Quotations about   thought

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There can be no pleasure to me without communication: there is not so much as a sprightly thought comes into my mind, that it does not grieve me to have produced alone, and that I have no one to communicate it to.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Of Vanity,” Essays, Book 3, ch. 9 (1588) [tr. Cotton/Hazlitt (1877)]
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Alternate translations:

With me no pleasure is fully delightsome without communication and no delight absolute except imparted. I doe not so much as apprehend one rare conceipt, or conceive one excellent good thought in my minde, but me thinks I am much grieved and grievously perplexed to have produced the same alone and that I have no sympathizing companion to impart it unto.
[tr. Florio (1603), "Of Vanitie"]

No pleasure has any taste for me when not shared with another: no happy thought occurs to me without my being irritated at bringing it forth alone with no one to offer it to.
[tr. Screech (1987)]

Added on 8-Aug-22 | Last updated 8-Aug-22
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Awful as silence. Hark! the rushing snow!
The sun-awakened avalanche! whose mass,
Thrice sifted by the storm, had gathered there
Flake after flake, in heaven-defying minds
As thought by thought is piled, till some great truth
Is loosened, and the nations echo round,
Shaken to their roots, as do the mountains now.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) English poet
Prometheus Unbound, Act 2 (1820)
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Thinking is difficult, therefore let the herd pronounce judgment!

Carl Jung (1875-1961) Swiss psychologist
Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, ch. 2 (1959) [tr. Hull]
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The motto of the "relatively unconscious man" who "clings to the commonplace, the obvious, the probable, the collectively valid." Reprinted in the The Collected Works of C.G. Jung - Civilization in Transition, vol. 10, ¶ 653.

Probable source of the frequently-attributed (but unfound) "Thinking is difficult. That's why most people judge."
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To be kind is more important than to be right. Many times, what people need is not a brilliant mind that speaks but a special heart that listens.

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) American writer [Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald]
(Attributed)

No actual citation found. Also often attributed (also without citation) to Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
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If we establish a standard of safe thinking, we will end up with no thinking at all. That is the only “safe” way, and that is, needless to say, the most precarious, dangerous, of all ways.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“What Ideas Are Safe?” Saturday Review (5 Nov 1949)
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Reprinted in Freedom and Order (1966).
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Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) English philosopher and economist
On Liberty, ch. 2 (1859)
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The Intellect engages us in the pursuit of Truth. The Passions impel us to Action.

[Cogitatio in vero exquirendo maxime versatur, appetitus impellit ad agendum.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 35 (1.35) / sec. 132 (44 BC) [Barnes (1814)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translation:

Reflection is chiefly employed in the investigation of truth, appetite impels to action.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

Reflection chiefly applies itself in the search of truth. Appetite prompts us to action.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

Thought is occupied chiefly in seeking the truth; impulse urges to action.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]

Thought is employed in the discovery of truth, appetite impels to action.
[tr. Gardiner (1899)]

Thought is occupied chiefly with the discovery of truth; impulse prompts to action.
[tr. Miller (1913)]

Thought is mostly expended in seeking out the truth, passion urges men to action.
[tr. Edinger (1974)]

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But immediately upon this I observed that, whilst I thus wished to think that all was false, it was absolutely necessary that I, who thus thought, should be somewhat; and as I observed that this truth, I think, therefore I am (COGITO ERGO SUM), was so certain and of such evidence that no ground of doubt, however extravagant, could be alleged by the sceptics capable of shaking it, I concluded that I might, without scruple, accept it as the first principle of the philosophy of which I was in search.

[Mais aussitôt après je pris garde que, pendant que je voulois ainsi penser que tout étoit faux, il falloit nécessairement que moi qui le pensois fusse quelque chose; et remarquant que cette vérité, je pense, donc je suis, étoit si ferme et si assurée, que toutes les plus extravagantes suppositions des sceptiques n’étoient pas capables de l’ébranler, je jugeai que je pouvois la recevoir sans scrupule pour le premier principe de la philosophie que je cherchois.]

René Descartes (1596-1650) French philosopher, mathematician
Discourse on Method [Discours de la méthode], Part 4 (1637) [tr. Veitch (1850)]
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(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

But presently after I observ’d, that whilst I would think that all was false, it must necessarily follow, that I who thought it, must be something. And perceiving that this Truth, I think, therefore, I am, was so firm and certain, that all the most extravagant suppositions of the Scepticks was not able to shake it, I judg’d that I might receive it without scruple for the first principle of the Philosophy I sought.
[Newcombe ed. (1649)]

But immediately afterwards I noticed that whilst I thus wished to think all things false, it was absolutely essential that the "I" who thought this should be somewhat, and remarking that this truth "I think, therefore I am" was so certain and so assured that all the most extravagant suppositions brought forward by the sceptics were incapable of shaking it, I came to the conclusion that could receive it without scruple as the first principle of the Philosophy for which I was seeking.
[tr. Haldane & Ross (1911)]

But immediately upon this I noticed that while I was trying to think everything false, it must needs be that I, who was thinking this, was something. And observing that this truty "I am thinking, therefore I exist" was so solid sceptics could not overthrow it, I judged that I need not scriple to accept it as the first principle of philosophy that I was seeking.
[tr. Ascombe & Geach (1971)]

But immediately I noticed that while I was endeavoring in this way to think that everything was false, it was necessary that I, who was thinking this, was something. And observing that this truth, "I am thinking, therefore I exist" was so firm and sure that all the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were incapable of shaking it, I decided that I could accept it without scruple as the first principle of the philosophy I was seeking.
[tr. Cottingham, Stoothoff (1985)]

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Just as most soldiers believe bullets will hit only others, not themselves, most citizens like to think that their own minds and thought processes are invulnerable. “Other people can be manipulated, but not me,” they declare. People like to think that their opinions, values and ideas are inviolate and totally self-regulated. They may admit grudgingly that they are influenced slightly by advertising. Beyond that, they want to preserve a myth in which other persons are weak-minded and easily influenced, but they are strong-minded.

Margaret Singer (1921-2003) American clinical psychologist and researcher
“The ‘Not Me’ Myth: Orwell and the Mind,” Idea (19 Jan 1996)
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Added on 25-Jun-21 | Last updated 25-Jun-21
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An expert is a man who has stopped thinking. Why? He knows.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) American architect, interior designer, writer, educator [b. Frank Lincoln Wright]
In Geoffrey T Hellman, “Wright Revisited,” The New Yorker (8 Jun 1956)
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Wright used variations on this quotation throughout his life, e.g.:

The expert is usually a man who has stopped thinking and so is perfectly able to be utterly wrong for at least the rest of his lifetime. He has made up his mind, not upon principle, but upon expedient practice.
[Source, Frank Lloyd Wright: An Autobiography, Book 5 "Form" (1943)]

An expert? Generally a man who has stopped thinking because he knows!
[Source]

An expert is a man who has stopped thinking -- he knows.
[Source, in Earl Nesbit, Taliesin Reflections (2006)]

To me an expert is a man who has stopped thinking. He thinks he knows everything.
[Source, in Patrick J. Meehan, Truth Against the World (1987)]

Now, an "expert" is a man who has stopped thinking. He has had to stop thinking or he would be no expert. You can't call a man an "authority" who is growing and so changing his mind about things, can you? No, the expert has got to know or profess he knows. He's got to stand there and be knowledgeable! Well, too bad, because there's no such human except he be somewhat a phoney.
[Source, in Patrick J. Meehan, Truth Against the World (1987)]

An expert is a man who has stopped thinking because he knows and you can do nothing with him if you got a good idea.
[Source, in Patrick J. Meehan, The Master Architect (1984)

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There are but few thinkers in the world but a great many people who think they think.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Table-Talk”
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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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People think that you have these things called ideas and that writing is a matter of imposing them on the subject material, whereas it’s only in the writing that I discover what it is that I think.

Anthony Lane (b. 1962) British journalist, film critic
“A Writer’s Life,” interview by Will Cohu, The Telegraph (14 Dec 2003)
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Indignation is the seducer of thought. No man can think clearly when his fists are clenched.

George Jean Nathan (1892-1958) American editor and critic
“Undeveloped Notes,” The Smart Set (Aug 1922)
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Reprinted in The World in Falseface, "Art & Criticism," #64 (1923).
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Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.

Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) Roman emperor (161-180), Stoic philosopher
Meditations, Book 5, #16

Alt. trans.:
  • "Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts."
  • "Whatever kind of impressions you receive most often, so too will be your mind, for the soul is dyed with the color of one's impressions." [tr. Needleman & Piazza (2008)]
  • "Your manners will depend very much upon the quality of what you frequently think on; for the soul is as it were tinged with the color and complexion of thought." [tr. Collier (1887)]

The last clause is also frequently attributed to William Ralph Inge, who likely used it in an essay.
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Ideas come when we do not expect them, and not when we are brooding and searching at our desks. Yet ideas would certainly not come to mind had we not brooded at our desks and searched for answers with passionate devotion.

Max Weber (1864-1920) German sociologist, philosopher, political economist [Maximilian Karl Emil Weber]
“Science as a Vocation [Wissenscahft als Beruf],” Speech, Munich University (1918) [tr. Gerth & Mills (1948)]
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Alt. trans.:
  • "Ideas come when they are least expected, rather than while you are racking your brains at your desk. But, by the same token, they would not have made their appearance if we had not spent many hours pondering at our desks or brooding passionately over the problems facing us." [tr. Livingstone]
  • "[Ideas] come, at any rate, when one does not expect them, not while racking one's brains and pondering at one's desk. Of course, the ideas would not have occurred to us without our having been through the state of racking our brains and being engaged in impassioned questioning." [tr. Wells (2018)]
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That is the whole trouble with being a heretic. One must usually think out everything for oneself.

Aubrey Menen (1912-1989) English writer
The Duke of Gallodoro (1952)
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As the true object of education is not to render the pupil the mere copy of his preceptor, it is rather to be rejoiced in, than lamented, that various reading should lead him into new trains of thinking.

William Godwin (1756-1836) English journalist, political philosopher, novelist
The Enquirer, Essay 15 “Of Choice in Reading” (1797)
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I miss what I had in terms of the speed of memory access. If I needed a word or a fact it was already at my fingertips and now it’s like an arthritic and elderly gentleman has to sit up and go down many, many flights of stairs very slowly and go and rummage in dusty drawers. Eventually he will return four days later, normally at about 1:30 in the morning, and I will sit up and go, “Oh yes! ‘Crepuscular.’ That was the word I was looking for.”

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
“This Much I Know,” The Guardian (5 Aug 2017)
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The proper method for hastening the decay of error is not by brute force, or by regulation which is one of the classes of force, to endeavor to reduce men to intellectual uniformity, but on the contrary by teaching every man to think for himself.

William Godwin (1756-1836) English journalist, political philosopher, novelist
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Vol. 2, bk. 8, ch. 6 “Of the Enjoyment of Liberty” (1793)
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Truth is compar’d in Scripture to a streaming fountain; if her waters flow not in a perpetuall progression, they sick’n into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition.

[Truth is compared in Scripture to a streaming fountain; if her waters flow not in a perpetual progression, they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition.]

John Milton (1608-1674) English poet
Areopagitica (1644)
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Thought is sad without action, and action is sad without thought.

Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881) Swiss philosopher, poet, critic
Journal (2nd Ed.,1889)
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Quoted in Cesare Lombroso, The Man of Genius (1896),
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A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Politics and the English Language,” Horizon (Apr 1946)
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Clarity in language depends on clarity in thought.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
Interview with Brian Lamb, C-SPAN (10 May 1998)
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I’m thinking on the fly, here. (Although now that I’m in middle management I think I’m supposed to call it “refactoring the strategic value proposition in real time with agile implementation,” or, if I’m being honest, “making it up as I go along.”)

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Apocalypse Codex (2012)
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No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous.

Henry Adams (1838-1918) American journalist, historian, academic, novelist
The Education of Henry Adams, ch. 31 (1907)
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Value of a Journal. A sentence now; a sentence last year; a sentence yesterday. Tomorrow a question comes that for the first time brings together these three and shows them to be the three fractions of Unit.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal, “Notebook Delta” (1837-1862)
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Sometimes I don’t know if my life is complicated, or if it’s that I just think too much about things.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
Zoe’s Tale (2008)
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The profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader. The profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until an equal mind and heart finds and publishes it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Quotation and Originality,” Letters and Social Aims (1876)
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Observe the invincible tendency of the mind to unify. It is a law of our constitution that we should not contemplate things apart without the effort to arrange them in order with known facts and ascribe them to the same law.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1836)
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Let us tenderly and kindly cherish therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.

Adams - read think speak and write - wist_info quote

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
“A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law” (1765)
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General, man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill.
But he has one defect:
He can think.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
“General, Your Tank Is a Powerful Vehicle,” in “From a German War Primer,” The Svendborg Poems (1939) [tr. Baxandall]
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You can’t help but try and follow an animal’s thought processes, and you can’t help, when faced with an animal like a three ton rhinoceros with nasal passages bigger than its brain, but fail.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Last Chance to See, ch. 3 (1990)
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We never do anything well till we cease to think about the manner of doing it.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830) English writer
Men and Manners, “On Prejudice” (1852)
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It is infinitely difficult to know when and where one should stop, and for all but one in thousands the goal of their thinking is the point at which they have become tired of thinking.

[Es ist unendlich schwer, zu wissen, wenn und wo man bleiben soll, und Tausenden für einen ist das Ziel ihres Nachdenkens die Stelle, wo sie des Nachdenkens müde geworden.]

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German playwright, philosopher, dramiturg, writer
Letter to Moses Mendelssohn (9 Jan 1771)
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The firefly only shines when on the wing.
So is it with the mind — when once we rest
We darken.

Philip James Bailey (1816-1902) English poet
Festus (1839)
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‘Tis the hardest thing in the world to be a good Thinker, without being a strong Self-Examiner.

Anthony Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) English politician and philosopher
Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, Vol. 1, “Soliloquy: or Advice to an Author” (1711)
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Concision in style, precision in thought, decision in life.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Postscriptum de Ma Vie [Victor Hugo’s Intellectual Autobiography] (1907) [tr. O’Rourke]
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Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) English modernist writer [b. Adeline Virginia Stephen]
A Room of One’s Own, ch. 4 (1929)
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As soon as a true thought has entered our mind, it gives a light which makes us see a crowd of other objects which we have never perceived before.

[Aussitôt qu’une pensée vraie est entrée dans notre esprit, elle jette une lumière qui nous fait voir une foule d’autres objets que nous n’apercevions pas auparavant.]

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
“Pensées, Réflexions et Maximes,” Complete Works of Chateaubriand [Oeuvres Illustrées de Chateaubriand], Vol. 3, sec. 7 (1852)
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A person who does not read cannot think. He may have good mental processes, but he has nothing to think about. You can feel for people or natural phenomena and react to them, but they are not ideas. You cannot think about them.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
In “Author Rex Stout vs. the FBI,” Interview with Sandra Schmidt, Life (10 Dec 1965)
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Misery is almost always the result of thinking.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
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If nature has made any one thing less susceptible, than all others, of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an Idea; which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the reciever cannot dispossess himself of it. it’s peculiar character too is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who recieves an idea from me, recieves instruction himself, without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, recieves light without darkening me.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Isaac McPherson (13 Aug 1813)
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Orthodoxy:

  1. In religion, that state of mind which congratulates itself on being absolutely right, and a belief that all who think otherwise are wholly wrong.
  2. A faith in the fixed — a worship of the static.
  3. The joy that comes from thinking that most everybody is lined up for Limbus with no return ticket.
  4. A condition brought about by the sprites of Humor, according to the rule that whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.
  5. The zenith of selfishness and the nadir of egotism.
  6. Mephisto with a lily in his hand.
  7. A corpse that does not know it is dead.
  8. Spiritual constipation.
  9. That peculiar condition where the patient can neither eliminate an old idea or absorb a new one.
Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
The Roycroft Dictionary (1914)
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The question is: Bad as I am, have I the right to think? And I think I have for two reasons: First, I cannot help it. And secondly, I like it.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“What Must We Do To Be Saved?” Sec. 1 (1880)
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The world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is more important than the eye. We are active; and indeed we know, as something more than a symbolic accident in the evolution of man, that it is the hand that drives the subsequent evolution of the brain. We find tools today made by man before he became man. Benjamin Franklin in 1778 called man “a tool-making animal,” and that is right.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
The Ascent of Man, ch. 3 (1973)
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Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Hamlet, Act 3, sc. 1, l. 91ff [Hamlet] (c. 1600)
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"Conscience" in this case is used in its archaic form, as consciousness, awareness.
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The man who does not do his own thinking is a slave, and is a traitor to himself and to his fellow-men.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child” (1877)
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Why should man be afraid to think, and why should he fear to express his thoughts? Is it possible that an infinite Deity is unwilling that a man should investigate the phenomena by which he is surrounded? Is it possible that a god delights in threatening and terrifying men? What glory, what honor and renown a god must win on such a field! The ocean raving at a drop; a star envious of a candle; the sun jealous of a fire-fly.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Heretics and Heresies” (1874)
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Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Quotation and Originality,” Letters and Social Aims (1876)
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It saddens me that literacy has become suspect, and degraded, given how many millions of years of evolution spent developing the ability to create language. The quality of our thoughts is bordered on all sides by our facility with language. The less precise the usage, the less clear the process of language, the less you can achieve what you want to achieve when you open you mouth to say something. We have slowly bastardized and degraded and weakened the language, abetted and abided by a growing cultural disdain for literacy, a cyclical trend toward anti-intellectualism.

J. Michael (Joe) Straczynski (b. 1954) American screenwriter, producer, author [a/k/a "JMS"]
rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated, “ATTN JMS: Influences?” (27 Oct 1995)
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In the practice of art, as well as in morals, it is necessary to keep a watchful and jealous eye over ourselves; idleness, assuming the specious disguise of industry, will lull to sleep all suspicion of our want of an active exertion of strength. A provision of endless apparatus, a bustle of infinite enquiry and research, or even the mere mechanical labour of copying, may be employed, to evade and shuffle off real labour, — the real labour of thinking.

Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) British painter, critic
Speech to the Royal Academy, London (10 Dec 1784)
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Paraphrased over a long period of time (and still attributed to Reynolds) as: "There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking."

The lecture was later described as the Twelfth Discourse in a 1797 collection of Reynolds' works.

Often attributed to Thomas Edison. More information here.

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For it is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to apply it well. The greatest souls are capable of the greatest vices as well as the greatest virtues; and those who proceed but very slowly can make much greater progress, if they always follow the right path, than those who hurry and stray from it.

[Car ce n’est pas assez d’avoir l’esprit bon, mais le principal est de l’appliquer bien. Les plus grandes âmes sont capables des plus grands vices aussi bien que des plus grandes vertus; et ceux qui ne marchent que fort lentement peuvent avancer beaucoup davantage, s’ils suivent toujours le droit chemin, que ne font ceux qui courent et qui s’en éloignent.]

René Descartes (1596-1650) French philosopher, mathematician
Discourse on Method [Discours de la méthode], Part 1 (1637) [tr. Cottingham, Stoothoff (1985)]
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Sometimes quoted "the main thing is to use it well." (Source (French)). Alternate translations:

For ’tis not enough to have good faculties, but the principal is, to apply them well. The greatest Souls are as capable of the greatest Vices, as of the most eminent Vertues: And those who move but very slowly, may advance much farther, if they always follow the right way; then those who run and straggle from it.
[tr. Newcombe ed. (1649)]

For to be possessed of a vigorous mind is not enough; the prime requisite is rightly to apply it. The greatest minds, as they are capable of the highest excellences, are open likewise to the greatest aberrations; and those who travel very slowly may yet make far greater progress, provided they keep always to the straight road, than those who, while they run, forsake it.
[tr. Veitch (1901)

For to be possessed of good mental powers is not sufficient; the principal matter is to apply them well. The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as of the greatest virtues, and those who proceed very slowly may, provided they always follow the straight road, really advance much faster than those who, though they run, forsake it.
[tr. Haldane, Ross (1911)]

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Men of genius are often dull and inert in society, as a blazing meteor, when it descends to earth, is only a stone.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
Kavanaugh: A Tale, ch. 13 (1849)
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BRAIN, n. An apparatus with which we think that we think.

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