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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index I > Category: Illusion

Illusion Quotes (38 quotes)


... semantics ... is a sober and modest discipline which has no pretensions of being a universal patent-medicine for all the ills and diseases of mankind, whether imaginary or real. You will not find in semantics any remedy for decayed teeth or illusions of grandeur or class conflict. Nor is semantics a device for establishing that everyone except the speaker and his friends is speaking nonsense
In 'The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics', collected in Leonard Linsky (ed.), Semantics and the Philosophy of Language: A Collection of Readings (1952), 17.
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Les hommes ne sont pas faits pour savoir; les hommes ne sont pas faits pour comprendre … et nos illusions croissent avec nos connaissances.
Men are not created to know, men are not created to understand … and our illusions increase with our knowledge.
From the fictional Dr. Trublet in Histoire Comique (1900), 212. As translated in Lewis P. Shanks, Anatole France (1919), 165. Shanks comments that Anatole France was writing, not as “an idealist of science, but as a skeptic content to accept truths merely pragmatic. … Trublet has lost faith in absolute truth.”
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A man must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions, and their sufferings.
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After having a wash I proceeded to the bar where—believe it or not—there was a white-coated barman who was not only serving drinks but also cigarettes! I hastened forward and rather timidly said ‘Can I have some cigarettes?’
‘What’s your rank?’ was the slightly unexpected reply.
‘I am afraid I haven’t got one,’ I answered.
‘Nonsense—everyone who comes here has a rank.’
‘I’m sorry but I just don’t have one.’
‘Now that puts me in a spot,’ said the barman, ‘for orders about cigarettes in this camp are clear—twenty for officers and ten for other ranks. Tell me what exactly are you?’
Now I really wanted those cigarettes so I drew myself up and said ‘I am the Professor of Chemistry at Manchester University.’
The barman contemplated me for about thirty seconds and then said ‘I’ll give you five.’
Since that day I have had few illusions about the importance of professors!
In A Time to Remember: The Autobiography of a Chemist (1983), 59. This event took place after a visit to the Defence Research Establishment at Porton to observe a demonstration of a new chemical anti-tank weapon (1941).
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Any opinion as to the form in which the energy of gravitation exists in space is of great importance, and whoever can make his opinion probable will have, made an enormous stride in physical speculation. The apparent universality of gravitation, and the equality of its effects on matter of all kinds are most remarkable facts, hitherto without exception; but they are purely experimental facts, liable to be corrected by a single observed exception. We cannot conceive of matter with negative inertia or mass; but we see no way of accounting for the proportionality of gravitation to mass by any legitimate method of demonstration. If we can see the tails of comets fly off in the direction opposed to the sun with an accelerated velocity, and if we believe these tails to be matter and not optical illusions or mere tracks of vibrating disturbance, then we must admit a force in that direction, and we may establish that it is caused by the sun if it always depends upon his position and distance.
Letter to William Huggins (13 Oct 1868). In P. M. Hannan (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 1862-1873, 451-2.
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Art has a double face, of expression and illusion, just like science has a double face: the reality of error and the phantom of truth.
'The Lie of the Truth'. (1938) translated by Phil Powrie (1989). In Carol A. Dingle, Memorable Quotations (2000), 61.
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Civilization is hooped together, brought
Under a rule, under the semblance of peace
By manifold illusion.
The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1951), 287.
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Deductivism in mathematical literature and inductivism in scientific papers are simply the postures we choose to be seen in when the curtain goes up and the public sees us. The theatrical illusion is shattered if we ask what goes on behind the scenes. In real life discovery and justification are almost always different processes.
Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought (1969), 26.
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If we take in our hand any Volume; of Divinity or School Metaphysics, for Instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract Reasoning concerning Quantity or Number? No. Does it contain any experimental Reasoning concerning Matter of Fact and Existence? No. Commit it then to the Flames: For it can contain nothing but Sophistry and Illusion.
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), 256.
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In the field of thinking, the whole history of science from geocentrism to the Copernican revolution, from the false absolutes of Aristotle’s physics to the relativity of Galileo’s principle of inertia and to Einstein’s theory of relativity, shows that it has taken centuries to liberate us from the systematic errors, from the illusions caused by the immediate point of view as opposed to “decentered” systematic thinking.
As quoted in D. E. Berlyne, Structure and Direction in Thinking (1965), 232.
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It seems to me, that the only Objects of the abstract Sciences or of Demonstration is Quantity and Number, and that all Attempts to extend this more perfect Species of Knowledge beyond these Bounds are mere Sophistry and Illusion.
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), 252.
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Jefferson refused to pin his hopes on the occasional success of honest and unambitious men; on the contrary, the great danger was that philosophers would be lulled into complacence by the accidental rise of a Franklin or a Washington. Any government which made the welfare of men depend on the character of their governors was an illusion.
In The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson (1948, 1993), 178.
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Language is a guide to 'social reality.' Though language is not ordinarily thought of as essential interest to the students of social science, it powerfully conditions all our thinking about social problems and processes. Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the 'real world' is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group. No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached.
'The Status of Linguistics as a Science', Language (1929), 5, 207-14. In David Mandelbaum (ed.), Selected Writings of Edward Sapir in Language, Culture, and Personality (1949), 162.
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Man has undergone agonizing decentralization. He has waged a steady struggle against decentralization , but at the same time—paradoxically—his accumulated knowledge has gradually forced him to abandon all illusions about his centrality.
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Nirvana is a state of pure blissful knowledge ... It has nothing to do with the individual. The ego or its separation is an illusion. Indeed in a certain sense two ‘I’s are identical namely when one disregards all special contents–their Karma. The goal of man is to preserve his Karma and to develop it further ... when man dies his Karma lives and creates for itself another carrier.
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On foundations we believe in the reality of mathematics, but of course, when philosophers attack us with their paradoxes, we rush to hide behind formalism and say 'mathematics is just a combination of meaningless symbols,'... Finally we are left in peace to go back to our mathematics and do it as we have always done, with the feeling each mathematician has that he is working with something real. The sensation is probably an illusion, but it is very convenient.
'The Work of Nicholas Bourbaki'American Mathematical Monthly (1970), 77, 134. In Carl C. Gaither, Alma E. Cavazos-Gaither, Mathematically Speaking: a Dictionary of Quotations (), 194.
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Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
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Science is not illusion. But it would be an illusion to suppose that we could get anywhere else what it cannot give us.
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That the fundamental aspects of heredity should have turned out to be so extraordinarily simple supports us in the hope that nature may, after all, be entirely approachable. Her much-advertised inscrutability has once more been found to be an illusion due to our ignorance. This is encouraging, for, if the world in which we live were as complicated as some of our friends would have us believe we might well despair that biology could ever become an exact science.
The Physical Basis of Heredity (1919), 15.
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The assumptions of population thinking are diametrically opposed to those of the typologist. The populationist stresses the uniqueness of everything in the organic world. What is true for the human species,–that no two individuals are alike, is equally true for all other species of animals and plants ... All organisms and organic phenomena are composed of unique features and can be described collectively only in statistical terms. Individuals, or any kind of organic entities, form populations of which we can determine the arithmetic mean and the statistics of variation. Averages are merely statistical abstractions, only the individuals of which the populations are composed have reality. The ultimate conclusions of the population thinker and of the typologist are precisely the opposite. For the typologist, the type (eidos) is real and the variation. an illusion, while for the populationist the type (average) is an abstraction and only the variation is real. No two ways of looking at nature could be more different.
Darwin and the Evolutionary Theory in Biology (1959), 2.
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The book [Future of an Illusion] testifies to the fact that the genius of experimental science is not necessarily joined with the genius of logic or generalizing power.
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The development of science has produced an industrial revolution which has brought different peoples in such close contact with one another through colonization and commerce that no matter how some nations may still look down upon others, no country can harbor the illusion that its career is decided wholly within itself.
In Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education (1916), 337.
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The difference between science and Congress is that in science facts mean everything and the illusions mean nothing. And in politics, it's just the opposite.
Anonymous
Seen attributed on the NPR website to perhaps congressman Rush Holt (Verification pending). Also seen recalled by NPR's Ira Flatow as: “I think it was Rush Holt who was quoted when he got into Congress, his saying, when I was a scientist, facts meant everything and illusions meant nothing. When I became a politician, illusions meant everything and facts meant nothing.” From program transcript for Science Friday (11 May 2012).
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The external world of physics has … become a world of shadows. In removing our illusions we have removed the substance, for indeed we have seen that substance is one of the greatest of our illusions. Later perhaps we may inquire whether in our zeal to cut out all that is unreal we may not have used the knife too ruthlessly. Perhaps, indeed, reality is a child which cannot survive without its nurse illusion. But if so, that is of little concern to the scientist, who has good and sufficient reasons for pursuing his investigations in the world of shadows and is content to leave to the philosopher the determination of its exact status in regard to reality.
In Introduction to The Nature of the Physical World (1928), xiv.
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The fact that man produces a concept ‘I’ besides the totality of his mental and emotional experiences or perceptions does not prove that there must be any specific existence behind such a concept. We are succumbing to illusions produced by our self-created language, without reaching a better understanding of anything. Most of so-called philosophy is due to this kind of fallacy.
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The great enemy of communication, we find, is the illusion of it. We have talked enough; but we have not listened. And by not listening we have failed to concede the immense complexity of our society–and thus the great gaps between ourselves and those with whom we seek understanding.
In magazine article, 'Is Anybody Listening?', Fortune magazine (Sep 1950), 174.
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The great obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.
The Discoverers (1985), 86.
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The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance—it is the illusion of knowledge.
From interview, Carol Krucoff, 'The 6 O’Clock Scholar: Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin And His Love Affair With Books', The Washington Post (29 Jan 1984), K8.
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The greatest problem of communication is the illusion that it has been achieved.
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The history of Western science confirms the aphorism that the great menace to progress is not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.
In Cleopatra’s Nose: Essays on the Unexpected (1994), 7.
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The idea of achieving security through national armament is, at the present state of military technique, a disastrous illusion.
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The idea of atomic energy is illusionary but it has taken so powerful a hold on the minds, that although I have preached against it for twenty-five years, there are still some who believe it to be realizable.
Quoted in 'Tesla, 75, Predicts New Power Source', New York Times (5 Jul 1931), Section 2, 1.
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The illusion of purpose and design is perhaps the most pervasive illusion about nature that science has to confront on a daily basis. Everywhere we look, it appears that the world was designed so that we could flourish.
In op-ed, 'A Universe Without Purpose', Los Angeles Times (1 Apr 2012).
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The most fatal illusion is the settled point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one.
In 'April 29', Once Around the Sun (1951), 115.
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The Question is what is The Question?
Is it all a Magic Show?
Is Reality an Illusion?
What is the framework of The Machine?
Darwin’s Puzzle: Natural Selection?
Where does Space-Time come from?
Is there any answer except that it comes from consciousness?
What is Out There?
T’is Ourselves?
Or, is IT all just a Magic Show?
Einstein told me:
“If you would learn, teach!”
Speaking at the American Physical Society, Philadelphia (Apr 2003). As quoted and cited in Jack Sarfatti, 'Wheeler's World: It From Bit?', collected in Frank H. Columbus and Volodymyr Krasnoholovets (eds.), Developments in Quantum Physics (2004), 42.
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The true laboratory is the mind, where behind illusions we uncover the laws of truth.
Quoted in India Today (Apr 2008), 33, No 16, as cited on webpage of Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology.
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There is a curious illusion today that nature is both wise and good. The awful truth is that nature is a bitch from the human point of view I care about the whooping crane a little. I would even give $10 to save the whooping crane. The whooping crane doesn’t give a damn about me.
From paper presented at Laramie College of Commerce and Industry, University of Wyoming, 'Energy and the Environment' (Jan 1976), 12, as quoted in Kenneth Ewart Boulding and Richard P. Beilock (ed.), Illustrating Economics: Beasts, Ballads and Aphorisms (1980, 2009), 153.
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We suffer primarily not from our vices or our weaknesses, but from our illusions. We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in their place.
In The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961), Preface.
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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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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 40 -
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