whitman“You shall no longer take things at second or third hand … nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books. You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, you shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.” (Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, II)

On outside feedback and the creative process: “People who take on complicated creative projects become lost at some point in the process. It is the nature of things — in order to create, you must internalize and almost become the project for a while, and that near-fusing with the project is an essential part of its emergence. But it is also confusing. Where once a movie’s writer/director had perspective, he or she loses it. Where once he or she could see a forest, now there are only trees. How do you get a director to address a problem he or she cannot see? The answer depends, of course, on the situation. The director may be right about the potential impact of his central idea, but maybe he simply hasn’t set it up well enough for the Braintrust. Maybe he doesn’t realize that much of what he thinks is visible on-screen is only visible in his own head. Or maybe the ideas presented in the reels he shows the Braintrust won’t ever work, and the only path forward is to blow something up or start over. No matter what, the process of coming to clarity takes patience and candor.” (Ed Catmull, Pixar president)

steve_jobs_by_februarymoon-50px“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” (Steve Jobs, Apple CEO)

“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)

“It is the mark of a free man not to live at another’s beck and call” (Aristotle, Rhetoric 1367a30).

“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success … Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.” (Nikola Tesla, quoted in Marconi and Tesla: Pioneers of Radio Communication, p. 5)

“No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life. There may be countless trails and bridges and demigods who would gladly carry you across; but only at the price of pawning and forgoing yourself. There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don’t ask, walk!” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Schopenhauer as Educator)

“I try to tell my students … nothing is boring. Nothing is boring. If you’re bored, you’re boring.” (Camille Paglia)

“Enterprise is inseparable from a high tolerance for personal suffering. We don’t usually notice this because we tend to only look at end results of already successful enterprises, and see happy, successful, rich business people. Everything seems inevitable in retrospect, and easy from the point of view of outsiders. We don’t see the sleepless nights, the screw ups, the misallocations, the unexpected disasters, the embarrassments, the personal betrayals, the hidden obstacles, the endless hours of frustration when nothing is happening and the clock is running and no one seems to care, not to mention the sheer terror of facing an uncertain future when so much is on the line. The moments of victory come very late in the game and they are never permanent. They can disappear much more quickly than it took them to appear in the first place. And yet: the entrepreneur still acts and still changes the world.” (Jeffrey Tucker)

douglassfrederick-50px“Freedom is valued not only for its intrinsic worth, but what it costs. And a people to whom liberty is given will never prize it as highly, defend it bravely, or wear it as proudly as a nation that wrenched it from hand of tyranny.” (Frederick Douglass, 1868 speech)

“You have to have a culture that is explicitly tolerant of the crazy idea, the criticism of it, and then its renewal.” (Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt)

“Americans have a great deal. They have a great deal, I said, because they produce a great deal. Contrary to your grandmother’s dictum – ‘Eat your spinach: think of the starving children in China’ – consuming less in rich America would add nothing to the goods available in China. Not a grain of rice. Countries are rich or poor, have a great deal to consume or very little, mainly because they work well or badly, not because some outsider is adding to or stealing from a God-given endowment. To think otherwise is to suppose that goods come literally and directly from God, like manna. They do not. We humans make them.” (Deirdre McCloskey, The Bourgeois Virtues)

“I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.” (Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 1)

“One profits more by the mistakes one makes off one’s own bat than by doing the right thing on somebody else’s advice.” (Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage)

“Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul.” (Walt Whitman, Preface to Leaves of Grass)

John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address: We will “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

thinker“There is an old saying that philosophy bakes no bread. It is perhaps equally true that no bread would ever have been baked without philosophy. For the act of baking implies a decision on the philosophical issue of whether life is worthwhile at all. Bakers may not have asked themselves the question in so many words. But philosophy traditionally has been nothing less than the attempt to ask and answer, in a formal and disciplined way, the great questions of life that ordinary men put to themselves in reflective moments.” (Time, January 7, 1966)

“What monstrosities would walk the streets were some people’s faces as unfinished as their minds.” (Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition, 1973, Section 89)

“You are not paid to work hard. In fact, you are not paid for effort at all. You are paid for results. It’s not what you do, it’s what you get done.” (Larry Winget)

sandefer-jeff-ufm“Education properly understood, to me, is not about telling. Education is not about having me tell you something and you regurgitate it to me. It’s about a process of discovery; it’s a process of learning, of asking questions, of making mistakes. It’s trial and error, just like entrepreneurship.”
(Jeff Sandefer)

“My importance to the world is relatively small. On the other hand, my importance to myself is tremendous. I am all I have to work with, to play with, to suffer and to enjoy. It is not the eyes of others that I am wary of, but of my own. I do not intend to let myself down more than I can possibly help, and I find that the fewer illusions I have about myself or the world around me, the better company I am for myself.” (Noël Coward)

“You are so young, all beginning is so far in front of you, and I should like to beg you earnestly to have patience with all unsolved problems in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms, or books that are written in a foreign tongue. Do not search now for the answers, which cannot be given you, because you could not live them. That is the point, to live everything.
“Now you must live your problems. And perhaps gradually, without noticing it, you will live your way into the answer some distant day. Perhaps you actually have in you the possibility of moulding and shaping, as a particularly blessed and pure form of life; train yourself in it — but take what comes in complete trust, and, as long as it comes from your own will, from some need or other of your inner self, then take it for itself and hate nothing.”
(Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet)

“I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.” (Thomas Jefferson, a 1787 letter)

friedman“The great enemies of free enterprise are businessmen and intellectuals: businessmen because they want socialism for themselves and free enterprise for everyone else; intellectuals, because they want free enterprise for themselves and socialism for everyone else.” (Milton Friedman)

In a 1902 lecture On the Principles of Mechanics, Ludwig Boltzmann responding to the question “Has mankind been made happier by all the advances in culture and technology?”: “Indeed, a ticklish question. Certainly a mechanism for making humans happy has not yet been invented. Each must seek and find happiness within himself. However, science and civilization have succeeded in eliminating influences disturbing happiness by overcoming the danger of lightning, national plagues, and illnesses of individuals in many cases. Furthermore, it has been made easier to journey over, and to come to know, our beautiful Earth, to imagine vividly the structure of the starred skies, and to glean dimly at least the eternal laws of Nature as a whole. In this way it [science] has allowed an ever greater development of the physical and mental powers of mankind and an ever-growing dominion over all the rest of Nature; and it has enabled those who found inner peace to enjoy it in a heightened unfolding of life and a greater perfection.”

“Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die, and we should be savages again.” (Will and Ariel Durant)

sophoclesWonders are many in the world, and the wonder of all is man.
With his bit in the teeth of the storm and his faith in a fragile prow,
Far he sails, where the waves leap white-fanged, wroth at his plan.
And he has his will of the earth by the strength of his hand on the plough.
(Sophocles, Antigone)

“One must live as if it would be forever, and as if one might die each moment. Always both at once.” (Alexander the Great, in Mary Renault’s The Persian Boy)

“Recently I was with a group of mathematicians and philosophers. One philosopher asked me whether I believed man was a machine. I replied, ‘Do you really think it makes any difference?’ He most earnestly replied, ‘Of course! To me it is the most important question in philosophy.’ I had the following afterthoughts: I imagine that if my friend had finally come to the conclusion that he were a machine, he would be infinitely crestfallen. I think he would think: ‘My God! How horrible! I am only a machine!’ But if I should find out I were a machine, my attitude would be totally different. I would say: ‘How amazing! I never before realized that machines could be so marvelous!'” (Raymond Smullyan)

“The art of resting the mind and the power of dismissing from it all care and worry is probably one of the secrets of our great men.” (Captain J. A. Hatfield)

W. K. Clifford on an intellectual acquaintance: “He is writing a book on metaphysics, and is really cut out for it; the clearness with which he thinks he understands things and his total inability to express what little he knows will make his fortune as a philosopher.” (Quoted in Brand Blanshard, On Philosophical Style, Manchester U.P., 1954, p. 28)

thomas-jefferson“If we are made in some degree for others, yet, in a greater, we are made for ourselves. It were contrary to feeling, and indeed ridiculous to suppose that a man had less rights in himself than one of his neighbors, or indeed all of them put together. This would be slavery, and not the liberty which the [Virginia] bill of rights has made inviolable, and for the preservation of which our government has been charged. Nothing could so completely divest us of that liberty as the establishment of the opinion, that the State has the perpetual right to the services of all its members. This, to men of certain ways of thinking, would be to annihilate the blessings of existence, and to contradict the Giver of life, who gave it for happiness and not for wretchedness.” (Thomas Jefferson)

“If you love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, depart from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains rest lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.” (Samuel Adams)

“If the growth of reason is to continue, and human rationality to survive, then the diversity of individuals and their opinions, aims, and purposes must never be interfered with …. Even the emotionally satisfying appeal for a common purpose, however excellent, is an appeal to abandon all rival moral opinions and the cross-criticisms and arguments to which they give rise. It is an appeal to abandon rational thought.” (Karl Popper, The Poverty of Historicism)

rand_50x66“A free society has to be an informed society. … The more specialized and diversified a society, the greater its need for the integrating power of knowledge; but the acquisition of knowledge on so wide a scale is a full-time profession. A free society has to count on the honor of its intellectuals: it has to expect them to be as efficient, reliable, precise and objective as the printing presses and televisions that carry their voices.” (Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual, p. 26)

Zarathustra’s advice to all true believers: “Now I go alone, my disciples, You too, go now, alone. Thus I want it. Go away from me and resist Zarathustra! And even better: be ashamed of him! Perhaps he deceived you. The man of knowledge must not only love his enemies, he must be able to hate his friends. One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a student. And why do you not want to pluck at my wreath? You revere me; but what if your reverence tumbles one day? Beware lest a statue slay you. You say that you believe in Zarathustra? But what matters Zarathustra? You are my believers—but what matter all believers? You have not yet sought yourselves; and you found me. Thus do all believers; therefore all faith amounts to so little. Now I bid you lose me and find yourselves; and only when you have all denied me will I return to you.” (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra)

alberteinstein“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 and fulfills the duty to express the results of his thoughts in clear form.” (Albert Einstein)

“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)

orwell“The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States.” (George Orwell, Notes on Nationalism, 1945)

A Brief Guide to Religious Denominations in America: A Baptist is a man who got saved. A Methodist is a Baptist who got shoes. A Congregationalist is a Methodist who moved to town. A Presbyterian is a Congregationalist who got rich. An Episcopalian is a Presbyterian who ran for public office.

“Are you genuine? Or merely an actor? A representative? Or that which is represented? In the end, perhaps you are merely a copy of an actor.” (Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols)

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution.” (Charles Koch)

voltaire“Go into the London Stock Exchange—a more respectable place than many a court—and you will see representatives from all nations gathered together for the utility of men. Here Jew, Mohammedan and Christian deal with each other as though they were all of the same faith, and only apply the word infidel to people who go bankrupt. Here the Presbyterian trusts the Anabaptist and the Anglican accepts a promise from the Quaker. On leaving these peaceful assemblies some go to the Synagogue and others for a drink, this one goes to be baptized in a great bath in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, that one has his son’s foreskin cut and has some Hebrew words he doesn’t understand mumbled over the child, others go to their church and await the inspiration of God with their hats on, and everybody is happy. If there were just one religion in England, despotism would threaten; if there were two religions, they would cut each other’s throats; but there are thirty religions, and they live together peacefully and happily.” (Voltaire, Letters on England, Letter 6)

“In France anyone who is a Marquis who wants to be, and whoever arrives in Paris with money to spend an a name ending in –ac or –ille can say: ‘a man like me, a man of my standing’, and loftily despises a businessman, and the business man so often hears people speak disparagingly of his profession that he is foolish enough to blush. Yet I wonder which is the more useful to a nation, a well-powdered nobleman who knows exactly at what moment the King gets up and goes to bed, and who gives himself grand airs while playing the part of a slave in some Minister’s antechamber, or a business man who enriches his country, issues orders from his office to Surat or Cairo, and contributes to the well-being of the world.” (Voltaire, Letters on England, Letter 10)

“It is easy to live in the world after the world’s opinion; it is easy to live in solitude after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” (R. W. Emerson)

churchill“Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon.” (Winston Churchill)

“There are not more useful members in a Commonwealth than Merchants. They knit Mankind together in a mutual Intercourse of good Offices, distribute the Gifts of Nature, find Work for the Poor, add Wealth to the Rich, and Magnificence to the Great.” (Addison and Steele, The Spectator, 1711-14).

nietzsche_50x57“Being profound and seeming profound. —Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity. For the crowd believes that if it cannot see to the bottom of something it must be profound. It is so timid and dislikes going into the water” (Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science 173)

“The man who discovers new knowledge is the permanent benefactor of humanity.” (Ayn Rand)

“Society is always in deep debt to the entrepreneurs who sustain it and [who] rarely consume by themselves more than the smallest share of what they give society.” (George Gilder)

“Businessmen are as honest as any given segment of society, and perhaps more honest than most. It’s like motorcyclists. They’re not all Hell’s Angels. But there is a percent in business, and it varies from 2 percent to 10 percent, depending on your definition of dishonesty.” (Malcolm S. Forbes)

“Businessmen’s ethics are not any worse than those of the public as a whole. It’s just that the businessman is more accountable than any other level of society and is much more likely to be caught in any dereliction of duty or responsibility.” (C. Peter McColough)

johnlocke“It is one thing to persuade, another to command; one thing to press with arguments, another with penalties.” (John Locke, A Letter concerning Toleration)

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.” (Robert Heinlein)

“Between an Edison, trying to make a going industry out of the invention of a practical light bulb, and a sculptor trying to fashion an image of human love or stone by taking mallet and chisel to stone, there is not so much difference after all.” (John Chamberlain)

“A businessman is a hybrid of a dancer and a calculator.” (Paul Valery)

aristotle“To hold equally to the opinions and seemings of those disputing against one another is foolish, for clearly one of them must be mistaken. This is apparent from what happens in sensation; for the same thing never appears sweet to some and the opposite to others, unless the sense-organ and judgment have been corrupted and injured.” (Aristotle, Metaphysics 1062b33)

Wisdom from the grave: Friedrich Nietzsche’s grandmother had some private letters in her possession from the circle surrounding Goethe. These letters came into the possession of Nietzsche’s aunt and uncle—who destroyed them. The uncle’s reason was this: “The brutal revelation of private relations upset him deeply. He did not grant the public any right to them as a national property … . The ideological philistines quibble shamelessly and shortsightedly enough over the well-reflected statements of the few great men of a century; why allow them to take a look into the intimate sphere, which evokes misunderstandings from the very first?” (Conversations with Nietzsche, p. 204)

mises“It is ideas that group men into fighting factions, that press the weapons into their hands, and that determine against whom and for whom the weapons shall be used.” (Ludwig von Mises)

What can “explain one of the most distressing features of the neo-Kantians [of nineteenth-century German philosophy]: the fierceness and bitterness of their polemics, the nastiness of their ad hominem arguments, which destroyed personal friendships and decent collegial relations? Heinrich Rickert (Heidelberg) wrote to Paul Natorp (Marburg): ‘Just because we critical idealists agree on fundamentals, we have to take the knives to each other.” (Klaus Christian Köhnke, The Rise of Neo-Kantianism, Cambridge University Press 1991, Foreword by L. W. Beck, p. x)

“Of all the unhappy people in the world, the unhappiest are those who have not found something they want to do.” (Lin Yutang)

“No people can be great who have ceased to be virtuous.” (Samuel Johnson)

john-milton-50px“Here the great art lies, to discern in what the law is to bid restraint and punishment, and in what things persuasion only is to work.” (John Milton, Areopagitica)

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” (George Bernard Shaw)

On Washington: “Like a city in dreams, the great white capital stretches along the placid river from Georgetown on the west to Anacostia on the east. It is a city of temporaries, a city of just-arriveds and only-visitings, built on the shifting sands of politics, filled with people passing through. They may stay fifty years, they may love, marry, settle down, build homes, raise families, and die beside the Potomac, but they usually feel, and frequently they will tell you, that they are just here for a little while. Someday soon they will be going home. They do go home, but it is only for visits, or for a brief span of staying-away; and once the visits or the brief spans are over (‘It’s so nice to get away from Washington, it’s so inbred; so nice to get out in the country and find out what people are really thinking’) they hurry back to their lodestone and their star, their self-hypnotized, self-mesmerized, self-enamored, self-propelling, wonderful city they cannot live away from or, once it has claimed them, live without. Washington takes them like a lover and they are lost.” (Allen Drury, Advise and Consent)

nietzsche_50x57“To stay cheerful when involved in a gloomy and exceedingly responsible business is no inconsiderable art: yet what could be more necessary than cheerfulness? Nothing succeeds in which high spirits play no part.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

“Three key questions for intellectuals: 1. What are the most important problems in your field? 2. Are you working on one of them? 3. Why not?” (Richard Hamming)

schumpeter“Every piece of business strategy must be seen in its role in the perennial gale of creative destruction. It cannot be understood irrespective of it or in fact on the hypothesis that there is a perennial lull.” (Joseph Schumpeter)

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.” (Steve Jobs, Fortune, Nov. 9, 1998)

“Let us welcome dissent, and the restless ways of the explorers among us.” (David Kelley, The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand)

hume-50x65“There seems to be a happy concurrence of causes in human affairs, which checks the growth of trade and riches, and hinders them from being confined entirely to one people; as might naturally at first be dreaded from the advantages of an established commerce. Where one nation has gotten the start of another in trade, it is very difficult for the latter to regain the ground it has lost; because of the superior industry and skill of the former, and the greater stocks, of which its merchants are possessed, and which enable them to trade on so much smaller profits. But these advantages are compensated, in some measure, by the low price of labour in every nation which has not an extensive commerce, and does not much abound in gold and silver. Manufactures, therefore gradually shift their places, leaving those countries and provinces which they have already enriched, and flying to others, whither they are allured by the cheapness of provisions and labour; till they have enriched these also, and are again banished by the same causes. And, in general, we may observe, that the dearness of every thing, from plenty of money, is a disadvantage, which attends an established commerce, and sets bounds to it in every country, by enabling the poorer states to undersell the richer in all foreign markets.” (David Hume, “Of Money” 1752)

“A man who wants to do something will find a way; a man who doesn’t will find an excuse.” (Stephen Dolley, Jr.)

peter-the-great-50px“What [Russia’s Peter the Great] saw in the thriving cities and harbors of the West, what he learned from the scientists, inventors, merchants, tradesmen, engineers, printers, soldiers and sailors, confirmed his early belief, formed in the German Suburb, that his Russians were technologically backward — decades, perhaps centuries, behind the West. Asking himself how this had happened and what could be done about it, Peter came to understand that the roots of Western technological achievement lay in the freeing of men’s minds. He grasped that it had been the Renaissance and the Reformation, neither of which had ever come to Russia, which had broken the bonds of the medieval church and created an environment where independent philosophical and scientific enquiry as well as wide-ranging commercial enterprise could flourish. He knew that these bonds of religious orthodoxy still existed in Russia, reinforced by peasant folkways and traditions which had endured for centuries. Grimly, Peter resolved to break these bonds on his return.” (Robert K. Massie, Peter the Great)

da_vinci_vitruvean“Many will think that they can with reason blame me, alleging that my proofs are contrary to the authority of certain men held in great reverence by their unexperienced judgements, not considering that my works are the issue of simple and plain experience which is the true mistress.” (Leonardo da Vinci)

“We must always carefully distinguish what is only blamable, or the proper object of disapprobation, from what force may be employed either to punish or prevent.” (Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments)

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” (John Stuart Mill)

hayek“It is a common mistake to regard National Socialism as a mere revolt against reason, an irrational movement without intellectual background. If that were so, the movement would be much less dangerous than it is. But nothing could be further from the truth or more misleading. The doctrines of National Socialism are the culmination of a long revolution of thought, a process in which thinkers who have had great influence far beyond the confines of Germany have taken part. Whatever one may think of the premises from which they started, it cannot be denied that the men who produced the new doctrines were powerful writers who left the impress of their ideas on the whole of European thought. Their system was developed with ruthless consistency. Once one accepts the premises from which it starts, there is no escape from its logic. It is simply collectivism freed from all traces of an individualist tradition which might hamper its realization.” (F. A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom)

“Commerce first taught nations to see with good will the wealth and prosperity of one another. Before, the patriot, unless sufficiently advanced in culture to feel the world his country, wished all countries weak, poor, and ill-governed, but his own: he now sees in their wealth and progress a direct source of wealth and progress to his own country. It is commerce which is rapidly rendering war obsolete, by strengthening and multiplying the personal interests which are in natural opposition to it.” (J. S. Mill, Principles of Political Economy, 3.17.5)

douglass“Everybody has asked the question … ‘What shall we do with the Negro?’ I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are wormeaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature’s plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!” (Frederick Douglass)

From the Department of Great Comebacks: When Lord Sandwich predicted to John Wilkes that he would die either “of a pox or on the gallows,” Wilkes replied, “That depends, my lord, on whether I embrace your mistress or your principles.”

adamsmith“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantages.” (Adam Smith, On the Wealth of Nations)

“The old-line Marxists used to claim that a single modern factory could produce enough shoes to provide for the whole population of the world and that nothing but capitalism prevented it. When they discovered the facts of reality involved, they declared that going barefoot is superior to wearing shoes.” (Ayn Rand)

“Work like you don’t need the money, love like you’ve never been hurt, and dance like no one is watching.” (Satchel Paige)

Aristotelian monk Roger Bacon, circa 1260 CE: “Machines may be made by which the largest ships, with only one man steering them, will be moved faster than if they were filled with rowers; wagons may be built which will move with incredible speed and without the aid of beasts; flying machines can be constructed in which a man … may beat the air with wings like a bird … machines will make it possible to go to the bottom of seas and rivers.”

“Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian, anti-smoking and animal rights activist who thought in terms of race, class, and gender.”

joseph_lister“In investigating nature you will do well to bear ever in mind that in every question there is the truth, whatever our notions may be. This seems, perhaps, a very simple consideration, yet it is strange how often it seems to be disregarded. I remember at an early period of my own life showing to a man of high reputation as a teacher some matters which I happened to have observed. And I was very much struck and grieved to find that, while all the facts lay equally clear before him, those only which squared with his previous theories seemed to affect his organs of vision.” (Joseph Lister, Edinburgh Medical Journal, 1876)

“At bottom every man knows well enough that he is a unique being, only once on this earth; and by no extraordinary chance will such a marvelously picturesque piece of diversity in unity as he is, ever be put together a second time.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

“If you take a man as he is, you make him worse. If you take a man as he can be, you make him better.” (Goethe)

“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” (Thomas Jefferson)

churchill“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” (Winston Churchill)

1915 Declaration of Principles by the American Association of University Professors: “The university teacher … should, if he is fit for his position, be a person of a fair and judicial mind; he should, in dealing with such subjects, set forth justly, without suppression or innuendo, the divergent opinions of other investigators … and he should, above all, remember that his business is not to provide his students with ready-made conclusions, but to train them to think for themselves.”

douglass“Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them … . The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” (Frederick Douglass)

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” (Ronald Reagan, 1986)

“If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.” (P. J. O’Rourke)

johnlocke“It is one Thing, to show a Man that he is in an Error, and another, to put him in possession of Truth.” (John Locke)

“We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.” (Robert Silensky)

“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about ‘isms’ and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.” (Abby at Verbum Ipsum)

“Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” (James Bovard)

“If you want government to intervene domestically, you’re a liberal. If you want government to intervene overseas, you’re a conservative. If you want government to intervene everywhere, you’re a moderate. If you don’t want government to intervene anywhere, you’re an extremist.” (Joseph Sobran)

pericles“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” (Pericles, 430 B.C.)

“The government is like a baby’s alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other. ” (Ronald Reagan)

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.” (Winston Churchill)

“The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.” (Herbert Spencer, 1820-1903)

In a G. K. Chesterton “Father Brown” detective story, one of the characters says to Father Brown: “Oh, I don’t know about religion and philosophy. I’m a practical man.” Father Brown replies: “That is why you will never be a practical man.”

voltaire“When enlightened men go on arguing for a long time, there is a distinct possibility that the question is not clear.” (Voltaire, The Age of Louis XIV)

“He is happy, whose circumstances suit his temper; but he is more excellent, who can suit his temper to any circumstances.” (David Hume, An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, 1751/1777, p. 237)

“And here I see a connection [of philosophy] to another interest of mine, then and now, which may surprise some readers—sport. What I have always appreciated about sports are the skills involved, not the competition. The sports I worked hardest on as a teenager were pole vaulting and gymnastics, although I played any number of racket games, as well the standard cricket and soccer. To get anywhere in sport requires practice and dedication, and a tolerance of failure; persistence is the key. You will fall, get hurt, make a fool of yourself, swear and sweat, feel like you will never be able to do it, and then one day it all comes together—the pole plants firmly in the box, your body inverts, you twist, pull, and you are clean over the bar, with a soft pit in which to land triumphantly. And then you can do it nearly every time, ever higher—although there will be those bad days of regression and failure. I learned how to windsurf when I was 50 and, boy, do you fall off that board into the water a lot of times: your back hurts, your hands hurt, you look stupid, you have neither style nor grace. But if you persevere you eventually get the hang of it, and before too long you are coasting along at a handsome clip, savouring your skills. Philosophy is a little like that, as are other intellectual endeavours: it takes persistence, patience, tolerance of failure, a stubborn desire for mastery. Essentially, it is a matter of gradually acquiring a skill, one component at a time. And, as with sports, some people are going to be better at it than others. ” (Colin McGinn)

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” (P. J. O’Rourke)

darwinDarwin’s golden rule of method: “The success of the ‘Origin’ may, I think, be attributed in large part to my having long before written two condensed sketches, and to my having finally abstracted a much larger manuscript, which was itself an abstract. By this means I was enabled to select the more striking facts and conclusions. I had, also, during many years followed a golden rule, namely, that whenever a published fact, a new observation or thought came across me, which was opposed to my general results, to make a memorandum of it without fail and at once; for I had found by experience that such facts and thoughts were far more apt to escape from the memory than favourable ones. Owing to this habit, very few objections were raised against my views which I had not at least noticed and attempted to answer.” (Charles Darwin, Autobiography)

“Ye are now to learn that, as of itself it is not hurtful, so neither should it be to any man scandalous and offensive, in doubtful cases, to hear the different judgment of men. Be it that Cephas hath one interpretation and Apollos hath another, that Paul is of this mind and Barnabas of that; if this offend you, the fault is yours. Carry peaceable minds, and ye may have comfort by this variety.” (Richard Hooker, 1554-1600)

johnlocke“Men must think and know for themselves. … . Not that I want a due respect to other men’s opinions; but, after all, the greatest reverence is due to truth: and I hope it will not be thought arrogance to say, that perhaps we should make greater progress in the discovery of rational and contemplative knowledge, if we sought it in the fountain, in the consideration of things themselves; and made use rather of our own thoughts than other men’s to find it. For I think we may as rationally hope to see with other men’s eyes, as to know by other men’s understandings. So much as we ourselves consider and comprehend of truth and reason, so much we possess of real and true knowledge. The floating of other men’s opinions in our brains, makes us not one jot the more knowing, though they happen to be true. What in them was science, is in us but opiniatrety; whilst we give up our assent only to reverend names, and do not, as they did, employ our own reason to understand those truths which gave them reputation. Aristotle was certainly a knowing man, but nobody ever thought him so because he blindly embraced, and confidently vented the opinions of another. And if the taking up of another’s principles, without examining them, made not him a philosopher, I suppose it will hardly make anybody else so. In the sciences, every one has so much as he really knows and comprehends. What he believes only, and takes upon trust, are but shreds; which, however well in the whole piece, make no considerable addition to his stock who gathers them. Such borrowed wealth, like fairy money, though it were gold in the hand from which he received it, will be but leaves and dust when it comes to use.” (John Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding)

“Astrology is Taurus.” (F. W. Dedering)

“Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?” (Henry Ward Beecher)

francis-bacon“Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.” (Francis Bacon, “Of Studies”)

“I know that I am mortal and the creature of a day; but when I search out the massed wheeling circles of the stars, my feet no longer touch the earth, but, side by side with Zeus himself, I take my fill of ambrosia, the food of the gods.” (Claudius Ptolemaeus [Ptolemy])

oscar_wilde“Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by ignorance.” (Oscar Wilde)

“Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” (H. L. Mencken)

“The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and makes its home for life. For this task it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn’t need its brain anymore, so it eats it! (It’s rather like getting tenure.)” (Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained)

dante‘Let us not talk of them; but look thou and pass.’ These innumerable seekers of safety first, and last, who take no risk either of suffering in a good cause or of scandal in a bad one, are here manifestly, nakedly, that which they were in life, the waste and rubbish of the universe, of no account to the world, unfit for Heaven and barely admitted to Hell. They have no need to die, for they ‘never were alive.’ (Dante, Inferno, Canto III)

“It is painful to recall that when Socrates was still interested in astronomy and meteorology, even his friend Aristophanes could not resist currying favor with the Athenian voters by ridiculing such inquiries. Jack Cade, in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, has a clerk put to death for associating with people who use such disgusting words as ‘noun’ and ‘verb.’ The revolutionary judge who sent Lavoisier to the guillotine in 1794 remarked with satisfaction that ‘The Republic has no need for chemists.’ Pol Pot was even more thorough than his teachers, Lenin, Marx, and Ho Chi Minh; under him, even an educated accent, or merely wearing spectacles, was a sufficient death-warrant.” (Unknown)

“We should be agnostic about those things for which there is no evidence. We should not hold beliefs merely because they gratify our desires for afterlife, immortality, heaven, hell, etc.” (Julian Huxley)

“Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle. … Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable.” (T. H. Huxley)

stanton-e-c-young-50x55“The Bible teaches that woman brought sin and death into the world, that she precipitated the fall of the race, that she was arraigned before the judgment seat of Heaven, tried, condemned and sentenced. Marriage for her was to be a condition of bondage, maternity a period of suffering and anguish, and in silence and subjection, she was to play the role of a dependent on man’s bounty for all her material wants, and for all the information she might desire … . Here is the Bible position of woman briefly summed up.” (Elizabeth Cady Stanton)

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for the good men to do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

madison“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” (James Madison)

“I can hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.” (Charles Darwin)

“To rest one’s case on faith means to concede that reason is on the side of one’s enemies — that one has no rational arguments to offer.” (Ayn Rand)

john-adams“Nothing is more dreaded than the national government meddling with religion.” (John Adams)

“Freedom, morality, and the human dignity of the individual consists precisely in this; that he does good not because he is forced to do so, but because he freely conceives it, wants it, and loves it.” (Mikhail Bakunin)

francis-bacon“Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased by tales, so is the other.” (Francis Bacon)

“The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.” (Thomas Macaulay)

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” (Buddha)

galileo“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” (Galileo Galilei)

“In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.” (Galileo Galilei)

magellan“The Church says that the Earth is flat, but I know that it is round. For I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in Shadow than in the Church.” (Ferdinand Magellan)

“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)

“Truth seeking has already been perfected. It’s called science. If you want to know if something is true or false, just test it fairly again and again. Accept nothing on simple faith.” (Charles Webb)

“The search for Truth does not begin with an answer on behalf of which all questions must constantly rearrange themselves. It begins with fearless questions.” (Matt Berry)

portrait_schopenhauer“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” (Arthur Schopenhauer)

“There is a story that a famous French mercantilist minister, Colbert, once asked a group of businessmen what he could do for them. One of the men, Legendre, is supposed to have replied, Laissez nous faire—leave us alone. Several French authors in the earlier part of the 18th century, including the Marquis d’Argenson, used the slogan laissez faire. The great Turgot attributed the rule laissez faire, laissez passer—leave things alone, let goods pass through—to Gourney. Sometimes a phrase was added suggesting the social theory behind the slogan: la monde va de lui meme—the world goes of itself. Today the term laissez faire has come to mean: leave the people alone, let them be, in their economic affairs, in their religious affairs, in thought and culture, in the pursuit of fulfillment in their own lives.” (Ralph Raico)

“When you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” (Peter Drucker)

michelangelo“If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn’t call it genius.” (Michelangelo)

“He who would not be frustrate of his hope to write well hereafter in laudable things, ought himself to be a true poem, that is, a composition and pattern of the best and honorablest things — not presuming to sing high praises of heroic men or famous cities, unless he have in himself the experience and practice of all that which is praiseworthy.” (John Milton)

“And gentlemen in England now a-bed / Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, / And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks / That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.” (Shakespeare, Henry V)

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” (George Orwell)

edison“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” (Thomas Edison)

“A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to.” (Granville Hicks)

kiplingrudyard-collier-1891-50px“Do the things you really want to do if you possibly can. Don’t wait for circumstances to be exactly right. You’ll find that they never are.” (Rudyard Kipling in 1935)

“The purpose of the university is not to make its members feel secure, content, or good about themselves, but to provide a forum for the new, the provocative, the disturbing, the unorthodox, even the shocking — all of which can be profoundly offensive to many, inside as well as outside its walls … . I do not think the university is or should attempt to be a political or a philanthropic, or a paternalistic or a therapeutic institution. It is not a club or a fellowship to promote harmony and civility, important as those values are. It is a place where the unthinkable can be thought, the unmentionable can be discussed, and the unchallengeable can be challenged. That means, in the words of Justice Holmes, ‘not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate.'” (C. Vann Woodward)

tacitus“Seldom are men blessed with times in which they may think what they like, and say what they think.” (Tacitus)

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” (Anais Nin)

“Remember this: one can be a strict logician or grammarian and at the same time full of imagination and music.” (Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game)

moliere“To honor all men is to honor none.” (Moliere, The Misanthrope)

“There’s nothing wrong with teenagers that reasoning with them won’t aggravate.” (Unknown)

How can you hesitate?
Risk! Risk anything!
Care no more for the opinions
of others, for those voices.
Do the hardest thing on earth
for you. Act for yourself.
Face the truth.
(Katherine Mansfield, Journal, 1922)

thomas_paine“These are times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered. Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” (Tom Paine, in Crisis, January 1777)

“As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.” (William Blake)

“We are fools when we fail to defend civilization. The ancient Romans might as well have said, ‘Oh, the Germanic tribes have valid nationalistic and cultural aspirations. Let’s pull the legions off the Rhine, submit our differences to a multilateral peace conference chaired by the Pathan Empire and start a Vandal Studies program at the Academy in Athens.’” (P. J. O’Rourke)

“Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.” (Ambrose Bierce)

“Criminals are, by and large, of an extraordinary Conservative disposition. They believe passionately in free enterprise and strict monetarist policies. They are against state interference of any kind.” (John Mortimer)

“For years the GOP was impervious to untested new ideas. It was also impervious to tested old ideas, but about 97 percent of all ideas are false, so there is something to be said for a party that has nothing to do with any of them.” (George F. Will)

thomas-jefferson“This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here, we are not afraid to follow truth where it may lead, nor to tolerate error so long as reason is free to combat it.” (Thomas Jefferson, in founding the University of Virginia)

“You go to a great school not so much for knowledge as for arts and habits; for the habit of attention, for the art of expres­sion, for the art of assuming at a moment’s notice a new intel­lectual position, for the art of entering quickly into another person’s thoughts, for the habit of submitting to censure and refutation, for the art of indicating assent or dissent in gradu­ated terms.” (Quoted in Michael Oakeshott, Rationalism in Poli­tics)

montaigne“If he [the student] embraces the opinions of Xenophon and Plato by his own reasoning, they will no longer be theirs but his. Who follows another follows nothing. He finds nothing, and indeed is seeking nothing. ‘We are not under a king; each man should look after himself.’ Truth and reason are common to all men, and no more belong to the man who first uttered them than to him that repeated them after him.” (Montaigne, “On the Education of Children”)

whitmanBeginning my studies the first step pleas’d me so much,
The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion,
The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love,
The first step I say awed me and pleas’d me so much,
I have hardly gone and hardly wish’d to go any farther,
But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs.
Walt Whitman, Beginning My Studies

“To know the best that has been thought and said in former times can make us wiser than we otherwise might be, and in this respect the humanities are not merely our, but the world’s best hope.” (Matthew Arnold)

aristotle“Every systematic science, the humblest and the noblest alike, seems to admit of two distinct kinds of proficiency; one of which may be properly called scientific knowledge of the subject, while the other is a kind of educational acquaintance with it. For an educated man should be able to form a fair off-hand judgment as to the goodness or badness of the method used by a professor in his exposition. To be educated is in fact to be able to do this; and even the man of universal education we deem to be such in virtue of his having this ability. It will, however, of course, be understood that we only ascribe universal education to one who in his own individual person is thus critical in all or nearly all branches of knowledge, and not to one who has a like ability merely in some special subject. For it is possible for a man to have this competence in some one branch of knowledge without having it in all.” (Aristotle, Parts of Animals)

“If someone asks me what is the best preparation is for the investment counsel profession I usually reply: the classics. The vast tableau of century upon century of detailed analysis of discoveries, conflicts, and statecraft, learning, and human growth and turmoil offers a unique perspective on the problems we find so puzzling. The problems of NATO are familiar ground to the reader of Thucydides; Churchill is often an echo of Cato.” (John Train)

“The best citizen is the person who has learned from the great minds and souls of the past how beautiful reason and virtue are and how difficult to attain.” (Lionel Trilling)

“The fool wonders, the wise man asks.” (Benjamin Disraeli)

nietzsche_50x57“Corruption. The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” (Nietzsche, Daybreak, 297)

“An eco-centered environmentalist believes that all species are equal, that man is no better than a jackass. In my case, he is wrong—in his case, he may be right.” (Mike Van Daele)

hume-50x65“Render possessions ever so equal, men’s different degrees of art, care, and industry, will immediately break that equality. Or if you check these virtues, you reduce society to the most extreme indigence; and, instead of preventing want and beggary in a few, render it unavoidable to the whole community.” (David Hume)

“Faith, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.” (Ambrose Bierce)

“So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.” (Bertrand Russell)

“We love our friends dearly, but we love the truth more.” (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics)

“Gardening is one of the best-natured delights of all others, for a man to look about him, and see nothing but the effects and improvements of his own art and diligence; to be always gathering some fruits of it, and at the same time to behold others ripening, and others budding; to see his soil covered with the beauteous creatures of his own industry; to see, like God, that all his works are good.” (Abraham Cowley, Of Agriculture, 1668)

“One of the things we have to be thankful for is that we don’t get as much government as we pay for.” (Charles Kettering)

A good government is one “which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” (Thomas Jefferson)

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence —  it is force.” (John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, Cato’s Letters. Sometimes erroneously ascribed to George Washington.)

“When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.” (P. J. O’Rourke)

“Happiness is having a large, loving, close-knit family in another city.” (George Burns)

maclean“When all things are lost and there is no hope left, there is always, somewhere in the world, one man you can turn to. There may be only that one man. More often than not there is only that one man. But that one man is always there.” (Alistair MacLean, Force 10 From Navarone)

“I know nothing about horses,” said the bald man watching to two flying forms. “But I’ve just seen that one,” he pointed with his cigarette at the far off bay. “I’ve just seen him run the guts out of the other two. One after the other he has broken their hearts and left them staggering along behind him. We would call him an imponderable, one who cannot be judged by normal standards.” He puffed at his cigarette before going on. “There are men like that also, imponderable.” (Wilbur Smith, Gold)

victor_hugo“While you are putting on your nightcaps and blowing out your candles, there are people who are heroes. He is a man of whom it will be said, one of these days, that he is impossible.” (Victor Hugo, Preface to Cromwell)

“The search after the great is the dream of youth and the most serious occupation of manhood.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

galileo“I do not doubt that in the course of time this new science will be improved by further observations, and still more by true and conclusive proofs. But this need not diminish the glory of the first observer. My regard for the inventor of the harp is not made less by knowing that his instrument was very crudely constructed and still more crudely played. Rather, I admire him more than I do the hundreds of craftsmen who in ensuing centuries have brought this art to the highest perfection. To apply oneself to great inventions, starting from the smallest beginnings, is no task for ordinary minds; to divine that wonderful arts lie hid behind trivial and childish things is a conception for superhuman talents.” (Galileo)

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out where the strong man stumbled, or where a doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, and who comes up short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause. The man who at best knows the triumph of high achievement and who at worst, if he fails, fails while daring greatly, so that his place will never be with those cold timid souls who never knew victory or defeat.” (Teddy Roosevelt)

mises“In a battle between force and an idea, the latter always prevails.” (Ludwig von Mises)

“History is philosophy teaching by example.” (Lord Bolingbroke)

“For there is one belief, one faith, that is man’s glory, his triumph, his immortality — and that is his belief in life. Man loves life, and, loving life, hates death, and because of this he is great, he is glorious, he is beautiful, and his beauty is everlasting. He lives below the senseless stars and writes meanings in them. He lives in fear, in toil, in agony, an in unending tumult, but if the blood foamed bubbling from his wounded lungs at every breath he drew, he would still love life more dearly than an end of breathing. Dying, his eyes burn beautifully, and the old hunger shines more fiercely in them — he has endured all the hard and purposeless suffering, and still he wants to live …” (Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again)

whitmanI think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that live thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
(Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”)

“No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.” (William Blake)

“A gulf separates the man who goes first from everyone who comes after. The pathfinder is denied the comfort of knowing that what he is attempting has already been proved possible.” (Roland Huntford, The Last Place on Earth)

mill“A cultivated mind — I do not mean that of a philosopher, but any mind to which the fountains of knowledge have been opened, and which has be taught, in any tolerable degree, to exercise its faculties — finds sources of inexhaustible interest in all that surrounds it: in the objects of nature, the achievements of art, the imaginations of poetry, the incidents of history, the ways of mankind, past and present, and their prospects for the future.” (John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism)

“It is of the nature of idea to be communicated: written, spoken, done. The idea is like grass. It craves light, likes crowds, thrives on crossbreeding, grows better for being stepped on.” (Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed)

thomas-jefferson“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” (Thomas Jefferson)

“When words lose their meaning, people lose their liberty.” (Confucius)

benfranklin“Those who give up essential liberty, to preserve a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” (Benjamin Franklin)

“To love one who loves you, to admire one who admires you, in a word, to be the idol of one’s idol, is exceeding the limit of human joy; it is stealing fire from heaven.” (Delphine de Girardin)

Education is expensive. Ignorance is very expensive.

nietzsche_50x57“Marriage as a long conversation. When marrying, one should ask oneself this question: Do you believe that you will be able to converse well with this woman into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory, but the most time during the association belongs to conversation.” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All-Too Human)

“A married philosopher belongs in comedy.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

“What is Matter? — Never mind.
“What is Mind? — No matter.”
(Punch, 1855)

“Fifteen cents of every twenty-cent stamp goes for storage.” (Louis Rukeyser)

edison“I am sixty-seven, but I’m not too old to make a fresh start.” (Thomas Edison, after a fire gutted much of his invention factory in 1914)

“As never before in human history, mankind is at a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” (Woody Allen)

“Live now. Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.” (Captain Jean-Luc Picard, U.S.S. Enterprise)

“It is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and end as superstitions.” (T. H. Huxley)

ogdennash“But please do not think that I am not fond of banks,
Because I think they deserve our appreciation and thanks,
Because they perform a valuable public service in eliminating
the jackasses who go around saying that health and happiness
are everything and money isn’t essential,
Because as soon as they have to borrow some unimportant money
to maintain their health and happiness they starve to death
so they can’t go around any more sneering at good old money,
which is nothing short of providential.”
(Ogden Nash, “Bankers are just like anybody else, except richer”)

‘In a free market, because human beings are not omniscient, markets are constantly correcting. Poorly run businesses, or businesses for which customer demand has changed, go out of business, and new businesses that do a better job of meeting consumer demand are created. A free market is in a constant correction. It is always searching for the best way to produce goods and services at the lowest cost and of the best quality. // When the Federal Reserve steps in and uses monetary policy to stop the downside correction process, all it achieves is to defer problems to the future and make them worse. Its action delays and distorts the natural market correction process, thereby reducing the long-term productivity of the economic system by encouraging a misuse of capital and labor.” (John Allison, The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure)

“The universal regard for money is the one hopeful fact in our civilization, the one sound spot in our social conscience. Money is the most important thing in the world. It represents health, strength, honour, generosity, and beauty as conspicuously and undeniably as the want of it represents illness, weakness, disgrace, meanness and ugliness. Not the least of its virtues is that it destroys base people as certainly as it fortifies and dignifies noble people.” (George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara)

“New York is the kind of town where if you’re not working on something that leads upward, you feel out of it, you feel as is you don’t belong in conversations.” (Tom Wolfe)

“Think Big. To me it’s very simple: if you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big.” (Donald Trump)

thucydides“The likeliest way of securing peace is this: only to use one’s power in the cause of justice, but to make it perfectly plain that one is resolved not to tolerate aggression.” (Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War)

“Performance art is created by thin young men and usually consists of dancerly women taking their clothes off, putting on masks, and dumping blood on each other while a sound track screeches out machinery noises.” (Ian Shoales)

epicurus“Let no one when young delay to study philosophy, nor when he is old grow weary of his study. For no one can come to early or too late to secure the health of his soul.” (Epicurus, “Letter to Menoeceus”)

“There is nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it.” (Cicero)

pico“One cannot reasonably attach himself to one school or philosopher, unless he has previously become familiar with them all.” (Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man)

“It is not necessary that man should be religious, but it is necessary that he should be philosophical. When he is philosophical, he has the very best of the blessings of religion.” (Fung Yu-lan)

“All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.” (Oscar Wilde)

bierce“Blank verse, n. Unrhymed iambic pentameters — the most difficult kind of English verse to write acceptably; a kind, therefore, much affected by those who cannot acceptably write any kind.” (Ambrose Bierce)

“Prose is a museum where all the old weapons of poetry are kept.” (T. E. Hulme)

“Men will not be free until the last King is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” (Attributed to Diderot)

“No man was ever yet a great poet, without being at the same time a profound philosopher.” (Coleridge)

thucydides“As for poverty, no one need be ashamed to admit it: the real shame is in not taking practical measures to escape from it.” (Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War)

“When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I’m beginning to believe it.” (Clarence Darrow)

whitman“I never yet knew how it felt to think I stood in the presence of my superior.— If the presence of God were made visible immediately before me, I could not abase myself.” (Walt Whitman, from his notebooks)

On great human beings: “I hope to surpass them, whilst acknowledging that it was they who taught me how to walk.” (Andre-Louis Moreau, in Rafael Sabatini’s Scaramouche)

rand_50x66“The course of mankind’s progress is not a straight, automatic line, but a tortuous struggle, with long detours or relapses into the stagnant night of the irrational. Mankind moves forward by the grace of those human bridges who are able to grasp and transmit, across years or centuries, the achievements men had reached—and to carry them further.” (Ayn Rand, The Romantic Manifesto)

“Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns; he should be drawn and quoted.” (Fred Allen)

“A good pun is its own reword.” (Unknown)

zora-neale-hurstonOn racism: “Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.” (Zora Neale Hurston, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me”)

“There should be as many (styles) of houses as there are kinds (styles) of people and as many differentiations as there are different individuals. A man who has individuality has a right to its expression and his own environment.” (Frank Lloyd Wright)

“Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.” (Bertrand Russell)

santayana“Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon or to the first comer.” (Santayana)

“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.” (Lord Byron)

ford“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason so few engage in it.” (Henry Ford)

“No great science was discovered in the spirit of humility.” (Heinz Pagels)

mises“All that man is and all that raises him above the animals he owes to his reason.” (Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism)

“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, The Age of Reason)

“Dogma is long on belief and short on understanding.” (Bruce Thimmig)

epicurus“A man cannot dispel his fear about the most important matters if he does not know what is the nature of the universe but suspects the truth of some mythical story. So that without natural science it is not possible to attain our pleasures unalloyed.” (Epicurus, “Letter to Menoeceus”)

After sex, one behaviorist says to another, “That was fine for you, but how was it for me?” (Unknown)

newton“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” (Isaac Newton, Letter to Robert Hooke)

“Western technology made slavery unnecessary; Western ideas made it intolerable.” (Bernard Lewis)

pope_alexander_vi-50pxWild Parties, Vatican Style: “Once he became Pope Alexander VI, Vatican parties, already wild, grew wilder. They were costly, but he could afford the lifestyle of a Renaissance prince; as vice-chancellor of the Roman Church, he had amassed enormous wealth. As guests approached the papal palace, they were excited by the spectacle of living statues: naked, gilded young men and women in erotic poses. Flags bore the Borgia arms, which, appropriately, portrayed a red bull rampant on a field of gold. Every fete had a theme. One, known to Romans as the Ballet of the Chestnuts, was held on October 30, 1501. The indefatigable Burchard describes it in his Diarium. After the banquet had been cleared away, the city’s fifty most beautiful whores danced with guests, ‘first clothed, then naked.’ The dancing over, the ‘ballet’ began, with the pope and two of his children in the best seats. Candelabra were set up on the floor; scattered among them were chestnuts, ‘which,’ Burchard writes, ‘the courtesans had to pick up, crawling between the candles.’ Then the serious sex started. Guests stripped and ran out on the floor, where they mounted, or were mounted by, the prostitutes. ‘The coupling took place,’ according to Burchard, ‘in front of everyone present.’ Servants kept score of each man’s orgasms, for the pope greatly admired virility and measured a man’s machismo by his ejaculative capacity. After everyone was exhausted, His Holiness distributed prizes — cloaks, boots, caps, and fine silken tunics. The winners, the diarist wrote, were those who made love with those courtesans the greatest number of times.” (William Manchester, A World Lit Only by Fire)

thomas-jeffersonOn slavery: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master & slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.” (Thomas Jefferson)

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans, aim high in hope and work. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us.” (Attributed to Chicago architect Daniel Burnham)

abraham-lincoln“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” (Abraham Lincoln)

“I happened to catch my reflection the other day when I was polishing my trophies, and, gee, it’s easy to see why women are nuts about me.” (Tom Ryan)

nietzsche_50x57“Mystical explanations. — Mystical explanations are considered deep. The truth is that they are not even superficial.” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 126)

“A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend upon the support of Paul.” (G. B. Shaw)

mettrie“So write as if thou wert alone in the universe, and hadst nothing to fear from the jealousy and prejudices of men, or — thou will fail thy end.” (Julien Offray de la Mettrie)

“Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.” (Flannery O’Connor)

oscar_wilde“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” (Oscar Wilde)

“In conversation you can get away with all kinds of vagueness and nonsense, often without even realizing it. But there’s something about putting your thoughts on paper that forces you to get down to specifics. That way, it’s harder to deceive yourself — or anybody else.” (Lee Iacocca on writing, speaking from his experience as manager in business)

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” (Samuel Goldwyn)

Return to the StephenHicks.org main page.