Favorite Quotes

The elementary rules of logic: that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. (“Hitchens’s Razor”)
–Christopher Hitchens

The wise are instructed by reason, average minds by experience, the stupid by necessity, and the brute by instinct.

To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.

History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations.
–James Baldwin

People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.
–James Baldwin

For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.
–Ecclesiastes 9:12

The challenge of history is to recover the past and introduce it to the present.
–David Thelen

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.
–George Orwell

Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. Yet those who do study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats it.
–Tom Toro

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.
–Edmund Burke

When you have something to say, silence is a lie.
–Jordan B. Peterson

The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small.
–Anonymous, but quoted by many including Sextus Empiricus

Not all that is gold glitters;
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither;
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
–J R R Tolkien

Arrows of hate have been aimed at me too, but they have never hit me, because they somehow belonged to another world with which I have no connection whatsoever.
–Albert Einstein

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.
–Albert Einstein

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.
–Arthur Schopenhauer

Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.
–Arthur Schopenhauer

The amount of noise which anyone can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity.
–Arthur Schopenhauer

To forgive and forget is to surrender dearly bought experience.
–Arthur Schopenhauer

From the crooked timber of humanity nothing straight was ever made.
–Immanuel Kant

Ought implies can.
–Immanuel Kant

There is something splendid about innocence; but what is bad about it, in turn, is that it cannot protect itself very well and is easily seduced.
–Immanuel Kant

Thoughts without content are empty; intuitions without concepts are blind.
–Immanuel Kant

Only the descent into the hell of self-knowledge can pave the way to godliness.
–Immanuel Kant

The mind itself is the lawgiver to nature.
–Immanuel Kant

In the Kingdom of Ends everything has either a price or dignity. If it has a price, something else can be put in its place as an equivalent; if it is exalted above all price and so admits of no equivalent, then it has a dignity.
–Immanuel Kant

Bold ideas, unjustified anticipations, and speculative thought, are our only means for interpreting nature: our only organon, our only instrument, for grasping her.
–Karl Popper

The great philosophical question used to be “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Today the real question is: “Why is there nothing rather than something?”
–Jean Baudrillard

If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially.
–Ernest Hemingway, quoted by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. in memory of John F. Kennedy in the dedication of his book A Thousand Days.

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.
–Mark Twain

Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president.
–Theodore Roosevelt

You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
–Abraham Lincoln (attributed)

Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.
–George Washington (attributed)

The style of your own time is always invisible.
–Hugh Kenner

When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.
–Jonathan Swift

Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.
–Jonathan Swift

Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with equal eye.
–Herman Melville

The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
–William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming”

One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.
–Bertrand Russell

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.
–Stephen Hawking

Those with limited knowledge in a domain suffer a dual burden: not only do they reach mistaken conclusions and make regrettable errors, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.
–David Dunning and Justin Kruger

The same knowledge that underlies the ability to produce correct judgment is also the knowledge that underlies the ability to recognize correct judgment. To lack the former is to be deficient in the latter.
–David Dunning and Justin Kruger

Leadership is nature’s way of removing morons from the productive flow.
–Scott Adams, the “Dilbert Principle”

Only individuals with an aberrant temperament can in the long run retain their self-esteem in the face of the disesteem of their fellows.
–Thorstein Veblen

An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex.
–Aldous Huxley

It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place will never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither defeat nor victory.
–Theodore Roosevelt

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence! Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
–Calvin Coolidge

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth — ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.
–Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.
–Henry Ford

It is enough if you don’t freeze in the cold, and thirst and hunger don’t claw at your sides. If your back isn’t broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms can bend, if both eyes can see, and if both ears hear, then whom should you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart and prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well. Do not hurt or scold them, and never part from them in anger. After all, you simply don’t know; it might be your last act.
–Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Money is the husk of many things, but not the kernel. It brings food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; acquaintances, but not friends; servants, but not faithfulness; days of joy, but not peace or happiness.
–Henrik Ibsen

I myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state. Though unlike most Germans I had daily access to foreign newspapers … and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other foreign broadcasts, my job necessitated the spending of many hours a day in combing the German press, checking the German radio, conferring with Nazi officials and going to party meetings. It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and often misled it.

Occasionally one was tempted to say something about this factual discrepancy to a friend, acquaintance, or a co-worker, an otherwise intelligent and educated person who did not have access to diverse sources of information.

Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was to even try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for the truth, said they were.
–William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.
–Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism