Quotations about   ideas

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A lot of companies — I know it sounds crazy — but a lot of companies … hire people to tell them what to do. We hire people to tell us what to do. We figure we’re paying them all this money; their job is to figure out what to do and tell us.

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) American computer inventor, entrepreneur
“Steve Jobs: ‘Computer Science Is A Liberal Art’,” interview with Terry Gross, Fresh Air, NPR (1996)
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There are a number of variants on this quotation. A common one: "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."
Added on 23-Aug-17 | Last updated 23-Aug-17
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One can be certain that every generally held idea, every received notion, will be an idiocy, because it has been able to appeal to a majority.

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
(Attributed)
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Quoted in Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety (2004).
Added on 21-Aug-17 | Last updated 21-Aug-17
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The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, ch. 24 (1936)
Added on 14-Mar-17 | Last updated 14-Mar-17
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The monuments of wit and learning are more durable than the monuments of power, or of the hands. For have not the verses of Homer continued twenty-five hundred years or more, without the loss of a syllable or letter; during which time infinite palaces, temples, castles, cities have been decayed and demolished?

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Essex’s Device (1595)
Added on 3-Mar-16 | Last updated 3-Mar-16
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I am inordinately proud these days of the quill, for it has shown itself, historically, to be the hypodermic which inoculates men and keeps the germ of freedom always in circulation, so that there are individuals in every time in every land who are the carriers, the Typhoid Mary’s, capable of infecting others by mere contact and example. These persons are feared by every tyrant — who shows his fear by burning the books and destroying the individuals.

E.B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
“Freedom” (Jul 1940)
Added on 25-Feb-16 | Last updated 5-Jul-16
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In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) English prelate, Catholic Cardinal, theologian
An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, ch. 1, sec. 7 (1845)
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Added on 3-Sep-15 | Last updated 3-Sep-15
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I am stressing that it is the force of ideas rather than the impact of material things that made us a great nation. It is my conviction, too, that only the power of ideas, of enduring values, can keep us a great nation. For, where there is no vision the people perish.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
Tomorrow Is Now (1963)
Added on 17-Jun-15 | Last updated 17-Jun-15
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The world moves, and ideas that were good once are not always good.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
News conference (31 Aug 1956)
Added on 11-Jun-15 | Last updated 11-Jun-15
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A novel is never anything but a philosophy put into images. And in a good novel, the whole of the philosophy has passed into the images. But if once the philosophy overflows the characters and action, and therefore looks like a label stuck on the work, the plot loses its authenticity and the novel its life. Nevertheless, a work that is to last cannot dispense with profound ideas. And this secret fusion between experiences and ideas, between life and reflection on the meaning of life, is what makes the great novelist.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
Review of Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea, in Alger Républicain (20 Oct 1938)
Added on 6-Oct-14 | Last updated 6-Oct-14
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Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed. If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination.

Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) American lawyer, politician, US President (1925-29)
“Speech on the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence” (5 Jul 1926)
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Added on 1-Oct-14 | Last updated 1-Oct-14
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As with bad breath, ideology is always what the other person has.

Terry Eagleton (b. 1943) British literary theorist, critic, intellectual [Terence Francis Eagleton]
“Why ideas no longer matter,” The Guardian (22 Mar 2004)
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Added on 23-Sep-14 | Last updated 23-Sep-14
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If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
(Attributed)

Attributed to Einstein, but no definitive citation found. See here for more discussion.
Added on 9-May-14 | Last updated 12-Apr-17
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Woe be to him that reads but one book.

George Herbert (1593-1633) Welsh priest, orator, poet.
Jacula Prudentum, #1146 (1651)

See this Latin proverb.
Added on 19-Aug-10 | Last updated 3-Mar-16
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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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Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education.

Alfred Whitney Griswold (1906–1963) American historian, educator
“A Little Learning,” address to students, Phillips Academy, Andover (Spring 1952)

Reprinted in The Atlantic Monthly (Nov 1952)
Added on 8-Feb-08 | Last updated 1-Dec-16
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When men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas — that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) American jurist, Supreme Court Justice
Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616, 630 (1919) [Dissent]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Jun-16
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Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book, as long as that document does not offend your own ideas of decency. That should be the only censorship.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Commencement Speech, Dartmouth College (14 Jun 1953)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 9-Jul-15
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