Diplomacy mostly consists of managing crazies who are making unreasonable demands in impossible situations with no solutions. And those are just our allies.

Nicholas Kristof (b. 1959) American journalist and political commentator
“The Foreign Relations Fumbler,” New York Times (16 Sep 2012)
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Envy is the gasoline on which American capitalism runs.

John Lahr (b. 1941) British-based American theater critic, author
“Lives in Limbo,” The New Yorker (26 Mar 2012)
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A common fallacy in much of the adverse criticism to which science is subjected today is that it claims certainty, infallibility and complete emotional objectivity. It would be more nearly true to say that it is based upon wonder, adventure and hope.

Cyril Norman Hinshelwood (1897-1967) British chemist and Nobel laureate
“Classics among the intellectual disciplines,” Presidential Address to the Classical Association, Hull, UK (9 Apr 1959)
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Those who so act and so live as to give proof of loyalty and uprightness, of fairness and generosity; who are free from all passion, caprice, and insolence, and have great strength of character — men like those just mentioned — such men let us consider good, as they were accounted good in life, and also entitled to be called by that term because, in as far as that is possible for man, they follow Nature, who is the best guide to good living.

[Qui ita se gerunt, ita vivunt, ut eorum probetur fides integritas aequitas1 liberalitas, nec sit in eis ulla cupiditas libido audacia, sintque magna constantia, ut ei fuerunt, modo quos nominavi, hos viros bonos, ut habiti sunt, sic etiam appellandos putemus, quia sequantur, quantum homines possunt, naturam optimam bene vivendi ducem.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
“Laelius De Amicitia [Laelius on Friendship],” ch. 5, part 3 / sec. 19 (44 BC) [tr. Falconer (1923)]
    (Source)

Original Latin. Alternate translations:

Those who so conduct themselves, and so live that their honor, their integrity, their justice, and liberality are approved; so that there is not in them any covetousness, or licentiousness, or boldness; and that they are of great consistency, as those men whom I have mentioned above; -- let us consider these worthy of the appellation of good men, as they have been accounted such because they follow (as far as men are able) nature, which is the best guide of a good life.
[tr. Edmonds (1871)]

Those who so conduct themselves, so live, that their good faith, integrity, equity, and kindness win approval, who are entirely free from avarice, lust, and the infirmities of a hasty temper, and in whom there is perfect consistency of character; in fine, men like those whom I have named, while they are regarded as good, ought to be so called, because to the utmost of human capacity they follow Nature, who is the best guide in living well.
[tr. Peabody (1887)]

We mean then by the "good" those whose actions and lives leave no question as to their honour, purity, equity, and liberality; who are free from greed, lust, and violence; and who have the courage of their convictions. The men I have just named may serve as examples. Such men as these being generally accounted “good,” let us agree to call them so, on the ground that to the best of human ability they follow nature as the most perfect guide to a good life.
[tr. Shuckburgh (1909)]

Those who comport themselves in such a way, who live in such a way that their loyalty, integrity, fairness and generosity are proven, such that there is no desire, lust, and insolence in them, and such that they have great steadfastness of character (like those whom I named just before), we consider ought indeed to be called good men (as is customary), because they follow (as much as humans can) nature -- the best leader in proper living.
[Source]

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Out of instinct for self-preservation, and logically enough, [the mind] asks, “If it is a good and holy thing to be punished, must it not also be a good and holy thing to punish?” It answers that it is; and our earth becomes the hell it is. Thus we human beings plant in ourselves the perennial blossom of cruelty — the conviction that if we hurt other people we are doing good to ourselves and to life in general.

Rebecca West (1892-1983) British author, journalist, literary critic, travel writer [pseud. for Cicily Isabel Fairfield]
“Pleasure Be Your Guide,” The Nation, “Living Philosophies” series #10 (25 Feb 1939)
    (Source)

Adapted into Clifton Fadiman, I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Certain Eminent Men and Women of Our Time (1952).
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He [Napoleon III] was what I often think is a dangerous thing for a statesman to be — a student of history, and like most of those who study history, he learned from the mistakes of the past how to make new ones.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
“Mistaken Lessons from the Past,” The Listener (6 Jun 1963)
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No matter how many times I do my work, it never stays done for long.

Ashleigh Brilliant (b. 1933) Anglo-American writer, epigramist, cartoonist
Pot-Shots, #2847
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Using maxims is appropriate for those who are older in age when uttered about things for which they have some experience. Using maxims before one is this age lacks propriety as does story-telling: to speak about what one has no experience in is foolish and uneducated. A sufficient sign of this is that bumpkins especially tend to make up maxims and they easily show them off.

[ἁρμόττει δὲ γνωμολογεῖν ἡλικίᾳ μὲν πρεσβυτέροις, περὶ δὲ τούτων ὧν ἔμπειρός τις ἐστί, ὡς τὸ μὲν μὴ τηλικοῦτον ὄντα γνωμολογεῖν ἀπρεπὲς ὥσπερ καὶ τὸ μυθολογεῖν, περὶ δ᾿ ὧν ἄπειρος, ἠλίθιον καὶ ἀπαίδευτον. σημεῖον δ᾿ ἱκανόν· οἱ γὰρ ἀγροῖκοι μάλιστα γνωμοτύποι εἰσὶ καὶ ῥᾳδίως ἀποφαίνονται.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Rhetoric [Ῥητορική; Ars Rhetorica], Book 2, ch. 21, sec. 9 / 1395a.9 (350 BC) [tr. @sentantiq (2018)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

In point of age, the use of maxims befit the old, and should be on those matters of which they have particular experience; so that for one who has not arrived at that stage of life, to use maxims is unbecoming; just it is for him to use fables; and if it be on matters whereof he has no experience, it is absurd, and a mark of ignorance. And the following is a sufficient proof of it, for that the rustics most of all are proverb-mongers, and are ready at uttering them.
[Source (1847)]

The employment of maxims becomes him who is rather advanced in life; and particularly as respects subjects about which each happens to be well informed. Since for one not so advanced in age to sport maxims is bad taste, just as it is for him to have recourse to fables: and the ue of them on subjects about which one is ignorant is silly, and argues a want of education. There is a sufficient sign of the truth of this; for the boors of the country are of all other people most fond of hammering out maxims, and set them forth with great volubility.
[tr. Buckley (1850)]

The use of maxims is suitable to elderly men, and in regard to subjects with which one is conversant; for sententiousness, like story-telling, is unbecoming in a younger man; while, in regard to subjects with which one is not conversant, it is stupid and shows want of culture. It is token enough of this that rustics are the greatest coiners of maxims, and the readiest to set forth their views.
[tr. Jebb (1873)]

The use of maxims is suitable for one who is advanced in years, and in regard to things in which one has experience; since the use of maxims before such an age is unseemly, as also is story-telling; and to speak about things of which one has no experience shows foolishness and lack of education. A sufficient proof of this is that rustics especially are fond of coining maxims and ready to make display of them.
[tr. Freese (1924)]

The use of Maxims is appropriate only to elderly men, and in handling subjects in which the speaker is experienced. For a young man to use them is -- like telling stories -- unbecoming; to use them in handling things in which one has no experience is silly and ill-bred: a fact sufficiently proved by the special fondness of country fellows for striking out maxims, and their readiness to air them.
[tr. Roberts (1954)]

It is fitting for someone more advanced in age to speak in maxims, and about things he has experience of, since it is inappropriate for someone not of that age to speak in maxims, just as it also to tell myths, and to do so about things he is inexperienced in, this being a mark of foolishness and lack of education. There is a sufficient sign of this: country bumpkins are the ones most given to uttering maxims ....
[tr. Bartlett (2019)]

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Truths that startled the generation in which they were first announced become in the next age the commonplaces of conversation; as the famous airs of operas which thrilled the first audiences come to be played on hand-organs in the streets.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Table-Talk”
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Teaching takes skill and education and dedication. Home schooling as an idea is on a par with home dentistry.

Dick Cavett (b. 1936) American writer and critic
“Schooling Santorum,”New York Times (24 Feb 2012)
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Alcohol is not likely to bring out any impulse that is not already potential in a personality, nor is it likely to cast behavior into patterns for which there is not already significant subsurface predilection. The alcohol merely facilitates expression by narcotizing inhibitory processes. […] The oil which lubricates the engine of an automobile neither furnishes the energy for its progress nor directs it.

Hervey Cleckley (1903-1984) American psychiatrist, academic
The Mask of Sanity (1950 ed.)
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There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian, Irish/Italian/Octogenarian/Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women’s Lib/Republican, Mattachine/Four Square Gospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain-porridge unleavened literature licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) American writer, futurist, fabulist
Fahrenheit 451, “Coda” Afterword (1979 ed.)
    (Source)

Bradbury wrote the coda to his dystopian 1953 novel about censorship when he found out that "offensive" phrases had been deleted from high school editions of the book.
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Two things have always been true about human beings. One, the world is always getting better. Two, the people living at that time think it’s getting worse. It’s because you get older, your responsibilities are different. Now I’m taking care of children instead of being a child. It makes the world look scarier. That happens to everyone.

Penn Jillette (b. 1955) American stage magician, actor, musician, author
“Honest Questions with Penn Jillette,” Interview by Glen Beck, CNN (2 Nov 2007)
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Nothing we use or hear or touch can be expressed in words that equal what is given by the senses.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Life of the Mind, Vol. 1 “Thinking,” Introduction (1977)
    (Source)

Reprinted in "Thinking -- I" New Yorker (21 Nov 1977).
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WATCHMAN:
Sir, I am here. I can’t say I am out of breath.
I have not exactly been “running on light feet.”
I halted many times along the road so I could think,
And I almost turned around and marched right back.
My mind kept talking to me. It said, “You poor guy,
Why are you going there? You’ll just get your ass kicked.”
Then it said, “Are you stopping again, you damn fool?
If Creon hears this from another man, he’ll give you hell.”
Well, I turned this idea up and down like that,
And I hurried along, real slow. Made a short trip long.

[Φύλαξ:
ἄναξ, ἐρῶ μὲν οὐχ ὅπως τάχους ὕπο
δύσπνους ἱκάνω κοῦφον ἐξάρας πόδα.
πολλὰς γὰρ ἔσχον φροντίδων ἐπιστάσεις,
ὁδοῖς κυκλῶν ἐμαυτὸν εἰς ἀναστροφήν:
ψυχὴ γὰρ ηὔδα πολλά μοι μυθουμένη:
τάλας, τί χωρεῖς οἷ μολὼν δώσεις δίκην;
τλήμων, μενεῖς αὖ; κεἰ τάδ᾽ εἴσεται Κρέων
ἄλλου παρ᾽ ἀνδρός; πῶς σὺ δῆτ᾽ οὐκ ἀλγύνει;
τοιαῦθ᾽ ἑλίσσων ἤνυτον σχολῇ βραδύς.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 223ff (441 BC) [tr. Woodruff (2001)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

SENTINEL:
My liege, I cannot say that from very haste I come panting for breath, having stept out with nimble paces. Troth: I have had many half-way houses of cogitation, wheeling about after every fresh start as though I would return. In fact, my soul often addressed me with some such tale as this: Why goest, simpleton, where to be come is to be punished?" then again: "What! wilt not away, poor wretch? and if Kreon shall learn these tidings from some one else, how then wilt thou escape the penalty?" While thus my mind revolved, the speed I made was tardy in its swiftness: and so a short road is made long.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

GUARD:
My lord, I will not make pretense to pant
And puff as some light-footed messenger.
In sooth my soul beneath its pack of thought
Made many a halt and turned and turned again;
For conscience plied her spur and curb by turns.
"Why hurry headlong to thy fate, poor fool?"
She whispered. Then again, "If Creon learn
This from another, thou wilt rue it worse."
Thus leisurely I hastened on my road;
Much thought extends a furlong to a league.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

WATCHMAN:
My lord, I am out of breath, but not with speed.
I will not say my foot was fleet. My thoughts
Cried halt unto me ever as I came
And wheeled me to return. My mind discoursed
Most volubly within my breast, and said--
Fond wretch! why go where thou wilt find thy bane?
Unhappy wight! say, wilt thou bide aloof?
Then if the king shall hear this from another,
How shalt thou 'scape for 't? Winding thus about
I hasted, but I could not speed, and so
Made a long journey of a little way.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

GUARD:
My king, I will not say that I arrive breathless because of speed, or from the action of a swift foot. For often I brought myself to a stop because of my thoughts, and wheeled round in my path to return. My mind was telling me many things: “Fool, why do you go to where your arrival will mean your punishment?” “Idiot, are you dallying again? If Creon learns it from another, must you not suffer for it?” So debating, I made my way unhurriedly, slow, and thus a short road was made long.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

MESSENGER:
O King, I cannot boast that, hither sent,
I came with speed, for oft my troubled thoughts
Have driven me back; oft to myself I said,
Why dost thou seek destruction?
With doubts like these oppressed, slowly I came,
And the short way seemed like a tedious journey.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

GUARD:
My liege, I will not say that I come breathless from speed, or that I have plied a nimble foot; for often did my thoughts make me pause, and wheel round in my path, to return. My mind was holding large discourse with me; "Fool, why goest thou to thy certain doom?" "Wretch, tarrying again? And if Creon hears this from another, must not thou smart for it?" So debating, I went on my way with lagging steps, and thus a short road was made long.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

SENTRY:
I'll not say that I'm out of breath from running, King, because every time I stopped to think about what I have to tell you, I felt like going back. And all the time a voice kept saying, "You fool, don't you know you're walking straight into trouble?"; and then another voice: "Yes, but if you let somebody else get the news to Creon first, it will be even worse than that for you!"
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939)]

SENTRY:
My lord: if I am out of breath, it is not from haste.
I have not been running. On the contrary, many a time
I stopped to think and loitered on the way,
Saying to myself “Why hurry to your doom,
Poor fool?” and then I said, “Hurry, you fool.
If Creon hears this from another man,
Your head’s as good as off.” So here I am,
As quick as my unwilling haste could bring me;
In no great hurry, in fact.
[tr. Watling (1947), l. 183ff]

GUARD:
Lord, I can't claim that I am out of breath
from rushing here with light and hasty step,
for I had many haltings in my thought
making me double back upon my road.
My mind kept saying many things to me:
"Why go where you will surely pay the price?"
"Fool, are you halting? And if Creon learns
from someone else, how shall you not be hurt?"
Turning this over, on I dilly-dallied.
And so a short trip turns itself to long.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

GUARD:
My lord: I cannot say that I am come
All out of breath with running. More than once
I stopped and thought and turned round in my path
And started to go back. My mind had much
To say to me. One time it said "You fool!
Why do you go to certain punishment?"
Another time "What? Standing still, you wretch?
You'll smart for it, if Creon comes to hear
From someone else." And so I went along
Debating with myself, not swift nor sure.
This way, a short road soon becomes a long one.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

SENTRY:
My lord,
I can't say I'm winded from running, or set out
with any spring in my legs either -- no sir,
I was lost in thought, and it made me stop, often,
dead in my tracks, wheeling, turning back,
and all the time a voice inside me muttering,
"Idiot, why? You're going straight to your death."
Then muttering, "Stopped again, poor fool?
If somebody gets the news to Creon first,
what's to save your neck?" And so,
mulling it over, on I trudged, dragging my feet,
you can make a short road take forever ...
[tr. Fagles (1982), l. 248ff]

WATCHMAN:
Lord, I cannot say that I arrive breathless
from quickly lifting nimble feet.
In fact, I stopped many times to think,
whirling around on the roads to turn back.
My spirit kept talking to me and saying:
“Poor fool, why are you going to a place where
you will pay the penalty when you arrive? Wretch, are you
dawdling along again? If Creon learns about this
from someone else, how then will you not feel pain?”
As I rolled around such thoughts, I was gradually and
slowly completing the journey, and so a short road
became a long one.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

GUARD: My King, I can’t really say that I’ve lost my breath by running my feet to the ground so as to get here as quickly as I could! No, I tarried. God knows I’ve stopped myself often enough, on the way here and I’ve almost turned back many times.

My soul, you see, was talking to me all the while and all the while it kept changing its mind: “poor man,” it would say one minute, “Why are you rushing to your suffering?” Or again, “Stupid man,” it would say, “why are you hanging about like this? What if the king hears it from someone else? What a mess you’d get yourself into then!”

Stuff like that was spinning about in my head and it made this small road so much longer!

[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

GUARD:
My lord, I can’t say I’ve come out of breath
by running here, making my feet move fast.
Many times I stopped to think things over --
and then I’d turn around, retrace my steps.
My mind was saying many things to me,
“You fool, why go to where you know for sure
your punishment awaits?” -- “And now, poor man,
why are you hesitating yet again?
If Creon finds this out from someone else,
how will you escape being hurt?” Such matters
kept my mind preoccupied. And so I went,
slowly and reluctantly, and thus made
a short road turn into a lengthy one.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 256ff]

GUARD:
My lord, I will not say that I come breathless
from rushing or quickly moving my feet,
for often my thoughts stopped me in my place,
and I'd wheel around on the road back where I came.
My heart kept talking to me, telling me,
"Poor fool, why are you going where you're sure
to be punished?" "Idiot, you stopping
again? If Creon hears it from someone else,
then you'll really pay for it!" Twisting like this
I made my way, the opposite of hate,
and thus a short road became a long one.
[tr. Thomas (2005), l. 226ff]

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Administrivia: Notice to email subscribers

I just learned that Google is sunsetting its Feedburner email setup in July, which is what I use here to send out daily email collections of the quotations here. At present, about three dozen people are using this service for WIST.

I’ve removed the link for that mode of subscribing, and I’ll be looking at alternatives to provide that service, and will let you know what that looks like. In the meantime …

  1. If you don’t want the email feed any more, please unsubscribe via the links that Feedburner sends. My intent is to transfer the email addresses of subscribers over to whatever new, different thing I do.
  2. Check out the feeds/subscription page for WIST, which will show you alternate ways to get your WIST updates.
    1. Using an RSS reader, Twitter, or my Diaspora mirror (currently down due to a data center issue, but returning Real Soon Now) are all ways to get notifications.
    2. There are a number of services that will do a daily email from an RSS feed. (That’s essentially what Feedburner is doing.) One of my alternatives may just be to provide other recommendations for that, but if you have a favorite, this would be a fine time to switch over (but do let me know what your recommendation is).

One issue I have is that, while there are plugins that will allow email subscriptions pretty easily, they tend not to do so as a digest, but as different emails for each post. That might be annoying to folks. At the same time, I’d just as soon not work with a mail service like MailChimp to set up something elaborate.

Leave any questions or comments in the comments. I’ll be communicating further with you on this before I make any changes.

 


Added on 15-Apr-21; last updated 15-Apr-21
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Except for the field organizers of strikes, who were pretty tough monkeys and devoted, most of the so-called Communists I met were middle-class, middle-aged people playing a game of dreams. I remember a woman in easy circumstances saying to another even more affluent: “After the revolution even we will have more, won’t we, dear?” Then there was another lover of proletarians who used to raise hell with Sunday picnickers on her property.

I guess the trouble was that we didn’t have any self-admitted proletarians. Everyone was a temporarily embarrassed capitalist. Maybe the Communists so closely questioned by the investigation committees were a danger to America, but the ones I knew — at least they claimed to be Communists — couldn’t have disrupted a Sunday-school picnic. Besides they were too busy fighting among themselves.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) American writer
“A Primer on the ’30s,” Esquire (1 Jun 1960)
    (Source)

Collected in American and Americans (1966).

A portion of this was paraphrased in Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress (2004): "John Steinbeck once said that socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." That paraphrase has, in turn, been frequently cited as a direct quotation of Steinbeck.
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How can we account for our present situation unless we believe that men high in this government are concerting to deliver us to disaster? This must be the product of a great conspiracy, a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man. A conspiracy of infamy so black that when it is finally exposed, its principals shall forever be deserving of the maledictions of all.

Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) American politician, attorney
“America’s Retreat from Victory: The Story of Gen. George C. Marshall,” speech, US Senate (14 Jun 1951)
    (Source)

Part of a 65,000 word speech given by McCarthy, attacking Sec. of Defense George C. Marshall (and, by proxy, Harry Truman), alleging a string of sinister post-WW2 US diplomatic and military failures, culminating in Truman's firing of Douglas MacArthur.
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Boredom therefore can arise from the cessation of habitual functions, even though these may be boring too. It is also the shriek of unused capacities, the doom of serving no great end or design, or contributing to no master force.

Saul Bellow (1915-2005) Canadian-American writer
The Adventures of Augie March (1953)
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My word, how mortals take the gods to task!
All their afflictions come from us, we hear.
And what of their own failings? Greed and folly
double the suffering in the lot of man.

[ὢ πόποι, οἷον δή νυ θεοὺς βροτοὶ αἰτιόωνται.
ἐξ ἡμέων γάρ φασι κάκ’ ἔμμεναι· οἱ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ
σφῇσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὑπὲρ μόρον ἄλγε’ ἔχουσιν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 1, l. 32ff [Zeus] (c. 700 BC) [tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

O how falsely men
Accuse us Gods as authors of their ill!
When, by the bane their own bad lives instill,
They suffer all the mis’ries of their states,
Past our inflictions, and beyond their fates.
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

Ha! how dare mortals tax the Gods, and say,
Their harms do all proceed from our decree,
And by our setting; when by their crimes they
Against our wills make their own destiny?
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 37ff]

Perverse mankind! whose wills, created free,
Charge all their woes on absolute degree;
All to the dooming gods their guilt translate,
And follies are miscall'd the crimes of fate.
[tr. Pope (1725)]

Alas! how prone are human-kind to blame
The Pow’rs of Heav’n! From us, they say, proceed
The ills which they endure, yet more than Fate
Herself inflicts, by their own crimes incur.
[tr. Cowper (1792), l. 41ff]

Oh heavens! how mortals now to blame the gods!
From us they say spring ills! but they themselves
By their own folly bring unfated woes.
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869)]

Lo you now, how vainly mortal men do blame the gods! For of us they say comes evil, whereas they even of themselves, through the blindness of their own hearts, have sorrows beyond that which is ordained.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

Lo, how men blame the gods! From us, they say, spring troubles. But through their own perversity and more than is their due they meet with sorrow.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

See now, how men lay blame upon us gods for what is after all nothing but their own folly.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Oh my, how mortals hold us gods responsible! For they say that their misfortunes come from us. But they get their sufferings, beyond what is fated, by way of their own acts of recklessness.
[tr. Butler (1898), rev. Kim/McCray/Nagy/Power (2018)]

Look you now, how ready mortals are to blame the gods. It is from us, they say, that evils come, but they even of themselves, through their own blind folly, have sorrows beyond that which is ordained.
[tr. Murray (1919)]

It vexes me to see how mean are these creatures of a day towards us Gods, when they charge against us the evils (far beyond our worst dooming) which their own exceeding wantonness has heaped upon themselves.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

What a lamentable thing it is that men should blame the gods and regard us as the source of their troubles, when it is their own wickedness that brings them sufferings worse than any which Destiny allots them.
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

Oh for shame, how the mortals put the blame upon us gods, for they say evils come from us, but it is they, rather, who by their own recklessness win sorrow beyond what is given.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]

Men are so quick to blame the gods: they say
that we devise their misery. But they
themselves -- in their depravity -- design
grief greater than the griefs that fate assigns.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]

Ah how shameless -- the way these mortals blame the gods.
From us alone, they say, come all their miseries, yes,
but they themselves, with their own reckless ways,
compound their pains beyond their proper share.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

Mortals! They are always blaming the gods
For their troubles, when their own witlessness
Causes them more than they were destined for!
[tr. Lombardo (2000), l. 37ff]

This is not good! See how mortals find fault with us gods!
They say it is from us that all evil things come, yet it is by their
own recklessness that they suffer hardship beyond their destiny.
[tr. Verity (2016)]

This is absurd,
that mortals blame the gods! They say we cause
their suffering, but they themselves increase it
by folly.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

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Looking back on things, the view always improves.

Walt Kelly (1913-1973) American animator and cartoonist [Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr.]
Impollutable Pogo (1970)
    (Source)
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To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law. Fortunately, it is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions.

Alexander Solzhenitsen (1918-2008) Russian novelist, emigre [Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn]
The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, Part 1, ch. 4 (1973) [tr. Whitney]
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When I hear scientists say, “The data speak for themselves,” I cringe. Data never speak.

Andrew J. Hoffman (b. 1961) American environmental scientist, sustainable enterprise scholar
“Taking On Climate Skepticism as a Field of Study,” Interview by Felicity Barringer, New York Times (9 Apr 2011)
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The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. […] The prevailing ideas entertained by [Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. […] Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

Alexander Stephens (1812-1883) American lawyer, politician, Confederate States Vice-President (1861-65)
“Cornerstone Speech,” Savannah (21 Mar 1861)
    (Source)

On the foundation of the government of the Confederate States of America.
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The cat is, above all things, a dramatist; its life is lived in an endless romance, though the drama is played out on quite another stage than our own, and we only enter into it as subordinate characters, as stage managers, or rather stage carpenters.

Margaret Benson (1865-1916) English author and Egyptologist
The Soul of a Cat and Other Stories, “Epilogue,” sec. 2 (1901)
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Goodness is about what you do. Not who you pray to.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Snuff (2011)
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Virtuous love consists in decorous desire for the beautiful.

[Δίκαιος ἔρως ἀνυβρίστως ἐφίεσθαι τῶν καλῶν]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 73 (Diels) [tr. Freeman (1948)]
    (Source)

Diels citation "73. (87 N.) DEMOKRATES. 38."; collected in Joannes Stobaeus (Stobaios) Anthologium III, 5, 23. Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter. Alternate translations:

  • "Rightful love is longing without violence for the noble." [tr. Barnes (1987)]
  • "Just lust is longing for noble things without arrogance." [tr. @sententiq (2018)]
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I believe that no endeavor that is worthwhile is simple in prospect; if it is right, it will be simple in retrospect.

Edward Teller (1908-2003) Hungarian-American theoretical physicist
Quoted by Judith Shoolery, personal communication (2004)
    (Source)

Quoted in István Hargittai, The Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century (2006).
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To write in plain, vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“The Prevention of Literature,” Polemic (Jan 1946)
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The professional celebrity, male and female, is the crowning result of the star system of a society that makes a fetish of competition.

C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) American sociologist, academic, author [Charles Wright Mills]
The Power Elite (1956)
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Imagination continually frustrates tradition; that is its function.

John Pfeiffer (1914-1999) American anthropologist, author
“Nature, the Radical Conservative,” New York Times (29 Apr 1979)
    (Source)

Book review of Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature. This quotation is frequently misattributed to Jules Feiffer.
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This is an extraordinarily irritating book, written by one of those people who smugly believe that, having lost their faith, they must ipso facto have found their reason.

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) English intellectual, polemicist, socio-political critic
“David Mamet’s Right-Wing Conversion,” New York Times (17 Jun 2011)
    (Source)

Reviewing David Mamet’s The Secret Knowledge.
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But I must at the very beginning lay down this principle — friendship can only exist between good men.

[Sed hoc primum sentio, nisi in bonis amicitiam esse non posse]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
“Laelius De Amicitia [Laelius on Friendship],” ch. 5 / sec. 18 (44 BC) [tr. Shuckburgh (1909)]
    (Source)

Original Latin. Alternate translations:

  • "But first of all, I am of opinion, that except among the virtuous, friendship cannot exist." [tr. Edmonds (1871)]
  • "But I consider this as a first principle, -- that friendship can exist only between good men." [tr. Peabody (1887)]
  • "This, however, I do feel first of all -- that friendship cannot exist except among good men." [tr. Falconer (1923)]
  • "But first of all, I think this: except among good people, friendship cannot exist." [Source]
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But indeed we need no further argument in favor of taking pleasure as a standard when we consider the only alternative that faces us. If we do not live for pleasure we shall soon find ourselves living for pain. If we do not regard as sacred our own joys and the joys of others, we open the door and let into life the ugliest attribute of the human race, which is cruelty.

Rebecca West (1892-1983) British author, journalist, literary critic, travel writer [pseud. for Cicily Isabel Fairfield]
“Pleasure Be Your Guide,” The Nation, “Living Philosophies” series #10 (25 Feb 1939)
    (Source)

Adapted into Clifton Fadiman, I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Certain Eminent Men and Women of Our Time (1952).
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There is nothing more agreeable in life than to make peace with the Establishment — and nothing more corrupting.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
“William Cobbett” (1953), Essays in English History (1976)
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Anybody who likes writing a book is an idiot. Because it’s impossible, it’s like having a homework assignment every stinking day until it’s done.

Lewis Black (b. 1948) American comedian
Interview by Amelie Gillette, The Onion A.V. Club (7 Jun 2006)
    (Source)
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One thing travel teaches is why living at home is so popular.

Ashleigh Brilliant (b. 1933) Anglo-American writer, epigramist, cartoonist
Pot-Shots, #2701
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Whatever creates or increases happiness or some part of happiness, we ought to do; whatever destroys or hampers happiness, or gives rise to its opposite, we ought not to do.

[τὰ μὲν γὰρ παρασκευάζοντα ταύτην ἢ τῶν μορίων τι, ἢ μεῖζον ἀντ᾽ ἐλάττονος ποιοῦντα, δεῖ πράττειν, τὰ δὲ φθείροντα ἢ ἐμποδίζοντα ἢ τὰ ἐναντία ποιοῦντα μὴ πράττειν.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Rhetoric [Ῥητορική; Ars Rhetorica], Book 1, ch. 5, sec. 2 / 1360b.11 (350 BC) [tr. Roberts (1954)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

For it behoves us to perform those acts which procure [happiness], or any one of its constituent parts, or which, when it is little, render it greater; but not to perform those which destroy, or obstruct it, or produce its contraries.
[Source (1847)]

We needs do the things which procure [happiness] or any of its constituents, or which render it greater from having been less, and refrain from doing the things which destroy or impede it, or produce its opposites.
[tr. Buckley (1850)]

Since we ought to do those things which tend to create [Happiness] or any one of its parts, or to increase that part; but we ought not do those things which corrupt, or hinder it, or produce its opposite.
[tr. Jebb (1873)]

For one should do the things which procure happiness or one of its parts, or increase instead of diminishing it, and avoid doing those things which destroy or hinder it or bring about what is contrary to it.
[tr. Freese (1924)]

After all, we are bound to act in a way that creates the conditions for happiness or one of its constituents, or at any rate increases rather than diminishes it, and to avoid doing things that destroy or hinder it or have outcomes that oppose it.
[tr. Waterfield (2018)]

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Life is too short to drink bad wine.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
(Misattributed)

Often attributed to him, but not found in Goethe's works. The attribution, though, may come from translators' commentary on Goethe's West–Eastern Diwan, "The Book of the Cup-Bearer" (1819/1827), that refers to a poetic passage as deriving from Diez's 1811 translation of the Book of Kabus (Qabus):

It comes to this, that it is a sin to drink wine. If though, then committest sin, commit it at least for the best wine, for otherwise wouldst though on one part commit sin, and on another drink bad wine. By God! that would be the most sorrowful among sorrowful things. [tr. Rogers (1890)]

It so happens that wine-drinking is a sin. Hence, if you do commit this sin, do it at least with the best wine; otherwise, you'll commit the sin, on the one hand, and on the other, you'll drink bad wine. By God! That would be the sorriest of all sorry things. [tr. Ormsby (2019)]


More information: The Big Apple: “Life is too short to drink cheap wine”
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In a predatory economy, the rules imagined by the law and economics crowd don’t apply. There’s no market discipline. Predators compete not by following the rules but by breaking them. They take the business-school view of law: Rules are not designed to guide behavior but laid down to define the limits of unpunished conduct. Once one gets close to the line, stepping over it is easy. A predatory economy is criminogenic: It fosters and rewards criminal behavior.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
“The Predator State,” Mother Jones (May/Jun 2006)
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Censors don’t want children exposed to ideas different from their own. If every individual with an agenda had his/her way, the shelves in the school library would be close to empty.

Judy Blume (b. 1938) American writer
“Judy Blume Talks about Censorship,” judyblume.com
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That’s the beauty of the Web: You can roll around in a stranger’s obsession without having to smell his or her house. You can amscray whenever you want without being rude. The site gets its “hit” and you know more about our species’ diversity.

Penn Jillette (b. 1955) American stage magician, actor, musician, author
“Free Celebrity Nudes!” Penn’s Columns (15 Oct 1997)
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Caution in handling generally accepted opinions that claim to explain whole trends of history is especially important for the historian of modern times, because the last century has produced an abundance of ideologies that pretend to be keys to history but are actually nothing but desperate efforts to escape responsibility.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Part 1, ch. 1 (1973)
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And in return may the gods grant you your heart’s desire; may they give you a husband and a home, and the harmony that is so much to be desired, since there is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends, as they themselves know better than anyone.

[Σοὶ δὲ θεοὶ τόσα δοῖεν, ὅσα φρεσὶ σῇσι μενοινᾷς,
ἄνδρα τε καὶ οἶκον, καὶ ὁμοφροσύνην ὀπάσειαν
ἐσθλήν· οὐ μὲν γὰρ τοῦ γε κρεῖσσον καὶ ἄρειον,
ἢ ὅθ’ ὁμοφρονέοντε νοήμασιν οἶκον ἔχητον
ἀνὴρ ἠδὲ γυνή· πόλλ’ ἄλγεα δυσμενέεσσι,
χάρματα δ’ εὐμενέτῃσι· μάλιστα δέ τ’ ἔκλυον αὐτοί.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 6, l. 180ff [Odysseus to Nausicaa] (c. 700 BC) [tr. Rieu (1946)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. The passage uses variations on the Greek term ὁμοφροσύνην (homophrosynê, likemindedness). Alternate translations:

God give you, in requital, all th’ amends
Your heart can wish, a husband, family,
And good agreement. Nought beneath the sky
More sweet, more worthy is, than firm consent
Of man and wife in household government.
It joys their wishers-well, their enemies wounds,
But to themselves the special good redounds.
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

And may Jove you with all you wish for bless,
A husband and a house, and concord good;
For man and wife to live in unity
Is the great’st blessing can be understood:
It joys your friend, and grieves your enemy.
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 172ff]

So may the gods, who heaven and earth control,
Crown the chaste wishes of thy virtuous soul,
On thy soft hours their choicest blessings shed;
Blest with a husband be thy bridal bed;
Blest be thy husband with a blooming race,
And lasting union crown your blissful days.
The gods, when they supremely bless, bestow
Firm union on their favourites below;
Then envy grieves, with inly-pining hate;
The good exult, and heaven is in our state.
[tr. Pope (1725)]

And may the Gods thy largest wishes grant,
House, husband, concord! for of all the gifts
Of heav’n, more precious none I deem, than peace
’Twixt wedded pair, and union undissolved;
Envy torments their enemies, but joy
Fills ev’ry virtuous breast, and most their own.
[tr. Cowper (1792), l. 226ff]

To thee the gods give all thy heart's desire!
A husband and home and loving hearts beside --
That best of gifts: for nought is better and braver
Than this, when man and wife unanimous
Hold their own home -- a sorrow they to foes --
A joy to friends -- and chiefest to themselves!
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869)]

And may the gods grant thee all thy heart’s desire: a husband and a home, and a mind at one with his may they give -- a good gift, for there is nothing mightier and nobler than when man and wife are of one heart and mind in a house, a grief to their foes, and to their friends great joy, but their own hearts know it best.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

And so may the high Gods give thee whatso thine heart holds dear,
A husband and a homestead, and concord whole and sound.
For nothing sure more goodly or better may be found
Than man and woman holding one house with one goodwill.
Thuis many a grief are they giving to those that wish them ill,
But great joy to their well-willers; and they wot it best of all.
[tr. Morris (1887)]

And may the gods grant all that in your thoughts you long for: husband and home and true accord may they bestow; for a better and higher gift than this there cannot be, when with accordant aims man and wife have a home. Great grief is it to foes and joy to friends; but they themselves best know its meaning.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

May heaven grant you in all things your heart's desire -- husband, house, and a happy, peaceful home; for there is nothing better in this world than that man and wife should be of one mind in a house. It discomfits their enemies, makes the hearts of their friends glad, and they themselves know more about it than any one.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

And for thyself, may the gods grant thee all that thy heart desires; a husband and a home may they grant thee, and oneness of heart -- a goodly gift. For nothing is greater or better than this, when man and wife dwell in a home in one accord, a great grief to their foes and a joy to their friends; but they know it best themselves.
[tr. Murray (1919)]

And to you may the Gods requite all your heart's desire; husband, house, and especially ingenious accord within that house: for there is nothing so good and lovely as when man and wife in their home dwell together in unity of mind and disposition. A great vexation it is to their enemies and a feast of gladness to their friends: surest of all do they, within themselves, feel all the good it means.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

And may the gods accomplish your desire:
a home, a husband, and harmonious
converse with him -- the best thing in the world
being a strong house held in serenity
where man and wife agree. Woe to their enemies,
joy to their friends! But all this they know best.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]

And may the gods grant you what your heart wants most,
a husband anda home, and may there be
accord between you both: there is no gift
more solid and precious than such trust:
a man and woman who conduct their house
with minds in deep accord, to enemies
bring grief, but to their friends bring gladness, and --
above all -- gaine a good name for themselves.
[tr. Mendelbaum (1990)]

And may the good gods give you all your heart desires:
husband, and house, and lasting harmony too.
No finer, greater gift in the world than that ...
when man and woman possess their home, two minds,
two hearts that work as one. Despair to their enemies,
joy to all their friends. Their own best claim to glory.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

And for yourself, may the gods grant you
Your heart's desire, a husband and a home,
And the blessing of a harmonious life.
For nothing is greater or finer than this,
When a man and woman live together
With one heart and mind, bringing joy
To their friends and grief to their foes.
[tr. Lombardo (2000), l. 183ff]

Then may the gods grant you all that you desire in your heart, and may they bestow on you a husband, a house, and a good harmony of minds; there is nothing better or more powerful than this, when a man and his wife keep house in sympathy of mind -- a great grief to their enemies, but a joy to those who wish them well; and they themselves are highly esteemed.
[tr. Verity (2016)]

So may the gods grant all your heart's desires, a home and husband, somebody like-minded. For nothing could be better than when two live in their minds in harmony, husband and wife. Their enemies are jealous, their friends delighted, and they have great honor.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

May the gods grant as much as you desire in your thoughts,
A husband and home, and may they give you fine likemindness,
For nothing is better and stronger than this
When two people who are likeminded in their thoughts share a home,
A man and a wife—this brings many pains for their enemies
And joys to their friends. And the gods listen to them especially.
[tr. @sentantiq (2018)]

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The recklessness of their ways destroyed them all.

[Αὐτῶν γὰρ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 1, l. 7ff (c. 700 BC) [tr. Fagles (1996)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

  • "O men unwise, / They perish’d by their own impieties!" [tr. Chapman (1616)]
  • "They lost themselves by their own insolence." [tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 9]
  • "They perish’d self-destroy’d / By their own fault." [tr. Cowper (1792)]
  • "For they in their own wilful folly perished." [tr. Bigge-Wither (1869)]
  • "For through the blindness of their own hearts they perished." [tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]
  • "They died of their own souls' folly." [tr. Morris (1887)]
  • "For through their own perversity they perished." [tr. Palmer (1891)]
  • "For they perished through their own sheer folly." [tr. Butler (1898)]
  • "For they perished through their own deeds of sheer recklessness." [tr. Butler (1898), rev. Kim/McCray/Nagy/Power (2018)]
  • "For through their own blind folly they perished." [tr. Murray (1919)]
  • "For their own recklessness destroyed them all." [tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]
  • "Fools, they foiled themselves." [tr. Mendelbaum (1990)]
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Perhaps if we saw what was ahead of us, and glimpsed the crimes, follies, and misfortunes that would befall us later on, we would all stay in our mother’s wombs, and there would be nobody in the world but a great number of very fat, very irritated women.

Lemony Snicket (b. 1970) American author, screenwriter, musician (pseud. for Daniel Handler)
The End (2006)
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Macbeth’s self-justifications were feeble — and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even Iago was a little lamb, too. The imagination and spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology.

Ideology — that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others’ eyes, so that he won’t hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors. That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations.

Alexander Solzhenitsen (1918-2008) Russian novelist, emigre [Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn]
The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, Part 1, ch. 4 (1973) [tr. Whitney]
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From the simple observation that mental illness is marked by odd behavior flows a host of problems. For nothing seems clearer than that we are responsible for our behavior; from there, it seems only a small step to the conclusion that a disease characterized by strange behavior must be a disease under our control. And so we appeal to willpower in the devout belief that we can think our way to mental health. We advise the victim of depression to look on the bright side; we tell the person in the midst of a sky-high manic episode to take a deep breath and calm down. When it comes to mental illness, we are all Christian Scientists.

Edward Dolnick (b. 1952) American writer
Madness on the Couch, ch. 18 (1998)
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If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Speech, Digital Biota 2 conference, Cambridge, UK (Sep 1998)
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Segments of this impromptu speech are quoted in Richard Dawkins, "Eulogy for Douglas Adams," Church of Saint Martin in the Fields, London (27 Sep 2001). A variant of the quotation ("If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, you end up with a non-working cat. Do not try this.") is often attributed to that article, but the Dawkins eulogy contains the correct form of the quote.
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And the funny thing was that people who weren’t entirely certain they were right always argued much louder than other people, as if the main person they were trying to convince were themselves.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Diggers (1990)
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Violent desire for one thing blinds the soul to all others.

[αἱ περί τι σφοδραὶ ὀρέξεις τυφλοῦσιν εἰς τἆλλα τὴν ψυχήν.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 72 (Diels) [tr. Freeman (1948)]
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Diels citation "72. (58 N.) DEMOKRATES. 37." Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter. Alternate translations:

  • "Extreme desires about one thing blind the soul to others." [tr. @sententiq (2018)]
  • "Violent desire for one thing blinds the soul to everything else." [Source]
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I hate doubt, yet I am certain that doubt is the only way to approach anything worth believing in.

Edward Teller (1908-2003) Hungarian-American theoretical physicist
In Phillip Berman, The Courage of Conviction (1985)
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I think one must engage in politics — using the word in a wide sense — and that one must have preferences: that is, one must recognise that some causes are objectively better than others, even if they are advanced by equally bad means. As for the nationalistic loves and hatreds that I have spoken of, they are part of the make-up of most of us, whether we like it or not. Whether it is possible to get rid of them I do not know, but I do believe that it is possible to struggle against them, and that this is essentially a moral effort. It is a question first of all of discovering what one really is, what one’s own feelings really are, and then of making allowance for the inevitable bias.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Notes on Nationalism” (May 1945)
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There is no such thing as a self-made man. Every businessman has used the vast American infrastructure, which the taxpayers paid for, to make his money. He did not make his money alone.

George Lakoff (b. 1941) American cognitive linguist and philosopher
Don’t Think of an Elephant! (2004)
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The problem is that the philosopher of today has lost his wonder, because wonder, in modern philosophy, is something you must not have; it is like enthusiasm in eighteenth-century England — it is very bad form.

Alan Watts (1915-1973) Anglo-American philosopher, writer
“The Relevance of Oriental Philosophy” (c. 1964)
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Collected in Eastern Wisdom, Modern Life, ch. 6 (2006).
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