Wit Quotes (35 quotes)
A depressing number of people seem to process everything literally. They are to wit as a blind man is to a forest, able to find every tree, but each one coming as a surprise.
A witty statesman said you might prove anything with figures.
And I believe there are many Species in Nature, which were never yet taken notice of by Man, and consequently of no use to him, which yet we are not to think were created in vain; but it’s likely … to partake of the overflowing Goodness of the Creator, and enjoy their own Beings. But though in this sense it be not true, that all things were made for Man; yet thus far it is, that all the Creatures in the World may be some way or other useful to us, at least to exercise our Wits and Understandings, in considering and contemplating of them, and so afford us Subject of Admiring and Glorifying their and our Maker. Seeing them, we do believe and assert that all things were in some sense made for us, we are thereby obliged to make use of them for those purposes for which they serve us, else we frustrate this End of their Creation.
— John Ray
Criticism is as often a trade as a science, requiring, as it does, more health than wit, more labour than capacity, more practice than genius.
Every failure teaches a man something, to wit, that he will probably fail again next time.
Fat paunches have lean pates; and dainty bits
Make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the wits.
Make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the wits.
George Sears, called Nessmuk, whose “Woodcraft,” published in 1884, was the first American book on forest camping, and is written with so much wisdom, wit, and insight that it makes Henry David Thoreau seem alien, humorless, and French.
I know very well the people you mean: they are all mind and theory and haven't the wit to sew on a button. Plenty of head but not hand enough to sew on a button.
If one be bird-witted, that is easily distracted and unable to keep his attention as long as he should, mathematics provides a remedy; for in them if the mind be caught away but a moment, the demonstration has to be commenced anew.
If there is no God, we are just molecules in motion, and we have no sense and no mind; we are just random firings of chemical in the brain. If our minds are composed only of physical matter, then our thoughts are, as Doug Wilson wittily quipped in his debate with atheist Dan Barker, just “brain gas.”
In physics we have dealt hitherto only with periodic crystals. To a humble physicist’s mind, these are very interesting and complicated objects; they constitute one of the most fascinating and complex material structures by which inanimate nature puzzles his wits. Yet, compared with the aperiodic crystal, they are rather plain and dull. The difference in structure is of the same kind as that between an ordinary wallpaper in which the same pattern is repeated again and again in regular periodicity and a masterpiece of embroidery, say a Raphael tapestry, which shows no dull repetition, but an elaborate, coherent, meaningful design traced by the great master.
In the mathematics I can report no deficience, except it be that men do not sufficiently understand this excellent use of the pure mathematics, in that they do remedy and cure many defects in the wit and faculties intellectual. For if the wit be too dull, they sharpen it; if too wandering, they fix it; if too inherent in the sense, they abstract it. So that as tennis is a game of no use in itself, but of great use in respect it maketh a quick eye and a body ready to put itself into all postures, so in the mathematics that use which is collateral and intervenient is no less worthy than that which is principal and intended.
In the mathematics I can report no deficience, except that it be that men do not sufficiently understand the excellent use of the pure mathematics, in that they do remedy and cure many defects in the wit and faculties intellectual. For if the wit be too dull, they sharpen it; if too wandering, they fix it; if too inherent in the sense, they abstract it. So that as tennis is a game of no use in itself, but of great use in respect it maketh a quick eye and a body ready to put itself into all postures; so in the mathematics, that use which is collateral and intervenient is no less worthy than that which is principal and intended.
It is one of the triumphs of human wit ... to conquer by humility and submissiveness ... to make oneself small in order to appear great ... such ... are often the expedients of the neurotic.
Love is of all stimulants the most powerful. It sharpens the wits like danger, and the memory like hatred; it spurs the will like ambition; it exalts the imagination like hashish; it intoxicates like wine.
No Man is the wiser for his Learning: it may administer Matter to work in, or Objects to work upon; but Wit and Wisdom are born with a man.
Physicians get neither name nor fame by the pricking of wheals or the picking out thistles, or by laying of plaisters to the scratch of a pin; every old woman can do this. But if they would have a name and a fame, if they will have it quickly, they must do some great and desperate cures. Let them fetch one to life that was dead; let them recover one to his wits that was mad; let them make one that was born blind to see; or let them give ripe wits to a fool: these are notable cures, and he that can do thus, if he doth thus first, he shall have the name and fame he deserves; he may lie abed till noon.
Scientists—that crowd that for wit and dash make the general public look alike the Bloomsbury Set.
Some books are like grindstones, good to sharpen your wits on just because you disagree from them.
The great artifice of regarding small deviations from the truth as being the truth itself is at the same time the foundation of wit, where the whole thing would often collapse if we were to regard these deviations in a spirit of philosophical rigor.
The monuments of wit survive the monuments of power.
The more wittily a good thought is defined the less it is true.
The [Ascension] island is entirely destitute of trees, in which, and in every other respect, it is very far inferior to St. Helena. Mr. Dring tells me, that the witty people of the latter place say, “we know we live on a rock, but the poor people of Ascension live on a cinder:” the distinction in truth is very just.
There is a story which shows his ready wit, dating from the meeting of the British Association in Canada before the war. Tizard and a colleague inadvertently crossed over into the United States, near Niagara. When challenged by a policeman, and not having their passports with them, they produced their British Association membership cards. When the policeman told them that “The American Government doesn't recognise British Science,” the lightning reply came from Tizard, “Oh, that's all right, neither does the British Government.”
There is no Professor of Wit at either University. Surely they might as reasonably have a professor of wit as of poetry.
There is no such whetstone, to sharpen a good wit and encourage a will to learning, as is praise.
These Disciplines [mathematics] serve to inure and corroborate the Mind to a constant Diligence in Study; to undergo the Trouble of an attentive Meditation, and cheerfully contend with such Difficulties as lie in the Way. They wholly deliver us from a credulous Simplicity, most strongly fortify us against the Vanity of Scepticism, effectually restrain from a rash Presumption, most easily incline us to a due Assent, perfectly subject us to the Government of right Reason, and inspire us with Resolution to wrestle against the unjust Tyranny of false Prejudices. If the Fancy be unstable and fluctuating, it is to be poized by this Ballast, and steadied by this Anchor, if the Wit be blunt it is sharpened upon this Whetstone; if luxuriant it is pared by this Knife; if headstrong it is restrained by this Bridle; and if dull it is rouzed by this Spur. The Steps are guided by no Lamp more clearly through the dark Mazes of Nature, by no Thread more surely through the intricate Labyrinths of Philosophy, nor lastly is the Bottom of Truth sounded more happily by any other Line. I will not mention how plentiful a Stock of Knowledge the Mind is furnished from these, with what wholesome Food it is nourished, and what sincere Pleasure it enjoys. But if I speak farther, I shall neither be the only Person, nor the first, who affirms it; that while the Mind is abstracted and elevated from sensible Matter, distinctly views pure Forms, conceives the Beauty of Ideas, and investigates the Harmony of Proportions; the Manners themselves are sensibly corrected and improved, the Affections composed and rectified, the Fancy calmed and settled, and the Understanding raised and excited to more divine Contemplations. All which I might defend by Authority, and confirm by the Suffrages of the greatest Philosophers.
Though genius isn't something that can be produced arbitrarily, it is freely willed—like wit, love, and faith, which one day will have to become arts and sciences. You should demand genius from everyone, but not expect it. A Kantian would call this the categorical imperative of genius.
To teach vain Wits that Science little known,
T' admire Superior Sense, and doubt their own!
T' admire Superior Sense, and doubt their own!
We cannot see how the evidence afforded by the unquestioned progressive development of organised existence—crowned as it has been by the recent creation of the earth's greatest wonder, MAN, can be set aside, or its seemingly necessary result withheld for a moment. When Mr. Lyell finds, as a witty friend lately reported that there had been found, a silver-spoon in grauwacke, or a locomotive engine in mica-schist, then, but not sooner, shall we enrol ourselves disciples of the Cyclical Theory of Geological formations.
Wit and Wisdom differ; Wit is upon the sudden turn, Wisdom is in bringing about ends.
Wit is the best safety valve modern man has evolved; the more civilization, the more repression, the more the need there is for wit.
Wit must grow like Fingers. If it be taken from others, ’tis like Plums stuck upon black Thorns; there they are for a while, but they come to nothing.
Yet as I cast my eye over the whole course of science I behold instances of false science, even more pretentious and popular than that of Einstein gradually fading into ineptitude under the searchlight; and I have no doubt that there will arise a new generation who will look with a wonder and amazement, deeper than now accompany Einstein, at our galaxy of thinkers, men of science, popular critics, authoritative professors and witty dramatists, who have been satisfied to waive their common sense in view of Einstein's absurdities.
[In the Royal Society, there] has been, a constant Resolution, to reject all the amplifications, digressions, and swellings of style: to return back to the primitive purity, and shortness, when men deliver'd so many things, almost in an equal number of words. They have exacted from all their members, a close, naked, natural way of speaking; positive expressions; clear senses; a native easiness: bringing all things as near the Mathematical plainness, as they can: and preferring the language of Artizans, Countrymen, and Merchants, before that, of Wits, or Scholars.