Quotations about:
    argument


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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)]
    (Source)

(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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A bitter-tongued parent cannot teach respect for facts. Truth for its own sake can be a deadly weapon in family relations. Truth without compassion can destroy love. Some parents try too hard to prove exactly how, where and why they have been right. This approach will bring bitterness and disappointment. When attitudes are hostile, facts are unconvincing.

Haim Ginott
Haim Ginott (1922-1973) Israeli-American school teacher, child psychologist, psychotherapist [b. Haim Ginzburg]
Between Parent and Teenager, ch. 2 “Rebellion and Response” (1969)
    (Source)

Sometimes mis-cited to the earlier Between Parent and Child (1965).
 
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For most men (till by losing rendered sager)
Will back their own opinions by a wager.

Lord Byron
George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
“Beppo,” st. 27 (1818)
    (Source)
 
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It is astonishing how articulate one can become when alone and raving at a radio. Arguments and counter arguments, rhetoric and bombast flow from one’s lips like scurf from the hair of a bank manager.

Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry (b. 1957) British actor, writer, comedian
“Trefusis on Any Questions,” Loose Ends, BBC Radio 4 (c. 1987)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Paperweight (1992)
 
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I never diskuss politiks nor sektarianism; i beleave in letting every man fight hiz rooster hiz own way.
 
[I never discuss politics nor [religious] sectarianism; I believe in letting every man fight his rooster his own way.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist, aphorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, ch. 131 “Affurisms: Plum Pits (1)” (1874)
    (Source)
 
Added on 22-Sep-23 | Last updated 22-Dec-23
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The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man’s observation, not overturning it.

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) English novelist and politician
The Student, Vol. 2, “The New Phaedo,” Conversation 1 (1835)
    (Source)

See La Bruyere.
 
Added on 7-Jul-23 | Last updated 7-Jul-23
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A polite man is one who listens with interest to things he knows all about, when they are told him by a person who knows nothing about them.

Charles, Duc de Morny
Charles de Morny (1811-1865) French statesman [Charles Auguste Louis Joseph de Morny, 1st Duc de Morny]
(Attributed)

Earliest reference found here (1872).
 
Added on 20-Feb-23 | Last updated 20-Feb-23
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Argument and flattery are but poor elements out of which to form a conversation.

[Widerspruch und Schmeichelei machen beide ein schlechtes Gespräch.]

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Elective Affinities [Die Wahlverwandtschaften], Part 2, ch. 4, “From Ottilie’s Journal [Aus Ottiliens Tagebuche]” (1809) [Niles ed. (1872)]
    (Source)

(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

Contradiction and flattery both make bad conversation.
[tr. Hollingdale (1971)]

 
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The delight of social relations between friends is fostered by a shared attitude to life, together with certain differences of opinion on intellectual matters, through which either one is confirmed in one’s own views, or else one gains practice and instruction through argument.

[Le plaisir de la société entre les amis se cultive par une ressemblance de goût sur ce qui regarde les moeurs, et par quelques différences d’opinions sur les sciences: par là ou l’on s’affermit dans ses sentiments, ou l’on s’exerce et l’on s’instruit par la dispute.]

Jean de La Bruyere
Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
The Characters [Les Caractères], ch. 5 “Of Society and Conversation [De la Société et de la Conversation],” § 61 (5.61) (1688) [tr. Stewart (1970)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

The pleasure of Society amongst Friends is cultivated by a likeness of Inclinations, as to Manners; and a difference in Opinion, as to Sciences: the one confirms and humours us in our sentiments; the other exercises and instructs us by disputation.
[Bullord ed. (1696)]

The Pleasure of Society amongst Friends, is cultivated by a likeness of Inclinations, as to Manners, and by some difference in Opinion, as to Sciences: The one confirms us in our Sentiments, the other exercises and instructs us by Disputation.
[Curll ed. (1713)]

The pleasure of social intercourse amongst friends is kept up by a similarity of morals and manners, and by slender differences in opinion about science; this confirms us in our sentiments, exercises our faculties or instructs us through arguments.
[tr. Van Laun (1885)]

 
Added on 14-Feb-23 | Last updated 6-Jun-23
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By a pompous parade of words, some learned men have so managed it, that an unjust cause has often gained the victory, and reason submitted to sophistry and chicane.

[Gli uomini letterati, per pompa di parlare, fanno ben spesso che il torto vince, e che la ragione perde.]

Giovanni della Casa
Giovanni della Casa (1503-1556) Florentine poet, author, diplomat, bishop
Galateo: Or, A Treatise on Politeness and Delicacy of Manners [Il Galateo overo de’ costumi], ch. 29 (1558) [tr. Graves (1774)]
    (Source)

(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

But, we see that Learned men have suche art and cunning to persuade, and such filed wordes to serve their turne: that wrong doth carry the cause away, and Reason cannot prevaile.
[tr. Peterson (1576)]

Men of letters, with their parade of high-flown language, very often make the wrong to prevail and the right to succumb.
[ed. Harbottle (1897)]

We find that learned men, through their grandiose talk, very often manage to have the wrong side win and reason lose.
[tr. Eisenbichler/Bartlett (1986)]

 
Added on 14-Dec-22 | Last updated 14-Dec-22
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Sharing the food is to me more important than arguing about beliefs. Jesus, according to the gospels, thought so too.

Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson (1923-2020) English-American theoretical physicist, mathematician, futurist
“Progress in Religion,” Templeton Prize acceptance speech, Washington National Cathedral (9 May 2000)
    (Source)
 
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The arguments of tyranny are as contemptible as its force is dreadful.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish statesman, orator, philosopher
Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
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I cannot guess why it is so, but those who know the least speak the most.

[E non so io indovinare donde ciò proceda, che chi meno sa più ragioni.]

Giovanni della Casa
Giovanni della Casa (1503-1556) Florentine poet, author, diplomat, bishop
Galateo: Or, A Treatise on Politeness and Delicacy of Manners [Il Galateo overo de’ costumi], ch. 24 (1558) [tr. Einsenbichler/Bartlett (1986)]
    (Source)

(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

Nor can I guess at the cause, (though it is certainly fact) why he that knows the least, should always talk the most.
[tr. Graves (1774)]

I cannot divine how it happens that the man who knows the least is the most argumentative.
[Source]

 
Added on 19-Oct-22 | Last updated 19-Oct-22
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A clever speaker can speak on any
subject, either for or against.

[ἐκ παντὸς ἄν τις πράγµατος δισσῶν λόγων
ἀγῶνα θεῖτ᾽ἄν, εἰ λέγειν εἴη σοφός.]

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Antiope [Αντιοπη], frag. 189 (TGF, Kannicht) [Chorus] (c. 410 BC)
    (Source)

Barnes frag. 79, Musgrave 39. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

The skillful orator can either side
Maintain on every topic of debate.
[tr. Wodhall (1809)]

A man could make an argument for two sides of any
matter, if he were a clever speaker.
[tr. Will (2015)]

 
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Although we have already spoken in the First Part touching the utility of the definition of terms, it is nevertheless so important, that we cannot have it too much impressed on our minds, since we may by it clear up a number of disputes, which have as their subject often only the ambiguity of terms, which one takes in one sense, and another in another. So that some of the greatest controversies would cease in a moment, if one or the other of the disputants took care to make out precisely, and in a few words, what he understands by the terms which are the subject of dispute.

Antoine Arnauld
Antoine Arnauld (1612-1694) French theologian, philosopher, mathematician
Logic, or the Art of Thinking [La Logique ou l’art de penser; The Port-Royal Logic], Part 4, ch. 4 (1662) [with Pierre Nicole] [tr. Baynes (1850)]
    (Source)

Alternate translation:

Although we have already spoken in Part I about the usefulness of defining one's terms, this is, however, so important that we cannot bear it too much in mind, since this is how countless disputes are cleared up whose cause is often merely an ambiguity in terms that one person takes one way and another person another way. Accordingly, some very serious arguments would cease in an instant if either of the disputants took the care to indicate clearly, in a few words, the meanings of the terms that are the subject of dispute.
[tr. Buroker (1996)]

 
Added on 20-Jun-22 | Last updated 21-Jun-22
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The river of truth is always splitting up into arms that reunite. Islanded between them, the inhabitants argue for a lifetime as to which is the mainstream.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave, Part 3 “La Clé des Chants” (1944)
    (Source)

Often misquoted:

Truth is a river that is always splitting up into arms that reunite. Islanded between the arms, the inhabitants argue for a lifetime as to which is the main river.
 
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Even when you are right, it is good to make concessions: people will recognize you were right but admire your courtesy. More is lost through holding on than can be won by defeating others. One defends not truth but rudeness.

[Aun en caso de evidencia, es ingenuidad el ceder, que no se ignora la razón que tuvo y se conoce la galantería que tiene. Más se pierde con el arrimamiento que se puede ganar con el vencimiento; no es defender la verdad, sino la grosería.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 183 (1647) [tr. Maurer (1992)]
    (Source)

(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translations:

It is civil to yield, even in those things wherein we have greatest reason and certainty: for then all know, who had reason on their side: and besides the reason, Gallantry is also discovered in the procedure. There is more esteem lost, by a wilfull resistence, then there is got by carrying it by open force. For that is not so much a defending of truth, as a demonstration of Clownishness.
[Flesher ed. (1685)]

Even in cases of obvious certainty it is fine to yield: our reasons for holding the view cannot escape notice, our courtesy in yielding must be the more recognised. Our obstinacy loses more than our victory yields: that is not to champion truth but rather rudeness.
[tr. Jacobs (1892)]

Even with the proof on your side, it is well to make concession, for your reasons are known and your gentlemanliness is recognized; more is lost in contention than can be gained in consummation, for such does not defend the truth, but only exhibits bad manners.
[tr. Fischer (1937)]

 
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The vulgar ignorance of stubborn people makes them prefer contention to truth and utility. Prudent people are on the side of reason, not passion, whether because they foresaw it from the first, or because they improved their position later.

[Vulgaridad de temáticos, no reparar en la verdad, por contradecir, ni en la utilidad, por litigar. El atento siempre está de parte de la razón, no de la pasión, o anticipándose antes o mejorándose después.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 142 (1647) [tr. Maurer (1992)]
    (Source)

(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translations:

It is the custome of the head strong to regard neither truth in contradicting; nor profit in disputing. A wise man hath always reason on his side, and never falls into passion. He either prevents or retreats.
[Flesher ed. (1685)]

'Tis the common failing of the obstinate that they lose the true by contradicting it, and the useful by quarrelling with it. The sage never places himself on the side of passion but espouses the cause of right, either discovering it first or improving it later.
[tr. Jacobs (1892)]

The vulgarity of these clowns, that they observe not the truth, because they lie, nor yet their own interest, because on the wrong side. A heedful man stands always on the side of reason, and never that of passion, either because he foresaw it from the first, or found it better afterwards.
[tr. Fischer (1937)]

 
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Many see the trees but not the forest, or bark up the wrong tree, speaking endlessly, reasoning uselessly, without getting to the heart of the matter. They go round and round, tiring themselves and us, and never get to what is important. This happens to people with confused minds who do not know how to clear away the brambles. They waste time and patience on what it would be better to leave alone, and later there is no time for what they left.

[Vanse muchos o por las ramas de un inútil discurrir, o por las hojas de una cansada verbosidad, sin topar con la sustancia del caso. Dan cien vueltas rodeando un punto, cansándose y cansando, y nunca llegan al centro de la importancia. Procede de entendimientos confusos, que no se saben desembarazar. Gastan el tiempo y la paciencia en lo que habían de dejar, y después no la hay para lo que dejaron.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 136 (1647) [tr. Maurer (1992)]
    (Source)

(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translations:

Many fetch a tedious compass of words, without ever coming to the knot of the business: they make a thousand turnings and windings, that tire themselves and others, without ever arriving at the point of importance. And that proceeds from the confusion of their understanding, which cannot clear it self. They lose time and patience in what ought to be let alone, and then they have no more to bestow upon what they have omitted.
[Flesher ed. (1685)]

Many lose their way either in the ramifications of useless discussion or in the brushwood of wearisome verbosity without ever realising the real matter at issue. They go over a single point a hundred times wearying themselves and others and yet never touch the all important centre of affairs. This comes from a confusion of mind from which they cannot extricate themselves. They waste time and patience on matters they should leave alone and cannot spare them afterwards for what they have left alone.
[tr. Jacobs (1892)]

Most roam around, in useless millings either about the edge, or in the scrub of a tiresome verbosity, without striking upon the substance of the matter, they make a hundred turns about a point, wearying themselves, and wearying others, yet never arriving at the centre of what is important,- it is the product of a scattered brain that does not know how to get itself together,- they spend time, and exhaust patience, over that which they should leave alone, and afterwards are short of both for what they did leave alone.
[tr. Fischer (1937)]

 
Added on 14-Mar-22 | Last updated 23-Oct-23
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In discussion it is not so much weight of authority as force of argument that should be demanded. Indeed the authority of those who profess to teach is often a positive hindrance to those who wish to learn; they cease to employ their own judgment, and take what they perceive to be the verdict of their chosen master as settling the question.

[Non enim tam auctoritatis in disputando quam rationis momenta quaerenda sunt. Quin etiam obest plerumque iis qui discere volunt auctoritas eorum qui se docere profitentur; desinunt enim suum iudicium adhibere, id habent ratum quod ab eo quem probant iudicatum vident.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Natura Deorum [On the Nature of the Gods], Book 1, ch. 5 / sec. 10 (1.10) (45 BC) [tr. Rackham (1933)]
    (Source)

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translation:

For the force of reason in disputation is to be sought after rather than authority, since the authority of the teacher is often a disadvantage to those who are willing to learn; as they refuse to use their own judgment, and rely implicitly on him whom they make choice of for a preceptor.
[tr. Yonge (1877)]

In discussion it is not so much authorities as determining reasons that should be looked for. In fact the authority of those who stand forward as teachers is generally an obstacle in the way of those who wish to learn, for the latter cease to apply their own judgment, and take for granted the conclusions which they find arrived at by the teacher whom they approve.
[tr. Brooks (1896)]

For when we engage in argument we must look to the weight of reason rather than authority. Indeed, students who are keen to learn often find the authority of those who claim to be teachers to be an obstacle, for they cease to apply their own judgement and regard as definitive the solution offered by the mentor of whom they approve.
[tr. Walsh (2008)]

 
Added on 3-Feb-22 | Last updated 3-Feb-22
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A good rule for discussion is to use hard facts and a soft voice.

Dorothy Sarnoff
Dorothy Sarnoff (1914-2008) American opera singer, actress, image consultant
Speech Can Change Your Life (1970)
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Added on 9-Sep-21 | Last updated 9-Sep-21
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For thousands of years people have been trying to force other people to think their way. Did they succeed? No. Will they succeed? No. Why? Because brute force is not an argument.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Speech to the Jury, Trial of C. B. Reynolds for Blasphemy, Morristown, New Jersey (May 1887)
    (Source)
 
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Experts are never right or wrong; they win or lose. Right and wrong are decided by proof; winning and losing are decided by who is doing the talking or talks the loudest, has the last, latest, or only word, and is quoted by reporters.

(Other Authors and Sources)
M. A. Zeidner, “Experts: A Definition” Quarterly Review of Doublespeak (Oct 1988)
 
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Silence is a great peacemaker.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Table-talk”
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When I talk about the death penalty to people, there are a zillion pragmatic arguments to make that the death penalty is more expensive, that you could make mistakes with the death penalty. I try to never use them, because I believe that as soon as I use them, I have dropped what matters to me. Because those arguments are disingenuous. To say, “What if we put an innocent person to death?” I am then telling you that if you can promise me we won’t put any innocent people to death that I’m somehow OK with that, and I’m fucking not. Killing people is wrong. Government shouldn’t fucking do it. End of story.

Penn Jillette (b. 1955) American stage magician, actor, musician, author
Interview by Kahterine Mangu-Ward, Reason (Jan 2017)
    (Source)
 
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What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) English intellectual, polemicist, socio-political critic
“Mommie Dearest,” Slate (20 Oct 2003)

Sometimes referred to as Hitchens' Razor. The concept is not new (consider the Latin phrase "Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur"), but was popularized by Hitchens in discussion of contemporary discussion of religion, including in his work God Is Not Great (2007).

While cited by a number of sources to the 2003 Slate article on the canonization of Mother Teresa, the phrase does not appear in the 2016 reprint of the article at the time she was actually declared a saint.

More information (including the original Slate text): The long history of Hitchens' Razor • Background Probability.
 
Added on 17-May-21 | Last updated 17-May-21
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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, ch. 4 (1990)
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A man’s tongue is a glib and twisty thing …
plenty of words there are, all kinds at its command —
with all the room in the world for talk to range and stray.
And the sort you use is just the sort you’ll hear.

[Στρεπτὴ δὲ γλῶσσ᾽ ἐστὶ βροτῶν, πολέες δ᾽ ἔνι μῦθοι
παντοῖοι, ἐπέων δὲ πολὺς νομὸς ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα.
ὁπποῖόν κ᾽ εἴπῃσθα ἔπος, τοῖόν κ᾽ ἐπακούσαις.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 20, l. 248ff (20.248) [Aeneas] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), l. 287ff]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

A man’s tongue is voluble, and pours
Words out of all sorts ev’ry way. Such as you speak you hear.
[tr. Chapman (1611), ll. 228-29]

Armed or with truth or falsehood, right or wrong,
So voluble a weapon is the tongue;
Wounded, we wound; and neither side can fail,
For every man has equal strength to rail.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

The tongue of man is voluble, hath words
For every theme, nor wants wide field and long,
And as he speaks so shall he hear again.
[tr. Cowper (1791), ll. 309-11]

The language of mortals is voluble, and the discourses in it numerous and varied: and vast is the distribution of words here and there. Whatsoever word thou mayest speak, such also wilt thou hear.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

For glibly runs the tongue, and can at will
Give utt’rance to discourse in ev’ry vein;
Wide is the range of language; and such words
As one may speak, another may return.
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Glib is the tongue of man, and many words are therein of every kind, and wide is the range of his speech hither and thither. Whatsoever word thou speak, such wilt thou hear in answer.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

The tongue can run all whithers and talk all wise; it can go here and there, and as a man says, so shall he be gainsaid.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Glib is the tongue of mortals, and words there be therein many and manifold, and of speech the range is wide on this side and on that. Whatsoever word thou speakest, such shalt thou also hear.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

The tongue of man is a twisty thing, there are plenty of words there
of every kind, the range of words is wide, and their variance.
The sort of thing you say is the thing that will be said to you.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

Men have twisty tongues, and on them speech of all kinds; wide is the grazing land of words, both east and west. The manner of speech you use, the same you are apt to hear.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

Pliant and glib is the tongue men have, and the speeches in it are many and various -- far do the words range hither and thither; such as the word you speak is the word which you will be hearing.
[tr. Merrill (2007)]

 
Added on 17-Feb-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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Each party abuses the other; the profane and the infidel believe both sides, and enjoy the fray; the reputation of religion in general suffers, and its enemies are ready to say, not what was said in the primitive times, Behold how these Christians love one another, — but, Mark how these Christians HATE one another! Indeed, when religious people quarrel about religion, or hungry people about their victuals, it looks as if they had not much of either among them.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher, aphorist
Letter to Jane Mecom (23 Feb 1769)
    (Source)

On the vociferous denominational debate in America over whether a new bishop should be sent from the Church of England to the Colonies.
 
Added on 17-Dec-20 | Last updated 17-Dec-20
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Language is civilization itself. The Word, even the most contradictory word, binds us together. Wordlessness isolates.

Thomas Mann (1875-1955) German writer, critic, philanthropist, Nobel laureate [Paul Thomas Mann]
The Magic Mountain [Der Zauberberg], Part 6, “A Good Soldier” (1924) [tr. Woods]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "Speech is civilization itself. The word, even the most contradictory word, preserves contact -- it is silence which isolates." [tr. Lowe-Porter]
 
Added on 9-Dec-20 | Last updated 9-Dec-20
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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”
    (Source)

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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Great causes are never tried on their merits; but the cause is reduced to particulars to suit the size of the partisans, and the contention is ever hottest on minor matters.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Nature,” Essays: Second Series (1844)
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Added on 15-Oct-20 | Last updated 24-Feb-22
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The enemies of Freedom do not argue; they shout and they shoot.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
End of an Age, ch. 4 (1948)
 
Added on 10-Aug-20 | Last updated 10-Aug-20
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All men have a reason, but not all men can give a reason.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Implicit Reason and Explicit Reason,” St. Peter’s Day sermon, sec. 9, Oxford University (29 Jun 1840)
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Added on 21-Jul-20 | Last updated 21-Jul-20
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It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked, ch. 20 (1935)
    (Source)

A regular comment of his on the campaign trail. The wording is Sinclair's, though there are earlier references with the same sentiment (see here for more discussion).

Often misattributed to H. L. Mencken. (e.g., "Never argue with a man whose job depends on not being convinced") though not found in his work.
 
Added on 16-Jul-20 | Last updated 16-Jul-20
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It is as absurd to argue men, as to torture them, into believing.

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) English prelate, Catholic Cardinal, theologian
“The Usurpations of Reason,” Sermon, Oxford, England (11 Dec 1831)
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Added on 7-Jul-20 | Last updated 7-Jul-20
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And I have no desire to get ugly,

But I cannot help mentioning that the door of a bigoted mind opens outwards so that the only result of the pressure of facts upon it is to close it more snugly.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“Seeing Eye to Eye is Believing,” Good Intentions (1942)
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Added on 29-May-20 | Last updated 19-Jun-20
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There are two sides to every argument, unless a person is personally involved, in which case there is only one.

(Other Authors and Sources)
“Cutler Webster’s Law,” in P. Dickson (ed.), The Official Rules (1978)
 
Added on 20-May-20 | Last updated 20-May-20
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You mean, your statistics are facts, but my facts are just statistics.

Jonathan Lynn (b. 1943) English actor, comedy writer, director
Yes, Prime Minister, S1E3 “The Smokescreen” (23 Jan 1986) [with Anthony Jay]
 
Added on 11-Feb-20 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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Maturity begins when we’re content to feel we’re right about something without feeling the necessity to prove someone else wrong.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)

Frequently attributed to Harris, but the original source has not been found. Earliest citation I could find was in Reader's Digest (1973), where it is further credited to the Publishers-Hall Syndicate.
 
Added on 10-Feb-20 | Last updated 10-Feb-20
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When blithe to argument I come,
Though armed with facts, and merry,
May Providence protect me from
The fool as adversary,
Whose mind to him a kingdom is
Where reason lacks dominion,
Who calls conviction prejudice
And prejudice opinion.

Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978) American author, poet
“Moody Reflections,” The New Yorker (13 Feb 1954)
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Added on 5-Feb-20 | Last updated 5-Feb-20
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BOB: But that’s okay, because what’s important is that Mommy and I are always a team. We’re always united, against, uh, the forces of, uh —
HELEN: Pig-headed-ness?
BOB: Uh, I was gonna say, “Evil.”

Brad Bird (b. 1957) American director, animator and screenwriter [Phillip Bradley Bird]
The Incredibles (2004)
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Added on 29-Jan-20 | Last updated 29-Jan-20
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The most important tactic in an argument, next to being right, is to leave an escape hatch for your opponent, so that he can gracefully swing over to your side without an embarrassing loss of face.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Pieces of Eight (1982)
    (Source)

Frequently misquoted: "The most important thing in an argument, next to being right, is to leave an escape hatch for your opponent, so that he can gracefully swing over to your side without too much apparent loss of face."
 
Added on 10-Oct-19 | Last updated 10-Oct-19
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Anger blows out the lamp of the mind. In the examination of a great and important question, every one should be serene, slow-pulsed and calm.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Christian Religion,” Article 3, The North American Review (1881)
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Added on 31-May-19 | Last updated 31-May-19
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Our disputants put me in mind of the scuttle-fish, that when he is unable to extricate himself, blackens all the water about him, till he becomes invisible.

Joseph Addison (1672-1719) English essayist, poet, statesman
The Spectator, #476 (5 Sep 1712)
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Added on 28-Feb-19 | Last updated 28-Feb-19
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The intoxication of anger, like that of the grape, shows us to others, but hides us from ourselves; and we injure our own cause, in the opinion of the world, when we too passionately and eagerly defend it.

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer, aphorist
Lacon, Vol. 1, #240 (1820)
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Added on 18-Jan-19 | Last updated 18-Jan-19
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Every man has a certain sphere of discretion, which he has a right to expect shall not be infringed by his neighbors. This right flows from the very nature of man. First, all men are fallible: no man can be justified in setting up his judgment as a standard for others. We have no infallible judge of controversies; each man in his own apprehension is right in his decisions; and we can find no satisfactory mode of adjusting their jarring pretensions. If every one be desirous of imposing his sense upon others, it will at last come to be a controversy, not of reason, but of force.

William Godwin (1756-1836) English journalist, political philosopher, novelist
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Book 2, ch. 5 (1793)
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Added on 8-Jan-18 | Last updated 8-Jan-18
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To have a discussion coolly waived when you feel that justice is all on your side is even more exasperating in marriage than in philosophy.

George Eliot (1819-1880) English novelist [pseud. of Mary Ann Evans]
Middlemarch, Book 3, ch. 24 (1871)
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Added on 3-Nov-17 | Last updated 3-Nov-17
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One of the greatest advantages of the totalitarian elites of the twenties and thirties was to turn any statement of fact into a question of motive.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
(Spurious)

This is frequently cited to Arendt, often to The Origins of Totalitarianism, (1951), but is not found as such in her works. The source appears to be a paraphrase of Arendt in a 1999 New Yorker article.

Stuart Elden suggested the following from The Origins of Totalitarianism, Part 3, ch. 11, might be original quotation the paraphrase was built on, though the overall meaning is different:

The elite is not composed of ideologists; its members’ whole education is aimed at abolishing their capacity for distinguishing between truth and falsehood, between reality and fiction. Their superiority consists in their ability immediately to dissolve every statement of fact into a declaration of purpose.
 
Added on 17-May-17 | Last updated 5-Jul-22
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A technical objection is the first refuge of a scoundrel.

Heywood Broun (1888-1939) American journalist, author
“‘Jam-Tomorrow’ Progressives,” The New Republic (15 Dec 1937)
    (Source)

See Johnson.
 
Added on 17-May-17 | Last updated 17-May-17
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Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity. Here we must come to terms with the fact that in most cases a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it. Until then we must abandon all attempts to convince the stupid person. This state of affairs explains why in such circumstances our attempts to know what “the people” really think are in vain and why, under these circumstances, this question is so irrelevant for the person who is thinking and acting responsibly.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) German Lutheran pastor, theologian, martyr
“On Stupidity” (1942)
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Added on 30-Mar-17 | Last updated 30-Mar-17
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Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed — in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical — and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) German Lutheran pastor, theologian, martyr
“On Stupidity” (1942)
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Added on 15-Mar-17 | Last updated 15-Mar-17
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If I know your sect, I anticipate your argument.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Self-Reliance,” Essays: First Series (1841)
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Added on 6-Feb-17 | Last updated 27-May-20
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Aravis also had many quarrels (and, I’m afraid even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up again: so that years later, when they were grown up they were so used to quarreling and making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently.

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer, literary scholar, lay theologian [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Horse and His Boy (1954)
 
Added on 11-Oct-16 | Last updated 11-Oct-16
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When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.

Socrates (c.470-399 BC) Greek philosopher
(Spurious)

Of recent coinage. See here for more discussion.
 
Added on 16-Aug-16 | Last updated 16-Aug-16
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