Quotations about   insanity

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I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) American poet and author
“Mad Girl’s Love Song” (1951)
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Added on 3-Jan-19 | Last updated 3-Jan-19
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“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
​”Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
​”How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
​”You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) English writer and mathematician [pseud. of Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson]
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ch. 6 (1865)
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Added on 23-Feb-18 | Last updated 23-Feb-18
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Those whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes mad.

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
(Misattributed)

Frequently cited as a fragment, but not actually in his known writings. Similar phrases, attributed to old sayings, predate Euripides. For more see here.

See also Oates and Beard.
Added on 14-Nov-17 | Last updated 14-Nov-17
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What is madness? To have erroneous perceptions and to reason correctly from them.

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
Philosophical Dictionary, “Madness” (1764)
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Added on 7-Nov-17 | Last updated 7-Nov-17
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Books have led some to learning and others to madness, when they swallow more than they can digest.

Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) Italian scholar and poet [a.k.a. Petrarch]
Remedies for Fortune Fair and Foul [De Remediis Utriusque Fortunae] [tr. Elton (1893)]

Alt. trans.: "Books have brought some men to knowledge, and some to madness. whilst they drew out of them more than they could digest." [tr. Dobson (1791)]

Alt. trans.: "Books have led some to knowledge and some to madness, who drew from them more than they could hold." [tr. Rawski (1991)]
Added on 24-Aug-17 | Last updated 24-Aug-17
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I think it’s reasonable to say that vampire hunters either have an extremely short life expectancy, or constitute one of the most deadly threats you are ever likely to encounter. They are invariably howling-at-the-moon stark raving bonkers, and not in a good way.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Rhesus Chart (2014)
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Added on 6-Jun-17 | Last updated 6-Jun-17
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“In my experience, the worst madmen don’t seem odd at all,” Grimm said. “They appear to be quite calm and rational, in fact. Until the screaming starts.”

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
The Aeronaut’s Windlass (2015)
Added on 23-Feb-17 | Last updated 23-Feb-17
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Every man is a divinity in disguise, a god playing the fool. It seems as if heaven had sent its insane angels into our world as to an asylum, and here they will break out into their native music and utter at intervals the words they have heard in heaven; and then the mad fit returns, and they mope and wallow like dogs.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“History,” Essays: First Series (1841)
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Added on 16-Jan-17 | Last updated 16-Jan-17
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It’s said that “power corrupts,” but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power. When they do act, they think of it as service, which has limits. The tyrant, though, seeks mastery, for which he is insatiable, implacable.

David Brin (b. 1950) American scientist and author
The Postman, ch. 14 (1985)

Often paraphrased: "It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power." See Frank Herbert.
Added on 21-Oct-16 | Last updated 21-Oct-16
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Perseverance must have some practical end, or it does not avail the man possessing it. A person without a practical end in view becomes a crank or an idiot. Such persons fill our asylums.

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) Scottish-American scientist, inventor, engineer
Interview, in Orison Swett Marden, How They Succeeded, ch. 2 (1901)
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Added on 7-Apr-16 | Last updated 7-Apr-16
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Stupidity often saves a man from going mad.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, ch. 2 (1858)
Added on 18-Dec-14 | Last updated 18-Dec-14
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If a madman were to come into this room with a stick in his hand, no doubt we should pity the state of his mind; but our primary consideration would be to take care of ourselves. We should knock him down first, and pity him afterwards.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (3 Apr 1776)

In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
Added on 25-Apr-14 | Last updated 25-Apr-14
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There’s no end to the list; there are millions of them! And all insane; each in his own way; insane as to his pet fad or opinion, but otherwise sane and rational. This should move us to be charitable towards one another’s lunacies. I recognize that in his special belief the Christian Scientist is insane, because he does not believe as I do; but I hail him as my mate and fellow, because I am as insane as he insane from his point of view, and his point of view is as authoritative as mine and worth as much. That is to say, worth a brass farthing. Upon a great religious or political question, the opinion of the dullest head in the world is worth the same as the opinion of the brightest head in the world — a brass farthing. How do we arrive at this? It is simple. The affirmative opinion of a stupid man is neutralized by the negative opinion of his stupid neighbor — no decision is reached; the affirmative opinion of the intellectual giant Gladstone is neutralized by the negative opinion of the intellectual giant Newman — no decision is reached. Opinions that prove nothing are, of course, without value any but a dead person knows that much. This obliges us to admit the truth of the unpalatable proposition just mentioned above — that, in disputed matters political and religious, one man’s opinion is worth no more than his peer’s, and hence it followers that no man’s opinion possesses any real value. It is a humbling thought, but there is no way to get around it: all opinions upon these great subjects are brass-farthing opinions.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Christian Science, ch. 5 (1907)
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Added on 25-Oct-13 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Let us consider that we are all partially insane. It will explain us to each other; it will unriddle many riddles; it will make clear and simple many things which are involved in haunting and harassing difficulties and obscurities now.

Those of us who are not in the asylum, and not demonstrably due there, are nevertheless, no doubt, insane in one or two particulars. I think we must admit this; but I think that we are otherwise healthy-minded. I think that when we all see one thing alike, it is evidence that, as regards that one thing, our minds are perfectly sound. Now there are really several things which we do all see alike; things which we all accept, and about which we do not dispute. For instance, we who are outside of the asylum all agree that water seeks its level; that the sun gives light and heat; that fire consumes; that fog is damp; that six times six are thirty-six, that two from ten leaves eight; that eight and seven are fifteen. These are, perhaps, the only things we are agreed about; but, although they are so few, they are of inestimable value, because they make an infallible standard of sanity. Whosoever accepts them him we know to be substantially sane; sufficiently sane; in the working essentials, sane. Whoever disputes a single one of them him we know to be wholly insane, and qualified for the asylum.

Very well, the man who disputes none of them we concede to be entitled to go at large. But that is concession enough. We cannot go any further than that; for we know that in all matters of mere opinion that same man is insane — just as insane as we are; just as insane as Shakespeare was. We know exactly where to put our finger upon his insanity: it is where his opinion differs from ours.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Christian Science, Book 1, ch. 5 (1907)
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Added on 26-Jun-13 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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The madman thinks the rest of the world crazy.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 386 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
Added on 25-Aug-11 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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Whether we believe the Greek poet, “it is sometimes even pleasant to be mad”, or Plato, “he who is master of himself has knocked in vain at the doors of poetry”; or Aristotle, “no great genius was without a mixture of insanity”; the mind cannot express anything lofty and above the ordinary unless inspired. When it despises the common and the customary, and with sacred inspiration rises higher, then at length it sings something grander than that which can come from mortal lips. It cannot attain anything sublime and lofty so long as it is sane: it must depart from the customary, swing itself aloft, take the bit in its teeth, carry away its rider and bear him to a height whither he would have feared to ascend alone.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On Tranquility of Mind [De Tranquillitate Animi],” 17.10 [tr. W. Langsdorf (1900)]
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See Aristotle.
Added on 10-Aug-09 | Last updated 12-Nov-15
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Whom Fortune wishes to destroy she first makes mad.

[Stultum facit fortuna, quem vult perdere.]

 

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 911

From an ancient Greek proverb (5th century BC or earlier)

Added on 1-Oct-08 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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Lovers and madmen have seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5, sc. 1, l. 4 (1605)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-May-16
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There is no great genius without a touch of madness.

[Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae fuit.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Problemata, 30.1

Attributed to Aristotle by Seneca the Younger, "On Tranquillity of Mind" (17.10).Variants:
  • "No excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness."
  • "No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness." [tr. Basore (1932)]
  • "There is no great genius without a mixture of madness."
  • "There was never a genius without a tincture of madness."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Jul-16
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When I, a thoughtful and unblessed Presbyterian, examine the Koran, I know that beyond any question every Mohammedan is insane; not in all things, but in religious matters. When a thoughtful and unblessed Mohammedan examines the Westminster Catechism, he knows that beyond any question I am spiritually insane. I cannot prove to him that he is insane, because you never can prove anything to a lunatic — for that is a part of his insanity and the evidence of it. He cannot prove to me that I am insane, for my mind has the same defect that afflicts his. All Democrats are insane, but not one of them knows it; none but the Republicans and Mugwumps know it. All the Republicans are insane, but only the Democrats and Mugwumps can perceive it. The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Christian Science, ch. 5 (1907)
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Often misattributed to Oscar Wilde.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Jul-16
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Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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When one remembers that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Notebook [ed. Paine (1935)]
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See also this.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Anger is momentary madness, so control your passion or it will control you.

[Ira furor brevis est: animum rege: qui nisi paret imperat.]

Horace (65-8 BC) Roman poet and satirist [Quintus Horacius Flaccus]
Epistles, Book 1, Epistle 2, l. 62 (c. 20 BC and 14 BC)

Alt. trans.: "Anger is a short madness." "Anger is a short-lived madness." "Anger is a brief lunacy."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 3-May-19
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