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I like to see the Old Man now and then
And try not to be too uncivil.
It’s charming in a noble squire when
He speaks humanely with the very Devil.

[Von Zeit zu Zeit seh ich den Alten gern,
Und hüte mich, mit ihm zu brechen.
Es ist gar hübsch von einem großen Herrn,
So menschlich mit dem Teufel selbst zu sprechen.]

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Faust: a Tragedy [eine Tragödie], Part 1, sc. 3 “Prologue in Heaven,” l. 350ff [Mephistopheles] (1808-1829) [tr. Kaufmann (1961)]
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Some translations (and this site) include the Declaration, Prelude on the Stage, and Prologue in Heaven as individual scenes; others do not, leading to their Part 1 scenes being numbered three lower.

On his discussions with the Lord. (Source (German)). Alternate translations:

I like to see the Old Man not infrequently,
And I forbear to break with Him or be uncivil;
It's very pretty in so great a Lord as He
To talk so like a man even with the Devil.
[tr. Priest (1808)]

From time to time I visit the Old Fellow,
And I take care to keep on good terms with him.
Civil enough is this same God Almighty,
To talk so freely with the Devil himself.
[tr. Shelley (1815)]

I like to see the Ancient One occasionally, and take care not to break with him. It is really civil in so great a Lord, to speak so kindly with the Devil himself.
[tr. Hayward (1831)]

The ancient one I like sometimes to see,
And not to break with him am always civil;
'Tis courteous in so great a lord as he,
To speak so kindly even to the devil.
[tr. Swanwick (1850)]

I like at times to exchange with him a word,
And take care not to break with him. 'Tis civil
In the old fellow and so great a Lord
To talk so kindly with the very devil.
[tr. Brooks (1868)]

I like, at times, to hear The Ancient's word,
And have a care to be most civil:
It's really kind of such a noble Lord
So humanly to gossip with the Devil!
[tr. Taylor (1870)]

From time to time the ancient gentleman
I see, and keep on the best terms I can.
In a great Lord ’tis surely wondrous civil
So face to face to hold talk with the devil.
[tr. Blackie (1880)]

I like to see the Ancient now and then,
And shun a breach, for truly 'tis most civil
In such a mighty personage to deign
To chat so affably, e'en with the very Devil.
[tr. Latham (1908)]

From time to time it's good to see the Old Man;
I must be careful not to break with him.
How decent of so great a personage
to be so human with the devil.
[tr. Salm (1962)]

At times I don't mind seeing the old gent,
And try to keep relations smooth and level.
Say what you like, it's quite a compliment:
A swell like him so man-to-man with the Devil!
[tr. Arndt (1976)]

I like to see him sometimes, and take care
Not to fall out with him. It's civil
Of the old fellow, such a grand seigneur,
To have these man-to-man talks with the Devil!
[tr. Luke (1987)]

I like to see the Old Man now and then,
And take good care I don't fall out with him.
How very decent of a Lord Celestial
To talk man to man with the Devil of all people.
[tr. Greenberg (1992)]

I like to drop in on him if I can,
Just to keep things between us on the level.
It's really decent of the Grand Old Man
To be so civil to the very Devil.
[tr. Williams (1999)]

I like to hear the Old Man’s words, from time to time,
And take care, when I’m with him, not to spew.
It’s very nice when such a great Gentleman,
Chats with the devil, in ways so human, too!
[tr. Kline (2003)]

 
Added on 23-Aug-22 | Last updated 25-Oct-22
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Take care never to speak what you have not weighed and pondered beforehand; nor interject your own words on the spur of the moment and in the midst of another’s; for you must listen and converse in turn, with set times for speech and for silence.

Clement Alexandrin
Clement of Alexandria (c. AD 150 - c. 215 ) Christian theologian, philosopher, Church Father [Κλήμης ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς, Titus Flavius Clemens]
“To the Newly Baptized / Exhortation to Endurance” [tr. Butterworth]
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When men are brought face to face with their opponents, forced to listen and learn and mend their ideas, they cease to be children and savages and begin to live like civilized men. Then only is freedom a reality, when men may voice their opinions because they must examine their opinions.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
“The Indispensable Opposition,” The Atlantic Monthly (Aug 1939)
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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 (2.4, 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 14-Dec-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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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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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]
 
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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).
 
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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.
 
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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)
 
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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)
 
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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.)
 
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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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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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In good conversation, parties don’t speak to the words, but to the meanings of each other.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Social Aims,” lecture, Boston (4 Dec 1864), Letters and Social Aims (1875)
 
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The end of an argument or discussion should be, not victory, but enlightenment.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées [Thoughts] (1838) [tr. Collins (1928)]
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Alternate translation:

The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.
[tr. Lyttelton (1899)]

 
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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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“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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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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Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.

Emerson - Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted - wist.info quote

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (8 Nov 1838)
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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.
 
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Truth is great and will prevail if left to herself. She is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
“Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom” (18 Jun 1779; enacted 16 Jan 1786)
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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."
 
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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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