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Philosopher Quotes (132 quotes)
Philosophers Quotes


'Unless,' said I [Socrates], either philosophers become kings in our states or those whom we now call our kings:. and rulers take to the pursuit of' philosophy seriously and adequately, and there is a conjunction of these two things, political power and philosophic intelligence, while the motley horde of the natures who at present pursue either apart from the other are compulsorily excluded, there can be no cessation of troubles, dear Glaucon, for our states, nor, I fancy for the human race either. Nor, until this happens, will this constitution which we have been expounding in theory ever be put into practice within the limits of possibility and see the light of the sun.
Plato
The Republic 5 474ce, trans. P. Shorey (1930), Vol. 1, Book 5, 509.
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Aux mathématiciens, il appartient de chercher le vrai; les philosophes doivent se contenter du probable
The concern of mathematicians is to seek the truth; philosophers must be content with the probable.
In 'Divers Opuscules' collected in Oeuvres de Vico (1835), Vol. 1, 159. Translation by Webmaster.
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Bernard: Oh, you’re going to zap me with penicillin and pesticides. Spare me that and I’ll spare you the bomb and aerosols. But don’t confuse progress with perfectibility. A great poet is always timely. A great philosopher is an urgent need. There’s no rush for Isaac Newton. We were quite happy with Aristotle’s cosmos. Personally, I preferred it. Fifty-five crystal spheres geared to God’s crankshaft is my idea of a satisfying universe. I can’t think of anything more trivial than the speed of light. Quarks, quasars—big bangs, black holes—who [cares]? How did you people con us out of all that status? All that money? And why are you so pleased with yourselves?
Chloe: Are you against penicillin, Bernard?
Bernard: Don’t feed the animals.
In the play, Acadia (1993), Act 2, Scene 5, 61.
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Quand on demande à nos philosophes à quoi sert ce nombre prodigieux d’étoiles fixes, dont une partie suffirait pour faire ce qu’elles font toutes, ils vous répondent froidement qu’elles servent à leur réjouir la vue.
When our philosophers are asked what is the use of these countless myriads of fixed stars, of which a small part would be sufficient to do what they all do, they coolly tell us that they are made to give delight to their eyes.
In 'Premier Soir', Entretiens Sur La Pluralité Des Mondes (1686, 1863), 29. French and translation in Craufurd Tait Ramage, Beautiful Thoughts from French and Italian Authors (1866), 117.
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There is no such thing as a Scientific Mind. Scientists are people of very dissimilar temperaments doing different things in very different ways. Among scientists are collectors, classifiers, and compulsive tidiers-up; many are detectives by temperament and many are explorers; some are artists and others artisans. There are poet-scientists and philosopher-scientists and even a few mystics.
The Art of the Soluble: Creativity and Originality in Science (1967). Reprinted in Pluto’s Republic (1982), 116.
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A bilious philosopher’s opinion of the world can only be accepted with a pinch of salt, of Epsom salt by preference.
From essay in Proper Studies: The Proper Study of Mankind Is Man (1927). Extract published in Vanity Fair (1927), 28, No. 4, 100.
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A good philosopher is one who does not take ideas seriously.
In 'Philosophy, Religion, and So Forth', A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (1989), 1.
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A philosopher is a fool who torments himself while he is alive, to be talked of after he is dead.
As translated, without citation, in Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men: With Historical and Explanatory Notes (1887), 6.
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A philosopher once said, ‘It is necessary for the very existence of science that the same conditions always produce the same results’. Well, they don’t!
…...
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A process which led from the amoeba to man appeared to the philosophers to be obviously a progress—though whether the amoeba would agree with this opinion is not known.
From 'Current Tendencies', delivered as the first of a series of Lowell Lectures in Boston (Mar 1914). Collected in Our Knowledge of the External World (1914), 12.
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A regiment of soldiers on parade is, according to some philosophers, a system.
From Selected Aphorisms from the Lyceum (1797-1800). As translated by Luis H. Gray in Kuno Francke and Isidore Singer (eds.), The German Classics: Masterpieces of German Literature Translated Into English (1913), Vol. 4, 176.
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A rock or stone is not a subject that, of itself, may interest a philosopher to study; but, when he comes to see the necessity of those hard bodies, in the constitution of this earth, or for the permanency of the land on which we dwell, and when he finds that there are means wisely provided for the renovation of this necessary decaying part, as well as that of every other, he then, with pleasure, contemplates this manifestation of design, and thus connects the mineral system of this earth with that by which the heavenly bodies are made to move perpetually in their orbits.
Theory of the Earth, with Proofs and l1lustrations, Vol. 1 (1795), 276.
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All our contemporary philosophers perhaps without knowing it are looking through eyeglasses that Baruch Spinoza polished.
Spinoza was a philosopher who earned his livelihood by grinding lenses.
Quoted in Frank Heynick, Jews and Medicine: An Epic Saga (2002), 204.
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An extra-terrestrial philosopher, who had watched a single youth up to the age of twenty-one and had never come across any other human being, might conclude that it is the nature of human beings to grow continually taller and wiser in an indefinite progress towards perfection; and this generalization would be just as well founded as the generalization which evolutionists base upon the previous history of this planet.
Scientific Method in Philosophy (1914), 12.
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And for rejecting such a Medium, we have the Authority of those the oldest and most celebrated Philosophers of Greece and Phoenicia, who made a Vacuum, and Atoms, and the Gravity of Atoms, the first Principles of their Philosophy; tacitly attributing Gravity to some other Cause than dense Matter. Later Philosophers banish the Consideration of such a Cause out of natural Philosophy, feigning Hypotheses for explaining all things mechanically, and referring other Causes to Metaphysicks: Whereas the main Business of natural Philosophy is to argue from Phaenomena without feigning Hypotheses, and to deduce Causes from Effects, till we come to the very first Cause, which certainly is not mechanical; and not only to unfold the Mechanism of the World, but chiefly to resolve these and such like Questions. What is there in places almost empty of Matter, and whence is it that the Sun and Planets gravitate towards one another, without dense Matter between them? Whence is it that Nature doth nothing in vain; and whence arises all that Order and Beauty which we see in the World? ... does it not appear from phaenomena that there is a Being incorporeal, living, intelligent, omnipresent, who in infinite space, as it were in his Sensory, sees the things themselves intimately, and thoroughly perceives them, and comprehends them wholly by their immediate presence to himself.
In Opticks, (1704, 2nd. Ed. 1718), Book 3, Query 28, 343-5.
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Aristotle, in spite of his reputation, is full of absurdities. He says that children should be conceived in the Winter, when the wind is in the North, and that if people marry too young the children will be female. He tells us that the blood of females is blacker then that of males; that the pig is the only animal liable to measles; that an elephant suffering from insomnia should have its shoulders rubbed with salt, olive-oil, and warm water; that women have fewer teeth than men, and so on. Nevertheless, he is considered by the great majority of philosophers a paragon of wisdom.
From An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1937, 1943), 19. Collected in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (2009), 63.
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As regards the co-ordination of all ordinary properties of matter, Rutherford’s model of the atom puts before us a task reminiscent of the old dream of philosophers: to reduce the interpretation of the laws of nature to the consideration of pure numbers.
In Faraday Lecture (1930), Journal of the Chemical Society (Feb 1932), 349. As quoted and cited in Chen Ning Yang, Elementary Particles (1961), 7.
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At first sight nothing seems more obvious than that everything has a beginning and an end, and that everything can be subdivided into smaller parts. Nevertheless, for entirely speculative reasons the philosophers of Antiquity, especially the Stoics, concluded this concept to be quite unnecessary. The prodigious development of physics has now reached the same conclusion as those philosophers, Empedocles and Democritus in particular, who lived around 500 B.C. and for whom even ancient man had a lively admiration.
'Development of the Theory of Electrolytic Dissociation', Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1903. In Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1901-1921 (1966), 45.
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Bad philosophers may have a certain influence; good philosophers, never.
Uncertain attribution. Often seen, but Webmaster has not yet found this wording in a primary source, and remains uncertain that this is an actual Russell quote. It is included here to provide this caution. Contact Webmaster if you have more information.
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Be a Philosopher; but, amidst all your Philosophy, be still a Man.
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), 7.
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But as a philosopher said, one day after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, after all the scientific and technological achievements, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
Speech accepting nomination as candidate for vice president, Democratic National Committee, Washington, D.C. (8 Aug 1972) as reported in New York Times (9 Aug 1972), 18. Shriver slightly paraphrased the similar sentiment written in 1934 by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, translated by René Hague in 'The Evolution of Chastity', Toward the Future (1975), 86-87.
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But that which will excite the greatest astonishment by far, and which indeed especially moved me to call the attention of all astronomers and philosophers, is this: namely, that I have observed four planets, neither known nor observed by any one of the astronomers before my time, which have their orbits round a certain bright star [Jupiter], one of those previously known, like Venus or Mercury round the sun, and are sometimes in front of it, sometimes behind it, though they never depart from it beyond certain limits. All of which facts were discovered and observed a few days ago by the help of a telescope devised by me, through God’s grace first enlightening my mind.
In pamphlet, The Sidereal Messenger (1610), reprinted in The Sidereal Messenger of Galileo Galilei: And a Part of the Preface to the Preface to Kepler's Dioptrics Containing the Original Account of Galileo's Astronomical Discoveries (1880), 9.
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CARTESIAN, adj. Relating to Descartes, a famous philosopher, author of the celebrated dictum, Cogito, ergo sum—whereby he was pleased to suppose he demonstrated the reality of human existence. The dictum might be improved, however, thus: Cogito ergo cogito sum—'I think that I think, therefore I think that I am;' as close an approach to certainty as any philosopher has yet made.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  46-47.
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Cavendish gave me once some bits of platinum for my experiments, and came to see my results on the decomposition of the alkalis, and seemed to take an interest in them; but he encouraged no intimacy with any one, and received nobody at his own house. … He was acute, sagacious, and profound, and, I think, the most accomplished British philosopher of his time.
As quoted in Victor Robinson, Pathfinders in Medicine (1912), 143.
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Cavendish was a great Man with extraordinary singularities—His voice was squeaking his manner nervous He was afraid of strangers & seemed when embarrassed to articulate with difficulty—He wore the costume of our grandfathers. Was enormously rich but made no use of his wealth... He Cavendish lived latterly the life of a solitary, came to the Club dinner & to the Royal Society: but received nobody at his home. He was acute sagacious & profound & I think the most accomplished British Philosopher of his time.
Quoted in J. Z. Fullmer, 'Davy's Sketches of his Contemporaries', Chymia, 1967, 12, 133.
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Descartes said, “I think; therefore I am.” The philosophic evolutionist reverses and negatives the epigram. He says, “I am not; therefore I cannot think.”
In Orthodoxy (1918, 2008), 25.
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Einstein, my upset stomach hates your theory [of General Relativity]—it almost hates you yourself! How am I to' provide for my students? What am I to answer to the philosophers?!!
Letter to Albert Einstein, 20 Nov 1919. In Martin J. Klein, Paul Ehrenfest: The Making of a Theoretical Physicist (1970), Vol. 1, 315.
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Every good mathematician is at least half a philosopher, and every good philosopher at least half a mathematician.
Quoted, without citation, in 'Gottlob Frege', The New Encyclopedia Britannica (1992), Vol. 4, 968. If you know a primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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Every philosophical thinker hails it [The Origin of Species] as a veritable Whitworth gun in the armoury of liberalism.
'The Origin of Species' (1860). In Collected Essays (1893), Vol. 2, 23.
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Far from becoming discouraged, the philosopher should applaud nature, even when she appears miserly of herself or overly mysterious, and should feel pleased that as he lifts one part of her veil, she allows him to glimpse an immense number of other objects, all worthy of investigation. For what we already know should allow us to judge of what we will be able to know; the human mind has no frontiers, it extends proportionately as the universe displays itself; man, then, can and must attempt all, and he needs only time in order to know all. By multiplying his observations, he could even see and foresee all phenomena, all of nature's occurrences, with as much truth and certainty as if he were deducing them directly from causes. And what more excusable or even more noble enthusiasm could there be than that of believing man capable of recognizing all the powers, and discovering through his investigations all the secrets, of nature!
'Des Mulets', Oeuvres Philosophiques, ed. Jean Piveteau (1954), 414. Quoted in Jacques Roger, The Life Sciences in Eighteenth-Century French Thought, ed. Keith R. Benson and trans. Robert Ellrich (1997), 458.
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For other great mathematicians or philosophers, he [Gauss] used the epithets magnus, or clarus, or clarissimus; for Newton alone he kept the prefix summus.
History of Mathematics (3rd Ed., 1901), 362.
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For there was never yet philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently,
However they have writ the style of gods,
And made a push at chance and sufferance.
Much Ado about Nothing (1598-9), V, i.
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Forty years ago the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead thought it self-evident that you would get a good government if you took power out of the hands of the acquisitive and gave it to the learned and the cultivated. At present, a child in kindergarten knows better than that.
In Before the Sabbath (1979), 40-41.
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God created man in his own image, says the Bible; the philosophers do the exact opposite, they create God in theirs.
Aphorism 48 in Notebook D (1773-1775), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 51.
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Haldane could have made a success of any one of half a dozen careers—as mathematician, classical scholar, philosopher, scientist, journalist or imaginative writer. On his life’s showing he could not have been a politician, administrator (heavens, no!), jurist or, I think, a critic of any kind. In the outcome he became one of the three or four most influential biologists of his generation.
Essay, 'J.B.S.', in Pluto’s Republic: Incorporating The Art of the Soluble and Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought (1982), collected in The Strange Case of the Spotted Mice and Other Classic Essays on Science (1996), 87.
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He (Anaxagoras) is said to have been twenty years old at the time of Xerxes' crossing, and to have lived to seventy-two. Apollodorus says in his Chronicles that he was born in the seventieth Olympiad (500-497 B.C.) and died in the first year of the eighty-eighth (428/7). He began to be a philosopher at Athens in the archonship of Callias (456/5), at the age of twenty, as Demetrius Phalereus tells us in his Register of Archons, and they say he spent thirty years there. … There are different accounts given of his trial. Sotion, in his Succession of Philosophers, says that he was prosecuted by Cleon for impiety, because he maintained that the sun was a red hot mass of metal, and after that Pericles, his pupil, had made a speech in his defence, he was fined five talents and exiled. Satyrus in his Uves, on the other hand, says that the charge was brought by Thucydides in his political campaign against Pericles; and he adds that the charge was not only for the impiety but for Medism as well; and he was condemned to death in his absence. ... Finally he withdrew to Lampsacus, and there died. It is said that when the rulers of the city asked him what privilege he wished to be granted, he replied that the children should be given a holiday every year in the month in which he died. The custom is preserved to the present day. When he died the Lampsacenes buried him with full honours.
Diogenes Laërtius 2.7. In G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M. Schofield (eds.), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1983), p. 353.
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Historically the most striking result of Kant's labors was the rapid separation of the thinkers of his own nation and, though less completely, of the world, into two parties;—the philosophers and the scientists.
The Order of Nature: An Essay (1917), 69.
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I am particularly concerned to determine the probability of causes and results, as exhibited in events that occur in large numbers, and to investigate the laws according to which that probability approaches a limit in proportion to the repetition of events. That investigation deserves the attention of mathematicians because of the analysis required. It is primarily there that the approximation of formulas that are functions of large numbers has its most important applications. The investigation will benefit observers in identifying the mean to be chosen among the results of their observations and the probability of the errors still to be apprehended. Lastly, the investigation is one that deserves the attention of philosophers in showing how in the final analysis there is a regularity underlying the very things that seem to us to pertain entirely to chance, and in unveiling the hidden but constant causes on which that regularity depends. It is on the regularity of the main outcomes of events taken in large numbers that various institutions depend, such as annuities, tontines, and insurance policies. Questions about those subjects, as well as about inoculation with vaccine and decisions of electoral assemblies, present no further difficulty in the light of my theory. I limit myself here to resolving the most general of them, but the importance of these concerns in civil life, the moral considerations that complicate them, and the voluminous data that they presuppose require a separate work.
Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1825), trans. Andrew I. Dale (1995), Introduction.
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I can assure you, reader, that in a very few hours, even during the first day, you will learn more natural philosophy about things contained in this book, than you could learn in fifty years by reading the theories and opinions of the ancient philosophers. Enemies of science will scoff at the astrologers: saying, where is the ladder on which they have climbed to heaven, to know the foundation of the stars? But in this respect I am exempt from such scoffing; for in proving my written reason, I satisfy sight, hearing, and touch: for this reason, defamers will have no power over me: as you will see when you come to see me in my little Academy.
The Admirable Discourses (1580), trans. Aurele La Rocque (1957), 27.
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I must not pass by Dr. Young called Phaenomenon Young at Cambridge. A man of universal erudition, & almost universal accomplishments. Had he limited himself to anyone department of knowledge, he must have been first in that department. But as a mathematician, a scholar, a hieroglyphist, he was eminent; & he knew so much that it is difficult to say what he did not know. He was a most amiable & good-tempered man; too fond, perhaps, of the society of persons of rank for a true philosopher.
J. Z. Fullmer, 'Davy's Sketches of his Contemporaries', Chymia (1967), 12, 135.
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I wish, my dear Kepler, that we could have a good laugh together at the extraordinary stupidity of the mob. What do you think of the foremost philosophers of this University? In spite of my oft-repeated efforts and invitations, they have refused, with the obstinacy of a glutted adder, to look at the planets or the Moon or my glass [telescope].
Opere ed Nas. X, 423. As cited in Alan Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 99. Galileo wished others to use his telescope to see for themselves the moons of Jupiter which he had himself first seen in Jan 1610. If you have a primary source for this letter giving the date it was written, please contact Webmaster.
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If any philosopher had been asked for a definition of infinity, he might have produced some unintelligible rigmarole, but he would certainly not have been able to give a definition that had any meaning at all.
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If the God of revelation is most appropriately worshipped in the temple of religion, the God of nature may be equally honored in the temple of science. Even from its lofty minarets the philosopher may summon the faithful to prayer, and the priest and sage exchange altars without the compromise of faith or knowledge.
In Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, Both Ancient and Modern (1891), 507.
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If the Tincture of the Philosophers is to be used for transmutation, a pound of it must be projected on a thousand pounds of melted Sol [gold]. Then, at length, will a medicine have been prepared for transmuting the leprous moisture of the metals. This work is a wonderful one in the light of nature, namely, that by the Magistery, or the operation of the Spagyrist, a metal, which formerly existed, should perish, and another be produced. This fact has rendered that same Aristotle, with his ill-founded philosophy, fatuous.
In Paracelsus and ‎Arthur Edward Waite (ed.), The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of Paracelsus (1894), Vol. 1, 28.
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If we do discover a complete theory, it should be in time understandable in broad principle by everyone ... Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we would know the mind of God.
A Brief History of Time (1988), 191.
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In England, philosophers are honoured, respected; they rise to public offices, they are buried with the kings... In France warrants are issued against them, they are persecuted, pelted with pastoral letters: Do we see that England is any the worse for it?
'Introduction aux Grands Principes ou Reception d'un Philosophe', in J. Assézat (ed.), Oeuvres Complètes (1875-7), Vol. 2, 80.

In reality, all Arguments from Experience are founded on the Similarity which we discover among natural Objects, and by which we are induc'd to expect effects similar to those which we have found to follow from such Objects. And tho' none but a Fool or Madman will ever pretend to dispute the Authority of Experience, or to reject that great Guide of human Life, it may surely be allow'd a Philosopher to have so much Curiosity at least as to examine the Principle of human Nature, which gives this mighty Authority to Experience, and makes us draw Advantage from that Similarity which Nature has plac'd among different Objects. From Causes which appear similar we expect similar Effects. This is the Sum of our experimental Conclusions.
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), 63.
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In the discovery of hidden things and the investigation of hidden causes, stronger reasons are obtained from sure experiments and demonstrated arguments than from probable conjectures and the opinions of philosophical speculators of the common sort...
De Magnete (1600). In William Gilbert and P. Fleury Mottelay (trans.), William Gilbert of Colchester, physician of London: On the load stone and magnetic bodies (1893), xlvii.
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In the school of political projectors, I was but ill entertained, the professors appearing, in my judgment, wholly out of their senses; which is a scene that never fails to make me melancholy. These unhappy people were proposing schemes for persuading monarchs to choose favourites upon the score of their wisdom, capacity, and virtue; of teaching ministers to consult the public good; of rewarding merit, great abilities, and eminent services; of instructing princes to know their true interest, by placing it on the same foundation with that of their people; of choosing for employment persons qualified to exercise them; with many other wild impossible chimeras, that never entered before into the heart of man to conceive, and confirmed in me the old observation, that there is nothing so extravagant and irrational which some philosophers have not maintained for truth.
Gulliver's Travels (1726, Penguin ed. 1967), Part III, Chap. 6, 232.
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Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today–but the core of science fiction, its essence, the concept around which it revolves, has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved a
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It appears that the solution of the problem of time and space is reserved to philosophers who, like Leibniz, are mathematicians, or to mathematicians who, like Einstein, are philosophers.
Collected in Paul Arthur Schilpp (ed.), Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist (1959), Vol. 1, 307. Also, in James Louis Jarrett and Sterling M. McMurrin (eds.), Contemporary Philosophy: A Book of Readings (1954), 71.
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It has been said by a distinguished philosopher that England is “usually the last to enter into the general movement of the European mind.” The author of the remark probably meant to assert that a man or a system may have become famous on the continent, while we are almost ignorant of the name of the man and the claims of his system. Perhaps, however, a wider range might be given to the assertion. An exploded theory or a disadvantageous practice, like a rebel or a patriot in distress, seeks refuge on our shores to spend its last days in comfort if not in splendour.
Opening from essay, 'Elementary Geometry', included in The Conflict of Studies and Other Essays (1873), 136.
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It has often been said, and certainly not without justification, that the man of science is a poor philosopher. Why then should it not be the right thing for the physicist to let the philosopher do the philosophising? Such might indeed be the right thing to do a time when the physicist believes he has at his disposal a rigid system of fundamental laws which are so well that waves of doubt can't reach them; but it cannot be right at a time when the very foundations of physics itself have become problematic as they are now … when experience forces us to seek a newer and more solid foundation.
‘Physics and Reality’, Franklin Institute Journal (Mar 1936). Collected in Out of My Later Years (1950), 58.
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It is a temptation for philosophers that they should weave a fairy tale of the adjustment of factors; and then as an appendix introduce the notion of frustration, as a secondary aspect. I suggest to you that this is the criticism to be made on the monistic idealisms of the nineteenth century, and even of the great Spinoza. It is quite incredible that the Absolute, as conceived in monistic philosophy, should evolve confusion about its own details.
In Modes of Thought (1938), 69-70.
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It is my intent to beget a good understanding between the chymists and the mechanical philosophers who have hitherto been too little acquainted with one another's learning.
The Sceptical Chymist (1661).
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It is the man of science, eager to have his every opinion regenerated, his every idea rationalised, by drinking at the fountain of fact, and devoting all the energies of his life to the cult of truth, not as he understands it, but as he does not understand it, that ought properly to be called a philosopher. To an earlier age knowledge was power—merely that and nothing more—to us it is life and the summum bonum.
As quoted in Sir Richard Gregory, Discovery: Or, The Spirit and Service of Science (1916), 24.
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It is told of Faraday that he refused to be called a physicist; he very much disliked the new name as being too special and particular and insisted on the old one, philosopher, in all its spacious generality: we may suppose that this was his way of saying that he had not over-ridden the limiting conditions of class only to submit to the limitation of a profession.
Commentary (Jun 1962), 33, 461-77. Cited by Sydney Ross in Nineteenth-Century Attitudes: Men of Science (1991), 11.
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It is true that Fourier had the opinion that the principal end of mathematics was public utility and the explanation of natural phenomena; but a philosopher as he is should have known that the unique end of science is the honor of the human mind and that from this point of view a question of [the theory of] number is as important as a question of the system of the world.
From letter to Legendre, translation as given in F.R. Moulton, 'The Influence of Astronomy on Mathematics', Science (10 Mar 1911), N.S. Vol. 33, No. 845, 359.
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Jefferson refused to pin his hopes on the occasional success of honest and unambitious men; on the contrary, the great danger was that philosophers would be lulled into complacence by the accidental rise of a Franklin or a Washington. Any government which made the welfare of men depend on the character of their governors was an illusion.
In The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson (1948, 1993), 178.
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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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M. Waldman … concluded with a panegyric upon modern chemistry…:— “The ancient teachers of this science” said he, “Promised impossibilities and performed nothing. The modern masters promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted and that the elixir of life is a chimera. But these philosophers seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the microscope or crucible, have indeed performed miracles. They penetrate into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her hiding-places. They ascend into the heavens; they have discovered how the blood circulates, and the nature of the air we breathe. They can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows.”
In Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus (1823), Vol. 1, 73-74. Webmaster note: In the novel, when the fictional characters meet, M. Waldman, professor of chemistry, sparks Victor Frankenstein’s interest in science. Shelley was age 20 when the first edition of the novel was published anonymously (1818).
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Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world; he then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus to overcome it. This is what the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher, and the natural scientist do, each in his own fashion. Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way the peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.
Address at The Physical Society, Berlin (1918) for Max Planck’s 60th birthday, 'Principles of Research', collected in Essays in Science (1934, 2004) 3.
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Man, some modern philosophers tell us, is alienated from his world: he is a stranger and afraid in a world he never made. Perhaps he is; yet so are animals, and even plants. They too were born, long ago, into a physico-chemical world, a world they never made.
'A Realist View of Logic Physics', in Wolfgang Yourgrau, et al., Physics, Logic, and History: based on the First International Colloquium held at the University of Denver, May 16-20, 1966 (1970), 1.
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Many Species of Animals have been lost out of the World, which Philosophers and Divines are unwilling to admit, esteeming the Destruction of anyone Species a Dismembring of the Universe, and rendring the World imperfect; whereas they think the Divine Providence is especially concerned, and solicitous to secure and preserve the Works of the Creation. And truly so it is, as appears, in that it was so careful to lodge all Land Animals in the Ark at the Time of the general Deluge; and in that, of all Animals recorded in Natural Histories, we cannot say that there hath been anyone Species lost, no not of the most infirm, and most exposed to Injury and Ravine. Moreover, it is likely, that as there neither is nor can be any new Species of Animals produced, all proceeding from Seeds at first created; so Providence, without which one individual Sparrow falls not to the ground, doth in that manner watch over all that are created, that an entire Species shall not be lost or destroyed by any Accident. Now, I say, if these Bodies were sometimes the Shells and Bones of Fish, it will thence follow, that many Species have been lost out of the World... To which I have nothing to reply, but that there may be some of them remaining some where or other in the Seas, though as yet they have not come to my Knowledge. Far though they may have perished, or by some Accident been destroyed out of our Seas, yet the Race of them may be preserved and continued still in others.
John Ray
Three Physico-Theological Discourses (1713), Discourse II, 'Of the General Deluge, in the Days of Noah; its Causes and Effects', 172-3.
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Medicine, poor science! Doctors, poor philosophers! Patients, poor victims!
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Modern war, even from the consideration of physical welfare, is not creative. Soldiers and civilians alike are supposed to put on mental khaki. … War means the death of that fertile war which consists of the free, restless conflict of ideas. The war which matters is that of the scientist with nature; of the farmer with the tawny desert; of … philosopher against … mob stupidity. Such war is creative. … Inventions that further life and joy; freedom; new knowledge, whether Luther Burbank’s about the breeding of fruits or Einstein's about relativity; great cathedrals and Beethoven's music: these modern mechanical war can destroy but never produce. At its most inventive height, war creates the Maxim gun, the submarine, disseminable germs of disease, life-blasting gases. Spiritually and intellectually, modern war is not creative.
From ‘The Stagnation of War’, in Allen D. Hole (ed.) The Messenger of Peace (Nov 1924), 49, No. 11, 162-163.
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On foundations we believe in the reality of mathematics, but of course, when philosophers attack us with their paradoxes, we rush to hide behind formalism and say 'mathematics is just a combination of meaningless symbols,'... Finally we are left in peace to go back to our mathematics and do it as we have always done, with the feeling each mathematician has that he is working with something real. The sensation is probably an illusion, but it is very convenient.
'The Work of Nicholas Bourbaki'American Mathematical Monthly (1970), 77, 134. In Carl C. Gaither, Alma E. Cavazos-Gaither, Mathematically Speaking: a Dictionary of Quotations (), 194.
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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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Organic life, we are told, has developed gradually from the protozoan to the philosopher, and this development, we are assured, is indubitably an advance. Unfortunately it is the philosopher, not the protozoon, who gives us this assurance.
From Herbert Spencer lecture delivered at Oxford (1914) 'On Scientific Method in Philosophy', collected in Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays (1919), 106.
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Our failure to discern a universal good does not record any lack of insight or ingenuity, but merely demonstrates that nature contains no moral messages framed in human terms. Morality is a subject for philosophers, theologians, students of the humanities, indeed for all thinking people. The answers will not be read passively from nature; they do not, and cannot, arise from the data of science. The factual state of the world does not teach us how we, with our powers for good and evil, should alter or preserve it in the most ethical manner.
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Our knowledge is composed not of facts, but of the relations which facts and ideas bear to themselves and to each other; and real knowledge consists not in an acquaintance with facts, which only makes a pedant, but in the use of facts, which makes a philosopher.
Lecture (19 Mar 1858) at the Royal Institution, 'The Influence Of Women On The Progress Of Knowledge', collected in The Miscellaneous and Posthumous Works of Henry Thomas Buckle (1872), Vol. 1, 4. Published in Frazier’s Magazine (Apr 1858).
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Pathology, probably more than any other branch of science, suffers from heroes and hero-worship. Rudolf Virchow has been its archangel and William Welch its John the Baptist, while Paracelsus and Cohnheim have been relegated to the roles of Lucifer and Beelzebub. … Actually, there are no heroes in Pathology—all of the great thoughts permitting advance have been borrowed from other fields, and the renaissance of pathology stems not from pathology itself but from the philosophers Kant and Goethe.
Quoted from an address to a second year class, in Levin L. Waters, obituary for Harry S. N. Greene, M.D., in Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine (Feb-Apr 1971), 43:4-5, 207.
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People complain that our generation has no philosophers. They are wrong. They now sit in another faculty. Their names are Max Planck and Albert Einstein.
Upon appointment as the first president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, Berlin, formed for the advancement of science (1911).
Quoted in Carl Seelig, Albert Einstein: A Documentary Biography (1956), 45.
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Philosophers and psychiatrists should explain why it is that we mathematicians are in the habit of systematically erasing our footsteps. Scientists have always looked askance at this strange habit of mathematicians, which has changed little from Pythagoras to our day.
From the second Fubini Lecture, delivered at the Villa Gualino, Torino (2 Jun 1998), 'What is Invariant Theory, Really?' Collected in Henry H. Crapo and D. Senato (eds.), Algebraic Combinatorics and Computer Science: A Tribute to Gian-Carlo Rota (2001), 55.
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Philosophers and theologians have yet to learn that a physical fact is as sacred as a moral principle. Our own nature demands from us this double allegiance.
Contributions to the Natural History of the United States of America (1857).
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Philosophers no longer write for the intelligent, only for their fellow professionals. The few thousand academic philosophers in the world do not stint themselves: they maintain more than seventy learned journals. But in the handful that cover more than one subdivision of philosophy, any given philosopher can hardly follow more than one or two articles in each issue. This hermetic condition is attributed to “technical problems” in the subject. Since William James, Russell, and Whitehead, philosophy, like history, has been confiscated by scholarship and locked away from the contamination of general use.
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Philosophers of science constantly discuss theories and representation of reality, but say almost nothing about experiment, technology, or the use of knowledge to alter the world. This is odd, because ‘experimental method’ used to be just another name for scientific method.... I hope [to] initiate a Back-to-Bacon movement, in which we attend more seriously to experimental science. Experimentation has a life of its own.
Representing and Intervening, p. 149f (1983). Announcing the author's intention to stress 'intervening' as an essential component of science.
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Philosophers say a great deal about what is absolutely necessary for science, and it is always, so far as one can see, rather naive, and probably wrong.
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Philosophers say, that Man is a Microcosm, or little World, resembling in Miniature every Part of the Great: And, in my Opinion, the Body Natural may be compared to the Body Politic: and if this be so, how can the Epicureans Opinion be true, that the Universe was formed by a fortuitous Concourse of Atoms; which I will no more believe, than that the accidental Jumbling of the Letters of the Alphabet, could fall by Chance into a most ingenious and learned Treatise of Philosophy. Risum teneatis Amici, Hor.
In 'A Tritical Essay Upon the Faculties of the Mind' (6 Aug 1707), collected in various volumes and editions, for example, The Works of J.S, D.D, D.S.P.D.: Volume 1: Miscellanies in Prose (1739), 173. An earlier, undated, fourth volume of Miscellanies gives the 6 Aug 1707 date the essay was written. The final Latin phrase can be translated as, “Can you help laughing, friends?” attributed to Horace. In Jonathan Swift and Temple Scott (ed.), The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift: A Tale of a Tub: the Battle of the Books, and Other Early Works (1897, reprint 1907), Vol. 1, 291, the editor footnotes that “this essay is a parody on the pseudo-philosophical essays of the time, in which all sense was lost in the maze of inconsequential quotations.” Indeed, the rest of the essay is, by design, a jumble of disjointed thoughts and makes next to no sense.
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Philosophers, if they have much imagination, are apt to let it loose as well as other people, and in such cases are sometimes led to mistake a fancy for a fact. Geologists, in particular, have very frequently amused themselves in this way, and it is not a little amusing to follow them in their fancies and their waking dreams. Geology, indeed, in this view, may be called a romantic science.
Conversations on Geology (1840), 5.
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Science and mathematics [are] much more compelling and exciting than the doctrines of pseudoscience, whose practitioners were condemned as early as the fifth century B.C. by the Ionian philosopher Heraclitus as 'night walkers, magicians, priests of Bacchus, priestesses of the wine-vat, mystery-mongers.' But science is more intricate and subtle, reveals a much richer universe, and powerfully evokes our sense of wonder. And it has the additional and important virtue—to whatever extent the word has any meaning—of being true.
Broca's Brain (1986), 76.
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Science, the partisan of no country, but the beneficent patroness of all, has liberally opened a temple where all may meet. Her influence on the mind, like the sun on the chilled earth, has long been preparing it for higher cultivation and further improvement. The philosopher of one country sees not an enemy in the philosopher of another; he takes his seat in the temple of science, and asks not who sits beside him.
In Letter to the Abbé Reynal, on the 'Affairs of North America in which the Mistakes in the Abbé’s Account of the Revolution of America are Corrected and Cleared Up', collected in The Works of Thomas Paine (1797), Vol. 1, 295. Originally published in the Pennsylvania magazine (1775).
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Since the princes take the Earth for their own, it’s fair that the philosophers reserve the sky for themselves and rule there, but they should never permit the entry of others.
Conversations on the Plurality of Words (1686), trans. H. A. Hargreaves (1990), 51.

Sir Isaac Newton and Dr. Bentley met accidentally in London, and on Sir Isaac’s inquiring what philosophical pursuits were carrying on at Cambridge, the doctor replied—None—for when you go a hunting Sir Isaac, you kill all the game; you have left us nothing to pursue.—Not so, said the philosopher, you may start a variety of game in every bush if you will but take the trouble to beat for it.
From Richard Watson, Chemical Essays (1786, 1806), Vol. 4, 257-258. No citation given, so—assuming it is more or less authentic—Webmaster offers this outright guess. Watson was the source of another anecdote about Newton (see “I find more sure marks…”). Thus, one might by pure speculation wonder if this quote was passed along in the same way. Was this another anecdote relayed to Watson by his former teacher, Dr. Robert Smith (Master of Trinity House), who might have been told this by Newton himself? Perhaps we’ll never know, but if you know a primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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So, then, the Tincture of the Philosophers is a universal medicine, and consumes all diseases, by whatsoever name they are called, just like an invisible fire. The dose is very small, but its effect is most powerful. By means thereof I have cured the leprosy, venereal disease, dropsy, the falling sickness, colic, scab, and similar afflictions; also lupus, cancer, noli-metangere, fistulas, and the whole race of internal diseases, more surely than one could believe.
Quoted in Paracelsus and ‎Arthur Edward Waite (ed.), The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of Paracelsus (1894), Vol. 1, 29.
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Some filosifers think that a fakkilty’s granted
The minnit it’s felt to be thoroughly wanted.…
That the fears of a monkey whose holt chanced to fail
Drawed the vertibry out to a prehensile tail.
Satire, from 'Biglow Papers', as quoted in Horatio Hackett Newman (ed.), Readings in Evolution, Genetics, and Eugenics (1921), 330.
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Some recent philosophers seem to have given their moral approval to these deplorable verdicts that affirm that the intelligence of an individual is a fixed quantity, a quantity that cannot be augmented. We must protest and react against this brutal pessimism; we will try to demonstrate that it is founded on nothing.
Les idées modernes sur les enfants (1909), 141.
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Somebody once observed to the eminent philosopher Wittgenstein how stupid medieval Europeans living before the time of Copernicus must have been that they could have looked at the sky and thought that the sun was circling the earth. Surely a modicum of astronomical good sense would have told them that the reverse was true. Wittgenstein is said to have replied: “I agree. But I wonder what it would have looked like if the sun had been circling the earth.”
In Day the Universe Changed (1985), 11.
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Students of the heavens are separable into astronomers and astrologers as readily as the minor domestic ruminants into sheep and goats, but the separation of philosophers into sages and cranks seems to be more sensitive to frames of reference.
Theories and Things (1981), 192.
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The arguments for the two substances [mind and body] have, we believe, entirely lost their validity; they are no longer compatible with ascertained science and clear thinking. The one substance with two sets of properties, two sides, the physical and the mental—a double-faced unity—would appear to comply with all the exigencies of the case. … The mind is destined to be a double study—to conjoin the mental philosopher with the physical philosopher.
From concluding paragraph in Mind and Body: The Theories of their Relation (1872), 195.
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The conundrum that baffled Medieval philosophers, How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?, can have only one correct answer: All of them.
Bob Dietz
Please contact webmaster if you have information on a primary source for this quote.
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The external world of physics has … become a world of shadows. In removing our illusions we have removed the substance, for indeed we have seen that substance is one of the greatest of our illusions. Later perhaps we may inquire whether in our zeal to cut out all that is unreal we may not have used the knife too ruthlessly. Perhaps, indeed, reality is a child which cannot survive without its nurse illusion. But if so, that is of little concern to the scientist, who has good and sufficient reasons for pursuing his investigations in the world of shadows and is content to leave to the philosopher the determination of its exact status in regard to reality.
In Introduction to The Nature of the Physical World (1928), xiv.
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The fading of ideals is sad evidence of the defeat of human endeavour. In the schools of antiquity philosophers aspired to impart wisdom, in modern colleges our humbler aim is to teach subjects
In The Aims of Education (1929), 39.
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The most ominous conflict of our time is the difference of opinion, of outlook, between men of letters, historians, philosophers, the so-called humanists, on the one side and scientists on the other. The gap cannot but increase because of the intolerance of both and the fact that science is growing by leaps and bounds.
The History of Science and the New Humanism (1931), 69.Omnious;Conflict;Difference;Opinion;Outlook;Men OfLetters;Historian;Philosopher;Humanist;So-Called;Scientist;Gap;Intolerance;Fact;Growth;Leap;Bound
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The natural philosophers are mostly gone. We modern scientists are adding too many decimals.
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The negative cautions of science are never popular. If the experimentalist would not commit himself, the social philosopher, the preacher, and the pedagogue tried the harder to give a short-cut answer.
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The next object which I have observed is the essence or substance of the Milky Way. By the aid of a telescope anyone may behold this in a manner which so distinctly appeals to the senses that all the disputes which have tormented philosophers through so many ages are exploded at once by the irrefragable evidence of our eyes, and we are freed from wordy disputes upon this subject, for the Galaxy is nothing else but a mass of innumerable stars planted together in clusters.
In pamphlet, The Sidereal Messenger (1610), reprinted in The Sidereal Messenger of Galileo Galilei: And a Part of the Preface to the Preface to Kepler's Dioptrics Containing the Original Account of Galileo's Astronomical Discoveries (1880), 42.
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The one who stays in my mind as the ideal man of science is, not Huxley or Tyndall, Hooker or Lubbock, still less my friend, philosopher and guide Herbert Spencer, but Francis Galton, whom I used to observe and listen to—I regret to add, without the least reciprocity—with rapt attention. Even to-day. I can conjure up, from memory’s misty deep, that tall figure with its attitude of perfect physical and mental poise; the clean-shaven face, the thin, compressed mouth with its enigmatical smile; the long upper lip and firm chin, and, as if presiding over the whole personality of the man, the prominent dark eyebrows from beneath which gleamed, with penetrating humour, contemplative grey eyes. Fascinating to me was Francis Galton’s all-embracing but apparently impersonal beneficence. But, to a recent and enthusiastic convert to the scientific method, the most relevant of Galton’s many gifts was the unique contribution of three separate and distinct processes of the intellect; a continuous curiosity about, and rapid apprehension of individual facts, whether common or uncommon; the faculty for ingenious trains of reasoning; and, more admirable than either of these, because the talent was wholly beyond my reach, the capacity for correcting and verifying his own hypotheses, by the statistical handling of masses of data, whether collected by himself or supplied by other students of the problem.
In My Apprenticeship (1926), 134-135.
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The ordinary man (or woman) thinks he knows what time is but cannot say. The learned man, physicist or philosopher, is not sure he knows but is ready to write volumes on the subject of his speculation and ignorance.
In Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World (1983), 1.
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The other book you may have heard of and perhaps read, but it is not one perusal which will enable any man to appreciate it. I have read it through five or six times, each time with increasing admiration. It will live as long as the ‘Principia’ of Newton. It shows that nature is, as I before remarked to you, a study that yields to none in grandeur and immensity. The cycles of astronomy or even the periods of geology will alone enable us to appreciate the vast depths of time we have to contemplate in the endeavour to understand the slow growth of life upon the earth. The most intricate effects of the law of gravitation, the mutual disturbances of all the bodies of the solar system, are simplicity itself compared with the intricate relations and complicated struggle which have determined what forms of life shall exist and in what proportions. Mr. Darwin has given the world a new science, and his name should, in my opinion, stand above that of every philosopher of ancient or modem times. The force of admiration can no further go!!!
Letter to George Silk (1 Sep 1860), in My Life (1905), Vol. I, 372-373.
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The philosopher has no objections to a physicist’s beliefs, so long as they are not advanced in the form of a philosophy.
From 'Philosophie der Raum-Zeit-Lehre' (1927). English version in 'The Philosophical Significance of Relativity' in P.A. Schilpp (ed.), Albert Einstein, Philosopher-Scientist (1949), 293. Readings in Philosophy of Science: Introduction to the Foundations ... https://books.google.com/books?id=BnwGAQAAIAAJ Philip Paul Wiener - 1953
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The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point is to change it.
Epitaph on Marx's tombstone in Highgate Cemetery.
Karl Marx
Theses on Feuerbach (1845), 5.
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The physicist cannot simply surrender to the philosopher the critical contemplation of the theoretical foundations for he himself knows best and feels most surely where the shoe pinches. … he must try to make clear in his own mind just how far the concepts which he uses are justified … The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.
‘Physics and Reality’, Franklin Institute Journal (Mar 1936). Collected in Out of My Later Years (1950), 59.
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The scientist, by the very nature of his commitment, creates more and more questions, never fewer. Indeed the measure of our intellectual maturity, one philosopher suggests, is our capacity to feel less and less satisfied with our answers to better problems.
Becoming: Basic Considerations for a Psychology of Personality (1955), 67.
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The second law of thermodynamics is, without a doubt, one of the most perfect laws in physics. Any reproducible violation of it, however small, would bring the discoverer great riches as well as a trip to Stockholm. The world’s energy problems would be solved at one stroke… . Not even Maxwell’s laws of electricity or Newton’s law of gravitation are so sacrosanct, for each has measurable corrections coming from quantum effects or general relativity. The law has caught the attention of poets and philosophers and has been called the greatest scientific achievement of the nineteenth century.
In Thermodynamics (1964). As cited in The Mathematics Devotional: Celebrating the Wisdom and Beauty of Physics (2015), 82.
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The stakes are immense, the task colossal, the time is short. But we may hope–we must hope–that man’s own creation, man’s own genius, will not destroy him. Scholars, indeed all men, must move forward in the faith of that philosopher who held that there is no problem the human reason can propound which the human reason cannot reason out.
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The technology [semiconductors] which has transformed practical existence is largely an application of what was discovered by these allegedly irresponsible [natural] philosophers.
Address on the Tercentenary of the Royal Society (1960). In Michael Dudley Sturge, Statistical and Thermal Physics (2003), 251.
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The true business of the philosopher, though not flattering to his vanity, is merely to ascertain, arrange and condense the facts.
'Dissertation Fifth: Exhibiting a General View of the Progress of Mathematical and Physical Science, chiefly during the Eighteenth Century', Encyclopedia Britannica, 7th edn. (1842), 743. In John Heilbron, Weighing Imponderables and Other Quantitative Science around 1800 (1993), 17.
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The useless search of philosophers for a cause of the universe is a regressus in infinitum (a stepping backwards into the infinite) and resembles climbing up an endless ladder, the recurring question as to the cause of the cause rendering the attainment of a final goal impossible.
From Force and Matter: Or, Principles of the Natural Order of the Universe (15th ed. 1884), 10.
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The whole inherent pride of human nature revolts at the idea that the lord of the creation is to be treated like any other natural object. No sooner does the naturalist discover the resemblance of some higher mammals, such as the ape, to man, than there is a general outcry against the presumptuous audacity that ventures to touch man in his inmost sanctuary. The whole fraternity of philosophers, who have never seen monkeys except in zoological gardens, at once mount the high horse, and appeal to the mind, the soul, to reason, to consciousness, and to all the rest of the innate faculties of man, as they are refracted in their own philosophical prisms.
Carl Vogt
From Carl Vogt and James Hunt (ed.), Lectures on Man: His Place in Creation, and in the History of the Earth (1861), 10.
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There are two ways of extending life: firstly by moving the two points “born” and “died” farther away from one another… The other method is to go more slowly and leave the two points wherever God wills they should be, and this method is for the philosophers.
Aphorism 22 in Notebook B (1768-1771), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 21.
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There is beauty in discovery. There is mathematics in music, a kinship of science and poetry in the description of nature, and exquisite form in a molecule. Attempts to place different disciplines in different camps are revealed as artificial in the face of the unity of knowledge. All illiterate men are sustained by the philosopher, the historian, the political analyst, the economist, the scientist, the poet, the artisan, and the musician.
From address (1958), upon being appointed Chancellor of the University of California.
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There is thus a possibility that the ancient dream of philosophers to connect all Nature with the properties of whole numbers will some day be realized. To do so physics will have to develop a long way to establish the details of how the correspondence is to be made. One hint for this development seems pretty obvious, namely, the study of whole numbers in modern mathematics is inextricably bound up with the theory of functions of a complex variable, which theory we have already seen has a good chance of forming the basis of the physics of the future. The working out of this idea would lead to a connection between atomic theory and cosmology.
From Lecture delivered on presentation of the James Scott prize, (6 Feb 1939), 'The Relation Between Mathematics And Physics', printed in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1938-1939), 59, Part 2, 129.
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Through the Middle Ages and down to the late eighteenth century, many philosophers, most men of science, and, indeed, most educated men, were to accept without question—the conception of the universe as a Great Chain of Being, composed of an immense, or—by the strict but seldom rigorously applied logic of the principle of continuity—of an infinite number of links ranging in hierarchical order from the meagerest kind of existents, which barely escape non-existence, through 'every possible' grade up to the ens perfectissimum—or, in a somewhat more orthodox version, to the highest possible kind of creature, between which and the Absolute Being the disparity was assumed to be infinite—every one of them differing from that immediately above and that immediately below it by the 'least possible' degree of difference.
The Great Chain of Being (1936), 59.
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To mix science up with philosophy is only to produce a philosophy that has lost all its ideal value and a science that has lost all its practical value. It is for my private physician to tell me whether this or that food will kill me. It is for my private philosopher to tell me whether I ought to be killed.
In All Things Considered (1908), 187.
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To test a perfect theory with imperfect instruments did not impress the Greek philosophers as a valid way to gain knowledge.
The New Intelligent Man's Guide to Science (1965), Vol. 1, 12.
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To the Philosopher, the Physician, the Meteorologist, and the Chemist, there is perhaps no subject more attractive than that of Ozone.
Ozone and Antozone (1873), 1.
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To turn Karl [Popper]'s view on its head, it is precisely the abandonment of critical discourse that marks the transition of science. Once a field has made the transition, critical discourse recurs only at moments of crisis when the bases of the field are again in jeopardy. Only when they must choose between competing theories do scientists behave like philosophers.
'Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research', in I. Lakatos and A. Musgrave (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge (1970), 6-7.
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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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Was it not the great philosopher and mathematician Leibnitz who said that the more knowledge advances the more it becomes possible to condense it into little books?
Opening remark in 'Introductory Note', Outline of Science: A Plain Story Simply Told (1922), Vol. 1, iii. Webmaster has not yet identified the quote in Leibnitz's original words (translated). If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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We can’t define anything precisely. If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers… one saying to the other: “You don’t know what you are talking about!” The second one says: “What do you mean by know? What do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you?
In 'Motion', The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1961), Vol. 1, 8-2.
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We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza’s pantheism, but admire even more his contributions to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and the body as one, not two separate things.
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What is a good definition? For the philosopher or the scientist, it is a definition which applies to all the objects to be defined, and applies only to them; it is that which satisfies the rules of logic. But in education it is not that; it is one that can be understood by the pupils.
Science and Method (1914, 2003), 117.
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When we seek a textbook case for the proper operation of science, the correction of certain error offers far more promise than the establishment of probable truth. Confirmed hunches, of course, are more upbeat than discredited hypotheses. Since the worst traditions of ‘popular’ writing falsely equate instruction with sweetness and light, our promotional literature abounds with insipid tales in the heroic mode, although tough stories of disappointment and loss give deeper insight into a methodology that the celebrated philosopher Karl Popper once labeled as ‘conjecture and refutation.’
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While we keep an open mind on this question of vitalism, or while we lean, as so many of us now do, or even cling with a great yearning, to the belief that something other than the physical forces animates the dust of which we are made, it is rather the business of the philosopher than of the biologist, or of the biologist only when he has served his humble and severe apprenticeship to philosophy, to deal with the ultimate problem. It is the plain bounden duty of the biologist to pursue his course unprejudiced by vitalistic hypotheses, along the road of observation and experiment, according to the accepted discipline of the natural and physical sciences. … It is an elementary scientific duty, it is a rule that Kant himself laid down, that we should explain, just as far as we possibly can, all that is capable of such explanation, in the light of the properties of matter and of the forms of energy with which we are already acquainted.
From Presidential Address to Zoological Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. As quoted in H.V. Neal, 'The Basis of Individuality in Organisms: A Defense of Vitalism', Science (21 Jul 1916), 44 N.S., No. 1125, 82.
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Why do I call [Isaac Newton] a magician? Because he looked on the whole universe and all that is in it as a riddle, as a secret which could be read by applying pure thought to certain evidence, certain mystic clues which God had laid about the world to allow a sort of philosopher's treasure hunt.
In 'Newton, the Man' (1946). In Geoffrey Keynes (ed.), Essays in Biography, 2nd edition (1951), 313.
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Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.
Plato
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You may perceive something of the distinction which I think necessary to keep in view between art and science, between the artist and the man of knowledge, or the philosopher. The man of knowledge, the philosopher, is he who studies and acquires knowledge in order to improve his own mind; and with a desire of extending the department of knowledge to which he turns his attention, or to render it useful to the world, by discoveries, or by inventions, which may be the foundation of new arts, or of improvements in those already established. Excited by one or more of these motives, the philosopher employs himself in acquiring knowledge and in communicating it. The artist only executes and practises what the philosopher or man of invention has discovered or contrived, while the business of the trader is to retail the productions of the artist, exchange some of them for others, and transport them to distant places for that purpose.
From the first of a series of lectures on chemistry, collected in John Robison (ed.), Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry: Delivered in the University of Edinburgh (1807), Vol. 1, 3.
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Your remarks upon chemical notation with the variety of systems which have arisen, &c., &c., had almost stirred me up to regret publicly that such hindrances to the progress of science should exist. I cannot help thinking it a most unfortunate thing that men who as experimentalists & philosophers are the most fitted to advance the general cause of science & knowledge should by promulgation of their own theoretical views under the form of nomenclature, notation, or scale, actually retard its progress.
Letter to William Whewell (21 Feb 1831). In Isaac Todhunter, William Whewell, An Account of his Writings (1876), Vol. 1., 307. Faraday may have been referring to a paper by Whewell published in the Journal of the Royal Institution of England (1831), 437-453.
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Zoological taxonomists in general are inclined to be practical workers rather than philosophers, if only because they face such an unending task that they are not encouraged to sit back and philosophize.
In 'Illogicality in Criticism', Systematic Zoology (Dec 1969), 18, No. 4, 470.
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[Helmholtz] is not a philosopher in the exclusive sense, as Kant, Hegel, Mansel are philosophers, but one who prosecutes physics and physiology, and acquires therein not only skill in developing any desideratum, but wisdom to know what are the desiderata, e.g., he was one of the first, and is one of the most active, preachers of the doctrine that since all kinds of energy are convertible, the first aim of science at this time. should be to ascertain in what way particular forms of energy can be converted into each other, and what are the equivalent quantities of the two forms of energy.
Letter to Lewis Campbell (21 Apr 1862). In P.M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1990), Vol. 1, 711.
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[T]he rapt philosopher, and he who contemplates a work of art, inhabit a world with an intense and peculiar significance of its own; that significance is unrelated to the significance of life.
In Art (1913), 26.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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