Quotations about   bias

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The truth is generally seen, rarely heard; seldom she comes in elemental purity, especially from afar; there is always some admixture of the moods of those through whom she has passed. The passions tinge her with their colors wherever they touch her, sometimes favorably, sometimes the reverse.

[La verdad ordinariamente se ve, extravagantemente se oye; raras vezes llega en su elemento puro, y menos quando viene de lejos; siempre trae algo de mixta, de los afectos por donde passa; tiñe de sus colores la passión quanto toca, ya odiosa, ya favorable.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 80 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
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(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translation:

Truth is more often seen than heard. Seldom does it reach us unalloyed, even less so when it comes from afar. It is always blended with the emotions it has passed through. Emotion taints everything it touches, making it odious or favorable.
[tr. Maurer (1992)]

Added on 10-Jan-22 | Last updated 10-Jan-22
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By Hercules, I prefer to be wrong with Plato … than to be right with those idiots.

[Errare mehercule malo cum Platone … quam cum istis vera sentire.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 1, ch. 17 / sec. 39 [Auditor] (45 BC) [tr. @sententiq (2012)]
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Original Latin. Alternate translations:
  • "Had rather, I assure you, be mistaken with Plato ... than to be of their opinion in the right." [tr. Wase (1643)]
  • "I had rather, so help me Hercules, be mistaken with Plato ... than be in the right with them." [tr. Main (1824)]
  • "I would rather err, by Hercules, with Plato ... than to embrace the truth with those others." [tr. Otis (1839)]
  • "I had rather, so help me Hercules! be mistaken with Plato ... than be in the right with those others." [tr. Yonge (1853)]
  • "I would rather, by Hercules, err with Plato ... than hold the truth with those other philosophers." [tr. Peabody (1886)]
  • "I would rather, so help me Hercules! be wrong with Plato ... than be right with all the rest of them." [tr. Black (1889)]
  • "Believe me, I'd rather go wrong in the company of Plato ... than hold the right views with his opponents." [tr. Davie (2017)]
Added on 21-Jun-21 | Last updated 21-Jun-21
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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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Added on 6-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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Anti-Catholicism has always been the pornography of the Puritan. Whereas the anti-Masons had envisaged drinking bouts and had entertained themselves with sado-masochistic fantasies about the actual enforcement of grisly Masonic oaths, the anti-Catholics invented an immense lore about libertine priests, the confessional as an opportunity for seduction, licentious convents and monasteries.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
“The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Herbert Spencer Lecture, Oxford (Nov 1963)
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Reprinted in Harpers (Nov 1964).
Added on 2-Dec-20 | Last updated 2-Dec-20
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Ignorance iz the wet nuss of prejudice.

[Ignorance is the wet nurse of prejudice.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Puddin and Milk” (1874)
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Added on 2-Jul-20 | Last updated 2-Jul-20
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Human psychology has a near-universal tendency to let belief be colored by desire.

Richard Dawkins (b. 1941) English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, author
The God Delusion (2006)
Added on 23-Jun-20 | Last updated 23-Jun-20
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Bigotry tries to keep truth safe in its hand
With a grip that kills it.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) Indian Bengali poet, philosopher [a.k.a. Rabi Thakur, Kabiguru]
Fireflies (1928)
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Added on 8-Jun-20 | Last updated 8-Jun-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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No man holding a strong belief on one side of a question, or even wishing to hold a belief on one side, can investigate it with such fairness and completeness as if he were really in doubt and unbiased; so that the existence of a belief not founded on fair inquiry unfits a man for the performance of this necessary duty.

William Kingdon Clifford (1845-1879) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Ethics of Belief,” Part 1 “The Duty of Inquiry,” Contemporary Review (Jan 1877)
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Added on 13-Mar-20 | Last updated 13-Mar-20
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Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) British novelist [pseud. Currer Bell]
Jane Eyre, ch. 29 (1847)
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Added on 30-Jun-17 | Last updated 30-Jun-17
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When once a social order is well established, no matter what injustice it involves, those who occupy a position of advantage are not long in coming to believe that it is the only possible and reasonable order.

Suzanne La Follette (1893-1983) American journalist, author, feminist
(Attributed)
Added on 20-Feb-17 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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Prejudices are what fools use for reason.

voltaire-prejudices-fool-reason-wist_info

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
(Attributed)
Added on 6-Dec-16 | Last updated 6-Dec-16
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The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
(Attributed)
Added on 15-Jul-16 | Last updated 15-Jul-16
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And therefore it was a good answer that was made by one who, when they showed him hanging in a temple a picture of those who had paid their vows as having escaped shipwreck, and would have him say whether he did not now acknowledge the power of the gods — “Aye,” asked he again, “but where are they painted that were drowned after their vows?” And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism 46 (1620)
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Added on 7-Jul-16 | Last updated 7-Jul-16
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But the problem with any ideology is that it gives the answer before you look at the evidence. So you have to mold the evidence to get the answer that you’ve already decided you’ve got to have. It doesn’t work that way.

Clinton - ideology - wist_info quote

William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton (b. 1946) American politician, US President (1993-2001)
Interview, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (20 Sep 2012)
Added on 17-Feb-16 | Last updated 17-Feb-16
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What are the marks of a sick culture? It is a bad sign when the people of a country stop identifying themselves with the country and start identifying with a group. A racial group. Or a religion. Or a language. Anything, as long as it isn’t the whole population. A very bad sign. Particularism. It was once considered a Spanish vice but any country can fall sick with it.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Friday [Dr. Baldwin] (1982)
Added on 1-Dec-15 | Last updated 1-Dec-15
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Everyone is prejudiced in favor his own powers of discernment, and will always find an argument most convincing if it leads to the conclusion he has reached for himself; everyone must then be given something he can grasp and recognize as his own idea.

Pliny the Younger (c. 61-c. 113) Roman politician, writer [Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus]
Letters, Book 1, Letter 20 [tr. Radice (1963)]
Added on 30-Jul-15 | Last updated 30-Jul-15
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There is nothing so despicable as a secret society that is based upon religious prejudice and that will attempt to defeat a man because of his religious beliefs. Such a society is like a cockroach — it thrives in the dark. So do those who combine for such an end.

William Howard Taft (1857-1930) US President (1909-13) and Chief Justice (1921-1930)
Speech, Young Men’s Hebrew Association, New York (20 Dec 1914)
Added on 27-Jul-15 | Last updated 27-Jul-15
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Earthly minds, like mud walls, resist the strongest batteries: and though, perhaps, sometimes the force of a clear argument may make some impression, yet they nevertheless stand firm, and keep out the enemy, truth, that would captivate or disturb them. Tell a man passionately in love that he is jilted; bring a score of witnesses of the falsehood of his mistress, it is ten to one but three kind words of hers shall invalidate all their testimonies.

John Locke (1632-1704) English philosopher
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book 4, ch. 20, “Of Wrong Assent, or Error” (1690)
Added on 15-May-15 | Last updated 15-May-15
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The worst of superstitions is to think
One’s own most bearable.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German playwright, philosopher, dramiturg, writer
Nathan the Wise, Act 4, sc. 2 (1779)

Alt. trans.: "The worst superstition is to consider our own tolerable."
Added on 18-Mar-15 | Last updated 18-Mar-15
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Personally, I hate to have to think of any man as of a definite race, creed, or color; so few men are really worth knowing that it seems a shameful waste to let an anthropoid prejudice stand in the way of free association with one who is.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Library,” The American Mercury (May 1931)
Added on 27-Jan-15 | Last updated 27-Jan-15
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It is difficult for a majority to see, let alone sympathize with, a practice that discriminates against a minority. It’s not unlike trying to get a fish to understand the concept of water! It is simply the medium in which the fish resides, requiring no cognition of the water that supports it. Discrimination — not just individual, but systemic — is the “water” in which the majority swims, and unless something happens to bring that discrimination into the view and consciousness of the majority, nothing will change, because the majority hardly, if ever, notices it.

Gene Robinson (b. 1947) American Episcopal bishop
God Believes in Love (2012)
Added on 11-Dec-14 | Last updated 11-Dec-14
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Never believe in a meritocracy in which no one is funny-looking.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden (b. 1956) American editor, writer, essayist
Making Light, “Commonplaces”
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Added on 25-Sep-14 | Last updated 25-Sep-14
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If you mean to make your side of the argument appear plausible, do not prejudice the people against what you think truth by your passionate manner of defending it.

James Burgh (1714-1775) British politician and writer
The Dignity of Human Nature, Sec. 5 “Miscellaneous Thoughts on Prudence in Conversation” (1754)
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Added on 21-Aug-14 | Last updated 21-Aug-14
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What’s the point of being in charge if you can’t indulge in pointless favoritism?

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
Old Man’s War, ch. 7 (2005)
Added on 20-Aug-14 | Last updated 20-Aug-14
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Prejudice, not being founded on reason, cannot be removed by argument.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
(Spurious)
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Frequently attributed without citation, and not found in Johnson's works.  However, the phrase can be found in other contexts:

  • "This objection on the score of color is founded upon prejudice, and hence cannot be removed by argument, for prejudice is blind and listens not to reason." -- Rep. Godlove S. Orth of Indiana, speech before the House of Representatives (5 Apr 1869) on the question of admitting the Dominican Republic as a US territory.
  • "This persuasion of the power of the priest is, as we have said, a traditional prejudice; it is not founded on any reasons or proofs addressed to the understanding, and therefore it cannot be removed by argument." -- John Eliot Howard, The Island of the Saints (1855), quoting from the Achill Herald (Jun 1855).

Added on 8-Aug-14 | Last updated 8-Aug-14
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The great obstacle to progress is prejudice.

Christian Nestell Bovee (1820-1904) American epigrammatist, writer, publisher
Intuitions and Summaries of Thought, Vol. 2 (1862)
Added on 22-Nov-13 | Last updated 17-Jan-20
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Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in. If you challenge your own, you won’t be so quick to accept the unchallenged assumptions of others. You’ll be a lot less likely to be caught up in bias or prejudice or be influenced by people who ask you to hand over your brains, your soul, or your money because they have everything all figured out for you.

Alan Alda (b. 1936) American actor [b. Alponso Joseph D'Abruzzo]
Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, ch. 2 “Lingering at the Door” (2007)
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Originally given at the commencement speech at Connecticut College in May, 1980, where his daughter Eve was graduating.
Added on 13-Dec-12 | Last updated 30-Oct-19
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At any given moment, public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation, and prejudice.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“Sex and the Law,” Partisan Review (Summer 1965)
Added on 27-Nov-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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I am quite sure that (bar one) I have no race prejudice, and I think I have no color prejudices, nor caste prejudices. Indeed, I know it. I can stand any society. All I care to know is that a man is a human being — that is enough for me; he can’t be any worse.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
“Concerning the Jews,” Harper’s (Sep 1899)
Added on 23-Apr-12 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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The judgments which Johnson passed on books were, in his own time, regarded with superstitious veneration, and, in our time, are generally treated with indiscriminate contempt. They are the judgments of a strong but enslaved understanding. The mind of the critic was hedged round by an uninterrupted fence of prejudices and superstitions. Within his narrow limits, he displayed a vigour and an activity which ought to have enabled him to clear the barrier that confined him. How it chanced that a man who reasoned on his premises so ably, should assume his premises so foolishly, is one of the great mysteries of human nature.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
“Samuel Johnson,” The Edinburgh Review (Sep 1831)
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Review of John Croker's 1831 edition of James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson.
Added on 20-Jul-11 | Last updated 16-Jan-20
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Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
“What Is and What Should Be the Role of Scientific Culture in Modern Society,” lecture at the Galileo Symposium, Italy (1964)
Added on 31-Dec-08 | Last updated 27-May-19
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Don’t dismiss a good idea simply because you don’t like the source.

H. Jackson "Jack" Brown, Jr. (b. 1940) American writer
Life’s Little Instruction Book, Vol. 2, #691 (1994)
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Added on 20-Jul-07 | Last updated 1-Jul-17
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The root of all superstition is that men observe when a thing hits, but not when it misses.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Sylva Sylvarum, Century 10 (1627)

Alt trans.: "It is true that that may hold in these things, which is the general root of superstition; namely, that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss; and commit to memory the one, and forget and pass over the other."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-May-16
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Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
Economics, Peace and Laughter (1971)
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(also called "Galbraith's Law")
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-May-21
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The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
“Cargo Cult Science,” commencement address, California Institute of Technology (1974)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Jan-20
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