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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index W > Alfred North Whitehead Quotes > Error

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Alfred North Whitehead
(15 Feb 1861 - 30 Dec 1947)

English mathematician and philosopher who worked in logic, physics, and later in his life spent more time on the philosophy of science and metaphysics. He worked with Bertrand Russell on Principia Mathematica which shows that logic underlies all mathematics.



It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle—they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 61.
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The aim of science is to seek the simplest explanations of complex facts. We are apt to fall into the error of thinking that the facts are simple because simplicity is the goal of our quest. The guiding motto in the life of every natural philosopher should be, Seek simplicity and distrust it.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In The Concept of Nature: Tarner Lectures Delivered in Trinity College, November 1919 (1920), 163.
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The results of science are never quite true. By a healthy independence of thought perhaps we sometimes avoid adding other people’s errors to our own.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In 'Space, Time and Relativity', The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929), 149.
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There is no more common error than to assume that, because prolonged and accurate mathematical calculations have been made, the application of the result to some fact of nature is absolutely certain.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 27.
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There is no royal road to learning. But it is equally an error to confine attention to technical processes, excluding consideration of general ideas. Here lies the road to pedantry.
— Alfred North Whitehead
In An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 8.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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- 10 -
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