Quotations about:
    intellect


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We are afraid of having and showing a small mind, and we are not afraid of having and showing a small heart.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist, philosopher, essayist, poet
Pensées [Thoughts], 1805 entry [tr. Auster (1983)]
    (Source)

I could not find an analog in other translations of the Pensées.
 
Added on 25-Mar-24 | Last updated 25-Mar-24
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And he respects Owl, because you can’t help respecting anyone who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn’t spell it right; but spelling isn’t everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn’t count.

A. A. Milne (1882-1956) English poet and playwright [Alan Alexander Milne]
House at Pooh Corner, ch. 5 “Rabbit Has a Busy Day” (1928)

Rabbit, speaking to himself about Christopher Robin.
 
Added on 28-Feb-24 | Last updated 27-Mar-24
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There is no logical explanation for despair. You can no more reason yourself into cheerfulness than you can reason yourself an extra six inches in height. You can only be better prepared.

Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry (b. 1957) British actor, writer, comedian
Speech, Samaritans annual report launch, London (1996-05-17)

Regarding the emotional breakdown which led him once to abandon a play in mid-production, and subsequently again contemplate suicide. The Samaritans are a suicide-prevention group.

Quoted in Gary Younge, "Enter Fry, centre stage, for bravura performance on depression and suicide," The Guardian (1996-05-18).
 
Added on 15-Nov-23 | Last updated 15-Nov-23
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An intelligent man is lost if he does not add strength of character to his intelligence.

[Un homme d’esprit est perdu, s’il ne joint pas à l’esprit l’énergie de caractère.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 4, ¶ 277 (1795) [tr. Mathers (1926)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

A person of intellect, without energy added to it, is a failure.
[Source (1893)]

A man of wit is lost, if to his wit he does not join energy of character.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902)]

A man of intelligence is lost if his intelligence is not combined with energy of character.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

A man of intellect is lost if he does not ally strength of mind to strength of character.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

Any intelligent man who lacks character is lost.
[tr. Parmée (2003), ¶ 173]

A man with spirit is lost if he doesn't add to his intelligence an energetic character.
[tr. Sinicalchi]

 
Added on 21-Aug-23 | Last updated 21-Aug-23
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For when the faculty of intellect
is joined with brute force and with evil will,
no man can win against such an alliance.

[Ché dove l’argomento de la mente
s’aggiugne al mal volere e a la possa,
nessun riparo vi può far la gente.]

Dante Alighieri the poet
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Italian poet
The Divine Comedy [Divina Commedia], Book 1 “Inferno,” Canto 31, l. 55ff (31.55) (1309) [tr. Musa (1971)]
    (Source)

Why Nature no longer allows human-like giants, while still producing whales and elephants.

(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

For where the mind to bad Intention's join'd,
And with a Pow'r what's ill design'd to act,
None can himself from such a force defend.
[tr. Rogers (1782), l. 49ff]

But not the forest tribes, nor finny race,
With equal rage their native walks deface,
As he whose deadly arm by Reason's light
Directed falls, and mocks the warding hand;
Conspiring realms in vain his pow'r withstand,
In vain embattled hosts defend their right.
[tr. Boyd (1802), st. 9]

For when brute force
And evil will are back’d with subtlety,
Resistance none avails.
[tr. Cary (1814)]

For discourse of mind,
Wedded with power and inbred lust of wrong,
Had left nor help nor rescue for mankind.
[tr. Dayman (1843)]

For where [the instrument] of [the] mind is joined to evil will and potency, men can make no defence against it.
[tr. Carlyle (1849)]

For when a reasoning and a subtle mind
Is joined, besides, to evil will and power,
Who can resist? -- for all defence must cower.
[tr. Bannerman (1850)]

For when the reasoning faculty combines
With evil will and with destructive pow'r,
Then there remains no more defence for man.
[tr. Johnston (1867)]

For where the argument of intellect ⁠
⁠Is added unto evil will and power,
⁠No rampart can the people make against it.
[tr. Longfellow (1867)]

For where the equipment of the mind is joined to illwill and to power, folk can make no rampart against it.
[tr. Butler (1885)]

For where the assistance of the intellect
Is added unto evil will and power,
'Gainst it no refuge could mankind erect.
[tr. Minchin (1885)]

For where the faculty of the mind is added to evil will and to power, the human race can make no defense against it.
[tr. Norton (1892)]

For where the force of intellect is joined to evil will, and power to do such will, mankind is helpless to find resource against it.
[tr. Sullivan (1893)]

For, where the equipment and the use of reason
Are joined to ill intent and power of action,
No sort of refuge can folk make against it.
[tr. Griffith (1908)]

For where the equipment of the mind is joined to evil will and to power men can make no defence against it.
[tr. Sinclair (1939)]

For if with the mind's instrument unite
Power and an evil purpose both at once,
Men have no means against such force to fight.
[tr. Binyon (1943)]

For where the instrument of thinking mind
Is joined to strength and malice, man’s defence
Cannot avail to meet those powers combined.
[tr. Sayers (1949)]

For where the instrument of intelligence
is added to brute power and evil will,
mankind is powerless in its own defense.
[tr. Ciardi (1954)]

For where the instrument of the mind is added to an evil will and to great power, men can make no defense against it.
[tr. Singleton (1970)]

For where the mind’s acutest reasoning
is joined to evil will and evil power,
there human beings can’t defend themselves.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1980)]

For, where the argument of reason is
Joined with an evil will and potency,
There is no possible defence for man.
[tr. Sisson (1981)]

The power of the mind, along with that
Of immense strength, upon an evil will
Then people will have no defense from it.
[tr. Pinsky (1994), l. 52ff]

For where sharpness of mind is joined to evil will and power, there is no defence people can make against them.
[tr. Durling (1996)]

Where the instrument of mind is joined to ill will and power, men have no defence against it.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

For when the powers of working intellect
are wed to strength and absolute illwill,
then humans cannot find a place to hide.
[tr. Kirkpatrick (2006)]

For when the power of thought
is coupled with ill will and naked force
there is no refuge from it for mankind.
[tr. Hollander/Hollander (2007)]

For when the thinking powers of human brains
Are tools of malicious will and enormous strength,
Smaller creatures like men have no defense.
[tr. Raffel (2010)]

For only when ill will and massive strength
Are joined with mental power does it arise
That the invincible is born.
[tr. James (2013), l. 58ff]

 
Added on 4-Aug-23 | Last updated 22-Mar-24
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It is a curious accident of history that the Christian religion became heavily involved with theology. No other religion finds it necessary to formulate elaborately precise statements about the abstract qualities and relationships of gods and humans. […] The idea that God may be approached and understood through intellectual analysis is uniquely Christian.

Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson (1923-2020) English-American theoretical physicist, mathematician, futurist
The Scientist as Rebel, Part 4, ch. 25 “Is God in the Lab?” (2006)
    (Source)

Originally published in New York Review of books (1998-05-28).
 
Added on 1-May-23 | Last updated 1-May-23
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None speak of the bravery, the might, or the intellect of Jesus; but the devil is always imagined as a being of acute intellect, political cunning, and the fiercest courage. These universal and instinctive tendencies of the human mind reveal much.

Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880) American abolitionist, activist, journalist, suffragist
Letters from New-York, # 34, 1843-01 “Woman’s Rights” (1843)
    (Source)
 
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Although reason were intended by Providence to govern our passions; yet it seems that in two points of the greatest moment to the being and continuance of the world, God has intended our passions to prevail over reason. The first is, the propagation of our species; since no wise man ever married from the dictates of reason. The other is, the love of life; which, from the dictates of reason, every man would despise, and wish it at an end, or that it never had a beginning.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Religion” (1726)
    (Source)
 
Added on 13-Mar-23 | Last updated 13-Mar-23
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Therefore Father, you who have given visible light as the first fruits of creation and, at the summit of your works, have breathed intellectual light into the face of man, protect and govern this work, which began in your goodness and and returns to your glory.

[Itaque Tu Pater, qui lucem visibilem primitias creaturae dedisti, et lucem intellectualem ad fastigium operum tuorum in faciem hominis inspirasti; opus hoc, quod a tua bonitate profectum tuam gloriam repetit, tuere et rege.]

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Instauratio Magna [The Great Instauration], “Distributo Operis [Plan of the Work]” (1620) [tr. Silverthorne (2000)]
    (Source)

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

May thou, therefore, O Father, who gavest the light of vision as the first-fruits of creation, and hast inspired the countenance of man with the light of the understanding as the completion of thy works, guard and direct this work, which, proceeding from thy bounty, seeks in return thy glory.
[tr. Wood (1831)]

May thou, therefore, O Father, who gavest the light of vision as the first fruit of creation, and who hast spread over the fall of man the light of thy understanding as the accomplishment of thy works, guard and direct this work, which, issuing from thy goodness, seeks in return thy glory!
[tr. Wood/Devey (1844)]

Therefore do thou, O Father, who gavest the visible light as the first fruits of creation, and didst breathe into the face of man the intellectual light as the crown and consummation thereof, guard and protect this work, which coming from thy goodness returneth to thy glory.
[tr. Spedding (1858)]

 
Added on 13-Mar-23 | Last updated 12-Oct-23
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Although our intellect always feels itself urged towards clearness and certainty, still our mind often feels itself attracted by uncertainty. Instead of threading its way with the understanding along the narrow path of philosophical investigations and logical conclusions, in order almost unconscious of itself, to arrive in spaces where it feels itself a stranger, and where it seems to part from all well known objects, it prefers to remain with the imagination in the realms of chance and luck.

[Obgleich sich unser Verstand immer zur Klarheit und Gewißheit hingedrängt fühlt, so fühlt sich doch unser Geist oft von der Ungewißheit angezogen. Statt sich mit dem Verstande auf dem engen Pfade philosophischer Untersuchung und logischer Schlußfolgen durchzuwinden, um, seiner selbst sich kaum bewußt, in Räumen anzukommen, wo er sich fremd fühlt, und wo ihn alle bekannten Gegenstände zu verlassen scheinen, weilt er lieber mit der Einbildungskraft im Reiche der Zufälle und des Glücks.]

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War [Vom Kriege], Book 1, ch. 1 “What Is War? [Was ist der Krieg?],” § 22 (1.1.22) (1832) [tr. Graham (1873)]
    (Source)

(Source (German)). Alternate translations:

Although our intellect always feels itself urged toward clarity and certainty, our mind still often feels itself attracted by uncertainty. Instead of threading its way with the intellect along the narrow path of philosophical investigation and logical deduction, in order almost unconsciously, to arrive in spaces where it finds itself a stranger and where all familiar objects seem to abandon it, it prefers to linger with imagination in the realms of chance and luck.
[tr. Jolles (1943)]

Although our intellect always longs for clarity and certainty, our nature often finds uncertainty fascinating. It prefers to day-dream in the realms of chance and luck rather than accompany the intellect on its narrow and tortuous path of philosophical enquiry and logical deduction only to arrive -- hardly knowing how -- in unfamiliar surroundings where all the usual landmarks seem to have disappeared.
[tr. Howard & Paret (1976)]

 
Added on 21-Feb-23 | Last updated 21-Feb-23
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Taught from infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) English social philosopher, feminist, writer
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, ch. 3 (1792)
    (Source)
 
Added on 25-Jan-23 | Last updated 25-Jan-23
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That is why I think we are unfinished, and in our quest for Truth discover sooner or later that the greatest Truth can never be revealed to us through our intellect. We cannot pierce the silence that screens us from a mysterious conception, and are not content to believe that “now we see through a glass darkly: but then face to face.” There is nothing more perplexing in life than to know at what point you should surrender your intellect to your faith.

Margot Asquith
Margot Asquith (1864-1945) British socialite, author, wit [Emma Margaret Asquith, Countess Oxford and Asquith; Margot Oxford; née Tennant]
More or Less about Myself, ch. 11 (1934)
    (Source)
 
Added on 3-Oct-22 | Last updated 3-Oct-22
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Stuff yourself with food all day, never give your mind anything to do, and you’re a problem! There’s chess, isn’t there? There’s weiqi, isn’t there? — wiser at least to busy yourself with these.

[飽食終日、無所用心、難矣哉、不有博弈者乎、爲之猶賢乎已]
[饱食终日无所用心难矣哉不有博弈者乎为之犹贤乎已]

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 [論語, 论语, Lúnyǔ], Book 17, verse 22 (17.22) (6th C. BC – AD 3rd C.) [tr. Watson (2007)]
    (Source)

There is varied discussion in footnotes as to the specific identity and nature of the game(s) Confucius references. The phrase bo yi or po yi (博弈) can be translated either as "to play chess" or "the game of bo and the game of yi." The game of bo was similar to weiqi (wei-ch'i) (or, in Japan, go; the game of yi was a game like chess, or a board game played with dice (shuanglu), the rules of which have been forgotten. There are also translators who assert it's the other way around, that bo or liubo is the game of chance, and yi was weiqi (go).

(Source (Chinese) 1, 2). Alternate translations:

Hard is it to deal with him, who will stuff himself with food the whole day, without applying his mind to anything good! Are there not gamesters and chess players? To be one of these would still be better than doing nothing at all.
[tr. Legge (1861)]

Ah, it is difficult to know what to make of those who are all day long cramming themselves with food and are without anything to apply their minds to! Are there no dice and chess players? Better, perhaps, join in that pursuit than do nothing at all!
[tr. Jennings (1895)]

It is a really bad case when a man simply eats his full meals without applying his mind to anything at all during the whole day. Are there not such things as gambling and games of skill? To do one of those things even is better than to do nothing at all.
[tr. Ku Hung-Ming (1898)]

How hard is the case of the man who stuffs himself with food the livelong day, never applying his mind to anything! Are there no checker or chess players? Even to do that is surely better than nothing at all.
[tr. Soothill (1910)]

Stuffing in food all day, nothing that he puts his mind on, a hard case! Don't chess players at least do something and have solid merit by comparison?
[tr. Pound (1933)]

Those who do nothing all day but cram themselves with food and never use their minds are difficult. Are there not games such as draughts? To play them would surely be better than doing nothing at all.
[tr. Waley (1938)]

I really admire a fellow who goes about the whole day with a well-fed stomach and a vacuous mind. How can one ever do it? I would rather that he play chess, which would seem to me to be better.
[tr. Lin Yutang (1938)]

To eat one’s full all day long without directing the mind to anything is, indeed, to be in difficulties! Even those who spend all their time at intricate games are to be reckoned of higher caliber.
[tr. Ware (1950), 17.20]

It is no easy matter for a man who always has a full stomach to put his mind to some use. Are there not such things as po and yi? Even playing these games is better than being idle.
[tr. Lau (1979)]

It is surely difficult to spend the whole day stuffing oneself with food and having nothing to use one's mind on. Are there not people who play bo and yi? Even such activity is definitely superior, is it not?
[tr. Dawson (1993), 17.20]

I cannot abide these people who fill their bellies all day long, without ever using their minds! Why can't they play chess? At least it would be better than nothing.
[tr. Leys (1997)]

Those who are stated with food all day without applying their minds to anything at all are difficult indeed! Are there no people who play double six and siege? Even doing those would be beter than to stop thinking altogether.
[tr. Huang (1997), 17.21]

Eating all day without thinking about anything, such persons are hard to be trained. Are not there some games? Even if playing some games, it is also better than having nothing to do.
[tr. Cai/Yu (1998), No. 462]

There are troubles ahead for those who spend their whole day filling their stomachs without ever exercising their heart-and-mind (xin). Are there not diversions such as the board games of bo and weiqi? Even playing those games would be better than nothing.
[tr. Ames/Rosemont (1998)]

One who eats his fill all day long, and never uses his mind on anything, is a difficult case. Are there not such things as gammon and chess? Would it not be better to play them?
[tr. Brooks/Brooks (1998), 17.20]

All day eating and never thinking: such people are serious trouble. Aren't there games to play, like go and chess? Even that is better than nothing. [tr. Hinton (1998), 17.21]

Spending the entire day filling himself with food, never once exercising his mind -- someone like this is a hard case indeed! Do we not have the games Bo and Yi? Even playing these games would be better than doing nothing.
[tr. Slingerland (2003)]

To spend the whole day stuffing yourself and not to put your mind to use at all -- this is hopeless behavior. Are there not such games as bo and yi? It would be better to play these games [than to do nothing at all].
[tr. Annping Chin (2014)]

If a person is well fed the whole day and does not use his brain on anything, it will be difficult for him to be of value in life. Are there poker games and chess? Playing these games is still more beneficial than doing nothing.
[tr. Li (2020)]

 
Added on 19-Sep-22 | Last updated 8-May-23
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The Intellect engages us in the pursuit of Truth. The Passions impel us to Action.

[Cogitatio in vero exquirendo maxime versatur, appetitus impellit ad agendum.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 35 (1.35) / sec. 132 (44 BC) [Barnes (1814)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translation:

Reflection is chiefly employed in the investigation of truth, appetite impels to action.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

Reflection chiefly applies itself in the search of truth. Appetite prompts us to action.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

Thought is occupied chiefly in seeking the truth; impulse urges to action.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]

Thought is employed in the discovery of truth, appetite impels to action.
[tr. Gardiner (1899)]

Thought is occupied chiefly with the discovery of truth; impulse prompts to action.
[tr. Miller (1913)]

Thought is mostly expended in seeking out the truth, passion urges men to action.
[tr. Edinger (1974)]

 
Added on 17-Feb-22 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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I, having built a house, reject
The feud of eye and intellect,
And find in my experience proof
One pleasure runs from root to roof,
One thrust along a streamline arches
The sudden star, the budding larches.

The force that makes the winter grow
Its feathered hexagons of snow,
and drives the bee to match at home
Their calculated honeycomb,
Is abacus and rose combined.
An icy sweetness fills my mind,

A sense that under thing and wing
Lies, taut yet living, coiled, the spring.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
“The Abacus and the Rose” (1965)
    (Source)

First published in Bronowski, Science and Human Values (1965 ed.).
 
Added on 14-Feb-22 | Last updated 14-Feb-22
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The head never rules the heart, but just becomes its partner in crime.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) American journalist and author
The Second Neurotic’s Notebook, ch. 5 (1966)
    (Source)
 
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The ability to play is one of the principal criteria of mental health.

Ashley Montagu (1905-1999) British-American anthropologist and humanist [b. Israel Ehrenberg, a/k/a Montague Francis Ashley-Montagu]
Growing Young (1981)
    (Source)

In the 2nd edition (1989), Montagu rephrased this a bit less prosaically: "Play is, of course, among the clearest of neotenous behavioral traits; it is the neoteny of the intellect, a principal criterion of mental health." Montagu uses the term "neoteny" to mean "growing young."
 
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The intellect of man is forced to choose
Perfection of the life or of the work.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) Irish poet and dramatist
“The Choice” (1933)
    (Source)
 
Added on 25-Jan-21 | Last updated 25-Jan-21
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The man who is master of his passions is Reason’s slave.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
(Attributed)
 
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Intellect needs to be understood not as some kind of a claim against the other human excellences for which a fatally high price has to be paid, but rather as a complement to them without which they cannot be fully consummated.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Part 1, ch. 2 “On the Unpopularity of Intellect” (1962)
    (Source)
 
Added on 18-Nov-20 | Last updated 18-Nov-20
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The case against intellect is founded upon a set of fictional and wholly abstract antagonisms. Intellect is pitted against feeling, on the ground it is somehow inconsistent with warm emotion. It is pitted against character, because it is widely believed that intellect stands for mere cleverness, which transmutes easily into the sly or the diabolical. It is pitted against practicality, since theory is held to be opposed to practice, and the “purely” theoretical mind is so much disesteemed. It is pitted against democracy, since intellect is felt to be a form of distinction that defies egalitarianism. Once the validity of these antagonisms is accepted, then the case for intellect, and by extension for the intellectual, is lost. Who cares to risk sacrificing warmth of emotion, solidity of character, practical capacity, or democratic sentiment in order to pay deference to a type of man who at best is deemed to be merely clever and at worst may even be dangerous?

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Part 1, ch. 2 “On the Unpopularity of Intellect” (1962)
    (Source)
 
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He says, You have to study and learn so that you can make up your own mind about history and everything else but you can’t make up an empty mind. Stock your mind, stock your mind. It is your house of treasure and no one in the world can interfere with it. If you won the Irish Sweepstakes and bought a house that needed furniture would you fill it with bits and pieces of rubbish? Your mind is your house and if you fill it with rubbish from the cinemas it will rot in your head. You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.

Frank McCourt (1930-2009) Irish-American teacher and writer
Angela’s Ashes, ch. 8 (1996)
    (Source)
 
Added on 27-Aug-20 | Last updated 27-Aug-20
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At twenty the will rules; at thirty the intellect; at forty the judgment.

[A los veinte años reina la voluntad, a los treinta el ingenio, a los cuarenta el juicio.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 298 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
    (Source)

(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translations:

At twenty years of age the Will reigns; at thirty the Wit; at fourty, the Judgment.
[Flesher ed. (1685)]

At twenty years desire rules us, at thirty, expediency, at forty, judgment.
[tr. Fischer (1937)]

When one is twenty, the will reigns; a thirty, the intelligence; at forty, judgment.
[tr. Maurer (1992)]

See also:

At 20 years of age the Will reigns; at 30 the Wit; at 40 the Judgment.
[Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack (1741)

 
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Wisdom is corrupted by ambition, even when the quality of the ambition is intellectual. For ambition, even of this quality, is but a form of self-love ….

Henry Taylor (1800-1886) English dramatist, poet, bureaucrat, man of letters
Notes from Life, “Wisdom” (1847)
    (Source)
 
Added on 3-Oct-17 | Last updated 3-Oct-17
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Character is higher than intellect.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“The American Scholar,” sec. 3, speech, Phi Beta Kappa Society, Cambridge (1837-08-31)
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A house is no home unless it contain food and fire for the mind as well as for the body.

Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) American journalist, critic, transcendentalist, reformer [Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli]
Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845)
 
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Our Passions, Ambition, Avarice, Love, Resentment &c possess so much metaphysical Subtilty and so much overpowering Eloquence, that they insinuate themselves into the Understanding and the Conscience and convert both to their Party. And I may be deceived as much as any of them, when I Say, that Power must never be trusted without a Check.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Thomas Jefferson (2 Feb 1816)
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She hung up and I set out the chess board. I filled a pipe, paraded the chessmen and inspected them for French shaves and loose buttons, and played a championship tournament game between Gortchakoff and Meninkin, seventy-two moves to a draw, a prize specimen of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object, a battle without armour, a war without blood, and as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you could find anywhere outside an advertising agency.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
The Long Goodbye, ch. 24 (1953)
 
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The desire of knowledge, like the thirst of riches, increases ever with the acquisition of it.

Sterne - desire of knowledge - wist_info quote

Laurence Sterne (1713-1786) Anglo-Irish novelist, Anglican clergyman
Tristam Shandy, Book 1, ch. 3 (1760-1767)
 
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Happiness is beneficial for the body but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) French author
Remembrance of Things Past (1913-27)
 
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I could wile away the hours
Conferrin’ with the flowers,
Consultin’ with the rain;
And my head I’d be scratchin’
While my thoughts were busy hatchin’,
If I only had a brain.

E. Y. "Yip" Harburg (1896-1981) American lyricist [Edgar Yipsel Harburg, b. Isidore Hochberg]
“If I Only Had a Brain,” The Wizard of Oz (1939)
 
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One of the functions of intelligence is to take account of the dangers that come from trusting solely to intelligence.

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) American writer, philosopher, historian, architect
The Transformations of Man, 7.1 (1956)
 
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Would you persuade, speak of Interest, not of Reason.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher, aphorist
Poor Richard (1734 ed.)
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It is better to be a beggar than ignorant; for a beggar only wants money, but an ignorant person wants humanity.

Aristippus of Cyrene (c. 435 – c. 356 BC) Cyrenaic philosopher, Hedonist
(Attributed)
 
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No state can be more destitute than that of a him who, when the delites of sense forsake him, has no pleasures of the mind.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Plays of William Shakespeare, “Cymbeline” (1765)
 
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And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important — wonderful. If you want to be recognized — wonderful. If you want to be great — wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
“The Drum Major Instinct,” sermon, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta (4 Feb 1968)
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Man can learn nothing unless he proceeds from the known to the unknown.

Claude Bernard (1813-1878) French physiologist, scientist
Bulletin of New York Academy of Medicine, Vol. 4 (1928)
 
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Knowledge is a comfortable and necessary retreat and shelter for us in an advanced age; and if we do not plant it while young, it will give us no shade when we grow old.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #133 (11 Dec 1747)
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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.
 
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It behooves all men who wish to excel the other animals to strive with might and main not to pass through life unheralded, like the beasts, which Nature has fashioned groveling and slaves to the belly. All our power, on the contrary, lies in both mind and body; we employ the mind to rule, the body rather to serve; the one we have in common with the Gods, the other with the brutes. Therefore I find it becoming, in seeking renown, that we should employ the resources of the intellect rather than those of brute strength, to the end that, since the span of life which we enjoy is short, we may make the memory of our lives as long as possible.

[Omnis homines qui sese student praestare ceteris animalibus summa ope niti decet ne vitam silentio transeant veluti pecora, quae natura prona atque ventri oboedientia finxit. Sed nostra omnis vis in animo et corpore sita est; animi imperio, corporis servitio magis utimur; alterum nobis cum dis, alterum cum beluis commune est. Quo mihi rectius videtur ingeni quam virium opibus gloriam quaerere et, quoniam vita ipsa qua fruimur brevis est, memoriam nostri quam maxume longam efficere.]

Sallust (c. 86-35 BC) Roman historian and politician [Gaius Sallustius Crispus]
Bellum Catilinae [The War of Catiline; The Conspiracy of Catiline], ch. 1, sent. 1-3 [tr. Rolfe (1931)]
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Original Latin. Alt. trans.:

"To maintain the dignity of human nature is the true ambition of man; and to that end it becomes the duty of all, who aspire to distinguish themselves from the race of inferior animals, to exert their most strenuous efforts, lest they pass their days in silence, like the herds of the field, formed by nature prone to the earth, and governed altogether by the incitements of appetite. Man is composed of mind and body, and in the exercise of both consists the energy of his nature. The mind is the directing principle; the body is subservient. The former we participate with the gods; the latter we hold in common with the brute creation. Hence the fame acquired by our intellectual powers has ever appeared to me the truest glory, far superior to all that can be achieved by mere corporeal vigor; and since the life we enjoy is frail and transitory, it should be the endeavour of every man to extend his fame, and leave a lasting memorial of his existence." [tr. Murphy (1807)]

"Men who would act up to the dignity of their nature ought not to pass their lives in obscurity, like the beasts of the field, formed with bodies prone to the earth, and under necessary subjection to their appetites. Now, our faculties are twofold; those of the soul, and those of the body: the soul was designed for sovereign command, the body for subjection: the former we enjoy in common with the gods, the latter with the brute creation. So that to me it appears more agreeable to nature to pursue glory by the abilities of the mind than those of the body; and as our lives are but of short duration, it should be our study to render our memory immortal." [tr. Rose (1831)]

"It becomes all men, who are anxious that they should excel other animals, to strive with their utmost might that they may not pass their life in silence like cattle, which nature has formed with their faces downwards, and slaves to their belly. But all our vigour is placed in the mind and in the body. We for the most part make use of the government of the mind, the submission of the body. The one we have in common with the gods, and the other with brutes. Wherefore it appears to me more proper to seek for glory by the abilities of the mind rather than by those of mere force; and since that life which we enjoy is short, to make the memory of ourselves as lasting as possible." [Source (1841)]

"It becomes all men, who desire to excel other animals, to strive, to the utmost of their power, not to pass through life in obscurity, like the beasts of the field, which nature has formed groveling and subservient to appetite. All our power is situated in the mind and in the body. Of the mind we rather employ the government; of the body, the service. The one is common to us with the gods; the other with the brutes. It appears to me, therefore, more reasonable to pursue glory by means of the intellect than of bodily strength, and, since the life which we enjoy is short, to make the remembrance of us as lasting as possible." [tr. Watson (1867)]

"Every man who is anxious to excel the lower animals should strive with all his power not to pass his life in obscurity like the brute beasts, whom nature has made the grovelling slaves of their belly. Now our whole ability resides jointly in our mind and body. In the case of the mind it is its power of guidance, in the case of the body its obedient service that we rather use, sharing the former faculty with the gods, the latter with the brute creation. This being so, I think it right to seek repute by my powers rather of intellect than of strength, and since the very life which we enjoy is short, to make the memory of us as abiding as may be." [tr. Pollard (1882)]

"All persons who are enthusiastic that they should transcend the other animals ought to strive with the utmost effort not to pass through a life of silence like the cattle, which nature has fashioned to be prone and obedient to their stomachs. Our entire power resides in the mind as well as the body: we use the mind to command, the body to serve; the former we share wit the gods, the latter with the beasts. Therefore it seems to me more correct to seek glory with our intellectual rather than with our physical resources, and, because the very life that we enjoy is short, to ensure that a recollection of ourselves lasts as long as possible. [tr. Woodman (2007)]
 
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For the renown which riches or beauty confer is fleeting and frail; mental excellence is a splendid and lasting possession.

[Nam divitiarum et formae gloria fluxa atque fragilis est, virtus clara aeternaque habetur.]

Sallust (c. 86-35 BC) Roman historian and politician [Gaius Sallustius Crispus]
Bellum Catilinae [The War of Catiline; The Conspiracy of Catiline], ch. 1, sent. 4 [tr. Rolfe (1931)]
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Original Latin. Alt. trans.:
  • "For what are all the advantages of wealth, and all the graces of form and feature? mere precarious gifts, that soon fade and moulder away. It is virtue, and virtue only, that ennobles the human character, and lives in the memory of the after-times." [tr. Murphy (1807)]
  • "For the splendour derived from riches and beauty is short-lived and frail, virtue alone confers immortality." [tr. Rose (1831)
  • "For the glory of riches and beauty is fickle and frail; virtue is accounted bright and everlasting." [Source (1841)]
  • "For the glory of wealth and beauty is fleeting and perishable; that of intellectual power is illustrious and immortal." [tr. Watson (1867)]
  • "The glory of wealth and beauty is fleeting and frail, but personal merit is held in eternal honour." [tr. Pollard (1882)]
  • "The glory of riches and appearance is fleeting and fragile, but to have prowess is something distinguished and everlasting. [tr. Woodman (2007)]
  • "For the fame of riches and beauty is fickle and frail, while virtue is eternally excellent."
 
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If nature has made any one thing less susceptible, than all others, of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an Idea; which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the reciever cannot dispossess himself of it. it’s peculiar character too is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who recieves an idea from me, recieves instruction himself, without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, recieves light without darkening me.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Isaac McPherson (13 Aug 1813)
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Reason, devoid of the purifying power of faith, can never free itself from distortions and rationalizations.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
“Pilgrimage to Nonviolence,” Christian Century (13 Apr 1960)
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Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler, #103 (12 Mar 1751)
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To live is like to love — all reason is against it, and all healthy instinct for it.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Life and Love” (1912)
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There is nothing anti-intellectual in the leap of faith, for faith is not believing without proof but trusting without reservation.

William Sloane Coffin, Jr. (1924-2006) American minister, social activist
Credo, “Faith, Hope, Love” (2004)
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The first of the four cardinal virtues of the Roman Catholic Church is “prudentia,” which basically means damn good thinking. Christ came to take away our sins, not our minds.

William Sloane Coffin, Jr. (1924-2006) American minister, social activist
Credo, “Faith, Hope, Love” (2004)
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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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Thought is the labor of the intellect, reverie is its pleasure.

[La pensée est le labeur de l’intelligence, la rêverie en est la volupté.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Vol. 4 “St. Denis,” Book 2 “Eponine,” ch. 1 “The Field of the Lark” (1862) [tr. Wilbour]

Alt trans. [Denny (1980)]: "Thought is the work of the intellect, reveries its self-indulgence." Cited as Part IV, ch. 2 "Eponine."
 
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I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Isaac Newton (1642-1727) English physicist and mathematician
Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, 2.27 [ed. D. Brewster (1855)]
 
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