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All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Letter to Mrs. Foote (1887-12-02)

First reprinted, upon the letter's rediscovery, in The Los Angeles Times (1930-03-16). A facsimile of the discovered letter (with the above punctuation) can be found in B. DeCasseres, When Huck Finn Went Highbrow (1934).

For more discussion about this quotation's origin: All You Need In This Life Is Ignorance and Confidence; Then Success Is Sure – Quote Investigator®.
Added on 18-Sep-23 | Last updated 18-Sep-23
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That there should one Man die ignorant who had capacity for Knowledge, this I call a tragedy.

Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) Scottish essayist and historian
Sartor Resartus, Book 3, ch. 4 (1831)
Added on 7-Sep-23 | Last updated 7-Sep-23
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What had men thought? What had men believed? How did they come by those thoughts and beliefs? How had men learned to govern themselves? Were the processes the same everywhere?

Did man build cities because of an inner drive, like that of a beaver to build dams? How much of what we do is free will, and how much is programmed in our genes? Why is each people so narrow that it believes that it, and it alone, has all the answers? In religion, is there but one road to salvation? Or are there many, all equally good, all going in the same general direction?

I have read my books by many lights, hoarding their beauty, their wit or wisdom against the dark days when I would have no book, nor a place to read.

I have known hunger of the belly kind many times over, but I have known a worse hunger: the need to know and to learn.

Louis L'Amour (1908-1988) American writer
Education of a Wandering Man: A Memoir, ch. 11 (1989)
Added on 29-Aug-23 | Last updated 29-Aug-23
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DRUMMOND: As long as the prerequisite for that shining paradise is ignorance, bigotry and hate, I say to hell with it.

Nedrick Young
Nedrick Young (1914-1968) American screenwriter and actor [pseud. Nathan E. Douglas]
Inherit the Wind, film (1960) [with Harold Jacob Smith]

The original 1951 play was written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, but does not include this line, delivered in the film by Spencer Tracy. Young and Smith share the screenwriting credits.
Added on 29-Aug-23 | Last updated 29-Aug-23
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You will hear things like, “Science doesn’t know everything.” Well, of course science doesn’t know everything. But because science doesn’t know everything, that doesn’t mean science knows nothing. Science knows enough for us to be watched by a few million people now on television, for these lights to be working, for quite extraordinary miracles to have taken place in terms of the harnessing of the physical world and our dim approaches towards understanding it.

Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry (b. 1957) British actor, writer, comedian
Room 101, 6×10, BBC Two (2001-03-12)
Added on 12-Jul-23 | Last updated 12-Jul-23
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Man comes to each age of his life a novice.

[L’homme arrive novice à chaque âge de la vie.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionnée], Part 2 Characters and Anecdotes [Caractères et Anecdotes], ch. 12 (1795) [tr. Merwin (1969)]

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Man arrives a novice at every age of life.
[Source (1878)]

Man reaches each stage in his life as a novice.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902), "The Cynic's Breviary"]

A man begins every stage of his life as a novice.
[tr. Parmée, ¶412 (2003)]

Added on 19-Jun-23 | Last updated 26-Jun-23
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Learn a little of anything, and you’re ready to proselytize.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) American journalist and author
The Neurotic’s Notebook, ch. 7 (1963)
Added on 13-Apr-23 | Last updated 13-Apr-23
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Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?

Julia Child
Julia Child (1912-2004) American chef and writer
“What I’ve Learned: Julia Child,” interview by Mike Sager, Esquire (2001-06)

Reprinted in Brendan Vaughan, Esquire: The Meaning of Life (2004).

This quotation, and variations on it, are (in)famous regarding Child. The earliest version can be found in her public TV show, The French Chef, 1x22 "The Potato Show" (1963-06-29). In that filmed-live episode, a potato pancake flip ends poorly, spilling onto other parts of the range. Child scoops up the spilled bits and puts them back into the pan:

Well, that didn't go very well. See, when I flipped it I didn't have the courage to do it the way I should have. But you can always pick it up, and if you are alone in the kitchen, who is going to see?

In an era before online video, and on such an initially obscure show, variations appeared almost immediately, e.g., in Blake Hunter, "A Tasty Dish," "Educational TV" column, Film News (1964-10), which gave the quote as happening when a potato pancake spilled on a sideboard:

If this happens, just scoop it back into the pan. Remember, you are alone in the kitchen, and nobody can see you.

The story grew in the telling, and eventually was told as her dropping a chicken. Many folk incorrectly recall this as being one of the gags in the (hilarious) 1978 Saturday Night Live skit starring Dan Aykroyd as Child.

Child often pointed to the incident as involving a potato pancake, not a chicken, though as noted, her lamb comment still stands as another hypothetical.

Added on 30-Mar-23 | Last updated 3-Aug-23
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Fear tends to come from ignorance. Once I knew what the problem was, it was just a problem, nothing to fear.

Patrick Rothfuss
Patrick Rothfuss (b. 1973) American author
The Name of the Wind, ch. 32 “Coppers, Cobblers and Crowds” (2007)
Added on 16-Mar-23 | Last updated 16-Mar-23
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O foolish creatures,
what great ignorance besets you!

[Oh creature sciocche,
quanta ignoranza è quella che v’offende!]

Dante Alighieri the poet
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Italian poet
The Divine Comedy [Divina Commedia], Book 1 “Inferno,” Canto 7, l. 70ff (7.70-71) [Virgil] (1320) [tr. Hollander/Hollander (2007)]

Virgil lambasting humanity for not understanding the God-ordained role of Fortune. (Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

O Mortals without sense,
How great's the Ignorance that you possess!
[tr. Rogers (1782)]

O beings blind! what ignorance
Besets you?
[tr. Cary (1814)]

Ah! sottish creature-tribe!
What scandals doth your ignorance beteem!
[tr. Dayman (1843)]

O foolish creatures, how great is this ignorance that falls upon ye!
[tr. Carlyle (1849)]

Oh! foolish creature! to be blind
What ignorance is that attacks your mind?
[tr. Bannerman (1850)]

Oh, creatures weak and blind,
How ye are hinder'd by your ignorance!
[tr. Johnston (1867)]

O creatures imbecile,
What ignorance is this which doth beset you?
[tr. Longfellow (1867)]

O foolish creatures, how great ignorance is that which makes you trip!
[tr. Butler (1885)]

O creatures dull to see,
What ignorance is this that here offends!
[tr. Minchin (1885)]

O creatures foolish, how great is that ignorance that harms you!
[tr. Norton (1892)]

Besotted race, how deep the ignorance that harasseth you!
[tr. Sullivan (1893)]

O ye insipid creatures.
How great the ignorance which doth oppress
you. [tr. Griffith (1908)]

O foolish creatures, what ignorance is this that besets you!
[tr. Sinclair (1939)]

How heavy the ignorance,
O foolish creatures, that on you is laid.
[tr. Binyon (1943)]

Ah, witless world! Behold the grand
Folly of ignorance!
[tr. Sayers (1949)]

O credulous mankind,
is there one error that has wooed and lost you?
[tr. Ciardi (1954)]

O foolish creatures, how great is the ignorance that besets you!
[tr. Singleton (1970)]

Oh foolish race of man,
how overwhelming is your ignorance!
[tr. Musa (1971)]

O unenlightened creatures,
how deep -- the ignorance that hampers you!
[tr. Mandelbaum (1980)]

How foolish people are!
How great is the ignorance which strikes them down!
[tr. Sisson (1981)]

Foolish creatures,
How great an ignorance plagues you.
[tr. Pinsky (1994), ll. 62-63]

O foolish creatures, how great is the ignorance that injures you!
[tr. Durling (1996)]

O, blind creatures, how great is the ignorance that surrounds you!
[tr. Kline (2002)]

You idiotic creatures,
so greatly hurt by your own ignorance!
[tr. Kirkpatrick (2006)]

O men of foolish minds!
How limited you are, how ignorant!
[tr. Raffel (2010)]

Half-witted mortals, how is it you know
So little even of the ignorance
That starves you?
[tr. James (2013), ll. 66-68]

Added on 24-Feb-23 | Last updated 24-Feb-23
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A polite man is one who listens with interest to things he knows all about, when they are told him by a person who knows nothing about them.

Charles, Duc de Morny
Charles de Morny (1811-1865) French statesman [Charles Auguste Louis Joseph de Morny, 1st Duc de Morny]

Earliest reference found here (1872).
Added on 20-Feb-23 | Last updated 20-Feb-23
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In fact ignorance of law leads to more lawsuits than knowledge of it.

[Potius ignoratio iuris litigiosa est quam scientia.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Legibus [On the Laws], Book 1, ch. 5 (1.6) / sec. 18 [Marcus] (c. 51 BC) [tr. Zetzel (1999)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

It is not so much the science of law that produces litigation, as the ignorance of it.
[tr. Barham (1842), Barham/Yonge (1878)]

The litigious spirit is more often found with ignorance than with knowledge of law.
[ed. Harbottle (1906)]

For it is rather ignorance of the law than knowledge of it that leads to litigation.
[tr. Keyes (1928)]

Ignorance rather than knowledge of the law leads to litigation.
[tr. Rudd (1998)]

Added on 19-Jan-23 | Last updated 19-Jan-23
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Profound ignorance makes a man dogmatical; he who knows nothing thinks he can teach others what he just now has learned himself.

[C’est la profonde ignorance qui inspire le ton dogmatique. Celui qui ne sait rien croit enseigner aux autres ce qu’il vient d’apprendre lui-même.]

Jean de La Bruyere
Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
The Characters [Les Caractères], ch. 5 “Of Society and Conversation [De la Société et de la Conversation],” § 76 (5.76) (1688) [tr. Van Laun (1885)]

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Profound Ignorance makes a Man dogmatick. If he knows nothing, he thinks he can teach others what he is to learn himself.
[Bullord ed. (1696)]

Profound Ignorance makes a Man dogmatick; he who knows nothing, thinks he can teach others what he just now has learn'd himself.
[Curll ed. (1713)]

A dogmatic tone is generally inspired by abysmal ignorance. The man who knows nothing thinks he is informing others of something which he has that moment learnt.
[tr. Stewart (1970)]

Added on 10-Jan-23 | Last updated 6-Jun-23
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The vices of which we are full we carefully hide from others, and we flatter ourselves with the notion that they are small and trivial; we sometimes even embrace them as virtues.

John Calvin
John Calvin (1509-1564) French theologian and reformer
The Institutes of Christian Religion [Institutio Christianae Religionis], Book 3, ch. 7, sec. 4 (1541) [tr. Van Andel (1952)]

Also reprinted in an extract as The Christian Life [De Vita Hominis Christiani], or, in the case of the Van Andel translation, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, ch. 2, sec. 4, subsec. 2.

The vices in which we abound, we sedulously conceal from others, and flatter ourselves with the pretence that they are diminutive and trivial, and even sometimes embrace them as virtues.
[Source (1813)]

The very vices that infest us we take pains to hide from others, while we flatter ourselves with the pretense that they are slight and insignificant, and even sometimes embrace them as virtues.
[Source (1984)]

The vices with which we abound we both carefully conceal from others, and flatteringly represent to ourselves as minute and trivial, no, sometimes hug them as virtues.
[tr. Beveridge (2008)]

Added on 26-Dec-22 | Last updated 26-Dec-22
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Ignorance is always afraid of change. It fears the unknown and sticks to its rut, however miserable it may be there. In its blindness it stumbles on anyhow.

Jawaharlal Nehru
Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) Indian nationalist leader, politician, statesman, author
Glimpses of World History, Letter 82, 4 Aug 1932 (1934)
Added on 9-Dec-22 | Last updated 9-Dec-22
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Neither his inability to speak, who understands his subject but cannot set it forth in words, nor his ignorance, to whom substance is lacking though words abound, can merit commendation; and if I had to choose one of the two, I should prefer uneloquent good sense to loquacious folly.

[Neque infantiam eius, qui rem norit, sed eam explicare dicendo non queat, neque inscientiam illius, cui res non suppetat, verba non desint, esse laudandam; quorum si alterum sit optandum, malim equidem indisertam prudentiam quam stultitiam loquacem]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Oratore [On the Orator, On Oratory], Book 3, ch. 35 (3.35) / sec. 142 (55 BC) [tr. Watson (1860)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

A Knowledge of Things, without an Ability of expressing them, no more deserves the Name of Eloquence, than a Fluency of Words, join'd to an Ignorance of Things: For my part, were I to take my Choice, I should prefer good Sense, tho' uneloquent, to Nonsense, let it be ever so flowing.
[tr. Guthrie (1755)]

Neither a knowledge of things, without ability to express them, nor a fluency fo words, without ideas, be considered as deserving the name of eloquence: for my part, were I to take my choice, I should prefer good sense, though ineloquent, to nonsense, however flowing.
[Source (1808)]

Neither the ineloquence which cannot impart what it knows, nor the ignorance that is fluent without knowledge, be deemed a subject for commendation; though, if the alternative be unavoidable, I should very much prefer ineloquent information to ignorant loquacity.
[tr. Calvert (1870)]

If have to choose between the two, I would rather have sound common sense without eloquence, than folly with a fine flow of language.
[ed. Harbottle (1906)]

Neither the tongue-tied silence of the man who knows the facts but cannot explain them in language, nor the ignorance of the person who is deficient in facts but has no lack of words, is deserving of praise. And if one had to choose between them, for my part I should prefer wisdom lacking power of expression to talkative folly.
[tr. Rackham (1942)]

No praise is due to the dumbness of the person who has mastered the matter but cannot unfold it in speech, nor, conversely, to the ignorance of the one who does not have the subject matter at his command, but has no lack of words. If we must choose between these alternatives, I myself would prefer inarticulate wisdom to babbling stupidity.
[tr. May/Wisse (2001)]

Added on 1-Dec-22 | Last updated 1-Dec-22
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As per your specific question in regard to masturbation, I think that is something that is a part of human sexuality and it’s a part of something that perhaps should be taught. But we’ve not even taught our children the very basics. And I feel that we have tried ignorance for a very long time and it’s time we try education.

Joycelyn Elders
Joycelyn Elders (b. 1933) American pediatrician, public health administrator, academic
Comment, United Nations AIDS conference, New York City (1 Dec 1994)

When asked if it would be appropriate to discuss or promote masturbation as a means of getting younger people to avoid riskier forms of sexual activity. She was fired as Surgeon General for the Clinton Administration for that and earlier comments on controversial issues.
Added on 21-Nov-22 | Last updated 14-Nov-22
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Unreason is now ascendant in the United States — in our schools, in our courts, and in each branch of the federal government. Only 28 percent of Americans believe in evolution; 68 percent believe in Satan. Ignorance in this degree, concentrated in both the head and belly of a lumbering superpower, is now a problem for the entire world.

Sam Harris (b. 1967) American author, philosopher, neuroscientist
“The Politics of Ignorance,” Huffington Post (2 Aug 2005)
Added on 15-Nov-22 | Last updated 14-Nov-22
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I cannot guess why it is so, but those who know the least speak the most.

[E non so io indovinare donde ciò proceda, che chi meno sa più ragioni.]

Giovanni della Casa
Giovanni della Casa (1503-1556) Florentine poet, author, diplomat, bishop
Galateo: Or, A Treatise on Politeness and Delicacy of Manners [Il Galateo overo de’ costumi], ch. 24 (1558) [tr. Einsenbichler/Bartlett (1986)]

(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

Nor can I guess at the cause, (though it is certainly fact) why he that knows the least, should always talk the most.
[tr. Graves (1774)]

I cannot divine how it happens that the man who knows the least is the most argumentative.

Added on 19-Oct-22 | Last updated 19-Oct-22
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If you forget the victims
          of yesterday’s sorrow
you could become
          a victim of tomorrow.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933-2017) Russian poet, writer, film director, academic [Евге́ний Евтуше́нко, Evgenij Evtušenko]
“Fuku,” Almost at the End (1987) [tr. Bouis]

First printed, in Russian, in Novyi mir, No. 9 (1985). In "Yevtushenko: A Soviet Poet Turns to Movie Making," New York Times (2 Feb 1986), Yevtushenko translates it himself as:

He who forgets the victims of yesterday, may become the victim of tomorrow.
Added on 3-Oct-22 | Last updated 3-Oct-22
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I know that I suffer and this is no small pain:
Not to know, now that brings some pleasure to
The troubled — ignorance is an advantage amid grief.

[φρονῶ δ’ ὃ πάσχω, καὶ τόδ’ οὐ σμικρὸν κακόν·
τὸ μὴ εἰδέναι γὰρ ἡδονὴν ἔχει τινὰ
νοσοῦντα, κέρδος δ’ ἐν κακοῖς ἀγνωσία.]

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Antiope [Αντιοπη], frag. 205 (Kannicht) (c. 410 BC) [tr. @sentantiq (2015)]

A source for the phrase, "Ignorance is bliss." (Source (Greek); see also TGF frag 204). Alternate translation:

I understand what I endure, and this
Is no small evil; for to the diseas'd
There is a kind of pleasure in not knowing
Their malady; such ignorance is gain
To those who labor under grievous woes.
[tr. Wodhall (1809); Barnes 23, Musgrave 24]

I understand what I suffer, and this is not a small evil:
for not to know that one is ailing has some pleasure,
in misery ignorance is an advantage.
[tr. Will (2015)]

Added on 20-Sep-22 | Last updated 20-Sep-22
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If we had a reliable way to label our toys good and bad, it would be easy to regulate technology wisely. But we can rarely see far enough ahead to know which road leads to damnation. Whoever concerns himself with big technology, either to push it forward or to stop it, is gambling in human lives.

Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson (1923-2020) English-American theoretical physicist, mathematician, futurist
Disturbing the Universe, ch. 1 (1979)
Added on 12-Sep-22 | Last updated 12-Sep-22
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The things which we understand least are the quasars, but I don’t want to get into a technical discussion. But these are the most violent and most energetic objects in the universe, and they’re totally, still totally, mysterious, really. I mean, we know that they’re there, that’s all, and they’re not only there, they’re rather frequent; and nobody ever dreamed that they existed, until they were found. And even after they were found it took a long time before people took them seriously. Nature’s imagination is always richer than ours.

Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson (1923-2020) English-American theoretical physicist, mathematician, futurist
“Freeman Dyson: In Praise of Diversity,” Interview on A Glorious Accident, VPRO (Netherlands) (30 Aug 2016)
Added on 22-Aug-22 | Last updated 22-Aug-22
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It is a melancholy truth that a suppression of the press could not more compleatly deprive the nation of its benefits, than is done by its abandoned prostitution to falsehood. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. […] I will add that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to John Norvell (11 Jun 1807)
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For a people to be without history, or to be ignorant of its history, is as for a man to be without memory — condemned forever to make the same discoveries that have been made in the past, invent the same techniques, wrestle with the same problems, commit the same errors; and condemned, too, to forfeit the rich pleasures of reflection.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
The Nature and Study of History, ch. 1 (1965)
Added on 8-Jun-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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Failings of the intelligence are incorrigible since those who do not know do not know themselves and cannot therefore seek what they lack.

[Achaques de necedad son irremediables, que como los ignorantes no se conocen, tampoco buscan lo que les falta.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 176 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]

(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translation:

Because the ignorant do not know themselves, they never look for what they are lacking.
[tr. Maurer (1992)]

Added on 10-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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Where shall wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding? If I knew, I’d walk over and stand there. As it was, I felt as if I stood in the midst of a large map, surrounded by vague areas wherein were penned the visages of particularly nasty-looking random variables. A perfect place for a soliloquy, if one had anything to say.

Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) American writer
The Blood of Amber, ch. 5 (1986)

Quoting Job 28:12.
Added on 6-Apr-22 | Last updated 6-Apr-22
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It is easier to say what loyalty is not than what it is. It is not conformity. It is not passive acquiescence in the status quo. It is not preference for everything American over everything foreign. It is not an ostrich-like ignorance of other countries and other institutions. It is not the indulgence in ceremony — a flag salute, an oath of allegiance, a fervid verbal declaration. It is not a particular creed, a particular version of history, a particular body of economic practices, a particular philosophy.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“Who Is Loyal to America?” Harper’s Magazine #1168 (Sep 1947)

Reprinted in Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent (1954)
Added on 9-Mar-22 | Last updated 9-Mar-22
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Nostalgia for what we have lost is more bearable than nostalgia for what we have never had, for the first involves knowledge and pleasure, the second only ignorance and pain.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) American journalist and author
The Neurotic’s Notebook, ch. 4 (1963)
Added on 24-Feb-22 | Last updated 10-Mar-22
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History shows that there is nothing so easy to enslave and nothing so hard to emancipate as ignorance, hence it becomes the double enemy of civilization. By its servility it is the prey of tyranny, and by its credulity it is the foe of enlightenment.

Lemuel K. Washburn (1846-1927) American freethinker, writer
Is the Bible Worth Reading? And Other Essays, Epigraph (1911)
Added on 3-Feb-22 | Last updated 3-Feb-22
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A political ideology is a very handy thing to have. It’s a real time-saver, because it tells you what you think about things you know nothing about.

Hendrik Hertzberg (b. 1943) American journalist, editor, speech writer, political commentator
“A Moral Ideologue: The Character of Jimmy Carter,” Character Above All, PBS (31 May 1995)

Preparation essay for the PBS series on modern presidents. The passage itself is referring, in contrast, to Ronald Reagan, who defeated Carter for reelection as US President in 1980.
Added on 7-Jan-22 | Last updated 7-Jan-22
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A person who knows nothing about literature may be an ignoramus, but many people don’t mind being that.

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) Canadian literary critic and literary theorist
The Educated Imagination, Talk 1 “The Motive for Metaphor” (1963)
Added on 29-Nov-21 | Last updated 29-Nov-21
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Travelers learn not just foreign customs and curious cuisines and unfamiliar beliefs and novel forms of government. They learn, if they are lucky, humility. Experiencing on their senses a world different from their own, they realize their provincialism and recognize their ignorance.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
The Norton Book of Travel, Introduction (1987)
Added on 28-Oct-21 | Last updated 28-Oct-21
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A Dialogue between two Infants in the womb concerning the state of this world, might handsomely illustrate our ignorance of the next, whereof methinks we yet discourse in Platoes denne, and are but Embryon Philosophers.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Hydriotaphia, or Urne-Buriall, ch. 4 (1658)
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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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Those fools
were not aware that now they all were snared,
that death cords lashed them fast.

[τὸ δὲ νήπιοι οὐκ ἐνόησαν,
ὡς δή σφιν καὶ πᾶσιν ὀλέθρου πείρατ᾽ ἐφῆπτο.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 22, l. 32ff (22.32) (c. 700 BC) [tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]

(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

O fools, to think
That all their rest had any cup to drink
But what their great Antinous began!
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

For, proud and foolish, they perceived not
The fatal hour was to them all arriv’d.
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 27ff]

Blind as they were: for death e'en now invades
His destined prey, and wraps them all in shades.
[tr. Pope (1725)]

Nor saw
Th’ infatuate men fate hov’ring o’er them all.
[tr. Cowper (1792), ll. 34-35]

How fatal and how nigh
Death's snares were set, they foolish never knew!
[tr. Worsley (1861), st. 5]

Yet this the fools knew not
That now them all the goal of death was touching!
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869)]

Insensate they!
Who felt not in that hour that one and all
Upon the verge of their own ruin stood!
[tr. Musgrave (1869), l. 54ff]

But they knew not in their folly that on their own heads, each and all of them, the bands of death had been made fast.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

And they had no understanding, fools as they were, and vain,
That to all the end of the Death-doom was hard upon them now.
[tr. Morris (1887), ll. 32-33]

They foolishly did not see that for them one and all destruction's cords were knotted.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

And did not perceive that death was hanging over the head of every one of them.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

In their folly they knew not this, that over themselves one and all the cords of destruction had been made fast.
[tr. Murray (1919)]

... their infatuation hiding from them the toils of death that enlaced each and every one.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

It had not dawned upon the fools that every one of them was marked for slaughter too.
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

Fools, not to comprehend
they were already in the grip of death.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]

They had not yet realized
how over all of them the terms of death were now hanging.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]

The fools did not perceive
That already the bond of destruction were fastened on them all.
[tr. Cook (1967)]

Poor fools, blind to the fact
that all their necks were in the noose, their doom sealed.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

And had no idea of how tightly the net
Had been drawn around them.
[tr. Lombardo (2000)]

And the poor fools never suspected how on all of the suitors the grim death bindings were fastened.
[tr. Merrill (2002)]

It had not dawned upon the fools that the fate of all of them was sealed.
[tr. DCH Rieu (2002)]

Fools, who did not understand that on every one of them death's ropes were now fastened tight.
[tr. Verity (2016)]

Those poor fools did not know [...] that the snares of death were round them all.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

Poor fools, they had no notion that over them all the bonds of destruction were set.
[tr. Green (2018)]

In their folly,
they did not understand that they were now enmeshed
in destruction’s net.
[tr. Johnston (2019), ll. 39-41]

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Protects itself
Promotes suspicion.
Engenders fear.
Fear quails,
Irrational and blind,
Or fear looms,
Defiant and closed.
Blind, closed,
Suspicious, afraid,
Protects itself,
And protected,
Ignorance grows.

Octavia Butler (1947-2006) American writer
Parable of the Talents, ch. 12, epigram (1998)
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Ignorance is not bliss — it is oblivion. Determined ignorance is the hastiest kind of oblivion.

Philip Wylie (1902-1971) American author
Generation of Vipers (1942)
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The general uncertainty as to what is really happening makes it easier to cling to lunatic beliefs. Since nothing is ever quite proved or disproved, the most unmistakable fact can be impudently denied.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Notes on Nationalism” (May 1945)
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NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING. Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess — and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.

William Goldman (1931-2018) American screenwriter, novelist
Adventures in the Screen Trade, ch. 1 (1983)
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If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lectures, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) American lawyer
Scopes Trial, Dayton, Tennessee (13 Jul 1925)
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His progress through life was hampered by his tremendous sense of his own ignorance, a disability which affects all too few.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Maskerade (1995)
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If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason’s and Dixon’s, but between patriotism and intelligence on the one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other.

Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) American military leader, US President (1869-77)
Speech, Army of the Tennessee, Des Moines (29 Sep 1876)

Advocating free, non-sectarian, public education.
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There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.

Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996) Russian-American poet, essayist, Nobel laureate, US Poet Laureate [Iosif Aleksandrovič Brodskij]
Press conference, Library of Congress, Washington (17 May 1991)

On accepting the US Poet Laureateship.
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It must be remembered that evidence is never complete, that knowledge of truth is always partial, and that to await certainty is to await eternity.

John Bowlby 1907-1990) British psychologist, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst
Maternal Care and Mental Health (1951)

The last phrase is often attributed to Jonas Salk, who used it ("It is said to await certainty is to await eternity") in a telegram to Basil O'Connor (8 Nov 1954). But as Salk himself noted, it was not original to him.
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There is no case where ignorance should be preferred to knowledge — especially if the knowledge is terrible.

Edward Teller (1908-2003) Hungarian-American theoretical physicist
Interview (1994)

Recalling the debate over the development of the hydrogen bomb. Quoted in Roger Shattuck, Forbidden Knowledge (1996).
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I believe that censorship grows out of fear, and because fear is contagious, some parents are easily swayed. Book banning satisfies their need to feel in control of their children’s lives. This fear is often disguised as moral outrage. They want to believe that if their children don’t read about it, their children won’t know about it. And if they don’t know about it, it won’t happen.

Judy Blume (b. 1938) American writer
“Judy Blume Talks about Censorship”
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You do ill if you praise, but worse if you censure, what you do not understand.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Italian artist, engineer, scientist
Notebook entry (c. 1500), Leonardo da Vinci’s Note-Books (1906) [tr. MacCurdy]

Codice Atlantico 76 v. a.
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It has often and confidently been asserted, that man’s origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) English naturalist
The Descent of Man, Introduction (1871)
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To be unacquainted with what has passed in the world, before we came into it ourselves, is to be always children. For what is the age of a single mortal, unless it is connected, by the aid of History, with the times of our ancestors?

[Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum. Quid enim est aetas hominis, nisi ea memoria rerum veterum cum superiorum aetate contexitur?]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Brutus, ch. 34, sec. 120 (55 BC) [tr. Jones (1776)]

The original Latin. Alt. trans.
  • "For not to know what happened before one was born, is to be a boy all one s life. For what is the life of a man unless by a recollection of bygone transactions it is united to the times of his predecessors?" [tr. Yonge (1853)]
  • "To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to remain always a boy. For what is the lifetime of a man, unless it is connected with the lifetime of older men by the memory of earlier events?" [tr. Fox (2007)]
  • "What is a generation, if it is not conjoined with the age of our predecessors by the memory of ancient things?" [tr. @sentantiq]
  • "Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever. For what is the time of a man, except it be interwoven with that memory of ancient things of a superior age?"
  • "Not to know what happened before you were born is always to be a boy."
  • "To be ignorant of the past is to be forever a child."
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Ignorance of remote causes disposeth men to attribute all events to the causes immediate and instrumental: for these are all the causes they perceive.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) English philosopher
Leviathan, Part 1, ch. 11 (1651)
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They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it’s not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Equal Rites (1987)

See Pope.
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DEXTER: Every day, here and at home, we are warned about the enemy. But who is the enemy? Is it the alien? Well, we are all alien to one another. Is it the one who believes differently than we do? No, oh no, my friends. The enemy is fear. The enemy is ignorance. The enemy is the one who tells you that you must hate that which is different. Because, in the end, that hate will turn on you. And that same hate will destroy you.

J. Michael (Joe) Straczynski (b. 1954) American screenwriter, producer, author [a/k/a "JMS"]
Babylon 5, 3×20 “And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place” (14 Oct 1996)
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The supreme crime of the church to-day is that everywhere and in all its operations and influences it is on the side of sloth of mind; that it banishes brains, it sanctifies stupidity, it canonizes incompetence.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
The Profits of Religion, Book Two: “The Church of Good Society,” “The Canonization of Incompetence” (1917)
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The highest truth is daiji, translated as dai jiki in Chinese scriptures. This is the subject of the question the emperor asked Bodhidharma: “What is the First Principle?” Bodhidharma said, “I don’t know.” “I don’t know” is the First Principle.

Shunryū Suzuki (1905-1971) Japanese Zen Buddhist master
Lotus Sutra No. 6 lecture, Tassajara, California (Feb 1968)
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