...This is the world: the lying likeness of
Our strips of stuff that tatter as we move
Loving and being loth;
The dream that kicks the buried from their sack
And lets their trash be honored as the quick.
This is the world. Have faith...

Dylan Thomas, “Our Eunuch Dreams”

Thinkest thou that for long the goddess of love did consider
When once, in fair Ida’s grove, Anchises charmed her eye?

Goethe, Roman Elegies


“There is light because there is darkness” and it is that person who has emerged from the darkness who appreciates most of all the value of the light.

小林 多喜二 (Takiji Kobayashi)

There’s a blade of light in every word, it doesn’t matter which you heard, the holy or the broken Hallelujah.

Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah”

I am the triple owner of the world, the finest Turkey, the Lorelei, Germania and Helvetia of exclusively sweet butter and Naples, and I must supply the whole world with macaroni.

Jung, a patient in The Pschogenesis of Mental Disease

During episodes of unemployment I find it rewarding to sleep as much as possible—anything from twelve to fourteen hours a day is a good starting point. Sleep spares you humiliation and saves money at the same time: nothing to eat, nothing to buy, just lie back and dream your life away.

David Sedaris, Naked

More than anything else, civilization is a struggle between various styles of recollection.

[Nietzsche], My Sister and I

Man is the child of customs, not the child of his ancestors.

Ibn Khaldûn, Al-Muqaddima

The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears that this is true.

James Branch Cabell, Silver Stallion

The concept of progress acts as a protective mechanism to shield us from the terrors of the future.

Frank Herbert, Dune, attributed to Muad‘dib

History as contingency is a prospect that is more than the human spirit can bear.

Robert Heilbroner, “Technological Determinism Revisited”

Things will go along like this for awhile, and then they‘ll get worse.

Wade Marshall

The penalty of death is the only one that makes an injustice absolutely irreparable; from which it follows that the existence of the death penalty implies that one is exposed to committing an irreparable injustice; from which it follows that it is unjust to establish it. This reasoning appears to us to have the force of a demonstration.


It makes no difference what men think about war, said the judge. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always there. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.

Cormac McCarthy, the Judge in The Blood Meridian

War, organized war, is not a human instinct. It is a highly planned and co-operative form of theft.

Jacob Bronowski

Habit is the strongest thing in life.

Jack Black, You Can‘t Win

Habits are qualities of the soul.

Ibn Khaldûn, Al-Muqaddima

You must dream your life with great care instead of living it as merely an amusement.

Author Cravan

Acceptance means commitment, among other things.

Ian Hacking, Representing and Intervening

I don‘t know why we are here, but I‘m pretty sure it‘s not to enjoy ourselves.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

The bad player is the one who tries to calculate and play with the odds, as if his game, his life, were one of a large number of games. To do so is at best to succumb to another necessity, the necessity of large numbers. The good player does not fool himself, and accepts that there is exactly one chance, which produces by chance the necessity and even the purpose that he experiences.

Ian Hacking, The Taming of Chance

For all men have but a little while to live and none knows his fate thereafter. So that a man possesses nothing certainly save a brief loan of his body: and yet the body of man is capable of much curious pleasure.

James Branch Cabell

We are here on Earth in order to help others. What the others are here for, I‘ve no idea.

W.H. Auden

In each case you settle on an act. Doing nothing at all counts as an act.

Ian Hacking, An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic

In my world I am omnipotent, in yours I practice diplomacy.

Bleuler, a patient in The Schizophrenic Disorders

Les faits sont fait.


People are largely ignorant of the interests of the human species.

Ibn Khaldûn, Al-Muqaddima

For millenia, man remained what he was for Aristotle: a living animal with the additional capacity for a political existence; modern man is an animal whose politics places his exitence as a living being in question.

M. Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Introduction

The greatest problem of communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.

George Bernard Shaw

The more I think about language, the more it amazes me that people ever understand each other.

Kurt Gödel

In what else, pray, does man differ from the other animals except in that he is used by words?

James Branch Cabell

Words are the counters of wise men, but the money of fools.


There are more words in our philosophy than are dreamt of in heaven and earth.

Erwin Panofsky

Justice is a word that resides in the dictionary. It occasionally makes its escape, but is promptly caught and put back where it belongs.

Jack Black, Letter to Fremont Older

The fundamental meaning of a mark is that it’s there.

Alan Kay

...This arrival in the wild country of the soul,
All approaches gone, being completely there

Where the wild poem is a substitute
For the woman one loves or ought to love,
One wild rhapsody a fake for another...

Wallace Stevens

Hot girls destroy your life. That’s just a fact. It does’t matter if the girl is also a good person. She’s a moose, you’re a chipmunk. She’s just wandering through the forest, oblivious, and she doesn’t even know that she stomped on your head.

Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

A man never got a woman back... not by begging on his knees.

Leonard Cohen, “I’m Your Man”

I think that with a little bit of imagination it is hard to be faithful, but with a huge amount of imagination it may be possible.

Hervé Le Tellier

A gentleman is someone who never gives offense unintentionally.

Eva Brann

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.

John F. Kennedy

Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling.

James E. Starrs

The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.

Iris Murdoch, The Red and the Green

Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia.

H.G. Wells

When I go biking, I repeat a mantra of the day’s sensations: bright sun, blue sky, warm breeze, blue jay’s call, ice melting and so on. This helps me transcend the traffic, ignore the clamorings of work, leave all the mind theaters behind and focus on nature instead. I still must abide by the rules of the road, of biking, of gravity. But I am mentally far away from civilization. The world is breaking someone else’s heart.

Diane Ackerman

Most bicyclists in New York City obey instinct far more than they obey the traffic laws, which is to say that they run red lights, go the wrong way on one-way streets, violate cross-walks, and terrify innocents, because it just seems easier that way. Cycling in the city, and particularly in midtown, is anarchy without malice.

New Yorker, Talk of the Town

Americans are a broad-minded people. They’ll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife-beater, and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn’t drive there’s something wrong with him.

Art Buchwald

The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never melted.

D.H. Lawrence

In democratic times, enjoyments are more intense than in the ages of aristocracy, and the number of those who partake in them is vastly larger ... Man’s hopes and desires are oftener blasted, the soul is more stricken and perturbed, and care itself is more keen.

De Tocqueville

So far, I have been a spectator in this theater which is the world, but I am now about to mount the stage, and I come forward masked.

Descartes, Private Thoughts

Once upon a time
There was a little boy
And he went outside.

Anonymous, handed down by Harry Parch

Ci git qui ne fut rien pas même academicien.

A gravestone in Dijon

My bite gives life.

Félicien Rops

Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it’s done, they’ve seen it done every day, but they’re unable to do it themselves.

Brendan Francis Behan

Community plumbing is one of the very modern fine arts, like criticism but useful.

D.B. Wyndham Lewis, Villion

A bureaucrat is one who has the power to say “no” but none to say “yes.”

R.L. Ackoff, H.J. Arnoff and S. Bibb, Management F-Laws

Let the gods, Zeus, Hera, and all the others, take position according to his own law and let him hold to this logos without reservation.

Philip of Opus [Plato], Epinomus

Genius is nothing more than an extraordinary manifestation of the body.

Arthur Cravan

The addict’s warning that heroin is dangerous is no less credible because he still uses.

Dahra Latham

The truth is that I have always hated the Viennese coffeehouses because in them I am always confronted with people like myself, and naturally I do not want to be everlastingly confronted with people like myself, and certainly not in a coffeehouse, where I go to escape from myself. Yet it is here that I find myself confronted with myself and my kind. I find myself unsupportable, and even more unsupportable is a horde of writers and brooders like myself. I avoid literature whenever possible, because whenever possible I avoid myself, and so when I am in Vienna I have to forbid myself to visit coffeehouses, or at least I have to be careful not to visit the so-called literary coffeehouses under any circumstances whatsoever. However, suffering as I do from the coffeehouse disease, I feel an unremitting compulsion to visit some literary coffeehouse or other, even though everything within me rebels against the idea. The truth is that the more deeply I detest the literary coffeehouses of Vienna, the more strongly I feel compelled to frequent them.

Thomas Bernhard, Wittgenstein’s Nephew

It is phenomenal how fast a little toot of smack will take away the agony of withdrawal and most other kinds of pain. What it cannot take away it makes meaningless. You may still have a broken arm, but somehow it doesn’t matter so much. The same is true for angst and anxiety. It cancels pain so hidden that you were unaware of its existence until it disappeared.

Edward Bunker, Education of a Felon

Plutonium has a quite extraordinary relationship with people. They made it, and it kills them.

Ian Hacking, The Social Construction of What?

Work; look for peace and calm in work, you will find it nowhere else! Pleasures flit by—they are only for yourself; work leaves a mark of long-lasting joy, work is for others.


I have always been grateful for the serenity I have been able to obtain by focusing hard on my work.

Eric Kandel, In Search of Memory

Scientific work will never stop, and it would be terrible if it did. If there were no more problems, you would put your hands in your pockets and your head on a pillow and would work no more. In science rest is stagnation, rest is death.

M. Planck

The scientific enterprise as a whole does from time to time prove useful, open up new territory, display order, and test long-accepted belief. Nevertheless, the individual engaged on a normal research problem is almost never doing any one of these things. Once engaged, his motivation is of a rather different sort. What then challenges him is the conviction that, if only he is skilled enough, he will succeed in solving a puzzle that no one before has solved or solved so well. Many of the greatest scientific minds have devoted all of their professional attention to demanding puzzles of this sort. On most occasions any particular field of specialization offers nothing else to do, a fact that makes it no less fascinating to the proper sort of addict.

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Theories have four stages of acceptance: i) this is worthless nonsense; ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view; iii) this is true, but quite unimportant; iv) I always said so.

J.B.S. Haldane

We were confused and they were confused, but we were more accustomed to being confused.

Wade Marshall

Because of the contingency of representations, we cannot say that there is a way the world is that guarantees how it will be represented.

Sergio Sismondo, An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies

Cognition is ... not an individual process of any theoretical “particular conciousness.” Rather it is the result of a social activity, since the existing stock of knowledge exceeds the range available to any one individual.

Ludwik Fleck, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact

There is no escaping, at times, the gloomy suspicion that fiddling with pens and ink is, after all, no fit employment for a grown man.

James Branch Cabell

Why’d I do it? I coulda beat that guy, I coulda beat him cold ... he never woulda known. But I just had to show him ... I just had to show those creeps, those punks what the game is like when it’s great ... when it’s really great. You know, like anything can be great ... anything can be great ... I don’t care ... bricklaying can be great, if a guy knows what he’s doing and why and can make it come off.

When I’m going ... when I’m really going, I feel like a jockey must feel ... sitting his horse, he’s got all that speed and power underneath him. He’s coming into the stretch, the pressure’s on him, and he knows ... just feels when to let it go and how much, cause he’s got everything working for him ... timing, touch.

It’s a great feeling ... It’s a really great feeling ... when you’re right and you know you’re right. It’s like all the sudden I got oil in my arms. The pool cue’s part of me, you know the pool cue’s got nerves in it ... it’s a piece of wood, and it’s got nerves in it! You feel the roll of those balls. You don’t have to look. You just know. You make shots that nobody’s ever made before, and you play that game the way nobody’s ever played it before.

Sidney Carroll, Robert Rossen and Paul Newman, The Hustler

I remember one time when I was playing at the black Hawk in San Francisco. I forget the date, but Sonny Stitt was touring with Jazz at the Philharmonic. He came in, and he wanted to jam with me. He came in and he says, “Can I blow?” I said, “Yeah great!”

We both play alto, which is… it really makes it a contest. But Sonny is one of those guys, that’s the thing with him. It’s a communion. It’s a battle, it’s an ego trip. It’s a testing ground. And that’s the beauutiful part of it. It’s like two guys that play great pool wanting to play pool together, or two great football teams, or two magnificent basketball teams, and just the joy of playing with someone great, being with someone great…

I guess it’s like James Joyce when he was a kid, you know. He hung out with all the great writers of the day, and he was a little kid, like, with tennis shoes on, and they said, “Look at this lame!” They didn’t use those words in those days. They said “God, here comes this nut.” And he told them, “I’m great.” And he sat with them, and he loved to be with them, and it ended up that he was great. That’s the way Sonny felt; that’s the way I’ve always felt.

I said “What do you want to play?” Sonny says “Let’s play ‘Cherokee.’ That’s a song jazz musicians used to play. The bridge, which is the middle part, has all kinds of chord changes in it. It’s very difficult. If you can’t play that… If some kid came around, and he wanted to play, you’d say “Let’s play ‘Cherokee.’ And you’d count it off real fast.

I said, “Well, beat it off.” He went “ One-two, one-two;” He was flying. We played the head, the melody, and then he took the first solo. He played, I don’t know, about forty choruses. He played for an hour, maybe, and did everything that could be done on a saxaphone, everything you could play, as much as Charlie Parker could have played if he’d been there. Then he stopped. And he looked at me. Gave me one of those looks, “All right suckah, your turn.” And it’s my job, it’s my gig. I was strung out, I was hooked, I was drunk. I was having a hassle with my wife Diane who’d threatened to kill herself in our hotel room next door. I had marks on my arm, I thought there were narcs in the club, and all of a sudden, I realized that it was me. He’d done all those things, and now I had to put up or shut up, or get off, or forget it, or quit, or kill myself, or do something.

I forgot everything, and everything came out. I played way over my head. I played completely different than he did. I searched and found my own way, and what I said reached the people. I played myself, and I knew I was right, and the people loved it, and they felt it. I blew and blew, and when I finally finished I was shaking all over; my heart was pounding; I was soaked in sweat, and the people were screaming; the people were clapping, and I looked at Sonny, but I just kind of nodded, and he went “All right!” and that was it. That’s what it’s all about.

Art Pepper, Straight Life

A test of endurance is a wonderful thing when the blood flows swiftly and the years are young. Twenty-one hours of punishment to satisfy the ego of youthful tramps. There was no object, save that around camp-fires by running brooks we could brag to grizzled and decrepit hoboes how we had ridden a mail train nearly six hundred miles through a populated section of the country. We knew that less daring men in a ragged profession would admire us for the feat. No object at all - yet it was about the same object that actuates the rest of humanity of every class and creed. The admiration that humans have for others who do the thing which they are not capable, or daring, or foolish enough to do.

Jim Tully, Beggars of Life

What drove me? I think most creative people want to express appreciation for being able to take advantage of the work that’s been done by others before us. I didn’t invent the language or mathematics I use. I make little of my own food and none of my own clothes. Everything I do depends on other members of our species and the shoulders that we stand on. And a lot of us want to contribute something back to our species and to add something to the flow. It’s about trying to express something in the only way that most of us know how - because we can’t write Bob Dylan songs or Tom Stoppard plays. We try to use the talents we do have to express our deep feelings, to show our appreciation of all the contributions that came before us, and to add something to that flow. That’s what has driven me.

Steve Jobs

Now it is usual—but not to say normal—for people to interest themselves primarily in means, without noticing that means exist only in relation to ends and that, in accepting certain means, they unconsciously accept the ends that make them so. In other words, they accept whatever philosophy happens to be embodied in the values and institutions of a particular civilation.

Georges Canguilhem, On the Normative Character of Philosophical Thought

For me there has never been an amount of money that makes it worth doing something that is not fun.

R.L. Ackoff, “On Passing Through 80”

There are always more people who prefer to speak than to listen.

Paul Dirac

You know that I write slowly. This is chiefly because I am never satisfied until I have said as much as possible in a few words, and writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length.

Karl F. Gauß

Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.

David McCullough

Ego qui loquor rex sum.

Gerhard of Cremona

Research and writing are lonely occupations. It is easy to become discouraged in solitary confinement.

Olive Holmes

In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of god.

Aeschylus, Quoted by R. Kennedy speaking on the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.

...If all the pens that ever poets held
Had fed the feeling of their master’s thoughts,
And every sweetness that inspir’d their hearts,
Their minds, and muses on admired themes;
If all the heavenly quintessence that they still
From their immortal powers of poesy,
Wherein, as in a mirror, we perceive
The highest reaches of a human wit;
If these had made one poem’s period,
And all combined in beauty’s worthiness,
Yet should there hover in their restless heads
One thought, one grace, one wonder, at the least,
Which into words no virtue can digest...

Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlane

Possunt quia posse videntur.


Whoever despises the high wisdom of mathematics nourishes himself on delusion and will never still the sophistic sciences whose only product is an eternal uproar.

Leonardo da Vinci

Mathematics knows no races or geographic boundaries; for mathematics, the cultural world is one country.

David Hilbert

In one regard, mathematics is like poetry. Every discipline from auto mechanics to zoology uses its own system of representation, a specialized vocabulary and system of symbols that help convey the old facts and new speculations in the field. But poets go beyond this. They fix on the form of representation itself, then exploit it in highly creative and beautiful ways. Perhaps every discipline does this to some extent, but only mathematics matches poetry in tying innovation to notation.

James Brown, Philosophy of Mathematics

He must be a “practical” man who can see no poetry in mathematics.

W.F. White, A Scrap-Book of Elementary Mathematics

One person’s clear and distinct idea is another person’s intimidation.

W. Thurston, On Proof and Progress in Mathematics

...The nature of things betrays itself more readily under the vexations of art than in her natural freedom.

Francis Bacon, The Great Instauration

The earth, in fair and grateful exchange, pays back to the moon an illumination similar to that which it receives from her throughout nearly all the darkest gloom of the night.

Galileo, The Starry Messenger

You imagine that I look back on my life’s work with calm satisfaction. But from nearby it looks quite different. There is not a single concept of which I am convinced that it will stand firm, and I feel uncertain whether I am in general on the right track.

Einstein, Letter to Solovine, 1949

It is sometimes necessary to repeat what all know. All mapmakers should place the Mississippi in the same location and avoid originality.

Saul Bellow, Mr. Sammler’s Planet

If you want to succeed in this world, you don’t have to be much cleverer than other people, you just have to be one day earlier.

Leo Szilard

Take what you need, do what you should, you will get what you want.


Say what you know, do what you must, come what may.

Sofia (Sonya) Kowalevski

The only way you can make a man trustworthy is to trust him; and the surest way to to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust.

Henry Stimson

O passi graviora, dabit deus his quoque finem.


Science once claimed power over nature as its goal, as if science and power one thing and nature another.

Richard Rhodes, Dark Sun

... Science is a systematic explanation of perceived or imaginary phenomena, or else is based on such an explanation.

David Pingree, Hellenophilia versus the History of Science

Science is a contemplative possession of reality through exclusion of all illusion, error and ignorance.

Georges Canguilhem, On the Normative Character of Philosophical Thought

An idea which can be used once is a trick. If it can be used more than once it becomes a method.

George Polya and Gabor Szego, Problems and Theorems in Analysis

L’historien ne doit aux morts que la vérité.

Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre, Histoire de l’astronomie moderne

The darkness, of which the historians complain, is essentially the darkness of their own ignorance.

George Sarton, An Introduction to the History of Science, vol. 1

... All that we may ever hope to establish in historical research are facts and conditions but never causes.

Otto Neugebauer, The Exact Sciences in Antiquity

It is an historiographic maxim that when a body of ideas seem incoherent to us, we fail to understand the ideas.

Ian Hacking, The Taming of Chance

The current state of knowledge remains vague when history is not considered, just as history remains vague without substantive knowledge about the current state.

Ludwik Fleck, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact

It is not the literal past that rules us, save, possibly, in a biological sense. It is the images of the past. These are often as highly structured and selective as myths. Images and symbolic constructs of the past are imprinted, almost in the manner of genetic information, on our sensibility. Each new historical era mirrors itself in the picture and active mythology of the past.

George Steiner, In Bluebeard’s Castle

You can make the argument that there’s no such thing as the past. Nobody lived in the past. They lived in the present. It is their present, not our present, and they don’t know how it’s going to come out. They weren’t just like we are because they lived in that very different time. You can’t understand them if you don’t understand how they perceived reality.

David McCullough

Klee's Angelus Novus

A Klee painting named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet.

Walter Benjamin, Über den Begriff der Geschichte, thesis ix, trans. H. Arendt

There is nothing behind the angel.

Fabio Acerbi, “Archimedes and the Angel”

Life is just one damned thing after another.

Edna St. Vincent Milay

History is just one damned thing after another.

Arnold Toynbee

The essential future is always unforeseen.

Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb

They remain dead, the people I try to resuscitate by straining to hear what they say. But the illusion is not pointless, or not quite, even if the reader knows all this better than I do. One thing a book tries to do, beneath the disguise of words and causes and clothes and grief, is show the skeleton and the skeleton dust to come. The author too, like those of whom he speaks, is dead.

Jean Genet, Prisoner of Love

The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.

William Faulkner

L’embarras de l’historien s’accroît avec l’abondance des documents.

Anatole France

Pythagoras the mathematician perished finally AD 1962.

Reviel Netz, The Shaping of Deduction in Greek Mathematics

The important thing is to be able to understand anyone who has something useful to say.

There is a general moral here. Be very careful and very clear about what you say. But do not be dogmatic about your own language. Be prepared to express any careful thought in the language your audience will understand. And be prepared to learn from someone who talks a language with which you are not familiar.

Ian Hacking, An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic

... But a curiosity like mine is the most pleasurable of vices - I beg your pardon! I meant to say: the love of truth has its own reward in Heaven, and already on earth.

Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

In this real world of sweat and dirt, it seems to me that when a view of things is ‘noble,’ that ought to count as presumption against its truth, and as a philosophic disqualification. The prince of darkness may be a gentleman, as we are told he is, but whatever the God of earth and heaven is, he can surely be no gentleman.

William James, What Pragmatism Means

The final arbitrator in philosophy is not how we think but what we do.

Ian Hacking, Representing and Intervening

All people by nature desire to know. An example of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves.

Aristotle, Metaphysics

Understanding is a lot like sex; it’s got a practical purpose, but that’s not why people do it, normally.

Frank Oppenheimer

We find certain things about seeing puzzling because we do not find the whole business of seeing puzzling enough.

Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

The habit of analysis has a tendency to wear away the feelings.

John Stuart Mill

An anomaly is not an abnormality. Diversity does not signify sickness.

Georges Canguilhem

Be ready for recurrent feelings of panic and depression: they should grow less frequent after the first six months or so.

G. M. Wickens, Arabic Grammar: A First Workbook

As it is, plain reasoning assures me I am not indispensable to the universe: but with this reasoning, somehow, does not travel my belief.

James Branch Cabell, Jurgen

Pauca sed matura.

Gauß’ moto

Die ganzen Zahlen hat der liebe Gott gemacht, alles andere ist Menschenwerk.

Leopold Kronecker

It was the hour when gauze-winged insects are born that only live for a day.

Lord Dunsany

Now I am wiser: for I know there is not any memory with less satisfaction in it than the memory of some temptation we resisted.

James Branch Cabell,Jurgen

Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.

Toni Morrison , Beloved

Otium sine litteris mors est.


... Philosophy proper is a subject, on the one hand so hopelessly obscure, on the other so astonishingly elementary, that there knowledge hardly counts.

G.H. Hardy, “Mathematical Proof”

Either philosophy reinforces communal beliefs, in which case it is pointless; or else it is at odds with those beliefs, in which case it is dangerous.

Georges Canguilhem, On the Normative Character of Philosophical Thought

Once a philosopher, twice a pervert.


A thinker should have neither religion nor fatherland nor even any social conviction. Absolute skepticism.


Let those who come after me wonder why I built up these mental constructions and how they can be interpreted in some philosophy.

A. Heyting, Intuitionism

There is a much higher probability that a first-class scholar should commit an error than that an author who usually writes nonsense should have one good idea.

Otto Neugebauer, “Aristarchus and Archimedes”

My momma says it’s okay to generalize a little.

Mathew Johnson of Fat Possum Records

The refinement of morality increases together with the refinement of fear. Today the fear of disagreeable feelings in other people is almost the strongest of our own disagreeable feelings.

Nietzsche, Notes 1880-1881

Modern society is perverse, not in spite of its puritanism or as if from a backlash provoked by its hypocrisy; it is in actual fact, and directly, perverse.

M. Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Introduction

If nothing else, life in the suburbs promised that you might go from day to day without finding shit in your hair.

David Sedaris, Naked

Vive memor mortis; fugit hora.


The most valuable and least replaceable resource is time.

R.L. Ackoff, “On Passing Through 80”

...And time cast forth my mortal creature
To drift or drown upon the seas
Acquainted with the salt adventure
Of tides that never touch the shores.
I who was rich was made the richer
By sipping at the the vine of days...

Dylan Thomas, "Before I Knocked"

Tell a lie and find a truth.

Francis Bacon

I think that when the lies are all told and forgot the truth will be there yet. It dont move about from place to place and it dont change from time to time. You cant corrupt it any more than you can salt salt. You cant corrupt it because that’s what it is. It’s the thing you’re talking about. I’ve heard it compared to the rock—maybe in the bible—and I wouldnt disagree with that. But it’ll be here even when the rock is gone. I’m sure they’s people would disagree with that. Quite a few, in fact. But I never could find out what any of them did believe.

Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

The truth has no causal power that draws scientific belief towards it.

Sergio Sismondo, An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies

Cognition modifies the knower so as to adapt him harmoniously to his acquired knowledge.

Ludwik Fleck, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact

Mental labor is not thought, and those who have with labor acquired the habit of application, often find it much easier to get up a formula thatn to master a principle.

J.C. Maxwell

There are truths which are not for all men, nor for all times.

Voltaire, Letter to Cardinal de Bernis

The number of false facts, afloat in the world, infinitely exceeds that of the false theories.

Dr. William Cullen, Letters

I don’t know what I may appear to the world, but, as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Isaac Newton

All we were allowed in isolation was a comb, toothbrush, and a Gideon Bible, which I studied whenever I was in the hole, not in search of God but for the secular wisdom within its pages, such as, “Speaketh not to fools, for they despise knowledge.” And, “It is better to live in one small corner of the attic than in a wide house with a brawling woman.”

Edward Bunker, Education of a Felon

As long as nobody had assigned the book, I could stick with it. I didn’t know what I was reading. I didn’t really know how to read. Reading messed with my brain in an unaccountable way. It made me happy; or something.

Salvatore Scibona, “Where I Learned To Read”

Reading good books is like having a conversation with the most distinguished men of the past—a studied converstation in which they reaveal only the best of their thoughts.

Descartes, Discourse on Method

The best moments of reading are when you come across something—a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things that you had thought special... particular to you... and there it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead... and it’s... it’s as if a hand had come out and taken yours.

Alan Bennet, The History Boys

... Everyone of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin’ coal
Pourin’ off of every page
Like it was written in my soul ...

Bob Dylan, “Tangled up in Blue”

The Sanctimonius Kid, who was something of a philosopher, said to me once: “Kid, ours is a crooked business, but we must not allow ourselves to think crooked. We’ve got to think straight, clearly and logically, or we are lost. Of course we’ll lose anyway, sooner or later, but let us not hasten the day by loose and careless thinking.”

Jack Black, You Can’t Win

In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers.

Herman Melville, Moby Dick

In a very real sense we are shipwrecked passengers on a doomed planet. Yet even in a shipwreck, human decencies and human values do not necessarily vanish, and we must make the most of them. We shall go down, but let it be in a manner to which we may look forward as worthy of our dignity.

Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings

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

Upton Sinclair

My father warned me about men and booze, but he never said a word about women and cocaine.

Tallulah Bankhead

When I was a boy, my daddy sat me on his knee. He said, “Son, there’s alot of things in this world that you’re gonna have no use for.”

Tom Waits, Black Rider

Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; and sometimes, just sometimes, they forgive them.

Oscar Wilde

Plato was only a Bernard Shaw who unfortunately made his jokes in Greek.

G.K. Chesterton, Eugenics and Other Evils

Over all things stands the heaven Accident, the heaven Innocence, the heaven Chance, the heaven Prankishness.

“By Chance” - that is the most ancient nobility of the world, and this I restored to all things: I delivered them from their bondage under Purpose.

Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

The easiest method of acquiring the habit of scholarship is through acquiring the ability to express oneself clearly in discussing and disputing scholarly problems. This is what clarifies their import and makes them understandable. Some students spend most of their lives attending scholarly sessions. Still, one finds them silent. They do not talk and do not discuss matters. More than is necessary, they are concerned with memorizing. Thus, they do not obtain much of a habit in the practice of scholarship and scholarly instruction.

Ibn Khaldûn, Al-Muqaddima

Now in the case of study, a great part of our fatigue often arises, not from the mental efforts by which we obtain the mastery of a subject, but from those which are spent in recalling our wandering thoughts; and these efforts of attention would be much less fatiguing if the disturbing force of mental distraction could be removed.

This is the reason why a man whose soul is in his work always makes more progress than one whose aim is something not immediately connected with his occupation. In the latter case, the very motive of which he makes use to stimulate his flagging powers becomes the means of distracting his mind from the work before him.

J.C. Maxwell, Introductory Lecture on Experimental Physics

An educated mind is useless without a focused will and dangerous without a caring heart.

W.M. Deijman

Men are men before they are lawyers, or physicians, or merchants, or manufacturers; and if you make them capable and sensible men, they will make themselves capable and sensible lawyers or physicians.

John Stuart Mill

We are educating the future human components, upon whose precision and accuracy and sense of responsibility the operation of future systems will depend, by training them to be trigger-happy in multiple choice tests, by out-educating from their minds the fundamental human quality of responsibility based on accurate reasoning.

Margret Mead, “Cybernetics of cybernetics”

No one has yet invented a system of education that is capable of ruining everyone.

Otto Neugebauer

A cold and moist brain is an inseparable companion to folly.


Lord, let me always seek the truth, but spare me the company of those who have found it.

Texan Prayer, handed down by Jim Hightower

Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the word’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; and anybody would perceive that the skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno.

Mark Twain, “The Damned Human Race—Was the World Made for Man?”

Now there you have a sample of man’s “reasoning powers,” as he calls them. He observes certain facts. For instance, that in all his life he never sees the day that he can satisfy one worman; also, that no woman ever sees the day that she can’t overwork, and defeat, and put out of commission any ten masculine plants that can be put to bed to her. He puts those strikingly suggestive and luminous facts together, and from them draws this astonishing conclusion: The Creator intended the woman to be restricted to one man.

Mark Twain, Letters from Earth

ALINSKY: ... If there is an afterlife, and I have anything to say about it, I will unreservedly choose to go to hell.
ALINSKY: Hell would be heaven for me. All my life I’ve been with the have-nots. Over here, if you’re a have-not, you’re short of dough. If you’re a have-not in hell, you’re short of virtue. Once I get into hell, I’ll start organizing the have-nots over there.
PLAYBOY: Why them?
ALINSKY: They’re my kind of people.

Saul Alinsky being interviewed by Playboy magazine.

God has given you but one heart,
You are not a home for the hearts of your brothers.
God does not care for your benevolence
Anymore than he cares for the lack of it in others.
Nor does he care for you to sit at
Windows in judgment of the world he created.

Nick Cave, As I Sat Sadly by Her Side

Raffiniert ist der Herr Gott, aber boshaft is Er nicht.


I fear You and, yes, I love You: and yet I cannot believe. Why could You not let me believe, where so many believed? Or else, why could You not let me deride, as the remainder derided so noisily? O God, why could You not let me have faith? for You gave me no faith in anything, not even in nothingness. It was not fair.

James Branch Cabell, Jurgen

I do not believe in God, but I have a sense of the infinite.

Robert Desnos, Deuil pour deuil

What am I that I am called upon to have prejudices concerning the universe?

James Branch Cabell, Domnei

I determine nothing; I do not comprehend things; I suspend judgment; I examine.


The world breaks every one of us. And afterward many of us are stronger 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, A Farewell To Arms

Our greatest pleasure, surely, is in fragments, just as we derive the most pleasure from life if we regard it as a fragment, whereas the whole and the complete and the perfect are basically abhorrent.

Thomas Bernhard, Old Masters

I was not, and then I was born.
I loved and did a little work.
Now, I am not and I grieve not.

W. Clifford’s Epitaph

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