Quotations about   self-awareness

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It is by means of my vices that I understand yours.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (Spring-Summer 1844)
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He recorded this phrase multiple times, including in his lecture, "The Anglo-American" (7 Dec 1852), and Notebook S Salvage.
Added on 16-Apr-19 | Last updated 16-Apr-19
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I must intreat your patience — your gentle hearing. I am not going to question your opinions. I am not going to meddle with your belief. I am not going to dictate to you mine. All that I say is, examine; enquire. Look into the nature of things. Search out the ground of your opinions, the for and the against. Know why you believe, understand what you believe, and possess a reason for the faith that is in you.

Frances "Fanny" Wright (1795-1852) Scottish-American writer, lecturer, social reformer
A Course of Popular Lectures, Lecture 3 “Of the more Important Divisions and Essential Parts of Knowledge” (1829)
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Although men are accused for not knowing their own weakness, yet perhaps as few know their own strength. It is in men as in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold which the owner knows not of.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
Thoughts on Various Subjects (1706)
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Added on 20-Mar-18 | Last updated 20-Mar-18
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Man is so built that he cannot imagine his own death. This leads to endless invention of religions. While this conviction by no means proves immortality to be a fact, questions generated by it are overwhelmingly important. The nature of life, how ego hooks into the body, the problem of ego itself and why each ego seems to be the center of the universe, the purpose of life, the purpose of the universe — these are paramount questions, Ben; they can never be trivial. Science hasn’t solved them — and who am I to sneer at religions for trying, no matter how unconvincingly to me? Old Mumbo Jumbo may eat me yet; I can’t rule him out because he owns no fancy cathedrals. Nor can I rule out one godstruck boy leading a sex cult in an upholstered attic; he might be the Messiah. The only religious opinion I feel sure of is this: self-awareness is not just a bunch of amino acids bumping together!

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Stranger in a Strange Land, Part 4, ch. 33 [Jubal] (1961)
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In the "uncut" original version (1960): "Self-aware man is so built that he cannot believe in his own extinction ... and this automatically leads to endless invention of religions. While this involuntary conviction of immortality by no means proves immortality to be a fact, the questions generated by this conviction are overwhelmingly important ... whether we can answer them or not, or prove what answers we suspect. The nature of life, how the ego hooks into the physical body, the problem of the ego itself and why each ego seems to be the center of the universe, the purpose of life, the purpose of the universe -- these are paramount questions Ben; they can never be trivial. Science can't, or hasn't, coped with any of them -- and who am I to sneer at religions for trying to answer them, no matter how unconvincingly to me? Old Mumbo Jumbo may eat me yet; I can't rule Him out because He owns no fancy cathedrals. Nor can I rule out one godstruck boy leading a sex cult in an upholstered attic; he might be the Messiah. The only religious opinion that I feel sure of is this: self-awareness is not just a bunch of amino acids bumping together!"
Added on 11-Aug-17 | Last updated 11-Aug-17
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In self-examination, take no account of yourself by your thoughts and resolutions in the days of religion and solemnity; examine how it is with you in the days of ordinary conversation and in the circumstances of secular employment.

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) English cleric and author
(Attributed)
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Quoted in The Friends' Intelligencer (24 Jun 1882).
Added on 18-Jul-17 | Last updated 18-Jul-17
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Every man has three characters — that which he exhibits, that which he has, and that which he thinks he has.

Alphonse Karr (1808-1890) French journalist and novelist
A Tour Round My Garden [Voyage autour de mon jardin] (1851)
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Added on 25-Apr-17 | Last updated 2-May-17
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I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.

Burroughs - entirely of flaws - wist_info quote

Augusten Burroughs (b. 1965) American writer
Magical Thinking (2004)
Added on 12-Aug-16 | Last updated 12-Aug-16
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Some of you are really smart. You know who you are.

Some of you are really thick. Unfortunately, you don’t know who you are.

Ricky Gervais (b. 1961) English comedian, actor, director, writer
Twitter (20 Jan 2013)
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Added on 21-Jul-16 | Last updated 21-Jul-16
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In youth, the years stretch before one so long that it is hard to realize that they will ever pass, and even in middle age, with the ordinary expectation of life in these days, it is easy to find excuses for delaying what one would like to do but does not want to; but at last a time comes when death must be considered.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
The Summing Up, ch. 3 (1938)
Added on 22-Jun-16 | Last updated 22-Jun-16
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It is a sad fate for a man to die
Too well known to everybody else,
And still unknown to himself.

[Illi mors gravis incubate
Qui notus nimis omnibus
Ignotus moritur sibi.]

Seneca - still unknown to himself - wist_info quote

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Thyestes, ll. 401-403 [tr. Bacon]

Lines from the Chorus translated by Francis Bacon, in "Of Great Place," Essays, Part 11. Sometimes incorrectly attributed to Bacon.
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The world is full of fools, and he who would not wish to see one must not only shut himself up alone, but also break his looking glass.

Boileau - break his looking glass - wist_info quote

Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux (1636-1711) French poet and critic
(Attributed)

A variant is also attributed to Charles le Petit (1640-1625), Discours satiriques (1686).
Added on 17-Mar-16 | Last updated 17-Mar-16
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How ridiculous is Caesar and Bonaparte wandering from one extreme of civilization to the other to conquer men — himself, the while, unconquered, unexplored, almost wholly unsuspected to himself?

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Trust Yourself,” sermon (1830)
Added on 10-Feb-16 | Last updated 10-Feb-16
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If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.

Herman Hesse (1877-1962) German-born Swiss poet, novelist, painter
Demian, ch. 6 (1919)
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Although men are accused of not knowing their own weakness, yet perhaps as few know their own strength. It is in men as in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold, which the owner knows not of.

Swift - vein of gold - wist_info

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)
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Added on 29-Oct-15 | Last updated 3-Jun-16
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If evil Men speak good, or good Men evil of thee; examine thy Actions, and suspect thyself.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Introductio ad Prudentiam, #1252 (1731)
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I frankly admit to not knowing who I am. This is why I refuse to buy clothes that will tell people who I want them to think I am.

Russell Baker (b. 1925) American journalist, author, humorist
“Talking Clothes,” So This Is Depravity (1973)
Added on 15-Apr-15 | Last updated 15-Apr-15
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To be idle and to be poor have always been reproaches, and therefore every man endeavours with his utmost care to hide his poverty from others, and his idleness from himself.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Idler, #17 (5 Aug 1758)
Added on 20-Jun-14 | Last updated 20-Jun-14
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Nor can a man dupe others long, who has not duped himself first.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1852)
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Often rendered: "A man cannot dupe others long, who has not duped himself first."
Added on 26-Nov-13 | Last updated 26-Nov-13
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Half myself mocks the other half.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 14-Oct-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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The best reformers the world haz ever seen are thoze who commense on themselves.

[The best reformers the world has ever seen are those who commence on themselves.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Nosegays” (1874)
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No man is happy who does not think himself so.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 584
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I do now remember a saying,
‘The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man
knows himself to be a fool.’

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
As You Like It, Act 5, sc. 1, l. 31 [Touchstone] (1599)
Added on 12-May-04 | Last updated 20-May-16
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Laugh at yourself first, before anyone else can.

Elsa Maxwell (1883-1963) American gossip columnist, author, songwriter, professional hostess
Column (28 Sep 1958)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 30-Mar-16
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Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
(Attributed)
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O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion ….

Robert Burns (1759-1796) Scottish national poet
“To a Louse,” l.43-46 (1786)

The poem is reprinted in various forms and anglicizations of Burns' Scottish, e.g.,

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An foolish notion

O would some Power the gift to give us
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 18-Aug-17
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We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
Kavanagh: A Tale, ch. 1 (1849)
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Everyone should be prepared at times to re-examine the foundations of their beliefs, to view the world from others’ perspectives, and to seriously consider the possibility that what they accept as the Absolute Truth may, in fact, not be true at all — except me, of course, because I know I’m right.

John Russell (contemp.) ("jr")
Belief-L
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Feb-19
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POLONIUS: This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Shakespare - to thine own self be true - wist_info quote

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Hamlet, Act 1, sc. 3, ll. 78-80 [Polonius] (1600)
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BRAIN, n. An apparatus with which we think we think.

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