From Wonderful World, written and performed by Sam Cooke:
Don't know much about history,
Don't know much biology.
Don't know much about a science book,
Don't know much about the French I took.
But I do know that I love you,
And I know that if you love me, too,
What a wonderful world this would be.
Confucius, Ancient Chinese philosopher:
Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.
Ramakrishna, 19th Century Hindu religious leader:
God can be realized through all paths. All religions are true. The important thing is to reach the roof. You can reach it by stone stairs or by wooden stairs or by bamboo steps or by a rope. You can also climb up by a bamboo pole.
Solomon Ibn Gabirol, 11th Century Hebrew poet who lived in Cordoba:
A wise man's question contains half the answer.
Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt―on refusing Western economic assistance in 1969:
We're a sentimental people. We like a few kind words better than millions of dollars given in a humiliating way.
Shimon Peres, Polish-born, Israeli politician:
If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact―not to be solved, but to be coped with over time.
Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali educator and poet:
It is very simple to be happy, but it is very difficult to be simple.
Ouida (pseudonym of the 19th century English novelist, Maria Louise de la Ramée):
Take hope from the heart of man, and you make him a beast of prey.
Jean Baudrillard, French cultural theorist and philosopher:
The sad thing about artificial intelligence is that it lacks artifice and therefore intelligence.
Edsger Wybe Dijkstra, Dutch computer scientist:
The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim.
Steven Pinker, Canadian-American linguist and psychologist:
The main lesson of thirty-five years of AI research is that the hard problems are easy and the easy problems are hard. The mental abilities of a four-year-old that we take for granted – recognizing a face, lifting a pencil, walking across a room, answering a question – in fact solve some of the hardest engineering problems ever conceived.... As the new generation of intelligent devices appears, it will be the stock analysts and petrochemical engineers and parole board members who are in danger of being replaced by machines. The gardeners, receptionists, and cooks are secure in their jobs for decades to come.
Daniel Crevier, Canadian artificial intelligence technologist:
Pattern recognition and association make up the core of our thought. These activities involve millions of operations carried out in parallel, outside the field of our consciousness. If AI appeared to hit a brick wall after a few quick victories, it did so owing to its inability to emulate these processes.
Howard Gardner, Harvard psychologist:
An individual understands a concept, skill, theory, or domain of knowledge to the extent that he or she can apply it appropriately in a new situation.
From Shakespeare's Hamlet: Act 1, Scene V:
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Thomas Kuhn, philosopher of science―from The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970):
The transition between competing paradigms cannot be made a step at a time, forced by logic and neutral experience. Like the gestalt switch, it must occur all at once (though not necessarily in an instant) or not at all.
Lyrics by John Newton, 18th Century English clergyman:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
T'was Grace that taught...
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear...
the hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares...
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home.
"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.”
Versions of the following story have been attributed to William James and also Bertrand Russell:
A big name scientist was giving a lecture on astronomy. After the lecture, an elderly lady came up and told the scientist that he had it all wrong. 'The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist asked "And what is the turtle standing on?"
To which the lady triumphantly replied: "You're very clever, young man, but it's no use -- it's turtles all the way down."
Victor W Turner, Scottish cultural anthropologist―From The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (1969):
The attributes of liminality are necessarily ambiguous... Liminal entities are neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention and ceremonial.
From the 1776 Declaration of Independence―the unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
An oft repeated lawyer joke:
Upon seeing an elderly lady for the drafting of her will, the attorney charged her $100.
She gave him a $100 bill, not noticing that it was stuck to another $100 bill.
On seeing the two bills stuck together, the ethical question came to the attorney's mind: "Do I tell my partner?"
Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself (1860):
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Berber philosopher and theologian:
Man is an intermediate being, but intermediate between beasts and angels. A beast is irrational and mortal, while an angel is rational and immortal. Man is intermediate, inferior to the angels, and superior to the beasts…
Monty Python, The Argument Sketch (1972):
M: Ah, Is this the right room for an argument?
A: I told you once.
M: No you haven't.
A: Yes I have.
A: Just now.
M: No you didn't.
A: Yes I did.
M: You didn't
A: I did!
M: You didn't!
A: I'm telling you I did!
M: You did not!!
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An essential economic truth, first popularized by science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein in his 1966 novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress:
There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.
A nursery rhyme and a stanza from William Blake's 1810 poem The Liar:
Liar, Liar, pants on fire, Your nose is longer than a telephone wire.
Your trousers are alight
From what pole or gallows
Shall they dangle in the night?
Alexander Pope, From Essay on Man (1732-34):
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,
The proper study of mankind is man.
Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
Gustave Flaubert, 19th century French novelist:
There is no truth. There is only perception.
We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.
Unattributed statistical truism:
It is a mathematical fact that fifty percent of all doctors graduate in the bottom half of their class.
Joseph Stalin, commenting to Churchill at Potsdam, 1945:
The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.
Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf (1925):
The great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one
From All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan. The song was made even more famous by U2:
All I've got is a red guitar,
Three chords and the truth.
All I've got is a red guitar
The rest is up to you.
From Chapter 17 of Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951):
It's full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac some day, and you have to keep making believe you give a damn if the football team loses, and all you do is talk about girls and liquor and sex all day, and everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques.
Ricoeur, Paul, French philosopher―in From Text to Action (1991):
Living is already having been born, in a condition we have not chosen, a situation in which we find ourselves, a quarter of the universe in which we may feel we have been thrown and are wandering, lost. And yet it is against this background that we can begin, that is to say, give a new course to things.
Arthur Schopenhauer, 19th century German philosopher:
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
From The Man With The Blue Guitar by Wallace Stevens:
The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts.
The day was green.
They said, "You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are."
The man replied, "Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."
The opening of Chapter V of Frankenstein (1831) by Mary Shelley:
collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs...
Danny DeVito as Harry Wormwood, the nasty dad, in the film version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda:
I'm smart; you're dumb. I'm big; you're little. I'm right; you're wrong. And there's nothing you can do about it.
Famous, unattributed existentialist joke:
Rene Descartes walks into a restaurant and sits down for dinner. The waiter comes over and asks if he'd like an appetizer
"No thank you" says Descartes, "I'd just like to order dinner"
"Would you like to hear our daily specials?" asks the waiter
"No" says Descartes, getting impatient
"Would you like a drink before dinner?" the waiter asks
Descartes is insulted, since he does not drink alcohol
"I think not!" he says indignantly, and POOF! he disappeared.
Unattributed math joke:
Dean, to the physics department:"Why do I always have to give you guys so much money, for laboratories and expensive equipment and stuff. Why couldn't you be like the math department - all they need is money for pencils, paper and waste-paper baskets. Or even better, like the philosophy department. All they need are pencils and paper."
Wiliam Lutz, from The New Doublespeak: Why No One Knows What Anyone is Saying Anymore (1996):
Naming thing— using language—is a very high level abstraction, and when we name something we ‘freeze’ it by placing it in a category and making a ‘thing’ out of it. Language is a map but three important things to remember about maps are: the map is not the territory; no map can represent all aspects of the territory; and every map reflects the mapmaker’s point of view.”
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Spanish artist:
El sueño de la razón produce monstros.
The sleep of reason brings forth monsters.
From F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925):
He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips' touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.
From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-1793):
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
V. S. Ramachandran, neurologist:
The visual system of the brain has the organization, computational profile, and architecture it has in order to facilitate the organism's thriving at the four Fs: feeding fleeing, fighting, and reproduction.
Jeff Hawkins, inventor of the palm pilot and gentleman neuroscientist―from On Intelligence (2005).
Even today no computer can understand language as well as a three-year-old or see as well as a mouse.
Woody Allen, movie actor, comedian and director
I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me.
I’m astounded by people who want to ‘know’ the universe when it’s hard enough to find your way around Chinatown.
Rainer Maria Rilke German lyric poet (1875 - 1926)
For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.
Frank Herbert, science fiction novelist―from Dune (1965):
Think you of the fact that a deaf person cannot hear. Then, what deafness may we not all possess? What senses do we lack that we cannot see and cannot hear another world all around us?
Bertrand Russell, English philosopher and logician:
Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.
hens they all cackle, the roosters all beg,
But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
For I hear all the talk of pollution and war
As the people all shout and the airplane roar,
So I'm staying in here where it's safe and it's warm,
And I WILL NOT HATCH!
George W. Bush:
In my sentences I go where no man has gone before.
James Baldwin, American novelist and civil rights activist:
It is a great shock at the age of five or six to find that in a world of Gary Coopers you are the Indian.
William James, pioneering American psychologist:
A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.
Richard Feynman, physicist
You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird... So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing -- that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.
John Berger, British art critic and author:
Capitalism survives by forcing the majority, whom it exploits, to define their own interests as narrowly as possible. This was once achieved by extensive deprivation. Today in the developed countries it is being achieved by imposing a false standard of what is and what is not desirable.
Mary Pipher, clinical psychologist
Adolescence is a border between childhood and adulthood. Like all borders, it's teeming with energy and fraught with danger.
Sultan bin Salman Al-Saud, astronaut:
The first day or so we all pointed to our countries. The third or fourth day we were pointing to our continents. By the fifth day, we were aware of only one Earth.
John Donne, 17th century metaphysical poet:
No man is an island entire of itself... Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
Problems cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness that created them.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790):
God grant, that not only the Love of Liberty, but a thorough Knowledge of the Rights of Man, may pervade all the Nations of the Earth, so that a Philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its Surface, and say, "This is my Country."
Hermann Hagedorn, American author:
The bomb that fell on Hiroshima fell on America, too.
John F. Kennedy:
World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor -- it requires only that they live together with mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement.
Helen Keller, blind and deaf educator (1880-1968):
No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.
Where does the violet tint end and the orange tint begins? Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but where exactly does the one first blending enter into the other. So with sanity and insanity.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars Jedi Knight:
Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.
Anaïs Nin, Cuban/Catalan/French writer:
We don't see things as they are. We see them as we are.
Abraham Maslow, 20th century humanistic psychologist
When the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems begin to resemble nails.
The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
E. O. Wilson, evolutionary biologist:
Without the instruments and accumulated knowledge of the natural sciences... humans are trapped in a cognitive prison. They are like intelligent fish born in a deep shallowed pool. Wondering and restless, longing to reach out, they think about the world outside. They invent ingenious speculations and myths about the origin of the confining waters, of the sun and the sky and the stars above , and the meaning of their own existence. But they are wrong, always wrong because the world is too remote from ordinary experience to be merely imagined.
There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.
Robert Mapplethorpe, notorious and brilliant New York art photographer:
I don't use recreational drugs, except for cocaine, hallucinogens, and nitrates.
I don't do drugs. I am drugs.
Exactitude is not truth.
Steve Martin, American writer and comedian:
A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.
I believe Ronald Reagan can make this country what it once was... a large Arctic region covered with ice.
David Hume, British philosopher:
To hate, to love, to think, to feel, to see; all this is nothing but to perceive.
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me.
Nature Boy, Words and Music by Eden Ahbez
There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he
And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings
This he said to me
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return"
is not your obligation to complete your work, but you are not at liberty to quit.
Ramana Maharshi, early 20th century South Indian sage:
Without knowing the Knower, all the knowledge that one gathers cannot be valid.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1948) From his commentary on the Bhagavada Gita; describing the ancient Indian concept of Intelligence―buddhi:
Buddhi is above the mind, which is above the senses.
Buddhi can know things as they truly are, but is subject to confusion, error, and distortion especially if dependent on the senses. Desire and lust, as well as anger obscure buddhi.
Buddhi is a cognitive entity, hence a mode of thought
Buddhi is also affective and purposive. Reason, will, emotion, cognition, judgement, decision – all share in some part the meaning of Buddhi.
From Cambodia: a Khmer folk tale―Why the oxen do not have upper front teeth and the tiger has black stripes:
Once upon a time, there was a tiger who left the forest to look for food. At the edge of the forest, he was surprised to see a farmer whipping his oxen while plowing the fields. This made the tiger curious, so he waited and watched. When the farmer released his oxen to gaze on grass during his lunch break, the tiger took the opportunity to approach them and asked: “Brother Oxen, I am curious why you let that man beat you while you work very hard for him. Why don’t you kick him and run away and be free like me?” “Oh no, Brother Tiger,” responded the oxen, “the human being has his intelligence, which he can use to make us do what he wants.” “What is this ‘intelligence’?” asked the tiger. “We cannot explain. You have to ask him yourself,” replied the oxen.
The tiger, considering himself the most powerful animal on earth, impatiently went to the man and arrogantly ordered: “Farmer, show me your intelligence; otherwise, I will bite your head off.” The farmer calmly responded, “Oh Brother Tiger, in coming to work in the field, I left my intelligence at home.” “Go and get it then,” demanded the tiger. “No I won’t, because you will eat my oxen,” said the famer. “No I will not,” the tiger assured him. But the farmer maintained, “I don’t believe you.” “What do you want me to do to make you trust me?” asked the tiger. The famer replied, “I have to tie you up.” The tiger agreed saying, “Okay, do it and go fast to get me your intelligence.”
The farmer tied the tiger as tightly as he could. Instead of going home, however, he collected dead leaves and branches, piled them up on the tiger and burned them. The tiger screamed in pain. The oxen laughed and laughed, pointing to the tiger with their front legs and exclaimed: “We warned you, he has his intelligence!” They laughed until they fell down and hit the ground with their mouths and broke all their upper front teeth, which have never grew back. The tiger screamed until the rope burned up and broke. He then escaped back into the forest. The burning parts gave him black stripes forever.
Contrasting African views of "intelligence":
In Zimbabwe, the word for intelligence, ‘ngware’ actually means to be prudent and cautious, particularly in social relationships.
In Uganda, the Baganda tribe tend to associate intelligence with mental order, and think of intelligence as persistent, hard and obdurate.
While the Batoro tribespeople associate it with mental turmoil, and think of it as soft, obedient and yielding.
In Zambia, intelligence among the Chewa tribe emphasizes cooperation and obedience.
From Shakespeare's Macbeth: Act 5, scene 5.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,