Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes


"Custom is the great guide of human life. It is that principle alone which renders our experience useful to us, and makes us expect, for the future, a similar train of events with those which have appeared I the past. Without the influence of custom, we should be entirely ignorant of every matter of fact beyond what is immediately present to the memory and senses. We should never know how to adjust means to ends, or to employ our natural powers in the production of any effect. There would be an end at once of all action, as well as of the chief part of speculation." - David Hume

"There is nothing so bad but it can masquerade as moral... The whole speculation about morality is an effort to find a way of living which men who live it will instinctively feel is good." - Walter Lippmann

"Decision of character is one of the most important of human qualities, philosophically considered. Speculation, knowledge, is not the chief end of man; it is action." - Jacob Burnap

"For every grain of sand is a mystery; so is every daisy in summer, and so is every snow-flake in winter. Both upwards and downwards, and all around us, science and speculation pass into mystery at last." - William Mountford

"Creative work is play. It is free speculation using the materials of one's chosen form." -

"Our beliefs, therefore, are an assemblage of perceptual experiences, emotional evaluations, and cognitive abstractions that are blended with fantasy, imagination, and intuitive speculation." - Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman

"Speculation does not precede faith. The antecedents of faith are the premise of wonder and the premise of praise." - Fritz A. Rothschild

"The ideal man is the non-attached man. Non-attached to his bodily sensations and lusts. Non-attached to his cravings for power and possessions. Non-attached even to science and speculation and philanthropy." -

"The ideal man is the non-attached man. Non-attached to his bodily sensations and lusts. Non-attached to his cravings for power and possessions. Non-attached even to science and speculation and philanthropy." -

"The ideal man is the non-attached man. Non-attached to his bodily sensations and lusts. Non-attached to his cravings for power and possessions. Non-attached even to science and speculation and philanthropy." -

"Creeds are at once the outcome of speculation and efforts to curb speculation." - Alfred North Whitehead

"For the merchant, even honesty is a financial speculation." - Charles Baudelaire

"In the heat of speculation or of love there may come moments of equal perfection, but they are very unstable. The reason and the heart remain deeply unsatisfied. But the eye finds in nature, and in some supreme achievements of art, constant and fuller satisfaction. For the eye is quick and seems to have been more docile to the education of life than the heart or the reason of man, and able sooner to adapt itself to the reality. Beauty therefore seems to be the clearest manifestation of perfection, and the best evidence of its possibility." - George Santayana

"Time present and time past are both perhaps time future. And time future contained in the time passed. If all time is eternally present, all time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction remaining of a perpetual possibility only in a world of speculation. What might have been and what has been point to one end which is always present. Foot falls echo in the memory down the passage which we did not take towards the door we never opened to the rose garden. My words echo in your mind." - T. S. Eliot, fully Thomas Sterns Eliot

"The safety of morality lies neither in the adoption of this or that philosophical speculation, or this or that theological creed, but in a real and living belief in that fixed order of nature which sends social disorganization upon the track of immorality, as surely as its sends physical disease after physical trespasses." - Thomas Henry Huxley, aka T.H. Huxley and Darwin's Bulldog

"The ideal man is the non-attached man. Non-attached to his bodily sensations and lusts. Non-attached to his cravings for power and possessions. Non-attached even to science and speculation and philanthropy." - Aldous Leonard Huxley

"But by far the greatest hindrance and aberration of the human understanding proceeds from the dullness, incompetency, and deceptions of the senses; in that things which strike the sense outweigh things which do not immediately strike it, though they be more important. Hence it is that speculation commonly ceases where sight ceases; insomuch that of things invisible there is little or no observation." - Francis Bacon

"Philosophy has proceeded from speculation to science. " - Hans Reichenbach

"A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property." - James Madison

"Where speculation ends — in real life — there real, positive science begins: the representation of the practical activity, of the practical process of development of men. Empty talk about consciousness ceases, and real knowledge has to take place. When reality is depicted, philosophy as an independent branch of activity loses its medium of existence. " - Karl Marx

"By no amount of reasoning can we altogether eliminate all contingency from our world. Moreover, pure speculation alone will not enable us to get a determinate picture of the existing world. We must eliminate some of the conflicting possibilities, and this can be brought about only by experiment and observation. " - Morris Raphael Cohen

"Medicine is a strange mixture of speculation and action. We have to cultivate a science and to exercise an art. The calls of science are upon our leisure and our choice the calls of practice are of daily emergence and necessity." - Peter Mere Latham

"I think that only daring speculation can lead us further and not accumulation of facts. " - Albert Einstein

"One of the difficulties facing a serious philosopher is that he must keep his eyes on so many subjects. He must recognize the fruits of division of labor and yet try to appreciate what is going on. On the one hand, he must be critical of many moves in the past, such as a deductive approach to what is, which have shown themselves to be mistaken. On the other hand, he must have a keen eye for genuine puzzles and problems. I, myself, concentrated on the nature of human knowing, on the status of value in the world, and on the traditional mind-body problem. I did not think that philosophy just by itself could solve these problems. The increase of knowledge would help. But I thought that philosophy could make a cooperative contribution by what has come to be called categorial analysis. Philosophy usually had a long historical perspective in these matters. It could keep its eye on the nature of the puzzle. In short, philosophy never meant to me uncontrolled speculation about a supposed transcendental realm, as positivists always assume. I was quite early naturalistic and even materialistic in my outlook. I just wanted to fit things together in an intelligible way." - R. W. Sellars, fully Roy Wood Sellars

"It always bothers me that according to the laws as we understand them today, it takes a computing machine an infinite number of logical operations to figure out what goes on in no matter how tiny a region of space and no matter how tiny a region of time ... I have often made the hypothesis that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement, that in the end the machinery will be revealed and the laws will turn out to be simple. ... But this speculation is of the same nature as those other people make - 'I like it', 'I don't like it' - and it is not good to be too prejudiced about these things." - Richard Feynman, fully Richard Phillips Feynman

"The interval between a cold expectation and a warm desire may be filled by expectations of varying degrees of warmth or by desires of varying degrees of coldness." - Samuel Alexander

"But, as we consider the totality of similarly broad and fundamental aspects of life, we cannot defend division by two as a natural principle of objective order. Indeed, the stuff of the universe often strikes our senses as complex and shaded continua, admittedly with faster and slower moments, and bigger and smaller steps, along the way. Nature does not dictate dualities, trinities, quarterings, or any objective basis for human taxonomies; most of our chosen schemes, and our designated numbers of categories, record human choices from a cornucopia of possibilities offered by natural variation from place to place, and permitted by the flexibility of our mental capacities. How many seasons (if we wish to divide by seasons at all) does a year contain? How many stages shall we recognize in a human life?" - Stephan Jay Gould

"If we make this readjustment to view Homo sapiens as an ultimate in oddball rarity, and life at bacterial grade as the common expression of a universal phenomenon, then we could finally ask the truly fundamental question raised by the prospect of Martian fossils. If life originates as a general property of the material universe under certain conditions (probably often realized), then how much can the basic structure and constitution of life vary from place to independent place?" - Stephan Jay Gould

"In candid moments, leading creationists will admit that the miraculous character of origin and destruction precludes a scientific understanding. Morris writes (and Judge Overton quotes): 'God was there when it happened. We were not there . . . . Therefore, we are completely limited to what God has seen fit to tell us, and this information is in His written Word.'" - Stephan Jay Gould

"Run the tape again, and let the tiny twig of Homo sapiens expire in Africa. Other hominids may have stood on the threshold of what we know as human possibilities, but many sensible scenarios would never generate our level of mentality. Run the tape again, and this time Neanderthal perishes in Europe and Homo erectus in Asia (as they did in our world). The sole surviving human stock, Homo erectus in Africa, stumbles along for a while, even prospers, but does not speciate and therefore remains stable. A mutated virus then wipes Homo erectus out, or a change in climate reconverts Africa into inhospitable forest. One little twig on the mammalian branch, a lineage with interesting possibilities that were never realized, joins the vast majority of species in extinction. So what? Most possibilities are never realized, and who will ever know the difference? Arguments of this form lead me to the conclusion that biology's most profound insight into human nature, status, and potential lies in the simple phrase, the embodiment of contingency: Homo sapiens is an entity, not a tendency." - Stephan Jay Gould

"But he who dies in despair has lived his whole life in vain." - Theodor W. Adorno, born Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund

"A witty statesman said, you might prove anything by figures." - Thomas Carlyle

"With respect to duels, indeed, I have my own ideas. Few things in this so surprising world strike me with more surprise. Two little visual spectra of men, hovering with insecure enough cohesion in the midst of the unfathomable, and to dissolve therein, at any rate, very soon, make pause at the distance of twelve paces asunder; whirl around, and simultaneously by the cunningest mechanism, explode one another into dissolution; and, offhand, become air, and non-extant--the little spitfires!" - Thomas Carlyle

"In like manner did the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, surrounded as he is with the splendours of a wide and everlasting monarchy, turn him to our humble habitation; and the footsteps of God manifest in the flesh have been on the narrow spot of ground we occupy; and small though our mansion be amid the orbs and the systems of immensity, hither hath the King of glory bent his mysterious way, and entered the tabernacle of men, and in the disguise of a servant did he sojourn for years under the roof which canopies our obscure and solitary world." - Thomas Chalmers

"The fault lieth altogether in the dogmatics, that is to say, those that are imperfectly learned, and with passion press to have their opinion pass everywhere for truth." - Thomas Hobbes

"As to politics, we were like the rest of the country people in England; that is to say, we neither knew nor thought anything about the matter." - William Cobbett

"We only have one or two wars in a lifetime. But we have three meals a day. When you have helped raise the standard of cooking then you would have raised the only thing in the world that matters." - Will Rogers, fully William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers

"People should be very careful when choosing the future fathers and mothers of their children. For that reason alone, it is extremely mean to demand a marriage certificate for life, just for one night of embracement." - Wilhelm Reich

"But now for the final exam: If you expect to be a net saver during the next five years, should you hope for a higher or lower stock market during that period? Many investors get this one wrong. Even though they are going to be net buyers of stocks for many years to come, they are elated when stock prices rise and depressed when they fall. In effect, they rejoice because prices have risen for the "hamburgers" they will soon be buying. This reaction makes no sense. Only those who will be sellers of equities in the near future should be happy at seeing stocks rise. Prospective purchasers should much prefer sinking prices." - Warren Buffett, fully Warren Edward Buffett, aka Oracle of Omaha

"The natural effect of sorrow over the dead is to refine and elevate the mind." - Washington Irving

"My mother refused to let me fail. So I insisted." - Walker Percy

"The generosity of others suffer sore, as if she was responsible." - Vauvenargues, Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues NULL

"Awake remembrance of these valiant dead, And with your puissant arm renew their feats. You are their heir; you sit upon their throne; The blood and courage that renowned them Runs in your veins; and my thrice-puissant liege Is in the very May-morn of his youth, Ripe for exploits and mighty enterprises. Henry V, Act I, Scene 2" -

"Thor was the God of Thunder and, frankly, acted like it." - Douglas Adams, fully Douglas Noel Adams

"In making these accusations I am aware that I am making myself liable to articles 30 and 31 of the law of 29 July 1881 regarding the press, which make libel a punishable offence. I expose myself to that risk voluntarily." - Emile Zola

"Women are wise impromptu, fools on reflection." -

"A novelist who writes nothing for 10 years finds his reputation rising. Because I keep on producing books they say there must be something wrong with this fellow." - J. B. Priestly, fully John Boynton Priestly