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You can see how infinitely laborious and fruitless it would be to try to refute every objection they offer, when they have resolved never to think before they speak provided that somehow or other they contradict our arguments.

[Quorum dicta contraria si totiens uelimus refellere, quotiens obnixa fronte statuerint non cogitare quid dicant, dum quocumque modo nostris disputationibus contradicant, quam sit infinitum et aerumnosum et infructuosum uides.]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
City of God [De Civitate Dei], Book 2, ch. 1 (2.1) (AD 412-416) [tr. Bettenson (1972)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

If we should bind ourselves to give an answer to every contradiction that their impudence will thrust forth (how falsely they care not, for they do but make a show of opposition into our assertions), you see what a trouble it would be, how endless, and how fruitless.
[tr. Healey (1610)]

Now, if we were to propose to confute their objections as often as they with brazen face chose to disregard our arguments, and so often as they could by any means contradict our statements, you see how endless, and fruitless, and painful a task we should be undertaking.
[tr. Dods (1871)]

You can easily see what an endless, wearisome, and fruitless task it would be, if I were to refute all the unconsidered objections of people who pig-headedly contradict everything I say.
[tr. Zema/Walsh (1950)]

If we were bound to refute their objections every time they make their bull-headed resolve not to consider the meaning of their words as long as they deny our arguments, no matter how, you see how endless and wearisome and unprofitable it would be.
[tr. McCracken (Loeb) (1957)]

If we resolved to refute their contrary arguments as often as they resolve obstinately to contradict our reasoning in whatever way they can, without considering the truth of what they say, you see what an infinite and toilsome and fruitless task we should have.
[tr. Dyson (1998)]

So you see how endlessly futile and fruitless it would be if we wanted to refute their objections every time they obstinately resolved not to think through what they say but merely to speak, just so long as they contradict our arguments in any way they can.
[tr. Babcock (2012)]

 
Added on 22-Jan-24 | Last updated 22-Jan-24
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Questions about the reproductive system should be answered as naturally as ones about the railroad system.

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Marcelene Cox (1900-1998) American writer, columnist, aphorist
“Ask Any Woman” column, Ladies’ Home Journal (1946-02)
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Added on 5-Dec-22 | Last updated 27-Mar-23
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The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question; it’s to post the wrong answer.

Howard G. "Ward" Cunningham (b. 1949) American computer scientist
“Cunningham’s Law”
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Cunningham himself denies having said this. It was attributed to him (and so named) by Steven McGeady in the early 1980s.
 
Added on 10-Nov-20 | Last updated 10-Nov-20
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A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place, but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed, toward the hope of greening the landscape of an idea. The difference between a seed and an inert speck can be hard to see, but only one of them will grow and return itself in kind and be multiplied.

John Ciardi (1916-1986) American poet, writer, critic
Manner of Speaking (1972)
 
Added on 2-Sep-20 | Last updated 2-Sep-20
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The highest truth is daiji, translated as dai jiki in Chinese scriptures. This is the subject of the question the emperor asked Bodhidharma: “What is the First Principle?” Bodhidharma said, “I don’t know.” “I don’t know” is the First Principle.

Shunryū Suzuki (1905-1971) Japanese Zen Buddhist master
Lotus Sutra No. 6 lecture, Tassajara, California (Feb 1968)
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Added on 10-Jul-20 | Last updated 10-Jul-20
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SIR HUMPHREY: Well, Minister, if you ask me for a straight answer, then I shall say that, as far as we can see, looking at it by and large, taking one thing with another in terms of the average of departments, then in the final analysis it is probably true to say, that at the end of the day, in general terms, you would probably find that, not to put too fine a point on it, there probably wasn’t very much in it one way or the other. As far as one can see, at this stage.

Jonathan Lynn (b. 1943) English actor, comedy writer, director
Yes Minister, S1E5 “The Writing on the Wall” (24 Mar 1980) [with Anthony Jay
 
Added on 3-Mar-20 | Last updated 3-Mar-20
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An answer is invariably the parent of a great family of new questions.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) American writer
The Log from the Sea of Cortez, ch. 16, March 25 (1951)
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Added on 13-Apr-18 | Last updated 13-Apr-18
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To really ask is to open the door to the whirlwind. The answer may annihilate the question and the questioner.

Anne Rice (b. 1941) American author [b. Howard Allen Frances O'Brien]
The Vampire Lestat, Part 5, ch. 3 (1992)
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Added on 23-Feb-18 | Last updated 23-Feb-18
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A correct answer is like an affectionate kiss.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Proverbs in Prose (1819)
 
Added on 10-Nov-17 | Last updated 10-Nov-17
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There are answers which, in turning away wrath, only send it to the other end of the room.

George Eliot (1819-1880) English novelist [pseud. of Mary Ann Evans]
Middlemarch, Book 3, ch. 24 (1871)
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An allusion to Proverbs 15:1 "A soft answer turneth away wrath."
 
Added on 8-Sep-17 | Last updated 8-Sep-17
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The trouble with life isn’t that there is no answer, it’s that there are so many answers.

Ruth Benedict (1887-1947) American anthropologist
An Anthropologist at Work, Journal Entry, 7 Jan 1913 (1959)
 
Added on 2-Sep-17 | Last updated 2-Sep-17
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“My lord,” said Lar, falling back upon the single statement that a servant may always rely upon when any other response is fraught with peril.

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
The Lord of Castle Black (2003)
 
Added on 31-Mar-17 | Last updated 31-Mar-17
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I doubt if there is in the world a single problem, whether social, political, or economic, which would not find ready solution if men and nations would rule their lives according to the plain teaching of the Sermon on the Mount.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) American lawyer, politician, statesman, US President (1933-1945)
“Greeting to the World’s Christian Endeavor Convention,” Melbourne (15 Jun 1938)
 
Added on 9-Oct-16 | Last updated 9-Oct-16
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“I suppose there are two views about everything,” said Mark.

“Eh? Two views? There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there’s never more than one.”

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer, literary scholar, lay theologian [Clive Staples Lewis]
That Hideous Strength (1945)
 
Added on 9-Sep-15 | Last updated 9-Sep-15
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That is the essence of science: ask an impertinent question, and you are on the way to a pertinent answer.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
The Ascent of Man ch. 4 (1973)
 
Added on 20-Nov-13 | Last updated 1-Dec-15
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Sir, calumnies are answer’d best with silence.

Ben Jonson (1572-1637) English playwright and poet
Volpone, Act 2, sc. 2 (1606)
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Added on 26-Feb-13 | Last updated 2-Aug-17
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Most people today don’t want honest answers insofar as honest means unpleasant or disturbing. They want a soft answer that turneth away anxiety. They want answers that are, in effect, escapes.

Louis Kronenberger (1904-1980) American critic, novelist, biographer
“Unbrave New World,” The Cart and the Horse (1964)

An allusion to Proverbs 15:1 "A soft answer turneth away wrath."
 
Added on 21-Nov-12 | Last updated 17-Nov-17
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“From what I remember,” replied Crowley, thoughtfully, “– and we were never actually on what you might call speaking terms — He wasn’t exactly one for a straight answer. In fact, in fact, He’d never answer at all. He’d just smile, as if He knew something that you didn’t.”
“And of course that’s true,” said the angel. “Otherwise, what’d be the point?”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens, 6. “Saturday” (1990) [with Neil Gaiman]
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-Dec-23
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what eeyore is doing there - e h shepard “Eeyore, what are you doing there?” said Rabbit.
“I’ll give you three guesses, Rabbit. Digging holes in the ground? Wrong. Leaping from branch to branch of a young oak-tree? Wrong. Waiting for somebody to help me out of the river? Right. Give Rabbit time, and he’ll always get the answer.”

A. A. Milne (1882-1956) English poet and playwright [Alan Alexander Milne]
House at Pooh Corner, ch. 6 “Eeyore Joins the Game” (1928)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Apr-24
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Life is made up of constant calls to action, and we seldom have time for more than hastily contrived answers; to follow one’s hunch is usually better than lying doggo, and rough generalizations that have worked well in the past easily easily take on the authority of universals. It does violence to our inner being to be obliged to give a hearing to opinions widely at variance with those we are accustomed to, and to come to a conclusion unweighted by desire.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
“At Fourscore,” speech, Harvard Club of New York (1952-01-18)
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First published in the Harvard Alumni Bulletin (23 Feb 1952).
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 27-Mar-23
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I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Life on the Mississippi, ch. 6 (1883)
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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