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But the many do not act upon this rule; they rather betake themselves to mere talk about what is right, deluding themselves into the belief that they are philosophers, and are consequently upon the high road to virtue; but, in reality, acting not unlike a sick man who listens attentively to his physicians, and then carries out none of their advice.

[ἀλλ᾽ οἱ πολλοὶ ταῦτα μὲν οὐ πράττουσιν, ἐπὶ δὲ τὸν λόγον καταφεύγοντες οἴονται φιλοσοφεῖν καὶ οὕτως ἔσεσθαι σπουδαῖοι, ὅμοιόν τι ποιοῦντες τοῖς κάμνουσιν, οἳ τῶν ἰατρῶν ἀκούουσι μὲν ἐπιμελῶς, ποιοῦσι δ᾽ οὐδὲν τῶν προσταττομένων. ὥσπερ οὖν οὐδ᾽ ἐκεῖνοι εὖ ἕξουσι τὸ σῶμα οὕτω θεραπευόμενοι, οὐδ᾽ οὗτοι τὴν ψυχὴν οὕτω φιλοσοφοῦντες.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 2, ch. 4 (1105b.12) (c. 325 BC) [tr. Williams (1869)]
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On practicing virtuous acts to become virtuous. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Yet people in general do not perform these actions, but taking refuge in talk they flatter themselves they are philosophising, and that they will so be good men: acting in truth very like those sick people who listen to the doctor with great attention but do nothing that he tells them.
[tr. Chase (1847), ch. 3]

But most people, instead of doing such actions, take refuge in theorizing; they imagine that they are philosophers and that philosophy will make them virtuous; in fact they behave like people who listen attentively to their doctors but never do anything that their doctors tell them.
[tr. Welldon (1892)]

But most men, instead of doing thus, fly to theories, and fancy that they are philosophizing and that this will make them good, like a sick man who listens attentively to what the doctor says and then disobeys all his orders.
[tr. Peters (1893)]

But most people do not do these, but take refuge in theory and think they are being philosophers and will become good in this way, behaving somewhat like patients who listen attentively to their doctors, but do none of the things they are ordered to do.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

But the mass of mankind, instead of doing virtuous acts, have recourse to discussing virtue, and fancy that they are pursuing philosophy and that this will make them good men. In so doing they act like invalids who listen carefully to what the doctor says, but entirely neglect to carry out his prescriptions.
[tr. Rackham (1934), ch. 4, sec. 6]

Ordinary people, however, do not do these actions but, taking refuge in argument, think that they are doing philosophy and that this is the way to become excellent -- thus behaving a bit like sick people who listen carefully to their doctors but do none of the things that are prescribed.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

Yet most men do not do these; instead, they resort to merely talking about them and think that they are philosophizing and that by so doing they will become virtuous, thus behaving somewhat like patients who listen to their doctors attentively but do none of the things they are ordered to do.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

This is not, however, the course that moes people follow: they have recourse to their principle, and imagine that they are being philosophical and that in this way they will become serious-minded -- behaving rather like invalids who listen carefully to their doctor, but carry out none of his instruction.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

The many, however, do not do these actions but take refuge in arguments, thinking that they are doing philosophy, and that this is the way to become excellent people. In this they are like a sick person who listens attentively to the doctor, but acts on none of his instructions.
[tr. Irwin/Fine (1995)]

But the masses do not do them. They take refuge in argument, thinking that they are being philosophers and that this is the way to be good. they are rather like patients who listen carefully to their doctors, but do not do what they are told.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

Yet most people [or the many] do not do them; and, seeking refuge in argument, they suppose that they are philosophizing and that they will in this way be serious, thereby doing something similar to the sick who listen attentively to their physicians but do nothing prescribed.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

Added on 9-Nov-21 | Last updated 9-Nov-21
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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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Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.

Martin Mull (b. 1943) American actor, comedian
(Attributed)

Many people have put many hours into determining the origin of this quotation, but the best evidence at present points to Mull, in or before early 1979. See:
Added on 23-Jul-21 | Last updated 23-Jul-21
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The distinction I am making — between studying astrology and proselytizing for it — is crucial and can be generalized; it shows us where the line between the responsible and irresponsible practice of academic freedom should always be drawn. Any idea can be brought into the classroom if the point is to inquire into its structure, history, influence and so forth. But no idea belongs in the classroom if the point of introducing it is to recruit your students for the political agenda it may be thought to imply.

Stanley Fish (b. 1938) American literary theorist, legal scholar, author
“Conspiracy Theories 101,” New York Times (23 Jul 2006)
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Added on 10-Mar-21 | Last updated 10-Mar-21
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One should emulate works and deeds of virtue, not arguments about it.

[Ἔργα καὶ πρήξιας ἀρετῆς, οὐ λόγους, ζηλοῦν χρειών.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 55 (Diels) [tr. Bakewell (1907)]
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Cited in Diels as "55. (121 N.) DEMOKRATES. 21"; collected in Joannes Stobaeus (Stobaios) Anthologium II, 15, 36. Bakewell lists this under "The Golden Sayings of Democritus." Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter.

Alternate translations:

  • "One should emulate the deeds and actions of virtue, not the words." [tr. Freeman (1948)]
  • "One must emulate the deeds and actions fo virtue, not the words." [tr. Barnes (1987)]
  • "It is necessary to envy the deeds of the work of virtue not the words." [tr. @sententiq (2018)]
  • "Envy the deeds and actions of virtue, not the words." [Source]
Added on 23-Feb-21 | Last updated 23-Feb-21
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The only reason why we wish to exchange thoughts is that we are different. If we were all the same, we would die dumb. No thought would be expressed after we found that our thoughts were precisely alike. We differ — our thoughts are different. Therefore the commerce that we call conversation.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Limits of Toleration,” Speech, Nineteenth Century Club of New York (8 May 1888)
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Added on 11-Feb-21 | Last updated 11-Feb-21
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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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O’Brien knew everything. A thousand times better than Winston, he knew what the world was really like, in what degradation the mass of human beings lived and by what lies and barbarities the Party kept them there. He had understood it all, weighed it all, and it made no difference: all was justified by the ultimate purpose. What can you do, thought Winston, against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your arguments a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
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Added on 28-Oct-19 | Last updated 28-Oct-19
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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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Philosophy had supplied Socrates with convictions in which he had been able to have rational, as opposed to hysterical, confidence when faced with disapproval.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 1 “Consolations for Unpopularity” (2000)
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Added on 24-Aug-17 | Last updated 24-Aug-17
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A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years’ study of books.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Chinese proverb

Given in translation in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Hyperion, ch. 7 (1839).
Added on 6-Jul-17 | Last updated 6-Jul-17
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You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could’ve, would’ve happened. … Or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the fuck on.

Tupac Shakur (1971-1996) American rapper, record producer, actor [b. Lesane Parish Crooks]
(Attributed)

Widely quoted and included in memes, but without citation. Considered spurious by a number of fans.
Added on 31-May-17 | Last updated 31-May-17
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Don’t take up a man’s time talking about the smartness of your children; he wants to talk to you about the smartness of his children.

Edgar Watson "Ed" Howe (1853-1937) American journalist and author [E. W. Howe]
Country Town Sayings (1911)
Added on 1-Nov-16 | Last updated 1-Nov-16
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Be brief, for no discourse can please when too long.

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) Spanish novelist
Don Quixote, Part 1, Book 3, ch. 7 (1605)
Added on 25-Mar-16 | Last updated 18-Mar-16
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Our companions please us less from the charms we find in their conversation than from those they find in ours.

Fulke Greville (1554-1628) 1st Baron Brooke; Elizabethan poet, dramatist, and statesman
Maxims, Characters and Reflections, 98 (1757 ed.)
Added on 20-Oct-14 | Last updated 20-Oct-14
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It is only when they cannot answer your reasons, that they wish to knock you down.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“The Assault upon Mr. Sumner,” speech, Concord (26 May 1856)
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To refuse a hearing to an opinion because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) English philosopher and economist
On Liberty, ch. 2 (1859)
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Added on 11-Aug-10 | Last updated 8-Feb-21
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That was excellently observed, say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)
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Added on 17-Feb-10 | Last updated 6-Feb-15
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Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [tr. Collins (1928)]

Alt. trans.: "The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress." [tr. Paul Auster (1983)]
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So then, I am simply in favor of intellectual hospitality — that is all. You come to me with a new idea. I invite you into the house. Let us see what you have. Let us talk it over. If I do not like your thought, I will bid it a polite “good day.” If I do like it, I will say: “Sit down; stay with me, and become a part of the intellectual wealth of my world.” That is all.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Limits of Toleration,” debate at the Nineteenth Century Club, New York (8 May 1888)
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Added on 3-Jul-08 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
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Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Studies,” Essays, No. 50 (1625)
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As a matter of fact, have you never noticed that most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness?

Margaret Millar (1915-1994) American-Canadian mystery and suspense writer
The Weak-Eyed Bat (1942)

Often attributed to Mark Twain, usually as "Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of witnesses." See here for more details.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Apr-14
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Anyone who in discussion relies upon authority uses, not his understanding, but his memory.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Italian artist, engineer, scientist
Notebooks (c. 1500) [tr. Richter]

Alt. trans.: "The one who relies on authority during a discussion does not use his mind but his memory."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 6-Nov-18
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People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.

Dave Barry (b. 1947) American humorist
“25 Things I Have Learned In 50 Years,” #12 (1997)
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“Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.”

Sig Lines
~

Attributed to many people, most prominently Eleanor Roosevelt and Hyman Rickover, but the origin appears to be a recollection of a statement by Henry Thomas Buckle: "Men and women range themselves into three classes or orders of intelligence; you can tell the lowest class by their habit of always talking about persons; the next by the fact that their habit is always to converse about things; the highest by their preference for the discussion of ideas." -- Charles Stewart, Haud Immemor: Reminiscences of Legal and Social Life in Edinburgh and London 1850-1900 (1901). More information here.
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If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call in question and discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it — the life of that man is one long sin against mankind.

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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The time for action is past! Now is the time for senseless bickering!

Ashleigh Brilliant (b. 1933) Anglo-American writer, epigramist, cartoonist
Pot-Shots, #1019
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There is no conversation more boring than the one where everybody agrees.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
(Attributed)
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