Quotations about   philosopher

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In spite of every sage whom Greece can show,
Unerring wisdom never dwelt below;
Folly in all of every age we see,
The only difference lies in the degree.

[N’en déplaise à ces fous nommés sages de Grèce,
En ce monde il n’est point de parfaite sagesse :
Tous les hommes sont fous, et, malgré tous leurs soins,
Ne diffèrenet entre eux que du plus ou du moins.]

Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux (1636-1711) French poet and critic
Satires, Satire 4, l. 37 (1716)
Added on 25-May-16 | Last updated 25-May-16
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I have one word to say upon the subject of profound writers, who are grown very numerous of late; and I know very well the judicious world is resolved to list me in that number. I conceive therefore, as to the business of being profound, that it is with writers as with wells — a person with good eyes may see to the bottom of the deepest, provided any water be there: and often when there is nothing in the world at the bottom besides dryness and dirt, though it be but a yard and a-half under-ground, it shall pass, however, for wondrous deep upon no wiser reason than because it is wondrous dark.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Tale of a Tub (1704)
Added on 1-Oct-15 | Last updated 1-Oct-15
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Philosophy easily triumphs over past ills and ills to come, but present ills triumph over philosophy.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 22 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
Added on 30-Jul-15 | Last updated 30-Jul-15
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Governments make of philosophy a means of serving their state interests, and scholars make of it a trade.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
(Attributed)

Speaking of Hegel acting as an agent of the Prussian government.
Added on 23-Jul-15 | Last updated 23-Jul-15
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There are some philosophers who exist to uphold the status quo, and others who exist to upset it. … For my part, I should reject both those as not being the true business of a philosopher, and I should say the business of a philosopher is not to change the world but to understand it, which is the exact opposite to what Marx said.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview with Woodrow Wyatt, BBC television (1959)
Added on 25-Jun-15 | Last updated 25-Jun-15
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Slavery was contrary to all the moral principles advocated by Plato and Aristotle, yet neither of them saw this because to renounce slavery would have meant the collapse of the life they were living.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) Russian novelist and moral philosopher
The Kingdom of God Is Within You, ch. 6 (1893) [tr. Maude (1936)]
Added on 18-Jun-15 | Last updated 18-Jun-15
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Those who are destitute of philosophy may be compared to prisoners in a cave, who are only able to look in one direction because they are bound, and who have a fire behind them and a wall in front. Between them and the wall there is nothing; all that they see are shadows of themselves, and of objects behind them, cast on the wall by the light of the fire. Inevitably they regard these shadows as real, and have no notion of the objects to which they are due. At last, some man succeeds in escaping from the cave to the light of the sun; for the first time he sees real things, and becomes aware that he had hitherto been deceived by shadows. If he is the sort of philosopher who is fit to become a guardian, he will feel it is his duty to those who were formerly his fellow prisoners to go down again into the cave, instruct them as to the truth, and show them the way up. But he will have difficulty in persuading them, because, coming out of the sunlight, he will see shadows less clearly than they do, and will seem to them stupider than before his escape.

Plato (c.428-347 BC) Greek philosopher
The Republic, 7.514

Summ. Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, ch. 15 (1946)
Added on 11-Jun-15 | Last updated 11-Jun-15
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When philosophers try to be politicians, they generally cease to be philosophers.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
A Preface to Politics, ch. 3 (1914)
Added on 4-Jun-15 | Last updated 4-Jun-15
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You philosophers are sages in your maxims, and fools in your conduct.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
“Dialogue Between Franklin and the Gout” (22 Oct 1780)
Added on 28-May-15 | Last updated 28-May-15
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‘Tis not Wit merely, but a Temper which must form the Well-Bred Man. In the same manner, ’tis not a Head merely, but a Heart and Resolution which must compleat the real Philosopher.

Anthony Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) English politician and philosopher
Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, Vol. 2 “Miscellany III” (1711)
Added on 16-Jan-15 | Last updated 16-Jan-15
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‘Tis the hardest thing in the world to be a good Thinker, without being a strong Self-Examiner.

Anthony Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) English politician and philosopher
Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, Vol. 1, “Soliloquy: or Advice to an Author” (1711)
Added on 26-Dec-14 | Last updated 26-Dec-14
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LEONATO: For there was never a philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Much Ado About Nothing, Act 5, sc. 1, l. 35 (1598)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 25-Jun-15
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What is the first business of one who studies philosophy? To part with self-conceit. For it is impossible for any one to begin to learn what he thinks that he already knows.

Epictetus (c.55-c.135) Greek (Phrygian) Stoic philosopher
The Discourses, ch. 17, “How To Apply General Principles to Particular Cases” (c. AD 101-108)

Alt. trans.: "It is impossible for a man to begin to learn what he thinks he knows." [tr. Long (1890)]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-May-14
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There is nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Divinatione [On Divination], Book 2, sec. 58 (45 BC)

Alt. trans.:
  • "There is nothing so absurd as but some philosopher has said it." Also cited as sec. 119.
  • "In short, somehow or other, I know nothing is so absurd as not to have found an advocate in one of the philosophers." [tr. Yonge (1902)]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 4-Jun-15
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