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Truth Quotes (1061 quotes)
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Truth is Stranger Than Fiction - Art © todayinsci.com 2016

'...no pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage ground of truth … and to see the errors … in the vale below:' so always that this prospect be with pity, and not with swelling or pride.
Quoting an unnamed poet and adding a comment.
I. Of Truth,' Essays (1597). In Francis Bacon and Basil Montagu, The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England (1852), 11
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... all the great scientists have one thing in common: each snatched from the subtle motions of nature one irrevocable secret; each caught one feather of the plumage of the Great White Bird that symbolizes everlasting truth.
With co-author Justus J. Schifferes, in The Autobiography of Science (1945).
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... the besetting danger is not so much of embracing falsehood for truth, as of mistaking a part of the truth for the whole.
'Coleridge', essay in Dissertations and Discussions: Political, Philosophical, and Historical (1864), Vol. 2, 11.
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...I believe there exists, & I feel within me, an instinct for the truth, or knowledge or discovery, of something of the same nature as the instinct of virtue, & that our having such an instinct is reason enough for scientific researches without any practical results ever ensuing from them.
The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Vol. 4. (1847-50)
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...man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but usually manages to pick himself up, walk over or around it, and carry on.
…...
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...reality is a system, completely ordered and fully intelligible, with which thought in its advance is more and more identifying itself. We may look at the growth of knowledge … as an attempt by our mind to return to union with things as they are in their ordered wholeness…. and if we take this view, our notion of truth is marked out for us. Truth is the approximation of thought to reality … Its measure is the distance thought has travelled … toward that intelligible system … The degree of truth of a particular proposition is to be judged in the first instance by its coherence with experience as a whole, ultimately by its coherence with that further whole, all comprehensive and fully articulated, in which thought can come to rest.
The Nature of Thought (1939), Vol II, 264. Quoted in Erhard Scheibe and Brigitte Falkenburg (ed), Between Rationalism and Empiricism: Selected Papers in the Philosophy of Physics (2001), 233
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...they have never affirm'd any thing, concerning the Cause, till the Trial was past: whereas, to do it before, is a most venomous thing in the making of Sciences; for whoever has fix'd on his Cause, before he experimented; can hardly avoid fitting his Experiment to his Observations, to his own Cause, which he had before imagin'd; rather than the Cause to the Truth of the Experiment itself.
Referring to experiments of the Aristotelian mode, whereby a preconceived truth would be illustrated merely to convince people of the validity of the original thought.
Thomas Sprat, Abraham Cowley, History of the Royal Society (1667, 1734), 108.
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A l’aide de ces sciences expérimentales actives, l’homme devient un inventeur de phénomènes, un véritable contremaître de la création; et l'on ne saurait, sous ce rapport, assigner de limites à la puissance qu’il peut acquérir sur la nature, par les progrès futurs des sciences expérimentales
With the aid of these active experimental sciences man becomes an inventor of phenomena, a real foreman of creation; and under this head we cannot set limits to the power that he may gain over nature through future progress of the experimental sciences.
Original French text in Introduction à l'Étude de la Médecine Expérimentale (1898), 32. English version from An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 18.
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Aber das Leben ist kurz und die Wahrheit wirkt ferne und lebt lange: sagen wir die Wahrheit.
Life is short and truth works far and lives long: let us speak the truth.
Concluding remark in Preface, written at Dresden in August 1818, first German edition, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 4 Bücher nebst einem Anhange der die Kritik der Kentischen Philosophie (1819), xvi. As translated by Richard Burton Haldane and John Kemp in The World as Will and Representation (1883, 1907), Vol. 1, xv.
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Amicus Plato amicus Aristoteles magis amica verita.
Plato is my friend, Aristotle is my friend, but my greatest friend is truth.
Written in the margin of a notebook while a student at Cambridge. In Richard S. Westfall, Never at Rest (1980), 89.
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Are coral reefs growing from the depths of the oceans? ... [The] reply is a simple negative; and a single fact establishes its truth. The reef-forming coral zoophytes, as has been shown, cannot grow at greater depths than 100 or 120 feet; and therefore in seas deeper than this, the formation or growth of reefs over the bottom is impossible.
On Coral Reefs and Islands (1853), 138.
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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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Cogitatio in vero exquirendo maxime versatur. Appetitus impellit ad agendum.
The Intellect engages us in the pursuit of Truth. The Passions impel us to Action.
D. H. Barnes (Ed.) De Officiis ad Marcum Filium: Libri Tres (1814), 51.
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Dans les sciences physiques en général, on ait souvent supposé au lieu de conclure; que les suppositions transmises d’âge en âge, soient devenues de plus en plus imposantes par le poids des autorités qu'elles ont acquises , & qu'elles ayent enfin été adoptées & regardées comme des vérités fondamentales, même par de très-bons esprits.
In the science of physics in general, men have so often formed suppositions, instead of drawing conclusions. These suppositions, handed down from one age to another, acquire additional weight from the authorities by which they are supported, till at last they are received, even by men of genius, as fundamental truths.
From the original French in Traité élémentaire de chimie (1789, 1793), discours préliminaire, x; and from edition translated into English by Robert Kerr, as Elements of Chemistry (1790), Preface, xvi.
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Die durchschnittliche Lebensdauer einer physiologischen Wahrheit ist drei bis vier Jahre.
The average lifespan of a physiological truth is three or four years.
Attributed.
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Die Gewohnheit einer Meinung erzeugt oft völlige Ueberzeugung von ihrer Richtigkeit, sie verbirgt die schwächeren Theile davon, und macht uns unfähig, die Beweise dagegen anzunehmen.
The habit of an opinion often leads to the complete conviction of its truth, it hides the weaker parts of it, and makes us incapable of accepting the proofs against it.
(1827). German text in Ira Freund, The Study of Chemical Composition (1904), 31. Translated form in Carl Schorlemmer, The Rise and Development of Organic Chemistry (1894), 49.
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Dilbert: Evolution must be true because it is a logical conclusion of the scientific method.
Dogbert: But science is based on the irrational belief that because we cannot perceive reality all at once, things called “time” and “cause and effect” exist.
Dilbert: That’s what I was taught and that’s what I believe.
Dogbert: Sounds cultish.
Dilbert comic strip (8 Feb 1992).
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Eine neue wissenschaftliche Wahrheit pflegt sich nicht in der Weise durchzusetzen, daß ihre Gegner überzeugt werden und sich als belehrt erklären, sondern vielmehr dadurch, daß ihre Gegner allmählich aussterben und daß die heranwachsende Generation von vornherein mit der Wahrheit vertraut gemacht ist.
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
In Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. F. Gaynor (1950), 33. Also seen paraphrased in shortened form as: Die Wahrheit triumphiert nie, ihre Gegner sterben nur aus. (Translated as “Truth never triumphs—its opponents just die out.” More loosely paraphrased as “Science advances one funeral at a time.”)
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Er riecht die Wahrheit,
He [Faraday] smells the truth.
Quoted in John Tyndall, Faraday as a Discoverer (1868), 45.
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Haec quippe prima sapientiae clavis definitur, assidua scilicet seu frequens interrogatio … Dubitando enim ad inquisitionem venimus; inquirendo veritatem percipimus.
For this is the first key to wisdom, assiduous and frequent questioning. ... By doubting we come to inquiry; by inquiry we perceive the truth.
Sic et Non (c. 1120). Latin text in Peter Abelard, E.L.T. Henke and G.S. Lindenkohl (eds.), Sic et Non (1851), 16-17. Title translates as Yes or No. As translated in Frederick Denison Maurice, Mediaeval Philosophy; Or, A Treatise of Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy (1870), 138.
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I cannot give any scientist of any age better advice than this: the intensity of the conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing on whether it is true or not. The importance of the strength of our conviction is only to provide a proportionally strong incentive to find out if the hypothesis will stand up to critical examination.
In Advice to a Young Scientist (1979), 39.
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Ihm in vollem Maaße das Schicksal werde, welches in jeder Erkenntniß, … allezeit der Wahrheit zu Theil ward, der nur ein kurzes Siegesfest beschieden ist, zwischen den beiden langen Zeiträumen, wo sie als parador verdammt und als trivial geringgeschätzt wird.
[It] has always fallen to the lot of truth in every branch of knowledge, … [that] to truth only a brief celebration of victory is allowed between the two long periods during which it is condemned as paradoxical, or disparaged as trivial. The author of truth also usually meets with the former fate.
Conclusion for Preface, written at Dresden in August 1818, first German edition, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 4 Bücher nebst einem Anhange der die Kritik der Kentischen Philosophie (1819), xvi. As translated by E.F.J. Payne in The World as Will and Representation (1958, 1969), Vol. 1, xvii. In the preface, Schopenhauer is writing his hope that what he has written in the book will be accepted by those it reaches. Notice the statement of three stages of truth: condemnation; acceptance; trivializing. It may be the source of a condensed quote attributed (wrongly?) to Schopenhauer—seen in this collection as the quote that begins, “All truth passes through three stages…”
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Il n'y a qu'un demi-siècle, un orateur chrétien, se défiant des hommes de la science leur disait: 'Arrêtez-vous enfin, et ne creusez pas jusqu'aux enfers.' Aujourd'hui, Messieurs, rassurés sur l'inébranlable constance de notre foi, nous vous disons: creusez, creusez encore; plus vous descendrez, plus vous rapprocherez du grand mystère de l'impuissance de l'homme et de la vérité de la religion. Creusez donc, creusez toujours,mundum tradidit disputationibus eorum; et quand la science aura donné son dernier coup de marteau sur les fondements de la terre, vous pourrez à la lueur du feu qu'il fera jaillir, lire encore l'idée de Dieu et contempler l'empreinte de sa main.
Only a half-century ago, a Christian speaker, mistrustful of men of science told them: 'Stop finally, and do not dig to hell.' Today, gentlemen, reassured about the steadfastness of our unshakeable faith, we say: dig, dig again; the further down you, the closer you come to the great mystery of the impotence of man and truth of religion. So dig, always dig: and when science has stuck its final hammer blow on the bosom of the earth, you will be able to ignite a burst of light, read furthermore the mind of God and contemplate the imprint of His hand.
As Monseigneur Rendu, Bishop of Annecy, Savoy, presiding at the closing session of a meeting of the Geological Society of France at Chambéry, Savoy (27 Aug 1844). In Bulletin de la Société Géologique de France 1843 à 1844, Tome 1, Ser. 2, 857. (1844), li. Google trans., edited by Webmaster.
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Imprimisque hominis est propria veri inquisitio atque investigatio.
The first duty of man is the seeking after and the investigation of truth.
De Officiis I., 4, 18. In Thomas Benfield Harbottle, Dictionary of Quotations (classical) (3rd Ed., 1906), 98.
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In primis, hominis est propria VERI inquisitio atque investigato. Itaque cum sumus negotiis necessariis, curisque vacui, tum avemus aliquid videre, audire, ac dicere, cognitionemque rerum, aut occultarum aut admirabilium, ad benè beatéque vivendum necessariam ducimus; —ex quo intelligitur, quod VERUM, simplex, sincerumque sit, id esse naturæ hominis aptissimum. Huic veri videndi cupiditati adjuncta est appetitio quædam principatûs, ut nemini parere animus benè a naturâ informatus velit, nisi præcipienti, aut docenti, aut utilitatis causâ justè et legitimè imperanti: ex quo animi magnitudo existit, et humanarum rerum contemtio.
Before all other things, man is distinguished by his pursuit and investigation of TRUTH. And hence, when free from needful business and cares, we delight to see, to hear, and to communicate, and consider a knowledge of many admirable and abstruse things necessary to the good conduct and happiness of our lives: whence it is clear that whatsoever is TRUE, simple, and direct, the same is most congenial to our nature as men. Closely allied with this earnest longing to see and know the truth, is a kind of dignified and princely sentiment which forbids a mind, naturally well constituted, to submit its faculties to any but those who announce it in precept or in doctrine, or to yield obedience to any orders but such as are at once just, lawful, and founded on utility. From this source spring greatness of mind and contempt of worldly advantages and troubles.
In De Officiis, Book 1. Sect. 13. As given in epigraph to John Frederick William Herschel, A Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1830), viii.
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In primis, hominis est propria VERI inquisitio atque investigato.
Before all other things, man is distinguished by his pursuit and investigation of TRUTH.
In De Officiis, Book 1. Sect. 13. As given in epigraph to John Frederick William Herschel, A Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1830), viii. This is the start of a longer quote on the Cicero quotes page.
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In scientia veritas, in arte honestas.
In science truth, in art honour.
Anonymous
In Jon R. Stone, The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations (2005), 170.
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Indiana Jones: Archaeology is the search for fact… not truth. If it’s truth you're looking for, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall. … So forget any ideas you've got about lost cities, exotic travel, and digging up the world. We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and “X” never, ever marks the spot. Seventy percent of all archaeology is done in the library. Research. Reading.
Spoken by actor Harrison Ford as character Indiana Jones in movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
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L'imagination au contraire qui tend à nous porter continuellement au-delà du vrai, l'amour-propre et la confiance en nous-mêmes, qu'il sait si bien nous inspirer, nous sollicitent à tirer des conséquences qui ne dérivent pas immédiatement des faits.
Imagination, on the contrary, which is ever wandering beyond the bounds of truth, joined to self-love and that self-confidence we are so apt to indulge, prompt us to draw conclusions which are not immediately derived from facts.
From the original French in Traité élémentaire de chimie (1789, 1793), discours préliminaire, ix; and from edition translated into English by Robert Kerr, as Elements of Chemistry (1790), Preface, xvii.
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La determination de la relation & de la dépendance mutuelle de ces données dans certains cas particuliers, doit être le premier but du Physicien; & pour cet effet, il falloit one mesure exacte qui indiquât d’une manière invariable & égale dans tous les lieux de la terre, le degré de l'électricité au moyen duquel les expéiences ont été faites… Aussi, l'histoire de l'électricité prouve une vérité suffisamment reconnue; c'est que le Physicien sans mesure ne fait que jouer, & qu'il ne diffère en cela des enfans, que par la nature de son jeu & la construction de ses jouets.
The determination of the relationship and mutual dependence of the facts in particular cases must be the first goal of the Physicist; and for this purpose he requires that an exact measurement may be taken in an equally invariable manner anywhere in the world… Also, the history of electricity yields a well-known truth—that the physicist shirking measurement only plays, different from children only in the nature of his game and the construction of his toys.
'Mémoire sur la mesure de force de l'électricité', Journal de Physique (1782), 21, 191. English version by Google Translate tweaked by Webmaster.
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La science, mon garçon, est faite d’erreurs, mais d’erreurs qu’il est bon de commettre, car elles mènent peu à peu à la vérité.
Science, my boy, is composed of errors, but errors that it is right to make, for they lead step by step to the truth.
Journey to the Centre of the Earth, translated by William Butcher (1992, 2008), 146.
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La verità fu sola figliola del tenpo.
Truth was the only daughter of Time.
From manuscript original “Moto, colpo,” 58b, editted and translated by Jean Paul Richter (ed.) compiled in 'Philosphical Maxims, Morals, Polemics and Speculations' The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci (1883), Vol. 2, 288, Maxim No. 1152.
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La vérité est sur une courbe dont notre ésprit suit éternellement l'asymptote. (Oct 1879)
Truth is on a curve whose asymptote our spirit follows eternally.
In Recueil d'Œuvres de Léo Errera: Botanique Générale (1908), 193. As translated in John Arthur Thomson, Introduction to Science (1911), 57,
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La vérité ne diffère de l'erreur qu'en deux points: elle est un peu plus difficile à prouver et beaucoup plus difficile à faire admettre. (Dec 1880)
Truth is different from error in two respects: it is a little harder to prove and more difficult to admit.
In Recueil d'Œuvres de Léo Errera: Botanique Générale (1908), 193. Google translation by Webmaster.
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Le paradoxe, c'est de la graine de vérité. Il suffit d'un terrain propice pour que cela germe, fleurisse et fructifie.
The paradox is the seed of truth. This germ just needs a fertile ground to flourish and bear fruit.
In Recueil d'Œuvres de Léo Errera: Botanique Générale (1908), 198. Google translation by Webmaster.
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Les faits scientifiques, et à fortiori, les lois sont l’œuvre artificielle du savant ; la science ne peut donc rien nous apprendre de la vérité, elle ne peut nous servir que de règle d’action.
The facts of science and, à fortiori, its laws are the artificial work of the scientist; science therefore can teach us nothing of the truth; it can only serve us as rule of action.
In La Valeur de la Science (1904), 214, translated by George Bruce Halsted, in The Value of Science (1907), 112.
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Mathematical truth has validity independent of place, personality, or human authority. Mathematical relations are not established, nor can they be abrogated, by edict. The multiplication table is international and permanent, not a matter of convention nor of relying upon authority of state or church. The value of π is not amenable to human caprice. The finding of a mathematical theorem may have been a highly romantic episode in the personal life of the discoverer, but it cannot be expected of itself to reveal the race, sex, or temperament of this discoverer. With modern means of widespread communication even mathematical notation tends to be international despite all nationalistic tendencies in the use of words or of type.
Anonymous
In 'Light Thrown on the Nature of Mathematics by Certain Aspects of Its Development', Mathematics in General Education (1940), 256. This is the Report of the Committee on the Function of Mathematics in General Education of the Commission on Secondary School Curriculum, which was established by the Executive Board of the Progressive Education Association in 1932.
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Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason—Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half knowledge.
Letter to George and Thomas Keats (21 Dec 1817). In H. E. Rollins (ed.), Letters of John Keats (1958), Vol. 1, 193-4.
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N’oublions pas non plus qu’il ne saurait exister pour la science des vérités acquises.
Nor must we forget that in science there are no final truths.
Original French in Mythologiques, Vol. 1, Le Cru et le Cuit (1964), 15. As translated by John and Doreen Weightman, The Raw and the Cooked (1969, 1990), 7.
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Qui est de nous & qui seul peut nous égarer; à le mettre continuellement à épreuve de l'expérience; à ne conserver que les faits qui ne font que des données de la nature , & qui ne peuvent nous tromper; à ne chercher la vérité que dans l'enchaînement naturel des expériences & des observations
We must trust to nothing but facts: These are presented to us by Nature, and cannot deceive. We ought, in every instance, to submit our reasoning to the test of experiment, and never to search for truth but by the natural road of experiment and observation.
From the original French in Traité élémentaire de chimie (1789, 1793), discours préliminaire, x; and from edition translated into English by Robert Kerr, as Elements of Chemistry (1790), Preface, xviii.
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Salviati: …Now you see how easy it is to understand.
Sagredo: So are all truths, once they are discovered; the point is in being able to discover them.
[Commonly seen merged in a paraphrase as: All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.]
Lines of two characters in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632), as translated by S. Drake (1967). As quoted and cited in Barnaby Sheppard, The Logic of Infinity (2014), 398 & 440 footnote. Galileo’s work is written as a series of dialogues over four days between Salviati (supporting the Copernican system), Sagredo (a neutral layman) and Simplicio (supporting the Ptolemaic system).
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Scientia nihil aliud est quam veritatis imago
Science is but an image of the truth.
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 383:3.
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Simplex non sigillum veri.
Simplicity is no sign of truth.
Eijkman’s motto, and the title of a lecture he gave late in his career. As stated in Alfred Jay Bollet, in Plagues & Poxes: The Rise and Fall of Epidemic Disease (1987), 77. This contrasts with the much-quoted motto of Herman Boerhaave, “simplex sigillum veri” (simplicity is the sign of truth).
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Simplex sigillum veri.
Simplicity is the sign of truth.
Favorite motto. Inscription on a monument to Boerhaave at the church of St. Peter, Leyden, Holland. In 'Memoirs of Boerhaave', The Literary Magazine, and American Register (1 Sep 1807), 8, 67.
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Simplicibus itaque verbis gaudet Mathematica Veritas, cum etiam per se simplex sit Veritatis oratio. (So Mathematical Truth prefers simple words since the language of Truth is itself simple.)
Epistolarum astronomicarum liber primus (1596)
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Temporis filia veritas; cui me obstetricari non pudet.
Truth is the daughter of time, and I feel no shame in being her midwife.
Opening remark from 'Narratio de observatis a se quatuor Jovis satellitibus erronibus, quos Galilaeus Galilaeus Mathematicus Florentinus jure inventionis medicaea sidera nuncupavit' (Account of personal observations of the four moving satellites of Jupiter, which Florentine Mathematician Galileo Galilei had the right of discovery to Name as the Medicicaean Stars) (observed 30 Aug 1610, written 11 Sep 1610, printed about Oct 1610) in which he confirmed having seen the things announced by Galileo in Mar 1610. Collected in Cav. Giambatista Venturi, Memorie e Lettere Inedite Finora o Disperse di Galileo Galilei (Memoirs and Letters, Previously Unpublished or Missing, of Galileo Galilei) (1811), Vol 1, 144.
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The Word Reason in the English Language has different Significances: sometimes it is taken for true, and clear Principles: Sometimes for clear, and fair deductions from those Principles: and sometimes for Cause, and particularly the final Cause: but the Consideration I shall have of it here, is in a Signification different from all these; and that is, as it stands for a Faculty of Man, That Faculty, whereby Man is supposed to be distinguished from Beasts; and wherein it is evident he much surpasses them.
In 'Of Reason', Essay Concerning Humane Understanding (1690), Book 4, Ch. 17, Sec. 1, 341.
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Thomasina: Every week I plot your equations dot for dot, x’s against y’s in all manner of algebraical relation, and every week they draw themselves as commonplace geometry, as if the world of forms were nothing but arcs and angles. God’s truth, Septimus, if there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose? Do we believe nature is written in numbers?
Septimus: We do.
Thomasina: Then why do your shapes describe only the shapes of manufacture?
Septimus: I do not know.
Thomasina: Armed thus, God could only make a cabinet.
In the play, Acadia (1993), Scene 3, 37.
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To the Memory of Fourier
Fourier! with solemn and profound delight,
Joy born of awe, but kindling momently
To an intense and thrilling ecstacy,
I gaze upon thy glory and grow bright:
As if irradiate with beholden light;
As if the immortal that remains of thee
Attuned me to thy spirit’s harmony,
Breathing serene resolve and tranquil might.
Revealed appear thy silent thoughts of youth,
As if to consciousness, and all that view
Prophetic, of the heritage of truth
To thy majestic years of manhood due:
Darkness and error fleeing far away,
And the pure mind enthroned in perfect day.
In R. Graves, Life of W. R. Hamilton (1882), Vol. l, 696.
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Truth then seems to me, in the proper import of the Word, to signifie nothing but the joining or separating of Signs, as the Things signified by them do agree or disagree one with another; which way of joining or separating of Signs, we call Proposition. So that Truth properly belongs only to Propositions: whereof there are two sorts, viz. Mental and Verbal; as there are two sorts of Signs commonly made use of, viz. Ideas and Words.
In 'Truth in General', Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), book 4, ch. 5, sec. 2, 289.
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[About Sir Roderick Impey Murchison:] The enjoyments of elegant life you early chose to abandon, preferring to wander for many successive years over the rudest portions of Europe and Asia—regions new to Science—in the hope, happily realized, of winning new truths.
By a rare union of favourable circumstances, and of personal qualifications equally rare, you have thus been enabled to become the recognized Interpreter and Historian (not without illustrious aid) of the Silurian Period.
Dedication page in Thesaurus Siluricus: The Flora and Fauna of the Silurian Period (1868), iv.
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A definition of what we mean by “probability”. … The German Dictionary by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm gives us detailed information: The Latin term “probabilis”, we are told, was at one time translated by “like truth”, or, by “with an appearance of truth” (“mit einem Schein der Wahrheit”). Only since the middle of the seventeenth century has it been rendered by “wahrscheinlich” (lit. truth-resembling).
In Probability, Statistics, and Truth (1939, 2nd. ed., 1957), 2.
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A fool must now and then be right, by chance
In 'Conversation' (published 1782). In William Cowper and Humphrey Sumner Milford (ed.), The Complete Poetical Works of William Cowper (1905), 92.
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A game is on, at the other end of this infinite distance, and heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason you cannot leave either; according to reason you cannot leave either undone... Yes, but wager you must; there is no option, you have embarked on it. So which will you have. Come. Since you must choose, let us see what concerns you least. You have two things to lose: truth and good, and two things to stake: your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness. And your nature has two things to shun: error and misery. Your reason does not suffer by your choosing one more than the other, for you must choose. That is one point cleared. But your happiness? Let us weigh gain and loss in calling heads that God is. Reckon these two chances: if you win, you win all; if you lose, you lose naught. Then do not hesitate, wager that He is.
Pensées (1670), Section I, aphorism 223. In H. F. Stewart (ed.), Pascal's Pensées (1950), 117-119.
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A good theoretical physicist today might find it useful to have a wide range of physical viewpoints and mathematical expressions of the same theory (for example, of quantum electrodynamics) available to him. This may be asking too much of one man. Then new students should as a class have this. If every individual student follows the same current fashion in expressing and thinking about electrodynamics or field theory, then the variety of hypotheses being generated to understand strong interactions, say, is limited. Perhaps rightly so, for possibly the chance is high that the truth lies in the fashionable direction. But, on the off-chance that it is in another direction—a direction obvious from an unfashionable view of field theory—who will find it?
In his Nobel Prize Lecture (11 Dec 1965), 'The Development of the Space-Time View of Quantum Electrodynamics'. Collected in Stig Lundqvist, Nobel Lectures: Physics, 1963-1970 (1998), 177.
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A great man, [who] was convinced that the truths of political and moral science are capable of the same certainty as those that form the system of physical science, even in those branches like astronomy that seem to approximate mathematical certainty.
He cherished this belief, for it led to the consoling hope that humanity would inevitably make progress toward a state of happiness and improved character even as it has already done in its knowledge of the truth.
Describing administrator and economist Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot in Essai sur l’application de l’analyse à la probabilité des décisions rendues à la pluralité des voix (1785), i. Cited epigraph in Charles Coulston Gillispie, Science and Polity in France: The End of the Old Regime (2004), 3
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A great truth is a truth whose opposite is also a great truth.
Essay on Freud (1937). Quoted in Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne and John Archibald Wheeler, Gravitation (1973), 1208.
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A little science is something that they must have. I should like my nephews to know what air is, and water; why we breathe, and why wood burns; the nutritive elements essential to plant life, and the constituents of the soil. And it is no vague and imperfect knowledge from hearsay I would have them gain of these fundamental truths, on which depend agriculture and the industrial arts and our health itself; I would have them know these things thoroughly from their own observation and experience. Books here are insufficient, and can serve merely as aids to scientific experiment.
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A man avails himself of the truth so long as it is serviceable; but he seizes on what is false with a passionate eloquence as soon as he can make a momentary use of it; whether it be to dazzle others with it as a kind of half-truth, or to employ it as a stopgap for effecting all apparent union between things that have been disjointed.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 193.
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A man may be in as just possession of truth as of a city, and yet be forced to surrender.
In T. Chapman (ed.), Religio Medici (1643, 1831), part 1, sect. 6, 11.
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A man of science rises ever, in seeking truth; and if he never finds it in its wholeness, he discovers nevertheless very significant fragments; and these fragments of universal truth are precisely what constitutes science.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 222.
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A man who is convinced of the truth of his religion is indeed never tolerant. At the least, he is to feel pity for the adherent of another religion but usually it does not stop there. The faithful adherent of a religion will try first of all to convince those that believe in another religion and usually he goes on to hatred if he is not successful. However, hatred then leads to persecution when the might of the majority is behind it.
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A mathematical problem should be difficult in order to entice us, yet not completely inaccessible, lest it mock at our efforts. It should be to us a guide post on the mazy paths to hidden truths, and ultimately a reminder of our pleasure in the successful solution.
In Mathematical Problems', Bulletin American Mathematical Society, 8, 438.
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A mathematical truth is timeless, it does not come into being when we discover it. Yet its discovery is a very real event, it may be an emotion like a great gift from a fairy.
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A mathematician may say anything he pleases, but a physicist must be at least partially sane.
Attributed. Cited in R. B. Lindsay, 'On the Relation of Mathematics and Physics', The Scientific Monthly, Dec 1944, 59, 456.
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A men whose every word is nothing but the truth is not a human being but a god! Gods do not die, whereas Aristotle is lying in a grave now.
From the play Galileo Galilei (2001) .
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A mere inference or theory must give way to a truth revealed; but a scientific truth must be maintained, however contradictory it may appear to the most cherished doctrines of religion.
More Worlds Than One: The Creed of the Philosopher and the Hope of the Christian (1856), 132.
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A mind not wholly wishful to reach the truth, or to rest it in or obey it when found, is to that extent a mind impervious to truth an incapable of unbiased belief.
Recent Theistic Discussion: the twentieth series of Croall Lectures (1921), 78. In The Homiletic Review, Vol. 83-84 (1922), Vol. 84, 290.
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A new truth is a truth, an old error is an error.
In Poor Richard's Almanack (1734).
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A person by study must try to disengage the subject from useless matter, and to seize on points capable of improvement. ... When subjects are viewed through the mists of prejudice, useful truths may escape.
In An Essay on Aërial Navigation, With Some Observations on Ships (1844), 80.
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A poem in my opinion, is opposed to a work of science by having for its immediate object, pleasure, not truth.
'Letter to B——— ———', in Southern Literary Messenger (Jul 1836). Quoted in Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (1917), 169, and Appendix, 311. According to different commentators, B——— may be merely a fictional character, or Bulwer-Lyton, or the publisher Elam Bliss.
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A political law or a scientific truth may be perilous to the morals or the faith of individuals; but it cannot on this ground be resisted by the Church. … A discovery may be made in science which will shake the faith of thousands; yet religion cannot regret it or object to it. The difference in this respect between a true and a false religion is, that one judges all things by the standard of their truth, the other by the touchstone of its own interests. A false religion fears the progress of all truth; a true religion seeks and recognises truth wherever it can be found.
From 'Cardinal Wiseman and the Home and Foreign Review' (1862), collected in John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton Baron Acton, John Neville Figgis (ed.) and Reginald Vere Laurence (ed.), The History of Freedom and Other Essays (1907), 449-450. The Darwinian controversy was at its height when this was written.
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A principle of induction would be a statement with the help of which we could put inductive inferences into a logically acceptable form. In the eyes of the upholders of inductive logic, a principle of induction is of supreme importance for scientific method: “... this principle”, says Reichenbach, “determines the truth of scientific theories. To eliminate it from science would mean nothing less than to deprive science of the power to decide the truth or falsity of its theories. Without it, clearly, science would no longer have the right to distinguish its theories from the fanciful and arbitrary creations of the poet’s mind.” Now this principle of induction cannot be a purely logical truth like a tautology or an analytic statement. Indeed, if there were such a thing as a purely logical principle of induction, there would be no problem of induction; for in this case, all inductive inferences would have to be regarded as purely logical or tautological transformations, just like inferences in inductive logic. Thus the principle of induction must be a synthetic statement; that is, a statement whose negation is not self-contradictory but logically possible. So the question arises why such a principle should be accepted at all, and how we can justify its acceptance on rational grounds.
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A scientifically unimportant discovery is one which, however true and however interesting for other reasons, has no consequences for a system of theory with which scientists in that field are concerned.
The Structure of Social Action (1937), Vol. 1, 7.
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A scientist has to be neutral in his search for the truth, but he cannot be neutral as to the use of that truth when found. If you know more than other people, you have more responsibility, rather than less.
Attributed as a quote, without citation, in J. Robert Moskin, Morality in America (1966), 61. Please contact webmaster if you know a primary print source.
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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 subtle thought that is in error may yet give rise to fruitful inquiry that can establish truths of great value.
In Steven D. Price, 1001 Smartest Things Ever Said (2005), 163.
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A truer image of the world, I think, is obtained by picturing things as entering into the stream of time from an eternal world outside, than from a view which regards time as the devouring tyrant of all that is.
Essay, 'Mysticism and Logic' in Hibbert Journal (Jul 1914). Collected in Mysticism and Logic: And Other Essays (1919), 21.
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About eight days ago I discovered that sulfur in burning, far from losing weight, on the contrary, gains it; it is the same with phosphorus; this increase of weight arises from a prodigious quantity of air that is fixed during combustion and combines with the vapors. This discovery, which I have established by experiments, that I regard as decisive, has led me to think that what is observed in the combustion of sulfur and phosphorus may well take place in the case of all substances that gain in weight by combustion and calcination; and I am persuaded that the increase in weight of metallic calxes is due to the same cause... This discovery seems to me one of the most interesting that has been made since Stahl and since it is difficult not to disclose something inadvertently in conversation with friends that could lead to the truth I have thought it necessary to make the present deposit to the Secretary of the Academy to await the time I make my experiments public.
Sealed note deposited with the Secretary of the French Academy 1 Nov 1772. Oeuvres de Lavoisier, Correspondance, Fasc. II. 1770-75 (1957), 389-90. Adapted from translation by A. N. Meldrum, The Eighteenth-Century Revolution in Science (1930), 3.
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Abstruse mathematical researches … are … often abused for having no obvious physical application. The fact is that the most useful parts of science have been investigated for the sake of truth, and not for their usefulness. A new branch of mathematics, which has sprung up in the last twenty years, was denounced by the Astronomer Royal before the University of Cambridge as doomed to be forgotten, on account of its uselessness. Now it turns out that the reason why we cannot go further in our investigations of molecular action is that we do not know enough of this branch of mathematics.
In 'Conditions of Mental Development', Lectures and Essays (1901), Vol. 1, 115.
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According to the theory of aerodynamics, as may be readily demonstrated through wind tunnel experiments, the bumblebee is unable to fly. This is because the size, weight and shape of his body in relation to the total wingspread make flying impossible. But the bumblebee, being ignorant of these scientific truths, goes ahead and flies anyway—and makes a little honey every day.
Anonymous
Sign in a General Motors Corporation factory. As quoted in Ralph L. Woods, The Businessman's Book of Quotations (1951), 249-50. Cited in Suzy Platt (ed)., Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989), 118.
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Active experimentation must force the apparent facts of nature into forms different to those in which they familiarly present themselves; and thus make them tell the truth about themselves, as torture may compel an unwilling witness to reveal what he has been concealing.
In Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920), 32.
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After that, I thought about what a proposition generally needs in order to be true and certain because, since I had just found one that I knew was such, I thought I should also know what this certainty consists in. Having noticed that there is nothing at all in the proposition “I think, therefore I am” [cogito ergo sum] which convinces me that I speak the truth, apart from the fact that I see very clearly that one has to exist in order to think, I judged that I could adopt as a general rule that those things we conceive very clearly and distinctly are all true. The only outstanding difficulty is in recognizing which ones we conceive distinctly.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 4, 25.
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All err the more dangerously because each follows a truth. Their mistake lies not in following a falsehood but in not following another truth.
From Pensées, as translated in W.H. Auden and L. Kronenberger (eds.) The Viking Book of Aphorisms (1966), 325. From the original French, “Tous errent d'autant plus dangereusement qu’ils suivent chacun une vérité. Leur faute n’est pas de suivre une fausseté, mais de ne pas suivre une autre vérité,” in Oeuvres Complètes (1864), Vol. 1, 363.
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All great truths begin as blasphemies.
Spoken by the character the Grand Duchess in the play Annajanska, collected in Heartbreak House, Great Catherine, and Playlets of the War (1919), 262.
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All human discoveries seem to be made only for the purpose of confirming more strongly the truths come from on high, and contained in the sacred writings.
Quoted in Marcel de Serres, 'On the Physical Facts in the Bible Compared with the Discoveries of the Modern Sciences', The Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal (1845), Vol. 38, 260.
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All knowledge and understanding of the Universe was no more than playing with stones and shells on the seashore of the vast imponderable ocean of truth.
…...
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All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee;
All Chance, Direction, which thou canst not see;
All Discord, Harmony, not understood;
All partial Evil, universal Good:
And, spite of Pride, in erring Reason’s spite,
One truth is clear, “Whatever IS, is RIGHT.”
'An Essay on Man' (1733-4), Epistle I. In John Butt (ed.), The Poems of Alexander Pope (1965), 515.
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All our knowledge has been built communally; there would be no astrophysics, there would be no history, there would not even be language, if man were a solitary animal. What follows? It follows that we must be able to rely on other people; we must be able to trust their word. That is, it follows that there is a principle, which binds society together because without it the individual would be helpless to tell the truth from the false. This principle is truthfulness.
In Lecture at M.I.T. (19 Mar 1953), collected in 'The Sense of Human Dignity', Science and Human Values (1956, 1990), 57.
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All possible truth is practical. To ask whether our conception of chair or table corresponds to the real chair or table apart from the uses to which they may be put, is as utterly meaningless and vain as to inquire whether a musical tone is red or yellow. No other conceivable relation than this between ideas and things can exist. The unknowable is what I cannot react upon. The active part of our nature is not only an essential part of cognition itself, but it always has a voice in determining what shall be believed and what rejected.
The Muscular Perception of Space (1878), 446.
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All Pretences of foretelling by Astrology, are Deceits; for this manifest Reason, because the Wise and Learned, who can only judge whether there be any Truth in this Science, do all unanimously agree to laugh at and despise it; and none but the poor ignorant Vulgar give it any Credit.
'An Account of the Death of Mr. Patrige' (1708), collected in The Works of Jonathan Swift (1746), Vol. 1, 124.
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All science has God as its author and giver. Much is heard of the conflict between science and religion, and of the contrast between sacred and secular. There may be aspects of truth to which religion is the gate, as indeed there are aspects of truth to which particular sciences are the gate. But if there be a Creator, and if truth be one of his attributes, then everything that is true can claim his authorship, and every search for truth can claim his authority.
In Margaret Duggan (ed.), Through the Year with Michael Ramsey: Devotional Readings for Every Day (1975).
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All the truths of mathematics are linked to each other, and all means of discovering them are equally admissible.
In article by Jean Itard, 'Legendre, Adrien-Marie', in Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1973), Vol. 8, 142.
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All these delusions of Divination have their root and foundation from Astrology. For whether the lineaments of the body, countenance, or hand be inspected, whether dream or vision be seen, whether marking of entrails or mad inspiration be consulted, there must be a Celestial Figure first erected, by the means of whole indications, together with the conjectures of Signs and Similitudes, they endeavour to find out the truth of what is desired.
In The Vanity of the Arts and Sciences (1530), translation (1676), 108.
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All true science must aim at objective truth, and that means that the human observer must never allow himself to get emotionally mixed up with his subject-matter. His concern is to understand the universe, not to improve it. Detachment is obligatory.
From transcript of BBC radio Reith Lecture (12 Nov 1967), 'A Runaway World', on the bbc.co.uk website.
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All truth is a shadow except the last—yet every Truth is true in its kind. It is substance in its own place, though it be but a shadow in another place, (for it is but a shadow from an intenser substance;) and the shadow is a true shadow, as the substance is a true substance.
The Life of a Christian (1653), first page (unnumbered). In Elizabeth Waterhouse, et al., A Little Book of Life and Death (1902), 145.
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All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. [Caution: expressed in this wording, it is likely misattributed.]
Schopenhauer did write a different reflection with this theme, much less tersely, on how the acceptance of truth has “only one short victory celebration is granted between the two long periods where it is despised as paradox and condemned as trivial.” See the Introduction to The World as Will and Representation (1819), xvi. The “three stages” quote is included here so it may be found with this caution: it is questionable that Schopenhauer expressed this idea with this wording. Although widely repeated, Webmaster has not yet found any citation to a primary source for these words. (Schopenhauer was German, so any quote in English represents a translation.) According to Ralph Keys, diligent search by scholars has found no written source in German, either. The sentiment has been variously restated and attributed to other authors. A somewhat better-documented version of the “three stages of truth” is attributed to Louis Agassiz, though still with only second-person references. See Ralph Keyes, The Quote Verifier (2006), 225-226.
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All truths wait in all things,
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon.
In Leaves of Grass (1855), 34.
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Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beaut y, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated.
…...
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Although this may seem a paradox, all exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation. When a man tells you that he knows the exact truth about anything, you are safe in infering that he is an inexact man. Every careful measurement in science is always given with the probable error ... every observer admits that he is likely wrong, and knows about how much wrong he is likely to be.
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), 42.
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Although with the majority of those who study and practice in these capacities [engineers, builders, surveyors, geographers, navigators, hydrographers, astronomers], secondhand acquirements, trite formulas, and appropriate tables are sufficient for ordinary purposes, yet these trite formulas and familiar rules were originally or gradually deduced from the profound investigations of the most gifted minds, from the dawn of science to the present day. … The further developments of the science, with its possible applications to larger purposes of human utility and grander theoretical generalizations, is an achievement reserved for a few of the choicest spirits, touched from time to time by Heaven to these highest issues. The intellectual world is filled with latent and undiscovered truth as the material world is filled with latent electricity.
In Orations and Speeches, Vol. 3 (1870), 513.
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Among all highly civilized peoples the golden age of art has always been closely coincident with the golden age of the pure sciences, particularly with mathematics, the most ancient among them.
This coincidence must not be looked upon as accidental, but as natural, due to an inner necessity. Just as art can thrive only when the artist, relieved of the anxieties of existence, can listen to the inspirations of his spirit and follow in their lead, so mathematics, the most ideal of the sciences, will yield its choicest blossoms only when life’s dismal phantom dissolves and fades away, when the striving after naked truth alone predominates, conditions which prevail only in nations while in the prime of their development.
From Die Entwickelung der Mathematik im Zusammenhange mit der Ausbreitung der Kultur (1893), 4. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 191-192. From the original German, “Bei allen Kulturvölkern ist die Blüthezeit der Kunst auch immer zeitlich eng verbunden mit einer Blüthezeit der reinen Wissenschaften, insbesondere der ältesten unter ihnen, der Mathematik.
Dieses Zusammentreffen dürfte auch nicht ein zufälliges, sondern ein natürliches, ein Ergebniss innerer Notwendigkeit sein. Wie die Kunst nur gedeihen kann, wenn der Künstler, unbekümmert um die Bedrängnisse des Daseins, den Eingebungen seines Geistes lauschen und ihnen folgen kann, so kann die idealste Wissenschaft, die Mathematik, erst dann ihre schönsten Blüthen treiben, wenn des Erdenlebens schweres Traumbild sinkt und sinkt und sinkt, wenn das Streben nach der nackten Wahrheit allein bestimmend ist, was nur bei Nationen in der Vollkraft ihrer Entwickelung vorkommt.”
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An error is the more dangerous in proportion to the degree of truth which it contains.
Entry for 26 Dec 1852 in Amiel’s Journal: The Journal Intime of Henri-Frédéric Amiel, trans. Humphry Ward (1893), 34.
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And science, we should insist, better than other discipline, can hold up to its students and followers an ideal of patient devotion to the search to objective truth, with vision unclouded by personal or political motive, not tolerating any lapse from precision or neglect of any anomaly, fearing only prejudice and preconception, accepting nature’s answers humbly and with courage, and giving them to the world with an unflinching fidelity. The world cannot afford to lose such a contribution to the moral framework of its civilisation.
Concluding statements of Pilgrim Trust Lecture (22 Oct 1946) delivered at National Academy of Science Washington, DC. Published in 'The Freedom of Science', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (25 Feb 1947), 91, No. 1, 72.
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And so the great truth, now a paradox, may become a commonplace, that man is greater than his surroundings, and that the production of a breed of men and women, even in our great cities, less prone to disease, and pain, more noble in aspect, more rational in habits, more exultant in the pure joy of living, is not only scientifically possible, but that even the partial fulfillment of this dream, if dream it be, is the most worthy object towards which the lover of his kind can devote the best energies of his life.
In 'The Breed of Man', The Nineteenth Century, (Oct 1900), 669, as collected in Martin Polley (ed.), The History of Sport in Britain, 1880-1914: Sport, Education, and Improvement (2004), Vol. 2, 181.
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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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Another error is a conceit that … the best has still prevailed and suppressed the rest: so as, if a man should begin the labor of a new search, he were but like to light upon somewhat formerly rejected, and by rejection brought into oblivion; as if the multitude, or the wisest for the multitude’s sake, were not ready to give passage rather to that which is popular and superficial, than to that which is substantial and profound: for the truth is, that time seemeth to be of the nature of a river or stream, which carrieth down to us that which is light and blown up, and sinketh and drowneth that which is weighty and solid.
Advancement of Learning, Book 1. Collected in The Works of Francis Bacon (1826), Vol 1, 36.
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Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.
…...
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Apart from blunt truth, our lives sink decadently amid the perfume of hints and suggestions.
In Adventures of Ideas (1933), 321.
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Aristotle discovered all the half-truths which were necessary to the creation of science.
From Dialogue XLII in Alfred North Whitehead and Lucien Price (ed.), Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead (1954, 1977), 344.
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Art has a double face, of expression and illusion, just like science has a double face: the reality of error and the phantom of truth.
'The Lie of the Truth'. (1938) translated by Phil Powrie (1989). In Carol A. Dingle, Memorable Quotations (2000), 61.
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As a graduate student at Columbia University, I remember the a priori derision of my distinguished stratigraphy professor toward a visiting Australian drifter ... Today my own students would dismiss with even more derision anyone who denied the evident truth of continental drift–a prophetic madman is at least amusing; a superannuated fuddy-duddy is merely pitiful.
…...
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As children we all possess a natural, uninhibited curiosity, a hunger for explanation, which seems to die slowly as we age—suppressed, I suppose, by the high value we place on conformity and by the need not to appear ignorant.
It betokens a conviction that somehow science is innately incomprehensible. It precludes reaching deeper, thereby denying the profound truth that understanding enriches experience, that explanation vastly enhances the beauty of the natural world in the eye of the beholder.
In Toward the Habit of Truth (1990).
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As for the search for truth, I know from my own painful searching, with its many blind alleys, how hard it is to take a reliable step, be it ever so small, towards the understanding of that which is truly significant.
Letter to an interested layman (13 Feb 1934). In Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Albert Einstein: The Human Side: New Glipses From His Archives (1981), 18.
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As for what I have done as a poet, I take no pride in whatever. Excellent poets have lived at the same time with me, poets more excellent lived before me, and others will come after me. But that in my country I am the only person who knows the truth in the difficult science of colors—of that, I say, I am not a little proud, and here have a consciousness of superiority to many.
Wed 18 Feb 1829. Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe, ed. J. K. Moorhead and trans. J. Oxenford, (1971), 302.
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As in Mathematicks, so in Natural Philosophy, the Investigation of difficult Things by the Method of Analysis, ought ever to precede the Method of Composition. This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy.
From Opticks, (1704, 2nd ed. 1718), Book 3, Query 31, 380.
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As in the experimental sciences, truth cannot be distinguished from error as long as firm principles have not been established through the rigorous observation of facts.
Ésur la maladie des vers ásoie (1870), 39.
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As Love is too young to know what conscience is, so Truth and Genius are too old to know what definition is.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 221.
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As pure truth is the polar star of our science [mathematics], so it is the great advantage of our science over others that it awakens more easily the love of truth in our pupils. … If Hegel justly said, “Whoever does not know the works of the ancients, has lived without knowing beauty,” Schellbach responds with equal right, “Who does not know mathematics, and the results of recent scientific investigation, dies without knowing truth.”
Max Simon
From Didaktik und Methodik des Rechnens und der Mathematik (1908), 37. As quoted and translated in J.W.A. Young, Teaching of Mathematics in the Elementary and the Secondary School (1907), 44. From the original German, “Wenn Hegel mit Recht sagt: ‘Wer die Werke der Alten nicht kennt, der hat gelebt, ohne die Schönheit gekannt zu haben’, so erwidert Schellbach mit nicht minderem Recht: ‘Wer die Math. und die Resultate der neueren Naturforschung nicht gekannt hat, der stirbt, ohne die Wahrheit zu kennen.’”
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As regards authority I so proceed. Boetius says in the second prologue to his Arithmetic, “If an inquirer lacks the four parts of mathematics, he has very little ability to discover truth.” And again, “Without this theory no one can have a correct insight into truth.” And he says also, “I warn the man who spurns these paths of knowledge that he cannot philosophize correctly.” And Again, “It is clear that whosoever passes these by, has lost the knowledge of all learning.”
Opus Majus [1266-1268], Part IV, distinction I, chapter I, trans. R. B. Burke, The Opus Majus of Roger Bacon (1928), Vol. I, 117.
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As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand.
…...
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As soon as the circumstances of an experiment are well known, we stop gathering statistics. … The effect will occur always without exception, because the cause of the phenomena is accurately defined. Only when a phenomenon includes conditions as yet undefined,Only when a phenomenon includes conditions as yet undefined, can we compile statistics. … we must learn therefore that we compile statistics only when we cannot possibly help it; for in my opinion, statistics can never yield scientific truth.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 134-137.
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As to the Christian religion, Sir, … there is a balance in its favor from the number of great men who have been convinced of its truth after a serious consideration of the question. Grotius was an acute man, a lawyer, a man accustomed to examine evidence, and he was convinced. Grotius was not a recluse, but a man of the world, who surely had no bias on the side of religion. Sir Isaac Newton set out an infidel, and came to be a very firm believer.
(1763). In George Birkbeck Hill (ed.), Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1799), Vol. 1, 524.
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As true as steel, as plantage to the moon,
As sun to day, at turtle to her mate,
As iron to adamant, as earth to centre.
Character Troilus speaking to Cressida, in play Troilus and Cressida (c.1601), Act 3, lines 352-354. In Troilus and Cressida (1811), 72.
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As we conquer peak after peak we see in front of us regions full of interest and beauty, but we do not see our goal, wo do not see the horizon; in the distance tower still higher peaks, which will yield to those who ascend them still wider prospects, and deepen the feeling, the truth of which is emphasised by every advance in science, that “Great are the Works of the Lord.”
In Presidential Address to the British Association, as quoted in Arthur L. Foley, 'Recent Developments in Physical Science, The Popular Science Monthly (1910), 456.
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Astronomy has revealed the great truth that the whole universe is bound together by one all-pervading influence.
God's Glory in the Heavens (1862, 3rd Ed. 1867) 327.
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At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes—an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense.
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1997), 304.
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At the outset do not be worried about this big question—Truth. It is a very simple matter if each one of you starts with the desire to get as much as possible. No human being is constituted to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and even the best of men must be content with fragments, with partial glimpses, never the full fruition. In this unsatisfied quest the attitude of mind, the desire, the thirst—a thirst that from the soul must arise!—the fervent longing, are the be-all and the end-all.
'The Student Life' (1905). In G. L. Keynes (ed.), Selected Writings of Sir William Osler (1951), 172.
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At this point, however, I have no intention whatever of criticizing the false teachings of Galen, who is easily first among the professors of dissection, for I certainly do not wish to start off by gaining a reputation for impiety toward him, the author of all good things, or by seeming insubordinate to his authority. For I am well aware how upset the practitioners (unlike the followers of Aristotle) invariably become nowadays, when they discover in the course of a single dissection that Galen has departed on two hundred or more occasions from the true description of the harmony, function, and action of the human parts, and how grimly they examine the dissected portions as they strive with all the zeal at their command to defend him. Yet even they, drawn by their love of truth, are gradually calming down and placing more faith in their own not ineffective eyes and reason than in Galen’s writings.
From De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem: (1543), Book I, iv, as translated by William Frank Richardson, in On The Fabric of the Human Body: Book I: The Bones and Cartilages (1998), Preface, liv.
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Authority. Man cannot exist without it, and yet it brings in its train just as much of error as of truth. It perpetuates one by one things which should pass away one by one; it rejects that which should be preserved and allows it to pass away; and it is chiefly to blame for mankind’s want of progress.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 188.
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Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.
Quoting from the Quran. Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 238
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Because science flourishes, must poesy decline? The complaint serves but to betray the weakness of the class who urge it. True, in an age like the present,—considerably more scientific than poetical,—science substitutes for the smaller poetry of fiction, the great poetry of truth.
Lecture Second, collected in Popular Geology: A Series of Lectures Read Before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh, with Descriptive Sketches from a Geologist's Portfolio (1859), 123.
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Before Kuhn, most scientists followed the place-a-stone-in-the-bright-temple-of-knowledge tradition, and would have told you that they hoped, above all, to lay many of the bricks, perhaps even the keystone, of truth’s temple. Now most scientists of vision hope to foment revolution. We are, therefore, awash in revolutions, most self-proclaimed.
…...
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Before you tell the ‘truth’ to the patient, be sure you know the ‘truth’ and that the patient wants to hear it.
Chinese proverb.
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Behind and permeating all our scientific activity, whether in critical analysis or in discovery, there is an elementary and overwhelming faith in the possibility of grasping the real world with out concepts, and, above all, faith in the truth over which we have no control but in the service of which our rationality stands or falls. Faith and intrinsic rationality are interlocked with one another
Christian Theology of Scientific Culture (1981), 63. In Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping our World (2008), 187.
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Besides accustoming the student to demand, complete proof, and to know when he has not obtained it, mathematical studies are of immense benefit to his education by habituating him to precision. It is one of the peculiar excellencies of mathematical discipline, that the mathematician is never satisfied with à peu près. He requires the exact truth. Hardly any of the non-mathematical sciences, except chemistry, has this advantage. One of the commonest modes of loose thought, and sources of error both in opinion and in practice, is to overlook the importance of quantities. Mathematicians and chemists are taught by the whole course of their studies, that the most fundamental difference of quality depends on some very slight difference in proportional quantity; and that from the qualities of the influencing elements, without careful attention to their quantities, false expectation would constantly be formed as to the very nature and essential character of the result produced.
In An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (1878), 611. [The French phrase, à peu près means “approximately”. —Webmaster]
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Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.
In 'Philosophy, Religion, and So Forth', A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (1989), 12.
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Between two truths of the real domain, the easiest and shortest path quite often passes through the complex domain.
From the French, “…entre deux vérités du domaine réel, le chemin le plus facile et le plus court passe bien souvent par le domaine complexe,” in Notice sur les Travaux Scientifiques (1900), 2. Widely seen incorrectly attributed to Hadamard, who quoted it himself as from an unnamed source, and paraphrased thus, “It has been written that the shortest path between two truths in the real domain passes through the complex domain,” in Jacques Hadamard, An Essay on the Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field (1945), 123. Now often seen misattributed to Hadamard in a shorter paraphrase, for example as, “The shortest path between two truths in the real domain passes through the complex domain,” in Craig Smorynski, 'The Need for Abstraction', The College Mathematics Journal (Jan 1985), 16, No. 1, 11. For a longer discussion of the Painlevé source, see homepage.math.uiowa.edu/~jorgen/hadamardquotesource.html, which is the source for the English translation in the subject quote.
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Both died, ignored by most; they neither sought nor found public favour, for high roads never lead there. Laurent and Gerhardt never left such roads, were never tempted to peruse those easy successes which, for strongly marked characters, offer neither allure nor gain. Their passion was for the search for truth; and, preferring their independence to their advancement, their convictions to their interests, they placed their love for science above that of their worldly goods; indeed above that for life itself, for death was the reward for their pains. Rare example of abnegation, sublime poverty that deserves the name nobility, glorious death that France must not forget!
'Éloge de Laurent et Gerhardt', Moniteur Scientifique (1862), 4, 473-83, trans. Alan J. Rocke.
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But although in theory physicists realize that their conclusions are ... not certainly true, this ... does not really sink into their consciousness. Nearly all the time ... they ... act as if Science were indisputably True, and what's more, as if only science were true.... Any information obtained otherwise than by the scientific method, although it may be true, the scientists will call “unscientific,” using this word as a smear word, by bringing in the connotation from its original [Greek] meaning, to imply that the information is false, or at any rate slightly phony.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 176-77.
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But from the time I was in college I learned that there is nothing one could imagine which is so strange and incredible that it was not said by some philosopher; and since that time, I have recognized through my travels that all those whose views are different from our own are not necessarily, for that reason, barbarians or savages, but that many of them use their reason either as much as or even more than we do. I also considered how the same person, with the same mind, who was brought up from infancy either among the French or the Germans, becomes different from what they would have been if they had always lived among the Chinese or among the cannibals, and how, even in our clothes fashions, the very thing that we liked ten years ago, and that we may like again within the next ten years, appears extravagant and ridiculous to us today. Thus our convictions result from custom and example very much more than from any knowledge that is certain... truths will be discovered by an individual rather than a whole people.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 2, 14-5.
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But just one gram of suspicion weighs heavier than a kilo of truth!
From the play Galileo Galilei (2001) .
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But neither thirty years, nor thirty centuries, affect the clearness, or the charm, of Geometrical truths. Such a theorem as “the square of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the sides” is as dazzlingly beautiful now as it was in the day when Pythagoras first discovered it, and celebrated its advent, it is said, by sacrificing a hecatomb of oxen—a method of doing honour to Science that has always seemed to me slightly exaggerated and uncalled-for. One can imagine oneself, even in these degenerate days, marking the epoch of some brilliant scientific discovery by inviting a convivial friend or two, to join one in a beefsteak and a bottle of wine. But a hecatomb of oxen! It would produce a quite inconvenient supply of beef.
Written without pseudonym as Charles L. Dodgson, in Introduction to A New Theory of Parallels (1888, 1890), xvi. Note: a hecatomb is a great public sacrifice, originally of a hundred oxen.
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But notwithstanding these Arguments are so convictive and demonstrative, its marvellous to see how some Popish Authors (Jesuites especially) strain their wits to defend their Pagan Master Aristotle his Principles. Bullialdus speaks of a Florentine Physitian, that all the Friends he had could ever perswade him once to view the Heavens through a Telescope, and he gave that reason for his refusal, because he was afraid that then his Eyes would make him stagger concerning the truth of Aristotle’s Principles, which he was resolved he would not call into question. It were well, if these Men had as great veneration for the Scripture as they have, for Aristotles (if indeed they be his) absurd Books de cælo Sed de his satis.
(Indicating a belief that the Roman Catholic church impeded the development of modern science.)
Kometographia, Or a Discourse Concerning Comets (Boston 1684). Quoted in Michael Garibaldi Hall, The Last American Puritan: The Life of Increase Mather, 1639-1723 (1988), 167.
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But the idea that any of the lower animals have been concerned in any way with the origin of man—is not this degrading? Degrading is a term, expressive of a notion of the human mind, and the human mind is liable to prejudices which prevent its notions from being invariably correct. Were we acquainted for the first time with the circumstances attending the production of an individual of our race, we might equally think them degrading, and be eager to deny them, and exclude them from the admitted truths of nature.
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But Truth is that besides which there is nothing: nothing to modify it, nothing to question it, nothing to form an exception: the all-inclusive, the complete — By Truth, I mean the Universal.
The Book of the Damned (1932). In The Complete Books of Charles Fort (1975), 9.
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But what exceeds all wonders, I have discovered four new planets and observed their proper and particular motions, different among themselves and from the motions of all the other stars; and these new planets move about another very large star [Jupiter] like Venus and Mercury, and perchance the other known planets, move about the Sun. As soon as this tract, which I shall send to all the philosophers and mathematicians as an announcement, is finished, I shall send a copy to the Most Serene Grand Duke, together with an excellent spyglass, so that he can verify all these truths.
Letter to the Tuscan Court, 30 Jan 1610. Quoted in Albert van Heiden (ed.), Siderius Nuncius or The Sidereal Messenger (1989), 18.
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But when we face the great questions about gravitation Does it require time? Is it polar to the 'outside of the universe' or to anything? Has it any reference to electricity? or does it stand on the very foundation of matter–mass or inertia? then we feel the need of tests, whether they be comets or nebulae or laboratory experiments or bold questions as to the truth of received opinions.
Letter to Michael Faraday, 9 Nov 1857. In P. M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1990), Vol. 1, 1846-1862, 551-2.
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But, as Bacon has well pointed out, truth is more likely to come out of error, if this is clear and definite, than out of confusion, and my experience teaches me that it is better to hold a well-understood and intelligible opinion, even if it should turn out to be wrong, than to be content with a muddle-headed mixture of conflicting views, sometimes miscalled impartiality, and often no better than no opinion at all.
Principles of General Physiology (1915), x.
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By convention sweet is sweet, by convention bitter is bitter, by convention hot is hot, by convention cold is cold, by convention colour is colour. But in reality there are atoms and the void. That is, the objects of sense are supposed to be real and it is customary to regard them as such, but in truth they are not. Only the atoms and the void are real.
Cited as from Sext. Emp. Math. VII. 135, in Charles Montague Bakewell, Source Book in Ancient Philosophy (1907), 60.
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By natural selection our mind has adapted itself to the conditions of the external world. It has adopted the geometry most advantageous to the species or, in other words, the most convenient. Geometry is not true, it is advantageous.
Science and Hypothesis (1902), in The Foundations of Science: Science and Hypothesis, The Value of Science, Science and Method(1946), trans. by George Bruce Halsted, 91.
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By this we may understand, there be two sorts of knowledge, whereof the one is nothing else but sense, or knowledge original (as I have said at the beginning of the second chapter), and remembrance of the same; the other is called science or knowledge of the truth of propositions, and how things are called, and is derived from understanding.
The Elements of Law: Natural and Politic (1640), Ferdinand Tonnies edn. (1928), Part 1, Chapter 6, 18-9.
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By what process of reasoning should the State of Texas be more concerned in the conviction of the guilty than in the acquittal of the innocent? [Urging the use of scopolamine “truth serum” to determine innocence.]
From paper read at the Section on State Medicine and Public Hygiene of the State Medical Association of Texas at El Paso (11 May 1922), 'The Use Of Scopolamine In Criminology', published in Texas State Journal of Medicine (Sep 1922). Reprinted in The American Journal of Police Science (Jul-Aug 1931), 2, No. 4, 328.
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Can I pay any higher tribute to a man [George Gaylord Simpson] than to state that his work both established a profession and sowed the seeds for its own revision? If Simpson had reached final truth, he either would have been a priest or would have chosen a dull profession. The history of life cannot be a dull profession.
From 'G.G. Simpson, Paleontology, and the Modern Synthesis', collected in Ernst Mayr, William B. Provine (eds.), The Evolutionary Synthesis: Perspectives on the Unification of Biology (1998), 171.
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Certainly, it is heaven upon earth, to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.
'Essays or Counsels: Civil and Moral. I. Of Truth'. In Francis Bacon, James Spedding, The Works of Francis Bacon (1864), Vol. 6, 378.
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Charles Darwin, the Abraham of scientific men—a searcher as obedient to the command of truth as was the patriarch to the command of God.
In 'Science and Man', Fragments of Science (1879), Vol. 2, 370. Pesidential Address to the Birmingham and Midland Institute, 1877, in 'Science and Man', Fragments of Science for Unscientific People: A Series of Detached Essays, Addresses, and Reviews (1879), Vol. 2, 370.
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Chemical research conducts to the knowledge of philosophical truth, and forms the mind to philosophical enlargement and accuracy of thought, more happily than almost any other species of investigation in which the human intellect can be employed.
Quote following title page of Samuel Parkes, A Chemical Catechism With Notes, Illustrations and Experiments (8th ed. 1818).
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Chemistry is one of those branches of human knowledge which has built itself upon methods and instruments by which truth can presumably be determined. It has survived and grown because all its precepts and principles can be re-tested at any time and anywhere. So long as it remained the mysterious alchemy by which a few devotees, by devious and dubious means, presumed to change baser metals into gold, it did not flourish, but when it dealt with the fact that 56 g. of fine iron, when heated with 32 g. of flowers of sulfur, generated extra heat and gave exactly 88 g. of an entirely new substance, then additional steps could be taken by anyone. Scientific research in chemistry, since the birth of the balance and the thermometer, has been a steady growth of test and observation. It has disclosed a finite number of elementary reagents composing an infinite universe, and it is devoted to their inter-reaction for the benefit of mankind.
Address upon receiving the Perkin Medal Award, 'The Big Things in Chemistry', The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry (Feb 1921), 13, No. 2, 163.
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Christian Science … is the direct denial both of science and of Christianity, for Science rests wholly on the recognition of truth and Christianity on the recognition of pain.
From The Illustrated London News (1 Nov 1930), 177, Part 2, 750. In 'More on American Optimism', Collected Works (1990), Vol. 35, 406-407.
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Common sense, (which, in truth, is very uncommon) is the best sense I know of: abide by it; it will counsel you best.
From Letter (27 Sep 1748, O.S.) to his son, collected in Letters Written by Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to his son, Philip Stanhope (1777), Vol. 2, 65.
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Common sense, the half-truths of a deceitful society, is honored as the honest truths of a frank world.
In Social Amnesia (1975), 25.
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Consider the very roots of our ability to discern truth. Above all (or perhaps I should say “underneath all”), common sense is what we depend on—that crazily elusive, ubiquitous faculty we all have to some degree or other. … If we apply common sense to itself over and over again, we wind up building a skyscraper. The ground floor of the structure is the ordinary common sense we all have, and the rules for building news floors are implicit in the ground floor itself. However, working it all out is a gigantic task, and the result is a structure that transcends mere common sense.
In Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern (1985), 93–94.
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Considering that, among all those who up to this time made discoveries in the sciences, it was the mathematicians alone who had been able to arrive at demonstrations—that is to say, at proofs certain and evident—I did not doubt that I should begin with the same truths that they have investigated, although I had looked for no other advantage from them than to accustom my mind to nourish itself upon truths and not to be satisfied with false reasons.
In Discourse upon Method, Part 2, in Henry A. Torrey (ed., trans. )Philosophy of Descartes in Extracts from His Writings , (1892), 47-48.
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Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction a sign of truth.
From Pensées as translated in W.H. Auden and L. Kronenberger (eds.) The Viking Book of Aphorisms (1966), 325. From the original French, “Ni la contradiction n’est marque de fausseté ni l’incontradiction n’est marque de vérité,” in 'Pensées', Oeuvres Complètes (1864), Vol. 1, 261.
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Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.
As translated by R.J. Hollingdale (trans.) in Human, All Too Human: A book for Free Spirits (1878/1996), Part 1, 179, aphorism 483.
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Crooked things may be as stiff and unflexible as streight: and Men may be as positive and peremptory in Error as in Truth.
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 4, Chapter 19, Section 11, 703.
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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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Data is not necessarily information. Information does not necessarily lead to knowledge. And knowledge is not always sufficient to discover truth and breed wisdom.
From post 're:The Pursuit of Knowledge, from Genesis to Google' to the 'Interesting People' List (6 Jan 2005), now archived at interesting-people.org website
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Debate is an art form. It is about the winning of arguments. It is not about the discovery of truth. There are certain rules and procedures to debate that really have nothing to do with establishing fact–which creationists have mastered. Some of those rules are: never say anything positive about your own position because it can be attacked, but chip away at what appear to be the weaknesses in your opponent’s position. They are good at that. I don’t think I could beat the creationists at debate. I can tie them. But in courtrooms they are terrible, because in courtrooms you cannot give speeches. In a courtroom you have to answer direct questions about the positive status of your belief. We destroyed them in Arkansas. On the second day of the two-week trial we had our victory party!
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Democritus said; “That truth did lie in profound pits, and when it was got it need much refining.”
In 'A Collection of Apophthegms, New and Old' (1625). As given in Essays, Moral, Economical, and Political: A New Edition, With the Latin Quotations Translated (1813), 'Contained in the original edition in octavo but omitted in later copies', No. 263, 353.
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Democritus sometimes does away with what appears to the senses, and says that none of these appears according to truth but only according to opinion: the truth in real things is that there are atoms and void. “By convention sweet”, he says, “by convention bitter, by convention hot, by convention cold, by convention colour: but in reality atoms and void.”
Against the Professors, 7, 135. In G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M. Schofield (eds.), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1983), 410.
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Descriptive geometry has two objects: the first is to establish methods to represent on drawing paper which has only two dimensions,—namely, length and width,—all solids of nature which have three dimensions,—length, width, and depth,—provided, however, that these solids are capable of rigorous definition.
The second object is to furnish means to recognize accordingly an exact description of the forms of solids and to derive thereby all truths which result from their forms and their respective positions.
From On the Purpose of Descriptive Geometry as translated by Arnold Emch in David Eugene Smith, A Source Book in Mathematics (1929), 426.
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Dissections daily convince us of our ignorance of disease, and cause us to blush at our prescriptions. What mischief have we done under the belief of false facts and false theories! We have assisted in multiplying diseases; we have done more; we have increased their mortality. ... I am pursuing Truth, and am indifferent whither I am led, if she is my only leader.
From a public lecture by Rush. Quoted by Isaac Jennings, in Medical Reform; a Treatise on Man's Physical Being and Disorders (1847), 33.
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Don’t despise empiric truth. Lots of things work in practice for which the laboratory has never found proof.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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During the last two centuries and a half, physical knowledge has been gradually made to rest upon a basis which it had not before. It has become mathematical. The question now is, not whether this or that hypothesis is better or worse to the pure thought, but whether it accords with observed phenomena in those consequences which can be shown necessarily to follow from it, if it be true
In Augustus De Morgan and Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan (ed.), A Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 2.
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Ecclesiasticism in science is only unfaithfulness to truth.
More Criticisms on Darwin, and Administrative Nihilism (1872), 26.
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Einstein’s space is no closer to reality than Van Gogh’s sky. The glory of science is not in a truth more absolute than the truth of Bach or Tolstoy, but in the act of creation itself. The scientist’s discoveries impose his own order on chaos, as the composer or painter imposes his; an order that always refers to limited aspects of reality, and is based on the observer's frame of reference, which differs from period to period as a Rembrandt nude differs from a nude by Manet.
In The Act of Creation (1964), 252.
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Either one or the other [analysis or synthesis] may be direct or indirect. The direct procedure is when the point of departure is known-direct synthesis in the elements of geometry. By combining at random simple truths with each other, more complicated ones are deduced from them. This is the method of discovery, the special method of inventions, contrary to popular opinion.
Ampère gives this example drawn from geometry to illustrate his meaning for “direct synthesis” when deductions following from more simple, already-known theorems leads to a new discovery. In James R. Hofmann, André-Marie Ampère (1996), 159. Cites Académie des Sciences Ampère Archives, box 261.
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Engineering training deals with the exact sciences. That sort of exactness makes for truth and conscience. It might be good for the world if more men had that sort of mental start in life even if they did not pursue the profession.
Reprint of his 1916 statement in 'Engineering as a Profession', Engineer’s Week (1954).
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Enormous numbers of people are taken in, or at least beguiled and fascinated, by what seems to me to be unbelievable hocum, and relatively few are concerned with or thrilled by the astounding—yet true—facts of science, as put forth in the pages of, say, Scientific American.
Metamagical Themas (1985), 93.
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Eradication of microbial disease is a will-o’-the-wisp; pursuing it leads into a morass of hazy biological concepts and half truths.
Man Adapting (1965), 381.
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Error held as truth has much the effect of truth. In politics and religion this fact upsets many confident predictions.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-Book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 177.
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Error, never can be consistent, nor can truth fail of having support from the accurate examination of every circumstance.
'Theory of the Earth', Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1788), 1, 259.
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Errors, like straws, upon the surface flow;
He who would search for pearls must dive below.
Prologue, All For Love: Or, The World Well Lost (1678), collected in The Modern British Drama, (1811), Vol. 1, 337.
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Ethical axioms are found and tested not very differently from the axioms of science. Truth is what stands the test of experience.
…...
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Euler was a believer in God, downright and straightforward. The following story is told by Thiebault, in his Souvenirs de vingt ans de séjour à Berlin, … Thiebault says that he has no personal knowledge of the truth of the story, but that it was believed throughout the whole of the north of Europe. Diderot paid a visit to the Russian Court at the invitation of the Empress. He conversed very freely, and gave the younger members of the Court circle a good deal of lively atheism. The Empress was much amused, but some of her counsellors suggested that it might be desirable to check these expositions of doctrine. The Empress did not like to put a direct muzzle on her guest’s tongue, so the following plot was contrived. Diderot was informed that a learned mathematician was in possession of an algebraical demonstration of the existence of God, and would give it him before all the Court, if he desired to hear it. Diderot gladly consented: though the name of the mathematician is not given, it was Euler. He advanced toward Diderot, and said gravely, and in a tone of perfect conviction:
Monsieur, (a + bn) / n = x, donc Dieu existe; repondez!

Diderot, to whom algebra was Hebrew, was embarrassed and disconcerted; while peals of laughter rose on all sides. He asked permission to return to France at once, which was granted.
In Budget of Paradoxes (1878), 251. [The declaration in French expresses, “therefore God exists; please answer!” This Euler-Diderot anecdote, as embellished by De Morgan, is generally regarded as entirely fictional. Diderot before he became an encyclopedist was an accomplished mathematician and fully capable of recognizing—and responding to—the absurdity of an algebraic expression in proving the existence of God. See B.H. Brown, 'The Euler-Diderot Anecdote', The American Mathematical Monthly (May 1942), 49, No. 5, 392-303. —Webmaster.]
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Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cozy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor of their own.
What I Believe (1925). In The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, 1903-1959 (1992), 370.
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Even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds
On Liberty (1859), 95.
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Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 15
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Even in the vast and mysterious reaches of the sea we are brought back to the fundamental truth that nothing lives to itself.
Silent Spring, Introduction.
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Even mistaken hypotheses and theories are of use in leading to discoveries. This remark is true in all the sciences. The alchemists founded chemistry by pursuing chimerical problems and theories which are false. In physical science, which is more advanced than biology, we might still cite men of science who make great discoveries by relying on false theories. It seems, indeed, a necessary weakness of our mind to be able to reach truth only across a multitude of errors and obstacles.
An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865, translation 1927, 1957), 170.
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Henry Thoreau quote Dews of fresh and living truth
photo credit: Inspired Images CC0 (source)
Even the facts of science may dust the mind by their dryness, unless they are … rendered fertile by the dews of fresh and living truth. Knowledge does not come to us by details, but in flashes of light from heaven.
Essay, first published as 'Life Without Principle', Atlantic Monthly (Oct 1863). Collected in Yankee in Canada, Etc., (1866) 267. Also excerpted in H.G.O. Blake (ed.), Thoreau's Thoughts: Selections From the Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1890, 2005), 102.
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Even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
From paper 'Science, Philosophy and Religion', prepared for initial meeting of the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York City (9-11 Sep 1940). Collected in Albert Einstein: In His Own Words (2000), 212.
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Every definition implies an axiom, since it asserts the existence of the object defined. The definition then will not be justified, from the purely logical point of view, until we have ‘proved’ that it involves no contradiction either in its terms or with the truths previously admitted.
…...
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Every detection of what is false directs us towards what is true: every trial exhausts some tempting form of error.
In 'Lecture 7', Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy in England (1852), 101.
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Every discoverer of a new truth, or inventor of the method which evolves it, makes a dozen, perhaps fifty, useless combinations, experiments, or trials for one successful one. In the realm of electricity or of mechanics there is no objection to this. But when such rejected failures involve a torture of animals, sometimes fearful in its character, there is a distinct objection to it.
From 'Vivisection', an original paper in Surgical Anaesthesia: Addresses, and Other Papers (1894, 1900), 369-370.
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Every discovery, every enlargement of the understanding, begins as an imaginative preconception of what the truth might be. The imaginative preconception—a “hypothesis”—arises by a process as easy or as difficult to understand as any other creative act of mind; it is a brainwave, an inspired guess, a product of a blaze of insight. It comes anyway from within and cannot be achieved by the exercise of any known calculus of discovery.
In Advice to a Young Scientist (1979), 84.
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Every great scientific truth goes through three states: first, people say it conflicts with the Bible; next, they say it has been discovered before; lastly, they say they always believed it.
Attributed; it does not appear directly in this form in any writings by Agassiz. This version of the quote comes from the Saturday Evening Post (1890), as cited in Ralph Keyes, The Quote Verifier (2006), 226. Since the quote was not printed within quotation marks, it is unlikely that this is a verbatim statement. Keyes discusses variations of the “three stages of truth” that have been attributed to a various other authors, but provides some substantiation with examples of similar quotes linked to Agassiz as related in second-person accounts.
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Every great scientist becomes a great scientist because of the inner self-abnegation with which he stands before truth, saying: “Not my will, but thine, be done.” What, then, does a man mean by saying, Science displaces religion, when in this deep sense science itself springs from religion?
In 'The Real Point of Conflict between Science and Religion', collected in Living Under Tension: Sermons On Christianity Today (1941), 148.
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Every scientist is an agent of cultural change. He may not be a champion of change; he may even resist it, as scholars of the past resisted the new truths of historical geology, biological evolution, unitary chemistry, and non-Euclidean geometry. But to the extent that he is a true professional, the scientist is inescapably an agent of change. His tools are the instruments of change—skepticism, the challenge to establish authority, criticism, rationality, and individuality.
In Science in Russian Culture: A History to 1860 (1963).
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Every scientist, through personal study and research, completes himself and his own humanity. ... Scientific research constitutes for you, as it does for many, the way for the personal encounter with truth, and perhaps the privileged place for the encounter itself with God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Science shines forth in all its value as a good capable of motivating our existence, as a great experience of freedom for truth, as a fundamental work of service. Through research each scientist grows as a human being and helps others to do likewise.
Address to the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (13 Nov 2000). In L’Osservatore Romano (29 Nov 2000), translated in English edition, 5.
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Every truth starts life as a heresy and ends life as an orthodoxy.
…...
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Every well established truth is an addition to the sum of human power, and though it may not find an immediate application to the economy of every day life, we may safely commit it to the stream of time, in the confident anticipation that the world will not fail to realize its beneficial results.
In 'Report of the Secretary', Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1856 (1857), 20.
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Everything that we call Invention or Discovery in the higher sense of the word is the serious exercise and activity of an original feeling for truth, which, after a long course of silent cultivation, suddenly flashes out into fruitful knowledge.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 193.
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Examine your words well, and you will find that even when you have no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings—much harder than to say something fine about them which is not the exact truth.
In Adam Bede (1859, 1860), 151.
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Exercise in the most rigorous thinking that is possible will of its own accord strengthen the sense of truth and right, for each advance in the ability to distinguish between correct and false thoughts, each habit making for rigour in thought development will increase in the sound pupil the ability and the wish to ascertain what is right in life and to defend it.
In Anleitung zum mathematischen Unterricht in den höheren Schulen (1906), 28.
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Experiment is the sole source of truth. It alone can teach us something new; it alone can give us certainty.
Science and Hypothesis (1902), trans. W. J. G. and preface by J. Larmor (1905), 140.
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Facts are certainly the solid and true foundation of all sectors of nature study ... Reasoning must never find itself contradicting definite facts; but reasoning must allow us to distinguish, among facts that have been reported, those that we can fully believe, those that are questionable, and those that are false. It will not allow us to lend faith to those that are directly contrary to others whose certainty is known to us; it will not allow us to accept as true those that fly in the face of unquestionable principles.
Memoires pour Servir a l'Histoire des Insectes (1736), Vol. 2, xxxiv. Quoted in Jacques Roger, The Life Sciences in Eighteenth-Century French Thought, ed. Keith R. Benson and trans. Robert Ellrich (1997), 165.
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False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often long endure; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, as every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path towards error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 385.
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Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult.
In Adam Bede (1859, 1860), 151.
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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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Far must thy researches go
Wouldst thou learn the world to know;
Thou must tempt the dark abyss
Wouldst thou prove what Being is;
Naught but firmness gains the prize,—
Naught but fullness makes us wise,—
Buried deep truth ever lies!
In Edgar A. Bowring (trans.), The Poems of Schiller (1875), 260.
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Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom, in the pursuit of truth as in the endeavour after a worthy manner of life.
In An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1943), 23.
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Fear of something is at the root of hate for others and hate within will eventually destroy the hater. Keep your thoughts free from hate, and you will have no fear from those who hate you. ...
David, though small, was filled with truth, right thinking and good will for others. Goliath represents one who let fear into his heart, and it stayed there long enough to grow into hate for others.
In Alvin D. Smith, George Washington Carver: Man of God (1954), 43. Cited in Linda O. McMurry, George Washington Carver, Scientist and Symbol (1982), 107. Smith's book is about his recollections of G.W. Carver's Sunday School classes at Tuskegee, some 40 years earlier. Webmaster, who has not yet been able to see the original book, cautions this quote may be the gist of Carver's words, rather than a verbatim quote.
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Few intellectual tyrannies can be more recalcitrant than the truths that everybody knows and nearly no one can defend with any decent data (for who needs proof of anything so obvious). And few intellectual activities can be more salutary than attempts to find out whether these rocks of ages might crumble at the slightest tap of an informational hammer.
…...
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Fiction is, indeed, an indispensable supplement to logic, or even a part of it; whether we are working inductively or deductively, both ways hang closely together with fiction: and axioms, though they seek to be primary verities, are more akin to fiction. If we had realized the nature of axioms, the doctrine of Einstein, which sweeps away axioms so familiar to us that they seem obvious truths, and substitutes others which seem absurd because they are unfamiliar, might not have been so bewildering.
In The Dance of Life (1923), 86.
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Finally, I aim at giving denominations to things, as agreeable to truth as possible. I am not ignorant that words, like money, possess an ideal value, and that great danger of confusion may be apprehended from a change of names; in the mean time it cannot be denied that chemistry, like the other sciences, was formerly filled with improper names. In different branches of knowledge, we see those matters long since reformed: why then should chemistry, which examines the real nature of things, still adopt vague names, which suggest false ideas, and favour strongly of ignorance and imposition? Besides, there is little doubt but that many corrections may be made without any inconvenience.
Physical and Chemical Essays (1784), Vol. I, xxxvii.
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Finally, since I thought that we could have all the same thoughts, while asleep, as we have while we are awake, although none of them is true at that time, I decided to pretend that nothing that ever entered my mind was any more true than the illusions of my dreams. But I noticed, immediately afterwards, that while I thus wished to think that everything was false, it was necessarily the case that I, who was thinking this, was something. When I noticed that this truth “I think, therefore I am” was so firm and certain that all the most extravagant assumptions of the sceptics were unable to shake it, I judged that I could accept it without scruple as the first principle of the philosophy for which I was searching. Then, when I was examining what I was, I realized that I could pretend that I had no body, and that there was no world nor any place in which I was present, but I could not pretend in the same way that I did not exist. On the contrary, from the very fact that I was thinking of doubting the truth of other things, it followed very evidently and very certainly that I existed; whereas if I merely ceased to think, even if all the rest of what I had ever imagined were true, I would have no reason to believe that I existed. I knew from this that I was a substance, the whole essence or nature of which was to think and which, in order to exist, has no need of any place and does not depend on anything material. Thus this self—that is, the soul by which I am what I am—is completely distinct from the body and is even easier to know than it, and even if the body did not exist the soul would still be everything that it is.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 4, 24-5.
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For chemistry is no science form’d à priori; ’tis no production of the human mind, framed by reasoning and deduction: it took its rise from a number of experiments casually made, without any expectation of what follow’d; and was only reduced into an art or system, by collecting and comparing the effects of such unpremeditated experiments, and observing the uniform tendency thereof. So far, then, as a number of experimenters agree to establish any undoubted truth; so far they may be consider'd as constituting the theory of chemistry.
From 'The Author's Preface', in A New Method of Chemistry (1727), vi.
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For FRICTION is inevitable because the Universe is FULL of God's works.
For the PERPETUAL MOTION is in all works of Almighty GOD.
For it is not so in the engines of man, which are made of dead materials, neither indeed can be.
For the Moment of bodies, as it is used, is a false term—bless God ye Speakers on the Fifth of November.
For Time and Weight are by their several estimates.
For I bless GOD in the discovery of the LONGITUDE direct by the means of GLADWICK.
For the motion of the PENDULUM is the longest in that it parries resistance.
For the WEDDING GARMENTS of all men are prepared in the SUN against the day of acceptation.
For the wedding Garments of all women are prepared in the MOON against the day of their purification.
For CHASTITY is the key of knowledge as in Esdras, Sir Isaac Newton & now, God be praised, in me.
For Newton nevertheless is more of error than of the truth, but I am of the WORD of GOD.
From 'Jubilate Agno' (c.1758-1763), in N. Callan (ed.), The Collected Poems of Christopher Smart (1949), Vol. 1, 276.
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For if as scientists we seek simplicity, then obviously we try the simplest surviving theory first, and retreat from it only when it proves false. Not this course, but any other, requires explanation. If you want to go somewhere quickly, and several alternate routes are equally likely to be open, no one asks why you take the shortest. The simplest theory is to be chosen not because it is the most likely to be true but because it is scientifically the most rewarding among equally likely alternatives. We aim at simplicity and hope for truth.
Problems and Projects (1972), 352.
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For if there is any truth in the dynamical theory of gases the different molecules in a gas at uniform temperature are moving with very different velocities. Put such a gas into a vessel with two compartments [A and B] and make a small hole in the wall about the right size to let one molecule through. Provide a lid or stopper for this hole and appoint a doorkeeper, very intelligent and exceedingly quick, with microscopic eyes but still an essentially finite being.
Whenever he sees a molecule of great velocity coming against the door from A into B he is to let it through, but if the molecule happens to be going slow he is to keep the door shut. He is also to let slow molecules pass from B to A but not fast ones ... In this way the temperature of B may be raised and that of A lowered without any expenditure of work, but only by the intelligent action of a mere guiding agent (like a pointsman on a railway with perfectly acting switches who should send the express along one line and the goods along another).
I do not see why even intelligence might not be dispensed with and the thing be made self-acting.
Moral The 2nd law of Thermodynamics has the same degree of truth as the statement that if you throw a tumblerful of water into the sea you cannot get the same tumblerful of water out again.
Letter to John William Strutt (6 Dec 1870). In P. M. Hannan (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 582-3.
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For it is too bad that there are so few who seek the truth and so few who do not follow a mistaken method in philosophy. This is not, however, the place to lament the misery of our century, but to rejoice with you over such beautiful ideas for proving the truth. So I add only, and I promise, that I shall read your book at leisure; for I am certain that I shall find the noblest things in it. And this I shall do the more gladly, because I accepted the view of Copernicus many years ago, and from this standpoint I have discovered from their origins many natural phenomena, which doubtless cannot be explained on the basis of the more commonly accepted hypothesis.
Letter (4 Aug 1597) to Kepler, expressing thanks and interest in the book Kepler sent him. As quoted in translation in Jackson J. Spielvogel, Western Civilization: Alternate Volume: Since 1300 (2010), Vol. 2, 494.
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For it is too bad that there are so few who seek the truth and so few who do not follow a mistaken method in philosophy. This is not, however, the place to lament the misery of our century, but to rejoice with you over such beautiful ideas for proving the truth. So I add only, and I promise, that I shall read your book at leisure; for I am certain that I shall find the noblest things in it. And this I shall do the more gladly, because I accepted the view of Copernicus many years ago, and from this standpoint I have discovered from their origins many natural phenomena, which doubtless cannot be explained on the basis of the more commonly accepted hypothesis.
In Letter to Johannes Kepler. As quoted in The Portable Renaissance Reader (1968), 597.
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For myself, I found that I was fitted for nothing so well as for the study of Truth; as having a mind nimble and versatile enough to catch the resemblances of things (which is the chief point) , and at the same time steady enough to fix and distinguish their subtler differences; as being gifted by nature with desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to reconsider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and as being a man that neither affects what is new nor admires what is old, and that hates every kind of imposture. So I thought my nature had a kind of familiarity and relationship with Truth.
From 'Progress of philosophical speculations. Preface to intended treatise De Interpretatione Naturæ (1603), in Francis Bacon and James Spedding (ed.), Works of Francis Bacon (1868), Vol. 3, 85.
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For that which can shewn only in a certain Light is questionable. Truth, ’tis suppos’d, may bear all Lights: and one of those principal Lights or natural Mediums, by which Things are to be view’d, in order to a thorow Recognition, is Ridicule it-self.
Also seen in short form: “Ridicule is the test of truth.”
In 'An Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour', Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1723), Vol. 1, 61.
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For the holy Bible and the phenomena of nature proceed alike from the divine Word, the former as the dictate of the Holy Ghost and the latter as the observant executrix of God's commands. It is necessary for the Bible, in order to be accommodated to the understanding of every man, to speak many things which appear to differ from the absolute truth so far as the bare meaning of the words is concerned. But Nature, on the other hand, is inexorable and immutable; she never transgresses the laws imposed upon her, or cares a whit whether her abstruse reasons and methods of operation are understandable to men. For that reason it appears that nothing physical which sense-experience sets before our eyes, or which necessary demonstrations prove to us, ought to be called in question (much less condemned) upon the testimony of biblical passages which may have some different meaning beneath their words.
Letter to Madame Christina of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany: Concerning the Use of Biblical Quotations in Matters of Science (1615), trans. Stillman Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (1957), 182-3.
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For the sake of persons of ... different types, scientific truth should be presented in different forms, and should be regarded as equally scientific, whether it appears in the robust form and the vivid coloring of a physical illustration, or in the tenuity and paleness of a symbolic expression.
…...
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For the saving the long progression of the thoughts to remote and first principles in every case, the mind should provide itself several stages; that is to say, intermediate principles, which it might have recourse to in the examining those positions that come in its way. These, though they are not self-evident principles, yet, if they have been made out from them by a wary and unquestionable deduction, may be depended on as certain and infallible truths, and serve as unquestionable truths to prove other points depending upon them, by a nearer and shorter view than remote and general maxims. … And thus mathematicians do, who do not in every new problem run it back to the first axioms through all the whole train of intermediate propositions. Certain theorems that they have settled to themselves upon sure demonstration, serve to resolve to them multitudes of propositions which depend on them, and are as firmly made out from thence as if the mind went afresh over every link of the whole chain that tie them to first self-evident principles.
In The Conduct of the Understanding, Sect. 21.
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For the truth of the conclusions of physical science, observation is the supreme Court of Appeal. It does not follow that every item which we confidently accept as physical knowledge has actually been certified by the Court; our confidence is that it would be certified by the Court if it were submitted. But it does follow that every item of physical knowledge is of a form which might be submitted to the Court. It must be such that we can specify (although it may be impracticable to carry out) an observational procedure which would decide whether it is true or not. Clearly a statement cannot be tested by observation unless it is an assertion about the results of observation. Every item of physical knowledge must therefore be an assertion of what has been or would be the result of carrying out a specified observational procedure.
In ’Scientific Epistemology', The Philosophy of Physical Science (1938, 2012), 9.
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For there are two modes of acquiring knowledge, namely, by reasoning and experience. Reasoning draws a conclusion and makes us grant the conclusion, but does not make the conclusion certain, nor does it remove doubt so that the mind may rest on the intuition of truth, unless the mind discovers it by the path of experience; since many have the arguments relating to what can be known, but because they lack experience they neglect the arguments, and neither avoid what is harmful nor follow what is good. For if a man who has never seen fire should prove by adequate reasoning that fire burns and injures things and destroys them, his mind would not be satisfied thereby, nor would he avoid fire, until he placed his hand or some combustible substance in the fire, so that he might prove by experience that which reasoning taught. But when he has had actual experience of combustion his mind is made certain and rests in the full light of truth. Therefore reasoning does not suffice, but experience does.
Opus Majus [1266-1268], Part VI, chapter I, trans. R. B. Burke, The Opus Majus of Roger Bacon (1928), Vol. 2, 583.
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For they are, in truth, textbooks of life: they gather outer and inner experiences into a general and connected whole.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 189.
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For to define true madness,
What is't but to be nothing else but mad?
Hamlet (1601), II, ii.
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For, dear me, why abandon a belief
Merely because it ceases to be true.
Cling to it long enough, and not a doubt
It will turn true again, for so it goes.
Most of the change we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favour.
'The Black Cottage'. In Edward Connery Latham (ed.), The Poetry of Robert Frost (1971), 77.
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For, Mathematical Demonstrations being built upon the impregnable Foundations of Geometry and Arithmetick, are the only Truths, that can sink into the Mind of Man, void of all Uncertainty; and all other Discourses participate more or less of Truth, according as their Subjects are more or less capable of Mathematical Demonstration.
Inaugural lecture of Christopher Wren in his chair of astronomy at Gresham College (1657). From Parentelia (1741, 1951), 200-201.
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For, the great enemy of knowledge is not error, but inertness. All that we want is discussion, and then we are sure to do well, no matter what our blunders may be. One error conflicts with another; each destroys its opponent, and truth is evolved.
In History of Civilization in England (1861), Vol. 2, 408.
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Freud becomes one of the dramatis personae, in fact, as discoverer of the great and beautiful modern myth of psychoanalysis. By myth, I mean a poetic, dramatic expression of a hidden truth; and in placing this emphasis, I do not intend to put into question the scientific validity of psychoanalysis.
The White Hotel (1981,1993), vii.
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From a certain temperature on, the molecules 'condense' without attractive forces; that is, they accumulate at zero velocity. The theory is pretty, but is there some truth in it.
Letter to Ehrenfest (Dec 1924). Quoted in Abraham Pais, Roger Penrose, Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein (2005), 432.
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From the infinitely great down to the infinitely small, all things are subject to [the laws of nature]. The sun and the planets follow the laws discovered by Newton and Laplace, just as the atoms in their combinations follow the laws of chemistry, as living creatures follow the laws of biology. It is only the imperfections of the human mind which multiply the divisions of the sciences, separating astronomy from physics or chemistry, the natural sciences from the social sciences. In essence, science is one. It is none other than the truth.
In Cours d’Economie Politique (1896-97).
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From the medical theoretical standpoint, it suffices to deliberate and speculate regarding most illnesses. However, therapeutically, speculation is not adequate, and true and correct knowledge is imperative.
As quoted in Fred Rosner, The Medical Legacy of Moses Maimonides (1998), 54.
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From the point of view of the pure morphologist the recapitulation theory is an instrument of research enabling him to reconstruct probable lines of descent; from the standpoint of the student of development and heredity the fact of recapitulation is a difficult problem whose solution would perhaps give the key to a true understanding of the real nature of heredity.
Form and Function: A Contribution to the History of Animal Morphology (1916), 312-3.
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General Relativity is at least very close to the truth.
…...
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Genetics has enticed a great many explorers during the past two decades. They have labored with fruit-flies and guinea-pigs, with sweet peas and corn, with thousands of animals and plants in fact, and they have made heredity no longer a mystery but an exact science to be ranked close behind physics and chemistry in definiteness of conception. One is inclined to believe, however, that the unique magnetic attraction of genetics lies in the vision of potential good which it holds for mankind rather than a circumscribed interest in the hereditary mechanisms of the lowly species used as laboratory material. If man had been found to be sharply demarcated from the rest of the occupants of the world, so that his heritage of physical form, of physiological function, and of mental attributes came about in a superior manner setting him apart as lord of creation, interest in the genetics of the humbler organisms—if one admits the truth—would have flagged severely. Biologists would have turned their attention largely to the ways of human heredity, in spite of the fact that the difficulties encountered would have rendered progress slow and uncertain. Since this was not the case, since the laws ruling the inheritance of the denizens of the garden and the inmates of the stable were found to be applicable to prince and potentate as well, one could shut himself up in his laboratory and labor to his heart's content, feeling certain that any truth which it fell to his lot to discover had a real human interest, after all.
Mankind at the Crossroads (1923), v-vi.
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Genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.
In Psychology (1904), 328.
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Gentlemen, that is surely true, it is absolutely paradoxical; we cannot understand it, and we don’t know what it means. But we have proved it, and therefore we know it is the truth.
In a lecture, after establishing the relation eπ/2 = ii in a lecture, “which evidently had a strong hold on his imagination. He dropped his chalk and rubber, put his hands in his pockets, and after contemplating the formula a few minutes turned to his class and said [this quote] very slowly and impressively.” As quoted in W. E. Byerly (writing as a Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, but a former student of Peirce), 'Benjamin Peirce: II. Reminiscences', The American Mathematical Monthly (Jan 1925), 32, No. 1, 6.
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Give me a fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself.
Pareto’s comment on Kepler. In John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations (12th ed. 1949), 1198. Also in Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis: the Scientific Search for the Soul (1995), 231.
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Given a large mass of data, we can by judicious selection construct perfectly plausible unassailable theories—all of which, some of which, or none of which may be right.
I-Ching and the citric acid cycle. Unpublished manuscript/seminar notes quoted in Frederick Grinnell, Everyday Practice of Science (2008), 86.
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God forbid that Truth should be confined to Mathematical Demonstration! He who does not know truth at sight is unworthy of Her Notice.
Marginal note (c. 1808) written in his copy of 'Discourse VII', The Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1798), beside “…as true as mathematical demonstration…”. As given in William Blake, Edwin John Ellis (ed.) and William Butler Yeats (ed.), The Works of William Blake (1893), Vol. 2, 340.
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Google can aggregate all web and paper-based information, and they can build fantastic search engines, but that will not directly lead to truth or wisdom. For that we will continue to need education, training in critical thought, and good editors who can help us winnow the fact from the fiction.
From post 're:The Pursuit of Knowledge, from Genesis to Google' to the 'Interesting People' List (6 Jan 2005) maintained by David J. Farber, now archived at interesting-people.org website.
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Gradually, … the aspect of science as knowledge is being thrust into the background by the aspect of science as the power of manipulating nature. It is because science gives us the power of manipulating nature that it has more social importance than art. Science as the pursuit of truth is the equal, but not the superior, of art. Science as a technique, though it may have little intrinsic value, has a practical importance to which art cannot aspire.
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), xxiv.
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Great truths can only be forgotten and can never be falsified.
From Illustrated London News (30 Sep 1933). In 'The Idolatry of the Clock', The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton (2011), Vol. 36, 349.
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He that believes, without having any Reason for believing, may be in love with his own Fancies; but neither seeks Truth as he ought, nor pays the Obedience due to his Maker, who would have him use those discerning Faculties he has given him, to keep him out of Mistake and Errour.
In 'Of Reason', Essay Concerning Humane Understanding (1690), Book 4, Ch. 17, Sec. 24, 347.
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He that could teach mathematics well, would not be a bad teacher in any of [physics, chemistry, biology or psychology] unless by the accident of total inaptitude for experimental illustration; while the mere experimentalist is likely to fall into the error of missing the essential condition of science as reasoned truth; not to speak of the danger of making the instruction an affair of sensation, glitter, or pyrotechnic show.
In Education as a Science (1879), 298.
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He that desires to learn Truth should teach himself by Facts and Experiments; by which means he will learn more in a Year than by abstract reasoning in an Age.
In Academical Lectures on the Theory of Physic (1751), Vol. 1. As quoted in Thomas Steele Hall, A Source Book in Animal Biology (1951), 485.
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He who gives a portion of his time and talent to the investigation of mathematical truth will come to all other questions with a decided advantage over his opponents. He will be in argument what the ancient Romans were in the field: to them the day of battle was a day of comparative recreation, because they were ever accustomed to exercise with arms much heavier than they fought; and reviews differed from a real battle in two respects: they encountered more fatigue, but the victory was bloodless.
Reflection 352, in Lacon: or Many things in Few Words; Addressed to Those Who Think (1820), 159.
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He who would know what geometry is, must venture boldly into its depths and learn to think and feel as a geometer. I believe that it is impossible to do this, and to study geometry as it admits of being studied and am conscious it can be taught, without finding the reason invigorated, the invention quickened, the sentiment of the orderly and beautiful awakened and enhanced, and reverence for truth, the foundation of all integrity of character, converted into a fixed principle of the mental and moral constitution, according to the old and expressive adage “abeunt studia in mores”.
In 'A probationary Lecture on Geometry, in Collected Mathematical Papers (1908), Vol. 2, 9. [The Latin phrase, “abeunt studia in mores” translates as “studies pass on into character”. —Webmaster]
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He [said of one or other eminent colleagues] is a very busy man, and half of what he publishes is true, but I don't know which half.
'Triviality in Science: A Brief Meditation on Fashions', Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 1976, 19, 324.
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Hence, a devout Christian must avoid astrologers and all impious soothsayers, especially when they tell the truth, for fear of leading his soul into error by consorting with demons and entangling himself with the bonds of such association.
De Genesi ad Uteram (On The Uteral Interpretation of Genesis) [401/415], Book II, chapter 17, section 37, trans. J. H. Taylor (1982), Vol. I, 72-3.
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Here I shall present, without using Analysis [mathematics], the principles and general results of the Théorie, applying them to the most important questions of life, which are indeed, for the most part, only problems in probability. One may even say, strictly speaking, that almost all our knowledge is only probable; and in the small number of things that we are able to know with certainty, in the mathematical sciences themselves, the principal means of arriving at the truth—induction and analogy—are based on probabilities, so that the whole system of human knowledge is tied up with the theory set out in this essay.
Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1814), 5th edition (1825), trans. Andrew I. Dale (1995), 1.
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Heresies are experiments in man’s unsatisfied search for truth.
Crux Ansata: An Indictment of the Roman Catholic Church (1943, 2000), 15.
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Herrmann Pidoux and Armand Trousseau stated 'Disease exists within us, because of us, and through us', Pasteur did not entirely disagree, 'This is true for certain diseases', he wrote cautiously, only to add immediately: 'I do not think that it is true for all of them'.
Pasteur Vallery-Radot (ed.), Oeuvres de Pasteur (1922-1939), Vol. 6, 167. Quoted in Patrice Debré, Louis Pasteur, trans. Elborg Forster (1994), 261.
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History warns us … that it is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions; and, as matters now stand, it is hardly rash to anticipate that, in another twenty years, the new generation, educated under the influences of the present day, will be in danger of accepting the main doctrines of the “Origin of Species,” with as little reflection, and it may be with as little justification, as so many of our contemporaries, twenty years ago, rejected them.
'The Coming of Age of the Origin of Species' (1880). In Collected Essays, Vol. 2: Darwiniana (1893), 229.
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How do we tell truths that might hurt?
…...
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How indispensable to a correct study of Nature is a perception of her true meaning. The fact will one day flower out into a truth. The season will mature and fructify what the understanding had cultivated. Mere accumulators of facts—collectors of materials for the master-workmen—are like those plants growing in dark forests, which “put forth only leaves instead of blossoms.”
(16 Dec 1837). In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: I: 1837-1846 (1906), 18.
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How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?
From Chapter 6, 'Sherlock Holmes Gives a Demonstration', The Sign of Four; or, The Problem of the Sholtos, in Lippincott’s Magazine (Feb 1890), Vol. 45, 172.
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How peacefully he sleep!
Yet may his ever-questing spirit, freed at length
from all the frettings of this little world,
Wander at will among the uncharted stars.
Fairfield his name. Perchance celestial fields
disclosing long sought secrets of the past
Spread 'neath his enraptured gaze
And beasts and men that to his earthly sight
were merely bits of stone shall live again to
gladden those eager eyes.
o let us picture him—enthusiast—scientist—friend—
Seeker of truth and light through all eternity!
New York Sun (13 Nov 1935). Reprinted in 'Henry Fairfield Osborn', Supplement to Natural History (Feb 1936), 37:2, 135. Bound in Kofoid Collection of Pamphlets on Biography, University of California.
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However, all scientific statements and laws have one characteristic in common: they are “true or false” (adequate or inadequate). Roughly speaking, our reaction to them is “yes” or “no.” The scientific way of thinking has a further characteristic. The concepts which it uses to build up its coherent systems are not expressing emotions. For the scientist, there is only “being,” but no wishing, no valuing, no good, no evil; no goal. As long as we remain within the realm of science proper, we can never meet with a sentence of the type: “Thou shalt not lie.” There is something like a Puritan's restraint in the scientist who seeks truth: he keeps away from everything voluntaristic or emotional.
Essays in Physics (1950), 68.
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I always love geology. In winter, particularly, it is pleasant to listen to theories about the great mountains one visited in the summer; or about the Flood or volcanoes; about great catastrophes or about blisters; above all about fossils … Everywhere there are hypotheses, but nowhere truths; many workmen, but no experts; priests, but no God. In these circumstances each man can bring his hypothesis like a candle to a burning altar, and on seeing his candle lit declare ‘Smoke for smoke, sir, mine is better than yours’. It is precisely for this reason that I love geology.
In Nouvelles Genevoises (1910), 306. First edition, 1841.
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I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of Imagination—What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth—whether it existed before or not.
Letter to Benjamin Bailey (22 Nov 1817). In H. E. Rollins (ed.), Letters of John Keats (1958), Vol. 1, 184.
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I am curious in a super-apish way. I like finding out things. That … is all that the “noble self-sacrificing devotion to truth” of 99-44/100% of all scientists amounts to—simple curiosity. That is the spirit in which nearly all productive scientific research is carried on.
Letter from London (20 Apr 1937), No. 81, in George Gaylord Simpson and Léo F. LaPorte (ed.), Simple Curiosity: Letters from George Gaylord Simpson to His Family, 1921-1970 (1987), 34.
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I am persuaded that there is not in the nature of science anything unfavourable to religious feelings, and if I were not so persuaded I should be much puzzled to account for our being invested, as we so amply are, with the facilities that lead us to the discovery of scientific truth. It would be strange if our Creator should be found to be urging us on in a career which tended to be a forgetfulness of him.
Letter to H. J. Rose (19 Nov 1826). Quoted in I. Todhunter (ed.), William Whewell: An Account of His Writings with Selections From His Literary and Scientific Correspondence (1876), Vol. 2, 76.
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I am pleased, however, to see the efforts of hypothetical speculation, because by the collisions of different hypotheses, truth may be elicited and science advanced in the end.
Letter (5 Sep 1822) to Mr. George F. Hopkins. Collected in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson: Correspondence (1854), Vol. 7, 260.
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I am the most hesitating of men, the most fearful of committing myself when I lack evidence. But on the contrary, no consideration can keep me from defending what I hold as true when I can rely on solid scientific proof.
As quoted in René J. Dubos, Louis Pasteur, Free Lance of Science (1960, 1986), 76.
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I believe that the Dayton trial marked the beginning of the decline of fundamentalism. … I feel that restrictive legislation on academic freedom is forever a thing of the past, that religion and science may now address one another in an atmosphere of mutual respect and of a common quest for truth. I like to think that the Dayton trial had some part in bringing to birth this new era.
From 'Reflections—Forty Years After', in Jerry R. Tompkins (ed.), D-Days at Dayton: Reflections on the Scopes Trial(1965), 31. As quoted in Stephen Jay Gould, Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History (1983), 274.
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I can see him now at the blackboard, chalk in one hand and rubber in the other, writing rapidly and erasing recklessly, pausing every few minutes to face the class and comment earnestly, perhaps on the results of an elaborate calculation, perhaps on the greatness of the Creator, perhaps on the beauty and grandeur of Mathematics, always with a capital M. To him mathematics was not the handmaid of philosophy. It was not a humanly devised instrument of investigation, it was Philosophy itself, the divine revealer of TRUTH.
Writing as a Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, a former student of Peirce, in 'Benjamin Peirce: II. Reminiscences', The American Mathematical Monthly (Jan 1925), 32, No. 1, 5.
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I cannot but be astonished that Sarsi should persist in trying to prove by means of witnesses something that I may see for myself at any time by means of experiment. Witnesses are examined in doutbful matters which are past and transient, not in those which are actual and present. A judge must seek by means of witnesses to determine whether Peter injured John last night, but not whether John was injured, since the judge can see that for himself.
'The Assayer' (1623), trans. Stillman Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (1957), 271.
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I conclude that, while it is true that science cannot decide questions of value, that is because they cannot be intellectually decided at all, and lie outside the realm of truth and falsehood. Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.
Religion and Science (1935), 243.
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I do believe that a scientist is a freelance personality. We’re driven by an impulse which is one of curiosity, which is one of the basic instincts that a man has. So we are … driven … not by success, but by a sort of passion, namely the desire of understanding better, to possess, if you like, a bigger part of the truth. I do believe that science, for me, is very close to art.
From 'Asking Nature', collected in Lewis Wolpert and Alison Richards (eds.), Passionate Minds: The Inner World of Scientists (1997), 197.
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I do not know if I am mistaken, but it seems that one can obtain more truths, important to Humanity, from Chemistry than from any other Science.
In Chemische Annalen (Crell;s) I:291-305, 1788. As cited in Israel S. Kleiner, 'Hahnemann as a Chemist', The Scientific Monthly (May 1938), 46, 450. The quote is the opening words of an article describing his test for lead and iron in wine.
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Isaac Newton Quote: like a boy playing on the seashore [pebbles]…whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me
Click image for larger 800 x 500px version
I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
First reported in Joseph Spence, Anecdotes, Observations and Characters, of Books and Men (1820), Vol. 1 of 1966 edn, sect. 1259, p. 462. Purported to have been addressed by Newton in the final year of his life (1727) to Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsey (which conflicts with the Dictionary of National Biography article giving that he was in France at the time). Quoted in David Brewster, Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton (1855), Vol. 2, 407.
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I do not maintain that the chief value of the study of arithmetic consists in the lessons of morality that arise from this study. I claim only that, to be impressed from day to day, that there is something that is right as an answer to the questions with which one is able to grapple, and that there is a wrong answer—that there are ways in which the right answer can be established as right, that these ways automatically reject error and slovenliness, and that the learner is able himself to manipulate these ways and to arrive at the establishment of the true as opposed to the untrue, this relentless hewing to the line and stopping at the line, must color distinctly the thought life of the pupil with more than a tinge of morality. … To be neighborly with truth, to feel one’s self somewhat facile in ways of recognizing and establishing what is right, what is correct, to find the wrong persistently and unfailingly rejected as of no value, to feel that one can apply these ways for himself, that one can think and work independently, have a real, a positive, and a purifying effect upon moral character. They are the quiet, steady undertones of the work that always appeal to the learner for the sanction of his best judgment, and these are the really significant matters in school work. It is not the noise and bluster, not even the dramatics or the polemics from the teacher’s desk, that abide longest and leave the deepest and stablest imprint upon character. It is these still, small voices that speak unmistakably for the right and against the wrong and the erroneous that really form human character. When the school subjects are arranged on the basis of the degree to which they contribute to the moral upbuilding of human character good arithmetic will be well up the list.
In Arithmetic in Public Education (1909), 18. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 69.
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I do not think we can impose limits on research. Through hundreds of thousands of years, man’s intellectual curiosity has been essential to all the gains we have made. Although in recent times we have progressed from chance and hit-or-miss methods to consciously directed research, we still cannot know in advance what the results may be. It would be regressive and dangerous to trammel the free search for new forms of truth.
In Margaret Mead and Rhoda Bubendey Métraux (ed.), Margaret Mead, Some Personal Views (1979), 89.
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I hardly know of a great physical truth whose universal reception has not been preceded by an epoch in which the most estimable persons have maintained that the phenomena investigated were directly dependent on the Divine Will, and that the attempt to investigate them was not only futile but blasphemous. And there is a wonderful tenacity of life about this sort of opposition to physical science. Crushed and maimed in every battle, it yet seems never to be slain; and after a hundred defeats it is at this day as rampant, though happily not so mischievous, as in the time of Galileo.
In Address (10 Feb 1860) to weekly evening meeting, 'On Species and Races, and their Origin', Notices of the Proceedings at the Meetings of the Members of the Royal Institution: Vol. III: 1858-1862 (1862), 199.
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I have been scientifically studying the traits and dispositions of the “lower animals” (so-called,) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result profoundly humiliating to me. For it obliges me to renounce my allegiance to the Darwinian theory of the Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals; since it now seems plain to me that that theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one, this new and truer one to be named the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals.
From 'Man's Place in the Animal World' (1896) in What is Man?: and Other Philosophical Writings (1973), 81.
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I have just received copies of “To-day” containing criticisms of my letter. I am in no way surprised to find that these criticisms are not only unfair and misleading in the extreme. They are misleading in so far that anyone reading them would be led to believe the exact opposite of the truth. It is quite possible that I, an old and trained engineer and chronic experimenter, should put an undue value upon truth; but it is common to all scientific men. As nothing but the truth is of any value to them, they naturally dislike things that are not true. ... While my training has, perhaps, warped my mind so that I put an undue value upon truth, their training has been such as to cause them to abhor exact truth and logic.
[Replying to criticism by Colonel Acklom and other religious parties attacking Maxim's earlier contribution to the controversy about the modern position of Christianity.]
In G.K. Chesterton, 'The Maxims of Maxim', Daily News (25 Feb 1905). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 86.
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I have learnt that all our theories are not Truth itself, but resting places or stages on the way to the conquest of Truth, and that we must be contented to have obtained for the strivers after Truth such a resting place which, if it is on a mountain, permits us to view the provinces already won and those still to be conquered.
Liebig to Gilbert (25 Dec 1870). Rothamsted Archives. Quotation supplied by W. H. Brock.
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I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves–this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts–possessions, outward success, luxury–have always seemed to me contemptible.
In 'What I Believe,' Forum and Century (1930).
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I have no fault to find with those who teach geometry. That science is the only one which has not produced sects; it is founded on analysis and on synthesis and on the calculus; it does not occupy itself with the probable truth; moreover it has the same method in every country.
In Oeuvres de Frederic Le Grand edited by J.D.E. Preuss (1849), Vol. 7, 100. In Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica (1917), 310.
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I have occasionally had the exquisite thrill of putting my finger on a little capsule of truth, and heard it give the faint squeak of mortality under my pressure.
Letter to Stanley Hart White (Jan 1929), collected in The Letters of E.B. White (1976, 1989), 85.
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I know that certain minds would regard as audacious the idea of relating the laws which preside over the play of our organs to those laws which govern inanimate bodies; but, although novel, this truth is none the less incontestable. To hold that the phenomena of life are entirely distinct from the general phenomena of nature is to commit a grave error, it is to oppose the continued progress of science.
Leçons sur les Phenomenes Physiques de la Vie (1836-38), Vol. 1, 6. Trans. J. M. D. Olmsted, François Magendie (1944), 203.
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I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.
Attributed. Quoted in James GleickChaos (1988), 38. Contact webmaster if you know a primary print source.
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I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true.
Concluding remarks of keynote address at CSICOP conference, Pasadena, California (3 Apr 1987). Printed in 'The Burden of Skepticism', Skeptical Inquirer (1987), 12, No. 1. Collected in Kendrick Frazier (ed.), The Hundredth Monkey: And Other Paradigms of the Paranormal (1991), 9.
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I may conclude this chapter by quoting a saying of Professor Agassiz, that whenever a new and startling fact is brought to light in science, people first say, 'it is not true,' then that 'it is contrary to religion,' and lastly, 'that everybody knew it before.'
The Antiquity of Man (1863), 105.
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I never said it was possible. I only said it was true.
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I no longer count as one of my merits that I always tell the truth as much as possible; it has become my metier.
Letter to Albert Einstein, 8 Dec 1932. Quoted in P. Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time (1988), xvii.
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I often get letters … from people who say … I never give credit to the almighty power that created nature. … I reply … “Well, it’s funny that the people, when they say that this is evidence of the Almighty, always quote beautiful things … orchids and hummingbirds and butterflies and