Alphabet Quotes (14 quotes)
As the component parts of all new machines may be said to be old[,] it is a nice discriminating judgment, which discovers that a particular arrangement will produce a new and desired effect. ... Therefore, the mechanic should sit down among levers, screws, wedges, wheels, etc. like a poet among the letters of the alphabet, considering them as the exhibition of his thoughts; in which a new arrangement transmits a new idea to the world.
I cannot find anything showing early aptitude for acquiring languages; but that he [Clifford] had it and was fond of exercising it in later life is certain. One practical reason for it was the desire of being able to read mathematical papers in foreign journals; but this would not account for his taking up Spanish, of which he acquired a competent knowledge in the course of a tour to the Pyrenees. When he was at Algiers in 1876 he began Arabic, and made progress enough to follow in a general way a course of lessons given in that language. He read modern Greek fluently, and at one time he was furious about Sanskrit. He even spent some time on hieroglyphics. A new language is a riddle before it is conquered, a power in the hand afterwards: to Clifford every riddle was a challenge, and every chance of new power a divine opportunity to be seized. Hence he was likewise interested in the various modes of conveying and expressing language invented for special purposes, such as the Morse alphabet and shorthand. … I have forgotten to mention his command of French and German, the former of which he knew very well, and the latter quite sufficiently; …
If atoms do, by chance, happen to combine themselves into so many shapes, why have they never combined together to form a house or a slipper? By the same token, why do we not believe that if innumerable letters of the Greek alphabet were poured all over the market-place they would eventually happen to form the text of the Iliad?
Numerical logistic is that which employs numbers; symbolic logistic that which uses symbols, as, say, the letters of the alphabet.
Of all inventions, the alphabet and the printing press alone excepted, those inventions which abridge distance have done most for the civilisation of our species.
People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or books of metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are. … In the fiery alphabet of every sunset is written “to be continued in our next.”
Philosophers say, that Man is a Microcosm, or little World, resembling in Miniature every Part of the Great: And, in my Opinion, the Body Natural may be compared to the Body Politic: and if this be so, how can the Epicureans Opinion be true, that the Universe was formed by a fortuitous Concourse of Atoms; which I will no more believe, than that the accidental Jumbling of the Letters of the Alphabet, could fall by Chance into a most ingenious and learned Treatise of Philosophy. Risum teneatis Amici, Hor.
That the Universe was formed by a fortuitous Concourse of Atoms, I will no more believe than that the accidental Jumbling of the Letters of the Alphabet would fall by Chance into a most ingenious and learned Treatise of Philosophy, Risum teneatis Amici, Hor.
The essential molecule of reproduction, DNA, … is composed of only four nitrogen bases (adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine), the sugar deoxyribose, and a phosphate. DNA’s intermediary, RNA, differs only by the substitution of the sugar ribose for deoxyribose and the nitrogen base uracil for thymine. The proteins of living organisms are made with a mere 20 amino acids, all arranged in a “left-handed” configuration. Taking into account all 28 building blocks, or “letters” (20 amino acids, five bases, two sugars, and one phosphate), the message is clear: With such a limited alphabet, all life must have had a common chemical origin.
The influence of the mathematics of Leibnitz upon his philosophy appears chiefly in connection with his law of continuity and his prolonged efforts to establish a Logical Calculus. … To find a Logical Calculus (implying a universal philosophical language or system of signs) is an attempt to apply in theological and philosophical investigations an analytic method analogous to that which had proved so successful in Geometry and Physics. It seemed to Leibnitz that if all the complex and apparently disconnected ideas which make up our knowledge could be analysed into their simple elements, and if these elements could each be represented by a definite sign, we should have a kind of “alphabet of human thoughts.” By the combination of these signs (letters of the alphabet of thought) a system of true knowledge would be built up, in which reality would be more and more adequately represented or symbolized. … In many cases the analysis may result in an infinite series of elements; but the principles of the Infinitesimal Calculus in mathematics have shown that this does not necessarily render calculation impossible or inaccurate. Thus it seemed to Leibnitz that a synthetic calculus, based upon a thorough analysis, would be the most effective instrument of knowledge that could be devised. “I feel,” he says, “that controversies can never be finished, nor silence imposed upon the Sects, unless we give up complicated reasonings in favor of simple calculations, words of vague and uncertain meaning in favor of fixed symbols [characteres].” Thus it will appear that “every paralogism is nothing but an error of calculation.” “When controversies arise, there will be no more necessity of disputation between two philosophers than between two accountants. Nothing will be needed but that they should take pen in hand, sit down with their counting-tables, and (having summoned a friend, if they like) say to one another: Let us calculate.” This sounds like the ungrudging optimism of youth; but Leibniz was optimist enough to cherish the hope of it to his life’s end.
The Senses place before us the Characters of the Book of Nature; but these convey no knowledge to us, till we have discovered the Alphabet by which they are to be read.
This science, Geometry, is one of indispensable use and constant reference, for every student of the laws of nature; for the relations of space and number are the alphabet in which those laws are written. But besides the interest and importance of this kind which geometry possesses, it has a great and peculiar value for all who wish to understand the foundations of human knowledge, and the methods by which it is acquired. For the student of geometry acquires, with a degree of insight and clearness which the unmathematical reader can but feebly imagine, a conviction that there are necessary truths, many of them of a very complex and striking character; and that a few of the most simple and self-evident truths which it is possible for the mind of man to apprehend, may, by systematic deduction, lead to the most remote and unexpected results.
To build a road is so much simpler than to think of what the country really needs. A roadless marsh is seemingly as worthless to the alphabetical conservationist as an undrained one was to the empire-builders. Solitude, the one natural resource still undowered of alphabets, is so far recognized as valuable only by ornithologists and cranes. Thus always does history, whether or marsh or market place, end in paradox. The ultimate value in these marshes is wildness, and the crane is wildness incarnate.
Who is unable to count one, two, three, or to distinguish odd from even numbers, or is unable to count at all, or reckon night and day, and who is totally unacquainted with the revolution of the Sun and Moon, and the other stars … All freemen, I conceive, should learn as much of these branches of knowledge as every child in Egypt is taught when he learns the alphabet. In that country arithmetical games have been invented for the use of mere children, which they learn as pleasure and amusement … I … have late in life heard with amazement of our ignorance in these matters; to me we appear to be more like pigs than men, and I am quite ashamed, not only of myself, but of all Greeks.