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Once a man’s understanding has settled on something (either because it is an accepted belief or because it pleases him), it draws everything else also to support and agree with it. And if it encounters a larger number of more powerful countervailing examples, it either fails to notice them, or disregards them, or makes fine distinctions to dismiss and reject them, and all of this with much dangerous prejudice, to preserve the authority of its first conceptions.

[Intellectus humanus in iis quae semel placuerunt (aut quia recepta sunt et credita, aut quia delectant), alia etiam omnia trahit ad suffragationem et consensum cum illis: et licet major sit instantiarum vis et copia, quae occurrunt in contrarium; tamen eas aut non observat, aut contemnit, aut distinguendo summovet et rejicit, non sine magno et pernicioso praejudicio, quo prioribus illis syllepsibus authoritas maneat inviolata.]

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Instauratio Magna [The Great Instauration], Part 2 “Novum Organum [The New Organon],” Book 1, Aphorism # 46 (1620) [tr. Silverthorne (2000)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

The human understanding, when any preposition has been once laid down, (either from general admission and belief, or from the pleasure it affords,) forces every thing else to add fresh support and confirmation; and although more cogent and abundant instances may exist to the contrary, yet either does not observe or despises them, or gets rid of and rejects them by some distinction, with violent and injurious prejudice, rather than sacrifice the authority of its first conclusions.
[tr. Wood (1831)]

The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects; in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate.
[tr. Spedding (1858)]

The human Intellect, in those things which have once pleased it (either because they are generally received and believed, or because they suit the taste), brings everything else to support and agree with them; and though the weight and number of contradictory instances be superior, still it either overlooks or despises them, or gets rid of them by creating distinctions, not without great and in jurious prejudice, that the authority of these previous conclusions may be maintained inviolate.
[tr. Johnson (1859)]

Once a human intellect has adopted an opinion (either as something it likes or as something generally accepted), it draws everything else in to confirm and support it. Even if there are more and stronger instances against it than there are in its favour·, the intellect either overlooks these or treats them as negligible or does some line-drawing that lets it shift them out of the way and reject them. This involves a great and pernicious prejudgment by means of which the intellect’s former conclusions remain inviolate.
[tr. Bennett (2017)]

Added on 1-Feb-24 | Last updated 20-Mar-24
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“I truly don’t know her issues,” Weiss said. “But I’ve been in this line of work for a number of years, and my guesses are at least informed by experience.”

“Never a bad thing,” I said.

“Experience can inform,” he said. “It can also distort.”

“Sure,” I said. “But inexperience is rarely useful.”

Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) American writer
Rough Weather (2008)
Added on 21-Jun-17 | Last updated 21-Jun-17
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Prejudices are what fools use for reason.


Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
Added on 6-Dec-16 | Last updated 6-Dec-16
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When you are younger you get blamed for crimes you never committed and when you’re older you begin to get credit for virtues you never possessed. It evens itself out.

Isidor Feinstein "I. F." Stone (1907-1989) American investigative journalist and author
International Herald Tribune (16 Mar 1988)
Added on 15-Mar-16 | Last updated 15-Mar-16
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But the problem with any ideology is that it gives the answer before you look at the evidence. So you have to mold the evidence to get the answer that you’ve already decided you’ve got to have. It doesn’t work that way.

Clinton - ideology - wist_info quote

William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton (b. 1946) American politician, US President (1993-2001)
Interview, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (20 Sep 2012)
Added on 17-Feb-16 | Last updated 17-Feb-16
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The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a room packed with archaic furniture. You must get the old furniture of what you know, think, and believe out before anything new can get in. Make an empty space in any corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it.

Dee W. Hock (b. 1929) American businessman
In M. Mitchell Waldrop, “Dee Hock on Management,” Fast Company (Oct/Nov 1996)
Added on 20-Nov-15 | Last updated 20-Nov-15
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Nearly always, the best deception trades on the enemy’s own preconceptions. If he already believes what you want him to believe, you have merely to confirm his own ideas rather than to undertake the more difficult task of inserting new ones into his mind.

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Ronald Lewin (1914-1984) British military historian, radio producer publishing editor
Ultra Goes to War, ch. 10 (1978)
Added on 11-Aug-15 | Last updated 11-Aug-15
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ABSURDITY, n. A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist
“Absurdity,” The Cynic’s Word Book (1906)

Included in The Devil's Dictionary (1911).

In later versions, Bierce added:

2. The argument of an opponent. A belief in which one has not had the misfortune to be instructed.
Added on 24-Jul-14 | Last updated 2-May-23
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We usually see only the things we are looking for — so much so that we sometimes see them where they are not.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The Passionate State of Mind, Aphorism 238 (1955)
Added on 26-Mar-12 | Last updated 23-Jun-22
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The problem with ideology is, if you’ve got an ideology, you’ve already got your mind made up. You know all the answers and that makes evidence irrelevant and arguments a waste of time. You tend to govern by assertion and attacks.

William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton (b. 1946) American politician, US President (1993-2001)
Speech at event sponsored by the Center for American Progress (18 Oct 2006)
Added on 18-Jul-07 | Last updated 17-Feb-16
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Life is made up of constant calls to action, and we seldom have time for more than hastily contrived answers; to follow one’s hunch is usually better than lying doggo, and rough generalizations that have worked well in the past easily easily take on the authority of universals. It does violence to our inner being to be obliged to give a hearing to opinions widely at variance with those we are accustomed to, and to come to a conclusion unweighted by desire.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
“At Fourscore,” speech, Harvard Club of New York (1952-01-18)

First published in the Harvard Alumni Bulletin (23 Feb 1952).
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 27-Mar-23
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I have no use for the strictures of You must. You must not.


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 18, verse 8 (18.8.5) (6th C. BC) [ed. Lao-Tse, tr. Hinton (1998)]

(Source (Chinese)). Alternate translations:

I have no course for which I am predetermined, and no course against which I am predetermined.
[tr. Legge (1861)]

I will take no liberties, I will have no curtailing of my liberty.
[tr. Jennings (1895); in the footnote he gives a more raw translation, "Without possibilities (or freedom to act) -- without impossibilities"]

With me there is no inflexible "thou shalt" or 'thou shalt not."
[tr. Soothill (1910)]

I have no categoric can and cannot.
[tr. Pound (1933)]

I have no "thou shalt" or "thou shalt not."
[tr. Waley (1938)]

I accept life as it comes. [tr. Ware (1950)]
I have no preconceptions about the permissible and the impermissible.
[tr. Lau (1979)]

I avoid saying what should or should not be done.
[tr. Dawson (1993)]

I follow no rigid prescriptions on what should, or should not, be done.
[tr. Leys (1997)]

I have neither favorable nor unfavorable situation. [tr. Huang (1997)]
I have not any stubborn positiveness or negation.
[tr. Cai/Yu (1998)]

I do not have presuppositions as to what may and may not be done.
[tr. Ames/Rosemont (1998)]

I have no "may" and no "may not."
[tr. Brooks/Brooks (1998)]

I have no preconceptions about what one can or cannot do.
[tr. Annping Chin (2014)]

This may be the source of Lin-Yutang, ed. The Wisdom of Confucius (1938):

The superior man goes through his life without any one preconceived course of action or any taboo. He merely decides for the moment what is the right thing to do.

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 8-May-23
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In every object there is inexhaustible meaning; the eye sees in it what the eye brings means of seeing.

Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) Scottish essayist and historian

Carlyle uses this phrase in his The French Revolution: A History, Part 1, Book 1, ch. 2 (1.1.2) (1837), but brackets it in quotations, and prefaces it with "For indeed it is well said ...." Nevertheless, the phrase is often misattributed directly to Carlyle.

The second half of the phrase (and sometimes the whole thing) has also been misattributed to Johann von Goethe, as "The eye sees only what the eye brings means of seeing." This is not found in Goethe's work, but may be distorted from a line in the Prologue to Goethe's Faust: "Each one sees what he carries in his heart."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 22-Feb-24
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