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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index H > Sir William Hamilton Quotes

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Sir William Hamilton
(8 Mar 1788 - 6 May 1856)

Scottish philosopher who was professor of civil history (1821), and later, of logic and metaphysics (1836). In addition to making his own contributions to logic, he helped introduce the ideas of German philosopher Immanuel Kant into Britain.

Science Quotes by Sir William Hamilton (9 quotes)

Consummated science is positively humble.
— Sir William Hamilton
In Philosophy of Sir William Hamilton (1853), 517.
Science quotes on:  |  Humble (51)  |  Science (3880)

Genius itself has been analyzed by the shrewdest observers into a higher capacity of attention. “Genius,” says Helvetius … “is nothing but a continued attention,” (une attention suivie). “Genius,” says Buffon, “is only a protracted patience,” (une longue patience). “In the exact sciences, at least,” says Cuvier, “it is the patience of a sound intellect, when invincible, which truly constitutes genius.” And Chesterfield has also observed, that “the power of applying an attention, steady and undissipated, to a single object, is the sure mark of a superior genius.”
— Sir William Hamilton
In Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic (1860), Vol. 1, 179.
Science quotes on:  |  Attention (191)  |  Comte Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon (35)  |  Capacity (100)  |  The Earl of Chesterfield (4)  |  Constitute (97)  |  Baron Georges Cuvier (30)  |  Genius (285)  |  Intellect (233)  |  Invincible (6)  |  Nothing (969)  |  Object (422)  |  Observed (149)  |  Patience (56)  |  Power (747)  |  Protracted (2)  |  Say (984)  |  Science (3880)  |  Single (354)  |  Sound (183)  |  Steady (44)  |  Superior (82)  |  Truly (116)

Having discovered … by observation and comparison that certain objects agree in certain respects, we generalise the qualities in which they coincide,—that is, from a certain number of individual instances we infer a general law; we perform an act of Induction. This induction is erroneously viewed as analytic; it is purely a synthetic process.
— Sir William Hamilton
In Lecture VI of his Biennial Course, by William Hamilton and Henry L. Mansel (ed.) and John Veitch (ed.), Metaphysics (1860), Vol. 1, 101.
Science quotes on:  |  Act (272)  |  Agree (26)  |  Analytic (10)  |  Certain (550)  |  Coincide (5)  |  Comparison (102)  |  Discover (553)  |  Erroneous (30)  |  General (511)  |  Generalize (19)  |  Individual (404)  |  Induction (77)  |  Infer (12)  |  Instance (33)  |  Law (895)  |  Number (701)  |  Object (422)  |  Observation (560)  |  Perform (121)  |  Process (423)  |  Pure (292)  |  Purely (110)  |  Quality (134)  |  Respect (207)  |  Synthetic (26)  |  View (488)

Induction. The mental operation by which from a number of individual instances, we arrive at a general law. The process, according to Hamilton, is only logically valid when all the instances included in the law are enumerated. This being seldom, if ever, possible, the conclusion of an Induction is usually liable to more or less uncertainty, and Induction is therefore incapable of giving us necessary (general) truths.
— Sir William Hamilton
Stated as narrative, not a direct quote, by his biographer W.H.S. Monck in 'Glossary of Philosophical Terms', appended in Sir William Hamilton (1881), 181.
Science quotes on:  |  According (237)  |  All (4107)  |  Arrive (35)  |  Being (1278)  |  Conclusion (255)  |  Enumerated (3)  |  General (511)  |  Giving (11)  |  Incapable (40)  |  Included (2)  |  Individual (404)  |  Induction (77)  |  Instance (33)  |  Law (895)  |  Less (103)  |  Liable (4)  |  Logic (287)  |  Mental (177)  |  More (2559)  |  More Or Less (68)  |  Necessary (363)  |  Number (701)  |  Operation (213)  |  Possible (554)  |  Process (423)  |  Seldom (65)  |  Truth (1062)  |  Uncertainty (56)  |  Usually (176)  |  Valid (11)

The difference between an ordinary mind and the mind of Newton consists principally in this, that the one is capable of a more continuous attention than the other,—that a Newton is able, without fatigue, to connect inference with inference in one long series towards a determinate end; while the man of inferior capacity is soon obliged to break or let full the thread which lie had begun to spin.
— Sir William Hamilton
In Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic (1860), Vol. 1, 178.
Science quotes on:  |  Attention (191)  |  Break (99)  |  Capable (168)  |  Capacity (100)  |  Connect (125)  |  Consist (223)  |  Continuous (82)  |  Difference (337)  |  End (590)  |  Fatigue (12)  |  Inference (45)  |  Inferior (37)  |  Lie (364)  |  Long (789)  |  Man (2249)  |  Mind (1339)  |  More (2559)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (335)  |  Ordinary (160)  |  Other (2236)  |  Series (149)  |  Soon (186)  |  Spin (26)  |  Thread (32)

The highest reach of human science is the recognition of human ignorance.
— Sir William Hamilton
In Discussions on Philosophy and Literature, Education and University Reform (1866), 629.
Science quotes on:  |  Human (1470)  |  Ignorance (240)  |  Reach (281)  |  Recognition (88)  |  Science (3880)

The pursuit of knowledge is but a course between two ignorances, as human life is itself only a wayfaring from grave to grave.
— Sir William Hamilton
In Philosophy of Sir William Hamilton (1853), 517.
Science quotes on:  |  Course (408)  |  Grave (52)  |  Human (1470)  |  Human Life (29)  |  Ignorance (240)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Life (1799)  |  Pursuit (121)  |  Two (937)

True science, which is the knowledge of facts, and true philosophy, which is the knowledge of principles, are always allied to true religion, which is the harmony of the soul with both facts and principles.
— Sir William Hamilton
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Ally (6)  |  Both (494)  |  Fact (1212)  |  Facts (553)  |  Harmony (102)  |  Knowledge (1536)  |  Philosophy (382)  |  Principle (510)  |  Religion (363)  |  Science (3880)  |  Soul (227)  |  True (214)  |  True Science (23)

“On earth there is nothing great but man; and in man there is nothing great but mind.”
A favorite quote by Phavorinus which Hamilton used as a motto posted in his classroom.
— Sir William Hamilton
As translated from a reported quote by Phavorinus. Hamilton showed his fondness for this motto by having it painted in gold letters on a green board posted on his classroom wall, behind the chair. However, he did not originate it. He made this clear during a lecture, when he stated, “‘On earth’ says a forgotten philosopher, ‘there is nothing great but man; and in man there is nothing great but mind.’” This was in Lecture II, 'Philosophy—Its Absolute Utility (B) Objective' (1836), part of Hamilton’s Biennial Course while Chair of Logic and Mathematics, University of Edinburgh. The lectures were collected and annotated by editors Henry L. Mansel and John Veitch, in Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic (1858, 6th ed. 1877), 24. The epigraph following the title page of this book also reads, “On earth, there is nothing great but man, and in man there is nothing great but Mind.” Since the collection was published posthumously, Webmaster speculates this was the choice of the editors, as Hamilton’s motto. In the book, a footnote to the quote identifies the philosopher as “Phavorinus, quoted by Joannes Picus Mirandulanus, In Astrologiam, lib. iii p.351*, Basil, ed.” This information was found by an editor in Hamilton’s Commonplace-Book or fragmentary papers. An editor’s own addition to the footnote gives “For notice of Phavorinus, see Vossius, De Hist. Grśc, lib. ii c. 10.” Thus, although this quote is widely seen attributed to Sir William Hamilton, and although he may have been very fond of repeating it, his own notes reveal the original author was the ancient philosopher, Phavorinus. In the Latin written in Basil’s work, Mirandula stated that Phavorinus said “Nihil magnum in terra praeter hominem, nihil magnum in homine praeter mentem & animum.” A footnote points this out in Lester Frank Ward, Pure Sociology: A Treatise on the Origin and Spontaneous Development of Society (1921), 496. *Ward corrects the page number to 529, not 351, and notes the passage also occurs in an earlier 1498 edition.
Science quotes on:  |  Classroom (10)  |  Earth (998)  |  Favorite (37)  |  Great (1575)  |  Man (2249)  |  Mind (1339)  |  Nothing (969)  |  Quote (43)


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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