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Race is the child of racism, not the father.

Coates - Race is the child of racism not the father - wist.info quote

Ta-Nehisi Coates (b. 1975) American writer, journalist, educator
Between the World and Me, ch. 1 (2015)
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Coates continues:

And the process of naming "the people" has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy. Difference in hue and hair is old. But the belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible -- this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.
Added on 26-Oct-21 | Last updated 20-Nov-21
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All men should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.

James Thurber (1894-1961) American cartoonist and writer
“The Shore and the Sea,”, Moral, Further Fables for Our Time (1956)
Added on 15-Oct-21 | Last updated 15-Oct-21
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Knowledge breeds doubt, not certainty, and the more we know the more uncertain we become.

Taylor - Knowledge breeds doubt, not certainty - wist.info quote

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
“What Else Indeed?” New York Review of Books (5 Aug 1965)
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Added on 20-Sep-21 | Last updated 20-Sep-21
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It seems to me that if there is some infinite being who wants us to think alike, he would have made us alike.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Speech to the Jury, Trial of C. B. Reynolds for Blasphemy, Morristown, New Jersey (May 1887)
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Added on 15-Sep-21 | Last updated 15-Sep-21
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It may be confidently asserted that no man chooses evil, because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.

Wollstonecraft - No man chooses evil because it is evil - wist.info quote

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) English social philosopher, feminist, writer
A Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790)
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Added on 13-Sep-21 | Last updated 13-Sep-21
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The liberty of man is not safe in the hands of any church. Wherever the Bible and sword are in partnership, man is a slave.

Ingersoll - liberty of man Bible and sword man is a slave - wist.info quote

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Some Mistakes of Moses, ch. 3 “The Politicians” (1879)
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Added on 18-Aug-21 | Last updated 18-Aug-21
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There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means by which to detect lies.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
“What Modern Liberty Means,” Liberty and the News (1920)
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Added on 16-Aug-21 | Last updated 16-Aug-21
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More quotes by Lippmann, Walter

There is a class of people wanting to be called philosophers, who are said to have produced many books actually in Latin. For my part I don’t despise them — I’ve never read them. But since those selfsame writers proclaim that what they write is neither systematic nor properly subdivided nor correct nor polished in style, I pass by reading what would bring no pleasure.

[Est enim quoddam genus eorum qui se philosophos appellari volunt, quorum dicuntur esse Latini sane multi libri; quos non contemno equidem, quippe quos numquam legerim; sed quia profitentur ipsi illi qui eos scribunt se neque distincte neque distribute neque eleganter neque ornate scribere, lectionem sine ulla delectatione neglego.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 2, ch. 3 / sec. 7 (45 BC) [tr. Douglas (1990)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

For there is a certain Set of such as assume to themselves the name of Philosophers, who are said to have Books enough in Latin, which I do not despise, for I have never read them; but because the Authors profess themselves, that they write neither with distinction of Terms, nor distribution of Parts, nor elegancy of Language, nor any Ornaments; I neglect to give that reading which is no ways delightful
[tr. Wase (1643)]

For there is a farther certain tribe who would willingly be called philosophers, whose books in our language are said to be numerous, which I do not despise, for indeed I never read the: but because the authors themselves declare that they write without any regularity or method, without elegance or ornament: I do not choose to read what is so void of entertainment.
[tr. Main (1824)]

For there is a certain race, who wish to be called philosophers, whose Latin books, indeed, are said to be numerous, which I have no contempt for, really, because I never read them; but, since their authors themselves profess to write without either order or method, ornament or elegance, I neglect a reading which affords me no delight.
[tr. Otis (1839)]

For there is a certain class of them who would willingly be called philosophers, whose books in our language are said to be numerous, and which I do not despise, for indeed I never read them: but still because the authors themselves declare that they write without any regularity, or method, or elegance, or ornament, I do not care to read what must be so void of entertainment.
[tr. Yonge (1853)]

There is, indeed, a certain class of men who want to be called philosophers, who are said to have written many Latin books, which I do not despise, because I have never read them; but inasmuch as their authors profess to write with neither precision, nor system, nor elegance, nor ornament, I omit reading what can give me no pleasure.
[tr. Peabody (1886)]

There is a certain class of authors, who wish to be called philosophers, and who have apparently published many books in Latin. I do not, indeed, condemn them, because I never read them, but because they themselves confess that they have not written their books clearly or in a well-arranged manner, nor elegantly or with any ornament. I avoid the sort of reading which offers no enjoyment.
[tr. @sentantiq (2015)]

There exists a class of men who lay claim to the title of philosophers and are said to be authors of a great many books in Latin. These I personally do not despise, for the reason that I have never read them; but as the writers of these books on their own admission avoid in what they write a systematic approach, due subdivision, correctness, or a polished style. I have no interest in reading what brings no pleasure.
[tr. Davie (2017)]

Added on 9-Aug-21 | Last updated 9-Aug-21
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More quotes by Cicero, Marcus Tullius

Ours is a problem in which deception has become organized and strong; where truth is poisoned at its source; one in which the skill of the shrewdest brains is devoted to misleading a bewildered people.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
A Preface to Politics, ch. 4 (1913)
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Added on 26-Jul-21 | Last updated 26-Jul-21
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If the main pillar of the system is living a lie, then it is not surprising that the fundamental threat to it is living in truth. This is why it must be suppressed more severely than anything else.

Havel - main pillar system living a lie not surprising fundamental threat living in truth - wist.info quote

Václav Havel (1936-2011) Czech playwright, essayist, dissident, politician
The Power of the Powerless, title essay (1979)
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Added on 14-Jul-21 | Last updated 14-Jul-21
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You don’t get the power you ask for, you get the power you take.

Abrams - You don't get the power you ask for, you get the power you take - wist.info quote

Stacey Abrams
Stacey Abrams (b. 1973) American politician, lawyer, activist
(Attributed)

See Baldwin.
Added on 13-Jul-21 | Last updated 10-Aug-21
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I’m afraid to win, and afraid to lose; I hate a draw and can’t stop competing; otherwise I’m fine.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) American journalist and author
The Neurotic’s Notebook (1963)
Added on 24-Jun-21 | Last updated 25-Jun-21
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From time immemorial the wise and practical have denounced every heroic spirit. Yet it has not been they who have influenced our lives. The idealists and visionaries, foolish enough to throw caution to the winds and express their ardour and faith in some supreme deed, have advanced mankind and have enriched the world.

Emma Goldman (1869-1940) Lithuanian-American anarchist, activist
Living My Life, Part 2, ch. 39 (1931)
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Added on 21-Jun-21 | Last updated 9-Aug-21
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I do not hate in the plural.

P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) Anglo-American humorist, playwright and lyricist [Pelham Grenville Wodehouse]
(Attributed)

When asked, as a former WWII internee, whether he hate the Germans (or the Nazis).

George Orwell, writing in 1945 a defense of Wodehouse's actions while an internee, quoted him in a more complex version of this:

I never was interested in politics. I’m quite unable to work up any kind of belligerent feeling. Just as I’m about to feel belligerent about some country I meet a decent sort of chap. We go out together and lose any fighting thoughts or feelings.
Added on 20-May-21 | Last updated 20-May-21
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What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) English intellectual, polemicist, socio-political critic
“Mommie Dearest,” Slate (20 Oct 2003)

Sometimes referred to as Hitchens' Razor. The concept is not new (consider the Latin phrase "Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur"), but was popularized by Hitchens in discussion of contemporary discussion of religion, including in his work God Is Not Great (2007).

While cited by a number of sources to the 2003 Slate article on the canonization of Mother Teresa, the phrase does not appear in the 2016 reprint of the article at the time she was actually declared a saint.

More information (including the original Slate text): The long history of Hitchens' Razor • Background Probability.
Added on 17-May-21 | Last updated 17-May-21
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Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 12 (1930)
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Added on 17-May-21 | Last updated 17-May-21
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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)
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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.
Added on 5-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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Then welcome fate!
‘Tis true I perish, yet I perish great:
Yet in a mighty deed I shall expire,
Let future ages hear it, and admire!

[νῦν αὖτέ με μοῖρα κιχάνει.
μὴ μὰν ἀσπουδί γε καὶ ἀκλειῶς ἀπολοίμην,
ἀλλὰ μέγα ῥέξας τι καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 22, l. 303ff (22.303) [Hector] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Pope (1715-20), l. 385ff]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

But Fate now conquers; I am hers; and yet not she shall share
In my renown; that life is left to every noble spirit,
And that some great deed shall beget that all lives shall inherit.
[tr. Chapman (1611), l. 266ff]

But I will not fall
Inglorious; I will act some great exploit
That shall be celebrated ages hence.
[tr. Cowper (1791), l. 347ff]

Fate overtakes me. Nevertheless I will not perish cowardly and ingloriously at least, but having done some great deed to be heard of even by posterity.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

My fate hath found me now.
Yet not without a struggle let me die,
Nor all inglorious; but let some great act,
Which future days may hear of, mark my fall.
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Now my fate hath found me. At least let me not die without a struggle or ingloriously, but in some great deed of arms whereof men yet to be born shall hear.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

My doom has come upon me; let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men hereafter.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Now again is my doom come upon me. Nay, but not without a struggle let me die, neither ingloriously, but in the working of some great deed for the hearing of men that are yet to be.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

But now my death is upon me. Let me at least not die without a struggle, inglorious, but do some big thing first, that men to come shall know of it.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

So now I meet my doom. Well let me die --
but not without struggle, not without glory, no,
in some great clash of arms that even men to come
will hear of down the years!
[tr. Fagles (1990), l. 359ff]

But now has my doom overcome me. But let me at least not die without making a fight, without glory, but a great deed having done for the men of the future to hear of.
[tr. Merrill (2007)]

May I not die without a fight and without glory
but after doing something big for men to come to learn about.
[tr. @Sentantiq (2011)]

Added on 24-Mar-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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More quotes by Homer

A friend is one who rejoices in our good and grieves for our pain, and this purely on our own account.

[τούτων δὲ ὑποκειμένων ἀνάγκη φίλον εἶναι τὸν συνηδόμενον τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς καὶ συναλγοῦντα τοῖς λυπηροῖς μὴ διά τι ἕτερον ἀλλὰ δι᾽ ἐκεῖνον.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Rhetoric [Ῥητορική; Ars Rhetorica], Book 2, ch. 4, sec. 3 / 1381a (350 BC) [tr. Jebb (1873)]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

  • "He who rejoices with one in prosperity, and sympathises with one in pain, not with a view to anything else but for his friend's sake, is a friend." [Source (1847)]
  • "One who participates in another's joy at good fortune, and in his sorry at what aggrieves him, not from any other motive, but simply for his sake, is his friend." [tr. Buckley (1850)]
  • "He is a friend who shares our joy in good fortune and our sorrow in affliction, for our own sake and not for any other reason." [tr. Freese (1924)]
  • "Your friend is the sort of man who shares your pleasure in what is good and your pain in what is unpleasant, for your sake and for no other reason." [tr. Roberts (1954)]
  • "The following people are our friends: those who share our pleasure when good things happen and our distress when bad things happen for no other reason than for our sake." [tr. Waterfield (2018)]
  • "A friend is one who shares in the other fellow's pleasure at the good things and his pain at what is grievous, for no other reason than that fellow's sake." [tr. Bartlett (2019)]
  • "A friend is someone who is a partner in our happiness and a partner in our sorrow not for any other reason but for friendship." [tr. @sentantiq (2019)]
Added on 19-Mar-21 | Last updated 19-Mar-21
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More quotes by Aristotle

Oh, but I hate it more
when a traitor, caught red-handed,
tries to glorify his crimes.

[μισῶ γε μέντοι χὤταν ἐν κακοῖσί τις
ἁλοὺς ἔπειτα τοῦτο καλλύνειν θέλῃ.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 495ff [Creon] (441 BC) [tr. Fagles (1982), l. 552ff]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Howbeit, to me it is no less abhorrent,
When, caught in criminality, the culprit
Seeks with fine words to beautify his deed.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

More hateful still the miscreant who seeks
When caught, to make a virtue of a crime.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

But not less hateful
Seems it to me, when one that hath been caught
In wickedness would give it a brave show.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

But, truly, I detest it, too, when one who has been caught in treachery then seeks to make the crime a glory.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

I cannot bear to see the guilty stand
Convicted of their crimes, and yet pretend
To gloss them o'er with specious names of virtue.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

But verily this, too, is hateful, -- when one who hath been caught in wickedness then seeks to make the crime a glory.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

But now much worse than this
Is brazen boasting of barefaced anarchy.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), l. 390ff]

The criminal who being caught still tries.
To make a fair excuse , is damned indeed.
[tr. Watling (1947), l. 414ff]

I hate it too when someone caught in crime
then wants to make it seem a lovely thing.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

But this is worst of all: to be convicted
And then to glorify the name as virtue.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

But how I hate it when she's caught in the act, And the criminal still glories in her crime. [tr. Woodruff (2001)]

I hate it when someone, caught in ugliness, afterwards wants to make it look pretty. [tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

And there’s nothing I hate more than when someone is caught committing a crime and tries to hide it by embellishing it with sweet words.
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

How I despise
a person caught committing evil acts
who then desires to glorify the crime.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 562ff]

I, for my part, hate anyone caught in the act who tries to beautify his crimes thereupon.
[tr. Thomas (2005)]

I hate it when someone is caught in the midst of their evil deeds and tries to gloss over them.
[tr. @sentantiq (2020)]

Added on 18-Mar-21 | Last updated 18-Mar-21
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When all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
“On Violence,” Crises of the Republic (1972)
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Added on 11-Mar-21 | Last updated 11-Mar-21
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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]
    (Source)

Codice Atlantico 76 v. a.
Added on 2-Mar-21 | Last updated 2-Mar-21
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It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Jingo (1988)
Added on 23-Feb-21 | Last updated 23-Feb-21
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A man’s tongue is a glib and twisty thing …
plenty of words there are, all kinds at its command —
with all the room in the world for talk to range and stray.
And the sort you use is just the sort you’ll hear.

[Στρεπτὴ δὲ γλῶσσ᾽ ἐστὶ βροτῶν, πολέες δ᾽ ἔνι μῦθοι
παντοῖοι, ἐπέων δὲ πολὺς νομὸς ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα.
ὁπποῖόν κ᾽ εἴπῃσθα ἔπος, τοῖόν κ᾽ ἐπακούσαις.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 20, l. 248ff (20.248) [Aeneas] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), l. 287ff]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

A man’s tongue is voluble, and pours
Words out of all sorts ev’ry way. Such as you speak you hear.
[tr. Chapman (1611), ll. 228-29]

Armed or with truth or falsehood, right or wrong,
So voluble a weapon is the tongue;
Wounded, we wound; and neither side can fail,
For every man has equal strength to rail.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

The tongue of man is voluble, hath words
For every theme, nor wants wide field and long,
And as he speaks so shall he hear again.
[tr. Cowper (1791), ll. 309-11]

The language of mortals is voluble, and the discourses in it numerous and varied: and vast is the distribution of words here and there. Whatsoever word thou mayest speak, such also wilt thou hear.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

For glibly runs the tongue, and can at will
Give utt’rance to discourse in ev’ry vein;
Wide is the range of language; and such words
As one may speak, another may return.
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Glib is the tongue of man, and many words are therein of every kind, and wide is the range of his speech hither and thither. Whatsoever word thou speak, such wilt thou hear in answer.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

The tongue can run all whithers and talk all wise; it can go here and there, and as a man says, so shall he be gainsaid.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Glib is the tongue of mortals, and words there be therein many and manifold, and of speech the range is wide on this side and on that. Whatsoever word thou speakest, such shalt thou also hear.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

The tongue of man is a twisty thing, there are plenty of words there
of every kind, the range of words is wide, and their variance.
The sort of thing you say is the thing that will be said to you.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

Men have twisty tongues, and on them speech of all kinds; wide is the grazing land of words, both east and west. The manner of speech you use, the same you are apt to hear.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

Pliant and glib is the tongue men have, and the speeches in it are many and various -- far do the words range hither and thither; such as the word you speak is the word which you will be hearing.
[tr. Merrill (2007)]

Added on 17-Feb-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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More quotes by Homer

For arms are of little value in the field unless there is wise counsel at home.

[Parvi enim sunt foris arma, nisi est consilium domi.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 22 / sec. 76 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
    (Source)

Original Latin. Peabody comments, "A verse, quoted probably from some lost comedy, the measure being one employed by the comic poets." None of the other translators call this out or show the text as separate except Peabody. Alternative translations:

  • "For armies can signify but little abroad, unless there be counsel and wise management at home." [tr. Cockman (1699)]
  • "Armies abroad avail little, unless there be wisdom at home." [tr. McCartney (1798)]
  • "An army abroad is but of small service unless there be a wise administration at home." [tr. Edmonds (1865)]
  • "Valor abroad is naught, unless at home be wisdom." [tr. Peabody (1883)]
Added on 15-Feb-21 | Last updated 15-Feb-21
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More quotes by Cicero, Marcus Tullius

Nothing so outrages the feelings of the church as a moral unbeliever — nothing so horrible as a charitable Atheist.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Thomas Paine” (1870)
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Added on 8-Feb-21 | Last updated 8-Feb-21
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Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing wrong with this, except that it ain’t so.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Notebook (1935) [ed. Albert Bigelow Paine]
    (Source)

With an entry for 4 Jul 1893. The core phrase, from the Latin "Magna est veritas et prævalebit," was first formulated in English by Thomas Brooks. An earlier variant can be found in Cicero, Pro Caelio Rufo (56 BC): "How great is the power of truth" [O magna vis veritas].
Added on 5-Feb-21 | Last updated 5-Feb-21
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War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.

Benjamin Ferencz (b. 1920) American lawyer, international legal scholar, activist
“What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know,” interview with Leslie Stahl, 60 Minutes (7 May 2017)
    (Source)

Ferencz served as chief prosecutor of twenty Einsatzgruppen officers during the Nuremberg war crimes trials. Longer excerpt:

STAHL: Did you meet a lot of people who perpetrated war crimes who would otherwise in your opinion have been just a normal, upstanding citizen?
FERENCZ: Of course, is my answer. These men would never have been murderers had it not been for the war. These were people who could quote Goethe, who loved Wagner, who were polite --
STAHL: What turns a man into a savage beast like that?
FERENCZ: He's not a savage. He's an intelligent, patriotic human being.
STAHL: He's a savage when he does the murder though.
FERENCZ: No. He's a patriotic human being acting in the interest of his country, in his mind.
STAHL: You don't think they turn into savages even for the act?
FERENCZ: Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.
Added on 8-Jan-21 | Last updated 8-Jan-21
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Several excuses are always less convincing than one.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
Point CounterPoint, ch. 1 (1928)
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Added on 15-Dec-20 | Last updated 15-Dec-20
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In mathematics, you don’t understand things, you just get used to them.

John von Neumann (1903-1957) Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, inventor, polymath [János "Johann" Lajos Neumann]
(Attributed)

The primary source for this comes from Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics (1979), in a footnote on p. 208, related to von Neumann's time working on the H-bomb.

Dr. Felix Smith, Head of Molecular Physics, Stanford Research Institute, once related to me the true story of a physicist friend who worked at Los Alamos after World War II. Seeking help on a difficult problem, he went to the great Hungarian mathematician, John von Neumann, who was at Los Alamos as a consultant.

"Simple," said von Neumann. "The can be solved by using the method of characteristics."

After the explanation, the physicist said, "I'm afraid I don't understand the method of characteristics."

"Young man," said von Neumann, "in mathematics you don't understand things, you just get used to them."


David Wells offers a variant in The Penguin Book of Curious and Interesting Mathematics (1997):

Van Neumann had just about ended his lecture when a student stood up and in a vaguely abashed tone said he hadn't understood the final argument. Von Neumann answered: "Young man, in mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them.

Variant: "Don't worry, young man: in mathematics, none of us really understands any idea -- we just get used to them."
Added on 17-Nov-20 | Last updated 17-Nov-20
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How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and how hard it is to undo that work again!

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Dictation (2 Dec 1906), The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 2 (2013)
    (Source)

A sentiment that may be behind the spurious Twain quotation, "It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled."
Added on 29-Oct-20 | Last updated 29-Oct-20
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It comes as a great shock around the age of 5, or 6, or 7, to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance, along with everybody else, has not pledged allegiance to you.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) American novelist, playwright, activist
“The American Dream is at the Expense of the American Negro,” opening comments, Cambridge Union, Cambridge, England (17 Feb 1965)
    (Source)

Debate with William F. Buckley, Jr.
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And however dark the skies may appear,
And however souls may blunder,
I tell you it all will work out clear,
For good lies over and under.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) American author and poet.
“Insight,” An Erring Woman’s Love (1892)
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Truth never damages a cause that is just.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
Non-Violence in Peace and War, Vol. 2 (1949)
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Build movements. Vote with your values, but vote strategically. Voting isn’t a Valentine. It’s a chess move.

Rebecca Solnit (b. 1961) American writer, historian, activist
Facebook (17 Oct 2016)
    (Source)

Solnit is credited with the core message of the last two sentences. She indicates (including from that Facebook post) that it was something she had said that was extracted and perhaps tweaked by May Boeve. E.g., "That 2016 aphorism that I sort of said and May Boeve made into this stand-alone slogan." (1 Nov 2018) "I said that off the cuff in 2016 and May Boeve caught it and it went on to have a nice life. It's also not the only chess move you get." (11 Aug 2020).

Variants:
  • "Voting is a chess move, not a valentine. And here's the joy of being politically engaged all year round every year; you get to work with a whole lot of chess pieces and players and strategies and long-term visions, so you don't agonize over whether this little hop with a pawn we call voting defines you. You get to define yourself by what you're passionately committed to, by who you align with, by your dreams and your visions, you get to move a lot of pieces a lot of times, you get heroic allies, and you play to win above, beyond, around elections. But you vote, because you know it matters too." (7 Nov 2016)
  • "I think of voting as a chess move, not a valentine. It’s just a little part of the picture of how we make the world." ("The 2000 Election Unleashed Disaster on the World. We Can’t Let that Happen Again in 2016," The Nation (3 Nov 2016))
  • "A vote is not a valentine. You are not confessing your love for the candidate. It's a chess move for the world you want to live in."
  • "Voting isn't a valentine, it's a chess move. Just one of many with one of your many pieces, if you're using what you've been given."
Added on 14-Oct-20 | Last updated 14-Oct-20
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The mind sins, not the body; if there is no intention, there is no blame.

[Mentem peccare, non corpus, et unde consilium abfuerit, culpam abesse.]

Livy (59 BC-AD 17) Roman historian [Titus Livius]
Ab Urbe Condita [From the Founding of the City; The History of Rome], Book 1, ch. 58 (27-9 BC)

Reassurances given to Lucretia, wife of Collatinus, after her rape by Sextus Tarquin. She still kills herself.

Different sources use abfuerit or afuerit. Restated as a legal term, it's usually given as Mens peccat, non corpus, et unde consilium abfuit, culpa abest.

Alt. trans.:
  • "That it is the mind sins, not the body; and that where intention was wanting guilt could not be." [tr. Spillan (1896)]
  • "The mind sins, not the body, and there is no guilt when intent is absent." [tr. Luce]
  • "The mind sins, not the body; and where the power of judgment has been absent, guilt is absent." [Source]
  • "The mind alone was capable of sinning, not the body, and that where there was no such intention, there could be no guilt." [tr. Baker (1823)]
  • "It is the mind that sins, not the body, and where there has been no consent there is no guilt." [tr. Roberts (1905)]
  • "It is the mind that sins, not the body; and that where purpose has been wanting there is no guilt." [tr. Foster (1919)]
  • "It is the will only that is capable of sinning, not the body; and where there is no intention, there can be no guilt." [Source]
Added on 12-Oct-20 | Last updated 12-Oct-20
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TECMESSA: Kindness gives birth to kindness.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Ajax

Alt. trans.:
  • "For it is always kindness which breeds kindness." [tr. Garvie (1998), ll. 522-23]
  • "Kindness begets kindness." [tr. Golder & Pevear (1999), l. 584]
  • "'Tis kindness that still begets kindness." [tr. Jebb (1917), ll. 521-22]
  • "For kindness begets kindness evermore." [tr. Trevelyan (1919)]
Added on 8-Oct-20 | Last updated 8-Oct-20
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I think vital Religion has always suffer’d, when Orthodoxy is more regarded than Virtue. And the Scripture assures me, that at the last Day, we shall not be examin’d what we thought, but what we did; and our Recommendation will not be that we said Lord, Lord, but that we did GOOD to our Fellow Creatures.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter to his parents, Josiah and Abiah Franklin (13 Apr 1738)
    (Source)

Franklin cites Matt. 26 in the letter, but it should be Matt. 25:31-46.
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One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.

Carl Sagan (1934-1996) American scientist and writer
The Demon-Haunted World, ch. 13 (1995)
    (Source)
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Young people, who are still uncertain of their identity, often try on a succession of masks in the hope of finding the one which suits them — the one, in fact, which is not a mask.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“One of the Family” (1965), Forewords and Afterwords (1973)
    (Source)
Added on 25-Sep-20 | Last updated 25-Sep-20
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The lesson of History is rarely learned by the actors themselves.

James A. Garfield (1831-1881) US President (1881), lawyer, lay preacher, educator
Letter to Professor Demmon (16 Dec 1871)
    (Source)
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The test of a democracy is not the magnificence of buildings or the speed of automobiles or the efficiency of air transportation, but rather the care given to the welfare of all the people.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Try Democracy,” The Home Magazine, Vol. 11, # 4 (Apr 1935)
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Sing your song. Dance your dance. Tell your tale.

Frank McCourt (1930-2009) Irish-American teacher and writer
Angela’s Ashes (1996)

Also included in the dedication to Teacher Man (2006).
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The truth isn’t always beauty, but the hunger for it is.

Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014) South African writer and political activist
“A Bolter and the Invincible Summer” (1963)
    (Source)

See Keats.
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For, though th’ ascent be rough, and steep the fall,
Ambition has but one reward for all:
A little power, a little transient fame,
A grave to rest in, and a fading name!

William Winter (1836-1917) American dramatic critic and author
“The Queen’s Domain,” The Queen’s Domain, and Other Poems (1858)
    (Source)
Added on 2-Sep-20 | Last updated 2-Sep-20
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The wretched Artist himself is alternatively the lowest worm that ever crawled when no fire is in him: or the loftiest God that ever sang when the fire is going.

Caitlin Thomas (1913-1994) British author, wife of Dylan Thomas [née Macnamara]
Not Quite Posthumous Letter to My Daughter (1963)
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But I never was happy, never could make a good impromptu speech without several hours to prepare it.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Speech, Society of the Army of the Tennessee Annual Meeting, Chicago (12 Nov 1879)
    (Source)

Twain made quips along this line several times, though there is no evidence he said the more frequently quoted "It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech." For more discussion, see here.
Added on 25-Aug-20 | Last updated 25-Aug-20
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A woman should never take a lover without the consent of her heart; nor a husband without the concurrence of her reason.

Anne "Ninon" de l'Enclos (1620-1705) French author, courtesan, patron of the arts [Ninon de Lenclos, Ninon de Lanclos]
The Memoirs of Ninon de L’Enclos, Vol. 1, “Life and Character” (1761)
    (Source)
Added on 18-Aug-20 | Last updated 18-Aug-20
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Grief is the agony of an instant; the indulgence of Grief the blunder of a life.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) English politician and author
Vivian Grey, Book 6, ch. 7 (1826)
    (Source)
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For nothing stands out so conspicuously, or remains so firmly fixed in the memory, as something in which you have blundered.

[Nihil est enim tam insigne, nec tam ad diuturnitatem memoriae stabile, quam id, in quo aliquid offenderis.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Oratore [On the Orator], Book 1, ch. 28, sec. 129 (55 BC)

Alt trans.:
  • "For nothing makes so remarkable, so deep an impression upon the memory as a miscarriage." [tr. Guthrie (1742)]
  • "Nothing, indeed, is so much noticed, or makes an impression of such lasting continuance on the memory, as that in which you give any sort of offense." [tr. Watson (1855)]
  • "For nothing so immediately attracts attention, or clings so tenaciously to the memory, as any defect." [tr. Calvert (1870)]
  • "Nothing attracts so much attention, or retains such a hold upon men's memories, as the occasion when you have made a mistake." [Source]
  • Original Latin
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The enemies of Freedom do not argue; they shout and they shoot.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
End of an Age, ch. 4 (1948)
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Here is a dream.
It is my dream,
My own dream,
I dreamt it.
I dreamt that my hair was kempt,
Then I dreamt that my true love unkempt it.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“My Dream” (1954), You Can’t Get There from Here (1957)
    (Source)
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The murderer, the victim, the witness, each of us thinks our role is the lead.

Chuck Palahniuk (b. 1962) American novelist and freelance journalist
Invisible Monsters, ch. 1 (1999)
    (Source)
Added on 28-Jul-20 | Last updated 28-Jul-20
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The importance to the writer of first writing must be out of all proportion of the actual value of what is written.

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) Irish author
Encounters, Preface to the 1951 Edition (1923)
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Added on 27-Jul-20 | Last updated 27-Jul-20
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If pleasures are greatest in anticipation, just remember that this is also true of trouble.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
The Philosophy of Elbert Hubbard (1916)
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Added on 15-Jul-20 | Last updated 15-Jul-20
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