Quotations about:
    progress


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Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be coworkers with God. And without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. So we must have time and realize that the time is always right to do right.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” National Cathedral, Washington, DC (31 Mar 1968)
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Added on 16-Jan-23 | Last updated 16-Jan-23
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All of our exalted technological progress, civilization for that matter, is comparable to an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
Letter to Heinrich Zangger (6 Dec 1917), in Collected Papers, Vol. 8, # 403 (1987) [tr. Hentschel]
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Added on 30-Nov-22 | Last updated 30-Nov-22
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The invention of gunpowder and the constant improvement of firearms are enough in themselves to show that the advance of civilization has done nothing practical to alter or deflect the impulse to destroy the enemy, which is central to the very idea of war.

[Die Erfindung des Pulvers, die immer weiter gehende Ausbildung des Feuergewehrs zeigen schon hinreichend, dase die in dem Begriff des Krieges liegende Tendenz zur Vernichtung des Gegners auch faktisch durch die zunehmende Bildung keineswegs gestört oder abgelenkt worden ist.]

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?],” § 3 (1.1.3) (1832) [tr. Howard & Paret (1984)]
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(Source (German)). Alternate translations:

The invention of gunpowder, the constant progress of improvements in the construction of firearms are sufficient proofs that the tendency to destroy the adversary which lies at the bottom of the conception of war, is in no way changed or modified through the progress of civilisation.
[tr. Graham (1874)]

The invention of gunpowder and the advances continually being made in the development of firearms, in themselves show clearly enough that the demand for the destruction of the enemy, inherent in the theoretical conception of war, has been in no way actually weakened or diverted by the advance of civilization
[tr. Jolles (1943)]

 
Added on 22-Nov-22 | Last updated 24-Jan-23
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The technologies which have had the most profound effects on human life are usually simple. A good example of a simple technology with profound historical consequences is hay. Nobody knows who invented hay, the idea of cutting grass in the autumn and storing it in large enough quantities to keep horses and cows alive through the winter. All we know is that the technology of hay was unknown to the Roman Empire but was known to every village of medieval Europe. Like many other crucially important technologies, hay emerged anonymously during the so-called Dark Ages. According to the Hay Theory of History, the invention of hay was the decisive event which moved the center of gravity of urban civilization from the Mediterranean basin to Northern and Western Europe. The Roman Empire did not need hay because in a Mediterranean climate the grass grows well enough in winter for animals to graze. North of the Alps, great cities dependent on horses and oxen for motive power could not exist without hay. So it was hay that allowed populations to grow and civilizations to flourish among the forests of Northern Europe. Hay moved the greatness of Rome to Paris and London, and later to Berlin and Moscow and New York.

Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson (1923-2020) English-American theoretical physicist, mathematician, futurist
Infinite in All Directions, Part 2, ch. 8 “Quick Is Beautiful” (1988)

Based on his Gifford Lectures, Aberdeen, Scotland (Apr-Nov 1985).
 
Added on 14-Nov-22 | Last updated 14-Nov-22
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You can’t always come up with the optimal solution, but you can usually come up with a better solution. A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence. Or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, “Huh. It works. It makes sense.” That doesn’t happen often, of course, but it happens.

Barack Obama (b. 1961) American politician, US President (2009-2017)
Quoted in William Finnegan, “The Candidate,” The New Yorker (31 May 2004)
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While a state senator in Illinois.
 
Added on 8-Nov-22 | Last updated 8-Nov-22
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Whenever you take a step forward you are bound to disturb something. You disturb the air as you go forward, you disturb the dust, the ground. You trample upon things. When a whole society moves forward this trampling is on a much bigger scale and each thing that you disturb, each vested interest which you want to remove, stands as an obstacle.

Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi (1917-1984) Indian politician
“Poverty: India’s Vital Problem,” speech, Madras University (Jan 1967)
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Added on 28-Oct-22 | Last updated 28-Oct-22
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Impatience and cutting corners: it’s the primate way. It got us down out of the trees and up to the top of the evolutionary heap as a species, which is a lot more like a slippery, mud-slick game of King of the Hill with stabbing encouraged than any kind of tidy Victorian great chain of being or ladder of creation.

Elizabeth Bear
Elizabeth Bear (b. 1971) American author [pseud. for Sarah Bear Elizabeth Wishnevsky]
Ancestral Night (2019)
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Added on 19-Oct-22 | Last updated 19-Oct-22
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Come, come, my conservative friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) American social activist, abolitionist, woman's suffragist
The Woman’s Bible, Part 1, Introduction (1895)
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Added on 6-Oct-22 | Last updated 6-Oct-22
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A Conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) US President (1933-1945)
Radio Address, New York Herald Tribune Forum (26 Oct 1939)
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Added on 21-Sep-22 | Last updated 21-Sep-22
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The greatest of sages can commit one mistake, but not two; he may fall into error, but he doesn’t lie down and make his home there.

[En un descuido puede caer el mayor sabio, pero en dos no; y de paso, que no de asiento.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 214 (1647) [tr. Maurer (1992)]
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(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translations:

The wisest man may very well fail once, but not twice; transiently, and by inadvertency, but not deliberately.
[Flesher ed. (1685)]

A wise man may make one slip but never two, and that only in running, not while standing still.
[tr. Jacobs (1892)]

The wisest of men may slip once, but not twice, and that only by chance, and not by design.
[tr. Fischer (1937)]

 
Added on 19-Sep-22 | Last updated 19-Dec-22
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If we had a reliable way to label our toys good and bad, it would be easy to regulate technology wisely. But we can rarely see far enough ahead to know which road leads to damnation. Whoever concerns himself with big technology, either to push it forward or to stop it, is gambling in human lives.

Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson (1923-2020) English-American theoretical physicist, mathematician, futurist
Disturbing the Universe, ch. 1 (1979)
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Added on 12-Sep-22 | Last updated 12-Sep-22
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Conservatives are always with us, they have been opposing change ever since the days of the cave-man. But, fortunately for mankind, they agitate in vain.

Amy Lowell (1874-1925) American poet
Tendencies in Modern American Poetry, Preface (1917)
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Added on 8-Sep-22 | Last updated 8-Sep-22
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Weep not that the world changes — did it keep
A stable, changeless state, ’twere cause indeed to weep.

William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) American poet and editor
“Sonnet — Mutation,” ll. 13-14 (1824)
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Added on 3-Sep-22 | Last updated 3-Sep-22
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When you are through changing, you are through.

Bruce Barton
Bruce Barton (1886-1967) American author, advertising executive, politician
Article Title, The American Magazine (1929?)
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Barton was a regular contributor to The American Magazine. Both the cited source (from 1929) and this suggest this was an article he contributed no later than 1929.

The saying has been misattributed to a number of more recent consultants, motivational speakers, etc.
 
Added on 5-Aug-22 | Last updated 5-Aug-22
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Living things tend to change unrecognizably as they grow. Who would deduce the dragonfly from the larva, the iris from the bud, the lawyer from the infant? Flora or fauna, we are all shape-shifters and magic reinventors. Life is really a plural noun, a caravan of selves.

Diane Ackerman (b. 1948) American poet, author, naturalist
Cultivating Delight; A Natural History of My Garden, ch. 6 (2001)
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Added on 1-Jul-22 | Last updated 1-Jul-22
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What threatens our security is not change but the inability to change; what threatens progress is not revolution but stagnation; what threatens our survival is not novel or dangerous ideas but the absence of ideas.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“The University and the Community of Learning,” speech, Kent State University, Ohio (10 Apr 1971)
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Added on 29-Jun-22 | Last updated 29-Jun-22
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Governments never lead; they follow progress. When the prison, stake or scaffold can no longer silence the voice of the protesting minority, progress moves on a step, but not until then.

Lucy Parsons
Lucy Parsons (1851-1942) American labor organizer, anarchist, orator [a.k.a. Lucy Gonzalez]
“The Principles of Anarchism,” lecture (1905)
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Added on 29-Jun-22 | Last updated 29-Jun-22
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Technological advance is rapid. But without progress in charity, technological advance is useless. Indeed, it is worse than useless. Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
Ends and Means: An Inquiry Into the Nature of Ideals, ch. 1 (1937)
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Added on 3-Jun-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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Democracy will win — because a government’s legitimacy can only come from citizens; because in this age of information and empowerment, people want more control over their lives, not less; and because, more than any other form of government ever devised, only democracy, rooted in the sanctity of the individual, can deliver real progress.

Barack Obama (b. 1961) American politician, US President (2009-2017)
Speech, Nordea Concert Hall, Tallinn, Estonia (3 Sep 2014)
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Added on 19-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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To me, good works are more important than theology. We all know that religion has been historically, and still is today, a cause of great evil as well as great good in human affairs. We have seen terrible wars and terrible persecutions conducted in the name of religion. We have also seen large numbers of people inspired by religion to lives of heroic virtue, bringing education and medical care to the poor, helping to abolish slavery and spread peace among nations. Religion amplifies the good and evil tendencies of individual souls. Religion will always remain a powerful force in the history of our species. To me, the meaning of progress in religion is simply this, that as we move from the past to the future the good works inspired by religion should more and more prevail over the evil.

Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson (1923-2020) English-American theoretical physicist, mathematician, futurist
“Progress in Religion,” speech accepting the Templeton Prize, Washington National Cathedral (9 May 2000)
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Added on 18-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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To arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man’s character one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours. Judged by the standards of one century, the noblest characters of an earlier one lose much of their luster; judged by the standards of today, there is probably no illustrious man of four or five centuries ago whose character could meet the test at all points.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Joan of Arc, “Translator’s Preface” (1860)
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Added on 25-Mar-22 | Last updated 25-Mar-22
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Progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, Book 1, ch. 5 “We Have Cause to be Uneasy” (1952)
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Originally broadcast on BBC Radio (27 Aug 1941) under the title "What Can We Do About It?" Reprinted first in Broadcast Talks (1943) (US title The Case for Christianity (1944)).
 
Added on 17-Mar-22 | Last updated 17-Mar-22
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Change does not necessarily assure progress, but progress implacably requires change.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“We Have Changed — and Must,” The New York Times Magazine (30 Apr 1961)
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Added on 16-Mar-22 | Last updated 16-Mar-22
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Loyalty … is a realization that America was born of revolt, flourished in dissent, became great through experimentation.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“Who Is Loyal to America?” Harper’s Magazine #1168 (Sep 1947)
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Reprinted in Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent (1954)
 
Added on 2-Mar-22 | Last updated 2-Mar-22
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Little by little, one travels far.

[Poco a poco se anda lejos.]

(Other Authors and Sources)
Spanish Proverb

Literally, "Little by little, one goes a long way." Sometimes misattributed to J. R. R. Tolkien.
 
Added on 24-Feb-22 | Last updated 24-Feb-22
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It’s impossible for men and women who love each other not to hurt each other now and then, but most women would settle happily for a man who tried not to cause the same hurt twice.

Merle Shain (1935-1989) Canadian journalist and author
Some Men Are More Perfect than Others (1973)
 
Added on 28-Jan-22 | Last updated 28-Jan-22
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Truths are first clouds, then rain, then harvests and food. The philosophy of one century is the common sense of the next. Men are called fools, in one age, for not knowing what they were called fools for averring in the age before.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Life Thoughts (1858)
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Added on 24-Jan-22 | Last updated 24-Jan-22
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If the road to social transformation can be paved only by saints who never make mistakes, the road will never be built.

Van Jones
Anthony Kapel "Van" Jones (b. 1968) American news commentator, author, lawyer
In Thomas L. Friedman, “The Green-Collar Solution,” New York Times (17 Oct 2007)
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Added on 20-Jan-22 | Last updated 20-Jan-22
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Those who are ahead of their time often have to wait for it in uncomfortable quarters.

Stanislaw Lec (1909-1966) Polish aphorist, poet, satirist
(Attributed)
 
Added on 4-Jan-22 | Last updated 4-Jan-22
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After our ages-long journey from savagery to civility, let’s hope we haven’t bought a round-trip ticket.

Cullen Hightower
Cullen Hightower (1923-2008) American writer, aphorist, salesman.
(Attributed)

Attributed in Forbes magazine (29 Mar 1993).
 
Added on 13-Dec-21 | Last updated 13-Dec-21
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The key to any progress is to ask the question Why? All the time. Why is that child poor? Why was there a war? Why was he killed? Why is he in power? And of course questions can get you into a lot of trouble, because society is trained by those who run it to accept what goes on. Without questions we won’t make any progress at all.

Tony Benn
Tony Benn (1925-2014) British politician, writer, diarist
Interview in Raoul Martinez, Creating Freedom: The Lottery of Birth (2013)
 
Added on 23-Nov-21 | Last updated 23-Nov-21
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Few match their fathers. Any tongue can tell
The more are worse: yea, almost none their sires excel.

[παῦροι γάρ τοι παῖδες ὁμοῖοι πατρὶ πέλονται,
οἱ πλέονες κακίους, παῦροι δέ τε πατρὸς ἀρείους.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 2, l. 276ff (2.276) [Athena to Telemachus] (c. 700 BC) [tr. Worsley (1861), st. 37]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

For few, that rightly bred on both sides stand,
Are like their parents, many that are worse,
And most few better. Those then that the nurse
Or mother call true-born yet are not so,
Like worthy sires much less are like to grow.
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

Few sons exceed or reach their father’s might,
But commonly inferior they are.
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 257ff]

Few sons attain the praise
Of their great sires, and most their sires disgrace.
[tr. Pope (1725)]

Few sons their fathers equal; most appear
Degenerate; but we find, though rare, sometimes
A son superior even to his Sire.
[tr. Cowper (1792)]

Few be the children equal to their father:
The most be worse: and few be better men.
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869)]

For few children, truly, are like their father; lo, the more part are worse, yet a few are better than the sire.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

Though not oft is the son meseemeth e'en such an one as his sire.
Worser they be for the more part, and a few may be better forsooth.
[tr. Morris (1887)]

Few sons are like their fathers; most are worse, few better than the father.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

Sons are seldom as good men as their fathers; they are generally worse, not better.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Few sons indeed are like their fathers; most are worse, few better than their fathers.
[tr. Murray (1919)]

Few are the sons who attain their fathers' stature: and very few surpass them. Most fall short in merit.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

Few sons, indeed, are like their fathers. Generally they are worse; but just a few are better.
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

The son is rare who measures with his father,
and one in a thousand is a better man.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]

For few are the children who turn out to be equals of their fathers,
and the greater number are worse; few are better than their father is.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]

Few sons are the equals of their fathers;
most fall short, all too few surpass them.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

You know, few sons turn out to be like their fathers;
Most turn out worse, a few better.
[tr. Lombardo (2000), ll. 300-301]

It is a truth that few sons are the equal of their fathers; most are inferior to their father, and few surpass them.
[tr. Verity (2016), l. 276]

And it is rare for sons to be like fathers;
only a few are better, most are worse.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

It’s true few men
are like their fathers. Most of them are worse.
Only very few of them are better.
[tr. Johnston (2019), l. 373ff]

 
Added on 10-Nov-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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Everyone loves the Revolution. We only disagree on whether it has occurred.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
“Vectors: 56 Aphorisms and Ten-second Essays,” Michigan Quarterly Review, # 8 (Spring 1999)
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Added on 28-Sep-21 | Last updated 28-Sep-21
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Good news goes unnoticed. This is a well-known property of the press in the free world. Improvements are never dramatic. Life improves slowly and goes wrong fast, and only catastrophe is clearly visible.

Edward Teller (1908-2003) Hungarian-American theoretical physicist
The Pursuit of Simplicity (1980)
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Added on 24-Sep-21 | Last updated 24-Sep-21
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We were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted to battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses.

Robert Ardrey (1908-1980) American playwright, screenwriter and science writer
African Genesis: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man (1961)
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Added on 22-Sep-21 | Last updated 22-Sep-21
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Contumely always falls upon those who break through some custom or convention. Such men, in fact, are called criminals. Everyone who overthrows an existing law is, at the start, regarded as a wicket man. Long afterward, when it is found that this law was bad and so cannot be re-established, the epithet is changed. All history treats almost exclusively of wicked men who, in the course of time, have come to be looked upon as good men. All progress is the result of successful crimes.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher and poet
The Dawn [Morgenröte], sec. 20 (1881) [Mencken (1907)]
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Alternate translations:

We have to make good a great deal of the contumely which has fallen on all those who, by their actions, have broken through the conventionality of some custom -- such people generally have been called criminals. Everybody who overthrew the existing moral law has hitherto, at least in the beginning, been considered a wicked man; but when afterwards, as sometimes happened, the old law could not be re-established and had to be abandoned, the epithet was gradually changed. History almost exclusively treats of such wicked men who, in the course of time, have been declared good men.
[tr. Volz (1903)]

One has to take back much of the defamation which people have cast upon all those who broke through the spell of a custom by means of a deed -- in general, they are called criminals. Whoever has overthrown an existing law of custom has hitherto always first been accounted a bad man: but when, as did happen the laws could not afterwards be reinstated and this fact was accepted, the predicate gradually changed -- history treats almost exclusively of these bad men who subsequently became good men!
[tr. Hollingdale (1997)]

 
Added on 20-Sep-21 | Last updated 20-Sep-21
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The nation faces forward. It is made and remade every day. If we believe that the nation resides in the orderly recitations of history given to us by our leaders, then our story is over.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
The Red Prince, “Orange: European Revolutions” (2008)
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Added on 15-Sep-21 | Last updated 15-Sep-21
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Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach anything better.

Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) English social reformer, statistician, founder of modern nursing
Cassandra (1860)
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Added on 9-Sep-21 | Last updated 9-Sep-21
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All citizens do have a measure of control, at least in democracies where their votes are counted, of how they belong to their nations. Perhaps they will have more confidence in unconventional choices if they see that each nation’s founders were disobedient and unpredictable, men and women of imagination and ambition. The steel of every national monument was once molten.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
The Red Prince, “Orange: European Revolutions” (2008)
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Added on 8-Sep-21 | Last updated 8-Sep-21
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I am certainly not an advocate for frequent & untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. but I know also that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. as that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. we might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilised society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to “Henry Tompkinson” (Samuel Kercheval) (12 Jul 1816)
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Inscribed (elided) on southeast side of the Jefferson Memorial:

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as a civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
 
Added on 2-Sep-21 | Last updated 4-Jul-22
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Hence it is that, though in every age everybody knows that up to his own time progressive improvement has been taking place, nobody seems to reckon on any improvement during the next generation. We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days. But so said all before us, and with just as much apparent reason.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
“Southey’s Colloquies on Society,” Edinburgh Review (1830)
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Review of Robert Southey, Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829).
 
Added on 26-Jul-21 | Last updated 26-Jul-21
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As people age, they confuse changes in themselves with changes in the world, and changes in the world with moral decline — the illusion of the good old days. And so every generation believes that the kids today are degrading the language and taking civilization down with it.

Steven Pinker (b. 1954) Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, author
The Sense of Style, Prologue (2014)
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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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I hold it blasphemy to say that a man ought not to fight against authority: there is no great religion and no great freedom that has not done it, in the beginning.

George Eliot (1819-1880) English novelist [pseud. of Mary Ann Evans]
Felix Holt, the Radical, ch. 46 (1866)
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Conformity may give you a quiet life; it may even bring you to a University Chair. But all change in history, all advance, comes from the nonconformists. If there had been no trouble-makers, no Dissenters, we should still be living in caves.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
“The Radical Tradition: Fox, Paine, and Cobbett,” The Trouble Makers: Dissent over Foreign Policy, 1792–1939 (1969)
 
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That is, natural selection built the brain to survive in the world and only incidentally to understand it at a depth greater than is needed to survive. The proper task of scientists is to diagnose and correct the misalignment.

E. O. Wilson (1929-2021) American biologist, naturalist, writer [Edward Osborne Wilson]
Consilience, ch. 4 (1998)
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And speech he has learned, and thought
So swift, and the temper of mind
To dwell within cities, and not to lie bare
Amid the keen, biting frosts
Or cower beneath pelting rain;
Full of resource against all that comes to him
is Man. Against Death alone
He is left with no defence.

[καὶ φθέγμα καὶ ἀνεμόεν φρόνημα καὶ ἀστυνόμους
ὀργὰς ἐδιδάξατο καὶ δυσαύλων
πάγων ὑπαίθρεια καὶ δύσομβρα φεύγειν βέλη
παντοπόρος: ἄπορος ἐπ᾽ οὐδὲν ἔρχεται
τὸ μέλλον: Ἅιδα μόνον φεῦξιν οὐκ ἐπάξεται.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 354ff, Stasimon 1, Strophe 2 [Chorus] (441 BC) [tr. Kitto (1962)]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Language and lofty thought,
And dispositions meet for order'd cities,
These he hath taught himself; -- and how to shun
The shafts of comfortless winter, --
Both those which smite when the sky is clear,
And those which fall in showers; --
with plans for all things,
Planless in nothing, meets he the future!
Of death alone the avoidance
No foreign aid will bring.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

Speech and the wind-swift speed of counsel and civic wit,
He hath learnt for himself all these; and the arrowy rain to fly
And the nipping airs that freeze, 'neath the open winter sky.
He hath provision for all: fell plague he hath learnt to endure;
Safe whate'er may befall: yet for death he hath found no cure.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

Wise utterance and wind-swift thought, and city-moulding mind,
And shelter from the clear-eyed power of biting frost,
He hath taught him, and to shun the sharp, roof-penetrating rain, --
Full of resource, without device he meets no coming time;
From Death alone he shall not find reprieve;
No league may gain him that relief.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

Speech and thought fast as the wind and the moods that give order to a city he has taught himself, and how to flee the arrows of the inhospitable frost under clear skies and the arrows of the storming rain. He has resource for everything. Lacking resource in nothing he strides towards what must come. From Death alone he shall procure no escape.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

And speech, and wind-swift thought, and all the moods that mould a state, hath he taught himself; and how to flee the arrows of the frost, when 'tis hard lodging under the clear sky, and the arrows of the rushing rain; yea, he hath resource for all; without resource he meets nothing that must come: only against Death shall he call for aid in vain.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

Words also, and thought as rapid as air,
He fashions to his good use; statecraft is his,
And his the skill that deflects the arrows of snow,
The spears of winter rain: from every wind
He has made himself secure -- from all but one:
In the late wind of death he cannot stand.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939)]

The use of language, the wind-swift motion of brain
He learnt; found out the laws of living together
In cities, building him shelter against the rain
And wintry weather.
There is nothing beyond his power. His subtlety
Meeteth all chance, all danger conquereth.
For every ill he hath found its remedy,
Save only death.
[tr. Watling (1947), l. 295ff]

Language, and thought like the wind
and the feelings that make the town,
he has taught himself, and shelter against the cold,
refuge from rain. He can always help himself.
He faces no future helpless. There's only death
that he cannot find an escape from.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

And speech and thought, quick as the wind
and the mood and mind for law that rules the city --
all these he has taught himself
and shelter from the arrows of the frost
when there's rough lodging under the cold clear sky
and the shafts of lashing rain --
ready, resourceful man!
Never without resources
never an impasse as he marches on the future --
only Death, from Death alone he will find no rescue.
[tr. Fagles (1982)]

Language and a mind swift as the wind
For making plans --
These he has taught himself --
And the character to live in cities under law.
He's learned to take cover from a frost
And escape sharp arrows of sleet.
He has the means to handle every need,
Never steps toward the future without the means.
Except for Death: He's got no relief from that.
[tr. Woodruff (2001)]

Both language and thought swift as wind
and impulses that govern cities,
he has taught himself, as well as how
to escape the shafts of rain
while encamped beneath open skies.
All resourceful, he approaches no future thing
to come without resource. From Hades alone
he will not contrive escape.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

And man has learnt speech and thought, swifter than the wind he mastered
And learnt to govern his cities well
And this omniscient being has learnt how to avoid the blasts of the wild open air: the arrows of the freezing night, the dreadful wind driven piercing gale!
He’s prepared for all events bar Death and from Death he can find no escape.
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

He’s taught himself speech and wind-swift thought,
trained his feelings for communal civic life,
learning to escape the icy shafts of frost,
volleys of pelting rain in winter storms,
the harsh life lived under the open sky.
That’s man -- so resourceful in all he does.
There’s no event his skill cannot confront --
other than death -- that alone he cannot shun.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 405ff]

He taught himself language and wind-like thought and city-ruling urges, how to flee the slings of frost under winter's clear sky and the arrows of stormy rain, ever-resourceful. Against no possibility is he at a loss. For death alone he finds no aid.
[tr. Thomas (2005)]

 
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It is not sufficient that the state of affairs which we seek to promote should be better than the state of affairs which preceded it; it must be sufficiently better to make up for the evils of the transition.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
“The Political Doctrines of Edmund Burke” (1904)
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Truths that startled the generation in which they were first announced become in the next age the commonplaces of conversation; as the famous airs of operas which thrilled the first audiences come to be played on hand-organs in the streets.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Table-Talk”
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Two things have always been true about human beings. One, the world is always getting better. Two, the people living at that time think it’s getting worse. It’s because you get older, your responsibilities are different. Now I’m taking care of children instead of being a child. It makes the world look scarier. That happens to everyone.

Penn Jillette (b. 1955) American stage magician, actor, musician, author
“Honest Questions with Penn Jillette,” Interview by Glen Beck, CNN (2 Nov 2007)
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Human nature, if it changes at all, changes not much faster than the geological face of the earth.

Alexander Solzhenitsen (1918-2008) Russian novelist, emigre [Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn]
The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1 (1973) [tr. Whitney]
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Don’t ask a writer what he’s working on. It’s like asking someone with cancer about the progress of his disease.

Jay McInerney (b. 1955) American novelist, screenwriter, editor [John Barrett McInerney, Jr.]
Brightness Falls, ch. 1 (1985)
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Artists and scientists realize that no solution is ever final, but that each new creative step points the way to the next artistic or scientific problem. In contrast, those who embrace religious revelations and delusional systems tend to see them as unshakeable and permanent.

Anthony Storr (1920-2001) English psychiatrist and author
Feet of Clay: Saints, Sinners and Madmen, Introduction (1996)
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Religious believers of the world, you are free to continue to debate the simple, narrow question that divides you from atheists, but you have no right, in so doing, to treat the Humanists of the world with contempt. You owe them a deep debt of gratitude, for not only have they shed much light on a naturally dark world but they have very probably helped civilize your own specific religion.

Steve Allen (1922-2000) American composer, entertainer, and wit.
Vulgarians at the Gate (2001)
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I don’t long for the good old days when there was no servant problem. Back in those days, I’d have been a servant.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
(Attributed)
 
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