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Bon Mot 15

Theodor Adorno

William Barrett

Jean Baudrillard

Elias Canetti

Emil Cioran

Diogenes Laertius

Terry Eagleton

Albert Einstein

Benjamin Fondane

Carl Jung

Ursula Le Guin

Pascal Mercier

Henry Miller

C. Wright Mills

Daniel Quinn

Victor Serge

George Steiner

Tristan Tzara


Alfred North Whitehead

Philip Zimbardo

Theodor Adorno, Towards A New Manifesto:

“We do not live in a revolutionary situation, and actually things are worse than ever. The horror is that for the first time we live in a world in which we can no longer imagine a better one.”

Albert Einstein, Mein Weltbild:

“I am truly a 'lone traveler' and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude -- feelings which increase with the years. One becomes sharply aware, but without regret, of the limits of mutual understanding and consonance with other people. No doubt, such a person loses some of his innocence and unconcern; on the other hand, he is largely independent of the opinions, habits, and judgments of his fellows and avoids the temptation to build his inner equilibrium upon such insecure foundations."

William Barrett, Irrational Man: A Study In Existential Philosophy:

"Habit and routine are great veils over our existence. As long as they are securely in place, we need not consider what life means; its meaning seems sufficiently incarnate in the triumph of the daily habit.”

Jean Baudrillard, Cool Memories (Part 4):

“‘People of good taste leave it to the common herd to think, and to think wrongly’ (Crebillon). That same aristocratic position is today occupied by the common herd, who leave it to the politicians to govern us, and govern us badly. The mediocre have turned the tables.”

Emil Cioran, quoted by Costica Bradatan in the L.A. Times (12/24/16):

“In Bucharest I met lots of people, many interesting people, especially losers, who would show up at the cafe, talking endlessly and doing nothing. I have to say that, for me, these were the most interesting people there. People who did nothing all their lives, but who otherwise were brilliant.”

Cioran, The Trouble With Being Born:

“The farther men get from God, the farther they advance into the knowledge of religions.”

Elias Canetti, The Human Province:

“And what if only the worst survived? A Darwinism in reverse.”

Diogenes Laertius, The Lives & Opinions of Eminent Philosophers:

When Plato was discoursing about his “ideas,” and using the nouns “tableness” and “cupness”; “I, O Plato!” interrupted Diogenes, “see a table and a cup, but I see no tableness or cupness.” Plato made answer, “That is natural enough, for you have eyes, by which a cup and a table are contemplated; but you have not intellect, by which tableness and cupness are seen.”

Terry Eagleton, Across The Pond: An Englishman’s View of America

“The difference between radicals and others is that radicals suspect that the truth is generally discreditable. It is thus rarely in the open, and a degree of abrasiveness is required to dig it out. What you see is highly unlikely to be what you get.”

Benjamin Fondane, La Conscience Malheureuse:

“There are certain instants, minimal in the passing of time, but extremely important in terms of their plenitude, when the mind breaks through the circle in which it had been enclosed, and begins to contradict itself, to have intuitions, flashes of insight, which, try as one may, cannot be denied afterwards -- they really happened...There are masses of times, enormous and stupid, in which nothing happens; and short, marvellous moments in which lots of extraordinary events take place. So far no one has ever come up with anything to prove that truth is in proportion to abstract time, that what lasts for a long time is true and that what only lasts for an instant is false.”

Carl Jung, Modern Man In Search of a Soul:

“During the past thirty years, people from all the civilized countries of the earth have consulted me. I have treated many hundreds of patients…Among all my patients in the second half of life – that is to say, over thirty-five – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given to their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook.”

Ursula Le Guin, From a speech given in 2014:

“We need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit…is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.”

Pascal Mercier, Night Train To Lisbon:

“It is an unrecognized form of stupidity [that] you have to forget the cosmic meaninglessness of all our acts to be vain, and that’s a glaring form of stupidity.”

Henry Miller, The World of Sex:

"We clutter the earth with our inventions, never dreaming that possibly they are unnecessary -- or disadvantageous. We devise astounding means of communication, but do we communicate with one another? We move our bodies to and fro at incredible speeds, but do we really leave the spot we started from? Mentally, morally, spiritually, we are fettered. What have we achieved in mowing down mountain ranges, harnessing the energy of mighty rivers, or moving whole populations about like chess pieces, if we ourselves remain the same restless, miserable, frustrated creatures we were before? To call such activity progress is utter delusion."

C. Wright Mills, Power, Politics and People:

“The moral uneasiness of our time…is due to this key fact: the older values…no longer grip us, nor have they been replaced by new values and codes which would lend moral meaning.”

Daniel Quinn, Ishmael:

“What more tragic commentary on the human condition can there be than that most men die unprepared for death as they have lived unprepared for life?”

Victor Serge, Notebooks:

"Objective judgements are necessarily unjust at a certain point. (1) Because they can never be entirely objective (impersonal); (2) because they do not consider the person from the inside, identifying with them like a novelist or poet, and so unaware of essential factors, that can only be intuited, through empathy. (In this sense, empathy and love perhaps attain another objectivity, of a non-scientific kind, since it is not subject to precise verification, but higher, more profound, more alive. The difference between the truth of the work of art and that of the document.)"

George Steiner, Real Presences:

“The number of human beings who, at any given moment in any defined society, care deeply about literature, music and the arts, for whom such caring comports a truly personal investment and opening of being, is small…Given a free vote, the bulk of humankind will choose football, the soap opera or bingo over Aeschylus.”

Tristan Tzara, Lecture on Dada:

“The Beautiful and the True in art do not exist; what interests me is the intensity of a personality transposed directly, clearly into the work; the man and his vitality; the angle from which he regards the elements and in what manner he knows how to gather sensation, emotion, into a lacework of words and sentiments.”

Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary:

“To succeed in chaining the multitude, you must seem to wear the same fetters.”

Alfred North Whitehead, The Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead (ed. Lucien Price)

“Irony signifies the state of mind of people or of an age which has lost faith. They conceal their loss, or even flaunt it by laughter. You seldom get irony except from people who have been somehow more or less cleaned out.”

Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect

“Heroism often requires social support. We typically celebrate heroic deeds of courageous individuals, but we do not do so if their actions have tangible immediate cost to the rest of us and we can’t understand their motives. Such heroic seeds of resistance are best sown if all members of a community share a willingness to suffer for common values and goals.”