A collection of quotations. For style, clarity, poignancy, rarity, etc. Tuning the juxtaposition is my perennial project.


“German moralists gave me great delight; not from my ill-advised admiration of their eloquent madness, but from the ease with which my habits of rigid thoughts enabled me to detect their falsities.”
— Poe

As long as I am nothing but a ghost of the civil dead, I can do nothing…
— Jack Henry Abbott

[Anti-aging therapies will] never be perfect, but we’ll be able to fix the things that 200-year-olds die of before we have any 200-year-olds, and the same for 300 and 400 and so on.
— Aubrey de Grey

If, during the long course of ages and under varying conditions of life, organic beings vary at all in the several parts of their organization, and I think this cannot be disputed; if there be, owing to the high geometric powers of increase of each species, at some age, season or year, a severe struggle for life, and this certainly cannot be disputed; then, considering the infinite complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of existence, causing an infinite variety in structure, constitution, and habits, to be advantageous to them, I think it would be a most extraordinary fact if no variation ever had occurred useful to each being’s own welfare, in the same way as so many variations have occurred useful to man. But if variations useful to any organic being do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterized will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life; and from the strong principle of inheritance they will tend to produce offspring similarly characterized. This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection.
— Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species (1859)

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
— H.L. Mencken

It is not for nothing that one has been a philologist, perhaps one is a philologist still, that is to say, a teacher of slow reading.
— Friedrich Nietzsche

Besides, we are friends of the lento, I and my book. I have not been a philologist in vain — perhaps I am one yet: a teacher of slow reading. I even come to write slowly. At present it is not only my habit, but even my taste — a perverted taste, maybe — to write nothing but what will drive to despair every one who is ‘in a hurry.’ For philology is that venerable art which exacts from its followers one thing above all — to step to one side, to leave themselves spare moments, to grow silent, to become slow — the leisurely art of the goldsmith applied to language: an art which must carry out slow, fine work, and attains nothing if not lento. Thus philology is now more desirable than ever before; thus it is the highest attraction and incitement in an age of ‘work’: that is, of haste, of unseemly and immoderate hurry-skurry, which is so eager to ‘get things done’ at once, even every book, whether old or new. Philology itself, perhaps, will not so hurriedly ‘get things done.’ It teaches how to read well, that is, slowly, profoundly, attentively, prudently, with inner thoughts, with the mental doors ajar, with delicate fingers and eyes. My patient friends, this book appeals only to perfect readers and philologists: learn to read me well!
— Friedrich Nietzsche

A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.
— Gloria Steinem

Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.
Adrian Tan, author of The Teenage Textbook (1988)

If you always tell the truth, you never need to remember what you say.
— Mark Twain

A new word is like a fresh seed sewn on the ground of discussion.

— L.W.

An expert is a person who has found out by his own painful experience all the mistakes that one can make in a very narrow field.

— Niels Bohr

Fascism is capitalism unmasked.

Bertolt Brecht

Today, when the human being has come to be seen as ‘the sum of all social circumstances’ the epic form is the only one that can embrace those processes which serve the drama as matter for a comprehensive picture of the world. Similarly man, flesh and blood man, can only be embraced through those processes by which and in the course of which he exists.

Brecht on Theatre. Bertolt Brecht.

When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.

— Thomas Jefferson

I asked him if he would come up with a few options. And he said, “No. I will solve your problem for you. And you will pay me. And you don’t have to use the solution. If you want options, go talk to other people. But I’ll solve your problem for you the best way I know how. And you use it or not. That’s up to you. You’re the client. But you pay me.” And there was a clarity about the relationship that was refreshing.

— Steve Jobs on working with designer Paul Rand on the NeXT logo

It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature.— Niels Bohr

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.
— James Miles (Having had his arm mutilated, making immediate amputation necessary, he loaded and discharged his piece with one hand and urged his men forward; this within 30 yards of the enemy’s works.)

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.
— Gary Provost

Congress is about to pass internet censorship, even though the vast majority of Americans are opposed. We need to kill the bill – PIPA in the Senate and SOPA in the House – to protect our rights to free speech, privacy, and prosperity.
1. http://sopaopera.org/
2. http://mozilla.org/sopa/
— http://americancensorship.org/

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.
— “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”, John Perry Barlow

A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and he carries his banners openly. But the traitor moves among those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the galleys, heard in the very hall of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor – he speaks in the accents familiar to his victims, and wears their face and their garment, and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation – he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city – he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared.
— Cicero, 42 B.C.

The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.

— Dorothy Parker

He who lives as children live — who does not struggle for his bread and does not believe that his actions possess any ultimate significance — remains childlike.

— Nietzsche, Daybreak

If I don’t kill him he’ll make war all through Europe. But murder… the most foul of all crimes. What would Socrates say? All those Greeks were homosexuals. Boy, they must have had some wild parties. I bet they all took a house together in Crete for the summer. A: Socrates is a man. B: All men are mortal. C: All men are Socrates. That means all men are homosexuals. Heh… I’m not a homosexual. Once, some cossacks whistled at me. I happen to have the kind of body that excites both persuasions. You know, some men are heterosexual and some men are bisexual and some men don’t think about sex at all, you know… they become lawyers.

— Boris, Love and Death

Thou hast remembered me, O God; neither hast thou forsaken them that seek Thee and love Thee.

— Daniel (Daniel’s Prelude to the Dreaming)

In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.

Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.

— Book of Daniel, 5:5-6

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

(Proverbs 25/11)

Let’s suppose every night that you were able to dream any dream that you wanted to dream. And that you could, for example, have the power within one night to dream 75 years of time or any length of time you wanted to have. And you would naturally, as you began on this adventure of dreams, you would fulfill all your wishes, you would have every kind of pleasure you could conceive, and after several nights of 75 years of total pleasure each, you would say well that was pretty great, but now lets um, lets have a surprise. Let’s have a dream that isn’t under control. Well, something is going to happen to me that I don’t know what it’s going to be. And uh, you would dig that and you would come out of that and say well that was a close shave wasn’t it, and then you would get more and more adventurous, and make further and further out gambles and finally you would dream where you are now. You would dream the dream of the life you are actually living today.
— Alan Watts

He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.
— Elbert Hubbard

With the rise of democracy, the identification of the State with society has been redoubled, until it is common to hear sentiments expressed which violate virtually every tenet of reason and common sense: such as ‘we are the government.’
— Murray N. Rothbard, “The Anatomy of the State”

The thesis that I support does not in any way declare that being is mathematical, which is to say composed of mathematical objectivities. It is not a thesis about the world but about discourse. It affirms that mathematics, throughout the entirety of its historical becoming, pronounces what is expressible of being qua being.
— Alain Badiou, Being and Event

So be prepared for a bit of hard talking. It won’t kill you, and it may advance your understanding.
— Ian Ravenscroft, “How to Be a Philosopher”

Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.
— Edgar Allen Poe

Words are loneliness.
— Henry Miller

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann darüber muß man schweigen.
— L.W.

More generally, a ‘thing’ will be defined as a certain series of aspects, namely those which would commonly be said to be of the thing. To say that a certain aspect is an aspect of a certain thing will merely mean that it is one of those which, taken serially, are the thing.
— Russell, Our Knowledge of the External World, 1914a, 106–107

The unfitness of the object may cause one to overlook the unfitness of the means.
— Kafka

Everyone carries a room about inside them. This fact can be proved by means of the sense of hearing. If someone walks fast and one pricks up one’s ears, say at night, when everything round about is quiet, one hears, for instance, the rattling of a mirror not quite firmly fastened to the wall.
— Kafka

In a certain sense, infinite divisibility means that space is indivisible, that it is not affected by any division. That it is above such things: it doesn’t consist of parts. Much as if it were saying to reality: you may do what you like in me (you can be divided as often as you like in me.) Space gives to reality an infinite opportunity for division.
— LW

Perchance you who pronounce my sentence are in greater fear than I who receive it.
— Giordano Bruno

I cleave the heavens, and soar to the infinite. What others see from afar, I leave far behind me.
— Giordano Bruno

And the true philosophers are always occupied in the practice of dying, wherefore also to them least of all men is death terrible.
— Socrates, Phaedo

Prove all things. Hold fast to that which is good.
— First Thessalonians 5:21

Scepticism is not irrefutable, but obviously nonsensical, when it tries to raise doubts where no questions can be asked. For doubt only can exist where a question exists, a question only where an answer exists, and an answer only where something can be said.
— TLP, Wittgenstein

Obviously, no one would freely choose to become a philosopher – they are, unfortunately, born that way.
— Steven Colbert (?)

5.1362 The freedom of the will consists in the impossibility of knowing actions that still lie in the future. We could know them only if causality were an inner necessity like that of logical inference. The connexion between knowledge and what is known is that of logical necessity. (‘A knows that p is the case’, has no sense if p is a tautology.)
— Wittgenstein, Tractatus

A mathematician is bound to be horrified by my mathematical comments, since he has always been trained to avoid indulging in thoughts and doubts of the kind I develop. He has learned to regard them as something contemptible and… he has acquired a revulsion from them as infantile. That is to say, I trot out all the problems that a child learning arithmetic, etc., finds difficult, the problems that education represses without solving. I say to those repressed doubts: you are quite correct, go on asking, demand clarification!
— Wittgenstein, PG 381

4.003 Most propositions and questions, that have been written about on philosophical matters are not false, but senseless. We cannot, therefore, answer questions of this kind but only state their senselessness. Most questions and propositions of philosophers result from the fact that we do not understand the logic of our language. ( They are of the kind of question whether the Good is more or less identical to the Beautiful. ) And it is not surprising that the deepest problems are in fact not problems at all.
— Wittgenstein, TLP

In philosophy matters are not simple enough for us to say ‘Let’s get a rough idea,’ for we do not know the country except by knowing the connections between the roads. So I suggest repetition as a means of surveying the connections.
— Wittgenstein

Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upwards.
— Book of Job

Distrust of grammar is the first requisite of philosophizing.
— Wittgenstein, Notebooks

I don’t know why we are here, but I’m pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.
— Wittgenstein

Where questions of style and exposition are concerned I try to follow a simple maxim: if you can’t say it clearly you don’t understand it yourself.
— John Searle

We all inherit a great deal of useless knowledge, and a great deal of misinformation and error (maps that were formerly thought to be accurate), so that there is always a portion of what we have been told that must be discarded. But the cultural heritage of our civilization that is transmitted to us — our socially pooled knowledge, both scientific and humane — has been valued principally because we have believed that it gives us accurate maps of experience. The analogy of verbal words to maps is an important one […]. It should be noticed at this point, however, that there are two ways of getting false maps of the world into our heads: first, by having them given to us; second, by creating them ourselves when we misread the true maps given to us.
— S. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action

A person of true refinement would have expressed much of that very differently, but nothing will ever make up for the lack of a classical education.
— Ernest Bramah, Kai Long Unrolls His Mat

It has always been the prerogative of children and half-wits to point out that the emperor has no clothes. But the half-wit remains a half-wit, and the emperor remains an emperor.
— Neil Gaiman, Sandman

What power would Hell have if those imprisoned there were not able to dream of Heaven?
— Neil Gaiman, Sandman

Your car is Japanese. Your vodka is Russian. Your pizza is Italian. Your kebab is Turkish. Your democracy is Greek. Your coffee is Colombian. Your movies are American. Your tea is Tamil. Your shirt is Indian. Your oil is Saudi Arabian. Your electronics are Chinese. Your numbers – Arabic, your letters – Latin. And you complain that your neighbor is an immigrant? […]
— Unknown

The presumption of understanding everything can have no other basis than never understanding anything. For anyone who had experienced just once the perfect understanding of one single thing and had truly tasted how knowledge is earned would recognize that infinity of other truths of which he understands nothing.
— Galileo Galilei

In chess, the object of the game is clear, the rules are fixed and indisputable, and there is always a definite outcome (win, lose, or draw) about which no controversy can arise. In philosophy, the object and the rules are themselves part of what is in play, and there is never an incontrovertible result.

So I need both of these gifts of the gods. Chess to recuperate from the uncertainty of philosophy, and philosophy to recuperate from the sterility of chess.
— Bill Vallicella, http://maverickphilosopher…chess-and-philosophy.html

I cannot play when you are in the house, as I feel your skepticism seeping towards me from under the door.
— Paul Wittgenstein (to Ludwig)

Then he grinned, like a fox eating shit from a barbed-wire fence.
— American Gods, Neil Gaiman

The computer is being used in so many ways to extend our abilities, I can see no other possibility than to regard it as part of our extended phenotype.
— Steven Pemberton

Given that we do not have an omniscient god’s-eye view of the universe, we cannot, in principle, perceive the truth of universal propositions such as ‘All Swans are white’ (where that includes all past, present and future swans). Neither could any finite number of observations of white swans (even if they could be guaranteed to be accurate, which they cannot) add any strength to the universal theory that they are all white: for the observations are, ex hypothesi, an infinitely small number relative to the universal theory. So we cannot even make our theories more probable (except on the basis of assumptionsconjectures about probability that cannot be shown to be independently probable). However, says Popper, nil desperandum. There is an asymmetry between verification and falsification. We could, in principle (though we might always be mistaken), perceive a single non-white swan. And if we in fact (as a matter of reality) do so then that fact would, as a logical implication, falsify the theory that all swans are white.
— A reply to “Why Popper Is Wrong on Induction” by Gene Callahan, Jan C. Lester

[H]istory is not science: history is about unique past events that cannot be replicated as science requires.
— Jan C. Lester

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.
— Friedrich Nietzsche

For they supposed that “Know thyself!” was a piece of advice, and not the god’s salutation of those who were entering.

— Plato, Charmides, section 165a

Sickness of the mind and misfortunes take their origin especially from too much love towards a thing which is liable to many variations and which we can never fully possess. For no one is disturbed or anxious concerning anything unless he loves it, nor do wrongs, suspicions and enmities arise from love for a thing which no one can really fully possess.

— Baruch de Spinoza

You work your whole life to get to a place where you’re of value and worth to your clients.

— Ward Pennebaker

The most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work.

— Ira Glass

Human eyes tolerate neither sun, coitus, cadavers, nor obscurity, but with different reactions.

— Georges Bataille, The Solar Anus

And I shall consider human actions and desires in exactly the same manner, as though I were concerned with lines, bodies, planes, and solids.

Enough information is available for each of us to imagine the future we are creating. Timing and degree of degradation require speculation, but the most difficult challenge is overcoming our wishful thinking about the future. Facing reality often discourages us at first, and denial can be comforting. Awareness has its costs, but so does willful ignorance. Indeed, our ignoring of evidence and history got us where we are today.

Failure, Voluntary Human Extinction Movement