Quotations about   skeptic

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The dividing line between those who want to think and therefore have to judge by themselves, and those who do not, strikes across all social and cultural or educational differences. In this respect, the total moral collapse of respectable society during the Hitler regime may teach us that under such circumstances those who cherish values and hold fast to moral norms and standards are not reliable: we now know that moral norms and standards can be changed overnight, and that all that then will be left is the mere habit of holding fast to something. Much more reliable will be the doubters and skeptics, not because skepticism is good or doubting wholesome, but because they are used to examine things and to make up their own minds. Best of all will be those who know only one thing for certain: that whatever else happens, as long as we live we shall have to live together with ourselves.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
“Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship” (1964)
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Added on 4-Aug-20 | Last updated 4-Aug-20
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O God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul!

Other Authors and Sources
Anonymous Soldier, Battle of Blenheim (31 Aug 1704)

Also given as "Oh, God, if there is one, save my soul, if I have one."

The original printed source for this quote appears to be in William King (1685-1763), Political and Literary Anecdotes of His Own Times (1761), who quotes William Wyndham (1688-1740) claiming it "the shortest prayer he had ever heard," given by a common soldier prior to the Battle of Blenheim.

Also attributed to:
  • Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899), without citation, supposedly on his deathbed, sometimes with the final phrase "... from hell, if there be a hell!"
  • Ernest Renan (1823-1892) as "The Agnostic's Prayer" or "Prayer of a Skeptic [Prière d'un sceptique]" ("Ô Seigneur, s'il y a un Seigneur; sauvez mon âme, si j'ai une âme.")
  • Frederick the Great (1712-1786), in M. Goldsmith, Frederick the Great (1929), without citation.
  • Voltaire (1694-1778), without citation.
Added on 29-May-17 | Last updated 29-May-17
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The cynic suffers the form of faith without love. Incredulity is his piety.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays (2001) # 16
Added on 11-Dec-15 | Last updated 11-Dec-15
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It is always easier to believe than to deny. Our minds are naturally affirmative.

John Burroughs (1837-1921) American naturalist
The Light of Day, “The Modern Skeptic” (1900)
Added on 20-Feb-15 | Last updated 20-Feb-15
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Skepticism is the beginning of faith.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, wit, dramatist
The Picture of Dorian Gray, ch. 17 (1891)

See also Emerson, Hesse, Tennyson.
Added on 8-Aug-14 | Last updated 29-Aug-14
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We must be skeptical even of our skepticism.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Sceptical Essays, ch. 11 (1928)
Added on 25-Jul-14 | Last updated 25-Jul-14
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I am driven to express my faith by a series of skepticisms.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1845)
Added on 11-Jul-14 | Last updated 11-Jul-14
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True science and true religion are twin-sisters, and the separation of either from the other is sure to prove the death of both. Science prospers exactly in proportion as it is religious; and religion flourishes in exact proportion to the scientific depth and firmness of its basis. The great deeds of philosophers have been less the fruit of their intellect than of the direction of that intellect by an eminently religious tone of mind. Truth has yielded herself rather to heir patience, their love, their single-heartedness, and their self-denial, than to their logical acumen. And all the reformations in religion–all the steps by which the creeds you hold have been brought to that comparative purity and truth in which you justly glory–have been due essentially to the growth of the scientific spirit, to the ever-increasing confidence of the intellect in itself — and its incessantly repeated refusals to bow down blindly to what it had discovered to be mere idols, any more. It is above all things needful for you, working men, to note these truths. For with the limited time, and the limited means for study at your disposal, you run the risk of flying to one of two extremes–bigoted orthodoxy, or conceited scepticism.

T. H. Huxley (1825-1895) English biologist [Thomas Henry Huxley]
Lecture, “Science and Religion” (Dec 1858)
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Quoted in The Government School of Mines, The Builder (Jan 1859). Quoted in Herbert Spencer, Education: Intellectual, Moral, Physical, ch. 1 (1860)
Added on 24-Jan-14 | Last updated 24-Jan-14
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The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality of happiness, and by no means a necessity of life.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
Androcles and the Lion, Preface (1912)
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Added on 9-Jul-04 | Last updated 27-Oct-20
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They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 3, ch. 4 (1605)
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Alt trans: "[They] are indolent discoverers who seeing nothing beyond but sea and sky, absolutely deny there can be any land beyond them."

Another source notes it as Book 2, ch. 7.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Aug-16
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