Quotations about   subjectivity

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You submit to tyranny when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case. This renunciation of reality can feel natural and pleasant, but the result is your demise as an individual — and thus the collapse of any political system that depends upon individualism.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017)
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Added on 28-Apr-21 | Last updated 28-Apr-21
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By convention sweet is sweet, by convention bitter is bitter, by convention hot is hot, by convention cold is cold, by convention color is color. But in reality there are atoms and the void. That is, the objects of sense are supposed to be real and it is customary to regard them as such, but in truth they are not. Only the atoms and the void are real.

[νόμωι (γάρ φησι) γλυκὺ καὶ νόμωι πικρόν, νόμωι θερμόν, νόμωι ψυχρόν, νόμωι χροιή, ἐτεῆι δὲ ἄτομα καὶ κενόν]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 0 (Diels) [tr. Bakewell (1907)]
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Cited to Tetralogies of Thrasyllus, 9; Sext. Emp. Math VII 135. Alternate translations:

  • "Sweet exists by convention, bitter by convention, colour by convention; atoms and Void (alone) exist in reality ... We know nothing accurately in reality, but (only) as it changes according to the bodily condition, and the constitution of those things that flow upon (the body) and impinge upon it." [tr. Freeman (1948), frag. 9]
  • "By convention sweet is sweet, bitter is bitter, hot is hot, cold is cold, color is color; but in truth there are only atoms and the void." [tr. Durant, from Bakewell]
Added on 22-Dec-20 | Last updated 23-Feb-21
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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Margaret Wolfe Hungerford (1855-1897) Irish novelist
Molly Bawn (1878)
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The first formulation of this precise phrase in print. The speaker "quotes" the words, as the sentiment was already widespread (believed to have originated from Hume).
Added on 23-Sep-20 | Last updated 23-Sep-20
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Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may even perceive deformity, where another is sensible of beauty; and every individual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those of others.

David Hume (1711-1776) Scottish philosopher, economist, historian, empiricist
“Of the Standard of Taste” (1739)
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Added on 16-Sep-20 | Last updated 16-Sep-20
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It was always my hope in writing novels and stories which asked the question, “what is reality?”, to someday get an answer. This was the hope of most of my readers, too. Years passed. I wrote over thirty novels and over a hundred stories and I still couldn’t figure out what was real. One day a girl college student in Canada asked me to define reality for her, for a paper she was writing for her philosophy class. She wanted a one-sentence answer. I thought about it and finally said, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” That’s all I could come up with. That was back in 1972. Since then I haven’t been able to define reality any more lucidly.

Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) American writer
“How To Build A Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later” (1978)
Added on 18-Jan-19 | Last updated 18-Jan-19
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In fact we say that an intention is good, that is, right in itself, but that an action does not bear any good in itself but proceeds from a good intention. Whence when the same thing is done by the same man at different times, by the diversity of his intention, however, his action is now said to be good, now bad.

Bonam quippe intentionem, hoc est, rectam in se dicimus, operationem vero non quod boni aliquid in se suscipiat, sed quod ex bona intentione procedat. Unde et ab eodem homine cum in diversis temporibus idem fiat, pro diversitate tamen intentione eius operatio modo bono modo mala dicitur.

Peter Abelard (1079-1142) French philosopher, theologian, logician [Pierre Abélard]
Ethics [Ethica], Book 1 [tr. Luscombe (1971)]
Added on 7-Feb-14 | Last updated 7-Feb-14
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The true barbarian is he who thinks every thing barbarous but his own tastes and prejudices.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830) English writer
Characteristics, #333 (1823)
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Added on 6-Oct-09 | Last updated 29-Sep-20
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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
Added on 31-Jul-08 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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There are three truths: my truth, your truth, and the truth.

Other Authors and Sources
Chinese proverb
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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