Quotations about   simplicity

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Above all, the search after truth and its eager pursuit are peculiar to man. And so, when we have leisure from the demands of business cares, we are eager to see, to hear, to learn something new, and we esteem a desire to know the secrets or wonders of creation as indispensable to a happy life. Thus we come to understand that what is true, simple, and genuine appeals most strongly to a man’s nature.

[In primisque hominis est propria veri inquisitio atque investigatio. Itaque cum sumus necessariis negotiis curisque vacui, tum avemus aliquid videre, audire, addiscere cognitionemque rerum aut occultarum aut admirabilium ad beate vivendum necessarian! ducimus. Ex quo intellegitur, quod verum, simplex sincerumque sit, id esse naturae hominis aptissimum.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 4 / sec. 13 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
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Original Latin. Alt. trans.:

But of all the properties and inclinations of men, there is none more natural and peculiar to them than an earnest desire and search after truth. Hence it is that our minds are no sooner free from the thoughts and engagements of necessary business, but we presently long to be either seeing, or hearing, or learning of something; and esteem the knowledge of things secret and wonderful as a necessary ingredient of a happy life. Whence it appears that nothing is more agreeable and suited to the nature and minds of men than undisguised openness, truth, and sincerity.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

The desire and investigation of truth is proper to man. When disengaged from necessary business and cares, we are eager to add to our knowledge by examining for ourselves or listening to others. The discovery of what is secret or wonderful, we are disposed to conceive essential to happiness. Hence, what is true, simple, and undisguised, is best adapted to human nature.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

The distinguishing property of man is to search for and to follow after truth. Therefore, when relaxed from our necessary cares and concerns, we then covet to see, to hear, and to learn somewhat; and we esteem knowledge of things either obscure or wonderful to be the indispensable means of living happily. From this we understand that truth, simplicity, and candour, are most agreeable to the nature of mankind.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

The research and investigation of truth, also, are a special property of man. Thus, when we are free from necessary occupations, we want to see, or hear, or learn something, and regard the knowledge of things either secret or wonderful as essential to our living happily and well.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]
Added on 4-Jan-21 | Last updated 4-Jan-21
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To my mind, simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.

Coco Chanel (1883-1971) French dress designer [Gabrielle Chanel]
(Attributed)
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Added on 20-Nov-20 | Last updated 20-Nov-20
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It is necessary that we too should see the beam in our own eyes, and learn to distinguish between the Christianity of the nineteenth century and the religion of Christ. If we find that the Christianity of the nineteenth century does not win as many hearts in India and China as it ought, let us remember that it was the Christianity of the first century in all its dogmatic simplicity, but with its overpowering love of God and man, that conquered the world and superseded religions and philosophies, more difficult to conquer than the religious and philosophical systems of Hindus and Buddhists.

Max Müller (1823-1900) German-British philologist, Orientalist, religious studies founder
Chips from a German Workshop, Preface (1866)
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Added on 6-Nov-20 | Last updated 6-Nov-20
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Code is like humor. When you have to explain it, it’s bad.

Cory House (contemp.) American software architect, speaker, author
Twitter (12 Nov 2013)
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Added on 30-Sep-20 | Last updated 30-Sep-20
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Everything we possess that is not necessary for life or happiness becomes a burden, and scarcely a day passes that we do not add to it.

Robert Brault (b. c. 1945) American aphorist, programmer
(Attributed)
Added on 22-Sep-20 | Last updated 22-Sep-20
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The supreme crime of the church to-day is that everywhere and in all its operations and influences it is on the side of sloth of mind; that it banishes brains, it sanctifies stupidity, it canonizes incompetence.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
The Profits of Religion, Book Two: “The Church of Good Society,” “The Canonization of Incompetence” (1917)
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Added on 13-Aug-20 | Last updated 13-Aug-20
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Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, but the very foundation of refinement: a sanded floor and whitewashed walls, and the green trees, and flowery meads, and living waters outside; or a grimy palace amid the smoke with a regiment of housemaids always working to smear the dirt together so that it may be unnoticed; which, think you, is the most refined, the most fit for a gentleman of those two dwellings?

William Morris (1834-1896) British textile designer, writer, socialist activist
“The Prospects of Architecture in Civilization,” speech, London (10 Mar 1880)
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Added on 19-Feb-20 | Last updated 19-Feb-20
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A little smile, a word of cheer,
A bit of love from someone near,
A little gift from one held dear,
Best wishes for the coming year–
These make a Merry Christmas!

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892) American poet and abolitionist
(Attributed)
Added on 16-Dec-19 | Last updated 16-Dec-19
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A lot of this was beyond him, but to people like Ridcully this didn’t matter for very long. Ridcully was simple-minded. This doesn’t mean stupid. It just meant that he could only think properly about things if he cut away all the complicated bits around the edges.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Reaper Man, ch. 17 (1991)
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Added on 5-May-19 | Last updated 5-May-19
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What do you suppose makes all men look back to the time of childhood with so much regret (if their childhood has been, in any moderate degree, healthy or peaceful)? That rich charm, which the least possession had for us, was in consequence of the poorness of our treasures. That miraculous aspect of the nature around us, was because we had seen little, and knew less. Each increased possession loads us with a new weariness; every piece of new knowledge diminishes the faculty of admiration; and Death is at last appointed to take us from a scene in which, if we were to stay longer, no gift could satisfy us, and no miracle surprise.

John Ruskin (1819-1900) English art critic, painter, writer, social thinker
The Eagle’s Nest, Lecture 5 “The Power of Contentment in Science and Art,” Sec. 82 (22 Feb 1872)
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Added on 15-Feb-18 | Last updated 15-Feb-18
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The wisest man could ask no more of Fate
Than to be simple, modest, manly, true,
Safe from the Many, honored by the Few;
To count as naught in World, or Church, or State,
But inwardly in secret to be great.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) American diplomat, essayist, poet
“Jeffries Wyman,” The Nation #484 (8 Oct 1874)
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Added on 20-Jun-17 | Last updated 30-Jun-17
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In character, in manners, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
Kavanagh: A Tale (1849)
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Added on 6-Jun-17 | Last updated 6-Jun-17
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“Simple things are never problems,” I told her. “Unfortunate, maybe, but if it isn’t complicated, it isn’t really a problem.”

The Goddess nodded. “Very good, Vlad; I didn’t expect such wisdom from you.”

I grunted and didn’t tell her I was quoting my grandfather; I’d rather she stayed impressed.

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
Issola (2001)
Added on 9-Sep-16 | Last updated 9-Sep-16
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A refined simplicity is the characteristic of all high bred deportment, in every country.

James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) American novelist
The American Democrat (1838)
Added on 5-Feb-16 | Last updated 5-Feb-16
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Like many men of genius, he could not understand why things obvious to him should not be so at once to other people, and found it easier to believe that they were corrupt than that they could be so stupid.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
The Apple Cart, Preface (1928)
Added on 26-Feb-15 | Last updated 26-Feb-15
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In scientific thought we adopt the simplest theory which will explain all the facts under consideration and enable us to predict new facts of the same kind. The catch in this criterion lies in the word “simplest.” It is really an aesthetic canon such as we find implicit in our criticisms of poetry or painting.

J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964) English geneticist [John Burden Sanderson Haldane]
“Science and Theology as Art Forms,” Possible Worlds and Other Papers (1927)
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Added on 31-Oct-14 | Last updated 31-Oct-14
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Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge, somewhere that demands travel or effort. Chances are the words that come into your head will do fine, e.g., “horse”, “ran”, “said”.

Roddy Doyle (b. 1958) Irish novelist, dramatist, screenwriter
In “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction,” The Guardian (20 Feb 2010)
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Added on 29-May-14 | Last updated 29-May-14
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Simple pleasures are the last refuge of the complex.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, wit, dramatist
(Attributed)

After Johnson.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Jun-16
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The inexperienced, and crackpots, and people like that, make guesses that are simple, but you can immediately see that they are wrong, so that does not count. Others, the inexperienced students, make guesses that are very complicated, and it sort of looks as if it is all right, but I know it is not true because the truth always turns out to be simpler than you thought.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
The Character of Physical Law, ch 7 “Seeking New Laws” (1965)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Jan-20
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G’KAR: By G’Quon I can’t recall the last time I was in a fight like that! No moral ambiguity, no hopeless battle against ancient and overwhelming forces. They were the bad guys, as you say, and we were the good guys! And they made a very satisfying thump when they hit the floor!

J. Michael (Joe) Straczynski (b. 1954) American screenwriter, producer, author [a/k/a "JMS"]
Babylon 5, 3×13 “A Late Delivery from Avalon” (22 Apr 1996)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Jul-20
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