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Who said: “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”
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Ourselves Quotes (245 quotes)

1106. … In the first week of Lent, on the Friday, 16 February, a strange star appeared in the evening, and for a long time afterwards was seen shining for a while each evening. The star made its appearance in the south-west, and seemed to be small and dark, but the light that shone from it was very bright, and appeared like an enormous beam of light shining north-east; and one evening it seemed as if the beam were flashing in the opposite direction towards the star. Some said that they had seen other unknown stars about this time, but we cannot speak about these without reservation, because we did not ourselves see them.
In George Norman Garmonsway (ed., trans.), 'The Parker Chronicle', The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (1953), 240. This translation from the original Saxon, is a modern printing of an ancient anthology known as The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Manuscript copies were held at various English monasteries. These copies of the Chronicle include content first recorded in the late 9th century. This quote comes from the copy known as the Peterborough Chronicle (a.k.a. Laud manuscript).
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Et ainsi nous rendre maîtres et possesseurs de la nature.
And thereby make ourselves, as it were, the lords and masters of nature.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 6, 44.
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L’Astronomie est utile, parce qu’elle nous élève au-dessus de nous-mêmes; elle est utile, parce qu’elle est grande; elle est utile, parce qu’elle est belle… C’est elle qui nous montre combien l’homme est petit par le corps et combien il est grand par l’esprit, puisque cette immensité éclatante où son corps n’est qu’un point obscur, son intelligence peut l’embrasser tout entière et en goûter la silencieuse harmonie.
Astronomy is useful because it raises us above ourselves; it is useful because it is grand[; it is useful because it is beautiful]… It shows us how small is man’s body, how great his mind, since his intelligence can embrace the whole of this dazzling immensity, where his body is only an obscure point, and enjoy its silent harmony.
In La Valeur de la Science (1904), 276, translated by George Bruce Halsted, in The Value of Science (1907), 84. Webmaster added the meaning of “elle est utile, parce qu’elle est belle,” in brackets, which was absent in Halsted’s translation.
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On se persuade mieux, pour l’ordinaire, par les raisons qu’on a soi-même trouvées, que par celles qui sont venues dans l’esprit des autres.
We are generally more effectually persuaded by reasons we have ourselves discovered than by those which have occurred to others.
Pensées (1670), Section 1, aphorism 18. In H. F. Stewart (ed.), Pascal's Pensées (1950), 11. Original French text in Pensées de Pascal: publiées dans leur texte authentique (1866), Vol. 1, 99.
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Rassemblons des faits pour nous donner des idées.
Let us gather facts in order to get ourselves thinking.
'Histoire des Animaux', Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière, avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1749), Vol. 2, 18. Quoted in Jacques Roger, The Life Sciences in Eighteenth- Century French Thought, ed. Keith R. Benson and trans. Robert Ellrich (1997), 440.
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[As Chief Scientific Adviser to the British Ministry of Defence] We persist in regarding ourselves as a Great Power, capable of everything and only temporarily handicapped by economic difficulties. We are not a great power and never will be again. We are a great nation, but if we continue to behave like a Great Power we shall soon cease to be a great nation. Let us take warning from the fate of the Great Powers of the past and not burst ourselves with pride (see Aesop’s fable of the frog). (1949)
As quoted by Peter Hennessy, Whitehall (1989), 155.
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A contemporary poet has characterized this sense of the personality of art and of the impersonality of science in these words,—“Art is myself; science is ourselves.”
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 43. The poet referred to was Victor Hugo, writing in William Shakespeare (1864).
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A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe”; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely but the striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.
In Letter (4 Mar 1950), replying to a grieving father over the loss of a young son. In Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein’s Letters to and from Children (2002), 184.
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A lot of people ask, “Do you think humans are parasites?” It’s an interesting idea and one worth thinking about. People casually refer to humanity as a virus spreading across the earth. In fact, we do look like some strange kind of bio-film spreading across the landscape. A good metaphor? If the biosphere is our host, we do use it up for our own benefit. We do manipulate it. We alter the flows and fluxes of elements like carbon and nitrogen to benefit ourselves—often at the expense of the biosphere as a whole. If you look at how coral reefs or tropical forests are faring these days, you’ll notice that our host is not doing that well right now. Parasites are very sophisticated; parasites are highly evolved; parasites are very successful, as reflected in their diversity. Humans are not very good parasites. Successful parasites do a very good job of balancing—using up their hosts and keeping them alive. It’s all a question of tuning the adaptation to your particular host. In our case, we have only one host, so we have to be particularly careful.
Talk at Columbia University, 'The Power of Parasites'.
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A scientist strives to understand the work of Nature. But with our insufficient talents as scientists, we do not hit upon the truth all at once. We must content ourselves with tracking it down, enveloped in considerable darkness, which leads us to make new mistakes and errors. By diligent examination, we may at length little by little peel off the thickest layers, but we seldom get the core quite free, so that finally we have to be satisfied with a little incomplete knowledge.
Lecture to the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, 23 May 1764. Quoted in J. A. Schufle 'Torbern Bergman, Earth Scientist', Chymia, 1967, 12, 78.
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A single kind of red cell is supposed to have an enormous number of different substances on it, and in the same way there are substances in the serum to react with many different animal cells. In addition, the substances which match each kind of cell are different in each kind of serum. The number of hypothetical different substances postulated makes this conception so uneconomical that the question must be asked whether it is the only one possible. ... We ourselves hold that another, simpler, explanation is possible.
Landsteiner and Adriano Sturli, 'Hamagglutinine normaler Sera', Wiener klinische Wochenschrift (1902), 15, 38-40. Trans. Pauline M. H. Mazumdar.
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Acute [diseases] meaning those of which God is the author, chronic meaning those that originate in ourselves.
'Epistolary Dissertation to Dr. Cole', in The Works of Thomas Sydenham, M.D. (1850), trans. by R. G. Latham, Vol. 2, 68.
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All cell biologists are condemned to suffer an incurable secret sorrow: the size of the objects of their passion. … But those of us enamored of the cell must resign ourselves to the perverse, lonely fascination of a human being for things invisible to the naked human eye.
Opening sentence from The Center of Life: A Natural History of the Cell (1977, 1978), 5.
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All that we can do, is to keep steadily in mind that each organic being is striving to increase at a geometrical ratio; that each at some period of its life, during some season of the year, during each generation or at intervals, has to struggle for life, and to suffer great destruction. When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 76.
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All the properties that we designate as activity of the soul, are only the functions of the cerebral substance, and to express ourselves in a coarser way, thought is just about to the brain what bile is to the liver and urine to the kidney. It is absurd to admit an independent soul who uses the cerebellum as an instrument with which he would work as he pleases.
Carl Vogt
As quoted in William Vogt, La Vie d'un Homme, Carl Vogt (1896), 48. Translated by Webmaster, from the original French, “Toutes les propriétés que nous designons sous le nom d’activité de l’âme, ne sont que les fonctions de la substance cérébrale, et pour nous exprimer d’ une façon plus grossière, la pensée est à peu près au cerveau ce que la bile est au foie et l’urine au rein. Il est absurde d’ admettre une âme indépendante qui se serve du cervelet comme d’un instrument avec lequelle travaillerait comme il lui plait.”
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Among the older records, we find chapter after chapter of which we can read the characters, and make out their meaning: and as we approach the period of man’s creation, our book becomes more clear, and nature seems to speak to us in language so like our own, that we easily comprehend it. But just as we begin to enter on the history of physical changes going on before our eyes, and in which we ourselves bear a part, our chronicle seems to fail us—a leaf has been torn out from nature's record, and the succession of events is almost hidden from our eyes.
Letter 1 to William Wordsworth. Quoted in the appendix to W. Wordsworth, A Complete Guide to the Lakes, Comprising Minute Direction for the Tourist, with Mr Wordsworth's Description of the Scenery of the County and Three Letters upon the Geology of the Lake District (1842), 14.
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An informed appraisal of life absolutely require(s) a full understanding of life’s arena–the universe. … By deepening our understanding of the true nature of physical reality, we profoundly reconfigure our sense of ourselves and our experience of the universe.
In The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality (2007), 5.
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Animals, even plants, lie to each other all the time, and we could restrict the research to them, putting off the real truth about ourselves for the several centuries we need to catch our breath. What is it that enables certain flowers to resemble nubile insects, or opossums to play dead, or female fireflies to change the code of their flashes in order to attract, and then eat, males of a different species?
In Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony(1984), 131.
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As chemists, we must rename [our] scheme and insert the symbols Ba, La, Ce in place of Ra, Ac, Th. As nuclear chemists closely associated with physics, we cannot yet convince ourselves to make this leap, which contradicts all previous experience in nuclear physics.
Co-author with Fritz Strassmann, German chemist (1902-80)
Otto Hahn
'(Über den nachweis und das Verhalten der bei der Bestrahlung des Urans mittels Neutronen entstehenden Erdalkallmetalle', Die Naturwissenschaften, 1939, 27, 11-15. Trans. J. Heilbron and Robert W. Seidel, Lawrence and his Laboratory: A History of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (1989), Vol. 1, 436-7.
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As evolutionary time is measured, we have only just turned up and have hardly had time to catch breath, still marveling at our thumbs, still learning to use the brand-new gift of language. Being so young, we can be excused all sorts of folly and can permit ourselves the hope that someday, as a species, we will begin to grow up.
From 'Introduction' written by Lewis Thomas for Horace Freeland Judson, The Search for Solutions (1980, 1987), xvii.
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As historians, we refuse to allow ourselves these vain speculations which turn on possibilities that, in order to be reduced to actuality, suppose an overturning of the Universe, in which our globe, like a speck of abandoned matter, escapes our vision and is no longer an object worthy of our regard. In order to fix our vision, it is necessary to take it such as it is, to observe well all parts of it, and by indications infer from the present to the past.
'Second Discours: Histoire et Theorie de la Terre', Histoire Naturelle, Ginerale et Particulière, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1749), Vol. 1, 98-9. Trans. Phillip R. Sloan.
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At present we must confine ourselves to saying that soul is the source of these phenomena and is characterized by them, viz. by the powers of self-nutrition, sensation, thinking, and movement.
Aristotle
On the Soul, 413b, II-3. In Jonathan Barnes (ed.), The Complete Works of Aristotle (1984), Vol. 1, 658.
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Biology … is the least self-centered, the least narcissistic of the sciences—the one that, by taking us out of ourselves, leads us to re-establish the link with nature and to shake ourselves free from our spiritual isolation.
In 'Victories and Hopes of Biology', Can Man Be Modified? (1959), 31
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But we shall not satisfy ourselves simply with improving steam and explosive engines or inventing new batteries; we have something much better to work for, a greater task to fulfill. We have to evolve means for obtaining energy from stores which are forev
http://web.archive.org/web/20070109161311/http://www.knowprose.com/node/12961
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Crowds are somewhat like the sphinx of ancient fable: It is necessary to arrive at a solution of the problems offered by their psychology or to resign ourselves to being devoured by them.
From Psychologie des Foules (1895), 90. English text in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897), Book 2, Chap. 2, 95. Original French text: “Les foules sont un peu comme le sphinx de la fable antique: il faut savoir résoudre les problèmes que leur psychologie nous pose, ou se résigner à être dévoré par elles.”
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Darwin grasped the philosophical bleakness with his characteristic courage. He argued that hope and morality cannot, and should not, be passively read in the construction of nature. Aesthetic and moral truths, as human concepts, must be shaped in human terms, not ‘discovered’ in nature. We must formulate these answers for ourselves and then approach nature as a partner who can answer other kinds of questions for us–questions about the factual state of the universe, not about the meaning of human life. If we grant nature the independence of her own domain–her answers unframed in human terms–then we can grasp her exquisite beauty in a free and humble way. For then we become liberated to approach nature without the burden of an inappropriate and impossible quest for moral messages to assuage our hopes and fears. We can pay our proper respect to nature’s independence and read her own ways as beauty or inspiration in our different terms.
…...
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Eventually, we’ll realize that if we destroy the ecosystem, we destroy ourselves.
In Pamela Weintraub (ed.), The Omni Interviews (1984), 105.
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Eventually, we’ll realize that if we destroy the ecosystem, we destroy ourselves.
From interview with James Reston, Jr., in Pamela Weintraub (ed.), The Omni Interviews (1984), 105. Previously published in magazine, Omni (May 1982).
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Every day we are interacting with the economy, whether we want to or not, and whether we know it or not. To have a level of control over our lives, we need to understand the connections between money and events and ourselves.
As quoted in brochure for PBS TV financial news series, Adam Smith’s Money World.
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For nearly twelve years I travelled and lived mostly among uncivilised or completely savage races, and I became convinced that they all possessed good qualities, some of them in a very remarkable degree, and that in all the great characteristics of humanity they are wonderfully like ourselves. Some, indeed, among the brown Polynesians especially, are declared by numerous independent and unprejudiced observers, to be physically, mentally, and intellectually our equals, if not our superiors; and it has always seemed to me one of the disgraces of our civilisation that these fine people have not in a single case been protected from contamination by the vices and follies of our more degraded classes, and allowed to develope their own social and political organislll under the advice of some of our best and wisest men and the protection of our world-wide power. That would have been indeed a worthy trophy of our civilisation. What we have actually done, and left undone, resulting in the degradation and lingering extermination of so fine a people, is one of the most pathetic of its tragedies.
In 'The Native Problem in South Africa and Elsewhere', Independent Review (1906), 11, 182.
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For ourselves, we may take as a basic assumption, clear from a survey of particular cases, that natural things are some or all of them subject to change.
Aristotle
In 'Physics', Book 1, Chapter 2, 185a13, as translated by William Charlton, Physics: Books I and II (1983), 2.
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For the first time in our national history the higher-education enterprise that we pass on to our children and grandchildren will be less healthy, less able to respond to national needs … than the enterprise that we ourselves inherited.
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For we may remark generally of our mathematical researches, that these auxiliary quantities, these long and difficult calculations into which we are often drawn, are almost always proofs that we have not in the beginning considered the objects themselves so thoroughly and directly as their nature requires, since all is abridged and simplified, as soon as we place ourselves in a right point of view.
In Théorie Nouvelle de la Rotation des Corps (1834). As translated by Charles Thomas Whitley in Outlines of a New Theory of Rotatory Motion (1834), 4.
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Force, force, everywhere force; we ourselves a mysterious force in the centre of that. “There is not a leaf rotting on the highway but has Force in it: how else could it rot?” [As used in his time, by the word force, Carlyle means energy.]
On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (1840), 11.
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Geology got into the hands of the theoreticians who were conditioned by the social and political history of their day more than by observations in the field. … We have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed into avoiding any interpretation of the past that involves extreme and what might be termed “catastrophic” processes. However, it seems to me that the stratigraphical record is full of examples of processes that are far from “normal” in the usual sense of the word. In particular we must conclude that sedimentation in the past has often been very rapid indeed and very spasmodic. This may be called the “Phenomenon of the Catastrophic Nature of the Stratigraphic Record.”
In The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record (3rd ed., 1993), 70.
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God said, “Let the earth produce vegetation… . Let the earth produce every kind of living creature. …” God said, “Let us make man in our image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts, and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth. “
Bible
(circa 725 B.C.)
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Good actions give strength to ourselves, and inspire good actions in others.
In 'Duty: With Illustrations of Courage, Patience, and Endurance', Harper’s Franklin Square Library (3 Dec 1880), No. 151, 9.
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His [Erwin Schrödinger's] private life seemed strange to bourgeois people like ourselves. But all this does not matter. He was a most lovable person, independent, amusing, temperamental, kind and generous, and he had a most perfect and efficient brain.
Max Born
In My Life, Recollections of a Nobel Laureate (1978), 270. Quoted by Walter Moore, Schrödinger: Life and Thought (1992), 6.
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Human societies are everywhere complex, for living at peace with ourselves requires a vast multiplicity of rules.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 18.
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I am afraid all we can do is to accept the paradox and try to accommodate ourselves to it, as we have done to so many paradoxes lately in modern physical theories. We shall have to get accustomed to the idea that the change of the quantity R, commonly called the 'radius of the universe', and the evolutionary changes of stars and stellar systems are two different processes, going on side by side without any apparent connection between them. After all the 'universe' is an hypothesis, like the atom, and must be allowed the freedom to have properties and to do things which would be contradictory and impossible for a finite material structure.
Kosmos (1932), 133.
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I am born into an environment–I know not whence I came nor whither I go nor who I am. This is my situation as yours, every single one of you. The fact that everyone always was in this same situation, and always will be, tells me nothing. Our burning question as to the whence and whither–all we can ourselves observe about it is the present environment. That is why we are eager to find out about it as much as we can. That is science, learning, knowledge; it is the true source of every spiritual endeavour of man. We try to find out as much as we can about the spatial and temporal surroundings of the place in which we find ourselves put by birth.
…...
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I am convinced that it is impossible to expound the methods of induction in a sound manner, without resting them upon the theory of probability. Perfect knowledge alone can give certainty, and in nature perfect knowledge would be infinite knowledge, which is clearly beyond our capacities. We have, therefore, to content ourselves with partial knowledge—knowledge mingled with ignorance, producing doubt.
The Principles of Science: A Treatise on Logic and Scientific Method, 2nd edition (1877), 197.
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I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially.
…...
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I believe that life can go on forever. It takes a million years to evolve a new species, ten million for a new genus, one hundred million for a class, a billion for a phylum—and that’s usually as far as your imagination goes. In a billion years, it seems, intelligent life might be as different from humans as humans are from insects. But what would happen in another ten billion years? It’s utterly impossible to conceive of ourselves changing as drastically as that, over and over again. All you can say is, on that kind of time scale the material form that life would take is completely open. To change from a human being to a cloud may seem a big order, but it’s the kind of change you’d expect over billions of years.
Quoted in Omni (1986), 8, 38.
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I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls.
…...
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I cannot think of a single field in biology or medicine in which we can claim genuine understanding, and it seems to me the more we learn about living creatures, especially ourselves, the stranger life becomes.
In 'On Science and Certainty', Discover Magazine (Oct 1980).
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I cannot, however, but think that the world would be better and brighter if our teachers would dwell on the Duty of Happiness as well as the Happiness of Duty; for we ought to be as cheerful as we can, if only because to be happy ourselves is a most effectual contribution to the happiness of others.
The Pleasures of Life (1887, 2007), 7.
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I do not find that any one has doubted that there are four elements. The highest of these is supposed to be fire, and hence proceed the eyes of so many glittering stars. The next is that spirit, which both the Greeks and ourselves call by the same name, air. It is by the force of this vital principle, pervading all things and mingling with all, that the earth, together with the fourth element, water, is balanced in the middle of space.
In The Natural History of Pliny (1855), Vol. 1, 18.
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I don’t think we’ll go there [Mars] until we go back to the Moon and develop a technology base for living and working and transporting ourselves through space.
As quoted on the nmspacemuseum.org website of the New Mexico Museum of Space History.
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I have always found small mammals enough like ourselves to feel that I could understand what their lives would be like, and yet different enough to make it a sort of adventure and exploration to see what they were doing.
Echoes of Bats and Men (1959), 2.
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I tell my students, with a feeling of pride that I hope they will share, that the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen that make up ninety-nine per cent of our living substance were cooked in the deep interiors of earlier generations of dying stars. Gathered up from the ends of the universe, over billions of years, eventually they came to form, in part, the substance of our sun, its planets, and ourselves. Three billion years ago, life arose upon the earth. It is the only life in the solar system.
From speech given at an anti-war teach-in at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (4 Mar 1969) 'A Generation in Search of a Future', as edited by Ron Dorfman for Chicago Journalism Review, (May 1969).
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I think that the unity we can seek lies really in two things. One is that the knowledge which comes to us at such a terrifyingly, inhumanly rapid rate has some order in it. We are allowed to forget a great deal, as well as to learn. This order is never adequate. The mass of ununderstood things, which cannot be summarized, or wholly ordered, always grows greater; but a great deal does get understood.
The second is simply this: we can have each other to dinner. We ourselves, and with each other by our converse, can create, not an architecture of global scope, but an immense, intricate network of intimacy, illumination, and understanding. Everything cannot be connected with everything in the world we live in. Everything can be connected with anything.
Concluding paragraphs of 'The Growth of Science and the Structure of Culture', Daedalus (Winter 1958), 87, No. 1, 76.
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I think, and I am not the only one who does, that it is important never to introduce any conception which may not be completely defined by a finite number of words. Whatever may be the remedy adopted, we can promise ourselves the joy of the physician called in to follow a beautiful pathological case [beau cas pathologique].
From address read at the general session of the Fourth International Congress of Mathematicians in Rome (10 Apr 1908). As translated in 'The Future of Mathematics: by Henri Poincaré', General Appendix, Annual Report of the Boars of Regents of The Smithsonian Institution: For the Year Ending June 1909 (1910), 140.
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I trust ... I have succeeded in convincing you that modern chemistry is not, as it has so long appeared, an ever-growing accumulation of isolated facts, as impossible for a single intellect to co-ordinate as for a single memory to grasp.
The intricate formulae that hang upon these walls, and the boundless variety of phenomena they illustrate, are beginning to be for us as a labyrinth once impassable, but to which we have at length discovered the clue. A sense of mastery and power succeeds in our minds to the sort of weary despair with which we at first contemplated their formidable array. For now, by the aid of a few general principles, we find ourselves able to unravel the complexities of these formulae, to marshal the compounds which they represent in orderly series; nay, even to multiply their numbers at our will, and in a great measure to forecast their nature ere we have called them into existence. It is the great movement of modern chemistry that we have thus, for an hour, seen passing before us. It is a movement as of light spreading itself over a waste of obscurity, as of law diffusing order throughout a wilderness of confusion, and there is surely in its contemplation something of the pleasure which attends the spectacle of a beautiful daybreak, something of the grandeur belonging to the conception of a world created out of chaos.
Concluding remark for paper presented at the Friday Discourse of the the Royal Institution (7 Apr 1865). 'On the Combining Power of Atoms', Proceedings of the Royal Institution (1865), 4, No. 42, 416.
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I uphold my own rights, and therefore I also recognize the rights of others. This is the principle I act upon in life, in politics and in science. We owe it to ourselves to defend our rights, for it is the only guarantee for our individual development, and for our influence upon the community at large. Such a defence is no act of vain ambition, and it involves no renunciation of purely scientific aims. For, if we would serve science, we must extend her limits, not only as far as our own knowledge is concerned, but in the estimation of others.
Cellular Pathology, translated by Frank Chance (1860), x.
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I would be the last to deny that the greatest scientific pioneers belonged to an aristocracy of the spirit and were exceptionally intelligent, something that we as modest investigators will never attain, no matter how much we exert ourselves. Nevertheless … I continue to believe that there is always room for anyone with average intelligence … to utilize his energy and … any man could, if he were so inclined, be the sculptor of his own brain, and that even the least gifted may, like the poorest land that has been well-cultivated and fertilized, produce an abundant harvest..
From Preface to the second edition, Reglas y Consejos sobre Investigacíon Cientifica: Los tónicos de la voluntad. (1897), as translated by Neely and Larry W. Swanson, in Advice for a Young Investigator (1999), xv.
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I [do not know] when the end of science will come. ... What I do know is that our species is dumber than we normally admit to ourselves. This limit of our mental faculties, and not necessarily of science itself, ensures to me that we have only just begun to figure out the universe.
In Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries (2007), 17.
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If a mathematician wishes to disparage the work of one of his colleagues, say, A, the most effective method he finds for doing this is to ask where the results can be applied. The hard pressed man, with his back against the wall, finally unearths the researches of another mathematician B as the locus of the application of his own results. If next B is plagued with a similar question, he will refer to another mathematician C. After a few steps of this kind we find ourselves referred back to the researches of A, and in this way the chain closes.
From final remarks in 'The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics' (1944), collected in Leonard Linsky (ed.), Semantics and the Philosophy of Language: A Collection of Readings (1952), 41.
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If arithmetical skill is the measure of intelligence, then computers have been more intelligent than all human beings all along. If the ability to play chess is the measure, then there are computers now in existence that are more intelligent than any but a very few human beings. However, if insight, intuition, creativity, the ability to view a problem as a whole and guess the answer by the “feel” of the situation, is a measure of intelligence, computers are very unintelligent indeed. Nor can we see right now how this deficiency in computers can be easily remedied, since human beings cannot program a computer to be intuitive or creative for the very good reason that we do not know what we ourselves do when we exercise these qualities.
In Machines That Think (1983).
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If I were entering adulthood now instead of in the environment of fifty years ago, I would choose a career that kept me in touch with nature more than science. … Too few natural areas remain; both by intent and by indifference we have insulated ourselves from the wilderness that produced us.
In 'The Wisdom of Wilderness', Life (22 Dec 1967), 63, No. 25, 10.
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If the greenhouse effect is a blanket in which we wrap ourselves to keep warm, nuclear winter kicks the blanket off.
[co-author with American atmospheric chemist Richard P. Turco (1943- )]
A Path Where No Man Thought: Nuclear Winter and the End of the Arms Race (1990), 24.
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If there is anything that we wish to change in a child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could be better changed in ourselves.
Carl Jung
…...
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If this seems complex, the reason is because Tao is both simple and complex. It is complex when we try to understand it, and simple when we allow ourselves to experience it.
In Gary William Flake, The Computational Beauty of Nature (2000), 327.
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If we are ever in doubt what to do, it is a good rule to ask ourselves what we shall wish on the morrow that we had done.
The Pleasures of Life (1887, 2007), 21.
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If we betake ourselves to the statistical method, we do so confessing that we are unable to follow the details of each individual case, and expecting that the effects of widespread causes, though very different in each individual, will produce an average result on the whole nation, from a study of which we may estimate the character and propensities of an imaginary being called the Mean Man.
'Does the Progress of Physical Science tend to give any advantage to the opinion of necessity (or determinism) over that of the continuency of Events and the Freedom of the Will?' In P. M. Hannan (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 1862-1873, 818.
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If we couldn’t laugh at ourselves, that would be the end of everything.
Comment made to Professor Erik Riidinger, 1962. Quotation supplied and translated by Professor Erik Rüdinger, Niels Bohr Archive.
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If we look into ourselves we discover propensities which declare that our intellects have arisen from a lower form; could our minds be made visible we should find them tailed.
In The Martyrdom of Man (1876), 242.
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If we turn our backs on things as yet untried within our own small realm of reference, we’re guilty of a sin against ourselves: An unwillingness to experiment.
In 'Reactions to Man’s Landing on the Moon Show Broad Variations in Opinions', The New York Times (21 Jul 1969), 6.
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Imagine that … the world is something like a great chess game being played by the gods, and we are observers of the game. … If we watch long enough, we may eventually catch on to a few of the rules…. However, we might not be able to understand why a particular move is made in the game, merely because it is too complicated and our minds are limited…. We must limit ourselves to the more basic question of the rules of the game.
If we know the rules, we consider that we “understand” the world.
In 'Basic Physics', The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1964, 2013), Vol. 1, 2-1.
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In an age of egoism, it is so difficult to persuade man that of all studies, the most important is that of himself. This is because egoism, like all passions, is blind. The attention of the egoist is directed to the immediate needs of which his senses give notice, and cannot be raised to those reflective needs that reason discloses to us; his aim is satisfaction, not perfection. He considers only his individual self; his species is nothing to him. Perhaps he fears that in penetrating the mysteries of his being he will ensure his own abasement, blush at his discoveries, and meet his conscience. True philosophy, always at one with moral science, tells a different tale. The source of useful illumination, we are told, is that of lasting content, is in ourselves. Our insight depends above all on the state of our faculties; but how can we bring our faculties to perfection if we do not know their nature and their laws! The elements of happiness are the moral sentiments; but how can we develop these sentiments without considering the principle of our affections, and the means of directing them? We become better by studying ourselves; the man who thoroughly knows himself is the wise man. Such reflection on the nature of his being brings a man to a better awareness of all the bonds that unite us to our fellows, to the re-discovery at the inner root of his existence of that identity of common life actuating us all, to feeling the full force of that fine maxim of the ancients: 'I am a man, and nothing human is alien to me.'
Considerations sur les diverses méthodes à suivre dans l'observation des peuples sauvages (1800) The Observation of Savage Peoples, trans. F. C. T. Moore (1969), 61.
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In going on with these Experiments, how many pretty systems do we build, which we soon find ourselves oblig’d to destroy! If there is no other Use discover’d of Electricity, this, however, is something considerable, that it may help to make a vain Man humble.
Letter to Peter Collinson, 14 Aug 1747. In I. Bernard Cohen (ed.), Benjamin Franklin’s Experiments (1941), 63.
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In human freedom in the philosophical sense I am definitely a disbeliever. Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance with inner necessity. Schopenhauer’s saying, that ‘a man can do as he will, but not will as he will,’ has been an inspiration to me since my youth up, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the hardships of life, my own and others’. This feeling mercifully mitigates the sense of responsibility which so easily becomes paralysing, and it prevents us from taking ourselves and other people too seriously; it conduces to a view of life in which humour, above all, has its due place.
…...
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In man, then, let us take the amount that is extruded by the individual beats, and that cannot return into the heart because of the barrier set in its way by the valves, as half an ounce, or three drachms, or at least one drachm. In half an hour the heart makes over a thousand beats; indeed, in some individuals, and on occasion, two, three, or four thousand. If you multiply the drachms per beat by the number of beats you will see that in half an hour either a thousand times three drachms or times two drachms, or five hundred ounces, or other such proportionate quantity of blood has been passed through the heart into the arteries, that is, in all cases blood in greater amount than can be found in the whole of the body. Similarly in the sheep or the dog. Let us take it that one scruple passes in a single contraction of the heart; then in half an hour a thousand scruples, or three and a half pounds of blood, do so. In a body of this size, as I have found in the sheep, there is often not more than four pounds of blood.
In the above sort of way, by calculating the amount of blood transmitted [at each heart beat] and by making a count of the beats, let us convince ourselves that the whole amount of the blood mass goes through the heart from the veins to the arteries and similarly makes the pulmonary transit.
Even if this may take more than half an hour or an hour or a day for its accomplishment, it does nevertheless show that the beat of the heart is continuously driving through that organ more blood than the ingested food can supply, or all the veins together at any time contain.
De Motu Cordis (1628), The Circulation of the Blood and Other Writings, trans. Kenneth J. Franklin (1957), Chapter 9, 62-3.
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In science, address the few; in literature, the many. In science, the few must dictate opinion to the many; in literature, the many, sooner or later, force their judgement on the few. But the few and the many are not necessarily the few and the many of the passing time: for discoverers in science have not un-often, in their own day, had the few against them; and writers the most permanently popular not unfrequently found, in their own day, a frigid reception from the many. By the few, I mean those who must ever remain the few, from whose dieta we, the multitude, take fame upon trust; by the many, I mean those who constitute the multitude in the long-run. We take the fame of a Harvey or a Newton upon trust, from the verdict of the few in successive generations; but the few could never persuade us to take poets and novelists on trust. We, the many, judge for ourselves of Shakespeare and Cervantes.
Caxtoniana: A Series of Essays on Life, Literature, and Manners (1863), Vol. 2, 329- 30.
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In spite of what moralists say, the, animals are scarcely less wicked or less unhappy than we are ourselves. The arrogance of the strong, the servility of the weak, low rapacity, ephemeral pleasure purchased by great effort, death preceded by long suffering, all belong to the animals as they do to men.
Recueil des Éloges Historiques 1819-27, Vol. 1, 91.
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In the infancy of physical science, it was hoped that some discovery might be made that would enable us to emancipate ourselves from the bondage of gravity, and, at least, pay a visit to our neighbour the moon. The poor attempts of the aeronaut have shewn the hopelessness of the enterprise. The success of his achievement depends on the buoyant power of the atmosphere, but the atmosphere extends only a few miles above the earth, and its action cannot reach beyond its own limits. The only machine, independent of the atmosphere, we can conceive of, would be one on the principle of the rocket. The rocket rises in the air, not from the resistance offered by the atmosphere to its fiery stream, but from the internal reaction. The velocity would, indeed, be greater in a vacuum than in the atmosphere, and could we dispense with the comfort of breathing air, we might, with such a machine, transcend the boundaries of our globe, and visit other orbs.
God's Glory in the Heavens (1862, 3rd Ed. 1867) 3-4.
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In the performance of our duty one feeling should direct us; the case we should consider as our own, and we should ask ourselves, whether, placed under similar circumstances, we should choose to submit to the pain and danger we are about to inflict.
Quoted in Bransby Blake Cooper, The Life of Sir Astley Cooper (1843), Vol. 2, 207.
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It is folly to think that we can destroy one species and ecosystem after another and not affect humanity. When we save species, we’re actually saving ourselves.
On the 'About' page of his web site.
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It is in moments of illness that we are compelled to recognize that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom, whole worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us, and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body.
'Le Côté de Guermantes', À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-27).
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It is not I who seek to base Man's dignity upon his great toe, or insinuate that we are lost if an Ape has a hippocampus minor. On the contrary, I have done my best to sweep away this vanity. I have endeavoured to show that no absolute structural line of demarcation, wider than that between the animals which immediately succeed us in the scale, can be drawn between the animal world and ourselves; and I may add the expression of my belief that the attempt to draw a physical distinction is equally futile, and that even the highest facuities of feeling and of intellect begin to germinate in lower forms of life. At the same time, no one is more strongly convinced than I am of the vastness of the gulf between civilized man and the brutes; or is more certain that whether from them or not, he is assuredly not of them.
'On the Relations of Man to the Lower Animals' (1863). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 7. 152-3.
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It is not improbable that some of the presentations which come before the mind in sleep may even be causes of the actions cognate to each of them. For as when we are about to act [in waking hours], or are engaged in any course of action, or have already performed certain actions, we often find ourselves concerned with these actions, or performing them, in a vivid dream.
Aristotle
In Mortimer Jerome Adler, Charles Lincoln Van Doren (eds.) Great Treasury of Western Thought: A Compendium of Important Statements on Man and His Institutions by the Great Thinkers in Western History (1977), 352
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It is not surprising that our language should be incapable of describing the processes occurring within the atoms, for, as has been remarked, it was invented to describe the experiences of daily life, and these consists only of processes involving exceedingly large numbers of atoms. Furthermore, it is very difficult to modify our language so that it will be able to describe these atomic processes, for words can only describe things of which we can form mental pictures, and this ability, too, is a result of daily experience. Fortunately, mathematics is not subject to this limitation, and it has been possible to invent a mathematical scheme—the quantum theory—which seems entirely adequate for the treatment of atomic processes; for visualization, however, we must content ourselves with two incomplete analogies—the wave picture and the corpuscular picture.
The Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory, trans. Carl Eckart and Frank C. Hoyt (1949), 11.
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It is not, indeed, strange that the Greeks and Romans should not have carried ... any ... experimental science, so far as it has been carried in our time; for the experimental sciences are generally in a state of progression. They were better understood in the seventeenth century than in the sixteenth, and in the eighteenth century than in the seventeenth. But this constant improvement, this natural growth of knowledge, will not altogether account for the immense superiority of the modern writers. The difference is a difference not in degree, but of kind. It is not merely that new principles have been discovered, but that new faculties seem to be exerted. It is not that at one time the human intellect should have made but small progress, and at another time have advanced far; but that at one time it should have been stationary, and at another time constantly proceeding. In taste and imagination, in the graces of style, in the arts of persuasion, in the magnificence of public works, the ancients were at least our equals. They reasoned as justly as ourselves on subjects which required pure demonstration.
History (May 1828). In Samuel Austin Allibone, Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay (1880), 36.
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It is profitable nevertheless to permit ourselves to talk about 'meaningless' terms in the narrow sense if the preconditions to which all profitable operations are subject are so intuitive and so universally accepted as to form an almost unconscious part of the background of the public using the term. Physicists of the present day do constitute a homogenous public of this character; it is in the air that certain sorts of operation are valueless for achieving certain sorts of result. If one wants to know how many planets there are one counts them but does not ask a philosopher what is the perfect number.
Reflections of a Physicist (1950), 6.
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It is tempting to wonder if our present universe, large as it is and complex though it seems, might not be merely the result of a very slight random increase in order over a very small portion of an unbelievably colossal universe which is virtually entirely in heat-death. Perhaps we are merely sliding down a gentle ripple that has been set up, accidently and very temporarily, in a quiet pond, and it is only the limitation of our own infinitesimal range of viewpoint in space and time that makes it seem to ourselves that we are hurtling down a cosmic waterfall of increasing entropy, a waterfall of colossal size and duration.
(1976). In Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 331.
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It is the individual only who is timeless. Societies, cultures, and civilizations - past and present - are often incomprehensible to outsiders, but the individual’s hunger, anxieties, dreams, and preoccupations have remained unchanged through the millennia. Thus, we are up against the paradox that the individual who is more complex, unpredictable, and mysterious than any communal entity is the one nearest to our understanding; so near that even the interval of millennia cannot weaken our feeling of kinshiIf in some manner the voice of an individual reaches us from the remotest distance of time, it is a timeless voice speaking about ourselves.
In Reflections on the Human Condition (1973), 97.
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It may be said of some very old places, as of some very old books, that they are destined to be forever new. The nearer we approach them, the more remote they seem: the more we study them, the more we have yet to learn. Time augments rather than diminishes their everlasting novelty; and to our descendants of a thousand years hence it may safely be predicted that they will be even more fascinating than to ourselves. This is true of many ancient lands, but of no place is it so true as of Egypt.
Opening remark in Pharaohs, Fellahs and Explorers (1891), 3.
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Its [science’s] effectiveness is almost inevitable because it narrows the possibility of refutation and failure. Science begins by saying it can only answer this type of question and ends by saying these are the only questions that can be asked. Once the implications and shallowness of this trick are fully realised, science will be humbled and we shall be free to celebrate ourselves once again.
From Understanding the Present: An Alternative History of Science (2004), 249.
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Its [the anthropological method] power to make us understand the roots from which our civilization has sprung, that it impresses us with the relative value of all forms of culture, and thus serves as a check to an exaggerated valuation of the standpoint of our own period, which we are only too liable to consider the ultimate goal of human evolution, thus depriving ourselves of the benefits to be gained from the teachings of other cultures and hindering an objective criticism of our own work.
'The History of Anthropology', Science, 1904, 20, 524.
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It’s humbling to realise that the developmental gulf between a miniscule ant colony and our modern human civilisation is only a tiny fraction of the distance between a Type 0 and a Type III civilisation – a factor of 100 billion billion, in fact. Yet we have such a highly regarded view of ourselves, we believe a Type III civilisation would find us irresistible and would rush to make contact with us. The truth is, however, they may be as interested in communicating with humans as we are keen to communicate with ants.
'Star Makers', Cosmos (Feb 2006).
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Joad, the philosopher, said … “science changes our environment faster than we have the ability to adjust ourselves to it.”
In 'The Talk of the Town', in The New Yorker (18 Aug 1945), 13.
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Know thyself! This is the source of all wisdom, said the great thinkers of the past, and the sentence was written in golden letters on the temple of the gods. To know himself, Linnæus declared to be the essential indisputable distinction of man above all other creatures. I know, indeed, in study nothing more worthy of free and thoughtful man than the study of himself. For if we look for the purpose of our existence, we cannot possibly find it outside ourselves. We are here for our own sake.
As translated and quoted in Ernst Haeckel and E. Ray Lankester (trans.) as epigraph for Chap. 9, The History of Creation (1886), Vol. 1, 244.
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Knowledge must be gained by ourselves. Mankind may supply us with facts; but the results, even if they agree with previous ones, must be the work of our own minds.
The Young Duke (1831), 163-4.
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Learn to reverence night and to put away the vulgar fear of it, for, with the banishment of night from the experience of man, there vanishes as well a religious emotion, a poetic mood, which gives depth to the adventure of humanity. By day, space is one with the earth and with man - it is his sun that is shining, his clouds that are floating past; at night, space is his no more. When the great earth, abandoning day, rolls up the deeps of the heavens and the universe, a new door opens for the human spirit, and there are few so clownish that some awareness of the mystery of being does not touch them as they gaze. For a moment of night we have a glimpse of ourselves and of our world islanded in its stream of stars - pilgrims of mortality, voyaging between horizons across eternal seas of space and time. Fugitive though the instant be, the spirit of man is, during it, ennobled by a genuine moment of emotional dignity, and poetry makes its own both the human spirit and experience.
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Life is not easy for any of us, but what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted in something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.
Letter to brother (1894). In Eve Curie, Madame Curie: a Biography by Eve Curie (1937, 2007), 158.
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Man does not limit himself to seeing; he thinks and insists on learning the meaning of phenomena whose existence has been revealed to him by observation. So he reasons, compares facts, puts questions to them, and by the answers which he extracts, tests one by another. This sort of control, by means of reasoning and facts, is what constitutes experiment, properly speaking; and it is the only process that we have for teaching ourselves about the nature of things outside us.
In Claude Bernard and Henry Copley Greene (trans.), An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1927, 1957), 5.
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Many people know everything they know in the way we know the solution of a riddle after we have read it or been told it, and that is the worst kind of knowledge and the kind least to be cultivated; we ought rather to cultivate that kind of knowledge which enables us to discover for ourselves in case of need that which others have to read or be told of in order to know it.
Aphorism 89 in Notebook D (1773-1775), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 58.
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May we not assure ourselves that whatever woman’s thought and study shall embrace will thereby receive a new inspiration, that she will save science from materialism, and art from a gross realism; that the ‘eternal womanly shall lead upward and onward’?
As quoted in The Fair Women, ch. 16, by Jeanne Madeline Weimann (1981).From a paper published in Art and Handicraft in the Woman's Building, a book sponsored by the Board of Lady Managers of the Commission that planned the 1893 World's Columbian Expositio
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Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 2, lines 139-141.
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Men today who have had an irreproachable training in the art are seen to abstain from the use of the hand as from the plague, and for this very reason, lest they should be slandered by the masters of the profession as barbers… . For it is indeed above all things the wide prevalence of this hateful error that prevents us even in our age from taking up the healing art as a whole, makes us confine ourselves merely to the treatment of internal complaints, and, if I may utter the blunt truth once for all, causes us, to the great detriment of mankind, to study to be healers only in a very limited degree.
As given in George I. Schwartz and ‎Philip W. Bishop, 'Andreas Vesalius', Moments of Discovery: The Development of Modern Science (1958), Vol. 1, 521.
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Most impediments to scientific understanding are conceptual locks, not factual lacks. Most difficult to dislodge are those biases that escape our scrutiny because they seem so obviously, even ineluctably, just. We know ourselves best and tend to view other creatures as mirrors of our own constitution and social arrangements. (Aristotle, and nearly two millennia of successors, designated the large bee that leads the swarm as a king.)
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Mr. Thomas A. Edison recently came into this office, placed a little machine on our desk, turned a crank, and the machine enquired as to our health, asked how we liked the phonograph, informed us that it was well, and bid us a cordial good night. These remarks were not only perfectly audible to ourselves, but to a dozen or more persons gathered around.
Scientific American (22 Dec 1877). Quoted in By John Henry Pepper, The Boy's Playbook of Science, Revised (1881), 251.
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Music is the effort we make to explain to ourselves how our brains work. We listen to Bach transfixed because this is listening to a human mind.
The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1980), 154.
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My final remark to young women and men going into experimental science is that they should pay little attention to the speculative physics ideas of my generation. After all, if my generation has any really good speculative ideas, we will be carrying these ideas out ourselves.
'Reflections on the Discovery of the Tau Lepton', Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1995). In Nobel Lectures: Physics 1991-1995 (1997), 193.
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My first view - a panorama of brilliant deep blue ocean, shot with shades of green and gray and white - was of atolls and clouds. Close to the window I could see that this Pacific scene in motion was rimmed by the great curved limb of the Earth. It had a thin halo of blue held close, and beyond, black space. I held my breath, but something was missing - I felt strangely unfulfilled. Here was a tremendous visual spectacle, but viewed in silence. There was no grand musical accompaniment; no triumphant, inspired sonata or symphony. Each one of us must write the music of this sphere for ourselves.
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My method consists in allowing the mind to play freely for a very brief period, until a couple or so of ideas have passed through it, and then, while the traces or echoes of those ideas are still lingering in the brain, to turn the attention upon them with a sudden and complete awakening; to arrest, to scrutinise them, and to record their exact appearance... The general impression they have left upon me is like that which many of us have experienced when the basement of our house happens to be under thorough sanitary repairs, and we realise for the first time the complex system of drains and gas and water pipes, flues, bell-wires, and so forth, upon which our comfort depends, but which are usually hidden out of sight, and with whose existence, so long as they acted well, we had never troubled ourselves.
Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development (1883),185-6.
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Natural science does not simply describe and explain nature; it is part of the interplay between nature and ourselves; it describes nature as exposed to our method of questioning.
In Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science (1959, 1962), 81.
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Nature does not deceive us; it is we who deceive ourselves.
In Emile (1762).
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Nature when more shy in one, hath more freely confest and shewn herself in another; and a Fly sometimes hath given greater light towards the true knowledge of the structure and the uses of the Parts in Humane Bodies, than an often repeated dissection of the same might have done … We must not therefore think the meanest of the Creation vile or useless, since that in them in lively Characters (if we can but read) we may find the knowledge of a Deity and ourselves … In every Animal there is a world of wonders; each is a Microcosme or a world in it self.
Phocrena, or the Anatomy of a Porpess, dissected at Gresham College: With a Prreliminary Discourse Concerning Anatomy, and a Natural History of Animals (1680), 2-3.
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Newton supposed that the case of the planet was similar to that of [a ball spun around on the end of an elastic string]; that it was always pulled in the direction of the sun, and that this attraction or pulling of the sun produced the revolution of the planet, in the same way that the traction or pulling of the elastic string produces the revolution of the ball. What there is between the sun and the planet that makes each of them pull the other, Newton did not know; nobody knows to this day; and all we are now able to assert positively is that the known motion of the planet is precisely what would be produced if it were fastened to the sun by an elastic string, having a certain law of elasticity. Now observe the nature of this discovery, the greatest in its consequences that has ever yet been made in physical science:—
I. It begins with an hypothesis, by supposing that there is an analogy between the motion of a planet and the motion of a ball at the end of a string.
II. Science becomes independent of the hypothesis, for we merely use it to investigate the properties of the motion, and do not trouble ourselves further about the cause of it.
'On Some of the Conditions of Mental Development,' a discourse delivered at the Royal Institution, 6 Mar 1868, in Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock (eds.), Lectures and Essays, by the Late William Kingdon Clifford (1886), 56.
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Next to enjoying ourselves, the next greatest pleasure consists in preventing others from enjoying themselves, or, more generally, in the acquisition of power.
In Sceptical Essays (1928), 130.
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No creature is too bulky or formidable for man's destructive energies—none too minute and insignificant for his keen detection and skill of capture. It was ordained from the beginning that we should be the masters and subduers of all inferior animals. Let us remember, however, that we ourselves, like the creatures we slay, subjugate, and modify, are the results of the same Almighty creative will—temporary sojourners here, and co-tenants with the worm and the whale of one small planet. In the exercise, therefore, of those superior powers that have been intrusted to us, let us ever bear in mind that our responsibilities are heightened in proportion.
Lecture to the London Society of Arts, 'The Raw Materials of the Animal Kingdom', collected in Lectures on the Results of the Great Exhibition of 1851' (1852), 131.
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No history of civilization can be tolerably complete which does not give considerable space to the explanation of scientific progress. If we had any doubts about this, it would suffice to ask ourselves what constitutes the essential difference between our and earlier civilizations. Throughout the course of history, in every period, and in almost every country, we find a small number of saints, of great artists, of men of science. The saints of to-day are not necessarily more saintly than those of a thousand years ago; our artists are not necessarily greater than those of early Greece; they are more likely to be inferior; and of course, our men of science are not necessarily more intelligent than those of old; yet one thing is certain, their knowledge is at once more extensive and more accurate. The acquisition and systematization of positive knowledge is the only human activity which is truly cumulative and progressive. Our civilization is essentially different from earlier ones, because our knowledge of the world and of ourselves is deeper, more precise, and more certain, because we have gradually learned to disentangle the forces of nature, and because we have contrived, by strict obedience to their laws, to capture them and to divert them to the gratification of our own needs.
Introduction to the History of Science (1927), Vol. 1, 3-4.
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Not enough of our society is trained how to understand and interpret quantitative information. This activity is a centerpiece of science literacy to which we should all strive—the future health, wealth, and security of our democracy depend on it. Until that is achieved, we are at risk of making under-informed decisions that affect ourselves, our communities, our country, and even the world.
From email message, as published on Huffington Post website (5 Feb 2015).
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Now the whole earth had one language and few words… . Then they said, Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth… .
Bible
(circa 725 B.C.)
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Now when we think that each of these stars is probably the centre of a solar system grander than our own, we cannot seriously take ourselves to be the only minds in it all.
…...
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One might talk about the sanity of the atom
the sanity of space
the sanity of the electron
the sanity of water—
For it is all alive
and has something comparable to that which we call sanity in ourselves.
The only oneness is the oneness of sanity.
'The Sane Universe', David Herbert Lawrence, The Works of D.H. Lawrence (1994), 428.
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One of the petty ideas of philosophers is to elaborate a classification, a hierarchy of sciences. They all try it, and they are generally so fond of their favorite scheme that they are prone to attach an absurd importance to it. We must not let ourselves be misled by this. Classifications are always artificial; none more than this, however. There is nothing of value to get out of a classification of science; it dissembles more beauty and order than it can possibly reveal.
In 'The Teaching of the History of Science', The Scientific Monthly (Sep 1918), 194.
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Richard P. Feynman quote: One of the ways of stopping science would be only to do experiments in the region where you know the l
One of the ways of stopping science would be only to do experiments in the region where you know the law. … In other words we are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress.
In The Character of Physical Law (1965, 2001), 158.
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One should not understand this compulsion to construct concepts, species, forms, purposes, laws ('a world of identical cases') as if they enabled us to fix the real world; but as a compulsion to arrange a world for ourselves in which our existence is made possible:—we thereby create a world which is calculable, simplified, comprehensible, etc., for us.
The Will to Power (Notes written 1883-1888), book 3, no. 521. Trans. W. Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale and ed. W. Kaufmann (1968), 282.
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Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.
The Use of Life (1895, 1923), 260.
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Our credulity is greatest concerning the things we know least about. And since we know least about ourselves, we are ready to believe all that is said about us. Hence the mysterious power of both flattery and calumny.... It is thus with most of us: we are what other people say we are. We know ourselves chiefly by hearsay.
In The Passionate State of Mind (1955), 80.
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Our knowledge of the external world must always consist of numbers, and our picture of the universe—the synthesis of our knowledge—must necessarily be mathematical in form. All the concrete details of the picture, the apples, the pears and bananas, the ether and atoms and electrons, are mere clothing that we ourselves drape over our mathematical symbols— they do not belong to Nature, but to the parables by which we try to make Nature comprehensible. It was, I think, Kronecker who said that in arithmetic God made the integers and man made the rest; in the same spirit, we may add that in physics God made the mathematics and man made the rest.
From Address (1934) to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Aberdeen, 'The New World—Picture of Modern Physics'. Printed in Nature (Sep 1934) 134, No. 3384, 356. As quoted and cited in Wilbur Marshall Urban, Language and Reality: The Philosophy of Language and the Principles of Symbolism (2004), Vol. 15, 542.
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Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves, but also to the cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.
…...
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Our posturing, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
…...
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Our purpose is to be able to measure the intellectual capacity of a child who is brought to us in order to know whether he is normal or retarded. ... We do not attempt to establish or prepare a prognosis and we leave unanswered the question of whether this retardation is curable, or even improveable. We shall limit ourselves to ascertaining the truth in regard to his present mental state.
Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon (1873-1961, French psychologist) 'New Methods for the Diagnosis of the Intellectual Level of Subnormals' (1905), in The Development of Intelligence in Children, trans. Elizabeth Kite (1916), 37.
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Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, which we ascribe to heaven.
In All's Well That Ends Well, Act 1, 1, 199-200. Collected in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (1906), Vol. 1, 299.
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Our scientific work in physics consists in asking questions about nature in the language that we possess and trying to get an answer from experiment by the means at our disposal. In this way quantum theory reminds us, as Bohr has put it, of the old wisdom that when searching for harmony in life one must never forget that in the drama of existence we are ourselves both players and spectators. It is understandable that in our scientific relation to nature our own activity becomes very important when we have to deal with parts of nature into which we can penetrate only by using the most elaborate tools.
The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory (1958). In Steve Adams, Frontiers (2000), 13.
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Outside our consciousness there lies the cold and alien world of actual things. Between the two stretches the narrow borderland of the senses. No communication between the two worlds is possible excepting across the narrow strip. For a proper understanding of ourselves and of the world, it is of the highest importance that this borderland should be thoroughly explored.
Keynote Address, a tribute to Helmholtz, at the Imperial Palace, Berlin (Aug 1891). Cited in Davis Baird, R.I.G. Hughes and Alfred Nordmann, Heinrich Hertz: Classical Physicist, Modern Philosopher (1998), 157.
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Pride is a sense of worth derived from something that is not organically part of us, while self-esteem derives from the potentialities and achievements of the self. We are proud when we identify ourselves with an imaginary self, a leader, a holy cause, a collective body or possessions. There is fear and intolerance in pride; it is sensitive and uncompromising. The less promise and potency in the self, the more imperative is the need for pride. The core of pride is self-rejection.
In The Passionate State of Mind (1955), 23.
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Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve. Music and art are, to an extent, also attempts to solve or at least express the mystery. But to my mind the more we progress with either the more we are brought into harmony with all nature itself. And that is one of the great services of science to the individual.
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where is Science Going?, (1932), Epilogue, 217.
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Science is a way to not fool ourselves.
Frequently seen attributed to Sagan, but always without any citation. Webmaster has found no proof that Sagan ever said, wrote or originated this. Also seen as, “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself.” Contact webmaster if you know a primary verbatim source for either of these attributed quotes. Likely a paraphrase from a known quote by Richard Feynman, that begins, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself…”, on the Richard Feynman Quotes page of this website.
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Sir, the reason is very plain; knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.
In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1820), Vol. 1, 418.
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Speaking concretely, when we say “making experiments or making observations,” we mean that we devote ourselves to investigation and to research, that we make attempts and trials in order to gain facts from which the mind, through reasoning, may draw knowledge or instruction.
Speaking in the abstract, when we say “relying on observation and gaining experience,” we mean that observation is the mind's support in reasoning, and experience the mind's support in deciding, or still better, the fruit of exact reasoning applied to the interpretation of facts. It follows from this that we can gain experience without making experiments, solely by reasoning appropriately about well- established facts, just as we can make experiments and observations without gaining experience, if we limit ourselves to noting facts.
Observation, then, is what shows facts; experiment is what teaches about facts and gives experience in relation to anything.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 11.
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Spherical space is not very easy to imagine. We have to think of the properties of the surface of a sphere—the two-dimensional case—and try to conceive something similar applied to three-dimensional space. Stationing ourselves at a point let us draw a series of spheres of successively greater radii. The surface of a sphere of radius r should be proportional to r2; but in spherical space the areas of the more distant spheres begin to fall below the proper proportion. There is not so much room out there as we expected to find. Ultimately we reach a sphere of biggest possible area, and beyond it the areas begin to decrease. The last sphere of all shrinks to a point—our antipodes. Is there nothing beyond this? Is there a kind of boundary there? There is nothing beyond and yet there is no boundary. On the earth’s surface there is nothing beyond our own antipodes but there is no boundary there
In Space, Time and Gravitation: An Outline of the General Relativity Theory (1920, 1921), 158-159.
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Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know—and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know—even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction—than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.
Widely seen on the Web, but always without citation, so regard attribution as uncertain. Webmaster has not yet found reliable verification. Contact Webmaster if you know a primary print source.
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Teaching is not telling. If it were telling, we’d all be so smart we couldn't stand ourselves.
Anonymous
Sometimes seen in recent publications attributed to Mark Twain, for example, in Thomas R. Rosebrough and ‎Ralph G. Leverett Transformational Teaching in the Information Age (2011), 71. Also seen as “If teaching were just telling then we’d all be so smart we couldn’t stand up.” Webmaster has tried, but has not yet been able to find a primary source in Twain’s writings, and so believes “Anonymous” is the most likely source. Can you help?
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Technocrats are turning us into daredevils. The haphazard gambles they are imposing on us too often jeopardize our safety for goals that do not advance the human cause but undermine it. By staking our lives on their schemes, decision makers are not meeting the mandate of a democratic society; they are betraying it. They are not ennobling us; they are victimizing us. And, in acquiescing to risks that have resulted in irreversible damage to the environment, we ourselves are not only forfeiting our own rights as citizens. We are, in turn, victimizing the ultimate nonvolunteers: the defenseless, voiceless—voteless—children of the future.
In Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World (2007), 85.
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The best that Gauss has given us was likewise an exclusive production. If he had not created his geometry of surfaces, which served Riemann as a basis, it is scarcely conceivable that anyone else would have discovered it. I do not hesitate to confess that to a certain extent a similar pleasure may be found by absorbing ourselves in questions of pure geometry.
Quoted in G. Waldo Dunnington, Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of Science (2004), 350.
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The cases of action at a distance are becoming, in a physical point of view, daily more and more important. Sound, light, electricity, magnetism, gravitation, present them as a series.
The nature of sound and its dependence on a medium we think we understand, pretty well. The nature of light as dependent on a medium is now very largely accepted. The presence of a medium in the phenomena of electricity and magnetism becomes more and more probable daily. We employ ourselves, and I think rightly, in endeavouring to elucidate the physical exercise of these forces, or their sets of antecedents and consequents, and surely no one can find fault with the labours which eminent men have entered upon in respect of light, or into which they may enter as regards electricity and magnetism. Then what is there about gravitation that should exclude it from consideration also? Newton did not shut out the physical view, but had evidently thought deeply of it; and if he thought of it, why should not we, in these advanced days, do so too?
Letter to E. Jones, 9 Jun 1857. In Michael Faraday, Bence Jones (ed.), The Life and Letters of Faraday (1870), Vol. 2, 387.
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The complexity of an object depends not on itself, but of the degree to which it is investigated, and the questions we ourselves raise in investigating it.
In The Unity of Science (1921), 141.
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The earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth. All things are connected, like the blood which unites one family. Mankind did not weave the web of life. We are but one strand within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
Ted Perry
Fictional speech from script for ABC TV movie, Home (1972). The words by the screenwriter were inspired from an Earth Day gathering in 1970, where Perry heard a historical account by physician Dr. Henry Smith. The doctor's words were published in a Seattle newspaper, written up to 33 years after being present, when in Dec 1854 Chief Seattle made an impassioned speech, in the language of his own people, the Suquwamish. The Chief, with other tribal leaders, were meeting with the Territorial Governor who was trying to get them to sign away their lands and instead receive protection on a reservation. Dr. Smith may not have been fluent in the language of the Suquwamish, although he did make some notes at the time. But he wrote poetry, making embellishment or invention likely, so it is questionable whether his newspaper account is reliable in providing the Chief's actual words. In turn, Perry has made clear that his script provided a fictional representation the Chief. The televisedquote, however became mythical, and is incorrectly passed along as attributed to Chief Seattle in 1854, but the truth is the words are contemporary, written by Perry, a screenwriter. Also seen as: Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
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The entire cosmos is made out of one and the same world-stuff, operated by the same energy as we ourselves. “Mind” and “matter” appears as two aspects of our unitary mind-bodies. There is no separate supernatural realm: all phenomena are part of one natural process of evolution. There is no basic cleavage between science and religion; they are both organs of evolving humanity.
In essay, 'The New Divinity', originally published in The Twentieth Century (1962), 170, 9. Collected in Essays of a Humanist (1964), 218.
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The first fundamental rule of historical science and research, when by these is sought a knowledge of the general destinies of mankind, is to keep these and every object connected with them steadily in view, without losing ourselves in the details of special inquiries and particular facts, for the multitude and variety of these subjects is absolutely boundless; and on the ocean of historical science the main subject easily vanishes from the eye.
In Friedrich von Schlegel and James Burton Robertson (trans.), The Philosophy of History (1835), 8.
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The frequent allegation that the selective processes in the human species are no longer 'natural' is due to persistence of the obsolete nineteenth-century concept of 'natural' selection. The error of this view is made clear when we ask its proponents such questions as, why should the 'surviving fittest' be able to withstand cold and inclement weather without the benefit of fire and clothing? Is it not ludicrous to expect selection to make us good at defending ourselves against wild beasts when wild beasts are getting to be so rare that it is a privilege to see one outside of a zoo? Is it necessary to eliminate everyone who has poor teeth when our dentists stand ready to provide us with artificial ones? Is it a great virtue to be able to endure pain when anaesthetics are available?
[Co-author with American statistician Gordon Allen]
Theodosius Dobzhansky and Gordon Allen, 'Does Natural Selection Continue to Operate in Modern Mankind?', American Anthropologist, 1956, 58, 595.
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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 greater is the circle of light, the greater is the boundary of the darkness by which it is confined. But, notwithstanding this, the more light get, the more thankful we ought to be, for by this means we have the greater range for satisfactory contemplation. time the bounds of light will be still farther extended; and from the infinity of the divine nature, and the divine works, we may promise ourselves an endless progress in our investigation them: a prospect truly sublime and glorious.
Experiments and Observations with a Continuation of the Observations on Air (1781), Vol. 2, ix.
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The known is finite, the unknown infinite; spiritually we find ourselves on a tiny island in the middle of a boundless ocean of the inexplicable. It is our task, from generation to generation, to drain a small amount of additional land.
As given in Herbert and W. Roesky and Klaud Möckel, translated from the original German by T.N. Mitchell and W.E. Russey, Chemical Curiosities: Spectacular Experiments and Inspired Quotes (1996), 212. It is a restatement of an original quote from concluding remarks to a chapter by Thomas Huxley, 'On the Reception of the ‘Origin of Species’', the last chapter in Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887), Vol. 1, 557. Webmaster suggests, the original Huxley quote was translated for the original German text, and when that was translated for the English edition, the quote morphed into into the form above.
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The meaning of human life and the destiny of man cannot be separable from the meaning and destiny of life in general. 'What is man?' is a special case of 'What is life?' Probably the human species is not intelligent enough to answer either question fully, but even such glimmerings as are within our powers must be precious to us. The extent to which we can hope to understand ourselves and to plan our future depends in some measure on our ability to read the riddles of the past. The present, for all its awesome importance to us who chance to dwell in it, is only a random point in the long flow of time. Terrestrial life is one and continuous in space and time. Any true comprehension of it requires the attempt to view it whole and not in the artificial limits of any one place or epoch. The processes of life can be adequately displayed only in the course of life throughout the long ages of its existence.
The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man (1949), 9.
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The method of inquiry which all our ingenious Theorists of the Earth have pursued is certainly erroneous. They first form an hypothesis to solve the phenomena, but in fact the Phenomena are always used as a prop to the hypothesis.
Instead therefore of attempting to cut the gordian knot by Hypothetical analysis, we shall follow the synthetic method of inquiry and content ourselves with endeavouring to establish facts rather than attempt solutions and try by experiments how far that method may leave us thro' the mazes of this subject
Introduction to his lecture course. In Robert Jameson, edited by H. W. Scott, Lectures on Geology, (1966), 27. In Patrick Wyse Jackson, Four Centuries of Geological Travel (2007), 33.
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The mind likes a strange idea as little as the body likes a strange protein and resists it with similar energy. It would not perhaps be too fanciful to say that a new idea is the most quickly acting antigen known to science. If we watch ourselves honestly we shall often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it has been completely stated.
In The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 186. This is seen in several places attributed to W.I.B. Beveridge. However,it appears in his The Art of Scientific Investigation (1950), 109, where it is clearly shown as a quote from Wilfred Trotter, with a footnote citing the source as Collected Papers. (The quote has been removed from the Beveridge page on this web site 29 Jun 2015.)
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The Moon is a white strange world, great, white, soft-seeming globe in the night sky, and what she actually communicates to me across space I shall never fully know. But the Moon that pulls the tides, and the Moon that controls the menstrual periods of women, and the Moon that touches the lunatics, she is not the mere dead lump of the astronomist.... When we describe the Moon as dead, we are describing the deadness in ourselves. When we find space so hideously void, we are describing our own unbearable emptiness.
…...
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The primary rocks, ... I regard as the deposits of a period in which the earth's crust had sufficiently cooled down to permit the existence of a sea, with the necessary denuding agencies,—waves and currents,—and, in consequence, of deposition also; but in which the internal heat acted so near the surface, that whatever was deposited came, matter of course, to be metamorphosed into semi-plutonic forms, that retained only the stratification. I dare not speak of the scenery of the period. We may imagine, however, a dark atmosphere of steam and vapour, which for age after age conceals the face of the sun, and through which the light of moon or star never penetrates; oceans of thermal water heated in a thousand centres to the boiling point; low, half-molten islands, dim through the log, and scarce more fixed than the waves themselves, that heave and tremble under the impulsions of the igneous agencies; roaring geysers, that ever and anon throw up their intermittent jets of boiling fluid, vapour, and thick steam, from these tremulous lands; and, in the dim outskirts of the scene, the red gleam of fire, shot forth from yawning cracks and deep chasms, and that bears aloft fragments of molten rock and clouds of ashes. But should we continue to linger amid a scene so featureless and wild, or venture adown some yawning opening into the abyss beneath, where all is fiery and yet dark,—a solitary hell, without suffering or sin,—we would do well to commit ourselves to the guidance of a living poet of the true faculty,—Thomas Aird and see with his eyes.
Lecture Sixth, collected in Popular Geology: A Series of Lectures Read Before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh, with Descriptive Sketches from a Geologist's Portfolio (1859), 297-298.
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The Principle of Uncertainty is a bad name. In science or outside of it we are not uncertain; our knowledge is merely confined, within a certain tolerance. We should call it the Principle of Tolerance. And I propose that name in two senses: First, in the engineering sense, science has progressed, step by step, the most successful enterprise in the ascent of man, because it has understood that the exchange of information between man and nature, and man and man, can only take place with a certain tolerance. But second, I also use the word, passionately, about the real world. All knowledge, all information between human beings, can only be exchanged within a play of tolerance. And that is true whether the exchange is in science, or in literature, or in religion, or in politics, or in any form of thought that aspires to dogma. It’s a major tragedy of my lifetime and yours that scientists were refining, to the most exquisite precision, the Principle of Tolerance, and turning their backs on the fact that all around them, tolerance was crashing to the ground beyond repair. The Principle of Uncertainty or, in my phrase, the Principle of Tolerance, fixed once for all the realization that all knowledge is limited. It is an irony of history that at the very time when this was being worked out there should rise, under Hitler in Germany and other tyrants elsewhere, a counter-conception: a principle of monstrous certainty. When the future looks back on the 1930s it will think of them as a crucial confrontation of culture as I have been expounding it, the ascent of man, against the throwback to the despots’ belief that they have absolute certainty. It is said that science will dehumanize people and turn them into numbers. That is false: tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods. Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known; we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. In the end, the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ: Think it possible you may be mistaken.” We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people. [Referring to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.]
'Knowledge or Certainty,' episode 11, The Ascent of Man (1972), BBC TV series.
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The principles of logic and mathematics are true universally simply because we never allow them to be anything else. And the reason for this is that we cannot abandon them without contradicting ourselves, without sinning against the rules which govern the use of language, and so making our utterances self-stultifying. In other words, the truths of logic and mathematics are analytic propositions or tautologies.
Language, Truth and Logic (1960), 77.
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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 question now at issue, whether the living species are connected with the extinct by a common bond of descent, will best be cleared up by devoting ourselves to the study of the actual state of the living world, and to those monuments of the past in which the relics of the animate creation of former ages are best preserved and least mutilated by the hand of time.
The Antiquity of Man (1863), 470.
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The radius of space began at zero; the first stages of the expansion consisted of a rapid expansion determined by the mass of the initial atom, almost equal to the present mass of the universe. If this mass is sufficient, and the estimates which we can make indicate that this is indeed so, the initial expansion was able to permit the radius to exceed the value of the equilibrium radius. The expansion thus took place in three phases: a first period of rapid expansion in which the atom-universe was broken into atomic stars, a period of slowing-down, followed by a third period of accelerated expansion. It is doubtless in this third period that we find ourselves today, and the acceleration of space which followed the period of slow expansion could well be responsible for the separation of stars into extra-galactic nebulae.
From 'La formation des Nebuleuses dans l’Univers en Expansion', Comptes Rendus (1933), 196, 903-904. As translated in Helge Kragh, Cosmology and Controversy: The Historical Development of Two Theories of the Universe (1996), 52.
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The result of all these experiments has given place to a new division of the parts of the human body, which I shall follow in this short essay, by distinguishing those which are susceptible of Irritability and Sensibility, from those which are not. But the theory, why some parts of the human body are endowed with these properties, while others are not, I shall not at all meddle with. For I am persuaded that the source of both lies concealed beyond the reach of the knife and microscope, beyond which I do not chuse to hazard many conjectures, as I have no desire of teaching what I am ignorant of myself. For the vanity of attempting to guide others in paths where we find ourselves in the dark, shews, in my humble opinion, the last degree of arrogance and ignorance.
'A Treatise on the Sensible and Irritable Parts of Animals' (Read 1752). Trans. 1755 and reprinted in Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine, 1936, 4(2), 657-8.
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The scientific method cannot lead mankind because it is based upon experiment, and every experiment postpones the present moment until one knows the result. We always come to each other and even to ourselves too late so soon as we wish to know in advance what to do.
As quoted in H.W. Auden, The Faber Book of Aphorisms (1962), 260.
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The scientific method of examining facts is not peculiar to one class of phenomena and to one class of workers; it is applicable to social as well as to physical problems, and we must carefully guard ourselves against supposing that the scientific frame of mind is a peculiarity of the professional scientist.
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 8.
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The specific goals we set for ourselves are almost always subsidiary to our long range intentions. A good parent, a good neighbour, a good citizen, is not good because his specific goals are acceptable, but because his successive goals are ordered to a dependable and socially desirable set of values. (1947)
Presidential Address to the first annual Meeting of the American Psychological Asssociation (1947). As cited by Charles Abraham and Paschal Sheeran, 'Implications of Goal Theories for the Theories of Reasoned Action and Planned Behavior' in Christopher J. Armitage and Julie Christian (eds.), Planned Behavior: The Relationship Between Human Thought and Action (2004), 101.
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The Sun is no lonelier than its neighbors; indeed, it is a very common-place star,—dwarfish, though not minute,—like hundreds, nay thousands, of others. By accident the brighter component of Alpha Centauri (which is double) is almost the Sun's twin in brightness, mass, and size. Could this Earth be transported to its vicinity by some supernatural power, and set revolving about it, at a little less than a hundred million miles' distance, the star would heat and light the world just as the Sun does, and life and civilization might go on with no radical change. The Milky Way would girdle the heavens as before; some of our familiar constellations, such as Orion, would be little changed, though others would be greatly altered by the shifting of the nearer stars. An unfamiliar brilliant star, between Cassiopeia and Perseus would be—the Sun. Looking back at it with our telescopes, we could photograph its spectrum, observe its motion among the stars, and convince ourselves that it was the same old Sun; but what had happened to the rest of our planetary system we would not know.
The Solar System and its Origin (1935), 2-3.
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The trick in discovering evolutionary laws is the same as it is in discovering laws of physics or chemistry—namely, finding the right level of generalization to make prediction possible. We do not try to find a law that says when and where explosions will occur. We content ourselves with saying that certain sorts of compounds are explosive under the right conditions, and we predict that explosions will occur whenever those conditions are realized.
In 'Paleoanthropology: Science or Mythical Charter?', Journal of Anthropological Research (Summer 2002), 58, No. 2, 193.
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The universality of parasitism as an offshoot of the predatory habit negatives the position taken by man that it is a pathological phenomenon or a deviation from the normal processes of nature. The pathological manifestations are only incidents in a developing parasitism. As human beings intent on maintaining man's domination over nature we may regard parasitism as pathological insofar as it becomes a drain upon human resources. In our efforts to protect ourselves we may make every kind of sacrifice to limit, reduce, and even eliminate parasitism as a factor in human life. Science attempts to define the terms on which this policy of elimination may or may not succeed. We must first of all thoroughly understand the problem, put ourselves in possession of all the facts in order to estimate the cost. Too often it has been assumed that parasitism was abnormal and that it needed only a slight force to reestablish what was believed to be a normal equilibrium without parasitism. On the contrary, biology teaches us that parasitism is a normal phenomenon and if we accept this view we shall be more ready to pay the price of freedom as a permanent and ever recurring levy of nature for immunity from a condition to which all life is subject. The greatest victory of man over nature in the physical realm would undoubtedly be his own delivery from the heavy encumbrance of parasitism with which all life is burdened.
Parasitism and Disease (1934), 4.
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The universe is of the nature of a thought or sensation in a universal Mind… To put the conclusion crudely—the stuff of the world is mind-stuff. As is often the way with crude statements, I shall have to explain that by “mind” I do not exactly mean mind and by “stuff” I do not at all mean stuff. Still that is about as near as we can get to the idea in a simple phrase. The mind-stuff of the world is something more general than our individual conscious minds; but we may think of its nature as not altogether foreign to feelings in our consciousness… Having granted this, the mental activity of the part of world constituting ourselves occasions no great surprise; it is known to us by direct self-knowledge, and we do not explain it away as something other than we know it to be—or rather, it knows itself to be.
From Gifford Lecture, Edinburgh, (1927), 'Reality', collected in The Nature of the Physical World (1928), 276.
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The value of history is, indeed, not scientific but moral: by liberalizing the mind, by deepening the sympathies, by fortifying the will, it enables us to control, not society, but ourselves—a much more important thing; it prepares us to live more humanely in the present and to meet rather than to foretell the future.
In 'A New Philosophy of History', The Dial (2 Sep 1915), 148. This is Becker’s concluding remark in his review of a book by L. Cecil Jane, The Interpretation of History. Becker refutes Jane’s idea that the value of history lies in whether it consists in furnishing “some clue as to what the future will bring.”
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The vast possibilities of our great future will become realities only if we make ourselves, in a sense, responsible for that future.
In 'The Conservation of Natural Resources', The Outlook (), 87, 294.
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The whole question of imagination in science is often misunderstood by people in other disciplines. They try to test our imagination in the following way. They say, “Here is a picture of some people in a situation. What do you imagine will happen next?” When we say, “I can’t imagine,” they may think we have a weak imagination. They overlook the fact that whatever we are allowed to imagine in science must be consistent with everything else we know; that the electric fields and the waves we talk about are not just some happy thoughts which we are free to make as we wish, but ideas which must be consistent with all the laws of physics we know. We can’t allow ourselves to seriously imagine things which are obviously in contradiction to the laws of nature. And so our kind of imagination is quite a difficult game. One has to have the imagination to think of something that has never been seen before, never been heard of before. At the same time the thoughts are restricted in a strait jacket, so to speak, limited by the conditions that come from our knowledge of the way nature really is. The problem of creating something which is new, but which is consistent with everything which has been seen before, is one of extreme difficulty
In The Feynman Lectures in Physics (1964), Vol. 2, Lecture 20, p.20-10 to p.20-11.
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The whole value of solitude depends upon oneself; it may be a sanctuary or a prison, a haven of repose or a place of punishment, a heaven or a hell, as we ourselves make it.
On Peace and Happiness (1909), 188.
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There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they're necessary to reach the places we've chosen to go.
The Bridge across Forever (1984). In Gary Westfahl, Science Fiction Quotations: From the Inner Mind to the Outer Limits (2006), 2.
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There exists, if I am not mistaken, an entire world which is the totality of mathematical truths, to which we have access only with our mind, just as a world of physical reality exists, the one like the other independent of ourselves, both of divine creation.
As quoted, without citation, in the original French, “Il existe, si je ne me trompe, tout un monde qui est l'ensemble des vérités mathématiques, dans lequel nous n’avons accès que par l'intelligence, comme existe le monde des réalités physiques; l’un et l’autre indépendants de nous, tous deux de création divine,” in Gaston Darboux, 'La Vie et l’Oeuvre de Charles Hermite', La Revue du Mois (10 Jan 1906), 46. As translated in Armand Borel, 'On the Place of Mathematics in Culture', in Armand Borel: Œvres: Collected Papers (1983), Vol. 4, 428.
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There is no area in our minds reserved for superstition, such as the Greeks had in their mythology; and superstition, under cover of an abstract vocabulary, has revenged itself by invading the entire realm of thought. Our science is like a store filled with the most subtle intellectual devices for solving the most complex problems, and yet we are almost incapable of applying the elementary principles of rational thought. In every sphere, we seem to have lost the very elements of intelligence: the ideas of limit, measure, degree, proportion, relation, comparison, contingency, interdependence, interrelation of means and ends. To keep to the social level, our political universe is peopled exclusively by myths and monsters; all it contains is absolutes and abstract entities. This is illustrated by all the words of our political and social vocabulary: nation, security, capitalism, communism, fascism, order, authority, property, democracy. We never use them in phrases such as: There is democracy to the extent that… or: There is capitalism in so far as… The use of expressions like “to the extent that” is beyond our intellectual capacity. Each of these words seems to represent for us an absolute reality, unaffected by conditions, or an absolute objective, independent of methods of action, or an absolute evil; and at the same time we make all these words mean, successively or simultaneously, anything whatsoever. Our lives are lived, in actual fact, among changing, varying realities, subject to the casual play of external necessities, and modifying themselves according to specific conditions within specific limits; and yet we act and strive and sacrifice ourselves and others by reference to fixed and isolated abstractions which cannot possibly be related either to one another or to any concrete facts. In this so-called age of technicians, the only battles we know how to fight are battles against windmills.
From 'The Power of Words', collected in Siân Miles (ed.), Simone Weil: An Anthology (2000), 222-223.
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There may only be a small number of laws, which are self-consistent and which lead to complicated beings like ourselves. … And even if there is only one unique set of possible laws, it is only a set of equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to govern? Is the ultimate unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence?
Lecture (1987), 'The Origin of the Universe', collected in Black Holes And Baby Universes And Other Essays (1993), 99.
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There’s pretty good evidence that we generally don’t truly want good information—but rather information that confirms our prejudices. We may believe intellectually in the clash of opinions, but in practice we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber.
In New York Times (18 Mar 2009).
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These are some of the things wilderness can do for us. That is the reason we need to put into effect, for its preservation, some other principle that the principles of exploitation or “usefulness” or even recreation. We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.
Letter (3 Dec 1960) written to David E. Pesonen of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission. Collected in 'Coda: Wilderness Letter', The Sound of Mountain Water: The Changing American West (1969), 153.
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This minding of other people’s business expresses itself in gossip, snooping and meddling, and also in feverish interest in communal, national and racial affairs. In running away from ourselves we either fall on our neighbor’s shoulder or fly at his throat.
In The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951), 14.
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This whole theory of electrostatics constitutes a group of abstract ideas and general propositions, formulated in the clear and precise language of geometry and algebra, and connected with one another by the rules of strict logic. This whole fully satisfies the reason of a French physicist and his taste for clarity, simplicity and order. The same does not hold for the Englishman. These abstract notions of material points, force, line of force, and equipotential surface do not satisfy his need to imagine concrete, material, visible, and tangible things. 'So long as we cling to this mode of representation,' says an English physicist, 'we cannot form a mental representation of the phenomena which are really happening.' It is to satisfy the need that he goes and creates a model.
The French or German physicist conceives, in the space separating two conductors, abstract lines of force having no thickness or real existence; the English physicist materializes these lines and thickens them to the dimensions of a tube which he will fill with vulcanised rubber. In place of a family of lines of ideal forces, conceivable only by reason, he will have a bundle of elastic strings, visible and tangible, firmly glued at both ends to the surfaces of the two conductors, and, when stretched, trying both to contact and to expand. When the two conductors approach each other, he sees the elastic strings drawing closer together; then he sees each of them bunch up and grow large. Such is the famous model of electrostatic action imagined by Faraday and admired as a work of genius by Maxwell and the whole English school.
The employment of similar mechanical models, recalling by certain more or less rough analogies the particular features of the theory being expounded, is a regular feature of the English treatises on physics. Here is a book* [by Oliver Lodge] intended to expound the modern theories of electricity and to expound a new theory. In it are nothing but strings which move around pulleys, which roll around drums, which go through pearl beads, which carry weights; and tubes which pump water while others swell and contract; toothed wheels which are geared to one another and engage hooks. We thought we were entering the tranquil and neatly ordered abode of reason, but we find ourselves in a factory.
*Footnote: O. Lodge, Les Théories Modernes (Modern Views on Electricity) (1889), 16.
The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory (1906), 2nd edition (1914), trans. Philip P. Wiener (1954), 70-1.
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Though Hippocrates understood not the Circulation of the Blood, yet by accurately observing the Effects of the Disease, which he looked upon as an unknown Entity, and by remarking the Endeavours of Nature, by which the Disease tended to either Health or Recovery, did from thence deduce a proper Method of Cure, namely by assisting the salutary Endeavours of Nature, and by resisting those of the Disease; and thus Hippocrates, ignorant of the Causes, cured Disease as well as ourselves, stocked with so many Discoveries.
In Dr. Boerhaave's Academical Lectures on the Theory of Physic (1746), Vol. 6, 352.
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Though we must not without further consideration condemn a body of reasoning merely because it is easy, nevertheless we must not allow ourselves to be lured on merely by easiness; and we should take care that every problem which we choose for attack, whether it be easy or difficult, shall have a useful purpose, that it shall contribute in some measure to the up-building of the great edifice.
From 'On Some Recent Tendencies in Geometric Investigation', Rivista di Matematica (1891), 63. In Bulletin American Mathematical Society (1904), 465.
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To a body of infinite size there can be ascribed neither center nor boundary ... Just as we regard ourselves as at the center of that universally equidistant circle, which is the great horizon and the limit of our own encircling ethereal region, so doubtless the inhabitants of the moon believe themselves to be at the center (of a great horizon) that embraces this earth, the sun, and the stars, and is the boundary of the radii of their own horizon. Thus the earth no more than any other world is at the center; moreover no points constitute determined celestial poles for our earth, just as she herself is not a definite and determined pole to any other point of the ether, or of the world-space; and the same is true for all other bodies. From various points of view these may all be regarded either as centers, or as points on the circumference, as poles, or zeniths and so forth. Thus the earth is not in the center of the universe; it is central only to our own surrounding space.
Irving Louis Horowitz, The Renaissance Philosophy of Giordano Bruno (1952), 60.
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To call ourselves a Microcosme, or little world, I thought it onely a pleasant trope of Rhetorick, till my neare judgement and second thoughts told me there was a reall truth therein: for first wee are a rude masse, and in the ranke of creatures, which only are, and have a dull kinde of being not yet priviledged with life, or preferred to sense or reason; next we live the life of plants, the life of animals, the life of men, and at last the life of spirits, running on in one mysterious nature those five kinds of existence, which comprehend the creatures not onely of world, but of the Universe.
Religio Medici (1642), Part I, Section 34. In L. C. Martin (ed.), Thomas Browne: Religio Medici and Other Works (1964), 33.
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To find the cause of our ills in something outside ourselves, something specific that can be spotted and eliminated, is a diagnosis that cannot fail to appeal. To say that the cause of our troubles is not in us but in the Jews, and pass immediately to the extermination of the Jews, is a prescription likely to find a wide acceptance.
In The Passionate State of Mind (1955), 79.
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To know ourselves is to know the universe.
In On Love & Psychological Exercises: With Some Aphorisms & Other Essays (1998), 58.
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To most people, I fancy, the stars are beautiful; but if you asked why, they would be at a loss to reply, until they remembered what they had heard about astronomy, and the great size and distance and possible habitation of those orbs. ... [We] persuade ourselves that the power of the starry heavens lies in the suggestion of astronomical facts.
In The Sense of Beauty: Being the Outlines of Aesthetic Theory (1896), 100-101.
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To Observations which ourselves we make,
We grow more partial for th' observer's sake.
'Moral Essays', Epistle I, to Richard Temple, Viscount Cobham (1734). In John Butt (ed.), The Poems of Alexander Pope (1965), 550.
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To see the Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold—brothers who know now that they are truly brothers.
In The New York Times (25 Dec 1968), 1. Written after the Apollo 8 transmitted a photograph of the Earth from space.
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To show, therefore, that we are capable of knowing, i.e. being certain that there is a God, and how we may come by this certainty, I think we need go no further than ourselves, and that undoubted knowledge we have of our own existence... For man knows that he himself exists... If any one pretends to be so sceptical as to deny his own existence, (for really to doubt of it is manifestly impossible,) let him for me enjoy his beloved happiness of being nothing, until hunger or some other pain convince him of the contrary... He knows also that nothing cannot produce a being; therefore something must have existed from eternity... Next, it is evident, that what had its being and beginning from another, must also have all that which is in and belongs to its being from another too. All the powers it has must be owing to and received from the same source. This eternal source, then, of all being must also be the source and original of all power; and so this eternal Being must be also the most powerful... And most knowing. Again, a man finds in himself perception and knowledge. We have then got one step further; and we are certain now that there is not only some being, but some knowing, intelligent being in the world. There was a time, then, when there was no knowing being, and when knowledge began to be; or else there has been also a knowing being from eternity...And therefore God.
Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), book 4, ch. 10, sec 19.
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To unfold the secret laws and relations of those high faculties of thought by which all beyond the merely perceptive knowledge of the world and of ourselves is attained or matured, is a object which does not stand in need of commendation to a rational mind.
An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854), 3.
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Unless we can “remember” ourselves, we are completely mechanical. Self-observation is possible only through self-remembering. These are the first steps in self-consciousness.
In On Love & Psychological Exercises: With Some Aphorisms & Other Essays (1998), 54.
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Very few of us can now place ourselves in the mental condition in which even such philosophers as the great Descartes were involved in the days before Newton had announced the true laws of the motion of bodies.
'Introductory Lecture on Experimental Physics', 1871. In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 2, 241.
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Volcanic action is essentially paroxysmal; yet Mr. Lyell will admit no greater paroxysms than we ourselves have witnessed—no periods of feverish spasmodic energy, during which the very framework of nature has been convulsed and torn asunder. The utmost movements that he allows are a slight quivering of her muscular integuments.
'Address to the Geological Society, delivered on the Evening of the 18th of February 1831', Proceedings of the Geological Society (1834), 1, 307.
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We all know, from what we experience with and within ourselves, that our conscious acts spring from our desires and our fears. Intuition tells us that that is true also of our fellows and of the higher animals. We all try to escape pain and death, while we seek what is pleasant. We are all ruled in what we do by impulses; and these impulses are so organized that our actions in general serve for our self preservation and that of the race. Hunger, love, pain, fear are some of those inner forces which rule the individual’s instinct for self preservation. At the same time, as social beings, we are moved in the relations with our fellow beings by such feelings as sympathy, pride, hate, need for power, pity, and so on. All these primary impulses, not easily described in words, are the springs of man’s actions. All such action would cease if those powerful elemental forces were to cease stirring within us. Though our conduct seems so very different from that of the higher animals, the primary instincts are much alike in them and in us. The most evident difference springs from the important part which is played in man by a relatively strong power of imagination and by the capacity to think, aided as it is by language and other symbolical devices. Thought is the organizing factor in man, intersected between the causal primary instincts and the resulting actions. In that way imagination and intelligence enter into our existence in the part of servants of the primary instincts. But their intervention makes our acts to serve ever less merely the immediate claims of our instincts.
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We are compelled to drive toward total knowledge, right down to the levels of the neuron and the gene. When we have progressed enough to explain ourselves in these mechanistic terms...the result might be hard to accept.
'Man: From Sociobiology to Sociology'. Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975, 1980), 301.
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We are having wool pulled over our eyes if we let ourselves be convinced that scientists, taken as a group, are anything special in the way of brains. They are very ordinary professional men, and all they know is their own trade, just like all other professional men. There are some geniuses among them, just as there are mental giants in any other field of endeavor.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 23-24.
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We are too ready to accept others and ourselves as we are and to assume that we are incapable of change. We forget the idea of growth, or we do not take it seriously. There is no good reason why we should not develop and change until the last day we live. Psychoanalysis is one of the most powerful means of helping us to realize this aim.
In 'Dedication', American Journal of Psychoanalysis (1942), 35, 99-100. As quoted and cited in Milton M. Berger, Women Beyond Freud: New Concepts Of Feminine Psychology (2013).
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We cannot despair of humanity, since we are ourselves human beings.
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We cannot expect in the immediate future that all women who seek it will achieve full equality of opportunity. But if women are to start moving towards that goal, we must believe in ourselves or no one else will believe in us; we must match our aspirations with the competence, courage and determination to succeed.
From a speech given to students in Stockholm, Sweden, Oct 1977 as quoted in The Decade of Women (1980) by Suzanne Levine and Harriet Lyons
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We cannot see how the evidence afforded by the unquestioned progressive development of organised existence—crowned as it has been by the recent creation of the earth's greatest wonder, MAN, can be set aside, or its seemingly necessary result withheld for a moment. When Mr. Lyell finds, as a witty friend lately reported that there had been found, a silver-spoon in grauwacke, or a locomotive engine in mica-schist, then, but not sooner, shall we enrol ourselves disciples of the Cyclical Theory of Geological formations.
Review of Murchison's Silurian System, Quarterly Review (1839), 64, 112-3.
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We come therefore now to that knowledge whereunto the ancient oracle directeth us, which is the knowledge of ourselves; which deserveth the more accurate handling, by how much it toucheth us more nearly. This knowledge, as it is the end and term of natural philosophy in the intention of man, so notwithstanding it is but a portion of natural philosophy in the continent of nature. And generally let this be a rule, that all partitions of knowledges be accepted rather for lines and veins, than for sections and separations; and that the continuance and entireness of knowledge be preserved. For the contrary hereof hath made particular sciences to become barren, shallow, and erroneous; while they have not been nourished and maintained from the common fountain. So we see Cicero the orator complained of Socrates and his school, that he was the first that separated philosophy and rhetoric; whereupon rhetoric became an empty and verbal art. So we may see that the opinion of Copernicus touching the rotation of the earth, which astronomy itself cannot correct because it is not repugnant to any of the phenomena, yet natural philosophy may correct. So we see also that the science of medicine, if it be destituted and forsaken by natural philosophy, it is not much better than an empirical practice. With this reservation therefore we proceed to Human Philosophy or Humanity, which hath two parts: the one considereth man segregate, or distributively; the other congregate, or in society. So as Human Philosophy is either Simple and Particular, or Conjugate and Civil. Humanity Particular consisteth of the same parts whereof man consisteth; that is, of knowledges that respect the Body, and of knowledges that respect the Mind. But before we distribute so far, it is good to constitute. For I do take the consideration in general and at large of Human Nature to be fit to be emancipate and made a knowledge by itself; not so much in regard of those delightful and elegant discourses which have been made of the dignity of man, of his miseries, of his state and life, and the like adjuncts of his common and undivided nature; but chiefly in regard of the knowledge concerning the sympathies and concordances between the mind and body, which, being mixed, cannot be properly assigned to the sciences of either.
The Advancement of Learning (1605) in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1887-1901), Vol. 3, 366-7.
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We divorced ourselves from the materials of the earth, the rock, the wood, the iron ore; we looked to new materials which were cooked in vats, long complex derivatives of urine which we called plastic. They had no odor of the living, ... their touch was alien to nature. ... [They proliferated] like the matastases of cancer cells.
The Idol and the Octopus: political writings (1968), 83 and 118.
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We do whatever we can to deny intuition of the invisible realms. We clog up our senses with smog, jam our minds with media overload. We drown ourselves in alcohol or medicate ourselves into rigidly artificial states... we take pride in our cynicism and detachment. Perhaps we are terrified to discover that our “rationality” is itself a kind of faith, an artifice, that beneath it lies the vast territory of the unknown.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 29
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We find it hard to picture to ourselves the state of mind of a man of older days who firmly believed that the Earth was the centre of the Universe, and that all the heavenly bodies revolved around it. He could feel beneath his feet the writhings of the damned amid the flames; very likely he had seen with his own eyes and smelt with his own nostrils the sulphurous fumes of Hell escaping from some fissure in the rocks. Looking upwards, he beheld ... the incorruptible firmament, wherein the stars hung like so many lamps.
The Garden of Epicurus (1894) translated by Alfred Allinson, in The Works of Anatole France in an English Translation (1920), 11.
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We find ourselves, in consequence of the progress of physical science, at the pinnacle of one ascent of civilisation, taking the first step upwards out on to the lowest plane of the next. Above us still rises indefinitely the ascent of physical power—far beyond the dreams of mortals in any previous system of philosophy.
Lecture (1908) at Glasgow University. Collected in The Interpretation of Radium: Being the Substance of Six Free Popular Experimental Lectures Delivered at the University of Glasgow (1912), 252.
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We fooled ourselves into thinking this thing wouldn’t crash. When I was in astronaut training I asked, “what is the likelihood of another accident?” The answer I got was: one in 10,000, with an asterisk. The asterisk meant, “we don’t know.”
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We have come to look at our planet as a resource for our species, which is funny when you think that the planet has been around for about five billion years, and Homo sapiens for perhaps one hundred thousand. We have acquired an arrogance about ourselves that I find frightening. We have come to feel that we are so far apart from the rest of nature that we have but to command.
'The Human Environment', Horace M. Albright Conservation Lectureship, Berkeley, California (23 Apr 1962).
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We have no faculties for passing beyond ourselves, yet in ourselves are unfathomed depths, unexplored powers and relations which need fathoming and searching into. As Schopenhauer says, if we would understand nature our course must not only be horizontal, but perpendicular.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), li.
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We intend to say something about the structure of the atom but lack a language in which we can make ourselves understood. We are in much the same position as a sailor, marooned on a remote island where conditions differ radically from anything he has ever known and where, to make things worse, the natives speak a completely alien tongue.
In conversation during first meeting with Werner Heisenberg (summer 1920), as quoted in William H. Cropper, Great Physicists: The Life and Times of Leading Physicists from Galileo to Hawking (2001), 249-250.
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We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves.
In The Passionate State of Mind (1955), 45.
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We lift ourselves by our thought. We climb upon our vision of ourselves. If you want to enlarge your life, you must first enlarge your thought of it and of yourself. Hold the ideal of yourself as you long to be, always everywhere.
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We love to discover in the cosmos the geometrical forms that exist in the depths of our consciousness. The exactitude of the proportions of our monuments and the precision of our machines express a fundamental character of our mind. Geometry does not exist in the earthly world. It has originated in ourselves. The methods of nature are never so precise as those of man. We do not find in the universe the clearness and accuracy of our thought. We attempt, therefore, to abstract from the complexity of phenomena some simple systems whose components bear to one another certain relations susceptible of being described mathematically.
In Man the Unknown (1935), 8.
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We might expect that as we come close upon living nature the characters of our old records would grow legible and clear; but just when we begin to enter on the history of the physical changes going on before our eyes, and in which we ourselves bear a part, our chronicle seems to fail us: a leaf has been torn out from Nature’s book, and the succession of events is almost hidden from our eyes. [On gaps in the Pleistocene fossil record.]
As quoted by Hugh Miller in Lecture First, collected in Popular Geology: A Series of Lectures Read Before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh, with Descriptive Sketches from a Geologist's Portfolio (1859), 82-83.
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We must be part not only of the human community, but of the whole community; we must acknowledge some sort of oneness not only with our neighbors, our countrymen and our civilization but also some respect for the natural as well as for the man-made community. Ours is not only “one world” in the sense usually implied by that term. It is also “one earth”. Without some acknowledgement of that fact, men can no more live successfully than they can if they refuse to admit the political and economic interdependency of the various sections of the civilized world. It is not a sentimental but a grimly literal fact that unless we share this terrestrial globe with creatures other than ourselves, we shall not be able to live on it for long.
The Voice of the Desert (1956), 194-5.
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We must not forget … that “influence” is not a simple, but on the contrary, a very complex, bilateral relation. We are not influenced by everything we read or learn. In one sense, and perhaps the deepest, we ourselves determine the influences we are submitting to; our intellectual ancestors are by no means given to, but are freely chosen by, us.
In From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (1957) 5-6.
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We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
The Outermost House (1928), 25.
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We need another, wiser, and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. For the animal shall not be measured by man....They are not underlings. They are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of Earth.
The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod (2003), 24-25.
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We need to learn the lessons of the real cost of production. We need to ask ourselves not just why organic prices are so high, but why conventional prices are so low.
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We ourselves introduce that order and regularity in the appearance which we entitle ‘nature’. We could never find them in appearances had we not ourselves, by the nature of our own mind, originally set them there.
…...
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We see only the simple motion of descent, since that other circular one common to the Earth, the tower, and ourselves remains imperceptible. There remains perceptible to us only that of the stone, which is not shared by us; and, because of this, sense shows it as by a straight line, always parallel to the tower, which is built upright and perpendicular upon the terrestrial surface.
Dialogue on the Great World Systems (1632). Revised and Annotated by Giorgio De Santillana (1953), 177.
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We seem ambitious God's whole work to undo.
...With new diseases on ourselves we war,
And with new physic, a worse engine far.
'An Anatomy of the World' (1611), collected in The Poetical Works of Dr. John Donne (1864), 83.
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We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.
Conclusion of Letter (3 Dec 1960) written to David E. Pesonen of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission. Collected in 'Coda: Wilderness Letter', The Sound of Mountain Water: The Changing American West (1969), 153.
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We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.
In Second Inaugural Address (21 Jan 2013) at the United States Capitol.
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We’re suffocating ourselves by cutting things down. And the awful thing is that the knowledge is there. Fifty years ago when we exterminated things, we did it without realising. Now there’s plenty of evidence of what it is we’re doing, and yet we keep on doing it.
In Rowan Hooper, 'One Minute With… David Attenborough', New Scientist (2 Feb 2013), 217, No. 2902, 25.
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What a splendid perspective contact with a profoundly different civilization might provide! In a cosmic setting vast and old beyond ordinary human understanding we are a little lonely, and we ponder the ultimate significance, if any, of our tiny but exquisite blue planet, the Earth… In the deepest sense the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is a search for ourselves.
…...
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What friends do with us and for us is a real part of our life; for it strengthens and advances our personality. The assault of our enemies is not part of our life ; it is only part of our experience ; we throw it off and guard ourselves against it as against frost, storm, rain, hail, or any other of the external evils which may be expected to happen.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 201.
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What is the use of this history, what the use of all this minute research? I well know that it will not produce a fall in the price of pepper, a rise in that of crates of rotten cabbages, or other serious events of this kind, which cause fleets to be manned and set people face to face intent upon one another's extermination. The insect does not aim at so much glory. It confines itself to showing us life in the inexhaustible variety of its manifestations; it helps us to decipher in some small measure the obscurest book of all, the book of ourselves.
Introducing the natural history and his study of the insect Minotaurus typhoeus. In Jean-Henri Fabre and Alexander Teixeira de Mattos (trans.), The Life and Love of the Insect (1918), 128.
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What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.
From Forest Primeval: The Natural History of an Ancient Forest (2001), 230. Seen in various sources erroneously attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.
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What we have to discover for ourselves leaves behind in our mind a pathway that can be used on another occasion.
Aphorism 26 in Notebook C (1772-1773), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 36.
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What, then, is it in particular that can be learned from teachers of special distinction? Above all, what they teach is high standards. We measure everything, including ourselves, by comparisons; and in the absence of someone with outstanding ability there is a risk that we easily come to believe that we are excellent and much better than the next man. Mediocre people may appear big to themselves (and to others) if they are surrounded by small circumstances. By the same token, big people feel dwarfed in the company of giants, and this is a most useful feeling. So what the giants of science teach us is to see ourselves modestly and not to overrate ourselves.
Reminiscences and Reflections (1981), 175.
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When I investigate and when I discover that the forces of the heavens and the planets are within ourselves, then truly I seem to be living among the gods.
In Francesco De Sanctis, History of Italian literature (1959), Vol. 1, 418.
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When one considers in its length and in its breadth the importance of this question of the education of the nation's young, the broken lives, the defeated hopes, the national failures, which result from the frivolous inertia with which it is treated, it is difficult to restrain within oneself a savage rage. In the conditions of modern life the rule is absolute, the race which does not value trained intelligence is doomed. Not all your heroism, not all your social charm, not all your wit, not all your victories on land or at sea, can move back the finger of fate. To-day we maintain ourselves. To-morrow science will have moved forward yet one more step, and there will be no appeal from the judgment which will then be pronounced on the uneducated.
In 'Organisation of Thought', The Aims of Education: & Other Essays (1917), 22.
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When searching for harmony in life one must never forget that in the drama of existence we are ourselves both actors and spectators.
Niels Bohr, 'Discussion with Einstein on Epistemological Problems in Atomic Physics', in P. A. Schilpp (ed.), Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist (1949), 236.
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When we have to do with an art whose end is the saving of human life, any neglect to make ourselves thorough masters of it becomes a crime.
Quoted without citation in United States Medical Investigator (1885), 21, 521. Seen in various other later publications, but also without citation. If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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When we react to life from the head without joining forces with the heart, it can lead us into childish, inelegant behavior that we don’t respect in ourselves. If we get the head in sync with the heart first, we have the power of their teamwork working for us and we can make the changes we know we need to make.
Doc Childre and Howard Martin
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Whenever we pride ourselves upon finding a newer, stricter way of thought or exposition; whenever we start insisting too hard upon “operationalism” or symbolic logic or any other of these very essential systems of tramlines, we lose something of the ability to think new thoughts. And equally, of course, whenever we rebel against the sterile rigidity of formal thought and exposition and let our ideas run wild, we likewise lose. As I see it, the advances in scientific thought come from a combination of loose and strict thinking, and this combination is the most precious tool of science.
In 'Culture Contact and Schismogenesis' (1935), in Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology (1972).
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Whether statistics be an art or a science... or a scientific art, we concern ourselves little. It is the basis of social and political dynamics, and affords the only secure ground on which the truth or falsehood of the theories and hypotheses of that complicated science can be brought to the test.
Letters on the Theory of Probabilities (1846), trans. O. G. Downes (1849).
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While the law [of competition] may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it insures the survival of the fittest in every department. We accept and welcome, therefore, as conditions to which we must accommodate ourselves, great inequality of environment, the concentration of business, industrial and commercial, in the hands of a few, and the law of competition between these, as being not only beneficial, but essential for the future progress of the race.
Wealth (1899), 655.
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Why do we do basic research? To learn about ourselves.
From interview with Anthony Liversidge, in 'Walter Gilbert', Omni (Nov 1992), 15, No. 2.
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With respect to those who may ask why Nature does not produce new beings? We may enquire of them in turn, upon what foundation they suppose this fact? What it is that authorizes them to believe this sterility in Nature? Know they if, in the various combinations which she is every instant forming, Nature be not occupied in producing new beings, without the cognizance of these observers? Who has informed them that this Nature is not actually assembling, in her immense elaboratory, the elements suitable to bring to light, generations entirely new, that will have nothing in common with those of the species at present existing? What absurdity then, or what want of just inference would there be, to imagine that the man, the horse, the fish, the bird will be no more? Are these animals so indispensably requisite to Nature, that without them she cannot continue her eternal course? Does not all change around us? Do we not ourselves change? ... Nature contains no one constant form.
The System of Nature (1770), trans. Samuel Wilkinson (1820), Vol. 1, 94-95.
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