Celebrating 18 Years on the Web
TODAY IN SCIENCE HISTORY ®
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “We are here to celebrate the completion of the first survey of the entire human genome. Without a doubt, this is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by human kind.”
more quiz questions >>
Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index A > Category: Arbitrary

Arbitrary Quotes (16 quotes)

“Pieces” almost always appear 'as parts' in whole processes. ... To sever a “'part” from the organized whole in which it occurs—whether it itself be a subsidiary whole or an “element”—is a very real process usually involving alterations in that “part”. Modifications of a part frequently involve changes elsewhere in the whole itself. Nor is the nature of these alterations arbitrary, for they too are determined by whole-conditions.
From 'Untersuchungen zur Lehre von der Gestalt, I', Psychol. Forsch. (1922), 1, 47-58. As translated in 'The General Theoretical Situation' (1922), collected in W. D. Ellis (ed.), A Source Book of Gestalt Psychology (1938, 1967), Vol. 2, 14.
Science quotes on:  |  Alteration (22)  |  Appear (55)  |  Change (291)  |  Determine (45)  |  Element (129)  |  Frequently (13)  |  Involve (27)  |  Modification (31)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Organized (9)  |  Part (146)  |  Piece (32)  |  Process (201)  |  Real (95)  |  Subsidiary (2)  |  Whole (122)

A government, at bottom, is nothing more than a gang of men, and as a practical matter most of them are inferior men ... Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping and unintelligent. Indeed, it would not be far wrong to describe the best as the common enemy of all decent citizens.
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Actually (14)  |  Bad (78)  |  Best (129)  |  Bottom (28)  |  Citizen (23)  |  Civilized (13)  |  Common (92)  |  Cruel (10)  |  Decent (4)  |  Describe (38)  |  Enemy (52)  |  Failure (118)  |  Far (77)  |  Gang (3)  |  Good (228)  |  Government (85)  |  Grasp (43)  |  Inferior (14)  |  Matter (270)  |  Nothing (267)  |  Practical (93)  |  Really (50)  |  Unintelligent (2)  |  Wrong (116)

A principle of induction would be a statement with the help of which we could put inductive inferences into a logically acceptable form. In the eyes of the upholders of inductive logic, a principle of induction is of supreme importance for scientific method: “... this principle”, says Reichenbach, “determines the truth of scientific theories. To eliminate it from science would mean nothing less than to deprive science of the power to decide the truth or falsity of its theories. Without it, clearly, science would no longer have the right to distinguish its theories from the fanciful and arbitrary creations of the poet’s mind.” Now this principle of induction cannot be a purely logical truth like a tautology or an analytic statement. Indeed, if there were such a thing as a purely logical principle of induction, there would be no problem of induction; for in this case, all inductive inferences would have to be regarded as purely logical or tautological transformations, just like inferences in inductive logic. Thus the principle of induction must be a synthetic statement; that is, a statement whose negation is not self-contradictory but logically possible. So the question arises why such a principle should be accepted at all, and how we can justify its acceptance on rational grounds.
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Accept (37)  |  Acceptable (5)  |  Acceptance (41)  |  Analytic (4)  |  Arise (32)  |  Case (64)  |  Clearly (17)  |  Creation (211)  |  Decide (25)  |  Deprive (9)  |  Determine (45)  |  Distinguish (32)  |  Eliminate (15)  |  Eye (159)  |  Falsity (12)  |  Fanciful (4)  |  Form (210)  |  Ground (63)  |  Help (68)  |  Importance (183)  |  Induction (45)  |  Inference (26)  |  Justify (19)  |  Less (54)  |  Logic (187)  |  Logical (20)  |  Long (95)  |  Mean (63)  |  Mind (544)  |  Negation (2)  |  Nothing (267)  |  Poet (59)  |  Possible (100)  |  Power (273)  |  Principle (228)  |  Problem (362)  |  Purely (15)  |  Question (315)  |  Rational (42)  |  Regard (58)  |  Right (144)  |  Say (126)  |  Science (1699)  |  Scientific (169)  |  Scientific Method (155)  |  Statement (56)  |  Supreme (24)  |  Synthetic (12)  |  Tautology (4)  |  Theory (582)  |  Transformation (47)  |  Truth (750)

But in the present century, thanks in good part to the influence of Hilbert, we have come to see that the unproved postulates with which we start are purely arbitrary. They must be consistent, they had better lead to something interesting.
In A History of Geometrical Methods (1940, reprint 2003), 423.
Science quotes on:  |  Consistent (10)  |  David Hilbert (35)  |  Influence (110)  |  Interesting (38)  |  Lead (101)  |  Postulate (23)  |  Unproven (3)

In speaking of cause and effect we arbitrarily give relief to those elements to whose connection we have to attend … in the respect in which it is important to us. [But t]here is no cause nor effect in nature; nature has but an individual existence; nature simply is. .
In The Science of Mechanics (1893), 483.
Science quotes on:  |  Cause And Effect (11)  |  Connection (86)  |  Existence (254)  |  Important (124)  |  Individual (177)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Simply (34)

In the modern interpretation of Mendelism, facts are being transformed into factors at a rapid rate. If one factor will not explain the facts, then two are involved; if two prove insufficient, three will sometimes work out. The superior jugglery sometimes necessary to account for the results may blind us, if taken too naively, to the common-place that the results are often so excellently 'explained' because the explanation was invented to explain them. We work backwards from the facts to the factors, and then, presto! explain the facts by the very factors that we invented to account for them. I am not unappreciative of the distinct advantages that this method has in handling the facts. I realize how valuable it has been to us to be able to marshal our results under a few simple assumptions, yet I cannot but fear that we are rapidly developing a sort of Mendelian ritual by which to explain the extraordinary facts of alternative inheritance. So long as we do not lose sight of the purely arbitrary and formal nature of our formulae, little harm will be done; and it is only fair to state that those who are doing the actual work of progress along Mendelian lines are aware of the hypothetical nature of the factor-assumption.
'What are 'Factors' in Mendelian Explanations?', American Breeders Association (1909), 5, 365.
Science quotes on:  |  Assumption (49)  |  Explanation (161)  |  Fact (609)  |  Factor (34)  |  Hypothesis (227)  |  Interpretation (61)  |  Gregor Mendel (20)  |  Progress (317)  |  Ritual (8)  |  Transformation (47)

It is utterly false and cruelly arbitrary to put all the play and learning into childhood, all the work into middle age, and all the regrets into old age.
Quoted, without citation, as a column filler, in New York State Department of Mental Hygiene, Mental Hygiene News (1949), Volumes 20-26, 20. Webmaster has so far been unable to find a primary source, so please contact if you know the primary source.
Science quotes on:  |  Childhood (23)  |  Cruel (10)  |  False (79)  |  Learning (174)  |  Middle Age (6)  |  Old Age (18)  |  Play (60)  |  Regret (16)  |  Utterly (13)  |  Work (457)

Metaphorical language is a species of natural language which we construct out of arbitrary but concrete words. That is why it is so pleasing.
Aphorism 78 in Notebook D (1773-1775), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 56.
Science quotes on:  |  Concrete (21)  |  Construction (69)  |  Language (155)  |  Linguistics (24)  |  Metaphor (19)  |  Pleasure (98)  |  Word (221)

Psychology appeared to be a jungle of confusing, conflicting, and arbitrary concepts. These pre-scientific theories doubtless contained insights which still surpass in refinement those depended upon by psychiatrists or psychologists today. But who knows, among the many brilliant ideas offered, which are the true ones? Some will claim that the statements of one theorist are correct, but others will favour the views of another. Then there is no objective way of sorting out the truth except through scientific research.
From The Scientific Analysis of Personality (1965), 14.
Science quotes on:  |  Brilliant (14)  |  Claim (52)  |  Concept (102)  |  Conflicting (3)  |  Confusing (2)  |  Correct (53)  |  Idea (440)  |  Insight (57)  |  Jungle (13)  |  Psychiatrist (13)  |  Psychologist (11)  |  Psychology (125)  |  Refinement (12)  |  Research (517)  |  Statement (56)  |  Surpass (12)  |  Theorist (24)  |  Theory (582)  |  True (120)  |  Truth (750)

The axioms of geometry are—according to my way of thinking—not arbitrary, but sensible. statements, which are, in general, induced by space perception and are determined as to their precise content by expediency.
In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 142.
Science quotes on:  |  Accord (21)  |  Axiom (26)  |  Content (39)  |  Determine (45)  |  Expediency (4)  |  General (92)  |  Geometry (99)  |  Induce (6)  |  Perception (53)  |  Precise (17)  |  Sensible (22)  |  Space (154)  |  Statement (56)  |  Think (205)

The laws and conditions of the production of wealth partake of the character of physical truths. There is nothing optional or arbitrary in them ... It is not so with the Distribution of Wealth. That is a matter of human institution solely. The things once there, mankind, individually or collectively, can do with them as they like.
Principles of Political Economy (1848), Book 2, 199.
Science quotes on:  |  Characteristic (66)  |  Condition (119)  |  Distribution (21)  |  Institution (32)  |  Law (418)  |  Mankind (196)  |  Optional (2)  |  Production (105)  |  Truth (750)  |  Wealth (50)

The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.
A Brief History of Time (1998), 127.
Science quotes on:  |  Event (97)  |  God (454)  |  History (302)  |  Order (167)  |  Realization (33)  |  Science (1699)

There was yet another disadvantage attaching to the whole of Newton’s physical inquiries, ... the want of an appropriate notation for expressing the conditions of a dynamical problem, and the general principles by which its solution must be obtained. By the labours of LaGrange, the motions of a disturbed planet are reduced with all their complication and variety to a purely mathematical question. It then ceases to be a physical problem; the disturbed and disturbing planet are alike vanished: the ideas of time and force are at an end; the very elements of the orbit have disappeared, or only exist as arbitrary characters in a mathematical formula
Address to the Mechanics Institute, 'An Address on the Genius and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton' (1835), excerpted in paper by Luis M. Laita, Luis de Ledesma, Eugenio Roanes-Lozano and Alberto Brunori, 'George Boole, a Forerunner of Symbolic Computation', collected in John A. Campbell and Eugenio Roanes-Lozano (eds.), Artificial Intelligence and Symbolic Computation: International Conference AISC 2000 (2001), 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Character (82)  |  Complication (20)  |  Condition (119)  |  Disadvantage (8)  |  Disappearance (21)  |  Disturbance (19)  |  Dynamics (6)  |  Expression (82)  |  Force (194)  |  Formula (51)  |  Idea (440)  |  Inquiry (33)  |  Count Joseph-Louis de Lagrange (11)  |  Motion (127)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (258)  |  Notation (9)  |  Orbit (58)  |  Planet (199)  |  Problem (362)  |  Pure Mathematics (27)  |  Question (315)  |  Solution (168)  |  Time (439)  |  Vanishing (8)  |  Variety (53)

Though genius isn't something that can be produced arbitrarily, it is freely willed—like wit, love, and faith, which one day will have to become arts and sciences. You should demand genius from everyone, but not expect it. A Kantian would call this the categorical imperative of genius.
Critical Fragment 16 in Friedrich Schlegel's Lucinde and the Fragments (1971), 144.
Science quotes on:  |  Demand (52)  |  Expectation (46)  |  Faith (131)  |  Free Will (11)  |  Genius (186)  |  Imperative (8)  |  Immanuel Kant (43)  |  Love (164)  |  Science And Art (157)  |  Wit (27)

Truth can only be found by the human intellect, exercised in perfect freedom, and trained to submit itself to the facts of nature. This is the essence of the Scientific Method, which is the exact opposite of the Theological Method. Science teaches men to think with absolute independence of all arbitrary authority, but to submit all their thoughts to the test of actual experiences of Nature. Christianity teaches them to think only according to its own foregone dogmatic conclusions, and to stick to these dogmatic conclusion in defiance of all possible experience.
Leading article in Francis Ellingwood Abbot (ed.), The Index (1 Jan 1880), Volume 11, No. 523, 1.
Science quotes on:  |  Absolute (65)  |  Actual (34)  |  Authority (50)  |  Christianity (8)  |  Defiance (5)  |  Dogma (25)  |  Experience (268)  |  Fact (609)  |  Freedom (76)  |  Human (445)  |  Independence (32)  |  Intellect (157)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Opposite (39)  |  Science (1699)  |  Scientific Method (155)  |  Submit (12)  |  Teach (102)  |  Test (96)  |  Theology (35)  |  Think (205)  |  Thought (374)  |  Train (25)  |  Truth (750)

We may consequently regard it as certain that, neither by natural agencies of inanimate matter, nor by the operations arbitrarily effected by animated Creatures, can there be any change produced in the amount of mechanical energy in the Universe.
In Draft of 'On a Universal Tendency … ', PA 137, Kelvin Collection, Cambridge Univ Library. As cited in Crosbie Smith, The Science of Energy: A Cultural History of Energy Physics in Victorian Britain (1998), 139.
Science quotes on:  |  Agency (13)  |  Amount (20)  |  Animated (4)  |  Certainty (97)  |  Change (291)  |  Consequence (76)  |  Creature (127)  |  Effect (133)  |  Energy (185)  |  Inanimate (14)  |  Matter (270)  |  Mechanical (31)  |  Natural (128)  |  Operation (96)  |  Produced (8)  |  Regard (58)  |  Universe (563)


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
Quotations by:Albert EinsteinIsaac NewtonLord KelvinCharles DarwinSrinivasa RamanujanCarl SaganFlorence NightingaleThomas EdisonAristotleMarie CurieBenjamin FranklinWinston ChurchillGalileo GalileiSigmund FreudRobert BunsenLouis PasteurTheodore RooseveltAbraham LincolnRonald ReaganLeonardo DaVinciMichio KakuKarl PopperJohann GoetheRobert OppenheimerCharles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about:Atomic  BombBiologyChemistryDeforestationEngineeringAnatomyAstronomyBacteriaBiochemistryBotanyConservationDinosaurEnvironmentFractalGeneticsGeologyHistory of ScienceInventionJupiterKnowledgeLoveMathematicsMeasurementMedicineNatural ResourceOrganic ChemistryPhysicsPhysicianQuantum TheoryResearchScience and ArtTeacherTechnologyUniverseVolcanoVirusWind PowerWomen ScientistsX-RaysYouthZoology  ... (more topics)
Sitewide search within all Today In Science History pages:
Visit our Science and Scientist Quotations index for more Science Quotes from archaeologists, biologists, chemists, geologists, inventors and inventions, mathematicians, physicists, pioneers in medicine, science events and technology.

Names index: | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Categories index: | 1 | 2 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.