Quotations about   utility

Note that not all quotations have been tagged, so the Search function may find additional quotations on this topic.



I’d be more willing to accept religion, even though I don’t believe in it, if I thought it made people nicer to each other, but I don’t think it does.

Andy Rooney
Andy Rooney (1919-2011) American journalist, commentator, author
Sincerely, Andy Rooney, Part 15 “Faith in Reason” (1999)
    (Source)

From a 1989 letter he wrote to his children about religion.
Added on 26-Jul-22 | Last updated 26-Jul-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Rooney, Andy

I have wrought great use out of evil tools.

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) English novelist and politician
Richelieu, Act 3, sc. 1, ll. 49-50 [Richelieu] (1839)
    (Source)
Added on 25-Jul-22 | Last updated 25-Jul-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , ,
More quotes by Bulwer-Lytton, Edward George

History, we can confidently assert, is useful in the sense that art and music, poetry and flowers, religion and philosophy are useful. Without it — as with these — life would be poorer and meaner; without it we should be denied some of those intellectual and moral experiences which give meaning and richness to life. Surely it is no accident that the study of history has been the solace of many of the noblest minds of every generation.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
The Nature and Study of History, ch. 5 (1965)
    (Source)
Added on 15-Jun-22 | Last updated 15-Jun-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Commager, Henry Steele

Users do not care about what is inside the box, as long as the box does what they need done.

Jef Raskin
Jef Raskin (1943-2005) American computer scientist, writer
The Humane Interface, 1-5 (2000)
    (Source)
Added on 10-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Raskin, Jef

It is true that most madboy devices are built for purely utilitarian purposes: I want to go faster; How can one person stack all of these starfish; I will gain the respect of my peers if I can turn this entire town into ham, and so on. But there are some things that burst forth from their creator’s brain simply because they want to make the world more aesthetically pleasing. So what if it doesn’t help one conquer the world? It looks awesome. It’s Art.

Phil Foglio (b. 1956) American writer, cartoonist
Agatha H. And the Clockwork Princess (2012) [with Kaja Foglio]
    (Source)
Added on 3-Jan-22 | Last updated 3-Jan-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Foglio, Phil

Those who are concerned with the arts are often asked questions, not always sympathetic ones, about the use or value of what they are doing. It is probably impossible to answer such questions directly, or at any rate to answer the people who ask them.

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) Canadian literary critic and literary theorist
Anatomy of Criticism, “Polemical Introduction” (1957)
    (Source)
Added on 1-Nov-21 | Last updated 1-Nov-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Frye, Northrop

The life of making money is a life people are, as it were, forced into, and wealth is clearly not the good we are seeking, since it is merely useful, for getting something else.

[ὁ δὲ χρηματιστὴς βίαιός τις ἐστίν, καὶ ὁ πλοῦτος δῆλον ὅτι οὐ τὸ ζητούμενον ἀγαθόν.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 1, ch. 5 (1.5, 1096a.5) (c. 325 BC) [tr. Crisp (2000)]
    (Source)

Rackham notes the term βίαιος (translated under compulsion/constraint) is "literally ‘violent’; the adjective is applied to the strict diet and and laborious exercises of athletes, and to physical phenomena such as motion, in the sense of ‘constrained,’ ‘not natural.’"

(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

As for the life of money-making, it is one of constraint, and wealth manifestly is not the good we are seeking, because it is for use, that is, for the sake of something further.
[tr. Chase (1847), ch. 3]

As for the money-getting life, it violates the natural fitness of things. Wealth is clearly not the absolute good of which we are in search, for it is a utility, and nonly desirable as a means.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

The life of money-making is in a sense a life of constraint, and it is clear that wealth is not the good of which we are in quest; for it is useful in part as a means to something else.
[tr. Welldon (1892), ch. 3]

As for the money-making life, it is something quite contrary to nature; and wealth evidently is not the good of which we are in search, for it is merely useful as a means to something else.
[tr. Peters (1893)]

The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

The Life of Money-making is a constrained kind of life, and clearly wealth is not the Good we are in search of, for it is only good as being useful, a means to something else.
[tr. Rackham (1934), 1.5.8]

The life of a moneymaker is in a way forced, and wealth is clearly not the good we are looking for, since it was useful and for the sake of something else.
[tr. Reeve (1948), ch. 5]

As for the life of a money-maker, it is one of tension; and clearly the good sought is not wealth, for wealth is instrumental and is sought for the sake of something else.
[tr. Apostle (1975), ch. 3]

As for the life of the businessman, it does not give him much freedom of action. Besides, wealth is obviously not the good that we are seeking, because it serves only as a means; i.e., for getting something else.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

The moneymaking life is characterized by a certain constraint, and it is clear that wealth is not the good being sought, for it is a useful thing and for the sake of something else.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

Added on 5-Oct-21 | Last updated 14-Dec-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Aristotle

Ordinary people think merely how they shall spend their time; a man of any talent tries to use it.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Parerga und Paralipomena [Appendices and Omissions], “The Wisdom of Life,” ch. 2 (1851) [tr. Saunders]
    (Source)
Added on 27-Sep-21 | Last updated 27-Sep-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Schopenhauer, Arthur

A large part of mathematics which becomes useful developed with absolutely no desire to be useful, and in a situation where nobody could possibly know in what area it would become useful; and there were no general indications that it ever would be so. By and large it is uniformly true in mathematics that there is a time lapse between a mathematical discovery and the moment when it is useful; and that this lapse of time can be anything from thirty to a hundred years, in some cases even more; and that the whole system seems to function without any direction, without any reference to usefulness, and without any desire to do things which are useful.

John von Neumann (1903-1957) Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, inventor, polymath [János "Johann" Lajos Neumann]
“The Role of Mathematics in the Sciences and in Society,” Speech, Princeton (1954)
    (Source)
Added on 25-May-21 | Last updated 25-May-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Von Neumann, John

Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance; at least I suppose this quill I hold in my hand writes better than a peacock’s would, and the peasants of Vevay, whose fields in spring time are as white with lilies as the Dent du Midi is with its snow, told me the hay was none the better for them.

John Ruskin (1819-1900) English art critic, painter, writer, social thinker
The Stones of Venice, ch. 2 “The Virtues of Architecture,” sec. 17 (1851)
    (Source)
Added on 24-Feb-21 | Last updated 24-Feb-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Ruskin, John

And bad luck reveals those who are not real friends, but just happen to be so because of utility.

[ἡ δ᾽ ἀτυχία δηλοῖ τοὺς μὴ ὄντως [20] ὄντας φίλους, ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸ χρήσιμον τυχόντας.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Eudemian Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Εὐδήμεια], Book 7, ch. 2 / 1238a.19-20 [tr. Reeve (2021)]
    (Source)

(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Misfortune shows those who are not really friends, but friends only for some accidental utility.
[tr. Solomon (1915)]

Misfortune shows those who are not friends really but only because of some casual utility.
[tr. Rackham (1981)]

But misfortune shows those who are friends not really but because of chance utility.
[tr. Simpson (2013)]

Added on 4-Dec-20 | Last updated 19-Jul-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Aristotle

In mathematics, you don’t understand things, you just get used to them.

John von Neumann (1903-1957) Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, inventor, polymath [János "Johann" Lajos Neumann]
(Attributed)

The primary source for this comes from Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics (1979), in a footnote on p. 208, related to von Neumann's time working on the H-bomb.

Dr. Felix Smith, Head of Molecular Physics, Stanford Research Institute, once related to me the true story of a physicist friend who worked at Los Alamos after World War II. Seeking help on a difficult problem, he went to the great Hungarian mathematician, John von Neumann, who was at Los Alamos as a consultant.

"Simple," said von Neumann. "The can be solved by using the method of characteristics."

After the explanation, the physicist said, "I'm afraid I don't understand the method of characteristics."

"Young man," said von Neumann, "in mathematics you don't understand things, you just get used to them."


David Wells offers a variant in The Penguin Book of Curious and Interesting Mathematics (1997):

Van Neumann had just about ended his lecture when a student stood up and in a vaguely abashed tone said he hadn't understood the final argument. Von Neumann answered: "Young man, in mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them.

Variant: "Don't worry, young man: in mathematics, none of us really understands any idea -- we just get used to them."
Added on 17-Nov-20 | Last updated 17-Nov-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Von Neumann, John

To give people pleasure in the things they must perforce use, that is one great office of decoration; to give people pleasure in the things they must perforce make, that is the other use of it.

William Morris (1834-1896) British textile designer, writer, socialist activist
“The Decorative Arts: Their Relation to Modern Life and Progress,” Lecture (4 Dec 1877)
    (Source)

Morris' first public lecture. Later published as "The Lesser Arts" in Hopes and Fears for Art (1882).
Added on 26-Feb-20 | Last updated 26-Feb-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Morris, William

Our golden rule: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

William Morris (1834-1896) British textile designer, writer, socialist activist
“The Beauty of Life,” lecture, Birmingham Society of Arts and School of Design (19 Feb 1880)
    (Source)
Added on 29-Jan-20 | Last updated 29-Jan-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Morris, William

We give the highest and the most peculiar praise to the precepts of Machiavelli, when we say that they may frequently be of real use in regulating conduct — not so much because they are more just, or more profound, than those which might be culled from other authors as because they can be more readily applied to the problems of real life.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
“Machiavelli,” Edinburgh Review (Mar 1827)
    (Source)

Review of Œvres complètes de Machiavel, J. V. Perier ed. (1825). Quotations of Machiavelli can be found here.
Added on 23-Jan-20 | Last updated 23-Jan-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Macaulay, Thomas Babington

If the books which you read are your own, mark with a pen or pencil the most considerable things in them which you desire to remember. Then you may read that book the second time over with half the trouble, by your eye running over the paragraphs which your pencil has noted. It is but a very weak objection against this practice to say, I shall spoil my book; for I persuade myself that you did not buy it as a bookseller, to sell again for gain, but as a scholar, to improve your mind by it; and if the mind be improved, your advantage is abundant, through your book yields less money to your executors.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) English theologian and hymnodist
Logic on the Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry after Truth (1724)
    (Source)
Added on 9-Aug-18 | Last updated 9-Aug-18
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Watts, Isaac

HAL9000: I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) American film director, screenwriter, producer
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) [with Arthur C. Clarke]
Added on 22-Nov-17 | Last updated 22-Nov-17
Link to this post | 2 comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Kubrick, Stanley

My anger has meant pain to me but it has also meant survival, and before I give it up I’m going to be sure that there is something at least as powerful to replace it on the road to clarity.

Audre Lorde (1934-1992) American writer, feminist, civil rights activist
“The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism” (1981)
    (Source)
Added on 8-Feb-16 | Last updated 8-Feb-16
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Lorde, Audre

Fashion is something barbarous, for it produces innovation without reason and imitation without benefit.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, Vol. 3 “Reason in Religion, ch. 7 (1905-06)
    (Source)
Added on 25-Jun-10 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Santayana, George

A belief is not true because it is useful.

Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881) Swiss philosopher, poet, critic
Entry, Journal (15 Nov 1876)
    (Source)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 9-Jun-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Amiel, Henri-Frédéric

Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.

George E P Box
George E. P. Box (1919-2013) Anglo-American statistician, quality scientist [George Edward Pelham Box]
Empirical Model Building and Response Surfaces (1987) [with N. R. Draper]

As written on p. 424; earlier in the book (p. 74), it is given as: "Remember that all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 23-Jun-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Box, George E. P.

Seek not proud riches, but such as thou mayest get justly, use soberly, distribute cheerfully, and leave contentedly.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Riches,” Essays, No. 34 (1625)
    (Source)

Also attributed to Benjamin Franklin.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 25-Mar-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Bacon, Francis

Say nothing of my religion. It is known to God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life: if it has been honest and dutiful to society the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to John Adams (11 Jan 1817)
    (Source)

Instructions he gave to a biographer.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Jul-22
Link to this post | 1 comment
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Jefferson, Thomas