Quotations about   analysis

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… To divide each of the difficulties under examination into as many parts as possible, and as might be necessary for its adequate solution.

[… De diviser chacune des difficultés que j’examinerais, en autant de parcelles qu’il se pourroit, et qu’il seroit requis pour les mieux résoudre.]

René Descartes (1596-1650) French philosopher, mathematician
Discourse on Method [Discours de la méthode], Part 2 (1637) [tr. Veitch (1850)]
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(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

... To divide every One of these difficulties, which I was to examine into as many parcels as could be, and, as was requisite the better to resolve them.
[Newcombe ed. (1649)]

... To divide up each of the difficulties which I examined into as many parts as possible, and as seemed requisite in order that it might be resolved in the best manner possible.
[tr. Haldane & Ross (1911)]

... To divide each problem I examined into as many parts as was feasible, and as was requisite for its better solution.
[tr. Ascombe & Geach (1971)]

... To divide each of the difficulties I examined into as many parts as possible, and as may be required in order to resolve them better.
[tr. Cottingham, Stoothoff (1985)]

Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it.

Added on 28-Feb-22 | Last updated 28-Feb-22
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Historians can sometimes explain, or at any rate discuss the immediate causes of some great event. Beyond that they can do little more than arrive at the platitude that every generation is, to some extent, responsible for what happened afterwards. In this way, we can finally reach the preposterous conclusion that the ancient Romans were responsible for the First World War, when they failed to civilize the Germans. This is sometimes called learning from history.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
“What Else Indeed?” New York Review of Books (5 Aug 1965)
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Added on 27-Sep-21 | Last updated 27-Sep-21
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In the popular imagination, the belief persists that history involves little more than reconstruction, a retelling of the past “as it actually was.” But historical understanding involves far more than mere empiricism; it demands a readiness to draw back from the facts to reflect on their significance and their interconnection.

Peter E Gordon
Peter E, Gordon (b. 1966) American intellectual historian
“Why Historical Analogy Matters,” New York Review of Books (7 Jan 2020)
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Added on 24-Sep-21 | Last updated 24-Sep-21
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Such is the privilege of genius; it perceives, it seizes relations where vulgar eyes see only isolated facts.

[Tel est le privilége du génie: il aperçoit, il saisit des rapports, là où des yeux vulgaires lie voient que des faits isolés.]

François Arago
François Arago (1786-1853) French Catalan mathematician, physicist, astronomer, politician
Biographies of Distinguished Scientific Men, “Joseph Fourier” (1859) [tr. Smyth, Powell, Grant]
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Added on 20-Sep-21 | Last updated 20-Sep-21
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Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.

Martin Mull (b. 1943) American actor, comedian
(Attributed)

Many people have put many hours into determining the origin of this quotation, but the best evidence at present points to Mull, in or before early 1979. See:
Added on 23-Jul-21 | Last updated 23-Jul-21
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But everyone assumes causation when they should be thinking coincidence, and correlation when they should be asking whether Twitter is really a reliable source of information.

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
False Value (2020)
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Added on 19-Mar-21 | Last updated 19-Mar-21
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The path of sound credence is through the thick forest of skepticism.

George Jean Nathan (1892-1958) American editor and critic
Materia Critica, “Critic and Criticism,” sec. 4 (1924)
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Added on 14-Dec-20 | Last updated 14-Dec-20
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The difference between a conviction and a prejudice is that you can explain a conviction without getting angry.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Anonymous

No definitive source is found for this quotation. Frequently attributed to Gregory Benford, Deeper than the Darkness (1970), but it has shown up anonymously at least as early as 1951 as "filler" material in periodicals. Also sometimes attributed to Samuel Butler or Dorothy Sarnoff, but not with any citation.
Added on 24-Aug-20 | Last updated 24-Aug-20
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You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.

Plato (c.428-347 BC) Greek philosopher
(Spurious)

Frequently attributed to Plato, starting in the 1950s, but not found in his works. Earliest citation is as a Portuguese proverb, in A Polyglot of Foreign Proverbs, tr. Henry G. Bohn (1857): "Mais descobre huma hora de jogo, que hum anno de conversação." For more see here.
Added on 28-Feb-19 | Last updated 28-Feb-19
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You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to pick up the piece and move it. But what chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) American film director, screenwriter, producer
In Newsweek (26 May 1980)
Added on 14-Nov-17 | Last updated 14-Nov-17
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If poetry is like an orgasm, an academic can be likened to someone who studies the passion-stains on the bedsheets.

Irving Layton (1912-2006) Romanian-Canadian poet [b. Israel Pincu Lazarovitch]
“Obs II,” The Whole Bloody Bird (1969)
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Added on 1-Jun-17 | Last updated 1-Jun-17
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You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could’ve, would’ve happened. … Or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the fuck on.

Tupac Shakur (1971-1996) American rapper, record producer, actor [b. Lesane Parish Crooks]
(Attributed)

Widely quoted and included in memes, but without citation. Considered spurious by a number of fans.
Added on 31-May-17 | Last updated 31-May-17
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There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Benjamin Disraeli - lies statistics - wist_info

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) English politician and author
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Attributed by Mark Twain in "Chapters from My Autobiography" (Apr 1904), North American Review (7 Sep 1906): "Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'"

The phrase has not been found in any of Disraeli's works, and he is considered unlikely to be the originator. Variants of the phrase date back a century or more from Twain's reference. More discussion about this quotation here:

Added on 14-Oct-15 | Last updated 22-Jun-22
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What I mean is that if you really want to understand something, the best way is to try and explain it to someone else. That forces you to sort it out in your mind. And the more slow and dim-witted your pupil, the more you have to break things down into more and more simple ideas. And that’s really the essence of programming. By the time you’ve sorted out a complicated idea into little steps that even a stupid machine can deal with, you’ve learned something about it yourself.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987)
Added on 8-Jun-15 | Last updated 8-Jun-15
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More important than any belief a man holds is the way he holds it. Any fool or fanatic can embrace a doctrine. Even if true, it remains a dogma unless it is evaluated in the light of its alternatives, and the relevant evidence for them.

Sidney Hook (1902-1989) American philosopher
Political Power and Personal Freedom, ch. 28 “Socialism Without Utopia: A Rejoinder to Max Eastman”(1959)
Added on 17-Apr-15 | Last updated 17-Apr-15
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When a mess, which is a system of problems, is taken apart, it loses its essential properties and so does each of its parts. The behavior of a mess depends more on how the treatment of its parts interact than how they act independently of each other. A partial solution to a whole system of problems is better than whole solutions of each of its parts taken separately.

Russell L. Ackoff (1919-2009) American organizational theorist, consultant, management scientist
“The future of operational research is past,” The Journal of the Operational Research Society, Vol 30 (1979)
Added on 26-Mar-15 | Last updated 26-Mar-15
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Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the purely scientific mind.

E.B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
“The Preaching Humorist,” The Saturday Review of Literature (18 Oct 1941)

The apparent origin of "Analyzing humor is a bit like dissecting a frog: You learn how it works but you end up with a dead frog" (and variants). Also attributed to Mark Twain (not found in his writing) and André Maurois (who said something similar in 1960). See here for more.
Added on 16-Feb-15 | Last updated 16-Feb-15
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I do not deny that most managers lack a good deal of information that they should have, but I do deny that this is the most important informational deficiency from which they suffer. It seems to me that they suffer more from an overabundance of irrelevant information.

Russell L. Ackoff (1919-2009) American organizational theorist, consultant, management scientist
“Management Misinformation Systems,” Management Sciences (Dec 1967)
Added on 29-Jan-15 | Last updated 29-Jan-15
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You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
(Attributed)

Alternate versions:
  • "If you can't explain something to a six-year-old, you really don't understand it yourself."
  • "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
No source found. The quote is frequently also attributed to Richard Feynman.  It is likely based on a similar quote by Ernest Rutherford.

The closest reference to it can be found in Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times (1972):
To de Broglie, Einstein revealed an instinctive reason for his inability to accept the purely statistical interpretation of wave mechanics. It was a reason which linked him with Rutherford, who used to state that "it should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid." Einstein, having a final discussion with de Broglie on the platform of the Gare du Nord in Paris, whence they had traveled from Brussels to attend the Fresnel centenary celebrations, said "that all physical theories, their mathematical expressions apart ought to lend themselves to so simple a description 'that even a child could understand them.'"

More discussion of this quotation here.
Added on 15-Jul-11 | Last updated 21-Feb-21
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All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusion is called a philosopher.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce, Vol. 8, “Epigrams” (1911)
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Added on 29-Oct-08 | Last updated 17-Mar-21
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Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.

Lawrence J Peter
Lawrence J. Peter (1919-1990) American educator, management theorist
Peter’s Almanac, entry for 24 Sep. (1982).
Added on 14-Aug-07 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
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An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today.

Lawrence J Peter
Lawrence J. Peter (1919-1990) American educator, management theorist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
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