"There are some minds given to an extreme admiration of antiquity, others to an extreme love and appetite for novelty; but few so duly tempered that they can hold the mean, neither carping at what has been well laid down by the ancients, nor despising what is well introduced by the moderns. This however turns to the great injury of the sciences and philosophy; since these affectations of antiquity and novelty are the humors of partisans rather than judgments; and truth is to be sought for not in the felicity of any age, which is an unstable thing, but in the light of nature and experience, which is eternal. These factions therefore must be abjured, and care must be taken that the intellect be not hurried by them into assent."
"Does the world have to have a meaning...? That is the real problem. If we could accept this meaninglessness of the world, then we could play with forms, appearances and our impulses, without worrying about their ultimate destination. If there were not this demand for the world to have a meaning, there would be no reason to find a general equivalent for it in money. As Cioran says, we are not failures until we believe life has a meaning -- and from that point on we are all failures, because it hasn't. And it is, in fact, because this fetishized money is expressive of a pure and simple absence that it becomes speculative, exponential, itself doomed to crashes and sudden wild swings."
"Man's method of dealing with difficulties in the past has always been to tell everyone else how they should behave. We've all been doing that for centuries. It should be clear by now that this no longer does any good. Everybody has by now been told by everybody else how he should behave...The criticism is not effective; it never has been, and it never is going to be."
"To ask serious questions about the nature and behavior of one's own society is often difficult and unpleasant: difficult because the answers are generally concealed, and unpleasant because the answers are often not only ugly -- in foreign affairs, roughly in proportion to the power of the state -- but also painful. To understand the truth about these matters is to be led to actions that may not be easy to undertake and that may even carry a significant personal cost. In contrast, the easy way is to succumb to the demands of the powerful, to avoid searching questions, and to accept the doctrine that is hammered home incessantly by the propaganda system. This is, no doubt, the main reason for the easy victory of dominant ideologies, for the general tendency to remain silent or to keep fairly close to official doctrine with regard to the behavior of one's own state and its allies and dependencies, while lining up to condemn the real or alleged crimes of its enemies."
"It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us...from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."
"'The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities,' said Aristotle; 'we should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness.' And St. Thomas for his part pronounced woman to be an 'imperfect man,' an 'incidental' being. This is symbolized in Genesis where Eve is depicted as made from what Bossuet called a 'supernumerary bone of Adam.' Thus humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous being. Michelet writes: 'Woman, the relative being'...And she is simply what man decrees; thus she is called 'the sex,' by which is meant that she appears essentially to the male as a sexual being. For him she is sex -- absolute sex, no less. She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute -- she is the Other."
"The old-fashioned materialist who is honestly convinced that human life is without a cause and without a goal, that man is an irresponsible particle of matter engulfed in a maelstrom of purposeless forces, reminds us of the delightful remark made by a brilliant philosopher, Whitehead: '...Scientists who spend their life with the purpose of proving that it is purposeless constitute an interesting subject of study'. . . If a microbe, living in one of the cracks of an elephant's skin, possessed our intelligence, and if his ancestors had built up and transmitted to him a science...it is conceivable that he would not have a very clear idea of the laws governing his universe: the elephant. The microbe lives at the bottom of a valley one fifth of an inch deep, the equivalent to us of a canyon six or seven thousand feet high. There he may have created an image of his world very different from ours, and when the elephant scratches himself, or takes a bath, the microscopic dweller of the valley can be excused if he attributes these unpredictable cataclysms to an entirely different cause. Let us try to avoid the point of view of the microbe, for whom one day of twenty-four hours corresponds to a century, or four generations."
"I do not forgive in my friends the failure to know a fine character, and to entertain it with thankful hospitality. When at last, that which we have always longed for, is arrived, and shines on us with glad rays out of that far celestial land, then to be coarse, then to be critical, and treat such a visitant with the jabber and suspicion of the streets, argues a vulgarity that seems to shut the doors of heaven."
Across the sky, the clouds move,
Across the fields, the wind,
Across the fields the lost child
Of my mother wanders.
Across the street, leaves blow,
Across the trees, birds cry --
Across the mountains, far away,
My home must be.
"Almost every one has a predominant inclination, to which his other desires and affections submit, and which governs him, though, perhaps, with some intervals, through the whole course of his life. It is difficult for him to apprehend, that any thing, which appears totally different to him, can ever give enjoyment to any person, or can possess charms, which altogether escape his observation. His own pursuits are always, in his account, the most engaging: The objects of his passion, the most valuable: And the road, which he pursues, the only one that leads to happiness."
"Too many humans have no aim or purpose of any kind; still less by right means are they learning to be. Flabbiness of purpose, vagueness of means, inefficiency of action, these and wasted effort on all planes are ripe causes of unhappiness...If it is untrue that 'there is no health in us,' it is true that until we face the futility of nine tenths of our existence we are not likely to move towards right acting, much less to direct acting, and thence to Non-action, wherein alone lies joy beyond all happiness."
"At the universities, the decay of philosophy is due to the isolation in which it is traditionally cultivated, removed from the realities of the age as by a kind of inbreeding. Almost all teachers of philosophy have lived their lives true to type, from the day they entered college: philosophy major and graduate student, Ph.D., lecturer in philosophy, and then the call to a professorship. This is one way, to be sure, but as the only way it lets philosophy dry up...Instead of coming from life, from reality, from science to the flower of philosophizing, instead of nurturing it from the soil in which it grew, the philosophers often deal only with past philosophies and with fine books on everything under the sun. They treat their subject like a herbarium of beautiful plants, with which they operate without arousing new life in them by an infusion of their own blood. One studies philosophy and acquires a virtuosity of intellectual movement, but one does not philosophize in dead earnest, concerned with the truth by which, and with which, we will live."
"Words in a poem, sounds in a movement, rhythm in space, attempt to recapture personal meaning in personal time and space from out of the sights and sounds of a depersonalized, dehumanized world. They are bridgeheads into alien territory. They are acts of insurrection. Their source is from the Silence at the center of each of us. Wherever and whenever such a whorl of patterned sound or space is established in the external world, the power that it contains generates new lines of force whose effects are felt for centuries."
"The preservation of a democratic civilization requires the wisdom of the serpent and the harmlessness of the dove. The children of light must be armed with the wisdom of the children of darkness but remain free from their malice. They must know the power of self-interest in human society without giving it moral justification. They must have this wisdom in order that they may beguile, deflect, harness and restrain self-interest, individual and collective, for the sake of the community."
There was a young man who said, "God
Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there's no one about in the Quad."
Your astonishment's odd:
I am always about in the Quad.
And that's why the tree
Will continue to be,
Since observed by
"The business of skepticism is to be dangerous. Skepticism challenges established institutions. If we teach everybody, including, say, high school students, habits of skeptical thought, they will probably not restrict their skepticism to UFOs, aspirin commercials, and 35,000-year-old channelees. Maybe they'll start asking awkward questions about economic, or social, or political, or religious institutions. Perhaps they'll challenge the opinions of those in power. Then where would we be?"
"The whole world belongs to me implicitly when I have given it all up, and am wedded to nothing particular in it; but for the same reason, no part of it properly belongs to me as a possession, but all only in idea. Materially I might be the most insignificant of worms; spiritually I should be the spectator of all time and all existence."
"What is true and genuine would more easily gain room in the world if it were not that those who are incapable of producing it are also sworn to prevent it from succeeding. This fact has already hindered and retarded, when indeed it has not choked, many a work that should have been of benefit to the world."
"You are about to embark on a course of studies which...form a noble adventure. Except for those of you who will become teachers or dons, all that you will learn in the course of your studies will not be of the slightest possible use to you in later life -- save only this -- that if you work hard and intelligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education."
". . .surely human affairs would be far happier if the power in men to be silent were the same as that to speak. But experience more than sufficiently teaches that men govern nothing with more difficulty than their tongues, and can moderate their desires more easily than their words."
"...there is no trustworthy standard by which we can separate the 'real' from the 'unreal' aspects of phenomena. Such standards as exist are conventional: and correspond to convenience, not to truth. It is no argument to say that most men see the world in much the same way, and that this "way" is the true standard of reality: though for practical purposes we have agreed that sanity consists in sharing the hallucinations of our neighbors. Those who are honest with themselves know that this 'sharing' is at best incomplete...'Eyes and ears,' said Heracleitus, "are bad witnesses to those who have barbarian souls": and even those whose souls are civilized tend to see and hear all things through a temperament. In one and the same sky the poet may discover the habitation of angels, whilst the sailor sees only a promise of dirty weather ahead. Hence, artist and surgeon, Christian and rationalist, pessimist and optimist, do actually and truly live in different and mutually exclusive worlds, not only of thought but also of perception."