Quotations about   cynicism

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What Mr. Howells said of the American theater is true of the whole American attitude toward life. “A tragedy with a happy ending” is exactly what the child wants before he goes to sleep: the reassurance that “all’s well with the world” as he lies in his cozy nursery. It is a good thing that the child should receive this reassurance; but as long as he needs it he remains a child, and the world he lives in is a nursery-world. Things are not always and everywhere well with the world, and each man has to find it out as he grows up. It is the finding out that makes him grow, and until he has faced the fact and digested the lesson he is not grown up — he is still in the nursery.

Edith Wharton (1862-1937) American novelist
French Ways and Their Meaning, ch. 4 “Intellectual Honesty” (1919)
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Commenting on William Dean Howells' comment to her on American taste in theater and drama: "What the American public wants is a tragedy with a happy ending."
Added on 10-Apr-19 | Last updated 10-Apr-19
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Cynics are, in the end, only idealists with awkwardly high standards.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
Status Anxiety, “Philosophy” 1.5 (2004)
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Added on 9-Aug-18 | Last updated 9-Aug-18
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I’m not sure why it happened, and I’m not certain at all when it happened, but at some point, wanting a happy ending became uncool. Maybe it’s the relentless (and again, highly flawed) criticism that “such things aren’t realistic.” To which my response is, so the fuck what? It’s call fiction. If you want real, step outside.

Greg Rucka (b. 1969) American comic book writer and novelist
Lazarus: X+66 #3, letter column (Sep 2017)
Added on 12-Oct-17 | Last updated 12-Oct-17
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Considering the temptations under which politicians are placed, of changing their opinions, or rather their professions of opinion, from motives of self interest, the world will not give them credit for motives of honest conviction, unless when the change shall be to their manifest loss and disadvantage.

Henry Taylor (1800-1886) English dramatist, poet, bureaucrat, man of letters
The Statesman: An Ironical Treatise on the Art of Succeeding, ch. 17 (1836)
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Added on 22-Aug-17 | Last updated 22-Aug-17
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That sort of thing wears thin — for when one’s cynicism becomes perfect and absolute, there’s no longer anything amusing in the stupidity and hypocrisy of the herd. It is all to be expected — what else could human nature produce? — so irony annuls itself by means of its own victories!

H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) American fabulist [Howard Phillips Lovecraft]
Letter to August W. Derleth (Jan 1928)

Regarding Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary.
Added on 11-Apr-17 | Last updated 11-Apr-17
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The world either breaks or hardens the heart.

chamfort-breaks-or-hardens-the-heart-wist_info-quote

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
(Attributed)

Quoted in J. De Finod (ed., trans.) A Thousand Flashes of French Wit, Wisdom, and Wickedness (1880).
Added on 20-Dec-16 | Last updated 20-Dec-16
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The cynic is one who never sees a good quality in a man, and never fails to see a bad one. He is the human owl, vigilant in darkness, and blind to light, mousing for vermin, and never seeing noble game.

Beecher - cynic human owl - wist_info quote

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1870)
Added on 6-Sep-16 | Last updated 6-Sep-16
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We are much beholden to Machiavel and others, that write what men do, and not what they ought to do.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 2, ch. 21, #9 (1605)
Added on 11-Aug-16 | Last updated 11-Aug-16
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When a man comes not merely to tolerate, but to boast of the stains that the world has flung upon him; when he wears his spots as if they were jewels; when he flaunts his unscrupulousness, and his cynicism and his disbelief and his hard-heartedness in your face as the signs and badges of his superiority; when to be innocent and unsuspicious and sensitive seems to be ridiculous and weak; when it is reputable to show that we are men of the world by exhibiting the stains that the world has left upon our reputation, our conduct, and our heart, then we understand how flagrant is the danger; then we see how hard it must be to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) American clergyman, hymnist
“Unspotted from the World,” sermon
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Added on 4-Aug-16 | Last updated 4-Aug-16
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LADY MACBETH: Whither should I fly?
I have done no harm. But I remember now
I am in this earthly world; where to do harm
Is often laudable, to do good sometime
Accounted dangerous folly.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Macbeth, Act 4, scene 2, l. 74 (1605)
Added on 22-Mar-16 | Last updated 18-Mar-16
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The cynic suffers the form of faith without love. Incredulity is his piety.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays (2001) # 16
Added on 11-Dec-15 | Last updated 11-Dec-15
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Cynics are simply thwarted romantics.

William Goldman (b. 1931) American screenwriter, novelist
The Princess Bride (1973)
Added on 8-Sep-15 | Last updated 8-Sep-15
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I don’t want to be bitter about life — about love and friendship and all the human emotional entanglements. I’ve had more than my share of human disappointments, deprivations, disillusionment. I want to love people and life above all; I want to be able to say always, “if you feel bitter or disillusioned, there is something wrong with yourself, not with people, not with life.”

Henry Miller (1891-1980) American novelist
Letter to Anaïs Nin (24 May 1933)
Added on 26-May-15 | Last updated 26-May-15
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The superstition in which we grew up,
Though we may recognize it, does not lose
Its power over us — Not all are free
Who make mock of their chains.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German playwright, philosopher, dramiturg, writer
Nathan the Wise (1779) [tr. Morgan (1955)]

Alt. trans.: "The superstition in which we were brought up never loses its power over us, even after we understand it." [In J. K. Hoyt & Anna L. Ward (eds.), The Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations (1881)]
Added on 23-Jan-15 | Last updated 2-Jun-17
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There has been a certain cynical genius to what some of these folks have done in Washington. What they’ve realized is, if we don’t get anything done, then people are going to get cynical about government and its possibilities of doing good for everybody. And since they don’t believe in government, that’s a pretty good thing. And the more cynical people get, the less they vote. And if turnout is low and people don’t vote, that pretty much benefits those who benefit from the status quo.

Barack Obama (b. 1961) American politician, US President (2009-2017)
Speech, Purchase, New York (29 Aug 2014)
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Added on 7-Jan-15 | Last updated 7-Jan-15
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We must be skeptical even of our skepticism.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, ch. 11 (1928)
Added on 25-Jul-14 | Last updated 25-Jul-14
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It is an essential part of every national character to pique itself mightily upon its faults, and to deduce tokens of its virtue or its wisdom from their very exaggeration. One great blemish in the popular mind of America, and the prolific parent of an innumerable brood of evils, is Universal Distrust. Yet the American citizen plumes himself upon this spirit, even when he is sufficiently dispassionate to perceive the ruin it works; and will often adduce it, in spite of his own reason, as an instance of the great sagacity and acuteness of the people, and their superior shrewdness and independence.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
American Notes, ch. 18 (1842)
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Added on 12-Mar-14 | Last updated 12-Mar-14
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The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The True Believer, Part 3, ch. 13 “United Action and Self-Sacrifice” (1951)
Added on 3-Feb-14 | Last updated 3-Feb-14
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As I know more of mankind, I expect less of them, and am ready now to call a man a good man, upon easier terms than I was formerly.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (1783)

In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
Added on 17-Jan-14 | Last updated 17-Jan-14
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There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist, except an old optimist.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Notebook, 22 Dec 1903 [ed. Paine (1935)]
Added on 5-Jan-12 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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They do say that when a man starts down hill everybody is ready to help him with a kick, and I suppose it is so.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Letter, San Francisco Alta California (15 Mar 1867)
Added on 26-Jul-11 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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