Quotations about   truth

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Only Truth can give true reputation: only reality can be of real profit. One deceit needs many others and so the whole house is built in the air and must soon come to the ground.

[Sola la verdad puede dar reputación verdadera, y la substancia entra en provecho. Un embeleco ha menester otros muchos, y así toda la fábrica es quimera, y como se funda en el aire es preciso venir a tierra.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 175 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
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(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translation:

Only the truth can give you a true reputation, and only substance is profitable. One act of deceit begets many others, and soon the whole ghastly construction, which is founded in the air, comes tumbling down.
[tr. Maurer (1992)]

Added on 25-Apr-22 | Last updated 25-Apr-22
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Some men believe their own Opinions no less firmly than others do their positive Knowledge.

Aristotle - Some men believe their own Opinions no less firmly than others do their positive Knowledge - wist.info quote

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 7, ch. 3 (7.3) (c. 325 BC) [tr. Chase (1847)]
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Alternate translations:

Some men put no less faith in their own uncertified opinions than do others in the verified truths of science.
[tr. Williams (1869), sec. 127]

For some people are as strongly convinced of their opinions as others of their knowledge.
[tr. Welldon (1892)]

Some people have just as strong a belief in their mere opinions as others have in what they really know.
[tr. Peters (1893), 7.3.4]

Some men are no less convinced of what they think than others of what they know.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

Some men are just as firmly convinced of what they opine as others are of what they know.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

Some people have no less conviction about that they believe than others do about what they know scientifically.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

Some men are just as sure of the truth of their opinions as others are of what they know.
[tr. Thomson (1953)]

Some men are no less convinced of their opinions about things than others of the things they know.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

There are some people who have no less confidence than others hav ein what they know.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

Some are no less convinced of what they opine about than are other people of what they know.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

Added on 29-Mar-22 | Last updated 29-Mar-22
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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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Added on 28-Mar-22 | Last updated 28-Mar-22
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People are egregiously mistaken if they think they ever can attain to permanent popularity by hypocrisy, by mere outside appearances, and by disguising not only their language but their looks. True popularity takes deep root and spreads itself wide; but the false falls away like blossoms; for nothing that is false can be lasting.

[Quodsi qui simulatione et inani ostentatione et ficto non modo sermone, sed etiam voltu stabilem se gloriam consequi posse rentur, vehementer errant. Vera gloria radices agit atque etiam propagatur, ficta omnia celeriter tamquam flosculi decidunt, nee simulatum potest quicquam esse diuturnum.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 2, ch. 12 / sec. 43 (44 BC) [tr. Edmonds (1865)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translation:

Those people therefore are highly mistaken, who think of obtaining a solid reputation by vain shows and hypocritical pretences; by composed countenances and studied forms of words: for true glory takes deep root, and grows and flourishes more and more; but that which is only in show and mere outside, quickly decays and withers like flowers; nor can anything be lasting that is only counterfeit.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

But if any suppose, that they can obtain a stable reputation by pretences, empty ostentation, hypocritical conversation, and even artificial looks, they are extremely mistaken. True fame takes deep root, and extends its shoots. Every counterfeit appearance, like blossoms, quickly falls off; and no pretense can be lasting.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

If there be those who think to obtain enduring fame by dissembling and empty show, and by hypocrisy, not only of speech, but of countenance also, they are utterly mistaken. True fame strikes its roots downward, and sends out fresh shoots; all figments fall speedily, like blossoms, nor can anything feigned be lasting.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]

It is a delusion to suppose that glory can be founded on dissimulation, vain ostentation, and studied words and looks. True glory strikes root and spreads, everything unreal soon falls like the blossoms, a lie cannot last.
[tr. Gardiner (1899)]

True glory strikes roots, and grows: ill-founded reputations, like flowers, soon wither, nor can anything last long which is based on pretence.
[ed. Harbottle (1906)]

For if anyone thinks that he can win lasting glory by pretence, by empty show, by hypocritical talk and looks, he is very much mistaken. True glory strikes deep root and spreads its branches wide; but all pretences soon fall to the ground like fragile flowers, and nothing counterfeit can be lasting.
[tr. Miller (1913)]

If anyone thinks he can attain lasting glory by mimicry, by empty shows, by pretense in his looks and his conversation, he is far from correct. Genuine glory puts down roots and even sends out new growth; any pretense dies down quickly, like fragile flowers. Nothing simulated can be long-lasting.
[tr. Edinger (1974)]

Added on 24-Mar-22 | Last updated 24-Mar-22
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When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.

George R R Martin
George R. R. Martin (b. 1948) American author and screenwriter [George Raymond Richard Martin]
A Clash of Kings [Tyrion] (1998)
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Added on 22-Mar-22 | Last updated 22-Mar-22
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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 / 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)]

Added on 17-Feb-22 | Last updated 17-Feb-22
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More quotes by Cicero, Marcus Tullius

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)]
    (Source)

(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)]

Added on 15-Feb-22 | Last updated 15-Feb-22
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Unless one is raised in the minion mindset, it is difficult to understand the allure of the lifestyle. Outside observers merely see put-upon underlings who live and work in insanely dangerous positions, whose lives are ruled by dictatorial psychopaths who have little regard for their lives or sanity. Acclimatized minions realize that everyone on Earth lives under these strictures, they just don’t fool themselves. With clarity comes freedom.

Phil Foglio (b. 1956) American writer, cartoonist
Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle (2014) [with Kaja Foglio]
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Added on 11-Feb-22 | Last updated 11-Feb-22
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For things false lie so close to things true, and things that cannot be perceived to things that can, […] that it is the duty of the wise man not to trust himself to such a steep slope.

[Ita enim finitima sunt falsa veris, eaque, quae percipi non possunt, iis quae possunt […] ut tam in praecipitem locum non debeat se sapiens committere.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Academica, Book 2, ch. 21 / sec. 68 (2.68) (45 BC) [tr. Rackham (1933)]
    (Source)

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translation:

For falsehoods lie so close to truths, and "appearances" which cannot be perceived to those which can, [...] that the man of wisdom ought not to trust himself on such hazardous ground.
[tr. Reid (1874)]

False and true, and innapprehensible and apprehensible are so close to each other, [...] that the wise person shouldn't commit himself to such a precarious position.
[tr. Brittain (2005)]

So near is falsehood to truth that a wise man would do well not to trust himself on the narrow edge.
[Source]

Added on 10-Feb-22 | Last updated 10-Feb-22
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And yet a majority vote is worthless as a proof of truths that are at all difficult to discover; for a single man is much more likely to hit upon them than a group of people. I was, then, unable to choose anyone whose opinions struck me as preferable to those of all others, and I found myself as it were forced to become my own guide.

[Et que néanmoins la pluralité des voix n’est pas une preuve qui vaille rien, pour les vérités un peu malaisées à découvrir, à cause qu’il est bien plus vraisemblable qu’un homme seul les ait rencontrées que tout un peuple; je ne pouvois choisir personne dont les opinions me semblassent devoir être préférées à celles des autres, et je me trouvai comme contraint d’entreprendre moi-même de me conduire.]

René Descartes (1596-1650) French philosopher, mathematician
Discourse on Method [Discours de la méthode], Part 2 (1637) [tr. Cottingham, Stoothoff (1985)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Although such be the ground of our opinions, I remarked that a plurality of suffrages is no guarantee of truth where it is at all of difficult discovery, as in such cases it is much more likely that it will be found by one than by many. I could, however, select from the crowd no one whose opinions seemed worthy of preference, and thus I found myself constrained, as it were, to use my own reason in the conduct of my life.
[tr. Veitch (1901)]

Yet in spite of this the voice of the majority does not afford a proof of any value in truths a little difficult to discover, because such truths are much more likely to have been discovered by one man than by a nation. I could not, however, put my finger on a single person whose opinions seemed preferable to those of others, and I found that I was, so to speak, constrained myself to undertake the direction of my procedure.
[tr. Haldane & Ross (1911)]

Added on 1-Feb-22 | Last updated 1-Feb-22
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We do not protect freedom in order to indulge error. We protect freedom in order to discover truth.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent (1954)
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Truths are first clouds, then rain, then harvests and food. The philosophy of one century is the common sense of the next. Men are called fools, in one age, for not knowing what they were called fools for averring in the age before.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Life Thoughts (1858)
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Many have had their greatness made for them by their enemies. Flattery is more dangerous than hatred, because it covers the stains which the other causes to be wiped out. The wise will turn ill-will into a mirror more faithful than that of kindness, and remove or improve the faults referred to.

[Fabricáronles a muchos su grandeza sus malévolos. Más fiera es la lisonja que el odio, pues remedia este eficazmente las tachas que aquella disimula. Hace el cuerdo espejo de la ojeriza, más fiel que el de la afición, y previene a la detracción los defectos, o los enmienda, que es grande el recato cuando se vive en frontera de una emulación, de una malevolencia.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 84 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
    (Source)

(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translation:

Many owe their greatness to their enemies. Flattery is fiercer than hatred, for hatred corrects the faults flattery had disguised. The prudent man makes a mirror out of the evil eye of others; it is more truthful than that of affection, and helps him reduce his defects or emend them.
[tr. Maurer (1992)]

Added on 18-Jan-22 | Last updated 18-Jan-22
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The truth is generally seen, rarely heard; seldom she comes in elemental purity, especially from afar; there is always some admixture of the moods of those through whom she has passed. The passions tinge her with their colors wherever they touch her, sometimes favorably, sometimes the reverse.

[La verdad ordinariamente se ve, extravagantemente se oye; raras vezes llega en su elemento puro, y menos quando viene de lejos; siempre trae algo de mixta, de los afectos por donde passa; tiñe de sus colores la passión quanto toca, ya odiosa, ya favorable.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 80 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
    (Source)

(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translation:

Truth is more often seen than heard. Seldom does it reach us unalloyed, even less so when it comes from afar. It is always blended with the emotions it has passed through. Emotion taints everything it touches, making it odious or favorable.
[tr. Maurer (1992)]

Added on 10-Jan-22 | Last updated 4-Apr-22
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The trouble about man is twofold. He cannot learn truths which are too complicated; he forgets truths which are too simple.

Rebecca West (1892-1983) British author, journalist, literary critic, travel writer [pseud. for Cicily Isabel Fairfield]
The Meaning of Treason, Epilogue (1947)
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The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

Orwell - Sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality usually on a battlefield - wist.info quote

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“In Front of Your Nose,” Tribune (22 Mar 1946)
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For with the truth, all the given facts harmonize; but with what is false, the truth soon hits a wrong note.

[τῷ μὲν γὰρ ἀληθεῖ πάντα συνᾴδει τὰ ὑπάρχοντα, τῷ δὲ ψευδεῖ ταχὺ διαφωνεῖ τἀληθές.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 1, ch. 8 (1.8, 1098b.11) (c. 325 BC) [tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

With what is true all things which really are are in harmony, but with that which is false the true very soon jars.
[tr. Chase (1847), ch. 6]

For with a true theory all facts agree, while with what is false truth is quickly found to conflict.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

For while all, experience harmonizes with the truth, it is never long before truth clashes with falsehood.
[tr. Welldon (1892)]

For all experience harmonizes with a true principle, but a false one is soon found to be incompatible with the facts.
[tr. Peters (1893)]

For with a true view all the data harmonize, but with a false one the facts soon clash.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

For if a proposition be true, all the facts harmonize with it, but if it is false, it is quickly seen to be discordant with them.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

For all the data are in tune with a true view, whereas they soon clash with a false one.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

For all things which belong to it are in harmony with a true [definition of it], but truth is soon bound to clash with a false [definition of it].
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

Because if a statement is true all the data are in harmony with it, while if it is false they soon reveal a discrepancy.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

For all the data harmonize with the truth, but soon clash with falsity.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

Added on 14-Dec-21 | Last updated 14-Dec-21
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At some point I believe one has to stop holding back for fear of alienating some imaginary reader or real relative or friend, and come out with personal truth. If we are to understand the human condition, and if we are to accept ourselves with all the complexity, self-doubt, extravagance of feeling, guilt, joy, the slow freeing of the self to its full capacity for action and creation, both as human being and as artist, we have to know all we can abou each other, and we have to be willing to go naked.

May Sarton
May Sarton (1912-1995) Belgian-American poet, novelist, memoirist [pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton]
Journal of a Solitary, “January 5th” (1973)
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The strategic aim of these hierarchical constructions of history is to displace truth, and the invention of a glorious past includes the erasure of inconvenient realities.

Jason Stanley (b. 1969) American philosopher, epistemologist, academic
How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, ch. 1 (2018)
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Truth is like the flu. I fight it off, but it changes in other bodies and returns in a form to which I am not immune.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
“Vectors: 56 Aphorisms and Ten-second Essays,” Michigan Quarterly Review, #49 (Spring 1999)
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Science is in far greater danger from the absence of challenge than from the coming of any number of even absurd challenges.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
“The Role of the Heretic,” Foreword to Donald W. Goldsmith (ed.), Scientists Confront Velikovsky (1977)
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At the moment, for example, in 1984 (if it was 1984), Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially, the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Nineteen Eighty-Four, ch. 3 (1949)
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Men will learn eventually, and if they insist on rejecting the received wisdom of generations past, they do not thereby succeed at invalidating it; they merely condemn themselves to learning it, time and again, by ever grimmer experience.

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) Franco-British writer, historian [Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc]
(Misattributed)
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While usually attributed to Belloc, and even further to his essay "The Restoration of Property" (1936), it does not appear in that work, proper. Rather, it is found in the Introduction to the 2002 IHS Press edition the work, signed only by the Directors of the IHS Press.
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Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
“Politics, Portugal and No Gumbo-Limbo Trees,” blog entry (17 Nov 2004)
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A man may be in as just possession of Truth as of a City, and yet be forced to surrender.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Religio Medici, Part 1, sec. 6 (1643)
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Beware:
All too often,
We say
What we hear others say.
We think
What we’re told that we think.
We see
What we’re permitted to see.
Worse!
We see what we’re told that we see.
Repetition and pride are the keys to this.
To hear and to see
Even an obvious lie
Again
And again and again
May be to say it,
Almost by reflex
Then to defend it
Because we’ve said it
And at last to embrace it
Because we’ve defended it
And because we cannot admit
That we’ve embraced and defended
An obvious lie.

Thus, without thought,
Without intent,
We make
Mere echoes
Of ourselves —
And we say
What we hear others say.

Octavia Butler (1947-2006) American writer
Parable of the Talents, ch. 18, epigram (1998)
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Internally cited to the book's scripture, Earthseed: The Books of the Living,, and to a poem, "Warrior," written by the protagonist's uncle, Marcos Duran.
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The past exudes legend: one can’t make pure clay of time’s mud. There is no life that can be recaptured wholly; as it was. Which is to say that all biography is ultimately fiction.

Bernard Malamud
Bernard Malamud (1914-1986) American author
Dubin’s Lives, ch. 1 (1977)
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Post-truth is pre-fascism.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017)
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I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth — and truth rewarded me.

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) French author, existentialist philosopher, feminist theorist
All Said and Done (1974)
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There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means by which to detect lies.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
“What Modern Liberty Means,” Liberty and the News (1920)
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Once abandon that firm ground, once plead that history has a “message” or that history has a “social responsibility” (to produce good Marxists or good Imperialists or good citizens) there is no logical escape from the censor and the Index, the OGPU and the Gestapo.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
“The Historian,” Manchester Guardian (5 Aug 1938)
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Ours is a problem in which deception has become organized and strong; where truth is poisoned at its source; one in which the skill of the shrewdest brains is devoted to misleading a bewildered people.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
A Preface to Politics, ch. 4 (1913)
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I am a lover of truth, a worshipper of freedom, a celebrant at the altar of language and purity and tolerance. That is my religion, and every day I am sorely, grossly, heinously and deeply offended, wounded, mortified and injured by a thousand different blasphemies against it. When the fundamental canons of truth, honesty, compassion and decency are hourly assaulted by fatuous bishops, pompous, illiberal and ignorant priests, politicians and prelates, sanctimonious censors, self-appointed moralists and busy-bodies, what recourse of ancient laws have I? None whatever. Nor would I ask for any. For unlike these blistering imbeciles my belief in my religion is strong and I know that lies will always fail and indecency and intolerance will always perish.

Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry (b. 1957) British actor, writer, comedian
“Trefusis Blasphemes,” Loose Ends radio program (1986)

Reprinted in Paperweight (1992).
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If the main pillar of the system is living a lie, then it is not surprising that the fundamental threat to it is living in truth. This is why it must be suppressed more severely than anything else.

Havel - main pillar system living a lie not surprising fundamental threat living in truth - wist.info quote

Václav Havel (1936-2011) Czech playwright, essayist, dissident, politician
The Power of the Powerless, title essay (1979)
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The whole truth would be an infinite concatenation of mostly irrelevant facts, with an occasional dose of, in textspeak, “TMI,” too much information — when, for example, you ruin the case you were making against factory farming by going into such detail about how painful de-beaking is for chickens that your listener shuts you out and struggles to think about something else. So we do not tell the whole truth; we tell carefully crafted stories, and we do this even when our moral purpose is to tell the truth.

Justin E. H. Smith (b. 1972) American-Canadian professor of history and philosophy of science
Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason, ch. 8 (2019)
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“What is truth?” Sometimes people ask this question because they wish to do nothing. Generic cynicism makes us feel hip and alternative even as we slip along with our fellow citizens into a morass of indifference. It is your ability to discern facts that makes you an individual, and our collective trust in common knowledge that makes us a society.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, ch. 10 (2017)
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Tyrants thrive on cliché, on language that declares itself beyond questioning.

Gary Greenberg (b. c. 1939) American psychotherapist, author
“The Stories We Tell About Drinking,” The New Yorker (2 Apr 2018)
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The final mode is misplaced faith. It involves the sort of self-deifying claims the president made when he said that “I alone can solve it” or “I am your voice.” When faith descends from heaven to earth in this way, no room remains for the small truths of our individual discernment and experience. What terrified Klemperer was the way that this transition seemed permanent. Once truth had become oracular rather than factual, evidence was irrelevant. At the end of the war a worker told Klemperer that “understanding is useless, you have to have faith. I believe in the Führer.”

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017)
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If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.

Penn Jillette (b. 1955) American stage magician, actor, musician, author
“Passing Down the Joy of Not Collecting Stamps,” God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales (2011)
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I think that it is a relatively good approximation to truth — which is much too complicated to allow anything but approximations.

John von Neumann (1903-1957) Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, inventor, polymath [János "Johann" Lajos Neumann]
“The Mathematician” (1947)
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So why, then, does truth sometimes engender hatred? Why does the servant of God come to be an enemy of those who want a happy life, even though true happiness is joy in the truth? The reason must be this: Our love of truth is such that when we love something that’s not the truth, we pretend to ourselves that we we love is the truth. Then, because we hate to be proved wrong, we’re unwilling to be convinced that we’ve deceived ourselves. In this way, then, people hate the truth for the sake of whatever it is that they love more than the truth. They love truth when it shines warmly on them, and hate it when it rebukes them.

[Cur autem veritas parit odium et inimicus eis factus est homo tuus verum praedicans, cum ametur beata vita, quae non est nisi gaudium de veritate, nisi quia sic amatur veritas ut, quicumque aliud amant, hoc quod amant velint esse veritatem, et quia falli nollent, nolunt convinci quod falsi sint? Itaque propter eam rem oderunt veritatem, quam pro veritate amant. Amant eam lucentem, oderunt eam redarguentem.]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Confessions, Book 10, ch. 23 / sec. 34 (AD 400)
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Original Latin. Alternate translations:

Why, then, doth truth beget hatred, and that man of thine, preaching the truth, became an enemy unto them, whereas a happy life is loved, which is naught else but joy in the truth; unless that truth is loved in such a sort as that those who love aught else wish that to be the truth which they love, and, as they are willing to be deceived, are unwilling to be convinced that they are so? Therefore do they hate the truth for the sake of that thing which they love instead of the truth. They love the truth when she shines on them, and hate her when she rebukes them.
[tr. Pilkington (1876)]

But why does "truth beget hatred," and why is that man of Thine, preaching the truth, made an enemy to them, whereas a happy life is loved, which is nothing else joy in the truth; unless the truth is so loved, that whoever loves something else, wants that which they love to be the truth, and because they are unwilling to be deceived, are unwilling to be convinced that they are imposed on? Therefore do they hate the truth, for the sake of that thing which they love instead of it. They love truth when it shines; hate it when it rebukes.
[tr. Hutchings (1890)]

But why doth "truth generate hatred," and the man of thine, preaching the truth, become an enemy to them? Whereas a happy life is loved, which is nothing else but joying in the truth; unless that truth is in that kind loved, that they who love any thing else would gladly have that which they love to be the truth: and because they would not be deceived, would not be convinced that they are do? Therefore do they hate the truth for that thing's sake which they love instead of the truth. They love truth when she enlightens, they hate her when she reproves.
[tr. Pusey (1909)]

Why, then, does truth generate hatred, and why does thy servant who preaches the truth come to be an enemy to them who also love the happy life, which is nothing else than joy in the truth -- unless it be that truth is loved in such a way that those who love something else besides her wish that to be the truth which they do love. Since they are unwilling to be deceived, they are unwilling to be convinced that they have been deceived. Therefore, they hate the truth for the sake of whatever it is that they love in place of the truth. They love truth when she shines on them; and hate her when she rebukes them.
[tr. Outler (1955]

Why does truth call forth hatred? Simply because truth is loved in such a way that those who love some other thing want it to be the truth, and precisely because they do not wish to be deceived, are unwilling to be convinced that they are indeed being deceived. Thus they hate the truth for the sake of that other thing which they love, because they take it for the truth. They love truth when it enlightens them, they hate it when it accuses them.
[tr. Boulding (1997)]

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The truth isn’t easily pinned to a page. In the bathtub of history the truth is harder to hold than the soap and much more difficult to find.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Sourcery (1988)
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The human mind seldom arrives at truth upon any subject till it has first reached the extremity of error.

Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) American physician, writer, educator, humanitarian
“Effects of Public Punishments Upon Criminals, and Upon Society” (1787)
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It is the victor who writes the history and counts the dead, and to the vanquished in such a struggle there only remains the dull memory of an unnumbered and unwritten sorrow.

William Butler (1838-1910) Irish British Army officer, writer, adventurer
Charles George Gordon, ch. 1 (1891)
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A bore: Someone who persists in holding to his own views after we have enlightened him with ours.

Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990) American billionaire
(Attributed)

Quoted in Ted Goodman, ed., The Forbes Book of Business Quotations (1997).
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It must be remembered that evidence is never complete, that knowledge of truth is always partial, and that to await certainty is to await eternity.

John Bowlby 1907-1990) British psychologist, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst
Maternal Care and Mental Health (1951)
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The last phrase is often attributed to Jonas Salk, who used it ("It is said to await certainty is to await eternity") in a telegram to Basil O'Connor (8 Nov 1954). But as Salk himself noted, it was not original to him.
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The primary aim of propaganda is, of course, to influence contemporary opinion, but those who rewrite history do probably believe with part of their minds that they are actually thrusting facts into the past. When one considers the elaborate forgeries that have been committed in order to show that Trotsky did not play a valuable part in the Russian civil war, it is difficult to feel that the people responsible are merely lying. More probably they feel that their own version was what happened in the sight of God, and that one is justified in rearranging the records accordingly.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Notes on Nationalism” (May 1945)
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Since we can never know anything for sure, it is simply not worth searching for certainty; but it is well worth searching for truth; and we do this chiefly by searching for mistakes, so that we have to correct them.

Sir Karl Popper (1902-1994) Austrian-British philosopher
“Knowledge and the Shaping of Reality,” lecture, Alpbach (Aug 1982)
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Reprinted in In Search of a Better World, ch. 1 (1994).
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Let us believe that the whole of truth can never do harm to the whole of virtue. Trust it. And remember, that, in order to get the whole of truth, you must allow every man, right or wrong, freely to utter his conscience, and protect him in so doing.

Wendell Phillips (1811-1884) American abolitionist, orator
“The Boston Mob,” speech, Antislavery Meeting, Boston (21 Oct 1855)
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"On the Twentieth Anniversary of the Mob of October 21, 1835."
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Truth and goodness are the same for all people. But pleasure varies from one to another.

Ἀνθρώποις πᾶσι τωὐτὸν ἀγαθὸν καὶ ἀληθές· ἡδὺ δὲ ἄλλωι ἄλλο.

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 69 (Diels) [tr. @sententiq (2018), fr. 68]
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Diels citation "69. (6 N.) DEMOKRATES. 34.". Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter. Alternate translations:
  • "For all men, good and true are the same; but pleasant differs for different men." [tr. Freeman (1948)]
  • "The same thing is good and true for all men. But what is pleasant differs from one to another." [Warren (2008)]
  • "Goodness and truth are the same for all men: but pleasure differs from man to man." [Source]
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Truth is the first casualty in war.

Aeschylus (525-456 BC) Greek dramatist (Æschylus)
(Misattributed)

Variant: "Truth is the first casualty of war."

Not found, as such, in Aeschylus' works. The closest (Fragm. Incert, xi.) is his phrase "God is not averse to deceit in a just cause." Attribution to of the subject phrase to Aeschylus dates only back to 1965. The first recorded use of the phrase as such is from 1915, but even there it is offered as a quotation from an unnamed source.

More discussion of the history of this phrase can be found here and here.
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Political or military commentators, like astrologers, can survive almost any mistake, because their more devoted followers do not look to them for an appraisal of the facts but for the stimulation of nationalistic loyalties.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Notes on Nationalism” (May 1945)
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The camera cannot lie. But it can be an accessory to untruth.

Harold Evans (1928-2020) Anglo-American journalist, editor, writer
Pictures on a Page (1978)
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It is difficult to pronounce on the opinion of the ministers of our Church as a body: one portion of them, by far the least informed, protests against anything which can advance the honour and the interests of science, because, in their limited and mistaken view, science is adverse to religion. This is not the place to argue that great question. It is sufficient to remark, that the best-informed and most enlightened men of all creeds and pursuits, agree that truth can never damage truth, and that every truth is allied indissolubly by chains more or less circuitous with all other truths; whilst error, at every step we make in its diffusion, becomes not only wider apart and more discordant from all truths, but has also the additional chance of destruction from all rival errors.

Charles Babbage (1791-1871) English mathematician, computer pioneer, philosopher
The Exposition of 1851: Views Of The Industry, The Science, and the Government Of England, ch. 17 (1851)
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For even the humblest person, a day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search for truth and perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life.

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) American writer, philosopher, historian, architect
The Condition of Man (1944)
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