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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index F > John Fiske Quotes

John Fiske
(30 Mar 1842 - 4 Jul 1901)

American philosopher and historian who popularized European evolutionary science in the United States, and noted for his two-volume Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy (1874) in which he explained Herbert Spencer’s philosophy of evolution.

Science Quotes by John Fiske (7 quotes)

[Herbert Spencer] has discovered a great law of evolution in nature, which underlies all phenomena, & which is as important & more comprehensive than Newton’s law of gravitation.
— John Fiske
In letter to his mother, after reading (Jul 1861) Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Psychology (1855). Fiske called the book, “the profoundest work I ever read”. It ignited his enthusiasm for Spencer’s philosophy of evolution. As quoted in Milton Berman, John Fiske: The Evolution of a Popularizer (1961), 36-37.
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He who has mastered the Darwinian theory, he who recognizes the slow and subtle process of evolution as the way in which God makes things come to pass, … sees that in the deadly struggle for existence that has raged throughout countless aeons of time, the whole creation has been groaning and travailing together in order to bring forth that last consummate specimen of God’s handiwork, the Human Soul
— John Fiske
In The Destiny of Man Viewed in the Light of his Origin (1884), 32. Collected in Studies in Religion (1902), 19–20.
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If logical training is to consist, not in repeating barbarous scholastic formulas or mechanically tacking together empty majors and minors, but in acquiring dexterity in the use of trustworthy methods of advancing from the known to the unknown, then mathematical investigation must ever remain one of its most indispensable instruments. Once inured to the habit of accurately imagining abstract relations, recognizing the true value of symbolic conceptions, and familiarized with a fixed standard of proof, the mind is equipped for the consideration of quite other objects than lines and angles. The twin treatises of Adam Smith on social science, wherein, by deducing all human phenomena first from the unchecked action of selfishness and then from the unchecked action of sympathy, he arrives at mutually-limiting conclusions of transcendent practical importance, furnish for all time a brilliant illustration of the value of mathematical methods and mathematical discipline.
— John Fiske
In 'University Reform', Darwinism and Other Essays (1893), 297-298.
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Of our three principal instruments for interrogating Nature,—observation, experiment, and comparison,—the second plays in biology a quite subordinate part. But while, on the one hand, the extreme complication of causes involved in vital processes renders the application of experiment altogether precarious in its results, on the other hand, the endless variety of organic phenomena offers peculiar facilities for the successful employment of comparison and analogy.
— John Fiske
In 'University Reform', Darwinism and Other Essays (1893), 302.
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The ability to imagine relations is one of the most indispensable conditions of all precise thinking. No subject can be named, in the investigation of which it is not imperatively needed; but it can be nowhere else so thoroughly acquired as in the study of mathematics.
— John Fiske
In Darwinism and other Essays (1893), 296.
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The barrenness of doubt had to make itself felt before it could be supplanted by knowledge. It was not until Hume, by carrying scepticism to its uttermost extent, had shown its unsatisfactory character and vain results, that the germs of scientific method, implanted by Bacon and Descartes, could develop and bear fruit in the positive philosophy of Comte.
— John Fiske
In 'Mr. Buckle’s Fallacies', Darwinism and Other Essays (1893), 190.
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There is an integration of the present impressions with such past ones as they resemble, and a differentiation of them from such past ones as they do not resemble; and this comparison of present with past impressions, dependent on memory, implies classification, and is the germ of what we call Perception and Reasoning.
— John Fiske
In Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy: Based on the Doctrine of Evolution (1874), Vol. 2, 155-156.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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