Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes


"The great duty of God’s children is to love one another. This duty on earth takes the name and form of the law of humanity. We are to recognize all men as brethren, no matter where born, or under what sky, or institution or religion they may live. Every man belongs to the race, and owes a duty to mankind... Men cannot, by combining themselves into narrower or larger societies, sever the sacred, blessed bond which joins them to their kind... The law of humanity must reign; over the assertion of all human rights." - William Ellery Channing

"War some day will be abolished by the will of man. This assertion does not in any way invalidate the truth that war is fundamentally caused by impersonal, political, economic and social forces. But it is the destiny of man to master and control such force, even as it is his destiny to harness rivers, chain the lightning and ride the storm. It is human will, operating under social forces, that has abolished slavery, infanticide, dueling, and a score of other social enormities. Why should it not do the same for war?" - John Haynes Holmes

"There are two insults no human will endure: the assertion that he has no sense of humor and the doubly impertinent assertion that he has never known trouble." - Sinclair Lewis, fully Harry Sinclair Lewis

"The assertion ‘I am morally bound to perform this action’ is identical with the assertion ‘This action will produce the greatest amount of good in the Universe’." -

"At the heart of racism is the religious assertion that God made a creative mistake when He brought some people into being." - Frederick Hertz, until 1946 Friedrich Otto Hertz, aka Germanus Liber

"The constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear." - Jiddu Krishnamurti

"The only way to judge an event in life is to look at it from high enough, to see it in the order and dimension of the timeless. When we see pain, suffering and inequalities, we don’t understand or we jump to false conclusions. We see only the broken arc of a complete circle. Instead, life is a field for progress and progressive harmony. Each one of us has a part to play which he alone can execute. This role, based on our real nature - what Hindu scriptures call svabhava - can be discovered. An individual’s aim in life must be to find out the “law of his being” and act according to his svadharma. This discovery is no easy task. Normally, we are aware of our ego, the surface self that is a bundle of contradictory impulses. But we can find the true self, our best self, by a process of standing back and surveying our needs. Abandoning desire and self-assertion, accepting the challenges of life in a state of stable, unwavering peace will result in this supreme revelation. When life’s shocks turn our eyes inward, we rise above contingencies of time and place. Our perspective changes. The greatest sorrows is transformed into a luminous vibration. We see into the life of things. Life itself, a single, immense organism, moves toward a greater and higher harmony as more and more cells become conscious of their uniqueness. Life, then, is not Macbeths’s “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” It is a grand orchestra in which discordant notes contribute to the total harmony." - V. S. Seturaman

"What causes adolescents to rebel is not the assertion of authority but the arbitrary use of power, with little explanation of the rules and no involvement in the decision-making." - Laurence Steinberg

"Faith is a cop-out. It is intellectual bankruptcy. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can't be taken on its own merits." - Dan Barker

"Love is an expression and assertion of self-esteem, a response to one’s own values in the person of another. One gains a profoundly personal, selfish joy fro the mere existence of the person one loves. It is one’s own personal, selfish happiness that one seeks, earns, and derives from love." - Ayn Rand, born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum

"It is without all controversy that learning doth make the minds of men gentle, amiable, and pliant to government; whereas ignorance makes them churlish, thwarting, and mutinous; and the evidence of time doth clear this assertion, considering that the most barbarous, rude and unlearned times have been most subject to tumults, seditions, and changes." - Francis Bacon

"Without controversy, learning doth make the mind of men gentle, generous, amiable and pliant to government; whereas ignorance makes them curlish, thwarting, and mutinous; and the evidence of time doth clear this assertion, considering that the most barbarous, rude, and unlearned times have been most subject to tumults, seditions, and changes." - Francis Bacon

"Rejection is a form of self-assertion. You have only to look back upon yourself as a person who hates this or that to discover what it is that you secretly love." - George Santayana

"Philosophy goes no further than probabilities, and in every assertion keeps doubt in reserve." - James Froude, fully James Anthony Froude

"Wisdom, itself, is often an abstraction associated not with fact or reality, but with the man who asserts it and the manner of its assertion." - John Kenneth Galbraith, aka "Ken"

"How can I adequately express my contempt for the assertion that all things occur for the best, for a wise and beneficent end, and are ordered by a human intelligence! It is the most utter falsehood and a crime against the human race." - Richard Jefferies, fully John Richard Jefferies

"Logic is not satisfied with assertion. It cares nothing for the opinions of the great - nothing for the prejudices of the many, and least of all for the superstitions of the dead." - Robert Ingersoll, fully Robert Green "Bob" Ingersoll

"Your temporal formlessness belies your spatial coherence. Only by asserting yourself in time can you achieve functional identity and become in fact what you seem to be in the mirror. And such an assertion is impossible without a plan of personal development which forcefully projects your character into the future." - Robert Grudin

"Those who do not live in the single Way fail in both activity and in passivity, assertion and denial. To deny the reality of things is to miss their reality; to assert the emptiness of things is to miss their reality. The more you talk and think about it, the further astray you wander from the truth. Stop talking and thinking and there is nothing you will not be able to know. To return to the root is to find the meaning, but to pursue appearances is to miss the source. At the moment of inner enlightenment, there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness. The changes that appear to occur in the empty world we call real only because of our ignorance. Do not search for the truth; only cease to cherish opinions." - Sosan Zenji, aka Chien-chih Seng-Tsan or Ch'an Seng-ts'an

"A bare assertion is not necessarily the naked truth. " - George Dennison Prentice

"The assertion ‘I am morally bound to perform this action’ is identical with the assertion ‘This action will produce the greatest amount of good in the Universe’." - G. E. Moore, fully George Edward Moore

"This autonomy of man, this attempt of the Ego to understand itself out of itself, is the lie concerning man which we call sin. The truth about man is that his ground is not in himself but in God -- that his essence is not in self sufficient reason but in the Word, in the challenge of God, in responsibility, not in self-sufficiency. The true being of man is realized when he bases himself upon God's Word. Faith is then not an impossibility or a salto mortale [mortal leap], but that which is truly natural; and the real salto mortale (a mortal leap indeed!) is just the assertion of autonomy, self-sufficiency, God-likeness. [It is] through this usurped independence [that] man separates himself from God, and at the same time isolates himself from his fellows. Individualism is the necessary consequence of rational autonomy, just as love is the necessary consequence of faith." - Emil Brunner, fully Heinrich Emil Brunner

"The constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear. " - Jiddu Krishnamurti

"An interesting fiction... however paradoxical the assertion may appear... addresses our love of truth- not the mere love of facts expressed by true names and dates, but the love of that higher truth, the truth of nature and principals, which is a primitive law of the human mind." - James Fenimore Cooper

"God is pleased with nothing but love; but before I explain this, it will be as well to set forth the grounds on which the assertion rests. All our works, and all our labours, how grand soever they may be, are nothing in the sight of God, for we can give Him nothing, neither can we by them fulfil His desire, which is the growth of our soul. As to Himself He desires nothing of this, for He has need of nothing, and so, if He is pleased with anything it is with the growth of the soul; and as there is no way in which the soul can grow but in becoming in a manner equal to Him, for this reason only is He pleased with our love. It is the property of love to place him who loves on an equality with the object of his love." - John Yepes “Saint John of the Cross”

"It is deplorable, but not tragic, simply to be a victim of circumstance. Sheer victimization is not an assertion - and it naturally makes not for vision but for frustration. The victimizing circumstances, or accidents, seem arbitrary and exorbitant, even silly." - Kenneth Burke

"No longer able to believe in the Church religion, whose falsehood they had detected, and incapable of accepting true Christian teaching, which denounced their whole manner of life, these rich and powerful people, stranded without any religious conception of life, involuntarily returned to that pagan view of things which places life's meaning in personal enjoyment. And then among the upper classes what is called the "Renaissance of science and art" took place, which was really not only a denial of every religion, but also an assertion that religion was unnecessary." - Leo Tolstoy, aka Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy or Tolstoi

"For I am not so enamored of my own opinions that I disregard what others may think of them. I am aware that a philosopher's ideas are not subject to the judgment of ordinary persons, because it is his endeavor to seek the truth in all things, to the extent permitted to human reason by God. Yet I hold that completely erroneous views should be shunned. Those who know that the consensus of many centuries has sanctioned the conception that the earth remains at rest in the middle of the heaven as its center would, I reflected, regard it as an insane pronouncement if I made the opposite assertion that the earth moves." - Nicholas Copernicus

"The distinction between identifying reference and uniquely existential assertion is something quite undeniable. The sense in which the existence of something answering to a definite description used for the purpose of identifying reference, and its distinguishability by an audience from anything else, is presupposed and not asserted in an utterance containing such an expression, so used, stands absolutely firm, whether or not one opts for the view that radical failure of the presupposition would deprive the statement of a truth-value. It remains a decisive objection to the theory of Descriptions … that … it amounts to a denial of these undeniable distinctions. " - P. F. Strawson, fully Sir Peter Frederick Strawson

"If we are honest — and scientists have to be — we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can't for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way. What I do see is that this assumption leads to such unproductive questions as why God allows so much misery and injustice, the exploitation of the poor by the rich and all the other horrors He might have prevented. If religion is still being taught, it is by no means because its ideas still convince us, but simply because some of us want to keep the lower classes quiet. Quiet people are much easier to govern than clamorous and dissatisfied ones. They are also much easier to exploit. Religion is a kind of opium that allows a nation to lull itself into wishful dreams and so forget the injustices that are being perpetrated against the people. Hence the close alliance between those two great political forces, the State and the Church. Both need the illusion that a kindly God rewards — in heaven if not on earth — all those who have not risen up against injustice, who have done their duty quietly and uncomplainingly. That is precisely why the honest assertion that God is a mere product of the human imagination is branded as the worst of all mortal sins." - Paul Dirac, fully Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac

"In most ways, human beings are not equal; and if we seek some characteristic that all of them possess, than this characteristic must be a kind of lowest common denominator, pitched so low that no human being lacks it. The catch is that any such characteristic that is possessed by all human beings will not be possessed only by human beings. For example, all human beings, but not only human beings, are capable of feeling pain; and while only human beings are capable of solving complex mathematical problems, not all humans can do this. So it turns out that in the only sense in which we can truly say, as an assertion of fact, that all humans are equal, at least some members of other species are also "equal" - equal, that is, to some humans. " - Peter Singer

"While men represent powerful activity as assertion and aggression, women in contrast portray acts of nurturance as acts of strength." - Carol Gilligan

"The blues is an art of ambiguity, an assertion of the irrepressibly human over all circumstance whether created by others or by one's own human failings. They are the only consistent art in the United States which constantly remind us of our limitations while encouraging us to see how far we can actually go. When understood in their more profound implication, they are a corrective, an attempt to draw a line upon man's own limitless assertion." - Ralph Ellison, fully Ralph Waldo Ellison

"Faith is the final triumph over incongruity, the final assertion of the meaningfulness of existence." - Reinhold Niebuhr, fully Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr

"The world, and everyone in it is subject to environmental limits. Conventional economics believes that these limits are not there and anything can be substituted if the price is right. Acclaimed environmentalist Richard Heinberg disagrees. He thinks we have reached the end of two centuries of frenetic growth powered by fossil fuels. The current financial crisis is one of the symptoms of a system that is being wrecked, not just by debt but resource depletion and environmental devastation. [Central assertion of his book, "The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality"" - Richard Heinberg

"There must, moreover, not only be this reference to myself in distinguishing my acts from all those things that are not acts, but it must be a reference to myself as an active being. Another perfectly natural way of expressing this notion of my activity is to say that, in acting, I make something happen, I cause it, or bring it about. Now it does seem odd that philosophers should construe this natural way of expressing the matter as really meaning, not that I, but rather some event, process, or state not identical with myself should be the cause of that which is represented as my act. It is plain that, whatever I am, I am never identical with any such event, process, or state as is usually proposed as the "real cause" of my act, such as some intention or state of willing. Hence, if it is really and unmetaphorically true, as I believe it to be, that I sometimes cause something to happen, this would seem to entail that it is false that any event, process, or state not identical with myself should be the real cause of it. But it is not, in fact, hard to see why philosophers should want to insist that these natural ways of expressing the matter really mean something quite different from what they seem to mean; namely, that it has been the firm conviction of most philosophers for generations that in the case of any event that occurs, another event must be at least part of its cause. If, accordingly, it is true that I am the cause of my acts, as it evidently is, then in view of this principle we must suppose that the real cause is some event intimately associated with me — and then, of course, the chase is on to find it or, failing that, at least to give it a name and create a semblance of having found it. The alternative I urge is that I am sometimes the cause of my own actions, that such an assertion is neither incomplete nor metaphorical and hence has no "real" meaning different from, much less inconsistent with, itself as it stands. In that case, however, we must conclude that the word "cause" in such contexts has not the ordinary meaning of a certain relationship between events, but has rather the older meaning of the efficacy or power of an agent to produce certain results. This idea can be otherwise expressed by saying that an agent is something that originates things, produces them, or brings them about. It might be wished that some clear definition or analysis of this idea of agency could be given, in place of merely synonymous expressions, but we have already seen that this cannot be done, and we have also seen why. To give an analysis of agency or of the sense in which an agent is the cause of his actions would amount to giving an analysis of an act, an analysis which would of necessity presuppose the truth of a metaphysical presupposition that is not only dubious, but probably false. " - Richard Taylor

"When the book appeared, a few reviewers found this plot incredible; they accused Professor O'Neal of having too little art to persuade them to suspend their disbelief in his assertion that Shakespeare was a precocious girl. Perhaps this was because they knew that the life of literary people is usually devoid of exciting external incident." - Robertson Davies

"Trusting In Mind - The Great Way is not difficult, Just don’t pick and choose. If you cut off all likes or dislikes Everything is clear like space. Make the slightest distinction And heaven and earth are set apart. If you wish to see the truth, Don’t think for or against. Likes and dislikes Are the mind’s disease. Without understanding the deep meaning You cannot still your thoughts. It is clear like space, Nothing missing, nothing extra. If you want something You cannot see things as they are. Outside, don’t get tangled in things. Inside, don’t get lost in emptiness. Be still and become One And all opposites disappear. If you stop moving to become still, This stillness always moves. If you hold on to opposites, How can you know One? If you don’t understand One, This and that cannot function. Denied, the world asserts itself. Pursued, emptiness is lost. The more you think and talk, The more you lose the Way. Cut off all thinking And pass freely anywhere. Return to the root and understand. Chase appearances and lose the source. One moment of enlightenment Illuminates the emptiness before you. Emptiness changing into things Is only our deluded view. Do not seek the truth. Only put down your opinions. Do not live in the world of opposites. Be careful! Never go that way. If you make right and wrong, Your mind is lost in confusion. Two comes from One, But do not cling even to this One. When your mind is undisturbed The ten thousand things are without fault. No fault, no ten thousand things, No disturbance, no mind. No world, no one to see it. No one to see it, no world. This becomes this because of that. That becomes that because of this. If you wish to understand both, See them as originally one emptiness. In emptiness the two are the same, And each holds the ten thousand things. If you no longer see them as different, How can you prefer one to another? The Way is calm and wide, Not easy, not difficult. But small minds get lost. Hurrying, they fall behind. Clinging, they go too far, Sure to take a wrong turn, Just let it be! In the end, Nothing goes, nothing stays. Follow nature and become one with the Way, Free and easy and undisturbed. Tied by your thoughts, you lose the truth, Become heavy, dull, and unwell. Not well, the mind is troubled. Then why hold or reject anything? If you want to get the One Vehicle Do not despise the world of the senses. When you do not despise the six senses, That is already enlightenment. The wise do not act. The ignorant bind themselves. In true Dharma there is no this or that, So why blindly chase your desires? Using mind to stir up the mind Is the original mistake. Peaceful and troubled are only thinking. Enlightenment has no likes or dislikes. All opposites arise From faulty views. Illusions, flowers in the air – Why try to grasp them? Win, lose, right, wrong – Put it all down! If the eye never sleeps, Dreams disappear by themselves. If the mind makes no distinctions, The ten thousand things are one essence. Understand this dark essence And be free from entanglements. See the ten thousand things as equal And you return to your original nature Enlightened beings everywhere All enter this source. This source is beyond time and space. One moment is ten thousand years. Even if you cannot see it, The whole universe is before your eyes. Infinitely small is infinitely large: No boundaries, no differences. Infinitely large is infinitely small: Measurements do not matter here. What is is the same as what is not. What is not is the same as what is. Where it is not like this, Don’t bother staying. One is all, All is one. When you see things like this, You do not worry about being incomplete. Trust and Mind are not two. Not-two is trusting the Mind. Words and speech don’t cut it, Can’t now, never could, won’t ever." - Sen T’Sen, aka Seng T'San, Jianzhi Sengcan, Kanchi Sosan, Third Chinese Patriarch of Zen

"Those who are more adapted to the active life can prepare themselves for contemplation in the practice of the active life, while those who are more adapted to the contemplative life can take upon themselves the works of the active life so as to become yet more apt for contemplation." - Saint Thomas Aquinas, aka Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis or Doctor Universalis

"In spite of so many stubborn lies, at every moment, at every opportunity, the truth comes to light, the truth of life and death, of my solitude and my bond with the world, of my freedom and my servitude, of the insignificance and the sovereign importance of each man and all men. There was Stalingrad and there was Buchenwald, and neither of the two wipes out the other. Since we do not succeed in fleeing it, let us therefore try to look the truth in the face. Let us try to assume our fundamental ambiguity. It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our life that we must draw our strength to live and our reason for acting." - Simone de Beauvoir, fully Simone-Ernestine-Lucie-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir

"If anyone has put his trust in him as a man without a human mind, he is wholly bereft of mind, and quite unworthy of salvation. For that which he has not assumed he has not healed; but that which is united to his Godhead is also saved." - Gregory Nazianzen, aka Saint Gregory of Nazianzus or Gregory the Theologian

"The causes of life's history [cannot] resolve the riddle of life's meaning." - Stephan Jay Gould

"There are two species of presentation, the one apprehending a real object, the other not. The former, which they take to be the test of reality, is defined as that which proceeds from a real object, agrees with that object itself, and has been imprinted and stamped upon the mind: the latter, or non-apprehending, that which does not proceed from any real object, or, if it does, fails to agree with the reality itself, not being clear or distinct. [Diogenes]" - Stoics, The Stoics or Stoicism NULL

"I stand for the square deal. But when I say that I am for the square deal, I mean not merely that I stand for fair play under the present rules of the game, but that I stand for having those rules changed so as to work for a more substantial equality of opportunity and of reward for equally good service. One word of warning, which, I think, is hardly necessary in Kansas. When I say I want a square deal for the poor man, I do not mean that I want a square deal for the man who remains poor because he has not got the energy to work for himself. If a man who has had a chance will not make good, then he has got to quit. And you men of the Grand Army, you want justice for the brave man who fought, and punishment for the coward who shirked his work. Is that not so?" - Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt

"Sometimes a person begins with opinions and judgments and valid criticisms, but then things creep in that have nothing to do with forming opinions, and then it’s all over with strict logic, and what you end up with is an absurd world republic and beautiful style." - Thomas Mann, fully Paul Thomas Mann

"We are not the helpless slaves of technology, but as before - if only we wish to be - captains of our fate.... this argument of technological inevitability is also misleading because it depends entirely on extra-techni­cal factors whether a certain technological process which, for example, favors mass production, is in actual fact really superior from the economic point of view or not." - Wilhelm Röepke

"The aim of a true philosophy must lie, not in futile efforts towards the complete accommodation of man to circumstances in which he chances to find himself, but in the maintenance of a kind of candid discontent, in the face of the very highest achievement." - Walter Pater, fully Walter Horatio Pater

"Every man has a certain sphere of discretion, which he has a right to expect shall not be infringed by his neighbors. This right flows from the very nature of man. First, all men are fallible: no man can be justified in setting up his judgment as a standard for others. We have no infallible judge of controversies; each man in his own apprehension is right in his decisions; and we can find no satisfactory mode of adjusting their jarring pretensions. If everyone be desirous of imposing his sense upon others, it will at last come to be a controversy, not of reason, but of force. Secondly, even if we had an in fallible criterion, nothing would be gained, unless it were by all men recognized as such. If I were secured against the possibility of mistake, mischief and not good would accrue, from imposing my infallible truths upon my neighbor, and requiring his submission independently of any conviction I could produce in his understanding. Man is a being who can never be an object of just approbation, any further than he is independent. He must consult his own reason, draw his own conclusions and conscientiously conform himself to his ideas of propriety. Without this, he will be neither active, nor considerate, nor resolute, nor generous." - William Godwin

"In the deepest heart of all of us there is a corner in which the ultimate mystery of things works sadly." - William James