Quotations about   knowledge

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But beware you be not swallowed up in books: An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.

John Wesley (1703-1791) English cleric, Christian theologian and evangelist, founder of Methodism
Letter to Joseph Benson (7 Nov 1768)
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Added on 4-Oct-18 | Last updated 4-Oct-18
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An answer is invariably the parent of a great family of new questions.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) American writer
The Log from the Sea of Cortez, ch. 16, March 25 (1951)
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Added on 13-Apr-18 | Last updated 13-Apr-18
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The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Questions (1988) [with Jason A. Schulman]
Added on 10-Jan-18 | Last updated 10-Jan-18
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Ah, what a dusty answer gets the soul
When hot for certainties in this our life!

George Meredith (1828-1909) English novelist and poet
Modern Love, Sonnet 50 (1862)
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Added on 17-Nov-17 | Last updated 17-Nov-17
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Books, that paper memory of mankind.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
The Art of Literature, ch. 4 “On Men of Learning” [tr. Saunders (1851)]
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A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.

Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) Lebanese-American poet, writer, painter [Gibran Khalil Gibran]
The Voice of the Master, Part 2, ch. 8 (1960)
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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 believe it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than to be ignorant.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“What I Believe,” sec. 6, Forum and Century (Sep 1930)
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Added on 22-May-17 | Last updated 22-May-17
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He who knows does not speak.
He who speaks does not know.

Lao-tzu (604?-531? BC) Chinese philosopher, poet [also Lao-tse, Laozi]
Tao-te Ching, ch. 56 [tr. Wing-Tsit Chan]
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Fifty years from now, if an understanding of man’s origins, his evolution, his history, his progress is not in the common place of the school books, we shall not exist.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
The Ascent of Man, Ep. 13 “The Long Childhood” (1973)
Added on 23-Jan-17 | Last updated 23-Jan-17
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No fact in the world is instant, infinitesimal and ultimate, a single mark. There are, I hold, no atomic facts. In the language of science, every fact is a field — a crisscross of implications, those that lead to it and those that lead from it. We condense the laws around concepts. Science takes its coherence, its intellectual and imaginative strength together, from the concepts at which its laws cross, like knots in a mesh.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
Science and Human Values, Part 3: “The Sense of Human Dignity”, §1 (1956)
Added on 19-Dec-16 | Last updated 19-Dec-16
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Let us tenderly and kindly cherish therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.

Adams - read think speak and write - wist_info quote

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
“A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law” (1765)
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Knowledge that tendeth but to satisfaction, is but as a courtesan, which is for pleasure, and not for fruit or generation.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Valerius Terminus: Of the Interpretation of Nature”
Added on 28-Jul-16 | Last updated 28-Jul-16
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A cheerful temper, joined with innocence will make beauty attractive, knowledge delightful, and wit good-natured.

Addison - cheerful temper - wist_info quote

Joseph Addison (1672-1719) English essayist, poet, statesman
The Tatler #192 (1 Jul 1710)
Added on 15-Jul-16 | Last updated 15-Jul-16
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“Men, Pencroft, however learned they may be, can never change anything of the cosmographical order established by God Himself.”

“And yet,” added Pencroft, “the world is very learned. What a big book, captain, might be made with all that is known!”

“And what a much bigger book still with all that is not known!” answered Harding.

[Les hommes, Pencroff, si savants qu’ils puissent être, ne pourront jamais changer quoi que ce soit à l’ordre cosmographique établi par Dieu même.
— Et pourtant, ajouta Pencroff, qui montra une certaine difficulté à se résigner, le monde est bien savant! Quel gros livre, monsieur Cyrus, on ferait avec tout ce qu’on sait!
— Et quel plus gros livre encore avec tout ce qu’on ne sait pas, répondit Cyrus Smith.]

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
The Mysterious Island, Part 3, ch. 14 (1874)
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SIR BEDEVERE: How do know so much about swallows?
KING ARTHUR: Well, you have to know these things when you’re a king, you know.

Monty Python (contemp.) British comedy troupe
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Added on 6-May-16 | Last updated 6-May-16
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I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I’ve been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn’t have. Somehow it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I’m a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally I am an atheist. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
Free Inquiry (Spring 1982)
Added on 12-Apr-16 | Last updated 12-Apr-16
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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)
Added on 3-Mar-16 | Last updated 3-Mar-16
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Every fact depends for its value on how much we already know.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1831)
Added on 24-Feb-16 | Last updated 24-Feb-16
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If these writings of the Greeks agree with the book of God, they are useless and need not be preserved; if they disagree, they are pernicious and ought to be destroyed.

Umar I (c. 583-644) Arab caliph, jurist [Omar, Umar ibn Al-Khattāb, Al-Farooq]
(Attributed)

Ordering the burning of the Library of Alexandria in AD 641, as quoted in Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-88). The story is generally considered spurious. More discussion here. Alt. trans.: "They will either contradict the Koran, in which case they are heresy, or they will agree with it, so they are superfluous"
Added on 11-Feb-16 | Last updated 11-Feb-16
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No one is more dangerous than someone who thinks he has “The Truth”. To be an atheist is almost as arrogant as to be a fundamentalist. But then again, I can get pretty arrogant.

Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) American mathematician, satirist, songwriter
Interview (June 1996)

When asked if he considered himself atheist or an agnostic.
Added on 4-Feb-16 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.

Muhammad (570-632) Arabian merchant, prophet, founder of Islam [Mohammed]
Hadith
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In Syed Ameer Ali, A Critical Examination of the Life and Teachings of Mohammed (1873), cited to The Kitâb-ul-Mustarif, ch. 2, and The Mishkât, Bk 22, ch. 18, pt. 3 (from Abu Hurairah)
Added on 7-Jan-16 | Last updated 7-Jan-16
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The good may prove to be a hidden form of evil. The evil may prove to be a new and not yet recognized form of the good.

Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev (1874-1948) Russian religious and political philosopher
The Destiny of Man, 2.4.1 (1931) [tr. Duddington (1955)]
Added on 29-Dec-15 | Last updated 29-Dec-15
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ANDREA: The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set some limit on infinite error.
Brecht - science and infinite error - wist_info

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
Life of Galileo [Leben des Galilei], sc. 13 (1939)
Added on 22-Oct-15 | Last updated 22-Oct-15
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No one really starts anything new, Mrs Nemur. Everyone builds on other men’s failures. There is nothing really original in science. What each man contributes to the sum of knowledge is what counts.

Daniel F. Keyes (1927-2014) American author
Flowers for Algernon (novel) (1966)
Added on 19-Oct-15 | Last updated 19-Oct-15
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If we cannot trust woman with the knowledge of her own body, then I claim that two thousand years of Christian teaching has proved to be a failure.

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) American birth control activist, sex educator, nurse
“The Morality of Birth Control,” speech, Park Theatre, New York (18 Nov 1921)
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HAMLET: There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Hamlet, Act 1, sc. 5, l. 166 (1600)
Added on 16-Jul-15 | Last updated 16-Jul-15
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If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.

Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) American journalist, critic, transcendentalist, reformer [Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli]
(Attributed)

Original citation unknown, but variants include: "If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it" and "If you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it."
Added on 9-Apr-15 | Last updated 9-Apr-15
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To spend more time in learning is better than spending more time in praying.

Muhammad (570-632) Arabian merchant, prophet, founder of Islam [Mohammed]
The Sayings of Muhammed, #277 [tr. Al-Suhrawardy (1941)]
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Knowledge is happiness, because to have knowledge — broad, deep knowledge — is to know true ends from false, and lofty things from low. To know the thoughts and deeds that have marked man’s progress is to feel the great heart-throbs of humanity through the centuries; and if one does not feel in these pulsations a heavenward striving, one must indeed be deaf to the harmonies of life.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
The Story of My Life, pt. 1, ch. 20 (1903)
Added on 30-Mar-15 | Last updated 30-Mar-15
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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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Science increases our power in proportion as it lowers our pride.

Claude Bernard (1813-1878) French physiologist, scientist
Bulletin of New York Academy of Medicine, Vol. 4 (1928)
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There is nothing as stupid as an educated man if you get him off the thing he was educated in.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) American humorist
Weekly column (5 Jul 1931)
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Every great study is not only an end in itself, but also a means of creating and sustaining a lofty habit of the mind.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Study of Mathematics,” Mysticism and Logic (1918)
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Added on 22-Jan-15 | Last updated 22-Jan-15
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If we do not plant it [knowledge] when young, it will give us no shade when we are old.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (11 Dec 1747)
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Ardent desire for knowledge, in fact, is the one motive attracting and supporting investigators in their efforts; and just this knowledge, really grasped and yet always flying before them, becomes at once their sole torment and their sole happiness …. A man of science rises ever, in seeking truth; and if he never finds it in its wholeness, he discovers nevertheless very significant fragments; and these fragments of universal truth are precisely what constitutes science.

Claude Bernard (1813-1878) French physiologist, scientist
An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine [Introduction à l’Étude de la Médecine Expérimentale] (1865)
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The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole men are more good than bad; that, however, isn’t the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. There can be no true goodness, nor true love, without the utmost clear-sightedness.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Plague (1947)
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Generally speaking, everybody is reactionary on the subjects he knows about.

Robert Conquest (b. 1917) Anglo-American historian, diplomat, poet
“Conquest’s Law”

Attributed in Kingsley Amis, Memoirs (1991)

Variant: "Everyone is a reactionary about subjects he understands."

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The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Strength to Love, 7.3 (1963)
Added on 25-Apr-14 | Last updated 7-Dec-15
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From principles is derived probability, but truth or certainty is obtained only from facts.

Jesse Olney (1798-1872) American geographer, educator, politician
In Godwin, The National Preceptor, Lesson 85 “Select Sentences,” rule #19 (1830)
Added on 27-Feb-14 | Last updated 27-Feb-14
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The man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification.

T. H. Huxley (1825-1895) English biologist [Thomas Henry Huxley]
“On the Advisableness of Improving Natural Knowledge” (1870)
Added on 18-Dec-13 | Last updated 18-Dec-13
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There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
“A Cult of Ignorance,” Newsweek (21 Jan 1980)
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More on this quotation here and here.
Added on 31-Dec-12 | Last updated 9-Feb-16
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There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of Science and Literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of publick happiness.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
State of the Union (8 Jan 1790)
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Some men covet knowledge out of a natural curiosity and inquisitive temper; some to entertain the mind with variety and delight; some for ornament and reputation; some for victory and contention; many for lucre and a livelihood; and but very few for employing the Divine gift of reason to the use and benefit of mankind.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 3, ch. 1 (1605)
Added on 31-May-11 | Last updated 30-Jul-14
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Knowledge is power.
[Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est.]

Bacon - knowledge is power - wist_info quote

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Sacred Meditations [Meditationes Sacræ], “Of Heresies [De Hæresibus]” (1597)

Alt. trans.: "Knowledge itself is power."
Added on 30-Apr-10 | Last updated 22-Jan-16
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Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
(Attributed)

Variant: "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."

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A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps, both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to W. T. Barry (4 Aug 1822)
Added on 11-Aug-09 | Last updated 21-Apr-17
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You know, Percy, everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) American humorist
“Defending My Soup Plate Position,” The Illiterate Digest (1924)

A common catch phrase by Rogers. Also quoted in the New York Times (31 Aug 1924).
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Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.

[Wer es unternimmt, auf dem Gebiet der Wahrheit und der Erkenntnis als Autoritat aufzutreten, scheitert am Gelachter der Gotter.]

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
“Neun Aphorismen” (23 May 1953)
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In Essays Presented to Leo Baeck on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday (publ. 1954). Also quoted from the 1977 ed. of Mein Weltbild (1949). Essays also sometimes cited 1952. Alternate translation: "He who endeavors to present himself as an authority in matters of truth and cognition, will be wrecked by the laughter of the gods."
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Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
(Attributed)

Used by Bruce Lee, and sometimes attributed to him.
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I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.

Einstein - imagination is more important than knowlege - wist_info quote

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
“What Life Means to Einstein,” Interview with G. Viereck, Saturday Evening Post (26 Oct 1929)

Quoted as "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world" in Viereck, "What Life Means to Einstein," Glimpses of the Great (1930).
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 9-Feb-16
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We know accurately only when we know little, with knowledge doubt increases.

[Eigentlich weiss man nur wenn man wenig weiss; mit dem Wissen wachst des Zweifel.]

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Spruche in Prosa [Proverbs in Prose] (1819)
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