Quotations

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“People who make history know nothing about history. You can see that in the sort of history they make.” — G.K. Chesterton

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“The monuments of wit survive the monuments of power.” — Francis Bacon

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“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” — Bertrand Russell

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“Every time an idiot dies, your IQ goes down.” — Bill Ballance

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“Man is an exception, whatever he is. If it is not true that a divine being fell, then we can only say that one of the animals went entirely off its head.” — G.K. Chesterton

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“You can tell the character of every man when you see how he gives and receives praise.” — Seneca

“To learn a man’s character, mark how he takes a favour.” — Archbishop Richard Whately

“If all else fails, the character of a man can be recognized by nothing so surely as by a jest which he takes badly.” — G.C. Lichtenberg

“To know a man, observe how he wins his object, rather than how he loses it; for when we fail, our pride supports us — when we succeed, it betrays us.” — Charles Caleb Colton

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” — Voltaire

Also:

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” — Gandhi

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Weil’s Law of University Hiring: “First-rate people hire other first-rate people. Second-rate people hire third-rate people. Third-rate people hire fifth-rate people.” (from French mathematician André Weil)

“Slowness is frequently the cause of much greater slowness.” — Montesquieu

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“Men, who are rogues individually, are in the mass very honorable people.” — Montesquieu

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“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” — Leonardo

“Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.” — Nietzsche

“Opinions have caused more ills than the plague or earthquakes on this little globe of ours.” — Voltaire

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

“Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know.” — Montaigne

“Opinions are made to be changed, or how is truth to be got at?” — Lord Byron

“Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinions at all.” — G.C. Lichtenberg

Misc

  • Denver International Airport is larger than Manhattan.
  • C.S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and John F. Kennedy died on the same day.
  • Shakespeare mentions America only once, in Act 3, Scene 2 of The Comedy of Errors.
  • π4 + π5e6
  • “All styles are good except the boring kind.” — Voltaire

(Thanks, Larry.)

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“The really good music, whether of the East or of the West, cannot be analyzed.” — Albert Einstein

“Aside from purely technical analysis, nothing can be said about music, except when it is bad; when it is good, one can only listen and be grateful.” — W.H. Auden

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“The whole secret of life is to be interested in one thing profoundly and in a thousand things well.” — Horace Walpole

“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.” — Inscribed on Thomas Huxley’s memorial

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“They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.” — Francis Bacon

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“Good can imagine Evil, but Evil cannot imagine Good.” — W.H. Auden

“Good men seek it by the natural means of the virtues; evil men, however, try to achieve the same goal by a variety of concupiscences, and that is surely an unnatural way of seeking the good. Don’t you agree?” — Boethius

“For never, never, wicked man was wise.” — Homer

“Men may keep a sort of level of good, but no man has ever been able to keep on one level of evil.” — G.K. Chesterton

American artist Dennis Oppenheim denied that his 1997 Device to Root Out Evil, above, had an anti-religious message. “Pointing a steeple into the ground directs it to hell as opposed to heaven,” he told one interviewer. “It’s a very simple gesture.”

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“It has been said of the Iliad that anyone who starts reading it as history will find that it is full of fiction but, equally, anyone who starts reading it as fiction will find that it is full of history.” — Arnold Toynbee

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“Sweet is the remembrance of troubles when you are in safety.” — Euripides

“Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.” — James Thurber

But:

“In every adversity of fortune, to have been happy is the most unhappy kind of misfortune.” — Boethius

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“The light in the world comes principally from two sources, — the sun, and the student’s lamp.” — Christian Nestell Bovee, Intuitions and Summaries of Thought, 1862

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“If I love you, what business is it of yours?” — Goethe

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“Heresy is the side that loses.” — J.V. Fleming

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“Patriotism ruins history.” — Goethe

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“It is most absurdly said, in popular language, of any man, that he is disguised in liquor; for, on the contrary, most men are disguised by sobriety.” — Thomas de Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, 1856

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I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.

— Charles Darwin, letter to Asa Gray, May 22, 1860

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“Foolish man, what do you bemoan, and what do you fear? Wherever you look there is an end of evils. You see that yawning precipice? It leads to liberty. You see that flood, that river, that well? Liberty houses within them. You see that stunted, parched, and sorry tree? From each branch liberty hangs. Your neck, your throat, your heart are all so many ways of escape from slavery … Do you enquire the road to freedom? You shall find it in every vein in your body.” — Seneca

But:

In the West Indies, according to the Spanish historian Girolamo Benzoni, four thousand men and countless women and children died by jumping from cliffs or by killing each other. He adds that, out of the two million original inhabitants of Haiti, fewer than 150 survived as a result of the suicides and slaughter. In the end the Spaniards, faced with an embarrassing labor shortage, put a stop to the epidemic of suicides by persuading the Indians that they, too, would kill themselves in order to pursue them in the next world with even harsher cruelties.

— Alfred Alvarez, The Savage God: A Study of Suicide, 1971

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“I find all books too long.” — Voltaire

“The covers of this book are too far apart.” — Ambrose Bierce

“A big book is a big nuisance.” — Callimachus

“Long books, when read, are usually overpraised, because the reader wants to convince others and himself that he has not wasted his time.” — E.M. Forster

“I made this letter very long, because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter.” — Pascal

Paradise Lost is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is.” — Samuel Johnson