutions. Widespread mental health problems in a society is an indictment of that society, and the victims are not prone to come to terms with this fact.

Freedom may only be achieved through discipline.

— Martha Graham

There are two kinds of philosophic genius: the genius that lies in finding deep new truths and insights, and the genius that lies in finding new excuses and rationalizations for existing value systems.

A foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth.

— Albert Einstein

I always cringe when someone famous gets attacked by the political correctness Nazis – usually the reaction by them is appeasement, which only makes the general cultural situation worse.

Peer review: a ritual that creates the appearance of scientific rigor, but that actually enforces establishment delusions and by means of peer pressure.

Society has a tendency to honor its living conformists and its dead troublemakers.

— Wayne Dyer

In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.

— Mark Twain

Delusion is the preference for what is easy to believe over what there is reason to believe.

Collective judgment of new ideas is so often wrong that it is arguable that progress depends on individuals being free to back their own judgment despite collective disapproval.

— W.A. Lewis

So Kant died happy, and has been honoured ever since; his doctrine has even been proclaimed the official philosophy of the Nazi State.

— Bertrand Russell

We live in a world where it is considered uncouth to identify barbarism for what it is – and that is why there is so much of it.

It’s far easier to change society than it is to change our own minds, so let us not argue.

Eat, drink, and be merry, for government is incompetent, and all of its problems will evaporate if we simply ignore it. Besides, politics is so boring.

If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.

— JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.

— James Madison

Scratch the surface of dogma and you’ll find the craven fear of disapproval.

The defense of the state in all civilized countries is quite as much in the hands of teachers as it is in those of the armed forces.

— Bertrand Russell

Don’t bother to examine a folly – ask yourselves only what it accomplishes.

— Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead

I have spent so much time debating scientists, philosophers, and other scholars that I’ve begun to doubt whether any smart person retains the ability to change his mind. This is one of the great scandals of intellectual life: The virtues of rational discourse are everywhere espoused, and yet witnessing someone relinquish a cherished opinion in real time is about as common as seeing a supernova explode overhead. The perpetual stalemate one encounters in public debates is annoying because it is so clearly the product of motivated reasoning, self-deception, and other failures of rationality—and yet we’ve grown to expect it on every topic, no matter how intelligent and well-intentioned the participants.

— Sam Harris

But if I abstain from judging of a thing when I do not conceive it with sufficient clearness and distinctness, it is plain that I act rightly, and am not deceived; but if I resolve to deny or affirm, I then do not make a right use of my free will; and if I affirm what is false, it is evident that I am deceived; moreover, even although I judge according to truth, I stumble upon it by chance, and do not therefore escape the imputation of a wrong use of my freedom; for it is a dictate of the natural light, that the knowledge of the understanding ought always to precede the determination of the will.

— Rene Descartes

Civility: Tracking mud all over the carpet, and calling the person who raises any objection “rude”.

Asserting that one can never really know anything is not a means of avoiding arrogance, it is a quintessential manifestation of arrogance.

The educated mind is filled with strands of truth and untruth, tangled into knots of dogmatic confusion.

A wise man’s kingdom is his own breast: or, if he ever looks farther, it will only be to the judgment of a select few, who are free from prejudices, and capable of examining his work. Nothing indeed can be a stronger presumption of falsehood than the approbation of the multitude; and Phocion, you know, always suspected himself of some blunder when he was attended with the applauses of the populace.

— David Hume

He is happy, whose circumstances suit his temper; but he is more excellent, who can suit his temper to any circumstances.

— David Hume

Person A: Why is the world filled with so many fools? Person B: How dare you call people foolish! Person A: Thanks for the answer.

The very limits and frontiers of science – quantum mechanics, the big bang, relativity – these are where people who wish to function more like priests than scientists find plenty of confusing thickets in which to hide.

If I have ventured wrongly, very well, life corrects me with a penalty. But if I haven’t ventured at all, who can help me then?

— Kierkegaard

If a billion people die unnecessarily early for the sake of patents and medical regulations, that’s OK, because if God had wanted them to live longer healthier lives, he would have done things differently, and anyways, giving people a way of making an easy buck is good for the economy.

Chronic insincerity leads to chronic hypocrisy which leads to chronic uncertainty which leads to chronic psychological distress. While one can be innocent of the former two while experiencing the latter two, any competent mental health professional should diligently assess whether the latter are being caused by the former.

Sincerity and logic can be summed up this way: say what you mean, and mean what you say.

If you throw up a banner of reason and then put on a good show, you will gather up a lot of authentically pro-reason individuals into your movement; however, if it turns out that show is about a counterfeit reason (whether you intended to misrepresent reason or not), you will find that these individuals bounce out of your movement at an alarming rate. This explains both the successes and failures of Objectivism.

To never arrive at definite answers doesn’t imply that one is broad-minded, it implies that one is empty-headed.

The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended.

— Frédéric Bastiat

The linchpin of liberty is the universality of reason.

Know-it-all: What know-nothings call someone who claims to know something.

It’s nice and warm in the bandwagon, and cold and windy on the mountaintop. But the stars sure are beautiful here.

Whoever knows he is deep, strives for clarity; whoever would like to appear deep to the crowd, strives for obscurity. For the crowd considers anything deep if only it cannot see to the bottom: the crowd is so timid and afraid of going into the water.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Half of the nonsense ruining the world can be understood by following the money, and the other half by considering the character of those dishing it out.

You have power over your mind – not over outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.

— Marcus Aurelius

…I wanted to eat of the fruit of all the trees in the garden of the world… And so, indeed, I went out, and so I lived. My only mistake was that I confined myself so exclusively to the trees of what seemed to me the sun-lit side of the garden, and shunned the other side for its shadow and its gloom.

— Oscar Wilde

Two common techniques of charlatans are to either try to intimidate, or to play the victim. The intimidator relies on twisting one’s meaning, creating large piles of verbiage, a quick but convoluted wit, asking loaded questions, ad hominem, and so on. The fake victim uses demands that one be respectful and polite as an excuse to escape serious criticism. These techniques have parallels in the animal kingdom, which is fitting, since they are non-rational, animalistic modes of behavior.

I feel like either we are genius or are missing something.

— John Wissler

Most people prefer to believe that their leaders are just and fair, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, because once a citizen acknowledges that the government under which he lives is lying and corrupt, the citizen has to choose what he or she will do about it. To take action in the face of corrupt government entails risks of harm to life and loved ones. To choose to do nothing is to surrender one’s self-image of standing for principles. Most people do not have the courage to face that choice. Hence, most propaganda is not designed to fool the critical thinker but only to give moral cowards an excuse not to think at all.” – Rivero

“Far best is he who knows all things himself; Good, he that hearkens when men counsel right; But he who neither knows, nor lays to heart Another’s wisdom, is a useless wight.

— Hesiod, as quoted by Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics

Some people are emboldened by their own shame. They implicitly consider a painful remorse unacceptable, so they decide to believe in a fiction that absolves themselves instead. This decision would produce its own shame, but the vicious cycle repeats.

We don’t let morons dictate the theorems of calculus, and if they try, we kick them out of class. Their place is to shut up and learn. It is a social calamity that we don’t apply the same idea to the field of politics.

Good intentions” are not a magic wand that makes the real effects of your actual actions disappear, and they are usually given as an excuse to cover for a culpable lack of self-awareness.

“Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.

— Albert Einstein

Most of the principles, and reasonings, contained in this volume, were published in a work in three volumes, called A Treatise of Human Nature: a work which the Author had projected before he left College, and which he wrote and published not long after. But not finding it successful, he was sensible of his error in going to the press too early, and he cast the whole anew in the following pieces, where some negligences in his former reasoning and more in the expression, are, he hopes, corrected. Yet several writers who have honoured the Author’s Philosophy with answers, have taken care to direct all their batteries against that juvenile work, which the author never acknowledged, and have affected to triumph in any advantages, which, they imagined, they had obtained over it: A practice very contrary to all rules of candour and fair-dealing, and a strong instance of those polemical artifices which a bigotted zeal thinks itself authorized to employ. Henceforth, the Author desires, that the following Pieces may alone be regarded as containing his philosophical sentiments and principles.

— David Hume, Author’s introduction to “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding”

It was natural for the papacy to take the lead in the initiating of a Crusade, since the object was (at least ostensibly) religious; thus the power of the popes was increased by the war propaganda and by the religious zeal that was excited. Another important effect was the massacre of large numbers of Jews; those who were not massacred were often despoiled of their property and forcibly baptized. There were large-scale murders of Jews in Germany at the time of the first Crusade, and in England, at the time of the third Crusade, on the accession of Richard Coeur de Lion. York, where the first Christian Emperor had begun his reign, was, aptly enough, the scene of one of the most appalling mass-atrocities against Jews. The Jews, before the Crusades, had almost a monopoly on the trade of Eastern goods throughout Europe; after the Crusades, as a result of the persecution of Jews, this trade was largely in Christian hands.

— Bertrand Russell

An illiterate king is a crowned ass.

— John of Salisbury

[A] Philosopher who affects to doubt of the Maxims of common Reason, and even of his Senses, declares sufficiently that he is not in earnest, and that he intends not to advance an Opinion which he would recommend as Standards of Judgment and Action.

— David Hume

Self-censorship is a prelude to forcible censorship.

But if mistakes be often, be inevitably committed, let us register these mistakes; let us consider their causes; let us weigh their importance; let us enquire for their remedies. When from this we have fixed all the rules of conduct, we are philosophers: When we have reduced these rules to practice, we are sages.

— David Hume

There have been four sorts of ages in the world’s history. There have been ages when everybody thought they knew everything, ages when nobody thought they knew anything, ages when clever people thought they knew much and stupid people thought they knew little, and ages when stupid people thought they knew much and clever people thought they knew little. The first sort of age is one of stability, the second of slow decay, the third of progress, and the fourth of disaster.

— Bertrand Russell “On modern uncertainty” (20 July 1932), p. 103-104.

The mob shouts with one big mouth and eats with a thousand little ones.

— Stanisław Jerzy Lec

Is it a progress if a cannibal is using knife and fork?

— Stanisław Jerzy Lec

Some of the worst atrocities hide in plain sight, concealed by the myths that blind men to the truth.

Arbitrary complexity is the refuge of charlatans.

In this age, the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.

— John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

— John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

Sorry man, but I can’t take him seriously when he’s got more hubris than the whole Greek pantheon.

— A critic

War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking into the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.

— George Orwell, 1984

No man, who is not inflamed by vain-glory into enthusiasm, can flatter himself that his single, unsupported, desultory, unsystematic endeavours, are of power to defeat the subtle designs and united cabals of ambitious citizens. When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

— Edmund Burke

Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.

— John Stuart Mill

The soul is healed by being with children.

— Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot

Although we are all born with the natural capacity to reason, a disciplined use of reason is unnatural: one must decide that it’s important to eradicate contradiction, to rigorously use evidence instead of fantasy, and so on, and then one must will oneself to scrupulously follow reason. So, being rational is a man-made invention. Nature gives us the capacity to be rational, but we create rationality ourselves.

Properly envisioned, imagination is a tool for extending our perceptions of the possible. It is not a tool meant to be used as an escape from our duty to honor what is real, but to allow for the fullest flowering of our potential, by allowing for extending this duty into the future.

— Johnathan Hubbard

It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.

— Will Rogers

To speak the truth is to take risks – it is also the only way to preserve and pay homage to your inheritance of freedom of expression, earned by the risks of those who came before you.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

The greatest fear in the world is of the opinions of others. And the moment you are unafraid of the crowd you are no longer a sheep, you become a lion. A great roar arises in your heart, the roar of freedom.

— Osho

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.

— Steve Jobs

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Intellectual immaturity manifests in two fundamental ways: 1) Simple-minded ideas being confused with reality; 2) Once one begins to grasp the complexity of reality, throwing one’s hands up and claiming, in effect, that “reality doesn’t make sense.” This amounts to having a temper tantrum over the fact that reality won’t conform to your capacity to understand it. The former might be called “infantile”, whereas the latter might be called “juvenile”.

The hereditary principle has almost vanished from politics. During my lifetime, the emperors of Brazil, China, Russia, Germany, and Austria have disappeared, to be replaced by dictators who do not aim at the foundation of a hereditary dynasty. Aristocracy has lost its privileges throughout Europe, except in England, where they have become little more than a historical form. All this, in most countries, is very recent, and has much to do with the rise of dictatorships, since the traditional basis of power has been swept away, and the habits of mind required for the successful practice of democracy have not had time to grow up. There is one great institution that has never had any hereditary element, namely, the Catholic Church. We may expect the dictatorships, if they survive, to develop gradually a form of government analogous to that of the Church. This has already happened in the case of the great corporations in America, which have, or had until Pearl Harbour, powers almost equal to those of the government.

— Bertrand Russell

Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

— Bertrand Russell

As a rule, the man who first thinks of a new idea is so much ahead of his time that everyone thinks him silly, so that he remains obscure and is soon forgotten. Then, gradually, the world becomes ready for the idea, and the man who proclaims it at the fortunate moment gets all the credit. So it was, for example, with Darwin; poor Lord Monboddo was a laughing-stock.

— Bertrand Russell

Irrationality is a form of unconsciousness – not of external reality, but of the contents of one’s own mind.

To insist that we be skeptical of sound axioms is the pinnacle of arrogance, irony, and obtuseness.

The “wisdom of the crowds” is a reference to the status quo, which is a reference to the institutions presently in power.

Hume, by his criticism of the concept of causality, awakened him from his dogmatic slumbers – so at least he says, but the awakening was only temporary, and he soon invented a soporific which enabled him to sleep again.

— Bertrand Russell on Kant

Academic philosophy has often before been out of touch with the most vigorous thought of the age, for instance, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when it was still mainly scholastic. Whenever this happens, the historian of philosophy is less concerned with the professors than with the unprofessional heretics.

— Bertrand Russell

The more outrageously barbaric the aims of discourse, the more politeness will be demanded within it, for to clearly identify the truth that an aim is barbaric is to be rude. So beware the charlatan who shies you away from moral evaluation on the grounds that it is per se uncivil.

Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden for their sons and a whole world of loneliness, poverty and pain made a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

— Bertrand Russell

Thou shalt not follow a multitude who do evil.

— The Bible

It is in history and religion and other controversial subjects that the actual instruction is positively harmful. These subjects touch the interests by which schools are maintained; and the interests maintain the schools in order that certain views on these subjects may be taught. History, in every country, is so taught as to magnify that country: children learn to believe that their own country has been always in the right and almost always victorious, that it has produced almost all the great men, and that it is in all respects superior to all other countries. Since these beliefs are flattering, they are easily absorbed, and hardly ever dislodged from instinct by later knowledge.

— Bertrand Russell

Cynicism isn’t wisdom, it’s a lazy way to say that you’ve been burned.

— Nana Grizol

Perchance, the human mind is hardly ready for so vast an enterprise. At all events, he who undertakes it will meet with little sympathy, and will find few to help him. And let him toil as he may, the sun and noontide of his life shall pass by, the evening of his days shall overtake him, and he himself have to quit the scene, leaving that unfinished which he had vainly hoped to complete … It is, indeed, too true, that such a work requires, not only several minds, but also the successive experience of several generations. Once, I own, I thought otherwise. Once, when I first caught sight of the whole field of knowledge, and seemed, however dimly, to discern its various parts and the relation they bore to each other, I was so entranced with its surpassing beauty, that the judgment was beguiled, and I deemed myself able, not only to cover the surface, but also to master the details. Little did I know how the horizon enlarges as well as recedes, and how vainly we grasp at the fleeting forms, which melt away and elude us in the distance. Of all that I had hoped to do, I now find but too surely how small a part I shall accomplish. In those early aspirations, there was much that was fanciful; perhaps there was much that was foolish. Perhaps, too, they contained a moral defect, and savoured of an arrogance which belongs to a strength that refuses to recognize its own weakness. Still, even now that they are defeated and brought to nought, I cannot repent having indulged in them, but, on the contrary, I would willingly recall them if I could. For, such hopes belong to that joyous and sanguine period of life, when alone we are really happy; when the emotions are more active than the judgment; when experience has not yet hardened our nature; when the affections are not yet blighted and nipped to the core; and when the bitterness of disappointment not having yet been felt, difficulties are unheeded, obstacles are unseen, ambition is a pleasure instead of a pang, and the blood, coursing swiftly through the veins, the pulse beats high, while the heart throbs at the prospect of the future. Those are glorious days; but they go from us, and nothing can compensate their absence. To me, they now seem more like the visions of a disordered fancy, than the sober reality of things that were, and are not. It is painful to make this confession; but I owe it to the reader, because I would not have him to suppose that either in this, or in the future volumes of my History, I shall be able to redeem my pledge, and to perform all that I had promised.

— Henry Thomas Buckle

Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

— attributed to Denis Diderot

There is a natural tendency for those who have been granted arbitrary and unjust authority over others to be distrustful of the victims of this authority.

Virtually every time you see polarized opinions in US politics, you see false alternatives.

No one has yet succeeded in inventing a philosophy at once credible and self-consistent. Locke aimed at credibility, and achieved it at the expense of consistency. Most of the great philosophers have done the opposite. A philosophy which is not self-consistent cannot be wholly true, but a philosophy which is self-consistent can very well be wholly false. The most fruitful philosophies have contained glaring inconsistencies, but for that very reason have been partially true. There is no reason to suppose that a self-consistent system contains more truth than one which, like Locke’s, is obviously more or less wrong.

— Bertrand Russell

The soul of sincerity is the soul of logic, which is saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

Sloppiness in the realm of thought breeds crime in the realm of action.

The choice to regard logic and evidence as our sole means of vetting beliefs is the central choice we make as thinking beings. Imagination is an indispensable human power, and while it is a means of finding truth, it is not a proper foundation for truth.

Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night: God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.

— Alexander Pope

Come brave Diderot, intrepid d’Alembert, ally yourselves; … overwhelm the fanatics and the knaves, destroy the insipid declamations, the miserable sophistries, the lying history … the absurdities without number; do not let those who have sense to be subjected to those who have none; and the generation which is being born will owe to us its reason and liberty.

— Voltaire

Christianity must be divine, since it has lasted 1700 years despite the fact that it is so full of villainy and nonsense.

— Voltaire

This is not a time for jesting; wit does not harmonize with massacres …

— Voltaire

One must never paint broad vistas. One must envision only narrowly, humbly, and in very simple terms. If you are going to court controversy, do it on the smallest possible scale.

… the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.

— John Maynard Keynes

The masses, the hosts of common men, do not conceive any ideas, sound or unsound. They only choose between the ideologies developed by the intellectual leaders of mankind. But their choice is final and determines the course of events. If they prefer bad doctrines, nothing can prevent disaster.

— Mises

If exclusive privileges were not granted, and if the financial system would not tend to concentrate wealth, there would be few great fortunes and no quick wealth. When the means of growing rich is divided between a greater number of citizens, wealth will also be more evenly distributed; extreme poverty and extreme wealth would be also rare.

— Diderot, Wealth

How charming people are! – always doctoring, increasing and complicating their disorders, fancying they will be cured by some nostrum which somebody advises them to try, never getting better, but always getting worse… Are they not as good as a play, trying their hand at legislation, and imagining that by reforms they will make an end to the dishonesties and rascalities of mankind – not knowing that in reality they are cutting away at the heads of a hydra?

— Plato (as quoted by Will Durant)

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

— Henry David Thoreau

In our era, nobility is the tragedy of believing right in spite of incessantly and thoroughly being forced to do what, if freely chosen, would be wrong.

That’s all very well in theory, but it won’t do in practice.” In this sophism you admit the premisses but deny the conclusion, in contradiction with a well-known rule of logic. The assertion is based upon an impossibility: what is right in theory must work in practice; and if it does not, there is a mistake in the theory; something has been overlooked and not allowed for; and, consequently, what is wrong in practice is wrong in theory too. – A. Schopenhauer

The ultimate catch-22: People are convinced that philosophy is unimportant, but it requires philosophy to understand why they are wrong.

Contemporary society’s values, rules, and laws tend to coerce you into a tight discipline of mindless activity, some productive, but most not. This discipline, that gives one almost no quarter to pause and reflect, is euphemistically called “virtue” by society’s leaders, but in truth, is a vicious cycle of slavery.

“In all matters of opinion and science … the difference between men is … oftener found to lie in generals than in particulars; and to be less in reality than in appearance. An explication of the terms commonly ends the controversy, and the disputants are surprised to find that they had been quarreling, while at bottom they agreed in their judgement.

— David Hume

The wit and mind of man, if it work upon the matter, worketh according to the stuff, and is limited thereby; but if it work upon itself, as the spider worketh his web, then it is endless, and bringeth forth indeed cobwebs of learning, admirable for the fineness of thread and work, but of no substance or profit.

— Francis Bacon

To conquer a culture without fighting, gradually make its cultural artifacts less accessible, and replace them with artifacts that embody the values you wish to instill.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

— Einstein

Nothing exists. Even if something did exist, nothing can be known about it; and even if something can be known about it, knowledge about it cannot be communicated to others. And, finally, even if it can be communicated, it cannot be understood.

— Gorgias

A world full of happiness is not beyond human power to create; the obstacles imposed by inanimate nature are not insuperable. The real obstacles lie in the heart of man, and the cure for these is a firm hope, informed and fortified by thought.

— Bertrand Russell Proposed Roads To Freedom (1918), Ch. VI: International relations, p. 106

Having first determined the question according to his will, [Aristotle] then resorts to experience, and bending her into conformity with his placets leads her about like a captive in a procession; so that even on this count he is more guilty than his modern followers, the schoolmen, who have abandoned experience altogether.

— Francis Bacon

The end of our foundation is the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.

— Francis Bacon

It would be an unsound fancy and self-contradictory to expect that things which have never yet been done can be done except by means which have never yet been tried.

— Francis Bacon

The syllogism consists of propositions, propositions consist of words, words are symbols of notions. Therefore if the notions themselves (which is the root of the matter) are confused and over-hastily abstracted from the facts, there can be no firmness in the superstructure. Our only hope therefore lies in a true induction.

— Francis Bacon

It is idle to expect any great advancement in science from the superinducing and engrafting of new things upon old. We must begin anew from the very foundations, unless we would revolve for ever in a circle with mean and contemptible progress.

— Francis Bacon

The more helpless and powerless a people become, the stronger their desire to trust the system that made them so.

… I met an Atheist who listens to Church Choral music because he genuinely likes the music. He was neither ashamed nor apologetic about it. I find such open-mindedness applause-worthy. How often do we deprive ourselves of what could be amazing aesthetic, philosophical, or personal experiences simply because we can’t look past our ideological irritations for five minutes?

— T.K. Coleman

There are two types of wisdom: knowledge of the world as it is, and knowledge of the world as it should be. It is foolish to confuse one for the other, and it is even more foolish to regard the former as superior to the latter; for while a knowledge of the world as it is can bring about good things in the near term, it can also bring about great evils, and only a knowledge of the world as it should be can bring about lasting and unqualified good.

Contrarian: Someone who considers more than one aspect of an issue.

The perceived degree of an intellectual vacuum is in direct proportion to one’s resistance to acclimation.

They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.

— Mexican proverb

Society is a monolith of echo chambers, where each chamber tries to grow and prevail at the expense of the others and always retaining its own brand of tribal zeal.

What is more maddening than the fact that people believe nonsense is their stubborn refusal to discuss their reasons for believing it. Irrationality has an unpredictability which resembles the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics: the uncertainty principle states that you can know either the position or velocity of a particle precisely but not both; irrationality permits you to know the belief or the reason for it precisely, but not both.

Even to deliver and explain what I bring forward is no easy matter; for things in themselves new will yet be apprehended with reference to what is old.

— Francis Bacon

One’s moral depravity may be measured in terms of one’s tolerance for cognitive dissonance, i.e. of self-contradiction.

So much argument revolves around respecting authority, but not enough about making authority respectable.

— Johnathan Hubbard

It is not by prayer and humility that you cause things to go as you wish, but by acquiring a knowledge of natural laws.

— Bertrand Russell The Impact of Science on Society (1952), Ch. 1 : Science and Tradition

Beware the philosopher who disavows the need for precision. As a corollary, beware the philosopher who claims that human language is intrinsically imprecise.

I cannot believe – and I say this with all the emphasis of which I am capable – that there can ever be any good excuse for refusing to face the evidence in favour of something unwelcome. It is not by delusion, however exalted, that mankind can prosper, but only by unswerving courage in the pursuit of truth.

— Bertrand Russell; The Pursuit of Truth

There’s no way I can single handedly save the world or, perhaps, even make a perceptible difference – but how ashamed I would be to let a day pass without making one more effort.

— Isaac Asimov

The endeavor to understand is the first and only basis of virtue.

— Spinoza

Reflex action is a local response to a local stimulus; instinctive action is a partial response to part of a situation; reason is a total response to the whole situation.

— Will Durant

Men who are good by reason – i.e., men who, under the guidance of reason, seek what is useful to them – desire nothing for themselves which they do not also desire for the rest of mankind.

— Spinoza

The last end of the state is not to dominate men, nor to restrain them by fear; rather it is so to free each man from fear that he may live and act with full security and without injury to himself or his neighbor. The end of the state, I repeat, is not to make rational beings into brute beasts and machines. It is to enable their bodies and their minds to function safely. It is to lead men to live by, and to exercise, a free reason; that they may not waste their strength in hatred, anger and guile, nor act unfairly toward one another. Thus the end of the state is really liberty.

— Spinoza

Academies that are founded at the public expense are instituted no so much as to cultivate men’s natural abilities as to restrain them. But in a free commonwealth arts and sciences will be better cultivated to the full if every one that asks leave is allowed to teach publicly, at his own cost and risk.

— Spinoza

It has been the one song of those who thirst after absolute power that the interest of the state requires that its affairs should be conducted in secret. But the more such arguments disguise themselves under the mask of public welfare, the more oppressive is the slavery to which they will lead. Better that right counsels be known to enemies than that the evil secrets of tyrants should be concealed from the citizens. They who can treat secretly the affairs of a nation have it absolutely under their authority; and as they plot against the enemy in time of war, so do they against the citizens in time of peace.

— Spinoza

Those who utter the imperative “we must learn from history” forget that history is written by the historian, who has a philosophical perspective of his own, and which largely governs the lessons you learn from his tales. Philosophy, not history, determines whether an argument is sound or a practice is moral.

But the height of audacity in serving up pure nonsense, in stringing together senseless and extravagant mazes of words, such as had previously been known only in madhouses, was finally reached in Hegel, and became the instrument of the most barefaced general mystification that has ever taken place, with a result which will appear fabulous to posterity, and will remain as a monument to German stupidity.

— Arthur Schopenhauer

No doubt, when modesty was made a virtue, it was a very advantageous thing for the fools; for everybody is expected to speak of himself as if he were one.

— Schopenhauer

There are, first of all, two kinds of authors: those who write for the subject’s sake, and those who write for writing’s sake. The first kind have had thoughts or experiences which seem to them worth communicating, while the second kind need money and consequently write for money. They think in order to write, and they may be recognised by their spinning out their thoughts to the greatest possible length, and also by the way they work out their thoughts, which are half-true, perverse, forced, and vacillating; then also by their love of evasion, so that they may seem what they are not; and this is why their writing is lacking in definiteness and clearness.

— Schopenhauer

[It is unwise to allow the youth to] taste the dear delight [of philosophy] too early; … for young men, when they first get the taste of philosophy in their mouths, argue for amusement, and are always contradicting and refuting… like puppy-dogs who delight to tear and pull at all who come near them.

— Plato

There is nothing so delightful as the hearing or the speaking of truth. For this reason, there is no conversation so agreeable as that of a man of integrity, who hears without any intention to betray, and speaks without any intention to deceive.

— Plato

There are no two things more opposed than the childish naïveté of an ancient author and the learning of his commentator.

Dilettanti, dilettanti! This is the slighting way in which those who pursue any branch of art or learning for the love and enjoyment of the thing,—per il loro diletto, are spoken of by those who have taken it up for the sake of gain, attracted solely by the prospect of money. This contempt of theirs comes from the base belief that no man will seriously devote himself to a subject, unless he is spurred on to it by want, hunger, or else some form of greed. The public is of the same way of thinking; and hence its general respect for professionals and its distrust of dilettanti. But the truth is that the dilettante treats his subject as an end, whereas the professional, pure and simple, treats it merely as a means. He alone will be really in earnest about a matter, who has a direct interest therein, takes to it because he likes it, and pursues it con amore. It is these, and not hirelings, that have always done the greatest work.

— Schopenhauer

The conspiracy theorist who has only a dismal hope of successfully prosecuting the alleged conspirators for their alleged crimes would find his time more wisely spent in remedying the cultural deficits that made the conspiracies possible; i.e., the wise prefer philosophy where the foolish prefer intrigue.

When you blind people to how things ought to be, you keep them in their place. Hence the propaganda of relativism and nihilism, which dupes people into believing that morality is merely subjective and arbitrary, i.e. illusion.

Experience teaches us that nothing stands so much in the way of developing great philosophers as the custom of supporting bad ones in state universities. … It is the popular theory that the posts given to the latter make them free to do original work; as a matter of fact, the effect is quite the contrary… No state would ever dare to patronize such men as Plato and Schopenhauer. And why? Because the state is always afraid of them. … It seems to me that there is need for a higher tribunal outside the universities to critically examine the doctrines they teach. As soon as philosophers are willing to resign their salaries, they will constitute such a tribunal. Without pay and without honors, it will be able to free itself from the prejudices of the age. Like Schopenhauer, it will be the judge of the so-called, culture around it.

— Nietzsche (quoted by Mencken)

Despite the notion of those who know him but by name or ill-fame, there is nothing cryptic or mysterious about Nietzsche. His ideas are ever clear. Curiously enough, the popular comprehension of his philosophy suffers by this very fact, for the world has come to regard the metaphysic as something properly and necessarily occult and to expect its expounders, if they would seem truly wise, to show the abysmal turgidity of a Kant and the wild, cabalistic imbecility of Revelations. When there arises a prophet like Nietzsche, who thinks his thoughts accurately and puts them into the vulgar tongue, he is commonly suspected to be some sort of fantastic and preposterous joker. Instead of accepting his prophecy in its surface sense, his audience sees, in its very obviousness, a new and extraordinarily confusing form of riddle. Such is the curse that rabbinism, in and out of the church, has laid upon the propagation of ideas.

— Mencken on Nietzsche

In every page of David Hume, there is more to be learned than from Hegel’s, Herbart’s and Schleiermacher’s complete philosophical works.

— Schopenhauer

It has always been found a terrible thing to war with the moral system of one’s age; it will have its revenge… from within and from without.

— Nietzsche

You can transcend psychological damage to an extent, but you can never recover the true self you might have been having not lived through abuse.

The root cause of our ongoing institutional corruption is the fear the rational have of the irrational. Potential heroes of reason betray their better virtues, allowing their fears to make them cynical, passive, silent, provincial, amoral, and submissive.

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.

— Churchill

The minds of men of lofty genius are most active in invention when they are doing the least external work.

— Leonardo da Vinci

Some day, when the middle ages are really over, philosophy will come down from [epistemological] clouds, and deal with the affairs of men.

— Will Durant

There is no tyranny so hateful as a vulgar and anonymous tyranny. It is all-permeating, all-thwarting; it blasts every budding novelty and sprig of genius with its omnipresent and fierce stupidity. Such a headless people has the mind of a worm and the claws of a dragon. Anyone would be a hero who should quell the monster.

— George Santayana

Philosophy is the strategy of defeating an army of arrogance with the implacable Truth.

When we [Americans] have learned to reverence liberty as well as wealth, we too shall have our Renaissance.

— Will Durant

Books are like mirrors: if a fool looks in, you cannot expect a genius to look out.

— J.K. Rowling paraphrasing an unidentified author

asshole, n.: A person who emphasizes something you have scrupulously been trying to ignore.

The ghosts of scholasticism – of a pursuit of knowledge divorced from its social end – hover about the microscopes and test-tubes of the scientific world; … The blunt truth is that unless a scientist is also a philosopher, with some capacity to see things sub specie totius [a complete perspective on the whole], – unless he can come out of his hole into the open, – he is not fit to direct is own research. … without philosophy as its eye piece, science is but the traditional child who has taken apart the traditional watch, with none but the traditional results.

— Will Durant

Arbitrary complexity is the camouflage of state crime.

The function of education in the eyes of a dominant class is to make men able to do skilled work but unable to do original thinking (for all original thinking begins with destruction); the function of education in the eyes of a government is to teach men that eleventh commandment which God forgot to give to Moses: thou shalt love thy country right or wrong. All this, of course, requires some marvelous prestidigitation of the truth, as school text-books of national history show. The ignorant, it seems, are the necessary ballast in the ship of state.

— Will Durant

[That science is not dogma] is hard to explain to K-8 science teachers, who think that science is a new religion with new truths to be learned. They think it’s their job to dispense these catechisms.

— Alan Kay

Every civilization comes at last to the point where the individual, made by speculation conscious of himself as an end per se, demands of the state, as the price of its continuance, that it shall henceforth enhance rather than exploit his capacities. Philosophers sympathize with this demand, the state almost always rejects it: therefore civilizations come and civilizations go. The history of philosophy is essentially an account of the efforts great men have made to avert social disintegration by building up natural moral sanctions to take the place of the supernatural sanctions which they themselves have destroyed. To find – without resorting to celestial machinery – some way of winning for their people social coherence and permanence without sacrificing plasticity and individual uniqueness to regimentation, – that has been the task of philosophers, that is the task of philosophers.

— Will Durant

A true philosopher faces the world as one might face a drug addict. The drug addict needs to understand that what he desires is very much at odds with what he actually needs. This is as philosophers try to instruct to the world, but, they are often treated as the drug addict might treat his would-be benefactor: with denial, subterfuge, anger, and sometimes even violence.

Authentic wealth is about satisfying human needs, not mere desires. A true economist then is a type of philosopher who understands moral truths – the truths of what wealth is authentic, or of what wealth should be created.

To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.

— Voltaire

One of the chief misfortunes of honest people is that they are cowardly.

— Voltaire

How I like the boldness of the English, how I like the people who say what they think!

— Voltaire

Our wretched species is so made that those who walk on the well-trodden path always throw stones at those who are showing a new road.

— Voltaire

Many are destined to reason wrongly; others, not to reason at all; and others, to persecute those who do reason.

— Voltaire

No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.

— Voltaire

A long dispute means that both parties are wrong.

— Voltaire

The true character of liberty is independence, maintained by force.

— Voltaire

[Philosophy versus University philosophy] is only a scene from the play which we have before us at all times and in all arts and sciences, that is to say, the old conflict between those who live for the cause and those who live by it, or between those who are it and those who represent it … very few philosophers have ever been professors of philosophy, and even relatively fewer professors of philosophy have been philosophers. Therefore it might be said that, just as idioelectrical bodies are non-conductors of electricity, so philosophers are not professors of philosophy. In fact this appointment, almost more than any other, obstructs the independent thinker. For the philosophical chair is to a certain extent a public confessional, where a man makes his confession of faith coram populo [in public]. Again, hardly anything is so obstructive to the actual attainment of a thorough or very deep insight and thus of true wisdom, as the constant obligation to appear wise, the showing off of so-called knowledge in the presence of pupils eager to learn and the readiness to answer every conceivable question. Worst of all, however, is that a man in such a position is seized with anxiety when any idea occurs to him, whether such will fit in with the aims and intentions of his superiors. This paralyses his thinking to such an extent that such ideas themselves no longer dare occur. The atmosphere of freedom is indispensable to truth.

— Schopenhauer

Most of us are as willing to let others think for us as we are to let others work for us; here it is the mass that exploits the few, and surrenders to them all the risks of innovation.

— Will Durant

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

— J.K. Rowling

Ignorance is degrading only when found in company with riches. The poor man is restrained by poverty and need: labor occupies his thoughts, and takes the place of knowledge. But rich men who are ignorant live for their lusts only, and are like the beasts of the field; as may be seen every day: and they can also be reproached for not having used wealth and leisure for that which gives them their greatest value.

— Schopenhauer

Those authors who have rendered the greatest service to the small number of world-famous thinkers are the isolated writers, the genuine scholars shut up in their studies, who have neither expounded their arguments from a university chair nor in academies put forward half-truths; and it is they who have almost always been persecuted.

— Voltaire

… if there is to be a philosophy at all, that is to say, if it is to be granted to the human mind to devote its loftiest and noblest powers to incomparably the weightiest of all problems, then this can successfully happen only when philosophy is withdrawn from all State influence.

— Schopenhauer

The Hegelian sham wisdom is really that millstone in the student’s head in Faust. If our intention is to make a youth stupid and wholly incapable of all thinking, there is no means more approved than the laborious study of Hegel’s original works. For these monstrous articulations of words that cancel and contradict one another, so that the mind vainly torments itself in trying through them to think of anything till it finally collapses with exhaustion, gradually destroy so completely his ability to think, that henceforth hollow, empty flourishes and phrases are regarded by him as thoughts. Now add to this the presumption, confirmed for the youth by the word and example of all in authority, that that hollow verbiage is true and lofty wisdom! If at any time a guardian should ever be afraid that his wards might become too clever for his plans, then such a misfortune could be prevented by a sedulous study of the Hegelian philosophy.

— Schopenhauer

To read all kinds of expositions of the doctrines of philosophers, or generally the history of philosophy instead of their own original works, is as if we wanted to have our food masticated by someone else. Would anyone read the history of the world if he were free to behold with his own eyes the interesting events of ancient times? Now as regards the history of philosophy, such an autopsy of its subject is actually accessible to him, thus in the original writings of philosophers wherein he may still limit himself, for the sake of brevity, to the main and well-chosen chapters, the more so as they all teem with repetitions which he can spare himself. In this way, he will become acquainted with the essentials of their doctrines in an authentic and unadulterated form, whereas from the half-dozen histories of philosophy that appear annually he obtains merely what has entered the head of a professor of philosophy, and indeed in the form in which it there appears. Now it is obvious that the thoughts of a great mind are bound to shrink considerably in order to find room in the three-pound brain of such a parasite of philosophy whence they are to emerge once more clothed in the particular jargon of the day and accompanied by his serious and solemn criticisms.

— Schopenhauer

Most people learn nothing from experience, except confirmation of their prejudices.

— Bertrand Russell

Intelligence unchecked by integrity is a form of animalistic brutishness.

The greatest businessmen are the greatest liberators.

I’m not insulting you, I’m describing you.

— Bill Murray

… the first condition of real and genuine achievements in philosophy, as in poetry and the fine arts, is a wholly abnormal disposition which, contrary to the rule of human nature, puts in the place of the subjective striving for the well-being of one’s own person, a wholly objective striving, directed to an achievement that is foreign to one’s own person and precisely on this account is very appropriately called eccentric and sometimes even ridiculed as quixotic.

— Schopenhauer

My philosophy just does not interest those gentlemen [i.e. typical university philosophers]; but this is because the investigation of truth does not interest them. On the contrary, what does interest them are their salaries, the guineas they charge, and their titles as privy councillors.

— Schopenhauer

Who has not the spirit of his age, Has all the misfortune of his age.

— Voltaire

After his fortieth year, any man of merit, anyone who is not just one of five-sixths of humanity so grievously and miserably endowed by nature, will hardly be free from a certain touch of misanthropy. For as is natural, he has inferred the characters of others from his own, and has gradually become disappointed.

— Schopenhauer

In general, of course, the sages of all times have always said the same thing and the fools, that is, the immense majority of all times, have always done the same thing, namely the opposite; and so it will always be.

— Schopenhauer

The virtue of modesty is, I suppose, a fine invention for fools and knaves; for according to it everyone has to speak of himself as if he were a fool; and this is a fine leveling down since it then looks as if there were in the world none but fools and knaves.

On the other hand, the cheapest form of pride is national pride; for the man affected therewith betrays a want of individual qualities of which he might be proud, since he would not otherwise resort to that which he shares with so many millions. The man who possesses outstanding personal qualities will rather see most clearly the faults of his own nation, for he has them constantly before his eyes. But every miserable fool, who has nothing in the world whereof he would be proud, resorts finally to being proud of the very nation to which he belongs. In this he finds compensation and is now ready and thankful to defend, tooth and nail, all the faults and follies peculiar to it.

— Schopenhauer

A preoccupation with fools is foolish.

More so than it squanders and destroys wealth, contemporary society squanders and destroys the intellect.

When Englishmen of education display on the Continent their Jewish sabbatarian superstition and other stupid bigotry, they should be treated with undisguised derision, until they be shamed into common sense.

— Schopenhauer

There on the ground lies virtue, deprived of fame.

— Publilius Syrus (as quoted by Schopenhauer)

… at all times and in all circumstances, all over the globe, the exists a conspiracy, framed by nature herself, of all the mediocre, inferior, and dull minds against intellect and understanding. … Everyone praises only as much as he himself hopes to achieve. … narrow-mindedness and stupidity always and everywhere, in all situations and circumstances, detest nothing in the world so heartily and thoroughly as understanding, intellect, and talent. Here mediocrity remains true to itself, as shown in all the spheres and affairs that relate to life, for it endeavours everywhere to suppress, indeed to eradicate and exterminate, superior qualities in order to exist alone. No kindness, no benevolence can reconcile it with intellectual superiority. … This is one of the main obstacles to mankind’s progress in every sphere.

— Schopenhauer

That city [is best] in which those who are not wronged, no less than those who are wronged, exert themselves to punish the wrongdoers.

— Athenian Statesman Solon, via Plutarch

Our society is technologically infused but morally eviscerated.

What does it mean when we say to offend someone? It means to cause him to doubt the high opinion he has of himself.

— Schopenhauer

… whoever is not susceptible to reasons will be to floggings.

— Schopenhauer

A great heart is a special qualification for the path of actions and a great mind for that of works. Each of the two paths actions has its own advantages and drawbacks, and the main difference is that actions pass whereas works remain. Of actions there remains only the memory that becomes ever more feeble, distorted, and insignificant, and must gradually cease to exist, unless history takes it up and then hands it on to posterity in a petrified state. Works, on the other hand, are themselves immortal and, especially if they are in writing, can live throughout the ages. The noblest deed has only a temporary influence, whereas the work of genius lives and has a beneficial and ennobling effect for all time. Of Alexander the Great only the name and memory live; whereas Plato and Aristotle, Homer and Horace live and have an immediate effect.

— Schopenhauer

Whereas encouraging established institutions to correct this or that particular injustice can make sense, it is a folly to personally invite them to correct patterns of abuse, for these patterns exist precisely because of the nature of the institution, and no reasoned argument will ever incline an institution to change its nature. On the contrary, an established institution that isn’t already founded upon the ideals of reason is just as immune to it as is a stupid animal: it will change its habits, but only through constant recourse to punishment or bribery. Since no individual can wield either in meaningful amounts, then either one must appeal to other institutions, or one must establish new institutions.

Although envy imposed silence on all who lived with you, those men will come who will judge without ill-will and without favour.

— Seneca, as quoted by Schopenhauer

The popular refrain “correlation does not imply causation” contains an important truth, however, correlation actually does imply causation, but only under certain conditions. Just what those conditions are seems never to be accurately pointed out by those who like to repeat the refrain. But this should be unsurprising – the refrain is imprecise and therefore untrue, so we shouldn’t expect a careful analysis from those who like to repeat it.

Vitam impendere vero [Dedicate one’s life to truth].

— Schopenhauer

Everyone agrees that social reform depends on individuals reforming themselves; unfortunately, few believe that they themselves need reforming. Hence the Jesuit maxim: “Give me a child for for his first seven years and I’ll give you the man.”

There are three kinds of minds; first those that acquire insight and an understanding of things from their own resources; then those that recognize what is right when it is pointed out to them by others; and finally those that are incapable of doing either one or the other.

— Machiavelli (as quoted by Schopenhauer)

A successful agorist is a jailed agorist.

Over-educated: being so mired in twaddle that you can’t tell that it’s twaddle.

… when philosophers speak, gods and dynasties fall.

— Will Durant

Of all the hard-won political freedoms you enjoy, freedom of speech is the greatest, for it allows you to make those appeals that will eventually win them all. If you’re fortunate enough to be living in an era and a society that respects freedom of speech, then rather than gloating in an arrogant and passive pride, honor those who won this liberty for you by defending the rights of all victims of all variety of oppression, whether or not you personally are affected by them.

Precisely when a civilization values important truths regardless of foreseeable practical effects is when these truths will create powerful practical effects. In other words, the Ancient Greek attitude toward truth creates a virtuous circle, whereas the current attitude that only cares about “results” creates a vicious circle.

… science like any field is driven by prejudice. The discovery of DNA, the genetic material, could have happened 50 years sooner if it hadn’t been for the bias and prejudice.

— Craig Venter

The Left is oblivious to unintended consequences and the Right doesn’t give a damn about consequences.

The President makes decisions. He’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ‘em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration? You know, fiction!

— Stephen Colbert

In the modern parlance, a criticism identifies a superficial problem, like pointing out a missing comma; an insult identifies a problem that demands a change in perspective. There are good and bad criticisms, but since the modern man does not want to change his perspective, insults are always considered uncouth.

I don’t like ass kissers, flag wavers or team players. I like people who buck the system. Individualists. I often warn people: “Somewhere along the way, someone is going to tell you, ‘There is no “I” in team.’ What you should tell them is, ‘Maybe not. But there is an “I” in independence, individuality and integrity.’

— George Carlin

You have no right to secede from justice.

Corporatism is property laundering.

The best way to celebrate the freedoms your forefathers earned for you is to fight to extend them to every sphere and for every person. To regard their work as an end and not as a beginning is to be a traitor to their cause.

All men have one common original, they participate in one common nature, and consequently have one common right. No reason can be assigned why one man should exercise any power over his fellow creatures more than another, unless they voluntarily vest him with it.

— Alexander Hamilton

[They] consider everything which has been either unknown or unattempted by themselves or their teachers, as beyond the limits of possibility, and thus, with the most consummate pride and envy, convert the defects of their own discoveries into a calumny on nature and a source of despair to every one else. Hence arose the New Academy, which openly professed skepticism, and consigned mankind to eternal darkness; hence the notion that [the laws of simple action], are beyond man’s reach, and cannot possibly be discovered…

— Francis Bacon

Much evil in this world hides behind the shroud of “don’t insult me when I do wrong”, as if criticism of character is per se unreasonable. What should matter to a good person is whether the insult is sincerely intended and grounded in fact, not whether one can accurately describe it as a “personal attack.” Evil hides behind “don’t insult”, because what that means is “don’t highlight that what I have done is wrong, for I wish to go on doing it.”

Fools mistake cowardice for prudence, and vice versa.

The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.

— John W. Gardner

[Some may raise the question] whether we talk of perfecting natural philosophy alone according to our method, or the other sciences also, such as logic, ethics, politics. We certainly intend to comprehend them all.

— Francis Bacon

The advancement of science is the work of a powerful genius, the prize and reward belong to the vulgar or to princes, who (with few exceptions) are scarcely moderately well informed.

— Francis Bacon

Contrary to “transhumanism”, which pines for a “technological singularity”, there will be no saving grace in mere technology. Technology will of course be crucial to our long-term survival as a species, but technology merely confers power, it amplifies the consequences of human choices, it does not inform about what the right choices are.

I don’t need to understand your position [to know that it is wrong] because I understand my position.

— Objectivist

Bacon, Locke and Newton. I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral sciences.

— Thomas Jefferson

[It is well] to distinguish three species and degrees of ambition. First, that of men who are anxious to enlarge their own power in their country, which is a vulgar and degenerate kind; next, that of men who strive to enlarge the power and empire of their country over mankind, which is more dignified but not less covetous; but if one were to endeavor to renew and enlarge the power and empire of mankind in general over the universe, such ambition is both more sound and more noble than the other two. Now the empire of man over things is founded on the arts and sciences alone, for nature is only to be commanded by obeying her.

— Francis Bacon

The burden of proof that patents are justified lies squarely on the patent wielder. He has not supplied it, so we may therefore justly infer that he is a criminal. We don’t suspend judgment about a rapist because “maybe a good pro-rape argument exists”, nor should we suspend judgment about patent-wielders because “maybe a good pro-patent argument exists.”

… that which is most useful in practice is most correct in theory.

— Francis Bacon

… in the same manner as we are very thankful for light which enables us to enter on our way, to practice arts, to read, to distinguish each other, and yet sight is more excellent and beautiful than the various uses of light; so is the contemplation of things as they are, free from superstition or imposture, error or confusion, much more dignified in itself than all the advantage to be derived from discoveries.

— Francis Bacon

Godel’s incompleteness theorem had a profound affect on me that I find hard to quantify. I grew up starry eyed, thinking that our minds have virtually limitless capabilities and that mathematics could answer everything (naive, I know). Then I came across Russell’s paradox and the incompleteness theorems and for the first time (late high school) got confronted by the limits of our ‘tools’ (with proof!). And then encountering Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle was just depressing and I took to computer science.

— anon

Do you believe that it is possible to know the essential nature of the soul in a proper way without knowing the essential nature of the whole universe?

— Schopenhauer, citing Socrates

Another great advantage that poetical achievements have over philosophical is that all the works of poetry can exist simultaneously without thwarting and impeding one another; in fact even the most heterogeneous can be enjoyed and appreciated by one and the same mind. On the other hand, hardly has any philosophical system come into the world when it already contemplates the destruction of all of its brothers, like an Asiatic sultan when he ascends to the throne. For just as there can be only one queen in a beehive, so can only one philosophy be the order of the day. Thus systems are by nature as unsociable as spiders, each of which sits alone in its web and sees how many flies will allow themselves to be caught therein, but approaches another spider merely in order to battle with it. Thus whereas the works of poets pasture peacefully side by side like lambs, those of philosophy are born beasts of prey and, even in their destructive impulse, they are like scorpions, spiders, and the larvae of some insects and are turned primarily against their own species. They appear in the world like men clad in armour from the seed of the dragon’s teeth of Jason and till now have, like these, mutually exterminated one another. This struggle has already lasted for more than two thousand years; will there ever result from it a final victory and lasting peace?

— Schopenhauer

There is no cloud; it’s just someone else’s computer.

— anon

As the edge of the sword is sharpened, so is the potential to divide.

— Daniel McKay

The colloquial sense of the term “idealist” is merely a synonym for “sincere”, for it only means: a person who means what he says. The contrary of “idealist” then is not “practical” or “pragmatic”, it is “insincere” or “dishonest”, and the measure of the self-righteousness of the anti-idealist is the measure of their viciousness.

I am walking across a field and darkness comes on. I am aware of my surroundings but not engaged in what would commonly be called reflection. Suddenly a dim shape looms up before me and brings me to an uneasy halt. I am uncertain what it is and do not know whether to proceed or to draw back. This, says the pragmatist, is typical of the way every problem arises; it grows out of a situation in which activity is blocked. Here a number of hypotheses dart into my mind: is the thing a stump, a rock, a bull? These hypotheses are “ideas”; but what exactly are ideas? The pragmatist’s answer gives the essence of his theory of thought: Ideas, he says, are plans of action. My real interest, when I think “stump”, is not in a theoretic identification of something as a member of the vegetable kingdom, but in getting safely by; the judgement “that is a bull” is essentially a suggestion that I draw back or take to my heels. Suppose that in fact I judge “that is a stump”, and in accordance with this “plan of action” proceed on my way. If the adoption of this plan takes me prosperously to the other side of the field, the judgement is verified and true, since that was the end for which the thought was invoked. On the other hand, if there comes a snorting and pounding behind me and I am forthwith hoist by my own temerity, the plan has not worked; the judgement is erroneous.

— Brand Blanshard

One cannot settle the method of studying a thing without some notion of what the thing is, and a wrong notion may produce a wrong method. It is thus idle […] to profess indifference to philosophy. What such professions commonly mean is not that philosophy is excluded, which is pretty clearly impossible, but that it is admitted unawares in large and dogmatic doses.

— Brand Blanshard

Fools abound, which is normal because the youth abound. In general, dealing with young fools is about as pleasurable and necessary as changing a diaper, and as we blame not the little baby and blame a little the foolish youth, what is more unseemly than either is the verbal diarrhea of the vociferous old fool.

Logic is a constraint on human thought, permeating all legitimate understanding. This creates an illusion for some that the universe is “logical”, but that’s a category error. The universe is neither logical nor illogical; the concept of logic simply doesn’t apply to existence as such. If you believe otherwise, consider the question: At what point or by what process did you learn that the whole universe, from end to end and through every scale and relation, was logical? If you aren’t omniscient, how could you have made such an inference? In fact you couldn’t. What you are doing is projecting the way your mind works onto reality.

One of our thorniest social problems is that people don’t want solutions to their problems, they want quick fixes.

A large fraction of human beings who have the opportunity to advance their interests will take it, even when that means harming innocents. So where an opportunity is left for those in government to secretly conspire in order to gain money or power, we must believe that it is going to happen. The focus then should be on closing these loopholes government has left for itself, for surely there are cockroaches there taking advantage of them. The focus should not be on the cockroaches themselves, except as a secondary matter. And that is what is wrong with “conspiracy theories” – they distract from the fundamental.

It is expected that the established order should support those who support it and thwart those that don’t. If the order is good, this social inevitability creates a virtuous cycle; but if not, it creates a vicious one. The latter is the virtuous dissenter’s burden.

I don’t enjoy losing. Particularly not at chess. I don’t consider losing to be a natural part of my game, and if I do lose something must have failed. In that case something is wrong. That might sound a tad arrogant, but I believe it helps me. I always believe that I’m the best. As long as I’m at the top of my game, I’m not going to lose. For that reason it’s difficult to accept defeats when they do occur.

— Magnus Carlsen

According to Bible myth, we got kicked out of the Garden of Eden because we ate from the Tree of Knowledge. But by continuing to pursue knowledge, we aim to create our own technological Garden of Eden, the pinnacle of which is human life extension. By such means we create for ourselves not only what God refused us but the only thing we could ever want from him, and thus we eject him from the garden of our soul – there ceases to be any reason to care about him. There are of course many people who would view this ultimate achievement as the ultimate insult to God and religion, and thus we ought to consider the ways in which this hidden motive is thwarting the advance of technology in the present day.

Idolatry and vilification are two sides of the same foolish coin. The fool uses ideals as a tool of either delusion or abuse; but for the mature mind, an ideal serves as a standard and reference by which real improvements are made over time, as part of an evolutionary process toward the ideal.

We consider it dangerous for our knowledge to lodge in heads not fit to contain it, for who can tell how they may misuse their power? There’s nothing worse than an educated fool.Don Pedro and the Devil

— Edgar Maass,

Shameless incorrigibility is the very bedrock of contemporary society. This incorrigibility manifests from above as unaccountable authoritarianism, and from below as an arbitrary and intractable impertinence toward authority. This double-whammy of unreformability is a vicious circle: those above see their authoritarianism as a proper response to foolishness from below; and those below see their impertinence as a badge of independence proudly borne in the face of unaccountable authority. These share the same root, namely authoritarianism, for subjectivism is nothing more than an unaccountable authoritarianism of self.

If we contrast the rapid progress of this mischievous discovery [gunpowder] with the slow and laborious advances of reason, science, and the arts of peace, a philosopher, according to his temper, will laugh or weep at the folly of mankind.

— Edward Gibbon

The success of a given society is a function of the principles by which it is ordered.

The Philosophical Judas: Your Philosophy is Correct Sir, That much is True; But You are a Bastard, So I say: Fuck You.

Mere experience is as little able to replace thinking as is reading. Pure empiricism is related to thinking as eating to digestion and assimilation. When empiricism boasts that it alone through its discoveries has advanced human knowledge, it is as if the mouth were to boast that the existence of the body were solely its work.

— Schopenhauer

Ignorance degrades a man only when it is found in company with wealth. A poor man is subdued by his poverty and distress; with him his work takes the place of knowledge and occupies his thoughts. On the other hand, the wealthy who are ignorant live merely for their pleasures and are like animals, as can be seen every day. Moreover, there is the reproach that wealth and leisure have not been used for that which bestows on them the greatest possible value.

— Schopenhauer

A characteristic sign of all first-rate minds is the directness of all their judgements and opinions. All that they express and assert is the result of their own original thinking and everywhere proclaims itself as such even by the style of delivery. Accordingly, like princes, they have an imperial immediacy in the realm of the mind … Therefore every genuine and original thinker is to this extent like a monarch; he is immediate and perceives no one who is his superior. Like the decrees of a monarch, his judgements spring from his own supreme power and come directly from himself. For he no more accepts authorities than does the monarch take orders; on the contrary, he admits nothing but what he himself has confirmed.

— Schopenhauer

The finest thought runs the risk of being irretrievably forgotten if it is not written down…

— Schopenhauer

The fact that you’re getting angry at the CEO who used the laws to his advantage and not at the laws and the system of ideas that created them proves that you are merely an uppity slave who should just keep his head down and work harder.

A failure to be self-critical is the ultimate failure.

It is foolish to believe that “good intentions” are a good excuse for avoidable errors. The point is not to ask whether your error was a consequence of nefarious intentions, but to seek deeper reasons for the error, and particularly in correctable habits of behavior, for virtue is not an act, it is a habit.

I am always saying “Glad to’ve met you” to somebody I’m not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.

— J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

It often happens that what is said by an expert is easier to understand and far more lucid… Consequently a man will be the more obscure, the more worthless he is.

— Quintillian

To mar the expression of an idea … for the sake of economy of words, is a deplorable lack of intelligence.

— Schopenhauer

Walking is the foundation of thought.

What we have to learn to do we learn by doing.

— Aristotle

The most viciously destructive are those who value their own belief that they are virtuous more than they value virtue, and those who believe that virtue is a myth. The common criminal is destructive, but in a localized sense. He is ashamed, or at least conceals his crimes as if he should be. But the former types openly wage global war on the good, including on the belief that the good is the good. The common criminal is merely a parasite, but the former type actively pursues the degradation and destruction of humanity, a pursuit he shrouds in the ironic naming of his intentions – they are, he says, “good.” But ask him about his most serious intellectual foibles, the rigid arbitrariness and clashing of his most basic beliefs, and observe him bare his teeth. He is wicked, and at least part of him knows it.

Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.

— Schopenhauer

Freedom for relativists: You are free if you believe you are free, you believe you are free to the extent that your actions are not limited, and your actions are not limited to the extent that they are self-limited. Therefore, to be free, learn to limit yourself, learn to define freedom as your capacity to neuter your natural abilities such as your society demands such that your neutered nature has total freedom to act. Blessed is the person who has had their natural abilities limited by the educational system, before they reached the time that their loss would be felt.

It is the same in literature as in life; wherever we turn, we at once encounter the incorrigible rabble of mankind, everywhere present in legions, filling and defiling everything, like flies in summer. Hence the immense number of bad books, these rank weeds of literature, which deprive the wheat of nourishment and choke it. Thus they use up all the time, money, and attention of the public which by right belong to good books an their noble aims, while they themselves are written merely for the purpose of bringing in money or for procuring posts and positions. They are, therefore, not merely useless but positively harmful. Nine-tenths of the whole of our present-day literature have no other object than to extract from the pockets of the public a few schillings. Author, publisher, and reviewer have positively conspired to bring this about.

— Schopenhauer

… whoever writes for fools always finds a large [audience] …

— Schopenhauer

Inferior books are intellectual poison; they ruin the mind.

— Schopenhauer

… approximately every thirty years, we see the scientific, literary, and artistic spirit of the times declare itself bankrupt. During such a period, the errors in question have increased to such an extent that they collapse under the weight of their own absurdity and the opposition to them has at the same time become stronger. The position is thus now changed, but often there follows an error in the opposite direction.

— Schopenhauer

[If] a person enters your home for the purpose of harming you, you cannot reasonably expect the police to arrive in time to stop him. This is not the fault of the police – it is a problem of physics.

— Sam Harris

The doctor sees man in all his weakness; the lawyer sees him in all his wickedness; and the theologian sees him in all his folly and stupidity.

— Schopenhauer

While optimists inflate their hopes and pessimists deflate them, realists evaluate, plan, and act.

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

— Barry Goldwater

The new Dark Ages are upon us, and this is what it looks like. Nobody expected the Millennial Inquisition.

— Kel Lea

Western politicians are on average no better – and no worse – than the population they’re drawn from, and have no more power than what the culture at large grants them. It is possible that social and economic chaos might convert our democracies into totalitarian dictatorships, but until that happens, if the populace doesn’t like its government, it has only itself to blame; and if you as an individual don’t like what your government is doing, it is futile to blame politicians, what you should do instead is blame your neighbors.

Modern politics: the incompetent leading the incompetent while the competent shrug and walk away.

As fireflies are drawn into the swirl of the fire, idiots are drawn into the vortex of current events.

When foreign terrorists murder innocents, Western civilization stands united in a clear-cut moral outrage. But when morally unjustified laws lead to unjustified policies, and then to unjustified police action, and finally to systematic oppression, imprisonment, and even democide, Western civilization is deaf, dumb, and mute. You won’t fix the first problem without addressing the second.

Rational critics are guardians of a society’s standards; when a society attacks its critics for being critics, it is attacking its own future.

You are not entitled to have your views treated with respect. At best you are entitled to be listened to long enough that your views can be evaluated. But if your views turn out to be stupid or immoral, then disrespect of your views is the only moral response. And if you can’t handle this truth, then disrespect of you is the only moral response.

Humble deference to reason seems arrogant to the fool.

Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

— Richard Feynman

The System is terrifying; I don’t want it to be terrifying; Therefore, it is not terrifying.

Definitely read REASON and LIBERTY, it’s a calming elixir in a world where everyone is recommending meth.

— Marc Clair

Because the human mind is prepared to have up to 150 friends (the so-called “Dunbar Number”) and most of us are not at 150, so we replace them with who we see on TV or in magazines.

— James Altucher

The only real revolution is in the enlightenment of the mind and the improvement of character, the only real emancipation is individual, and the only real revolutionaries are philosophers and saints.

— Will Durant, The Lessons of History

The day of combination [into bigger and bigger corporations] is here to stay. Individualism has gone, never to return.

— John D. Rockefeller

No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.

— Socrates

In the humanities, it is most unfortunate to be original and correct. It is much better to be unoriginal and correct, for then one can rely on citing existing authorities when making one’s arguments, and these are the only currency society commonly accepts in this realm.

Philosophical discourse demands a sheer candidness, a sincere openness that would get one brutalized in more ordinary contexts. A measure of social progress then is how closely ordinary social contexts approximate the sincerity of philosophic discourse. Of course, there are those who bring the ordinary style of discourse to the philosophic realm, but they are frauds.

Impunity is the rule in our society; dismissing criticism rather than engaging it is its hallmark.

Horgan: Krauss, Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson have been bashing philosophy as a waste of time. Do you agree?

Ellis: If they really believe this they should stop indulging in low-grade philosophy in their own writings. You cannot do physics or cosmology without an assumed philosophical basis. You can choose not to think about that basis: it will still be there as an unexamined foundation of what you do. The fact you are unwilling to examine the philosophical foundations of what you do does not mean those foundations are not there; it just means they are unexamined.

There can’t be a great army without a great general, and there can’t be a great general without a great army.

— Michael Flatley

When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies at an afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can’t run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn’t fight it’s way out of a piss-soaked paper bag.

— General Patton

A people more anxious to find happiness than to end injustice is a people that will entrench injustice and compound misery, just as one who neglects his disease will never find health.

History should be written as philosophy.

— Voltaire

High thoughts must have high language.

— Aristophanes

A state which should rely upon force alone would soon fall, for though men are naturally gullible they are also naturally obstinate, and power, like taxes, succeeds best when it is invisible and indirect. Hence the state, in order to maintain itself, used and forged many instruments of indoctrination – the family, the church, the school – to build in the soul of the citizen a habit of patriotic loyalty and pride. This saved a thousand policemen, and prepared the public mind for that docile coherence which is indispensable in war.

— Will Durant

The feminization of men in the past few decades is very convenient to despotic impulse, so it is natural to wonder whether this trend is less rooted in misguided egalitarianism than it is in an agenda driven by Machiavellian elites.

Lawyers specify the boundaries of your cage, but since you don’t understand the legalese, you feel as though you’re not in a cage.

… all economic history is the slow heart-beat of the social organism, a vast systole and diastole of naturally concentrating wealth and naturally explosive revolution.

— Will Durant

To transmute greed into thrift, violence into argument, murder into litigation, and suicide into philosophy has been part of the task of civilization. It was a great advance when the strong consented to eat the weak by due process of law.

— Will Durant

When the truth is driven underground, up comes the displaced raw sewage.

Civilization is the precarious labor and luxury of a minority; the basic masses of mankind hardly change from millennium to millennium.

— Will Durant

Especially in the humanities, suspicion of an alleged expert should be inversely proportional to the incisive criticisms they’ve offered of their peers, for these disciplines are rife with both subtle and obvious corruptions, and no trustworthy practitioner could fail to be aware of and alert you to his chosen discipline’s faults.

The strength of a ruler is often the weakness of his government.

— Will Durant

Those who have denied the reality of moral distinctions, may be ranked among the disingenuous disputants; nor is it conceivable, that any human creature could ever seriously believe, that all characters and actions were alike entitled to the affection and regard of every one. The difference, which nature has placed between one man and another, is so wide, and this difference is still so much farther widened, by education, example, and habit, that, where the opposite extremes come at once under our apprehension, there is no scepticism so scrupulous, and scarce any assurance so determined, as absolutely to deny all distinction between them.

— David Hume

It’s easier to doubt oneself than to doubt an established institution. Fools prefer neurotic uncertainty because it is easy, and charlatans love this promiscuous self-doubt because it confers to them the fool’s power of choice.

… the stability of a society may be partly measured by the inverse relation with the rate of interest …

— Will Durant

History, said Bacon, is the planks of a shipwreck; more of the past is lost than has been saved.

— Will Durant

Modernity is a cap superimposed upon the Middle Ages, which always remain.

— Will Durant

Divisiveness is the natural outcome for a culture that has rejected reason. Irrationality is not principle that can unify a large civilization; rather, it inexorably divides a people according to their arbitrary personal preferences. When those preferences trespass one another, then the only recourse is to force, which is expressed as an increasingly hysterical clamoring over control of the political apparatus. As each party achieves some of what it wants, the other party becomes that much more angry and afraid, until after a long train of mutual abuse, there is a seething hatred that may ultimately become gross inhumanity and oppression, genocide, or if the parties are more equal in strength, a civil war.

As in our own days, there was absolute equality before the law [in ancient Egypt] – whenever the contesting parties had equal resources and influence.

— Will Durant

Everyone is an idealist. The difference is whether their idealism is in their head, their heart, or their stomach.

Moral imbeciles make for bad scientists.

Do not spend thy time in wishing, or thou wilt come to a bad end.

— Egyptian text

… it is only the learned man who rules himself.

— Egyptian text

Let thy mouth read the book in thy hand; take advice from those who know more than thou dost.” – Egyptian text

“The youth has a backside, and attends when he is beaten, … for the ears of the young are placed on the backside.

— Egyptian text

Thou didst beat my backside, and thy instructions went into my ear.

— Egyptian text

If a man bring an accusation against a man, and charge him with a (capital) crime, but cannot prove it, the accuser shall be put to death. … If a man practise brigandage and be captured, that man shall be put to death. If the brigand be not captured, the man who has been robbed shall, in the presence of the god, make an itemized statement of his loss, and the city and governor within whose province and jurisdiction the robbery was committed shall compensate him for whatever was lost. If it be a life (that was lost), the city and the governor shall pay one mina to the heirs.

— Code of Hammurabi, as cited by Will Durant

The glory of reason, and the glory of mankind, consists in the successful synthesis of reason and ethics. Until those who profess to follow reason shall take it as seriously as those who profess to follow God take him, the former will always lose; and until such time as the rational equivalent to religious concepts (such as blasphemy, sacred, holy, reverence, heresy, and so on) gain moral weight and currency in a culture, reason can never prevail in it. That reason cannot prevail so long as it has been morally eviscerated, unreason knows; ergo the dogma, instituted and maintained at the very foundation of contemporary humanities, that there is an intrinsic breach between what is rational and what is moral. So where reason now stands in the ethical realm is where it stood in the empirical realm in the time of Francis Bacon – that is, in a very backward and barbaric state – and we must now strive to recapitulate his revolution, but this time in realm of rational morality.

A nation is born stoic, and dies epicurean.

— Durant

In the end nothing is lost; for good or evil every event has effects forever.

— Durant

Barbarism is always around civilization, amid it and beneath it, ready to engulf it by arms, or mass migration, or unchecked fertility. Barbarism is like the jungle; it never admits its defeat; it waits patiently for centuries to recover the territory it has lost.

— Durant

Compared with the giants of the past, [contemporary philosophers] are a sorry bunch of dwarfs. They are thinking deep thoughts and giving scholarly lectures to academic audiences, but hardly anybody in the world outside is listening. They are historically insignificant. At some time toward the end of the nineteenth century, philosophers faded from public life. Like the snark in Lewis Carroll’s poem, they suddenly and silently vanished. So far as the general public was concerned, philosophers became invisible.

— Freeman Dyson

Libertarianism isn’t an alternative, it’s a microcosm.

Nothing is more sovereign than your own awareness, for your awareness is what ascribes something as “sovereign.”

Religion does not prosper under prosperity; the senses liberate themselves from pious restraints, and formulate philosophies that will justify their liberation.

— Will Durant

Every “is” implies “ought”, for every “is”, to be meaningful, must be backed by rationality: the moral commitment to follow reason.

And whosoever … either now or after I am dead, shall be a lamp unto themselves, and a refuge unto themselves, shall betake themselves to no external refuge, but, holding fast to the Truth as their lamp, … shall not look for refuge to any one besides themselves – it is they … who shall reach the very topmost height! But they must be anxious to learn!

— Buddha

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.

— Frank Lloyd Wright

The Mohammedan Conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying from within. … A nation must love peace, but keep its powder dry.

— Will Durant

Discourses in philosophy have such a charm for me that they distract me from all else, and I forcibly restrain myself from listening to them lest the necessary duties of the hour should be neglected. … The superiority of man, rests on the jewel of reason.

— Akbar

Those who understand history are condemned to watch other idiots repeat it.

— Peter Lamborn Wilson

History repeats, not because people don’t study history, but because ignorance of rational philosophy breeds a well-defined range of fallacies. The repetitious cycles of barbarism throughout history are nothing more than the predictable ways in which social power combines with ignorance. A study of history can be useful to the project of engineering a transition from insanity to sanity, but history itself confers little understanding of what constitutes sanity. What it educates one about is precedent, and only the delusional confuse precedent for principle.

Fools can invent more hypotheses than philosophers can ever refute…

— Will Durant

Once more, alas, I find myself unable to follow the best Liberal thought. What the World’s contention amounts to, at bottom, is simply the doctrine that a man engaged in combat with superstition should be very polite to superstition. This, I fear, is nonsense. The way to deal with superstition is not to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous. Is it, perchance, cherished by persons who should know better? Then their folly should be brought out into the light of day, and exhibited there in all its hideousness until they flee from it, hiding their heads in shame.

True enough, even a superstitious man has certain inalienable rights. He has a right to harbor and indulge his imbecilities as long as he pleases, provided only he does not try to inflict them upon other men by force. He has a right to argue for them as eloquently as he can, in season and out of season. He has a right to teach them to his children. But certainly he has no right to be protected against the free criticism of those who do not hold them… They are free to shoot back. But they can’t disarm their enemy.

— H.L. Mencken

I think anger and optimism is a good mix. It keeps me busy anyway.

— Robert Anton Wilson

I still remember that after you had thus amused me, I know not how long, with your fine philosophy, all I retained of it was a multitude of barbarous and dark words, proper to bewilder, perplex and tire out the best wits, and only invented the better to cover the vanity and ignorance of men like yourself, that would make us believe that they know all, and that under these obscure and ambiguous words are hid great mysteries which they alone are capable to understand. If you had seasoned me with that philosophy which formeth the mind to ratiocination, and insensibly accustoms it to be satisfied with nothing but solid reasons, and if you had given me those excellent precepts and doctrines which raise the soul above the assaults of fortune, and reduce her to an unshakable and always equal temper, and permit her not to be lifted up by prosperity nor debased by adversity; if you had taken care to give me knowledge of what we are and what are the first principles of things, and had assisted me in forming in my mind a fit idea of the greatness of this universe, and of the admirable order and motion of the parts thereof; if, I say, you had instilled into me this kind of philosophy, I should think myself incomparably more obliged to you than Alexander was to us Aristotle, and believe it my duty to recompense you otherwise than he did him. Should you not, instead of your flattery, have taught me somewhat of that point so important to a king, which is, what the reciprocal duties are of a sovereign to his subjects and those of subjects to their sovereigns; and ought not you to have considered that one day I should be obliged with the sword to dispute my life and my crown with my brothers?

— Aurangzeb (quoted by Bernier/Durant)

When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

— David Hume

The real root of “economic inequality” is that something is being stolen out from under our noses: our intellectual heritage, our right to act to transform the material universe for our ends, and our right of free exchange. Remedy for these crimes would not create material equality, but rather the equality of rights. Any remaining material inequality would be natural, justified, and critical to the general prosperity of mankind, for those who are more suited to materially lift mankind should have the more resources put at their disposal to do such lifting.

Dale Carnegie begins his book “How to win friends and influence people” with a discussion of human nature, and his leading examples are of murderous criminals. We can suppose these examples to be befitting of his proposed means and ends.

Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.

— Justice Louis D. Brandeis

Curiosity is insubordination in its purest form.

— Vladimir Nabokov

Life oscillates between Voltaire and Rousseau, Confucius and Lao-tze, Socrates and Christ. After every idea has had its day with us and we have fought for it not wisely or too well, we in our turn shall tire of the battle, and pass on to the young our thinning fascicle of ideals. Then we shall take to the woods with Jacques, Jean-Jacques and Lao-tze; we shall make friends of the animals, and discourse more contentedly than Machiavelli with simple peasant minds; we shall leave the world to stew in its own deviltry, and shall take no further thought of its reform. Perhaps we shall burn every book but one behind us, and find a summary of wisdom in the Tao-Te-Ching.

— Will Durant

The great mountain must crumble, The strong beam must break, And the wise man wither away like a plant.

— Confucius

The ancients who wished to illustrate the highest virtue throughout the empire first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their own selves. Wishing to cultivate their own selves, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.

Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their own selves were cultivated. Their own selves being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. Their states being rightly governed, the whole empire was mad tranquil and happy.

— Confucius

Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be

— English writer and literary critic William Hazlitt (1778-1830)

Science tells us how to heal and how to kill; it reduces the death rate in retail and then kills us wholesale in war; but only wisdom – desire coordinated in the light of all experience – can tell us when to heal and when to kill. To observe processes and to construct means is science; to criticize and coordinate ends is philosophy: and because these days our means and instruments have multiplied beyond our interpretation and synthesis of ideals and ends, our life is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. For a fact is nothing except in relation to desire; it is not complete except in relation to a purpose and a whole. Science without philosophy, facts without perspective and valuation, cannot save us from havoc and despair. Science gives us knowledge, but only philosophy gives us wisdom.

— Will Durant

Either find and support your betters, or inexorably be subjugated to your inferiors.

In youth not humble as befits a junior; in manhood doing nothing worthy of being handed down; and living on to old age – this is to be a pest.

— Confucius

If political leaders ought to be selected by a rational process, and if no rational process is possible in the current cultural context, then for the rational, resolving the latter problem is the priority of the day.

Nature is nothing else than Law.

— Chu Hsi

This Law of the universe is also, said Chu [Hsi], the law of morals and of politics. Morality is harmony with the laws of nature, and the highest statesman is the application of the laws of morality to the conduct of a state.

— Durant on Chu Hsi

When you have money, people will bend their brains around you.

— Bradley Newton Haug

IT IS AN EPOCHAL OUTRAGE that the contemporary ordering of society has no rational justification. It is an even GREATER OUTRAGE that state-funded charlatans have not only not been aiming at providing this justification, but actively wage an intellectual war on the idea that there could or should be a justification. Contrary to their propaganda, mankind is presently frozen in a state of constantly stifled progress; in spite of our stunning capacity to create distracting electronics, we live in an era of overall stagnation and at least looming decay. The universities are almost completely politicized, so state-funded professors couldn’t do this job if they wanted to. We must pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and forge a new paradigm, creating our next era’s Academy.

The problem of free will is the problem of understanding what the problem of free will is.

A simple institutional integrity check: For some important issue X, point out that they are wrong and why, and then if they either 1) arbitrarily dismiss/ignore/attack you or 2) claim their readership/sponsorship/voters wouldn’t be open to hearing that truth so they can’t embrace it either, then they have no integrity.

Many frustrated by the 2016 Presidential Election aren’t frustrated over how horrible the candidates are in any absolute sense, but only because they truly can’t figure out who is the lesser evil. For them, it is not so much that they sense a looming violation of principle (they never had any sense in this area), than that they feel they have been diligently committed to solving a puzzle only to find that it has no solution.

Foolish men, while doing crooked things, offer their prayers to questionable gods, striving to obtain happiness.

— Kaibara Ekken

It is as difficult to begin a civilization without robbery as it is to maintain it without slaves.

— Will Durant

… empires like Persia and Carthage that would feel the challenge of Greek commerce, and would unite in a war to crush Greece between them into a harmless vassalage; and, in the north, warlike hordes recklessly breeding, restlessly marching, who would sooner or later pour down over the mountain barriers and do what the Dorians had done – break through what Cicero was to call the Greek border woven on the barbarian robe, and destroy a civilization that they could not understand. Hardly any of these surrounding nations cared for what to the Greeks was the very essence of life – liberty to be, to think, to speak, and to do. Every one of these peoples except the Phoenicians lived under despots, surrendered their souls to superstition , and had small experience of the stimulus of freedom or the life of reason. This was why the Greeks called them all, too indiscriminately, barbaroi, barbarians; a barbarian was a man content to believe without reason and to live without liberty.

— Will Durant

Many undeserving men are rich, while their betters are poor. But we will not exchange what we are for what they have, since the one gift abides while the other passes from man to man.

— Solon

‘Good OOP’ is still waiting for a much better notion to replace the idea of a ‘Class’.

— Alan Kay

It used to be the case that people were admonished to ‘not re-invent the wheel’. We now live in an age that spends a lot of time ‘reinventing the flat tire!’

— Alan Kay

A savage distrusts a camera, believing it will steal his soul, and a barbarian distrusts reason, for the same reason.

Greek religion itself had paved the way [for rational thought] by talking of Moira, or Fate, as rule of both gods and men: here was that idea of law, as superior to incalculable personal decree, which would mark the essential difference between science and mythology, as well as between despotism and democracy. Man became free when he recognized that he was subject to law. That the Greeks, so far as our knowledge goes, were the first to achieve this recognition and this freedom in both philosophy and government is the secret of their accomplishment, and of their importance in history.

— Will Durant

Philosophy is fearsome to one who hides from himself.

The two rival zeniths of European culture – ancient Hellas [Greece] and Renaissance Italy – rested upon no larger political organization than the city-state. … Ideally – in the aspirations of philosophers – Greece was to consist of sovereign city-states cooperating in a Pythagorean harmony. Aristotle conceived the state as an association of freemen acknowledging one government and capable of meeting in one assembly; a state with more than ten thousand citizens, he thought, would be impracticable. … Greece would have been impossible without the city-state. Only through this sense of civic individuality, this exuberant assertion of independence, this diversity of institutions, customs, arts, and gods, was Greece stimulated, by competition and emulation, to live human life with zest and fullness and creative originality that no other society had ever known. Even in our own times, with all our vitality and variety, our mechanisms and powers, is there any community of like population or extent that pours into the stream of civilization such a profusion of gifts as flowed from the chaotic liberty of the Greeks?

— Will Durant

The hallmark of our era is scientific genius and technical excellence conjoined with gross moral incompetence. Frankenstein is a good metaphor for the whole of our culture – for example, consider the many movies that combine breathtaking technical execution with an abysmal, morally retarded story. In watching these we experience the horror of a Frankensteinian monster: the brilliant engineer-technician, hopelessly enslaved by the moron-megalomaniac.

Law is a bunch of words written on paper by people who are generally considered to be liars and thieves, so let’s try to figure out what’s right rather than what’s legal.

— Joe Rogan

The integrity of government depends on institutional integrity which depends on intellectual integrity which depends on rational philosophy.

The grain of truth in basic income (and Marxism) is that there is indeed an intellectual legacy our ancestors have given us that helps us do more with less, and that over time this legacy grows and we as a culture naturally wind up with more leisure. Indeed, a key problem with our current neo-feudalistic culture is that government has allowed the feudal class to appropriate this wealth of knowledge, this ultimate means of production that is not legitimate property, for themselves. We see this with patents, regulations, and most outrageously in the public funding of university professors doing research that is then sequestered from the general populace with paywalls or patents and other economic privileges.

We fight for political right to inflict schemes upon one another, when instead we should be free to set examples for one another.

It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks one already knows.

— Epictetus

New legislation may be proposed only at the first session of each month, and the member who offers it is held responsible for the result of its adoption; if these are seriously evil another member may within a year of the vote invoke upon him the graphe paranomon, or writ of illegality, and have him fined, disenfranchised, or put to death; this is Athens’ way of discouraging hasty legislation.

— Will Durant

[In Athenian courts] plaintiffs who fail to substantiate their charges are also fined; and if they receive less than a fifth of the jurors’ votes they are subject to a lashing, or to a penalty of a thousand drachmas [roughly 50,000 ca. 2016 dollars].

— Will Durant

Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain’t going to do any good; you’re just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it’s not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here… like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks.

— George Carlin

Schizophrenia is calling your country exceptional while attacking your countrymen for thinking of themselves as exceptional.

The Hellene [citizen of Ancient Greece] looks upon foreigners as natural slaves, since they so readily give absolute obedience to a king, and he does not account the servitude of such men to Greeks as unreasonable.

— Will Durant

Thucydides describing class war in Ancient Greece: “During seven days the Corcyraeans were engaged in butchering those of their fellow-citizens whom they regarded as their enemies… sons were killed by their fathers, and suppliants were dragged from the altar or slain upon it… Reckless audacity came now to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question was accounted inability to act on any… The ancient simplicity into which honor so largely entered was laughed down, and disappeared; and society became divided into camps in which no man trusted his fellow… Meanwhile the moderate part of the citizens perished between the two, either for not joining in the quarrel, or because envy would not suffer them to escape…” – as quoted by Durant

I regard Dennett’s denial of the existence of consciousness not as a new discovery or even as a serious possibility but rather as a form of intellectual pathology. The interest of his account lies in figuring out what assumptions could lead an intelligent person to paint himself into such a corner…

— John Searle

The first thing to realize, if you wish to become a philosopher, is that most people go through life with a whole world of beliefs that have no sort of rational justification, and that one man’s world of beliefs is apt to be incompatible with another man’s, so that they cannot both be right. People’s opinions are mainly designed to make them feel comfortable; truth, for most people is a secondary consideration.

— Bertrand Russell

Irony is wasted on the stupid.

— Oscar Wilde

A nation’s ideals are usually a disguise, and are not to be taken as history.

— Will Durant

Clear thought and clear expression seem divine things to the Athenian; he has no patience with learned obfuscation, and looks upon informed and intelligent conversation as the highest sport of civilization. … The educated Athenian is in love with reason, and seldom doubts its ability to chart the universe.

— Will Durant

Thus [through liberty] did the Athenians increase in strength. And it is plain enough, not from this instance only but from many examples, that freedom is an excellent thing; since even the Athenians, who, while they continued under the rule of dictators, were not a whit more valiant than any of their neighbors, no sooner shook off the yoke than they became decidedly the first of all.

— Herodotus, as quoted by Will Durant

Nothing opens the closed minds of college administrators better than the sounds of pocketbooks snapping shut.

— Walter Williams

The feeling for form and rhythm, for precision and clarity, for proportion and order, is the central fact in Greek culture; it enters into the shape and ornament of every bowl and vase, every statue and painting, of every temple and tomb, of every poem and drama, of all Greek work in science and philosophy. Greek art is reason made manifest: Greek painting is the logic of line, Greek sculpture is the worship of symmetry, Greek architecture is a marble geometry. There is no extravagance of emotion in Periclean art, no bizarrerie of form, no striving for novelty through the abnormal or unusual; the purpose is not to represent the indiscriminate irrelevancy of the real, but to catch the illuminating essence of things, and to portray the ideal possibilities of men.

— Will Durant

[D]espite its original intolerance, the Reformation rendered two services to the Enlightenment: it broke the authority of dogma, generated a hundred sects that would formerly have died at the stake, and allowed among them such virile debate that reason was finally recognized as the bar before which all sects had to plead their case unless they were armed with irresistible physical force. In that pleading, that attack and defense, all sects were weakened, all dogmas; and a century after Luther’s exaltation of faith Francis Bacon proclaimed that knowledge is power. In that same seventeenth century thinkers like Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, and Locke offered philosophy as a substitute or basis for religion. In the eighteenth century Helvetius, Holbach, and La Mettrie proclaimed open atheism, and Voltaire was called a bigot because he believed in God. This was the challenge that Christianity faced, in a crisis far more profound than the debate between the Catholic and the Protestant version of the medieval creed. The effort of Christianity to survive Copernicus and Darwin is the basic drama of the last three hundred years. What are the struggles of states and classes beside that Armageddon of the soul?

— Will Durant

Hardly any of these [nations] surrounding [ancient Greece] cared for what to the Greeks was the very essence of life—liberty to be, to think, to speak, and to do. Every one of these peoples except the Phoenicians lived under despots, surrendered their souls to superstition, and had small experience of the stimulus of freedom or the life of reason. … In the end the two conceptions of life – the mysticism of the East and the rationalism of the West – would fight for the body and soul of Greece. … The alternate victories of these … philosophies in the vast pendulum of history constitute the essential biography of Western civilization.

— Will Durant

The Greco-Persian War was the most momentous conflict in European history, for it made Europe possible. It won for Western civilization the opportunity to develop its own economic life—unburdened with alien tribute or taxation—and its own political institutions, free from the dictation of Oriental kings. It won for Greece a clear road for the first great experiment in liberty; it preserved the Greek mind for three centuries from the enervating mysticism of the East, and secured for Greek enterprise full freedom of the sea. … The victory of little Hellas against such odds stimulated the pride and lifted up the spirit of its people; out of very gratitude they felt called upon to do unprecedented things. After centuries of preparation … Greece entered upon its Golden Age.

— Will Durant

The mind of Hippocrates was typical of the Periclean time spirit – imaginative but realistic, averse to mystery and weary of myth, recognizing the value of religion, but struggling to understand the world in rational terms.

— Will Durant

A physician who is a lover of wisdom is the equal of a god.

— Hippocrates

The proper tone of mind is neither dogmatic nor skeptical. A rational mind is willing to entertain any idea however absurd, if only to identify why it is absurd. But what it believes for good cause, it believes wholeheartedly, until such time as rational arguments demonstrate otherwise.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

— Martin Luther King

It is absurd to choose magistrates by lot where no one would dream of drawing lots for a pilot, a mason, a flute-player, or any craftsman at all, though the shortcomings of such men are far less harmful than those that disorder our government.

— Socrates

Finding “common ground” is no alternative to finding what is fundamental.

Even for the feeble it is an easy thing to shake a city to its foundation, but it is a sore struggle to set it in its place again.

— Confucious

I don’t beleive in computer ‘science’; to me science is a study of the behavior of nature, and engineering is [the study of] behavior of the things we make…

— Richard Feynman, talk given to Bell Labs (1985)

A people who believe they are entitled to think whatever they want build institutions that act as if they’re entitled to do whatever they can get away with.

Genius is radical mental flexibility governed by severe logical discipline.

A culture that believes that the ultimate heroism consists in stopping “the bad guys” is doomed to be conquered and then constantly violated by vicious glory mongers, for when there not enough “bad guys” to go around and since the human need for heroes is great, then both heroes and “bad guys” will be counterfeited with impunity. The ultimate heroism consists in the conquering of Nature, not of men, and so a morally decent culture glorifies most those who forge and wield creative powers, not destructive powers.

Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer, and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult… All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working hours or shorter rations. And when they become discontented, as they sometimes did, their discontentment led nowhere, because being without general ideas, they could only focus it on petty specific grievances.

— George Orwell, 1984

Those who are not angered by what ought to anger them seem to be foolish.

— Aristotle

[Secretly,] everybody’s getting tired of political correctness, kissing up. That’s the kiss-ass generation we’re in right now. We’re really in a pussy generation. Everybody’s walking on eggshells.

— Clint Eastwood

… things that are true and things that are just have a natural tendency to prevail over their opposites, so that if the decisions of judges are not what they ought to be, the defeat must be due to the speakers themselves, and they must be blamed accordingly.

— Aristotle

The inherent contradiction between the worship of liberty and the despotism of empire cooperated with the individualism of the Greek states to end the Golden Age. … Sparta […] laid down as a prerequisite to peace that Athens should acknowledge the full independence of all Greek cities – i.e. that Athens should surrender her Empire. Pericles persuaded the Athenians to reject this demand; and Sparta declared war. … Under [Pericles] Athens had reached her zenith; but because that height had been attained in part through the wealth of an unwilling Confederacy, and through a power that invited almost universal hostility, the Golden Age was unsound in its foundations, and was doomed to disaster… The new masters of the democratic party were merchants like Cleon the dealer in leather … Cleon was the ablest of [the merchants], the most eloquent, unscrupulous, and corrupt. Plutarch describes him as ‘the first orator among the Athenians that pulled off his cloak and smote his thigh when addressing the people’; Cleon made it a point, says Aristotle, to appear on the rostrum in the garb of a workingman. He was the first in a long line of demagogues that ruled Athens from the death of Pericles to the loss of Athenian independence at Chaeronea.

— Will Durant

A steadily increasing share [of science] is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government… [T]he free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution… a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity… The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present—and is gravely to be regarded.

— President Dwight Eisenhower

What we call empire is in reality misfortune, for by its very nature it depraves all who have to do with it. … Whenever you deliberate on the business of the state you distrust and dislike men of superior intelligence, and cultivate instead the most depraved of the orators who come before you; you prefer … those who are drunk to those who are sober, those who are witless to those who are wise, and those who dole out the public money to those who perform public services at their own expense. … [Athens had ruined itself by carrying to excess the principles of liberty and equality, by] training the citizens in such fashion that they looked upon insolence as democracy, lawlessness as liberty, impudence of speech as equality, and license to do what they pleased as happiness.

— Isocrates (as quoted by Will Durant)

VCs: Soulless Agents of Satan or Just Clumsy Rapists?

— speaker at an early YC event

Classical physics: The way physicists answer when they understand what is going on. Modern physics: the way physicists answer when they don’t understand what is going on.

Isolated intelligence is no match for organized idiots.

O King, for traveling over the country there are both royal roads and roads for common citizens; but in geometry there is one road for all.

— Menaechmus (c. 350 BC) response to a request of Alexander the Great to be taught concisely

It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime.

— Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1794

If you’ve left a popular cult and feel as if you’ve finally escaped from your “box”, light the candle of philosophy so you can see the larger box you’re still trapped within.

[Prior to writing ‘Dark Alliance’] I was winning awards, getting raises, lecturing college classes, appearing on TV shows, and judging journalism contests. And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I’d enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn’t been, as I’d assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job. The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn’t written anything important enough to suppress.

— Gary Webb

If we evaluated the process used to give us the alternatives for President as intensively as we evaluated the alternatives the process gave us, then we’d see things really improve.

Those who are capable of tyranny are capable of perjury to sustain it.

— Lysander Spooner

If our intellectual part is common, the reason also, in respect of which we are rational beings, is common: if this is so, common also is the reason which commands us what to do, and what not to do; if this is so, there is a common law also; if this is so, we are fellow-citizens; if this is so, we are members of some political community; if this is so, the world is in a manner a state. For of what other common political community will any one say that the whole human race are members? And from thence, from this common political community comes also our very intellectual faculty and reasoning faculty and our capacity for law; or whence do they come? … A man should always have these two rules in readiness; the one, to do only whatever the reason of the ruling and legislating faculty may suggest for the use of men; the other, to change thy opinion, if there is any one at hand who sets thee right and moves thee from any opinion. But this change of opinion must proceed only from a certain persuasion, as of what is just or of common advantage, and the like, not because it appears pleasant or brings reputation.

— Marcus Aurelius

A nation that ignores the political-theoretical problems of its foundation year by year and decade by decade is a nation that tacitly declares that it prefers impunity to legitimacy, and unless it corrects this disdain for what is true and right, it will eventually reap the consequences that all wicked nations in history have reaped: disunity, chaos, disaster, dissolution.

The introduction of a new kind of music must be shunned as imperiling the whole state, for styles of music are never disturbed without affecting the most important political institutions… The new style, gradually gaining a lodgment, quietly insinuates itself into manners and customs, and from these it… goes on to attack laws and constitutions, displaying the utmost impudence, until it ends by overturning everything.

— Plato

The most fortunate of men is he who combines a measure of prosperity with scholarship, research, or contemplation; such a man comes closest to the life of the gods.

— Aristotle

The man who has no conscience in small things will be a scoundrel in big things. If we neglect small traits of character, we have only ourselves to blame if we afterwards learn to our disadvantage what this character is in the great affairs of life. On the same principle, we ought to break with so-called friends even in matters of trifling moment, if they show a character that is malicious or bad or vulgar, so that we may avoid the bad turn which only waits for an opportunity of being done us. The same thing applies to servants. Let it always be our maxim: Better alone than amongst traitors.

— Schopenhauer

The whole influence of example — and it is very strong — rests on the fact that a man has, as a rule, too little judgment of his own, and often too little knowledge, to explore his own way for himself, and that he is glad, therefore, to tread in the footsteps of some one else. Accordingly, the more deficient he is in either of these qualities, the more is he open to the influence of example; and we find, in fact, that most men’s guiding star is the example of others; that their whole course of life, in great things and in small, comes in the end to be mere imitation; and that not even in the pettiest matters do they act according to their own judgment. Imitation and custom are the spring of almost all human action. The cause of it is that men fight shy of all and any sort of reflection, and very properly mistrust their own discernment. At the same time this remarkably strong imitative instinct in man is a proof of his kinship with apes.

— Schopenhauer

If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

No serious sociologist any longer believes that the voice of the people expresses any divine or specially wise and lofty idea. The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion. It is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and clichés and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders.

— Edward Bernays

In a sane culture, pointing out that it should not be about left vs. right but about right vs. wrong and true vs. false, should be regarded as perceptive as saying that two plus two equals four.

When they (the radical leaders) have made the populace ready and greedy to receive bribes, the virtue of democracy is destroyed, and is transformed into a government of violence and the strong hand. For the mob, habituated to feed at the expense of others, and to have its hopes of a livelihood in the property of its neighbors, as soon as it has found a leader sufficiently ambitious and daring, … produces a reign of violence. Then come tumultuous assemblies, massacres, banishments, redivisions of land.

— Polybius, 150 B.C.

In our time the whole of Greece has been subject to a low birth rate and a general decrease of the population, owing to which cities have become deserted and the land has ceased to yield fruit… For as men had fallen into such a state of luxury, avarice, and indolence that they did not wish to marry, or, if they married, to rear the children born to them, or at most but one or two of them, so as to leave these in affluence and bring them up to waste their substance – the evil insensibly but rapidly grew. For in cases where, of one or two children, the one was carried off by war and the other by sickness, it was evident that the houses must have been left empty… and by small degrees cities became resourceless and feeble.

— Polybius, 150 B.C.

We have lost our reason, and our loss is no accident. Gradually, the contemporary West has become more and more dismissive of the power of reason. Caring for it less, we often find we have carelessly left it behind. When we do try to use it, we’re not quite sure how to do so. We have become suspicious of its claims, unwilling to believe that it can lead us to anything worthy of the name ‘truth’.

— Julian Baggini

The future of futurism lies in the realm of ethics.

Anything you practice you’ll get good at, including BS.

— Denzel Washington

I don’t think one has fully enjoyed the life of the mind until one has seen a celebrated scholar defend the ‘contextual’ legitimacy of the burqa, or of female genital mutilation, a mere thirty seconds after announcing that moral relativism does nothing to diminish a person’s commitment to making the world a better place.

— Sam Harris

A basic difference between people is whether they believe that the right means will over the long term bring about the right ends, or not.

Good judgment largely consists of knowing what not to question.

The Pergamene kings believed that government and private business could fruitfully compete, supplying a mutual check on inefficiency and greed. The king cultivated large tracts of land with slaves, and operated, though not as monopolies, many factories, quarries, and mines. Under this unique system wealth increased and multiplied. Pergamum became an ornate capital, famous for its altar to Zeus, its luxurious palaces, its library and theater, its palestras and baths; even its public lavatories upheld the municipal pride. The library was second only to Alexandria’s in the number of its volumes and the repute of its scholars; and the *pinakotheka housed, for the public enjoyment, a great collection of paintings. For half a century Pergamum was the finest flower Hellenic civilization.

— Will Durant

People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians.

— George Lucas

The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.

— Nietzsche

I once met an older guy who was a software developer and asked him how he got into the field. He said that he’d originally received a doctorate in psychology and was a psychiatrist for years before he realized that most people don’t want to be fixed. He said he’d got into programming because, ‘Computers always want to be fixed.’

— HN comment

I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.

— Stephen Jay Gould

A problem with pointing the root problems with society out to people is that these problems are so awful and deep-rooted that the mere understanding of them tends to demoralize most people. They haven’t the psychological strength both to understand the problems and then to do anything productive about them. So you might think “OK, let’s be less ambitious – we certainly don’t want to scare people off! What we’ll do instead is try to figure out what half-truth they can deal with, that will help us move the ball forward to a time when we can tell them more of the truth.” The problem with this is that it makes you a liar. You’re now manipulating them for ends you dare not reveal to them. And your goal is to have them listen to you, while you allegedly inch them toward the truth that you’re a liar? Drop the pretense – you’re just another charlatan. You have no inclination at all to ever tell them the whole truth.

I am sitting with a philosopher in the garden; he says again and again ‘I know that’s a tree’, pointing to a tree that is near us. Someone else arrives and hears this, and I tell him: ‘This fellow isn’t insane. We are only doing philosophy.’

— Wittgenstein

To call a company a “victim of its own success” is only to say they got rich enough to afford incompetent management.

It’s a small mind that can’t find the elements of truth on both sides of a partisan divide.

Such a great and marvelous thing does the genius of one man show itself to be when properly applied. The Romans, strong both by sea and by land, had every hope of capturing the town at once if one old man of Syracuse were removed; as long as he was present they did not venture to attack.

— Polybius, on Archimedes

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.

— – Vince Lombardi

The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable. At the point where it isn’t they will just take down the scenery, pull back the curtains, move the tables and chairs, and you’ll see the wall that surrounds you.

— Frank Zappa

Man does not live by bread alone. I have known millionaires starving for lack of the nutriment which alone can sustain all that is human in man, and I know workmen, and many so-called poor men, who revel in luxuries beyond the power of those millionaires to reach. It is the mind that makes the body rich. There is no class so pitiably wretched as that which possesses money and nothing else. Money can only be the useful drudge of things immeasurably higher than itself.

— Andrew Carnegie

[T]he whole content of human life can not be summed up in the production, acquisition, and distribution of wealth. … I have sometimes thought that here may be the rock on which Western civilization will finally shatter itself. Economism can build a society which is rich, prosperous, powerful, even one which has a reasonably wide diffusion of material well-being. It can not build one which is lovely, one which has savor and depth, and which exercises the irresistible power of attraction that loveliness wields. Perhaps by the time economism has run its course the society it has built may be tired of itself, bored of its own hideousness, and may despairingly consent to annihilation, aware that it is too ugly to be let live any longer.

— Albert Jay Nock, The Memoirs of a Superfluous Man

People will pay for an education that gets them a better job, but not for one that gets them a better society.

[Many philosophers of the Academy], in their efforts to puzzle the minds of their hearers, resort to such paradoxes, and are so fertile in inventing plausibilities, that they wonder whether or not it is possible for those in Athens to smell eggs roasted in Ephesus, and are in doubt whether all the time they are discussing the matter the Academy they are not lying in their beds at home and composing this discourse in a dream… From this excessive love of paradox they have brought all philosophy into disrepute… They have implanted such a passion in the minds of our young men that they never give even a thought to the ethical and political questions that really benefit students of philosophy, but spend their lives in the vain attempt to invent useless absurdities.

— Polybius, 200-118 B.C.

[Ayn] Rand acknowledges a grudging debt to one, and only one, earlier philosopher: Aristotle. I submit that she is indebted, and much more heavily, to Nietzsche.

— Whittaker Chambers

Bullies prefer a weak government.

Our universities are drowning in an orgy of tolerance. Academic freedom is for sincerely rational intellectuals, not for people who want to miseducate with impunity.

We should strive for a kind of moral geometry with all the rigor which this name connotes. Unhappily the reasoning I shall give will fall far short of this, since it is highly intuitive throughout. Yet it is essential to have in mind the ideal one would like to achieve.

— John Rawls, A Theory of Justice

For if you think that by killing men you can avoid the accuser censoring your lives, you are mistaken; that is not a way of escape which is either possible or honorable; the easiest and the noblest way is not to be crushing others, but to be improving yourselves.

— Socrates, Apology

The only “problem” of induction is that it is up to individuals to decide follow the evidence where it leads, and many simply refuse to.

The withdrawal of philosophy into a ‘professional’ shell of its own has had disastrous consequences. The younger generation of physicists, the Feynmans, the Schwingers, etc., may be very bright; they may be more intelligent than their predecessors, than Bohr, Einstein, Schrödinger, Boltzmann, Mach and so on. But they are uncivilized savages, they lack in philosophical depth – and this is the fault of the very same idea of professionalism which you are now defending.

— Paul Feyerabend

It’s not the size of the jurisdiction that matters, it’s what you do with it.

— Johnathan Hubbard

If you owe the bank $100 that’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.

— J. Paul Getty

… now and then liberty, in the slogans of the strong, means freedom from restraint in the exploitation of the weak.

— Will Durant

No; morality is not mediocrity, it is superiority; it does not mean being like most people, but being better, stronger, more capable than most people. It does not mean timidity: if anything is virtue it is to stand unafraid in the presence of any prohibition. It does not mean pursuit of ends sanctified by society; it means the will to your own ends, and the means to them. It means behaving as states behave, – with frank abandonment of all altruistic pretense.

— Will Durant, on Nietzsche

… Because of this idea of the law [that it should be whatever the good of the Soviet State demands], it is not surprising that the law changes whenever the needs of the state change. The changes have led to difficulties in the U.S.S.R., as people have broken laws that they had not known even existed. The constant changes have also encouraged people to never do anything at all and thus be sure that they have done nothing wrong.

— Dan N. Jacobs, The Masks of Communism

Man, as the minister and interpreter of nature, does and understands as much as his observations on the order of nature… permit him; and neither knows nor is capable of more.

— Francis Bacon

The Scholastics, who are wrongly rated as philosophers, having been primarily theologians, set the fashion of subordinating the search for truth to the promulgation of the Faith; their gigantic Summas were official Yellow Books issued by the Propaganda Office of the Vatican in the war on heresy. Philosophia ancilla theologie, they frankly said; philosophy is the chambermaid of theology. And though the great fathers of modern philosophy – Bacon, Descartes and Spinoza – protested against this philosophic harlotry, their grandchildren of our day have largely surrendered to the old tradition. … Out of this theological taint the other faults of philosophy grow like the mysteriously multiplying illnesses of a diseased heredity. To what is the obscurity of philosophy due if not to its imperfect honesty?

— Will Durant

When a man romances he is harder to understand than when he tells the truth; and only an expert can make his mendacity as consistent as the truth. But experts in mendacity do not become philosophers; they are too urgently needed in the service of diplomacy; and divine philosophy is left with inferior novelists, whose plots fall apart at the first touch of this living world.

— Will Durant

The difficulty of philosophy resides in the fact that ideas per se refer to an unlimited range of things past and present; and making the most general both accurate and precise means properly ordering the not only the numerous known but also the infinite unknown.

Philosophers, that give themselves airs of superior wisdom and sufficiency, have a hard task, when they encounter persons of inquisitive dispositions, who push them from every corner, to which they retreat, and who are sure at last to bring them to some dangerous dilemma.

— David Hume

By flattering no irregular passion, [rational philosophy] gains few partizans: By opposing so many vices and follies, it raises to itself abundance of enemies, who stigmatize it as libertine, profane, and irreligious.

— David Hume

The reader may at this moment be feeling the electric, almost sensual frisson that accompanies superlative philosophical reasoning. Many people mistake this sensation for intense annoyance, and hastily conclude that philosophers merely enjoy making people feel stupid and that philosophy is all about proving things true that are obviously false out of a basically sadistic contrarianism. There is a fair amount of evidence to support this view…

— Eugene Earnshaw

The vulgar, who take things according to their first appearance, attribute the uncertainty of events to such an uncertainty in the causes as makes the latter fail their usual influence… But philosophers, observing, that, almost in every part of nature, there is contained a vast variety of springs and principles, which are hid, by reason of their minuteness or remoteness, find, that it is at least possible the contrariety of events may not proceed from any contingency in the cause, but from the secret operation of contrary causes. This possibility is converted into certainty by farther observation; when they remark, that, upon an exact scrutiny, a contrariety of effects always betrays a contrariety of causes, and proceeds from their mutual opposition. A peasant can give no better reason for the stopping of any clock or watch than to say that it does not commonly go right: But an artist easily perceives, that the same force in the spring or pendulum has always the same influence on the wheels; but fails of its usual effect, perhaps by reason of a grain of dust, which puts a stop to the whole movement. From the observation of several parallel instances, philosophers form a maxim, that the connexion between all causes and effects is equally necessary, and that its seeming uncertainty in some instances proceeds from the secret opposition of contrary causes.

— David Hume

Aristotle’s science is contradicted at almost every point by the science of today; but his philosophy will remain illuminating and profound when the science of today will be a thing of scorn and ridicule, deposed and cast out by the passing infallibilities of another age.

— Will Durant

Hope may be for fools, but cynicism is for the lazy.

— Corey Mohler

Man differs from the animal only by a little; most men throw that little away.

— Mencius

Tired civilizations, like senile souls, are apt to be deterministic; unable to overcome the forces of death, they dignify their fatigue as fatality, and their defeat as destiny.

— Will Durant

Conventions are customs which are more practiced than preached; morals are customs which are more preached than practiced. They are duties which we require of our neighbors.

— Will Durant

The coldest philosopher is prejudiced in favor of his child.

— Will Durant