Quotations about   enlightenment

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The beautiful thing about losing your illusions, he thought, was that you got to stop pretending.

Daniel Abraham
Daniel Abraham (b. 1969) American writer [pseud. James S. A. Corey (with Ty Franck), M. L. N. Hanover]
Leviathan Wakes, ch. 18 (2011) [with Ty Franck]
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Added on 14-Apr-22 | Last updated 14-Apr-22
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Freedom is not a luxury that we can indulge in when at last we have security and prosperity and enlightenment; it is, rather, antecedent to all of these, for without it we can have neither security nor prosperity nor enlightenment.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent, Preface (1954)
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Added on 19-Jan-22 | Last updated 22-Jun-22
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I never will believe that our youngest days are our happiest. What a miserable augury for the progress of the race and the destination of the individual, if the more matured and enlightened state is the less happy one! Childhood is only the beautiful and happy time in contemplation and retrospect: to the child it is full of deep sorrows, the meaning of which is unknown.

George Eliot (1819-1880) English novelist [pseud. of Mary Ann Evans]
Letter to Sara Hennell (May 1844)
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Added on 13-Oct-21 | Last updated 13-Oct-21
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A bore: Someone who persists in holding to his own views after we have enlightened him with ours.

Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990) American billionaire
(Attributed)


Quoted in Ted Goodman, ed., The Forbes Book of Business Quotations (1997).
 
Added on 28-Apr-21 | Last updated 28-Apr-21
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Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.

Anatole France (1844-1924) French poet, journalist, novelist, Nobel Laureate [pseud. of Jaques-Anatole-François Thibault]
(Attributed)


Widely attributed to France, but unsourced.
 
Added on 18-Jan-19 | Last updated 18-Jan-19
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I must judge for myself, but how can I judge, how can any Man judge, unless his Mind has been opened and enlarged by Reading.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Diary (1 Aug 1761)
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Added on 15-Mar-17 | Last updated 15-Mar-17
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To furnish the means of acquiring knowledge is the greatest benefit that can be conferred upon mankind. It prolongs life itself and enlarges the sphere of existence.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) US President (1825-29)
Report on the Establishment of the Smithsonian Institution (c. 1846)
 
Added on 17-Oct-16 | Last updated 17-Oct-16
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How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.

Shakespeare - how far that little candle - wist_info quote

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Merchant of Venice, Act 5, sc. 1, l. 99ff [Portia] (1597)
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In some versions, "So shines a good deed in a weary world."

Sometimes attributed to Roald Dahl; Willy Wonka uses the line toward the end of the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971).
 
Added on 11-Aug-16 | Last updated 29-Jun-22
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I believe that only scientists can understand the universe. It is not so much that I have confidence in scientists being right, but that I have so much in nonscientists being wrong.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
Quasar, Quasar, Burning Bright (1978)
 
Added on 17-May-16 | Last updated 17-May-16
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Those who are destitute of philosophy may be compared to prisoners in a cave, who are only able to look in one direction because they are bound, and who have a fire behind them and a wall in front. Between them and the wall there is nothing; all that they see are shadows of themselves, and of objects behind them, cast on the wall by the light of the fire. Inevitably they regard these shadows as real, and have no notion of the objects to which they are due. At last, some man succeeds in escaping from the cave to the light of the sun; for the first time he sees real things, and becomes aware that he had hitherto been deceived by shadows. If he is the sort of philosopher who is fit to become a guardian, he will feel it is his duty to those who were formerly his fellow prisoners to go down again into the cave, instruct them as to the truth, and show them the way up. But he will have difficulty in persuading them, because, coming out of the sunlight, he will see shadows less clearly than they do, and will seem to them stupider than before his escape.

Plato (c.428-347 BC) Greek philosopher
The Republic, 7.514


Summ. Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, ch. 15 (1946)
 
Added on 11-Jun-15 | Last updated 11-Jun-15
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If you realize you aren’t so wise today as you thought you were yesterday, you’re wiser today.

No picture available
Olin Miller (fl. early 20th C) American humorist
(Attributed)
 
Added on 5-Mar-15 | Last updated 5-Mar-15
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In proportion as the structure of a government gives forces to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
“Farewell Address” (17 Sep 1796)
 
Added on 27-Jan-15 | Last updated 27-Jul-15
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God made life to be lived and not to be known.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
 
Added on 3-Jun-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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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)]
 
Added on 9-Dec-08 | Last updated 24-Jan-17
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To be born enlightened: that is highest. To study and so become enlightened: that is next. To feel trapped and so study: that is third. To feel trapped and never study: that is the level of the common people, the lowest level.

[孔子曰、生而知之者、上也、學而知之者、次也、 困而學之、又其次也、困而不學、民斯爲下矣。]

Confucius (c. 551- c. 479 BC) Chinese philosopher, sage, politician [孔夫子 (Kǒng Fūzǐ, K'ung Fu-tzu, K'ung Fu Tse), 孔子 (Kǒngzǐ, Chungni), 孔丘 (Kǒng Qiū, K'ung Ch'iu)]
The Analects [Lúnyǔ, 论语], Book 16, ch. 9 (16.9) (6th C. BC) [ed. Lao-Tse, tr. Hinton (1998)]
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(Source (Chinese)). Alternate translations:

Those who are born with the possession of knowledge are the highest class of men. Those who learn, and so, readily, get possession of knowledge, are the next. Those who are dull and stupid, and yet compass the learning, are another class next to these. As to those who are dull and stupid and yet do not learn; -- they are the lowest of the people
[tr. Legge (1861), sec. 2]

They whose knowledge comes by birth are of all men the first (in understanding); they to whom it comes by study are next; men of poor intellectual capacity, who yet study, may be added as a yet inferior class; and lowest of all are they who are poor in intellect and never learn.
[tr. Jennings (1895)]

The highest class of men are those who are born with a natural understanding. The next class are those who acquire understanding by study and application. There are others again who are born naturally dull, but who yet by strenuous efforts, try to acquire understanding: such men may be considered the next class. Those who are born naturally dull and yet will not take the trouble to acquire understanding: such men are the lowest class of the people.
[tr. Ku Hung-Ming (1898)]

Those who have innate wisdom take the biggest rank. Those who acquire it by study rank next. Those who learn despite natural limitations come next. But those who are of limited ability and yet will not learn, -- these form the lowest class of men.
[tr. Soothill (1910)]

Those who know instinctively (as at birth) are the highest; those who study and find out, come next; those who are hampered and study come next. Those who are boxed in and do not study constitute the lowest people.
[tr. Pound (1933)]

Best are those who are born wise. Next are those who become wise by learning. After come those who have to toil painfully in order acquire learning. Finally, to the lowest class of the common people belong those who toil painfully without ever managing to learn.
[tr. Waley (1938)]

Those who are born with knowledge are the highest. Next come those who attain knowledge through stud. Next again come those who turn to study after having been vexed by difficulties. The common people, in so far as they make no effort to study even after having been vexed by difficulties, are the lowest.
[tr. Lau (1979)]

Those who know things from birth come first; those who know things from study come next; those who study things although the find them difficult come next to them;and those who do not study because they find things difficult, that is to say the common people, come last.
[tr. Dawson (1993)]

Those who have innate knowledge are the highest. Next come those who acquire knowledge through learning. Next again come those who learn through the trials of life. Lowest are the common people who go through the trials of life without learning anything.
[tr. Leys (1997)]

It is the first class that one gets the knowledge because of one's innateness, it is the second class that one gets the knowledge because of one's studying, it is the third class that one gets studying because of one's encountering the difficulty, and it is under the class that one who does not study even if one encounters difficulties.
[tr. Cai/Yu (1998), #435]

Knowledge (zhi 知) acquired through a natural propensity for it is its highest level; knowledge acquired through study is the next highest; something learned in response to difficulties encountered is again the next highest. But those among the common people who do not learn even when vexed with difficulties -- they are at the bottom of the heap.
[tr. Ames/Rosemont (1998)]

Those who know from birth are the highest, those who know it from study are next, those who despite difficulties study it are next after that. Those who in difficulties do not study: these are the lowest.
[tr. Brooks/Brooks (1998)]

This appears to be the source of the following aphorism frequently attributed to Confucius, and recorded in James Wood, ed., Dictionary of Quotations (1893):

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

For more discussion of that Wood "translation":
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 6-Jun-22
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Ignorance is the curse of God,
Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry VI, Part 2, Act 4, sc. 7, l. 73ff [Saye] (1591)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 27-Jun-22
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