Quotations about   curiosity

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Above all, the search after truth and its eager pursuit are peculiar to man. And so, when we have leisure from the demands of business cares, we are eager to see, to hear, to learn something new, and we esteem a desire to know the secrets or wonders of creation as indispensable to a happy life. Thus we come to understand that what is true, simple, and genuine appeals most strongly to a man’s nature.

[In primisque hominis est propria veri inquisitio atque investigatio. Itaque cum sumus necessariis negotiis curisque vacui, tum avemus aliquid videre, audire, addiscere cognitionemque rerum aut occultarum aut admirabilium ad beate vivendum necessarian! ducimus. Ex quo intellegitur, quod verum, simplex sincerumque sit, id esse naturae hominis aptissimum.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 4 / sec. 13 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
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Original Latin. Alt. trans.:

But of all the properties and inclinations of men, there is none more natural and peculiar to them than an earnest desire and search after truth. Hence it is that our minds are no sooner free from the thoughts and engagements of necessary business, but we presently long to be either seeing, or hearing, or learning of something; and esteem the knowledge of things secret and wonderful as a necessary ingredient of a happy life. Whence it appears that nothing is more agreeable and suited to the nature and minds of men than undisguised openness, truth, and sincerity.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

The desire and investigation of truth is proper to man. When disengaged from necessary business and cares, we are eager to add to our knowledge by examining for ourselves or listening to others. The discovery of what is secret or wonderful, we are disposed to conceive essential to happiness. Hence, what is true, simple, and undisguised, is best adapted to human nature.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

The distinguishing property of man is to search for and to follow after truth. Therefore, when relaxed from our necessary cares and concerns, we then covet to see, to hear, and to learn somewhat; and we esteem knowledge of things either obscure or wonderful to be the indispensable means of living happily. From this we understand that truth, simplicity, and candour, are most agreeable to the nature of mankind.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

The research and investigation of truth, also, are a special property of man. Thus, when we are free from necessary occupations, we want to see, or hear, or learn something, and regard the knowledge of things either secret or wonderful as essential to our living happily and well.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]
Added on 4-Jan-21 | Last updated 4-Jan-21
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The history of the human race is a continual struggle from darkness towards light. It is, therefore, to no purpose to discuss the use of knowledge; man wants to know, and when he ceases to do so, he is no longer man.

Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat, humanitarian
“A New Route to the North Pole,” The Forum (Aug 1891)
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Added on 1-Oct-20 | Last updated 1-Oct-20
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To solve an interesting problem, start by finding a problem that is interesting to you.

Eric S. Raymond (b. 1957) American software developer, writer [a.k.a. ESR]
The Cathedral and the Bazaar, ch. 2, Rule 18 (1999)
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Added on 14-Jul-20 | Last updated 14-Jul-20
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The humanist has four leading characteristics — curiosity, a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“George and Gide” Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
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Added on 15-Apr-20 | Last updated 15-Apr-20
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The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (18 Aug 1830)
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There ought not to be anything in the whole universe that man can’t poke his nose into — that’s the way we’re built and I assume that there’s some reason for it.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Methuselah’s Children [Lazarus Long] (1958)
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Albert grunted. “Do you know what happens to lads who ask too many questions?”

Mort thought for a moment. “No,” he said eventually, “what?”

There was silence.

Then Albert straightened up and said, “Damned if I know. Probably they get answers, and serve ’em right.”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
Added on 22-Jul-15 | Last updated 22-Jul-15
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Man can learn nothing unless he proceeds from the known to the unknown.

Claude Bernard (1813-1878) French physiologist, scientist
Bulletin of New York Academy of Medicine, Vol. 4 (1928)
Added on 20-Feb-15 | Last updated 20-Feb-15
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It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. Obviously those two modes of thought are in some tension. But if you are able to exercise only one of these modes, whichever one it is, you’re in deep trouble.

If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, maybe once in a hundred cases, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress.

On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish useful ideas from the worthless ones. If all ideas have equal validity then you are lost, because then, it seems to me, no ideas have any validity at all.

Carl Sagan (1934-1996) American scientist and writer
“The Burden of Skepticism,” Pasadena lecture (1987)
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Reprinted in The Skeptical Inquirer (Fall 1987).
Added on 9-Mar-10 | Last updated 28-Sep-20
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I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
Letter to Carl Seelig (11 Mar 1952), Einstein Archive 39-013

Similar wording was used in a letter to Hans Muehsam (4 Mar 1953) Einstein Archive 38-424.
Added on 22-Oct-08 | Last updated 17-Jun-16
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The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
Memoirs of William Miller, quoted in Life (2 May 1955)
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GILES: Grave robbing? That’s new, interesting.
BUFFY: I know you meant to say ‘gross and disturbing.’
GILES: Yes, of course. It’s a terrible thing, must put a stop to it.

David Tyron "Ty" King (contemp.) American screenwriter, television producer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 2×02 “Some Assembly Required” (1997)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Dec-15
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