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“History, science, and philosophy all make us aware of the great collective achievements of mankind. It would be well if civilised human beings had a sense of these achievements and the realisation of the possibility of greater things to come, with the difference which must result as regards the petty squabbles upon which the passions of individuals and nations are wastefully squandered.”

Bertrand Russell, in An Outline of Philosophy


“I believe myself to be writing a book which will largely revolutionize – not, I suppose, at once, but in the course of the next ten years – the way the world thinks about economic problems”

John Maynard Keynes, on his upcoming book The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money


“The Theory of Deterrence cornered the credit for having prevented the Cold War from turning into a Third World War. The only immutable fact about the Third World War is that if there’s going to be one, it will be fought after the Second World War. In other words, there’s no fixed schedule. In other words, we still have time.”

Arundhati Roy, in The End of Imagination


“Yes, I’ve heard – the [nuclear] bomb is in the Vedas. It might be, but if you look hard enough, you’ll find Coke in the Vedas too. That’s the great thing about religious texts. You can find anything you want in them – so long as you know what you’re looking for.”

Arundhati Roy, in The End of Imagination


“The great unmentionable evil at the centre of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are patriarchal- God is the omnipotent father- hence the loathing of women for 2000 years in those countries afflicted with the sky-god and his male delegates. The sky-god is jealous. He requires total obedience. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed. Totalitarianism is the only politics that can truly serve the sky-god’s purpose. Any movement of a liberal nature endangers his authority. One God, one king, one pope, one master in the factory, one father-leader in the family”

Gore Vidal


“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use.”

Thomas Jefferson


“Had the major central banks pursued policies of price stability instead of adhering to the gold standard, there would have been no Great Depression, no Nazi revolution, and no World War II”

in Modern Macroeconomics, by Brian Snowdon and Howard R. Vane


“Of all men, he who never cares who has the world in hand has the greatest wisdom.”

Attributed to Ptolemy in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales


“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”



“What we become depends on what we read when all our professors have finished with us. The greatest university is a library of books.”

Thomas Carylye


“A man lives by believing something; not by debating and arguing about many things.”

Thomas Carlyle


“A servile civilization is a standing invitation to predatory free men.”

H. G. Wells in The Outline of History


“There is something of a tyranny of ideas in seeing the political divisions of states (primarily, nation states) as being, in some way, fundamental, and in seeing them not only as practical constraints to be addressed, but as divisions of basic significance in ethics and political philosophy.”

Amartya Sen, in The Idea of Justice


“And the reason it is easy for you to forgive such fools and think well of them, Mr. Potter, is that you yourself have not been sorely hurt. You will think less fondly of commonplace idiots after the first time their folly costs you something dear. Such as a hundred Galleons from your own pocket, perhaps, rather than the agonizing deaths of a hundred strangers.”

Prof Quirrell in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky


“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!”

William Wordsworth on the French Revolution


“Among religions, Bolshevism is to be reckoned with Mohammedanism rather than with Christianity and Buddhism. Christianity and Buddhism are primarily personal religions, with mystical doctrines and a love of contemplation. Mohammedanism and Bolshevism are practical, social, unspiritual, concerned to win the empire of this world.”

Bertrand Russell


“In winter, under the snow, the bare branches of a deciduous wood are thin and poor like the hairs on an old man’s wart. But in only a few days in spring the forest is transformed, it reaches the clouds and you can hide or lose yourself in its leafy maze. During this transformation the forest moves with a speed greater than that of animals, for animals do not grow as fast as plants; yet the movement cannot be observed. The forest does not change its place, we cannot lie in wait for it and catch it in the act of moving. However much we look at it we see it as motionless. And such is the immobility to our eyes of the eternally growing, ceaselessly changing life of society, of history moving as invisibly in its incessant transformations as the forest in spring.”

Boris Pasternak, in Doctor Zhivago


“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”

From the Gospel of Matthew, the first book of the New Testament (There is no such basis for the separation of Church and State in Islam)


“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because if there is one, he must approve more of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.

Thomas Jefferson


“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

John F. Kennedy, at a dinner honouring Nobel Prize winners


“Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

Theodore Roosevelt, on American Foreign Policy


“I’m glad that’s over. He was on the point of questioning me.”

Professor presiding over the oral exam for J. Robert Oppenheimer’s Ph.D.


“One day, sir, you may tax it.”

Michael Faraday’s reply to William Gladstone, Chancellor of the Exchequer, when asked of the practical value of electricity


“To the Grand Mufti [ruler of Jerusalem]: The National Socialist movement of Greater Germany has, since its inception, inscribed upon its flag the fight against world Jewry. It has, therefore followed with particular sympathy the struggle of freedom-loving Arabs, especially in Palestine, against Jewish interlopers. In recognition of this enemy and of the common struggle against it lies the firm foundation of the natural alliance that exists between the National Socialist Greater Germany and the freedom-loving Muslims of the whole world. In this spirit I am sending you on the anniversary of the infamous Balfour declaration my hearty greetings and wishes for the successful pursuit of your struggle until the final victory.”

Heinrich Himmler, in a telegram


“In good speaking, should not the mind of the speaker know the truth of the matter about which he is to speak?


“That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.”

P.C. Hodgell


‘I’m often asked the question, “Do you think there is extraterrestrial intelligence?” I give the standard arguments — there are a lot of places out there, and use the word billions, and so on. And then I say it would be astonishing to me if there weren’t extraterrestrial intelligence, but of course there is as yet no compelling evidence for it. And then I’m asked, “Yeah, but what do you really think?” I say, “I just told you what I really think.” “Yeah, but what’s your gut feeling?” But I try not to think with my gut. Really, it’s okay to reserve judgment until the evidence is in.’

Carl Sagan


“Love is a selective relationship (I love you and you love me and the rest of the world is excluded by such a feeling), while hatred is collective, social: An entire people can hate another one, and that is why dictators, to keep they followers together, ask for hatred (not for love). I remember that having spent my childhood under a fascist dictatorship, I was continually taught to hate some other country—French, Englishmen, Americans—and was encouraged to love only Mussolini. Happily this kind of education did not work…”

Umberto Eco


“I don’t have to take the time to reject Christ any more than you have to take the time to reject all the millions of gods that are out there. It just happens by default. The justification for my atheism is the same as yours with respect to your rejection of all the other possible gods. I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one less god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

Stephen F Robert


“O this learning, what a thing it is!”

Gremio, in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew


“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

Benito Mussolini


“We want brilliant teachers to do to come up with innovative new ways of teaching students and prove they work better than the old stale system. But [is] the ultimate goal of school… to create orderly little capitalist worker bees or curious independent thinkers? What good is learning to read if, by the end, you hate doing it?

Aaron Swartz


“The most powerful insufficiently-appreciated insight I’ve ever learned is the one intellectual legacy I’d leave, if I could leave only one: we are often wrong about why we do things.”

Economist Robin Hanson


“To be governed by appetite alone is slavery, while obedience to a law one prescribes to oneself is freedom.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in The Social Contract


“He preferred to be good, rather than to seem so.”

Roman historian Sallust, on Cato the Younger (Roman diplomat, lived 95 BC – 46 BC)


‘‘As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed.”

James Madison, in his justification for separation of the powers of government in a multi-party democracy


“Born originals, how comes it to pass that we die copies?”

Edward Young, English poet


“If the spirit of religion join itself to the love of wonder, there is an end of common sense.”

David Hume


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  1. By New Quotes « The Folly of Human Conceits on 22 Dec 2011 at 7:26 pm

    […] Memorable Words […]

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