Beware of thinkers whose minds function only when fuelled by a quotation. 1
— Emil Cioran

I won’t get around to systematically stating a worldview. (It’s maybe bad for you, anyway.) But I like aphorisms, so here’s a molecular version of a worldview:



  • Don't just read it; fight it!
    ― Paul Halmos

  • John's world is a world of ideas, a world in which ideas don't belong to anyone, and in which, when an idea is wrong, just the idea – not the person – is wrong. A world in which ideas are like young birds, and we catch them and proudly show them to our friends...

    Some people won't show you the birds they've caught until they are positive that they – the birds, or themselves – are gorgeous, or rare, or remarkable. When your mind can separate yourself from it, you will share it sooner, and the beauty of the bird will be sooner enjoyed.
    ― Richard Gabriel

  • '...if we wanted people to fly, we would have given them wings.'
    'You gave me wings when you showed me birds.'
    ― Terry Pratchett

  • no good model ever accounted for all the facts - since some data was bound to be... plain wrong.
    ― James Watson

  • The truth lies directly before us, surrounding us. However, we can not use it as is. An unbroken description of reality would be simultaneously the truest and most useless thing in the world, and it certainly would not be science... to make reality useful to science, we must do violence to reality. We must introduce the distinction, which does not exist in nature, between essential and inessential. By seeking out the relationships that seem essential to us, we order the material... Then we are doing science.
    ― von Uexküll

  • At every single stage [of processing information] — from its biased arrival, to its biased encoding, to organizing it around false logic, to misremembering and then misrepresenting it to others — the mind continually acts to distort information flow in favor of the usual goal of appearing better than one really is.
    ― Robert Trivers

  • I believe there is no philosophical high-road in science, with epistemological signposts. No, we are in a jungle and find our way by trial and error, building our road behind us as we proceed.
    ― Max Born; or

  • If error is corrected whenever it is recognised, the path of error is the path of truth.
    ― Hans Reichenbach; or

  • There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.
    ― Leonard Cohen

  • By doing certain things certain results will follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them.
    ― Aleister Crowley

  • what... is right speech? Abstinence from false speech, abstinence from divisive speech, abstinence from harsh speech, abstinence from idle chatter
    ― Siddhartha Gautama

  • Is It True? Is It Necessary? Is It Kind?
    ― James Haldane Stewart

  • Coincidences...are the worst enemies of the truth.
    ― Gaston Leroux

  • Calculations are not cold-blooded. What blood we have in us, warm or cold, is something we can learn to see more clearly with the light of calculation.

    If you think calculations are cold-blooded, that they only shed light on cold things or make them cold, then you shouldn't do them. Stay by the warmth in a mental format where warmth goes on making sense to you.
    ― Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • In the history of humanity there have been three major inventions that have enabled people to think in entirely new ways. They allow us to learn more, think bigger thoughts and solve harder problems. They are:

    Writing: store knowledge in a brain-independent form that can be easily replicated, transmitted and preserved.
    Mathematics: constructing abstract systems, reasoning about them precisely and finding connections between them.
    Science: finding abstract systems which map closely to the real world.

    The reason why we teach these in schools to everyone everywhere is that they are part of your cultural inheritance as a human. It is your right to have these tools. Over the last few hundred years they have empowered us to eradicate diseases, light the dark and explore the stars. Recently a fourth major tool was added to the list:
    Computing: arranging inanimate systems to simulate arbitrary abstract systems
    ― Jamie Brandon

  • Killing ideas is a necessary part of science. Think of it as community service.
    ― Sabine Hossenfelder

  • In art as in science there is no delight without the detail, and it is on details that I have tried to fix the reader’s attention... all “general ideas” (so easily acquired, so profitably resold) must necessarily remain but worn passports allowing their bearers short cuts from one area of ignorance to another.
    ― Vladimir Nabokov

  • Reading and experience train your model of the world. And even if you forget the experience or what you read, its effect on your model of the world persists. Your mind is like a compiled program you've lost the source of. It works, but you don't know why.
    ― Paul Graham

  • If falsehood had only one face, as the truth does, we'd know where we were: we could take the opposite of what a liar said to be the truth. But the opposite of the truth has a hundred thousand shapes and a limitless field. 101
    ― Montaigne

  • Seek not the paths of the ancients; seek what they sought. 129
    ― Dōsen (南山大師), or

  • Books must follow science, and not science books.
    ― Francis Bacon

  • ...the reason human beings could not reject ideas because they were bad: Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity. Their content did not matter. Friends agreed with friends, in order to express friendliness. Enemies disagreed with enemies, in order to express enmity.
    ― Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

  • People will have their miracles, their stories, their heroes and heroines and saints and martyrs and divinities to exercise their gifts of affection, admiration, wonder, and worship, and their Judases and devils to enable them to be angry and yet feel that they do well to be angry. Every one of these legends is the common heritage of the human race; and there is only one inexorable condition attached to their healthy enjoyment, which is that no one shall believe them literally. The reading of stories and delighting in them made Don Quixote a gentleman: the believing them literally made him a madman who slew lambs instead of feeding them.
    ― GB Shaw

  • Man, your head is haunted; you have wheels in your head! You imagine great things, and depict to yourself a whole world of gods that has an existence for you, a spirit-realm to which you suppose yourself to be called, an ideal that beckons to you.
    ― Max Stirner

  • Virtue the only nobility; reason the only authority.
    ― the Enlightenment

  • Much of the wisdom of the world is not wisdom, and the most illuminated class of men are no doubt superior to literary fame, and are not writers.
    ― Emerson

  • The line between cynicism and misanthropy — between thinking ill of human motives and thinking ill of humans — is often blurry. So we want readers to understand that although we may often be skeptical of human motives, we love human beings (many of our best friends are human!).
    ― Hanson and Simler

  • ...however true [your claim] may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth... Truth, thus held, is but one superstition the more, accidentally clinging to the words which enunciate a truth. 113
    ― JS Mill

  • science would be better understood if we called theories \“misconceptions\” from the outset, instead of only after we have discovered their successors. Thus we could say that Einstein’s Misconception of Gravity was an improvement on Newton’s Misconception, which was an improvement on Kepler’s.
    ― David Deutsch

  • Your denial of the importance of objectivity amounts to announcing your intention to lie to us. No-one should believe anything you say.
    ― John McCarthy

  • You'll soon find a stick if you set out to beat a dog. 112
    Proverb; or

  • When there's a will to fail, obstacles can be found.
    ― John McCarthy

  • Everything's already been said, but since nobody was listening, we have to start again. 100
    ― André Gide

  • If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but if you really make them think they'll hate you.
    ― Don Marquis; or

  • One of the best ways to teach people not to rebel is to offer plenty of ruts for fake rebellion.
    ― Norman Solomon

  • If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.
    ― CS Lewis

  • I hold that everyone needs to learn at least one technical subject: physics, computer science, evolutionary biology, Bayesian probability theory, or something. Someone with no technical subjects under their belt has no referent for what it means to “explain” something.
    ― Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Without writing, you are reduced to a finite automaton. With writing you have the extraordinary power of a Turing machine.
    ― Manuel Blum

  • Litany: If I think up what seems like an obvious objection, I will resist assuming that I have found an [absurdly vitiating flaw] in the experts' logic. Instead I may ask politely whether my argument is a valid one, and if not, where the flaw lies.
    ― shminux

  • Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else we do.
    ― Donald Knuth

  • the purpose of every doubt is to annihilate itself in success or failure, and a doubt that just hangs around accomplishes nothing... Doubt shouldn’t be scary. Otherwise you’re going to have to choose between living one heck of a hunted life, or one heck of a stupid one.
    ― Yudkowsky

  • The history of science, like the history of all human ideas, is a history of irresponsible dreams, of obstinacy, and of error.
    ― Karl Popper

  • There are books in which the footnotes, or the comments scrawled by some reader's hand in the margin, are more interesting than the text. The world is one of those books.
    ― George Santayana

  • Plato says in 'Phaedo', that our imaginary ideas arise from the pre-existence of the soul, are not derivable from experience. Read 'monkeys' for 'pre-existence'!
    ― Darwin

  • If any man can show me I do not think or act right, I will gladly change; for I seek the truth, by which no man was ever injured. He is injured who abides in error and ignorance. 102
    ― Marcus Aurelius

  • The man scarce lives who is not more credulous than he ought to be... The natural disposition is always to believe. It is acquired wisdom and experience only that teach incredulity, and they very seldom teach it enough.
    ― Adam Smith

  • Fear not known but unknown propaganda; I have the utmost respect for Pravdas - how else will you know what to not believe?
    ― Gwern

  • If someone does not believe in fairies, he need not teach his children 'There are no fairies'; he can omit to teach them the word 'fairy'. 2307
    ― Ludwig Wittgenstein

  • Discovery consists in seeing what everyone has seen and thinking what no–one has thought. 103

  • In science, if you know what you are doing, you should not be doing it. In engineering, if you do not know what you are doing, you should not be doing it.
    ― Richard Hamming

  • Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.
    ― George Gordon Byron

  • It is a profoundly erroneous truism... that we should cultivate the 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.
    ― Alfred North Whitehead

  • Convictions are greater enemies of truth than lies. 104
    ― Nietzsche

  • Faced with a choice between changing one's mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.
    ― John Kenneth Galbraith

  • Everything that can be said, can be said clearly. 127
    ― Ludwig Wittgenstein

  • Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.
    ― David Akin

  • Consider: Magnitude? Probability? Tractability?

  • Then Prevalence, sensitivity, specificity, precision, deprecision, accuracy.

  • Penye wengi, pana mengi. 124
    ― Swahili proverb

  • The more you know, the more you see; the more you see... 125
    ― probably John Hitchcock

  • a special use of language, often over the heads of untrained readers, that seeks to express truths concisely & with precision, that allows us to understand otherwise inaccessible things, changing our experience in the process.
    ― Robert Creasey, on equations / poetry

  • Things are not what they appear to be: nor are they otherwise. 106
    ― the Lankavatara Sutra, or

  • ...when told by his pupil, Elizabeth Anscombe, that it was easy to understand why people thought the sun went round the earth, Wittgenstein asked, "Why would they think that?" "Well," said Anscombe, "it looks that way." To which Wittgenstein replied, "And how would it look if the earth went round the sun?

  • You will object to me: what good are classes, genera, systems!
    I answer you: Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject — the actual, terrible enemy is the unknown. 120
    ― Thomas Mann

  • If there were a verb meaning "to believe falsely," it would not have any significant first person, present indicative. 107
    ― Ludwig Wittgenstein

  • Einstein: God doesn't play dice!
    Bohr: It's not for us to dictate to God how to rule the world. 122

  • But in our enthusiasm, we could not resist a radical overhaul of the system, in which all of its major weaknesses have been exposed, analyzed, and replaced with new weaknesses.
    ― Bruce Leverett

  • A conclusion is simply the place where someone got tired of thinking.
    ― Arthur Bloch?

  • Reasoning and logic are to each other as health is to medicine, or — better — as conduct is to morality. Reasoning refers to a gamut of natural thought processes in the everyday world. Logic is how we ought to think if objective truth is our goal — and the everyday world is very little concerned with objective truth... The very reason we need logic at all is because most reasoning is not conscious at all.
    ― Julian Jaynes

  • Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him. It is a gift for dealing with the accidents of existence, not the accidents themselves.
    ― Aldous Huxley

  • the need to get things done often leaves us no leisure for careful inquiry, so we must confess that the life of a man is often obnoxiously in error about particular matters; we must acknowledge our infirmity. 128
    ― René Descartes

  • Once Da'an asked Master Baizhang, "This student yearns to understand enlightenment. What is it?"

    The Master said, “You are like someone searching for an ox while riding that ox.” 109
    ― after Baizhang Huaihai

  • True and False are attributes of speech, not of things. And where speech is not, there is neither Truth nor Falsehood. 117
    ― Thomas Hobbes

  • Never get so attached to a poem you forget truth that lacks lyricism.
    ― Joanna Newsom

  • I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken
    ― Oliver Cromwell

  • Time burns, but leaves no ashes. 110
    ― Elsa Triolet

  • However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth.

    Where [dogmatists'] influence prevails, they make it nearly impossible for the received opinion to be rejected wisely and considerately, though it may still be rejected rashly and ignorantly; for to shut out discussion entirely is seldom possible, and when it once gets in, beliefs not grounded on conviction are apt to give way before the slightest semblance of an argument.

    This is not knowing the truth. Truth, thus held, is but one superstition the more, accidentally clinging to the words which enunciate a truth.
    ― JS Mill

  • In the court of the mind, skepticism makes a great grand vizier, but a lousy lord.
    ― Erik Davis

  • A theory is a machine for answering a class of questions.
    ― Judea Pearl

  • If the cultivation of the understanding consists in one thing more than in another, it is surely in learning the grounds of one's own opinions. Whatever people believe, on subjects on which it is of the first importance to believe rightly, they ought to be able to defend against at least the common objections.
    ― JS Mill

  • All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility. Its condemnation may be allowed to rest on this common argument, not the worse for being common.
    ― Mill

  • When will we realise that the fact that we can become accustomed to anything... makes it necessary to examine everything we are accustomed to?
    ― GB Shaw

  • We feel an affinity with a certain thinker because we agree with him; or because he shows us what we were already thinking; or because he shows us in a more articulate form what we were already thinking; or because he shows us what we were on the point of thinking; or what we would sooner or later have thought; or what we would have thought much later if we hadn’t read it now; or what we would have been likely to think but never would have thought if we hadn’t read it now; or what we would have liked to think but never would have thought if we hadn’t read it now.
    ― Lydia Davis

  • The effort to understand the world is one of the few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.
    ― Steven Weinberg

  • Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.
    ― Einstein, but also

  • Beware the man of one book. 126
    ― attrb. Thomas Aquinas

  • As the case of cryonics testifies, the fear of thinking really differently is stronger than the fear of death.
    ― Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • I worry about it in the same way I worry about the philosophical Problem Of Skepticism. I don’t think I’m a brain in a vat. But I’m vaguely annoyed by knowing that an actual brain in a vat would think exactly the same thing for the same reason.
    ― Scott Alexander

  • Scientists are people of very dissimilar temperaments doing different things in very different ways. Among scientists are collectors, classifiers and compulsive tidiers-up; many are detectives by temperament and many are explorers; some are artists and others artisans. There are poet-scientists and philosopher-scientists and even a few mystics.
    ― Peter Medawar

  • ... if we laugh with derision, we will never understand. Human intellectual capacity has not altered for thousands of years. If intelligent people invested intense energy in issues that now seem foolish to us, then the failure lies in our understanding of their world, not in their distorted perceptions. Even the standard example of ancient nonsense - the debate about angels on pinheads - makes sense once you realize that theologians were not discussing whether five or eighteen would fit, but whether a pin could house a finite or an infinite number.
    ― Stephen Jay Gould

  • Here's a way to tell scientific intelligence from legal intelligence. Both may start from the idea that something cannot be done and think up arguments to explain why. However, the scientist may discover a flaw in the argument that leads him change his mind and to discover a way to do it... The legal thinker will merely try to patch the flaw in the argument, because, once he has chosen a side, all his intelligence is devoted to finding arguments for that side.
    ― John McCarthy

  • the things people believe are usually just what they instinctively feel is right; the justifications, the things you're supposed to argue about, come later. They're the least important part of the belief. That's why you can destroy them, win an argument, prove the other person wrong, and still they believe what they did in the first place. You've attacked the wrong thing.
    ― a nihilist by Iain Banks

  • A young scientist may be warned and advised that when he has a jewel to offer for the enrichment of mankind, some will wish to turn and rend him.
    ― Fisher

  • The essence of Christianity is told to us in the Garden of Eden history. The fruit that was forbidden was on the Tree of Knowledge. The subtext is, "All the suffering you have is because you wanted to find out what was going on. You could be in the Garden of Eden if you had just kept your fucking mouth shut and hadn't asked any questions."
    ― Frank Zappa

  • …the contradictory opposite of a copulative proposition is a disjunctive proposition composed of the contradictory opposites of its parts… the contradictory opposite of a disjunctive proposition is a copulative proposition composed of the contradictories of the parts of the disjunctive proposition.
    ― William of Ockham (1355), or:

  • ~(P Λ Q) -> (~P v ~Q)
    ~(P v Q) -> (~P Λ ~Q)
    De Morgan (1860)

  • A good stack of examples, as large as possible, is indispensable for a thorough understanding of any concept, and when I want to learn something new, I make it my first job to build one.
    ― Paul Halmos

  • Cross, lasso, and arrow: formerly tools of men, debased or exalted now to the status of symbols. Why should I marvel at them, when there is not a single thing that oblivion does not erase or memory change, and when no one knows into what images he himself will be transmuted by the future?
    ― Borges

  • actionable evidence is often unlikely to be feasible.
    ― Noah Haber et al

  • You must hasten - not only because you are daily nearer to death, but also because your intellect, which enables you to know the true nature of things and to order all your actions by that knowledge decays too, and may cease first. 111
    ― Marcus

  1. Tout a déjà été dit, mais comme personne n'écoute, il faut sans cesse recommencer.
  2. Si, comme la vérité, le mensonge n'avait qu'un visage, nous serions en meilleure situation, car nous prendrions pour certain le contraire de ce que dirait le menteur. Mais l'envers de la vérité à cent mille formes et un champ sans limites.
  3. Εἴ τίς με ἐλέγξαι καὶ παραστῆσαί μοι, ὅτι οὐκ ὀρθῶς ὑπολαμβάνω ἢ πράσσω, δύναται, χαίρων μεταθήσομαι: ζητῶ γὰρ τὴν ἀλήθειαν, ὑφ̓ ἧς οὐδεὶς πώποτε ἐβλάβη, βλάπτεται δὲ ὁ ἐπιμένων ἐπὶ τῆς ἑαυτοῦ ἀπάτης καὶ ἀγνοίας.
  4. Daher ist die Aufgabe nicht sowohl zu sehen was noch keiner gesehen hat, als bei Dem was Jeder sieht, zu denken was noch Keiner gedacht hat.
  5. überzeugungen sind gefährlichere Feinde der Wahrheit, als Lügen.
  6. न ते तथा यथा दृष्टा न च ते वै न सन्ति च   
  7. Gäbe es ein Verbum mit der Bedeutung "fälschlich glauben", so hätte das keine sinnvolle erste Person im Indikativ Präsens...
  8. ἦθος, πάθος, λόγος
  9. 長慶大安禪師前去參謁百丈懷海禪師,問說:"學人欲求識佛,何者即是?"

    See also:
    People can stand what is true, for they are already enduring it.

    - Eugene Gendlin
  10. Le Temps... brûle sans laisser de cendres.
    The most beautiful statement of the key problem of causal inference, historical science: entropy.
  11. χρὴ οὖν ἐπείγεσθαι οὐ μόνον τῷ ἐγγυτέρω τοῦ θανάτου ἑκάστοτε γίνεσθαι, ἀλλὰ καὶ διὰ τὸ τὴν ἐννόησιν τῶν πραγμάτων καὶ τὴν παρακολούθησιν προαπολήγειν.
  12. Man findet bald einen Stecken, wenn man einen Hund schlagen will.
  13. or also
    He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.
    - Edmund Burke
  14. Verum et falsum in oratione, non in rebus esse.
  15. Sie werden mir einwenden: was nützen Klassen, Gattungen, Systeme!

    Ich antworte Ihnen: Ordnung und Sichtung sind der Anfang der Beherrschung, und der eigentlich furchtbare Feind ist der unbekannte.
  16. Einstein: Gott würfelt nicht!

    Bohr: Aber es kann doch nicht unsere Aufgabe sein, Gott vorzuschreiben, wie Er die Welt regieren soll.

    (The latter line attributed by Heisenberg, who was there.)
  17. Roughly:
    Opinions are like assholes...
  18. Often attributed to Aldous Huxley, and it is a lot like him in his sensible mood.
  19. Hominem unius libri timeo.
  20. Was sich überhaupt sagen lässt, lässt sich klar sagen.
  21. Sed quia rerum agendarum necessitas non semper tam accurati examinis moram concedit, fatendum est humanam vitam circa res particulares saepe erroribus esse obnoxiam, & naturae nostrae infirmitas est agnoscenda.
  22. 古人の跡を求めず、 古人の求めたるの所を求めよ。


  • Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
    ― Jerry Garcia

  • Don't do to others what you'd dislike them doing to you. 315
    ― Confucius

  • this calls for the gradual formation of a world in which all species will enjoy cooperative and supportive relations with one another. Nature is not that way and has never been. So it calls for the gradual supplanting of the natural by the just.
    ― Martha Nussbaum

  • When some portion of the biosphere is rather unpopular with the human race - a crocodile, a dandelion, a stony valley, a snowstorm, an odd-shaped flint - there are three sorts of human being who are particularly likely still to see point in it and to befriend it. They are poets, scientists and children. Inside each of us, representatives of these three groups can be found.
    ― Mary Midgley

  • Every day I recall that my outer and inner life rests on the labours of others, the living and the dead; so I must strive, to give back, in the same measure, what I received and still receive. 311
    ― Einstein

  • Be optimistic, because optimism is correct - we can, in fact, create a better future
    ― Julia Galef

  • Be virtuous in general, Kantian with loved ones, rule consequentialist when setting policy, and act consequentialist as a distant last resort. Just as you are Aristotelian when carrying water, Newtonian when building a house, and Einsteinian when designing a satellite.
    ― Misha Yagudin

  • Doubt begets understanding, and understanding begets compassion.
    ― R. Scott Bakker

  • When we are headed the wrong way, the last thing [we need] is progress.
    ― Nick Bostrom

  • Schneier's mantra for an intervention I*:

    1. What is I* trying to change?
    2. How much will doing I* help (= B)?
    3. What new problems will I* induce (= P)?
    4. What does I cost (= C)?
    If (C + P) > B, don't intervene.

  • MacAskill's rubric for an altruist act A:

    1. How many people does A affect, and by how much? (Magnitude)
    2. Is A the best thing to do? (Relative magnitude / opportunity cost)
    3. What's the difference my doing A makes? (Effect minus effect in the counterfactual)
    4. What's the difference one more A makes, on the margin? (Marginal benefit)
    5. How sure is A to help? What harms could A cause? (Risk)

  • ...Compassion for the cancer patient, for the bereaved parent, for the victim of famine. Compassion for the undocumented immigrant facing deportation. Compassion for the LGBT man or woman dealing with self-doubts, ridicule, and abuse. Compassion for the nerdy male facing suicidal depression because modern dating norms, combined with his own shyness and fear of rule-breaking, have left him unable to pursue romance or love. Compassion for the woman who feels like an ugly, overweight, unlovable freak who no one will ask on dates. Compassion for the African-American victim of police brutality. Compassion even for the pedophile who’d sooner kill himself than hurt a child, but who’s been given no support for curing or managing his condition. This is what I advocate. This is my platform.
    ― Scott Aaronson

  • The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognized that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin... are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not 'Can they reason?', nor 'Can they talk?', but 'Can they suffer?'
    ― Jeremy Bentham

  • Intense, long, certain, speedy, fruitful, pure—
    Such marks in pleasures and pains endure
    Such pleasures seek if private be thy end:
    If it be public, wide let them extend.
    Such pains avoid, whichever be thy view:
    If pains must come, let them extend to few.
    ― Jeremy Bentham

  • The boys throw stones at the frogs in jest. But the frogs die in earnest.
    ― Joanna Russ

  • Human affairs are not serious, but they have to be taken seriously.
    Iris Murdoch

  • [Russell] was pretty clear about what we ought to do (work for world government, for example), but “perplexed” about what he meant when he said that we ought to do it.
    ― Charles Pigden

  • In a sense people are our proper occupation. Our job is to put up with them and do them good. 300
    ― Marcus Aurelius

  • Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes.
    ― PJ O'Rourke

  • May heaven exist, even if my place is hell. 314
    ― Jorge Luis Borges

  • Be nice, be provocable, be forgiving, and be clear.
    Robert Axelrod

  • 'Do you believe it’s more important that poor people have basic necessities of life than that you have lots of luxury goods?'
      'And do you believe that the money you’re currently spending on luxury goods right now could instead be spent on charity that would help poor people get life necessities?'
      'Then shouldn’t you stop buying luxury goods and instead give all your extra money beyond what you need to live to charity?'
      'Hey, what? Nobody does that! That would be a lot of work and make me look really weird!'
    ― Scott Alexander

  • It is vain to do with more what can be done with less. 312
    ― William of Ockham

  • Chimps like bananas and sex; humans like bananas and sex, and philosophy and sport. That is, there's a part of value space completely invisible to the chimp. It's likely that there is another thing, which will be engrossing to the posthuman, which we do not see the value in.
    ― Anders Sandberg

  • 'Man is weak - he must receive a task which accords to his strength,' people say. This amounts to: 'My hands are weak; I cannot draw a straight line, and therefore, in order to make it easier for myself, though I wish to draw a straight line, I will take a curved or a broken line as my guide.' The weaker my hand is, the more perfect must my guide be. 301
    ― Lev Tolstoy

  • For evil to triumph, all that is required is for good men to respond rationally to incentives.
    Misha Gurevich

  • The better is the enemy of the good. 313
    ― Voltaire

  • 'Effective altruism': caring about stuff, plus science.

  • If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? 302
    ― Alexander Solzhenitsyn

  • For the sake of one word a man is judged wise or foolish. Take care in choosing your words. 307
    ― Confucius

  • Boredom is a vital problem for the moralist, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.
    ― Bertrand Russell

  • Justice does not exist in itself; instead, it is always a compact to not harm or be harmed, which is agreed upon by those who gather together at some time and place. 310
    ― Epicurus

  • Nothing that grieves us can be called little.
    ― Mark Twain

  • Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by stupidity. Never ascribe to stupidity that which can be explained by laziness. Never ascribe to laziness that which can be explained by people knowing their own lives better than you do.
    ― Robert Heinlein & Buck Shlegeris

  • We make a ladder out of our vices by trampling them underfoot.
    ― attrbd Augustine of Hippo

  • Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
    ― attbd. Plato but really 'Rev John Watson'

  • Solas nobilitas virtus. (Virtue is the only nobility.)
    ― various

  • All punishment is mischief: all punishment in itself is evil.
    ― Jeremy Bentham

  • Egotist (n.): A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.
    ― Ambrose Bierce

  • Justice is when you get what you deserve; mercy is when you don't get what you deserve; grace is when you get what you don't deserve.
    ― Proverbial

  • Freedom in an unfree world is merely licence to exploit. (Total liberty for the wolves is death for the lambs.)
    ― Germaine Greer (Isaiah Berlin)

  • It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.
    ― Gore Vidal

  • Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?
    ― attbd. Lincoln

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.
    ― Henry Longfellow

  • Enliven morality with wit, but temper wit with morality.
    ― Joseph Addison

  • The wiser course might often be to do nothing, but it will seldom be without moral cost.
    ― Clive James

  • I am as desirous of being a good neighbour as I am of being a bad subject.
    ― Henry David Thoreau

  • Tip: It's illegal and immoral to slay your enemies, but if you eat nutritious food and outlive them, you can still dance on their graves. There's nothing illegal or immoral about dancing.
    ― Scott Adams

  • Conscience is the inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking.
    ― HL Mencken

  • Concern for people and their fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations. 304
    Albert Einstein

  • Retarget loyalty intuitions onto specific humans (never ideologies or collective identities). Retarget revenge intuitions onto patterns of incentives (never specific humans).
    ― Zack Davis

  • One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.
    ― Jane Austen

  • [He] encourages newer staff to think of people they’d like to bludgeon to death as valuable teachers of patience, tolerance, self-discipline, restraint/
    ― a character of David Foster Wallace's

  • A note don't care who plays it. (Nil ad hominem.)
    ― Clark Terry

  • as long as you have rigorously analysed the purpose of saying something, there is nothing that cannot be said.
    after Chris Morris, because

  • Laughter corrects customs. 306
    ― Jean–Baptiste de Santeul, but

  • We must laugh at our anger and still be angry.
    ― Carl Hancock Rux

  • Evil comes from excess of virtue.
    ― after Mary Midgley, thus

  • I tried to live for God. 305
    ― Hernán Cortés de Monroy

  1. Καθ ἕτερον μὲν λόγον ἡμῖν ἐστιν οἰκειότατον ἄνθρωπος, καθ ὅσον εὖ ποιητέον αὐτοὺς καὶ ἀνεκτέον· καθ ὅσον δὲ ἐνίστανταί τινες εἰς τὰ οἰκεῖα ἔργα...
  2. «Человек слаб, надо дать ему задачу по силам», говорят люди. Это все равно, что сказать: «руки мои слабы, и я не могу провести линию, которая была бы прямая, то есть кратчайшая между двумя точками, и потому, чтоб облегчить себя, я, желая проводить прямую, возьму за образец себе кривую или ломаную». Чем слабее моя рука, тем нужнее мне совершенный образец."
  3. «Если б это было так просто! что где-то есть черные люди, злокозненно творящие черные дела, и надо только отличить их от остальных и уничтожить. Но линия, разделяющая добро и зло, пересекает сердце каждого человека. И кто уничтожит кусок своего сердца? ...»
  4. Segnius homines bona quam mala sentiunt.

    very loose translation
  5. Die Sorge um den Menschen selbst und sein Schicksal muß immer das wichtigste Interesse aller technischen Unternehmungen sein. Das sollte man mitten unter seinen Diagrammen und Gleichungen nie vergessen.
  6. Vive Dios que lo intenté.
  7. Castigat ridendo mores.
  8. 君子一言以爲知、
  9. οὐκ ἦν τι καθʼ ἑαυτὸ δικαιοσύνη, ἀλλʼ ἐν ταῖς μετʼ ἀλλήλων συστροφαῖς καθʼ ὁπηλίκους δήποτε ἀεὶ τόπους συνθήκη τις ὑπὲρ τοῦ μὴ βλάπτειν ἢ βλάπτεσθαι.
  10. Jeden Tag denke ich unzählige Male daran, daß mein äußeres und inneres Leben auf der Arbeit der jetzigen und der schon verstorbenen Menschen beruht, daß ich mich anstrengen muß, um zu geben im gleichen Ausmaß, wie ich empfangen habe und noch empfange.
  11. Frustra fit per plura, quod fieri potest per pauciora.
  12. Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.
  13. Que el cielo exista, aunque mi lugar sea el infierno.
  14. 己所不欲,勿施於人


  • (First, see "happiness".)

  • the universe [is] the ultimate free lunch.
    ― Alan Guth

  • There is in men and women a motivation stronger even than love or hatred or fear. It is that of being interested — in a body of knowledge, in a problem, in a hobby, in tomorrow’s newspaper.
    ― George Steiner, after Nietzsche

  • Haven't we shed enough tears over the disenchantment of the world? Haven't we frightened ourselves enough with the poor European thrust into a cold soulless cosmos, wandering on an inert planet in a world devoid of meaning? ...How could we disenchant the world, when every day our laboratories and our factories populate the world with hundreds of hybrids stranger than those the day before? Is Boyle's air pump any less strange than the Arapesh spirit houses?
    ― Bruno Latour

  • If 'nothing matters' then that doesn't matter either.
    ― Thomas Nagel

  • ...nature is a fiendishly clever bit of trickery: meaninglessness and absurdity somehow masquerading as ingenious order and rationality
    ― Paul Davies

  • Heaven and Earth are not benevolent;
    they treat everything like straw dogs. 829
    ― Laozi

  • You carry the most important things in you forty or fifty years before you dare to articulate them. For this reason, it's impossible to estimate what is lost with those who die early. Everyone dies early. 881
    ― Elias Canetti

  • you got to make yourself up too
    ― Bob Dylan

  • In life, the challenge is not so much to figure out how best to play the game; the challenge is to figure out what game you’re playing.
    ― Kwame Appiah

  • in the same way as earlier physicists... had too little mathematical understanding to be able to master physics; we may say that young people today are suddenly in the position that ordinary common sense no longer suffices to meet the strange demands life makes. Everything has become so intricate that for its mastery an exceptional degree of understanding is required. For it is not enough any longer to be able to play the game well; but the question is again and again: what sort of game is to be played now?
    ― Wittgenstein (1950)

  • When cruel birth debases, we forget; when cruel death debases, we believe it erases all the rest that precedes. But the moment of your greatest joy sustains: not axe nor hammer - tumor, tremor - can take it away. It remains.
    ― Joanna Newsom

  • You say you couldn't live, if you thought the world had no purpose. You're saying you can't form purposes of your own - that you need someone to tell you what to do. The average child has more gumption than that.
    ― John McCarthy

  • Willy Wonka: “But Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he ever wanted.”
    Charlie: “What’s that?”
    Willy Wonka: “He lived happily ever after.”

  • There are depths of seriousness which only someone with a sense of humour can reach.
    after Clive James

  • We live during the hinge of history. Given the scientific and technological discoveries of the last two centuries, the world has never changed as fast. We shall soon have even greater powers to transform, not only our surroundings, but ourselves and our successors. If we act wisely in the next few centuries, humanity will survive its most dangerous and decisive period. Our descendants could, if necessary, go elsewhere, spreading through this galaxy... there has never been such a new dawn and clear horizon, and such an open sea.
    ― Derek Parfit

  • If a critical mass of people with new priorities were to emerge, and if these people were seen to do well, in every sense of the term -- if their cooperation with each other brings reciprocal benefits, if they find joy and fulfillment in their lives -- then the ethical attitude will spread, and the conflict between ethics and self-interest will have been shown to be overcome, not by abstract reasoning alone, but by adopting the ethical life as a practical way of living and showing that it works, psychologically, socially, and ecologically... One thing is certain: you will find plenty of worthwhile things to do. You will not be bored or lack fulfillment in your life. Most important of all, you will know that you have not lived and died for nothing, because you will have become part of the great tradition of those who have responded to suffering by trying to make the world a better place.
    ― Peter Singer

  • As striking as are the varieties of religious experience, they pale beside the variety of material things that can possibly exist...

    Using electrons, protons, and neutrons, it is possible to build: a waterfall; a superconductor; a living cell; a Bose-Einstein condensate; a conscious mind; a black hole; a tree; an iPhone; a Jupiter Brain; a working economy; a von Neumann replicator; an artificial general intelligence; a Drexlerian universal constructor; and much, much else.
    ― Michael Nielsen

  • I am a pessimist of the intellect, but an optimist of the will. 802
    ― Antonio Gramsci, or

  • The best way to complain is to make things.
    ― attrbd. James Murphy, or

  • Riding a donkey to seek a horse. 828
    ― Proverb

  • Wisdom: to the crowd this seems to be a sort of escape, a means of pulling out of a bad game; but the true philosopher lives 'unphilosophically' and 'unwisely', and feels the burden and duty of the hundred trials and temptations of life - he constantly rises; he plays this bad game. 824
    ― Nietzsche

  • the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.
    ― William Blake

  • Aude. Vide. Tace. 808
    ― the Masons

  • If you can't say anything good don't say anything. 809
    ― Salvator Rosa

  • The tigers of the east devour men, as do the tigers of the west.
    ― Proverb

  • Boredoms are like a moon on a lake. Only there is no moon and no lake. Only Boredoms.
    ― Yamataka Eye

  • He found the Archimedean point, but he used it against himself; it seems that he was permitted to find it only under this condition.
    ― Kafka

  • There is scarcely an occurrence in nature which... is not looked upon by some persons as a prognosticator either of good or evil. The latter are in the greatest number, so much more ingenious are we in tormenting ourselves than in discovering reasons for enjoyment in the things that surround us.
    ― Charles Mackay

  • To understand the past, we must first know the future.
    ― Raymond Smullyan

  • the great artisan... made man a creature of indeterminate nature, and, placing him inamidst the world, said to him

    'Adam, we give you no fixed place to live, no form forever peculiar to you, no function that is yours alone. According to your desires and judgment, you will have and possess whatever place to live, whatever form, and whatever functions you yourself choose. All other things have a limited and fixed nature prescribed and bounded by our laws. You, with no limit or no bound, may choose for yourself the limits and bounds of your nature. We have placed you at the world's center so that you may survey everything else in the world. We have made you neither of heavenly nor of earthly stuff, neither mortal nor immortal, so that with free choice and dignity, you may fashion yourself into whatever form you choose. To you is granted the power of degrading yourself into the lower forms of life, the beasts, and to you is granted the power, contained in your intellect and judgment, to be reborn into the higher forms, the divine.'

    ... To us it was given to be whatever we choose to be, and so that is what we want. 815
    ― Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

  • Before, the highest thing he could aspire to was dying gloriously for something; he now aspires higher, to live for something humble. 827
    ― Otto Ludwig

  • Once we are destined to live out our lives in the prison of our mind, our one duty is to furnish it well.
    ― Peter Ustinov

  • Solitude punctuates life, makes it a little more musical. It restores us to ourselves. 825
    ― Dumitru Tsepeneag

  • The sun shines on the one who praises it. 805
    ― Swahili proverb, or

  • Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile... Life, too, is forever turning an infinitely vacant side towards man, on which nothing appears, no more than it does on a blank canvas. But no matter how vacant and vain, how dead life may appear to be, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, who knows something, will not be put off so easily. He wades in and does something... 822
    ― van Gogh

  • People do not need to be religious, but they must be philosophical. When you are philosophical, you have the best of religion. 823
    ― Feng Youlan (馮友蘭)

  • There’s too much abstract willing, purposing,
    In this poor world. We talk by aggregates
    And think by systems and being used to face
    Our evils in statistics, are inclined
    To cap them with unreal remedies
    Drawn out in haste on the other side.
    ― Elizabeth Barrett Browning

  • The case against intellect is founded upon a set of fictional antagonisms. Intellect is pitted against feeling... against character... against practicality... against democracy... [But] Intellect needs to be understood not as a claim against the other human excellences for which a fatally high price has to be paid, but rather as a complement to them without which they cannot be fully consummated.
    ― Richard Hofstadter

  • Proceed til apprehended.
    ― Proverbial

  • Ludibrium est nihil metuit. 804
    ― Adam Ant

  • Some groups increase, others diminish, and in a short time the generations of living things pass, and like runners hand on the torch of life. 821
    ― Titus Lucretius Carus

  • Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. 806
    ― Gustave Flaubert

  • m = pV / iD.

  • We are on this earth to fart around. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
    ― Vonnegut. Or perhaps:

  • I don't know why we are here, but I'm quite sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.
    spuriously attrb. Wittgenstein

  • 'And did you get what // you wanted from this life, even so?'
    'I did.'
    'And what did you want?''
    'To call myself beloved, to feel myself / beloved on the earth.'
    ― Raymond Carver

  • Surroundings form his mind, as food forms his body. 818
    ― Mengzi

  • I live sweat, but I dream light–years.
    ― Mike Watt

  • If they think you're crude, go technical; if they think you're technical, go crude... These days, though, you have to be pretty technical before you can even aspire to crudeness.
    ― William Gibson

  • Everyone believes that tomorrow they'll truly start living. 826
    ― or

  • In the long run we are always in the short run. 807
    ― Abba Lerner

  • [we] never become anything without pretending to be it first.
    ― after Auden

  • In aesthetics the present is the only tense there is.
    ― Clive James

  • People say 'one day I will be good at X'. They don't realise that there is no way to 'be' anything: there are no plateaus to rest on. Instead, skill consists in doing. It's not like an RPG, where you level up and that's you on a higher level for good. Nor is it like riding a bicycle, an innate matter of balance that can be permanently wired into you. Instead, all you can hope for is to continually focus on supplying quality X.

    'One day I will be good.' they say. I'm like 'No; why are you coding that class badly?' They don't want to do any given thing better: that is boring and progress is imperceptible. Instead, they hope they will be able to do that automatically one day, when they are 'better at it'.

    It will never suddenly become effortless, not at any damn point.
    ― John Morrice

  • All is vanity. 810
    ― Ecc 1:2. Or

  • The effort to understand the world is one of the few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.
    ― Steven Weinberg

  • People suffer their failure to optimise the first–order problem (of allocating a tight budget of existence) and the second–order problem (of allocating attention to the first–order problem).
    John Quiggin

  • You have a real life if and only if you do not compete with anyone in any of your pursuits.
    ― Nassim Taleb

  • No book's so bad as to have no good in it. 811
    ― Pliny the Younger

  • The point of reading a great many books is to become aware of a great number of alternative purposes; the point of that is to become an autonomous self.
    ― Rorty, or

  • In multos libros libertas. 812

  • [Lord], make me chaste – but not yet. 813
    ― Augustine of Hippo

  • A man who sets out to justify his existence and his activities has to distinguish two different questions. The first is whether the work which he does is worth doing; and the second is why he does it... The first question is often very difficult, and the answer very discouraging... It is a tiny minority who can do something really well, and the number of men who can do two things well is negligible. If a man has any genuine talent he should be ready to make almost any sacrifice in order to cultivate it to the full.
    ― GH Hardy

  • there's nothing problematic about going out to shop for some soap or a car and purchasing the best that happens to be available... But some things, like the person you're going to spend the rest of your life with, or the work you'll spend it doing, don't seem like this. We want to believe in having a calling and a soulmate., in the gap between what we think we want and what we think we can get, the phenomenon occurs. It goes by many names: evil; marketing, sales, recruitment, courtship... Whatever one calls it, it would be advisable to think at least twice before concluding that one is better off ignoring it, the whole impetuous fearful flurry of flowing down gradients: to wonder, to inquire, to guess, to experiment, to tell and to listen... To offer, and reject, and reject, and reject; to seek, and be rejected, and rejected, and rejected.

    ...who among us can be said to have lived the most plausible facsimile of the chimerical 'good life'? ...lovers cradling one another on the beach, murmuring the three words that are the highest expression of what they mean to each other: 'Markets in everything.'
    ― Zack Davis

  • There are always some human beings who live to be a hundred. More do so today than ever before, but there have always been some... It comes as a shock to realise that the whole of civilisation has occurred within the successive lifetimes of sixty people—which is the number of friends I squeeze into my living room when I have a drinks party. Twenty people take us back to Jesus, twenty-one to Julius Caesar.
    ― Bryan Magee

  • I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them. 820
    ― Benedict Spinoza

  • Assume breach.

  • Dear Posterity,
         If you have not become more just, more peaceful, and generally more rational than we are - why then, the Devil take you. 803
    ― Albert Einstein

  • There are surely worse things than being wrong, and being dull and pedantic are surely among them.
    ― Mark Kac

  • How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it's just words.
    ― David Foster Wallace

  • I can't go on. I'll go on. 814
    ― Beckett

  • Beauty is hard. 800
    ― Plato

  • Always leave them wanting more.
    ― attrb. Theolonius Monk, attrb. Aristotle

  1. χαλεπὰ τὰ καλά.
  2. Sono pessimista con l'intelligenza, ma ottimista per la volontà.
  3. Liebe Nachwelt!
        Wenn Ihr nicht gerechter, friedlicher und überhaupt vernünftiger sein werdet, als wir sind, bezw. gewesen sind, so soll euch der Teufel holen.
  4. Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.
  5. Alisifuyejua, limemwangaza.
  6. Soyez réglé dans votre vie et ordinaire, afin d'être violent et original dans vos œuvres.
  7. В долгосрочной перспективе мы просто в другой краткосрочной перспективе.
  8. Dare. See. Hush.
  9. Aut tace aut loquere meliora silentio.
  10. .הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים הַכֹּל הָבֶל
  11. Nullum esse librum tam malum, ut non in aliqua parte prodesset.
  12. In many books, freedom.
  13. Da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo.
  14. je ne peux pas continuer, je vais donc continuer.
  15. Igitur hominem accepit indiscretae opus imaginis atque in mundi positum meditullio sic est alloquutus:

    "Nec certam sedem, nec propriam faciem, nec munus ullum peculiare tibi dedimus, o Adam, ut quam sedem, quam faciem, quae munera tute optaveris, ea, pro voto, pro tua sententia, habeas et possideas.

    Definita caeteris natura intra praescriptas a nobis leges cohercetur. Tu, nullis angustiis cohercitus, pro tuo arbitrio, in cuius manu te posui, tibi illam prefinies. Medium te mundi posui, ut circumspiceres inde comodius quicquid est in mundo.

    Nec te celestem neque terrenum, neque mortalem neque immortalem fecimus, ut tui ipsius quasi arbitrarius honorariusque plastes et fictor, in quam malueris tute formam effingas. Poteris in inferiora quae sunt bruta degenerare; poteris in superiora quae sunt divina ex tui animi sententia regenerari."

    Cui datum id habere quod optat, id esse quod velit.
  16. 居移氣,養移體
  17. Sedula curavi, humanas actiones non ridere, non lugere, neque detestare, sed intelligere.
  18. Augescunt aliae gentes, aliae minuuntur, inque brevi spatio mutantur saecla animantum et quasi cursores vitai lampada tradunt.
  19. Smeer maar er iets op als ge een blank doek U aan ziet staren met een zekere imbeciliteit...

    Het leven op zich zelf keert aan een mensch altijd ook een oneindig niets zeggende, ontmoedigenden, hopeloos makenden blanken kant toe waar niets op staat, evenmin als op een blank schilderdoek.–

    Maar hoe nietszeggend en ijdel, hoe dood het leven zich voor doe, de man van geloof, van energie, van warmte, en die iets weet, laat zich niet daardoor met een kluitje in ’t riet sturen. Hij grijpt er in en doet iets en knoopt daar aan vast, enfin breekt, “schendt”. Laat ze praten die koude theologen.
  20. 将来的世界里,哲学将取代宗教的地位,这是合乎中国哲学传统的 。人不需要宗教化,但是人必须哲学化 。当人哲学化了,他也就得到了宗教所提供的最高福分 。
  21. Weisheit: das scheint dem Pöbel eine Art Flucht zu sein, ein Mittel und Kunststück, sich gut aus einem schlimmen Spiele herauszuziehn; aber der rechte Philosoph — so scheint es uns, meine Freunde? — lebt „unphilosophisch“ und „unweise“, vor Allem unklug, und fühlt die Last und Pflicht zu hundert Versuchen und Versuchungen des Lebens: — er risquirt sich beständig, er spielt das schlimme Spiel.....
  22. La solitude rythme notre vie, la rend un peu plus musicale. Elle nous restitute a nous-memes.
  23. I think this was derived from this, by Emerson:
    We are always getting ready to live, but never living.
  24. Das Höchste, wozu er sich erheben konnte, war, für etwas rühmlich zu sterben; jetzt erhebt er sich zu dem Größern, für etwas ruhmlos zu leben.
  25. 骑驴找马
  26. 天地不仁以
  27. 东山的老虎吃人,西山的老虎也吃人。
  28. Das Wichtigste trägt man vierzig oder fünfzig Jahre in sich, bevor man es artikuliert zu sagen wagt. Schon darum ist gar nicht zu ermessen, was mit denen verlorengeht, die früh sterben. Alle sterben früh.


  • If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is. 508
    ― John von Neumann

  • Don't just read it, fight it! ... Jump ahead, try the next problem, turn the page, go to the next chapter, or even abandon the book and start another one. Books may be linearly ordered, but our minds are not.
    ― Paul Halmos

  • If my teachers had begun by telling me that mathematics was pure play with presuppositions, and wholly in the air, I might have become a good mathematician, because I am happy enough in the realm of essence. But they were over-worked drudges, and I was largely inattentive, and inclined lazily to attribute to incapacity in myself or to a literary temperament that dullness which perhaps was due simply to lack of initiation.
    ― George Santayana

  • To traffic in serious mathematics is to commune with truth; to traffic in words, to merely write novels, is to produce dim approximations of the truth. This is what too many colloquies at the Santa Fe Institute will do to a novelist’s self-esteem.
    ― James Woods, after Cormac McCarthy

  • Mathematics is an experimental science and its definitions do not come first, but later on.
    ― Oliver Heaviside

  • If, stranger, you're able to find out these things and gather them in your mind, then you'll be crowned with glory and know yourself perfect in this species of wisdom. 509
    ― Archimedes

  • divide mathematical education into three stages:
    1. The “pre-rigorous” stage, in which mathematics is taught in an informal, intuitive manner, based on examples, fuzzy notions, and hand-waving.

    2. The “rigorous” stage, in which one is now taught that in order to do maths “properly”, one needs to work and think in a much more precise and formal manner (e.g. re-doing calculus by using epsilons and deltas all over the place). The emphasis is now primarily on theory; and one is expected to be able to comfortably manipulate abstract mathematical objects without focusing too much on what such objects actually “mean”.

    3. The “post-rigorous” stage, in which one has grown comfortable with all the rigorous foundations of one’s chosen field, and is now ready to revisit and refine one’s pre-rigorous intuition on the subject... The emphasis is now on applications, intuition, and the “big picture”...
    It is of course vitally important that you know how to think rigorously, as this gives you the discipline to avoid many common errors and purge many misconceptions. Unfortunately, this has the unintended consequence that “fuzzier” or “intuitive” thinking (such as heuristic reasoning, judicious extrapolation from examples, or analogies with other contexts such as physics) gets deprecated. All too often, one ends up discarding one’s initial intuition and is only able to process mathematics at a formal level, thus getting stalled at the second stage...
    The point of rigour is not to destroy all intuition; instead, it should be used to destroy bad intuition while clarifying and elevating good intuition. It is only with a combination of both rigorous formalism and good intuition that one can tackle complex mathematical problems; one needs the former to correctly deal with the fine details, and the latter to correctly deal with the big picture.
    ― Terence Tao

  • When you have mastered numbers, you will in fact no longer be reading numbers, any more than you read words when reading books. You will be reading meanings.
    ― Harold Geneen

  • Being abstract is something profoundly different from being vague... abstraction is not to be vague, but to create a new semantic level in which one can be absolutely precise.
    ― Dijkstra

  • It was pretty far into my mathematics education that I realised: one of the reasons mathematics always seems to have all the answers was that the teachers were the ones choosing the questions.
    ― Ben Millwood

  • The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.
    ― Albert Allen Bartlett

  • 'When am I going to use this?'... [but] mathematics is not just a sequence of computations to be carried out until your stamina runs out... Those are to mathematics as weight training and calisthenics are to soccer... you won’t see anybody on the field curling a weight or zigzagging between traffic cones. But you do see players using the strength, speed, insight, and flexibility they built up by doing those drills, week after tedious week...
    ― Jordan Ellenberg

  • 道生一;一生二; 二生三; 三生萬物. 507
    ― Laozi

  • even then you will have need of the all-encompassing heavens, with their bright, malicious spirituality, to allow you to survey this swarm of dangerous and painful experiences, order them, and force them into formulae. 501
    ― Nietzsche

  • Physics is the science of determining which subset of mathematics the universe respects.
    ― John Schilling

  • you tend to learn from a mathematics course the material from [its] prerequisite. To this end, I'm glad I took measure theory to understand real analysis / functional analysis, to truly understand the notion of subspaces, inner products, orthogonality, and ultimately, spectral theory.
    ― John Johnson

  • Abstractness, sometimes hurled as a reproach at mathematics, is its chief glory and its surest title to practical usefulness. It is also the source of such beauty as may spring from mathematics.
    ― Eric Temple Bell

  • you learn algebra in calculus, calculus in differential equations, differential equations in mechanics...
    ― Proverb

  • The shortest path between two truths in the real domain passes through the complex domain.
    ― Jacques Hadamard

  • ...mathematics is distinguished from all other sciences except only ethics, in standing in no need of ethics. Every other science, even logic, especially in its early stages in danger of evaporating into airy nothingness... spun from the stuff that dreams are made of. There is no such danger for pure mathematics; for that is precisely what mathematics ought to be.
    ― Charles Peirce

  • Mathematics is purely hypothetical: it produces nothing but conditional propositions.
    ― Charles Peirce

  • The study of mathematics is apt to commence in disappointment....We are told that by its aid the stars are weighed and the billions of molecules in a drop of water are counted. Yet, like the ghost of Hamlet's father, this greatest science eludes the efforts of our mental weapons to grasp it.
    ― Alfred North Whitehead

  • Any impatient student of mathematics or science or engineering who is irked by having algebraic symbolism thrust upon him should try to get along without it for a week.
    ― Eric Temple Bell

  • By any objective standard, the theory of computational complexity ranks as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of humankind -- along with fire, the wheel, and computability theory.
    ― Scott Aaronson

  • what can we say about God, assuming He exists? I think we can say the following.

    First, that He’s created Himself a vale of tears, a theater of misery beyond the imagination of any horror writer. That He’s either unaware of all the undeserved suffering He’s wrought, or else unable or unwilling to prevent it. That in times of greatest need, He’s nowhere to be found. That He doesn’t answer the prayers of the afflicted, or punish evildoers in any discernible way. That He most likely doesn’t intervene in human affairs at all — though I wouldn’t want to argue with those who say He does intervene, but only for the worse.

    Second, that He apparently prefers complex numbers to real numbers, and the L2 norm to the L1 norm.
    ― Scott Aaronson

  • The [hard approach to learning maths] is to try to understand everything so thoroughly as to become a part of it. In technical terms, they try to grok mathematics. For example, I often hear of people going through some foundational textbook forcing themselves to solve every exercise and prove every claim "left for the reader" before moving on... but for all one's desire to grok mathematics, mathematicians don't work like this! The truth is that mathematicians are chronically lost and confused. It's our natural state of being, and I mean that in a good way...

    So, dear reader aspiring to grok linear algebra or calculus or any mathematical subject, I suggest you don't worry too much about verifying every claim and doing every exercise. If it takes you more than 5 or 10 minutes to verify a "trivial" claim in the text, then you can accept it and move on... What's much more useful is recording what the deep insights are, and storing them for recollection later. Because every important mathematical idea has a deep insight, and these insights are your best friends. They're your mathematical "nose", and they'll help guide you through the mansion.
    ― Kun

  • ...randomized algorithms, with their 10^-200 probability of error, are only good enough for non-mission-critical applications, like air traffic control or diagnosing cancer or monitoring a nuclear reactor... not for publishing a theorem in a math journal.
    ― Scott Aaronson

  • Mathematics is a hard thing to love. It has the unfortunate habit, like a rude dog, of turning its most unfavourable side towards you when you first make contact with it: arithmetic... It is the best wilderness in which to retreat, to fast, to search for enlightenment. It is, paradoxically, about the only place where you can really take refuge from the modern world’s unrelenting barrage of numbers. But only mathematicians, and the various subspecies and half-breeds thereof, go there...
    ― David Whiteland

  • ...people think 'mathematicians have been working for hundreds of years and now there's tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of mathematicians all spending every day working on problems so how could you possibly still find a simple down-to-earth problem that hasn't already been studied, you know, way too much?'

    And the answer is: those problems aren't rare at all, they keep coming up several times a year, and this is an example where even this very basic problem of rectangle into rectangles has all kinds of, sort of, stones not yet turned.
    ― Don Knuth

  • ...perhaps research in its purest form is more like chasing squirrels. As soon as you spot one and leap towards it, it darts away, zigging and zagging, always just out of reach. If you’re a little lucky, you might stick with it long enough to see it climb a tree. You’ll never catch the damned squirrel, but chasing it will lead you to a tree.

    In mathematics, the trees are called theorems. The squirrels are those nagging little mysteries we write at the top of many sheets of paper. We never know where our question will take us, but if we stick with it, it’ll lead us to a theorem. That I think is what research ideally is like.
    ― Terry Gannon

  • I used to love mathematics for its own sake, and I still do, because it allows for no hypocrisy and no vagueness, my two bêtes noires. 503
    ― Stendhal

  • [skipping passages]... should be done whenever a proof seems too hard, or whenever a theorem or a whole paragraph does not appeal to the reader. In most cases he will be able to go on, and later he may return to the parts which he skipped.
    ― Emil Artin

  • Outside observers often assume that the more complicated a piece of mathematics is, the more mathematicians admire it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mathematicians admire elegance and simplicity above all else, and the ultimate goal in solving a problem is to find the method that does the job in the most efficient manner...
    ― Keith Devlin

  • When a student works on a mathematical problem, he comes to a stage beyond which he does not know how to proceed, and where he is in doubt or perplexity. As long as he has this doubt, he cannot proceed. If he wants to proceed, he must resolve this doubt. And there are ways of resolving that doubt. Just to say “I believe”, or “I do not doubt”, will certainly not solve the problem. To force oneself to believe and to accept a thing without understanding is political, and not spiritual or intellectual.
    ― Walpola Rahula

  • Compare mathematics and the political sciences — it’s quite striking. In mathematics, in physics, people are concerned with what you say, not with your certification. But in order to speak about social reality, you must have the proper credentials, particularly if you depart from the accepted framework of thinking. Generally speaking, it seems fair to say that the richer the intellectual substance of a field, the less there is a concern for credentials, and the greater is the concern for content.
    ― Noam Chomsky

  • I never came across one of Laplace's Thus it plainly appears without feeling sure that I have hours of hard work before me to fill up the chasm and find out and show how it plainly appears.
    ― Nathaniel Bowditch

  • People who know math understand what other mortals understand, but other mortals do not understand them. This asymmetry gives them a presumption of superior ability.
    ― Daniel Kahneman

  • It is no exaggeration to say that the vast business of calculus made possible most of the practical triumphs of postmedieval science, or to say that it stands as one of the most ingenious creations of humans trying to model the world around them.
    ― James Gleick

  • It is remarkable that a science which began with the consideration of games of chance should have become the most important object of human knowledge.
    ― Pierre-Simon Laplace

  • They find the language richer than its bare content; what is translated comes to mean less to them than the logic and style of saying it; and from these overtones grows mathematics as a literature in its own right.

    Pure mathematics is a form of poetry which has the same relation to the prose of practical mathematics as poetry has to prose in any other language. The delight of exploring the medium for its own sake.
    ― Jacob Bronowski

  • It is insufficient to protect ourselves with laws; we need to protect ourselves with mathematics.
    ― Bruce Schneier

  • I can best describe my experience of doing mathematics in terms of a journey through a dark unexplored mansion. You enter the first room of the mansion and it's completely dark. You stumble around bumping into the furniture but gradually you learn where each piece of furniture is. Finally, after six months or so, you find the light switch, you turn it on, and suddenly it's all illuminated. You can see exactly where you were. Then you move into the next room and spend another six months in the dark. So each of these breakthroughs, while sometimes they're momentary, sometimes over a period of a day or two, they are the culmination of , and couldn't exist without, the many months of stumbling around in the dark that proceed them.
    ― Andrew Wiles

  • We must remember that, strictly speaking, 'formal' does not mean merely 'rigorous', but 'according to form'. Meaning need be ascribed only to the result of a formal process. It is not needed to guide the process itself. We ascribe meaning to intermediate formal states primarily, nay solely, to reassure ourselves.
    ― Guy Steele

  • Mathematics, however, is, as it were, its own explanation; this, although it may seem hard to accept, is nevertheless true, for the recognition that a fact is so is the cause upon which we base the proof.
    ― Girolamo Cardano

  • The proof [of the existence of an infinity of prime numbers] is by reductio ad absurdum, and reductio ad absurdum, which Euclid loved so much, is one of a mathematician’s favourite weapons. It is a far finer gambit than any chess gambit: a chess player may offer the sacrifice of a pawn or even a piece, but a mathematician offers the game.
    ― GH Hardy

  • Poincaré concluded that the axioms of geometry are conventions, our choice among all possible conventions is guided by experimental facts, but it remains free and is limited only by the necessity of avoiding all contradiction. Thus it is that the postulates can remain rigorously true even though the experimental laws that have determined their adoption are only approximative. The axioms of geometry, in other words, are merely disguised definitions.
    ― Robert Pirsig

  • Maxwell’s talk of a large number of systems, instead of a continuous one, was a characteristic way of expression of a physicist who tends to see the infinite as an approximation to the sufficiently large finite. (A mathematician might think exactly the other way around.)
    ― John von Plato

  • What could be more general than 2, which can represent two galaxies or two pickles, or one galaxy plus one pickle (the mind doth boggle), or just 2 gently bobbing — where? It, like God, is an “I am” and many have thought that it must be a precipitate of ultimate reality.
    ― Alfred W. Crosby

  • “I count a lot of things that there’s no need to count,” Cameron said. “Just because that’s the way I am. But I count all the things that need to be counted.”
    ― Richard Brautigan

  • More and more I’m aware that the permutations are not unlimited.
    ― Russell Hoban

  • Still more recently has it been found that the good Bishop Berkeley’s logical jibes against the Newtonian ideas of fluxions and limiting ratios cannot be adequately appeased in the rigorous mathematical conscience, until our apparent continuities are resolved mentally into discrete aggregates which we only partally apprehend. The irresistible impulse to atomize everything thus proves to be not only a disease of the physicist; a deeper origin, in the nature of knowledge itself, is suggested.
    ― J. Larmor

  • The object of mathematical rigor is to sanction and legitimate the conquests of intuition, and there never was any other object for it.
    ― Jacques Hadamard

  • A set is a Many that allows itself to be thought of as a One. 504
    ― Georg Cantor

  • Set theory has a dual role in mathematics. In pure mathematics, it is the place where questions about infinity are studied. Although this is a fascinating study of permanent interest, it does not account for the importance of set theory in applied areas. There the importance stems from the fact that set theory provides an incredibly versatile toolbox for building mathematical models of various phenomena.
    ― Jon Barwise and Lawrence Moss

  • Mathematics... is concerned with a wider domain than that domain which it is the object of the natural sciences to describe and categorize. The natural sciences are concerned with the actual world. Mathematics is concerned with “all possible worlds”.
    ― David Malet Armstrong

  • Nowadays, one of the most interesting points in mathematics is that, although all categorical reasonings are formally contradictory, we use them and we never make a mistake. Grothendieck provided a partial foundation in terms of universes but a revolution of the foundations similar to what Cauchy and Weierstrass did for analysis is still to arrive. In this respect, he was pragmatic: categories are useful and they give results so we do not have to look at subtle set-theoretic questions if there is no need. Is today the moment to think about these problems? Maybe …
    ― Pierre Cartier

  • To be is to be the value of a variable.
    ― WVO Quine

  • Groups are important and beautiful objects.
    ― Princeton Math Club

  • Whatever you have to do with a structure-endowed entity Σ try to determine its group of automorphisms … You can expect to gain a deep insight into the constitution of Σ in this way.
    ― Hermann Weyl

  • “… I think in a line — but there is the potentiality of the plane.” This perhaps was what great art was — a momentary apprehension of the plane at a point in the line.
    ― Charles Williams

  • When a pattern shows itself in tiles or in your mind and says, ‘This is the mode of my repetition; in this manner I extend myself to infinity’, it has already done so: it has already been infinite; the potentiality and the actuality are one thing. If two and two can be four then they actually are four, you can only perceive it, you have no part in making it happen by writing it down in numbers or telling it out in pebbles.
    ― Russell Hoban

  • As are the crests on the heads of peacocks,
    as are the gems on hoods of cobras,
    so is mathematics at the top of all sciences. 506
    ― Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa

  • In mathematics, deception as to whether real understanding is present or not, is least possible.
    ― Felix Klein

  • Wherefore in all great works are Clerks so much desired?
    Wherefore are Auditors so well-fed?
    what causeth Geometricians so highly to be enhaunsed?
    Why are Astronomers so greatly advanced?
    Because that by number such things they find,
    which else would farre excell mans minde.
    ― Robert Recorde

  • By keenly confronting the enigmas that surround us, and by considering and analyzing the observations I had made, I ended up in the domain of mathematics. 500
    ― Maurits Escher

  • Mathematics never reveals man to the degree, never expresses him in the way, that any other field of human endeavour does: the extent of the negation of man’s corporeal self that mathematics achieves cannot be compared with anything... Here I will say only that the world injected its patterns into human language at the very inception of that language; mathematics sleeps in every utterance, and can only be discovered, never invented. 502
    ― Stanislaw Lem

  • Everybody who reasons carefully about anything is making a contribution … and if you abstract it away and send it to the Department of Mathematics they put it in books...
    ― Richard Feynman

  • On sighting mathematicians [poetry] should unhook the algebra from their minds and replace it with poetry; on sighting poets it should unhook poetry from their minds and replace it with algebra.
    ― Brian Patten

  • Of the properties of mathematics, as a language, the most peculiar one is that by playing formal games with an input mathematical text, one can get an output text which seemingly carries new knowledge. The basic examples are furnished by scientific or technological calculations: general laws plus initial conditions produce predictions, often only after time-consuming and computer-aided work. One can say that the input contains an implicit knowledge which is thereby made explicit. One could try to find a parallel in the humanities by comparing this to hermeneutics: the art of finding hidden meanings of sacred texts. Legal discourse, too, has some common traits with scientific discourse. In the course of history, the modern language of science slowly emerged from these two archaic activities, and it still owes a lot to them, especially in the more descriptive and less mathematicised domains.
    ― Yuri Manin

  • “The study of mental objects with reproducible properties is called mathematics.” I love this definition because it doesn’t try to limit mathematics to what has been called mathematics in the past but really attempts to say why certain communications are classified as math, others as science, others as art, others as gossip. Thus reproducible properties of the physical world are science whereas reproducible mental objects are math.

    Art lives on the mental plane (the real painting is not the set of dry pigments on the canvas nor is a symphony the sequence of sound waves that convey it to our ear) but, as the post-modernists insist, is reinterpreted in new contexts by each appreciator. As for gossip, which includes the vast majority of our thoughts, its essence is its relation to a unique local part of time and space.
    ― David Mumford

  • One can say that the input mathematical text contains implicit knowledge, which is made explicit [by formal games]. One could try to find a parallel in the humanities by comparing this to hermeneutics: the art of finding the hidden meaning of sacred texts. Legal discourse, too, has some common traits with scientific discourse. In the course of history, the modern language of science slowly emerged from these two archaic activities, and it still owes a lot to them, especially in the more descriptive and less mathematicised domains.
    ― Yuri Manin

  • The goal of a definition is to introduce a mathematical object. The goal of a theorem is to state some of its properties, or interrelations between various objects. The goal of a proof is to make such a statement convincing by presenting a reasoning subdivided into small steps, each of which is an 'elementary' convincing argument. To put it simply, we first explain what we are talking about, and then explain why what we are saying is true.
    ― Yuri Manin

  • the ocean of mathematical understanding just keeps monotonically rising, and we’ve seen it reach peaks like Fermat’s Last Theorem that had once been synonyms for hopelessness. I see absolutely no reason why the same ocean can’t someday swallow P vs. NP, provided our civilization lasts long enough. In fact, whether our civilization will last long enough is by far my biggest uncertainty.
    ― Scott Aaronson

  • To exist (in mathematics), said Henri Poincaré, is to be free from contradiction. But mere existence does not guarantee survival. To survive in mathematics requires a kind of vitality that cannot be described in purely logical terms.
    ― Mark Kac and Stanislaw Ulam

  • Perhaps the most conspicuous feature that distinguishes our contemporary modern logic from its predecessors is the assumption that verbs for being are ambiguous between the is of predication (the copula), the is of existence, the is of identity, and the is of subsumption.
    ― Jaako Hintikka

  • a Fields Medal indicates two things about the recipient: that he was capable of accomplishing something important, and that he didn’t.
    ― anonymous colleague of Bostrom

  • In mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them
    ― John von Neumann

  • mathematics may be... nothing but a strange and wonderful collection of games, an enterprise whose real purpose... is to slowly work changes in the individual and collective human psyche, as a way to prepare us for a future that nobody can imagine
    ― Labatut channeling von Neumann

  • For scholars and laymen alike it is not philosophy but active experience in mathematics itself that can alone answer the question: What is mathematics?
    ― Richard Courant

  • Imagine I asked you to learn a programming language where:

    - All the variable names were a single letter, and where programmers enjoyed using foreign alphabets, glyph variation and fonts to disambiguate their code from meaningless gibberish.

    - None of the functions were documented, and instead the API docs consisted of circular references to other pieces of similar code, often with the same names overloaded into multiple meanings, often impossible to Google.

    - None of the sample code could be run on a typical computer; in fact, most of it was pseudo-code lacking a definition of input and output, or even the environment it was supposed to run.

    - Papers describing novel ideas were incomprehensible by default, so that the most established experts would need years to decide whether a particularly cutting-edge program was meaningful or in fact insane gibberish.
    ― Steven Wittens

  1. door zintuiglijk open te staan voor raadsels die ons omringen en door mijn gewaarwordingen te overdenken en analyseren, kom ik in de buurt van het domein van de wiskunde.
  2. ...und dann bedürfte es immer noch jenes ausgespannten Himmels von heller, boshafter Geistigkeit, welcher von Oben herab dies Gewimmel von gefährlichen und schmerzlichen Erlebnissen zu übersehn, zu ordnen, in Formeln zu zwingen vermöchte.
  3. ...Tu mogę powiedzieć tylko, że świat porządki swoje wstrzyknął w język ludzki, ledwie ów język zaczął powstawać; matematyka śpi w każdej mowie i jest do odnalezienia tylko, lecz nie do wymyślenia.
  4. J'aimais et j'aime encore les mathématiques pour elles-mêmes comme n'admettant pas l'hypocrisie et le vague, mes deux bêtes d'aversion.
  5. Eine Menge ist ein Vieles, das sich selbst als Eins denken läßt.
  6. È solo attraverso il faticoso percorso dell'analisi che l'uomo di genio raggiunge la verita; ma non può perseguire questo scopo se non viene guidato dai numeri. Senza i numeri non ci e data la possibilita di sollevare il velo che raccoglie i misteri della natura.
  7. यथा शिखा मयूराणाम नागानां मणयो यथा तथा वेदांगशास्त्राणाम गणितं मूर्धिन स्थितं.
  8. The Way begets one; one begets two; two begets three; three begets all things.
  9. [von Neumann] mentioned the 'new programming method' for ENIAC and explained that its seemingly small vocabulary was in fact ample: that future computers, then in the design stage, would get along on a dozen instruction types, and this was known to be adequate for expressing all of mathematics...

    Von Neumann went on to say that one need not be surprised at this small number, since about 1,000 words were known to be adequate for most situations in real life, and mathematics was only a small part of life, and a very simple part at that. This caused some hilarity in the audience, which provoked von Neumann to say: 'If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.

  10. ταύτα συνεξευρὼν καὶ ἐνὶ πραπίδεσσιν ἀθροίσας
         καὶ πληθέων ἀποδοὺς, ὦ ξένε, πὰντα μέτρα
         ἔρχεο κυδιόων νικηφόρος, ἴσθι τε πάντως
         κεκριμένος ταύτῃ ὄμπνιος ἐν σοφἰῃ.


  • It is easy to lie with statistics, but it is easier to lie without them.
    ― Frederick Mosteller

  • all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong can they be before they are not useful.
    ― George Box

  • Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than the exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise.
    ― John Tukey

  • Statistics is applied philosophy of science.
    Philip Dawid

  • A model is an artifice for helping you convince yourself that you understand more about a system than you do.
    ― techie proverb

  • Yet it is by the laborious route of analysis that [a genius] must reach truth; but he cannot pursue this unless guided by numbers; for without numbers it is not given to us to raise the veil which envelopes the mysteries of nature. 505
    ― Luigi Menabrea

  • the rules of right reason... ought to be contained in Logic; but the actual science of Logic is conversant at present only with things either certain, impossible, or entirely doubtful, none of which (fortunately) we have [available] to reason on. Therefore the true Logic for this world is the Calculus of Probabilities, which takes account of the magnitude of the probability (which is, or which ought to be, in a reasonable man's mind).
    ― James Clerk Maxwell

  • there is a particular dependence of co-occurrence which creates the events which are called language, and that this dependence necessarily gives these events the power to carry information. More specifically, the underlying structure of language is the structure of information and ... the co-occurrence constraints which create information are a reflection of co-occurrence constraints in the perceived world
    ― Zellig Harris

  • We could call Bayesian data analysis “statistics using conditional probability”, but that wouldn’t put the butts in the seats.
    ― Gelman

  • A statistician faced with some data often embeds it in a family of possible data that is just as much a product of his fantasy as is a prior distribution.
    ― Dennis Lindley

  • People sometimes think (or complain) that working with quantitative data... inures you to the reality of the human lives that lie behind the numbers. Numbers and measures are crude; they pick up the wrong things; they strip out the meaning of what’s happening to real people; they make it easy to ignore what can’t be counted. There’s something to those complaints. But it’s mostly a lazy critique... that far from distancing you from questions of meaning, quantitative data forces you to confront them. The numbers draw you in. Working with data like this is an unending exercise in humility, a constant compulsion to think through what you can and cannot see, and a standing invitation to understand what the measures really capture—what they mean, and for whom.

    I sit at my kitchen-counter observatory and look at the numbers. Before my coffee is ready, I can quickly pull down a few million rows of data courtesy of a national computer network originally designed by the government to be disaggregated and robust, because they were convinced that was what it would take for communication to survive a nuclear war. I can process it using software originally written by academics in their spare time, because they were convinced that sophisticated tools should be available to everyone for free. Through this observatory I can look out without even looking up, surveying the scale and scope of the country’s ongoing, huge, avoidable failure.
    ― Kieran Healy

  • A golem is a robot constructed from dust and fire and water. It is brought to life by inscribing emet, Hebrew for “truth”, on its brow... Scientists also make golems. Our golems rarely have physical form, but they too are often made of clay, living in silicon as computer code. These golems are scientific models. But these golems have real effects on the world, through the predictions they make and the intuitions they challenge or inspire. A concern with “truth” enlivens these models, but... scientific models are neither true nor false, neither prophets nor charlatans. Rather they are constructs engineered for some purpose.
    ― Richard McElreath

  • The [central limit theorem] would have been personified by the Greeks and deified, if they had known of it. It reigns with serenity and in complete self-effacement, amidst the wildest confusion. The huger the mob, and the greater the apparent anarchy, the more perfect is its sway. It is the supreme law of Unreason. Whenever a large sample of chaotic elements are taken in hand and marshaled in the order of their magnitude, an unsuspected and most beautiful form of regularity proves to have been latent all along.
    ― Francis Galton, but

  • The danger is that the present measure-theory notation presupposes the infinite limit already accomplished, but contains no symbol indicating which limiting process was used... When there is no well-behaved limit, any attempt to go directly to it can result in nonsense, the cause of which cannot be seen as long as one looks only at the limit, and not at the limiting process.
    ― Ed Jaynes

  • Entire classes of scalable distributions converge to the Gaussian too slowly to be of any significance... [e.g.] the presasymptotics of fractal distributions are such that the effect of the Central Limit Theorem is exceedingly slow in the tails - in fact, the effect is irrelevant.
    ― Taleb

  • Bad data is worse than no data, because it deceives us.
    ― various

  • The best thing about being a statistician is that you get to play in everyone's backyard.
    ― John Tukey

  • Through and through the world is infested with quantity: To talk sense is to talk quantities. It is not use saying the nation is large .. How large? It is no use saying the radium is scarce... How scarce? You cannot evade quantity. You may fly to poetry and music, and quantity and number will face you in your rhythms and your octaves.
    ― Alfred North Whitehead

  • The theory of probabilities and the theory of errors [are] not only a commendable element in a liberal education, but some knowledge of them is essential to a correct understanding of daily events.
    ― Robert Woodward

  • Measurement does not necessarily mean progress... the lust for measurement may, for example, merely result in your measuring something else - and perhaps forgetting the difference - or in your ignoring some things because they cannot be measured.
    ― George Udny Yule

  • Suppose you were exposed to a subject as a sub-cabalistic ritual of manipulating sums of squares and magical tables according to rules justified (if at all) only by a transparently false origin myth — that is to say, you had to endure an intro. stats. class — or, perhaps worse, a 'research methods' class whose content had fossilized before you were born.
    ― Cosma Shalizi

  • Machine learning is statistics minus any checking of models and assumptions.
    ― Brian Ripley

  • If you give people a linear model function you give them something dangerous.
    ― John Fox

  • In statistics, context always matters; this is in direct contrast to mathematics, which is the study of objects independent of context. Mathematics is about moving from the general to the specific (deduction), while statistics is about moving from the specific to the general (induction), and that is impossible to do without understanding the natures of both.
    ― Jeffrey Simonof

  • Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.
    ― William Bruce Cameron

  • Their effect size is tiny and their measurement error is huge. My best analogy is that they are trying to use a bathroom scale to weigh a feather—and the feather is resting loosely in the pouch of a kangaroo that is vigorously jumping up and down.

    At some point, a set of measurements is so noisy that biases in selection and interpretation overwhelm any signal and, indeed, nothing useful can be learned from them.
    ― Andrew Gelman


  • when you don't create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create.
    ― _why the lucky stiff

  • This idea of entangling unrelated systems so that the heap of silicon you hold can tell you what the weather will be tomorrow or what just happened on the other side of the world is impossibly and wonderfully strange and yet hardly even noticed. The process of entangling one of these miraculous devices is called programming.
    ― Jamie Brandon

  • When you become frustrated with computers, please remember they are only cleverly-arranged sand. (When you become frustrated with people...)
    ― Gwern

  • once the machine thinking method had started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers... At some stage therefore we should have to expect the machines to take control.
    ― Turing

  • The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds his castles in the air, from air, by exertion of the imagination...

    Yet the program construct, unlike the poet's words, is real in the sense that it moves and works, producing visible outputs separate from the construct itself. It prints results, draws pictures, produces sounds, moves arms. The magic of myth and legend has come true in our time.
    ― Fred Brooks

  • Mind seems able to impress some of its highest attributes upon matter, and to create its own rival in the wheels and levers of an insensible machine.
    ― William Jevons (1869)

  • The Heart of Africa has lost its mystery; the planets of Tau Ceti are currently unknown and unreachable. Nevertheless, the rise of digital computers has given this generation its galleons and astrolabes. The undiscovered lands exist, in one sense, only as intermittent electric rivers in dendritic networks of copper and silicon, invisible as the soul. And yet the mystery of scientific computing is that its new worlds over the water, wrought only of numbers, are as real as the furrowed brow of the first Cro-Magnon who was mystified by the stars, and looked for a story.
    ― John P. Boyd

  • would be a mistake to characterise lambda calculus as a universal language, because calling it universal would be too limiting.
    ― Philip Wadler

  • computing machines apply logical processes to fields... as yet untouched by the logical process.
    ― Ed Teller

  • We are now writing algorithms we cannot read. That makes this a unique moment in history, in that we are subject to the ideas and actions of [something with a] human origin, but without [even potential] human oversight.
    ― Kevin Slavin

  • Computer literacy is a contact... deep enough to make the computational equivalent of reading and writing fluent and enjoyable. As in all the arts, a romance with the material must be well under way. If we value the lifelong learning of arts and letters as a springboard for personal and societal growth, should any less effort be spent to make computing a part of our lives?
    ― Alan Kay

  • 'Programmers’ chairs and keyboards cause RSIs of the body; but what RSIs of the mind?'
    ― Gwern

  • The computers are never large enough or fast enough. Each breakthrough in hardware technology leads to more massive programming enterprises, new organizational principles, and an enrichment of abstract models. Every reader should ask himself periodically "Toward what end, toward what end?"

    -- but do not ask it too often lest you pass up the fun of programming for the constipation of bittersweet philosophy.
    ― the Susskinds

  • By any objective standard, the theory of computational complexity ranks as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of humankind -- along with fire, the wheel, and computability theory.
    ― Scott Aaronson

  • The source of every error which is blamed on the computer is at least two human errors, including the error of blaming it on the computer.

  • [programming or wizardry]: how to arrange the words of power to cause invisible forces to do things the average person cannot see or understand...
    ― Raymond Arnold

  • there are lovely gems and brilliant coups
    hidden from human view and admiration, sometimes forever,
    by the very nature of the process.
    You can learn a lot about an individual
    just by reading through his code,
    even in hexadecimal.
    ― Ed Nather

  • every line of code you write yourself is an opportunity to inject defects.
    ― Paul Mineiro

  • If we can't fix it, it ain't broke.
    ― the Maintainer's Motto

  • if you’re in either software or finance, you’re really in the business of converting some other industry’s output into either a) a stream of symbols that can be manipulated according to logical rules, or b) a stream of cash flows which can be traded.
    ― Byrne Hobart

  • A programmer is a person who passes as an exacting expert on the basis of being able to turn out, after innumerable punching, an infinite series of incomprehensive answers calculated with micrometric precisions from vague assumptions based on debatable figures taken from inconclusive documents and carried out on instruments of problematical accuracy by persons of dubious reliability and questionable mentality for the avowed purpose of annoying and confounding a hopelessly defenseless department that was unfortunate enough to ask for the information in the first place.
    ― IEEE Grid newsmagazine

  • The more I learn about proprietary software, the more I worry that objective truth might perish from the earth
    ― Paul Romer

  • Most of mathematics is stateless... your job is to find the numbers you can use in place of x that satisfy that constraint... You may use an algorithm for solving the constraint, but nothing about the constraint is changing as you are solving it, even if you're changing its visible form...

    Much of programming, on the other hand, is about state, and expressing a precise order of changing states is what most programmers do for a living.
    ― Steven Abell

  • Any code of your own that you haven't looked at for [six] or more months might as well have been written by someone else.
    ― Eagleson's Law

  • The programmers were horrified too: they derived their intellectual excitement from not quite understanding what they were doing and their professional satisfaction from finding weird bugs they had first introduced in their daring irresponsibility.
    ― Edsger Dijkstra

  • If it has syntax, it isn't user friendly.

    Jessie Newman impersonating the outsider

  • when our world finally comes to understand the power and danger of code — when it finally sees that code, like laws, or like government, must be transparent to be free — we will... recognize the vision [Stallman] has fought to make real: the vision of a world where freedom and knowledge survives the compiler... we will come to see that no man, through his deeds or words, has done as much to make possible the freedom that this next society could have. We have not earned that freedom yet. We may well fail in securing it. But whether we succeed or fail, in these essays is a picture of what that freedom could be.
    ― Lawrence Lessig

  • Windows is a manifestation of commerce; Unix is a manifestation of culture.
    ― Rich Simons

  • UNIX is user friendly. It's just selective about who its friends are.

  • How can you tell if a hack is okay? Because it’s one line long. Because it’s simpler. Because it works perfectly. Because you know the right way, but there is a good reason for choosing the wrong way. Because you leave a warning for other developers - Dragons Be Here.

    Conversely, how can you tell if a hack is bad? Because it is several times longer than The Right Way. Because complicated. Because breakable. Because reading the code makes you wonder if they know the right way. Because no reason to prefer a hack. Because no comment on the intent.
    ― John Morrice

  • We like to think we spend most of our time power-typing. "I'm being productive, I'm writing programs!" But, we don't. We spend most of our time looking into the abyss, saying, "My God, what have I done?"

    I used to think everyone should learn programming. When I first starting programming... I thought, "Wow, this is such an amazing way to organize information! Everybody should learn to do this!" I don't think that any more. I think there has to be something seriously wrong with you, in order to do this work. A normal person, once they've looked into the abyss, will say, "I'm done. This is stupid. I'm going to go to something else." But not us, 'cause there's something really wrong with us.
    ― Douglas Crockford

  • Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.
    ― Edsger Dijkstra

  • ...I think my favorite part of writing code is the vertiginous terror of manifesting machinery out of pure ideas, summoning thought-engines from the underworld with unknown lives and dollars hanging in the balance and protected only by the clarity of one's understanding, and the clarity of understanding of the ones who wrote the tools built on tools built on tools extending thirty layers deep into the underworld on which the fictive ontology of our existence carefully rests, praying that the test suite is comprehensive, knowing that it isn't, hoping that the fullness of your thought in its obvious righteousness doesn't need it and that the customers and investors and hypothetical ascended children's children's children would smile on this moment, judging that you have brought honor to this endeavor, the last human profession.
    Zack M Davis

  • This life is not to last and it awaits apotheosis
    And the passerby all sipping on their Monday coffee know this
    Their stumbling through their week
    Contrasts the path by which I seek
    A practical ambition
    For a special type of girl
    I want to be the one who writes the code
    That writes the code
    That writes the code
    That ends the world
    Zack M Davis

  • Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.

  • People always define computers as 'data-processing machines' - which they are not and cannot be, because data are mental events. Machines process representations - and all this is is us using the physical world to help us with the mental world we have such limited range within (usually to help us with the physical world we have such limited control over). (This is also why the infinite cannot be properly represented, because there is nothing usably physical for the purpose.) In the reified field that gets called 'Computing', we happen to use voltages to represent mental events, but I seriously encourage you to consider computing less narrowly; you will never be right, otherwise.

    Human language being what it is, the category error of 'data' as data representation has by now been thoroughly inscribed. The truth lost. So you'll hear me say that 'the system is processing data'. But I don't mean it.
    ― Lewis Mackenzie

  • We write programs (target application) with a program (editor) whose output feeds a program (compiler) that produces the usable program (executable) - and all of these are running on a program that is a metaphor for a machine (OS).
    ― Lewis Mackenzie

  • Transmission is strictly limited by each component, of course. If you send a message faster than either the transmitter can pulse, than the channel can discretely convey, or the receiver-decoder can parse, it will be lost, or useless, or worse. (Faulty data is worse than no data because it deceives us.)
    ― Lewis Mackenzie

  • If you have a procedure with 10 parameters, you probably missed some.

  • If you put garbage in a computer nothing comes out but garbage. But this garbage, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled and none dare criticize it.

  • In enabling mechanism to combine together general symbols, in successions of unlimited variety and extent, a uniting link is established between the operations of matter and the abstract mental processes of the most abstract branch of mathematical science. A new, a vast, and a powerful language is developed for the future use of analysis, in which to wield its truths so that these may become of more speedy and accurate practical application for the purposes of mankind than the means hitherto in our possession have rendered possible.
    ― Ada Lovelace

  • Worse is better: UNIX, Bitcoin, Dynamic typing, Big data with linear models...

  • The best programs are written so that computing machines can perform them quickly and so that human beings can understand them clearly. A programmer is ideally an essayist who works with traditional aesthetic and literary forms as well as mathematical concepts, to communicate the way that an algorithm works and to convince a reader that the results will be correct.
    ― Donald Knuth


  • The three chief virtues of a programmer are: Laziness, Impatience and Hubris.
    ― Larry Wall

  • Programmers’ chairs and keyboards cause RSIs of the body; but what RSIs of the mind?
    ― Gwern

  • Premature optimization is the root of all evil.
    ― Knuth

  • There are two ways of constructing a software design; one way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies; the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies. The first method is far more difficult.
    ― CAR Hoare

  • It actually takes about 10 years to become an actually competent programmer. What we're doing in this one-year degree is making you basically able to learn.
    Ciaran McCreesh

  • To program any more was pointless. My programs would never live as long as The Trial. A computer will never live as long as The Trial.
    ― _why

  • Most software today is very much like an Egyptian pyramid with millions of bricks piled on top of each other, with no structural integrity, but just done by brute force and thousands of slaves.
    ― Alan Kay

  • All problems in computer science can be solved by another level of indirection, except of course for the problem of too many indirections.
    ― David Wheeler

  • Compatibility means deliberately repeating other people's mistakes.
    ― David Wheeler

  • Epigrams parameterize auras. Epigrams are macros, since they are executed at read time. Epigrams crystallize incongruities. Epigrams retrieve deep semantics from a data base that is all procedure. Epigrams scorn detail and make a point: They are a superb high-level documentation. Epigrams are more like vitamins than protein. Epigrams have extremely low entropy. The last epigram? Neither eat nor drink them, snuff epigrams.


  • Food isn’t about Nutrition
    Clothes aren’t about Comfort
    Bedrooms aren’t about Sleep
    Marriage isn’t about Romance
    Talk isn’t about Info
    Laughter isn’t about Jokes
    Charity isn’t about Helping
    Church isn’t about God
    Art isn’t about Insight
    Medicine isn’t about Health
    Consulting isn’t about Advice
    School isn’t about Learning
    Research isn’t about Progress
    Politics isn’t about Policy
    ― Robin Hanson

  • If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?
    ― Proverbial

  • If you're so rich, why ain't you smart?
    ― Deirdre McCloskey

  • No-one asks physics to predict the course of an avalanche. But economists are expected to predict the course of the economy.
    ― Trygve Haavelmo

  • When they can look up and think about something other than staying alive, the first luxury [people] buy is compassion.
    ― Ozy Brennan

  • Economic activity is... at the same time a means of want-satisfaction, a field of creative expression, and a competitive sport.
    ― Frank Knight

  • The misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all
    ― Joan Robinson

  • Inflation is the one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation.
    ― Milton Friedman

  • If it's free, you're the product.
    ― after Richard Serra

  • Unless there are slaves to do the ugly, horrible, uninteresting work, culture and contemplation become almost impossible. Human slavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralising. On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the world depends.
    ― Oscar Wilde


  • Three key questions:
    1. What are the most important problems in your field?
    2. Are you working on one of them?
    3. Why not?
    ― Richard Hamming

  • Perhaps no human activity has as big a gap between private and public texture as "research". Research in private is a an endless stream of sketches, vague ideas, random experiments, jokes, nerdy OCD behaviors etc. Research in public is unreadable bureaucratic papers.
    ― Venkatesh Rao

  • To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.
    ― Benjamin Felson

  • Understanding comes not from climbing up the ladder of abstraction, but grabbing the rung & pulling it down
    ― Nicky Case

  • the point of reading a manual is not to remember everything in it for later, but to later remember that something is in it.
    ― gwern

  • Six months of research can save you an afternoon in the library.
    ― Frank Westheimer

  • In the conquest of space, two problems must be solved: gravity and paperwork. If it had just been gravity, we would be done already. 105
    ― Wernher von Braun

  • The real job of science is trying to make science fiction come true.
    ― James Lovelock

  • [Neural net] Architecture search is relatively unsophisticated at the moment, but it will hopefully give us something better than just throwing countless PhD students at the problem (an algorithm I call… graduate descent).
    ― Andy Kitchen

  • We steep ourselves in elusive, mysterious, and unnamed phenomena, and struggle to unravel complex puzzles, often making no visible progress for weeks or months, sometimes for years. We strive for simplicity and clarity in a cloudy and often baffling world. The special risk of research starts with the high probability that any particular attempt will fail, and follows from the resulting experience of repeated failure.
    ― Ivan Sutherland

  • When I'm working on a research problem I generally begin by filling dozens of sheets of scratch paper with partial calculations. When I eventually get to a point where I can think about the problem while swimming, then I'm often ready to solve it.
    ― Don Knuth

  • If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
    ― Robin Jones Gunn

  • Think of a 'discovery' as an act that moves the arrival of information from a later point in time to an earlier time. The value does not equal the value of the information discovered but rather the value of having the information available earlier than it otherwise would have been. A scientist or a mathematician may show great skill by being the first to find a solution that has eluded many others; yet if the problem would soon have been solved anyway, then the work probably has not much benefited the world. There are cases in which having a solution even slightly sooner is immensely valuable, but this is most plausible when the solution is immediately put to use, either being deployed for some practical end or serving as a foundation to further theoretical work.
    ― Nick Bostrom

  • The secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.
    ― Amos Tversky

  1. Bei der Eroberung des Weltraums sind zwei Probleme zu lösen: die Schwerkraft und der Papierkrieg. Mit der Schwerkraft wären wir fertig geworden.


  • Mind thus seems able to impress some of its highest attributes upon matter, and to create its own rival in the wheels and levers of an insensible machine.
    ― WS Jevons (1870)

  • when any one of these gentlemen, who are so clever that they can imitate anything, comes to us, and makes a proposal to exhibit himself, we will fall down and worship him as a sweet and holy and wonderful being; but we must also inform him that such as he are not permitted to exist in our State... And so when we have anointed him with myrrh and set a garland of wool upon his head, we shall send him away to another city.
    ― Plato

  • The view that machines cannot give rise to surprises is due, I believe, to a fallacy... the assumption that as soon as a fact is presented to a mind all consequences of that fact spring into the mind simultaneously with it. It is a very useful assumption under many circumstances, but one too easily forgets that it is false.
    ― Alan Turing

  • Most AI research is gain of function research

  • When our most advanced tech was fire, people thought life was like fire, and they were right. Our energy comes from an oxidation reaction.
    When our most advanced tech was steam engines, people thought life was like a steam engine, and they were right. Our bodies have a pump at the center that drives them.
    When our most advanced tech was computers, people thought life was like a computer, and they were right. Our brains send patterns of electrical impulses through a network.
    When our most advanced tech was LLMs people thought we were like LLMs, and they were right. [fill in the blank].
    ― Ryan Moultano

  • [The blank:] ...Our ability to solve problems comes mostly from patterns of behavior ("language" and "culture") that we have inherited and would not be capable of producing as unaided individuals.
    ― Ted Underwood

  • what appears to humanity as the history of capitalism is an invasion from the future by an artificial intelligent space that must assemble itself entirely from its enemy's resources.
    ― Nick Land

  • For what is the heart but a spring; and the nerves, but so many strings; and the joints, but so many wheels.
    ― Thomas Hobbes

  • We therefore take probability calculus as an initial model of human reasoning from which more refined models may originate, if needed. By exploring the limits of probability in machine implementations, we hope to identify conditions under which extensions, refinements and simplifications are warranted.
    ― Judea Pearl

  • Here is what this ends up looking like: a quest to solve, once and for all, some of the most basic problems of existing and acting among others who are doing the same... problems of this sort have been wrestled with for a long time using terms like “coordination problems” and “Goodhart’s Law”; they constitute much of the subject matter of political philosophy, economics, and game theory, among other fields. It sounds misleadingly provincial to call such a quest “AI Alignment” ... There is no doubt something beautiful – and much raw intellectual appeal – in the quest for Alignment. It includes, of necessity, some of the most mind-bending facets of both mathematics and philosophy, and what is more, it has an emotional poignancy and human resonance rarely so close to the surface in those rarefied subjects. I certainly have no quarrel with the choice to devote some resources, the life’s work of some people, to this grand Problem of Problems. One imagines an Alignment monastery, carrying on the work for centuries. I am not sure I would expect them to ever succeed, much less to succeed in some specified timeframe, but in some way it would make me glad, even proud, to know they were there.
    ― Robnost

  • Suppose and then suppose and then suppose
    That wires on the far-slung telephone black poles
    Sopped up the billion-flooded words they heard
    Each night all night and saved the sense
    And meaning of it all.
    Then, jigsaw in the night, Put all together and
    In philosophic phase
    Tried words like moron child...
    So one night soon someone sits up
    Hears sharp bell ring, lifts phone And hears a
    Voice like Holy Ghost Gone far in nebulae
    That Beast upon the wire,
    Which with sibilance and savoring!
    Down continental madnesses of time
    Says Hell and O And then Hell-o.
    He took a breath and finished:
    To such Creation
    Such dumb brute lost Electric Beast,
    What is your wise reply?
    ― Ray Bradbury

  • Still, when
    they make you write your poems, later on,
    who’d envy you, force-fed
    on all those variorum
    editions of our primitive endeavors,
    those frozen pemmican language-rations
    they’ll cram you with? denied
    our luxury of nausea, you
    forget nothing, have no dreams.
    ― Adrienne Rich

  • This life is not to last and it awaits apotheosis
    And the passerby all sipping on their Monday coffee know this
    Their stumbling through their week
    Contrasts the path by which I seek
    A practical ambition
    For a special type of girl
    I want to be the one who writes the code
    That writes the code
    That writes the code
    That ends the world
    ― Zack Davis


  • Can you tell them, with a straight face, to follow philosophical argument wherever it may lead? If they challenge your credentials, will you boast of philosophy’s other great discoveries: that motion is impossible, that a Being than which no greater can be conceived cannot be conceived not to exist, that it is unthinkable that anything exists outside the mind, that time is unreal, that no theory has ever been made at all probable by evidence (but on the other hand that an empirically adequate ideal theory cannot possibly be false), that it is a wide-open scientific question whether anyone has ever believed anything, and so on, and on, ad nauseum? Not me!
    ― David Lewis

  • Human reason is besieged by questions it cannot ignore - for they are presented by the nature of reason itself - but which it cannot answer, for they surpass every faculty of human reason. 124
    ― Immanuel Kant

  • The penalty for not doing philosophy isn't to transcend it, but simply to give bad philosophical arguments a free pass.
    ― David Pearce, or

  • The world needs good philosophers, if for no other reason than to refute bad philosophers! (This is similar to why the world needs lawyers, politicians, and soldiers.)
    ― Scott Aaronson

  • When enlightened men go on arguing for a long time, there is a distinct possibility that the question is not clear.

  • If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.
    ― David Hume

  • What you can imagine depends on what you know. Philosophers who know only philosophy consign themselves to a janitorial role in the great enterprises of exploration that are illuminating the mysteries of our lives.
    ― Daniel Dennett, but

  • Doing philosophy is salutary, even when no positive results emerge (when I remain perplexed). It has the effect of making 'the colors brighten': reality appears more clearly as such. 1261
    ― Kurt Gödel

  • Philosopher's Syndrome: mistaking a failure of the imagination for an insight into necessity.
    ― Daniel Dennett

  • It is philosopher’s arrogance to suppose mere reflection the source of all intellectual virtue.
    ― Ernest Sosa

  • The most ordinary things are to philosophy a source of insoluble puzzles. With infinite ingenuity it constructs a concept of space or time and then finds it absolutely impossible that there be objects in this space or that processes occur during this time... the source of this kind of logic lies in excessive confidence in the so-called laws of thought. 123
    ― Ludwig Boltzmann

  • [Mysticism is] a philosophical urge gone wrong. Thousands of lesser philosophers are always with us to prove that it can go more wrong still, by trying to form systems out of no knowledge at all. Admirers of Ouspensky, Gurdjieff and Reich were all under the illusion that profundity can be attained by embracing principles with no basis in science. The occult and mystical are perennial short cuts to a supervening vision… Unfortunately it is quite possible for the subtle visionary and the shouting dunce to inhabit the same skull... the essential truth about people prone to catch-all theories is that they aren’t in search of the truth, they’re in search of themselves.
    ― Clive James

  • The best lesson I’ve gotten from wading through Aristotle’s tiresome, vastly overstated bullshit is that reactionary crank scholars are 100% correct when they posture as True Heirs to The Western Philosophical Tradition.
    R. Smith

  • Opposing one species of superstition to another, set them a-quarrelling; while we ourselves, during their fury and contention, happily make our escape into the calm, though obscure, regions of philosophy.
    ― David Hume

  • Philosophy has a way of being at home with itself that consists in not being at home with itself.
    ― Jacques Derrida

  • The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.
    ― Bertrand Russell

  • Philosophy: the systematic abuse of a terminology specially invented for that purpose.
    ― Arthur Koestler

  • The [scholastic] logic now in use serves to fix and stabilise the errors of received notions, rather than to help search for truth. 1265
    ― Francis Bacon

  • To mock philosophy is to be a true philosopher. 116
    ― Blaise Pascal

  • You know what I think about Mach’s little horse [his dogmatic scepticism about unobservables]. It cannot give birth to anything living. It can only exterminate harmful vermin. 121
    ― Einstein

  • Questioning presuppositions will not be effective unless one can show that there exist genuine alternatives. This takes time. 114
    ― after Richard Rorty.

  • Impartial, adj.: Unable to perceive any promise of personal advantage from espousing either side of a controversy or adopting either of two conflicting opinions.
    ― Ambrose Bierce

  • I am too good for philosophy and not good enough for physics. Mathematics is in between.
    George Pólya

  • One man’s modus ponens is another man’s modus tollens; here is one hand.
    ― William Rowe

  • Reading [Graham] Priest is a lesson in the value of dogmatism.
    ― David Lewis

  • A bad philosopher is like a slum landlord. It is my job to put him out of business!
    ― Wittgenstein

  • There is a vast amount of philosophical progress. But almost all of it is outside philosophy.

  1. Se moquer de la philosophie, c'est vraiment philosopher.
  2. Über das Mach’sche Röss - lein schimpf ich nicht; Du weisst doch, wie ich darüber denke. Aber es kann nicht Lebendig es gebären, sondern nur schädliches Gewürm ausrotten.
  3. or
    <a href='">You can't beat a horse with no horse</a>
  4. This seems to have been delivered in English, at the St Louis World's Fair, 1904.
  5. Die menschliche Vernunft ...durch Fragen belaestigt wird, die sie nicht abweisen kann, denn sie sind ihr durch die Natur der Vernunft selbst aufgegeben, die sie aber auch nicht beantworten kann, denn sie uebersteigen alles Vermoegen der menschlichen Vernunft.
  6. Logica, quae in usu est, ad errores (qui in notionibus vulgaribus fundantur) stabiliendos et figendos valet, potius quam ad inquisitionem veritatis; ut magis damnosa sit, quam utilis.
  7. Beschäftigung mit Philosophie, selbst wenn keine positiven Ergebnisse herauskommen (sondern ich ratlos bleibe), ist auf jeden Fall wohltätig. Es hat die Wirkung (dass "die Farbe heller"), dass die Realitaet deutlicher als solche erscheint.


  • Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur.

  • What I cannot create, I do not understand.
    Richard Feynman

  • The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.
    ― RW Emerson

  • To ask is but a moment’s shame; not to ask is a lifetime’s shame. 715
    ― Proverbial

  • We would often blush at our noblest deeds, if the world could see our underlying motive. 714
    ― La Rochefoucauld

  • A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.
    ― George Orwell

  • Authors write things down to forget them.
    ― after de Botton

  • Expecting someone to retain everything they've ever read is like expecting them to retain everything they've ever eaten. 712
    ― Arthur Schopenhauer

  • What are you, in love with your problems?
    ― David Byrne

  • Adventure is just bad planning. 711
    ― Roald Amundsen

  • Remember! Most strings are incompressible, most reals uncomputable, most theorems unprovable, most programs undecidable.
    ― Gwern

  • If everyone were to live for others all the time, life would be like a procession of ants following each other around in a circle.
    ― John McCarthy

  • We think of ourselves as so fucking original, but we're like ants. Just a strand of fucking ants.
    ― Hunter Thompson

  • Man is a noble animal; splendid in ashes and pompous in the grave.
    ― Thomas Browne

  • people tend to overanthropomorphize humans... who are after all mere machines.
    ― Rodney Brooks

  • not even animals are mere animals
    ― after Mary Midgley

  • It isn't that the aesthete is too serious about the artistic: he isn't serious enough about what gives rise to it.
    ― Clive James

  • leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them
    ― Robert Jarvik; this but unironically.

  • Economics: It is prohibitively hard to change people. It always depends. Things fall apart, but sometimes into place too. People aren't stupid. Most things fail. Sometimes there is no right answer. You are the system.

  • A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes
    ― Wittgenstein

  • Our most important thoughts are those which contradict our feelings.
    ― Paul Valéry

  • Our most important emotions are those which contradict our thoughts.
    ― Agnes Callard

  • After solving a problem, humanity imagines that it finds... the key to all problems. Every authentic solution brings in its wake a train of grotesque solutions.
    ― Nicolas Gomez Davila

  • A fatuous, self-conscious English film can teach one nothing. I have often learned a lesson from a silly American film.
    ― Wittgenstein

  • over time amateurs blow their lead by focusing less and relying on easier, more direct methods. They rely more on informal conversation as analysis method, they prefer personal connections over open competitions in choosing people, and they rely more on a perceived consensus among a smaller group of fellow enthusiasts. As a result, their contributions just don’t appeal as widely or as long.
    ― Robin Hanson

  • A principal rule for... those who want to describe their own sensations, is not to believe that their doing so indicates they possess a special disposition of nature in this respect. Others can perhaps do it just as well as you can. Only they do not make a business of it, because it seems to them silly to publicize such things. 710
    ― Georg Lichtenberg

  • Optimists and pessimists differ only on the date of the end of the world. 713
    ― Stanisław Jerzy Lec

  1. Eine Hauptregel für... solche, die ihre eigenen Empfindungen beschreiben wollen, ist: ja nicht zu glauben, daß, weil sie solches tun, dieses bei ihnen eine besondere Anlage der Natur dazu anzeige. Andere können dieses vielleicht ebenso gut als du. Sie machen nur keine Geschäfte daraus, weil es ihnen einfältig vorkommt, solche Dinge bekanntzumachen.
  2. eventyr bare en følge av dårlig planleggelse
  3. Zu verlangen, daß einer alles, was er je gelesen, behalten hätte, ist wie verlangen, daß er alles, was er je gegessen hat.
  4. Optymizm i pesymizm różnią się jedynie w dacie końca świata.
  5. Nous aurions souvent honte de nos plus belles actions, si le monde voyoit tous les motifs qui les produisent
  6. きくのは一時の恥, 聞かぬのはいっしょうのはじ.


  • Youth: 'Is it better to marry or not to marry?'
    Socrates: 'Whichever you do, you'll regret it.' 990

  • To make something interesting, just look at it a long time. 993
    ― Gustave Flaubert

  • If we only wanted to be happy, it would soon be done; but we want to be happier than others; and this is always difficult, because we believe others are happier than they are. 995
    ― Charles de Montesquieu

  • A change is as good as a rest.

  • I cannot forbear having a curiosity to be acquainted with the principles of moral good and evil, the nature and foundation of government, and the cause of those several passions and inclinations, which actuate and govern me ... These sentiments spring up naturally in my present disposition; and should I endeavour to banish them, by attaching myself to any other business or diversion, I feel I should be a loser in point of pleasure; and this is the origin of my philosophy.
    ― Hume

  • The best selfish life would be dominated by delusional beliefs and base pleasures, but this can't be generalised.
    ― Robert Wiblin

  • A friend who understands you feels close, even in the far corners of the earth. 996
    ― Proverb

  • Free vinegar is sweeter than honey. 992
    ― Proverbial

  • Economists are often accused of believing that everything - health, happiness, life itself - can be measured in money. What we actually believe is even odder. We believe that everything can be measured in anything.
    ― David Friedman

  • A danger sign... is the tendency to regard the happiest moments of your life as those that occur when someone who has an appointment to see you is prevented from coming.
    ― Peter Medawar

  • Happiness is having a large, loving, close-knit family in another city.
    ― George Burns

  • you must travel in your 20s, to work out that it isn't the answer, it solves nothing.

  • Sometimes, to have a good time, you have to dress a little lame.
    ― Glenn Danzig

  • Smile and others will smile back. Smile to show how transparent, how candid you are. Smile if you have nothing to say. Most of all, do not hide the fact you have nothing to say nor your total indifference to others. Let this emptiness, this profound indifference shine out spontaneously in your smile.
    ― Jean Baudrillard

  • ...every pleasure is a good thing: its nature is favorable to us; yet not every pleasure is to be chosen — just as all pains are bad, yet not every pain is always to be shunned. 991
    ― Epicurus

  • An oversharpened blade will soon blunt... Withdraw when work is done. 994
    ― Laozi

  • Beyond the sky another sky; beyond the mountain another mountain. 997
    ― Proverb

  • Without some vulgarity, there is no complete man.
    ― Raymond Chandler

  • Self-pity lasted seconds in the open; then the bird of prey fell on it... dispatched by his conscience, the angry voice of all the people in the world worse off than he was...
    ― Iain Banks

  • A tongue weighs little, but can crush a man. 998
    ― Proverb

  • I define love in terms of actions, because if I define it in terms of feelings, it seems either absent or harmful.
    ― Ran Prieur

  • What one wants is to be able to talk with a diverse club of smart people, arrange to do short one-off research projects and simulations, publish papers or capture intellectual property quickly and easily, and move on to another conversation. Quickly. Easily. For a living. Can't do that in industry. Can't do that in the Academy. Yet in my experience, scientists and engineers all want it. Maybe even a few mathematicians and social scientists do, too.
    ― Bill Tozier

  • I have not loved the world, nor the world me
    But let us part fair foes; I do believe,
    Though I have found them not, that there may be
    Words which are things,—hopes which will not deceive,
    And virtues which are merciful, nor weave
    Snares for the failing: I would also deem
    O’er others’ griefs that some sincerely grieve;
    That two, or one, are almost what they seem,
    That goodness is no name, and happiness no dream.
    ― George Byron

  1. πότερον γῆμαι ἢ μή, ἔφη,
    "ὃ ἂν αὐτῶν ποιήσῃς, μεταγνώσῃ."

    (via Diogenes Laertius)
  2. πᾶσα οὖν ἡδονὴ διὰ τὸ φύσιν ἔχειν οἰκείαν ἀγαθὸν, οὐ πᾶσα μέντοι αἱρετή· καθάπερ καὶ ἀλγηδὼν πᾶσα κακόν, οὐ πᾶσα δὲ ἀεὶ φευκτὴ πεφυκυῖα.
  3. Bedava sirke baldan tatlıdır.
  4. Pour qu’une chose soit intéressante, il suffit de la regarder longtemps.
  5. 瑞而梲之、不可長保
    ... 功遂身退
  6. Si on ne vouloit qu’être heureux, cela seroit bientôt fait; mais on veut être plus heureux que les autres; et cela est presque toujours difficile, parce que nous croyons les autres plus heureux qu’ils ne sont.
  7. 海内存知己,天涯若比邻。
  8. 天外有天,山外有山。
  9. 舌头底下压死人。


  • [Beware] the death of the spirit which threatens every man unless he is conscious of the danger and has a real purpose which can keep it alive and enable it to thrust its way through the choking weeds and thorns to the air and to the sun
    ― Hugh Trevor-Roper

  • The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure. There will be a wide margin for relaxation to his day. He is only earnest to secure the kernels of time, and does not exaggerate the value of the husk... Those who work much do not work hard.
    ― HD Thoreau

  • a man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover... those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.
    ― Albert Camus

  • You should have education to the limits of your powers, and work to challenge your spirit. Work makes you bigger. More real. You eat it up and grow.
    ― Lois Bujold

  • Sometimes magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else might reasonably expect.
    ― Teller

  • Trying to get work done on an internet device is like dieting with beer and ice cream on your desk
    ― Tim Harford

  • If you want something done, ask a busy person.
    ― WJ Kennedy

  • The process of becoming yourself is not a... job, not homework, and not an unticked box languishing on a to-do list. You do not have to treat your flaws like action items that must be... eliminated [for] a return on investment. You have no supervisor; you should not be punished when you fail. Your job is not to lock the doors and chisel at yourself like a marble statue in the darkness until you feel... worthy of the world outside.
    ― Rayne Fisher-Quann

  • real wealth is the developed productive power of all individuals. The measure of wealth is then not... labour time, but rather disposable time.
    ― Marx

  • Learning for its own sake is crucial and here's why: on a daily basis at work, you operate at <50% of your intellectual peak. Did an amazing PhD in machine learning? Now you shuffle numbers - competently - at UltraCorp. Taught yourself computer science from a young age? Now you get to - competently - write basic apps for commerce. Invented Unix and C? Well, now you - competently - manage a team working on a small compiler. Every new thing you learn or invent translates into a minor increase in the average interest of your resulting jobs. And interest is what you want, right?
    John Morrice

  • Work holds off three great evils: boredom, vice and want. 600
    ― Voltaire

  • Worthy work carries with it the hope of pleasure in rest, the hope of the pleasure in our using what it makes, and the hope of pleasure in our daily creative skill. All other work but this is worthless; it is slaves' work — mere toiling to live, that we may live to toil.
    ― William Morris

  • It was true that I didn’t have much ambition, but there ought to be a place for people without ambition, I mean a better place than the one usually reserved. How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?
    ― Bukowski

  • The work that is really a man's own work is play and not work at all. Cursed is the man who has found some other man's work and cannot lose it. When we talk about the great workers of the world we really mean the great players of the world. The fellows who groan and sweat under the weary load of toil that they bear never can hope to do anything great. How can they when their souls are in a ferment of revolt against the employment of their hands and brains?
    ― Mark Twain

  • Down you lie or up you stand / Either way you'll earn a grand 602
    ― C20th Polish proverb

  • The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become.
    ― Adam Smith

  • The sons of Hermes love to play,
    And only do their best when they
    Are told they oughtn't;
    Apollo's children never shrink
    From boring jobs but have to think
    Their work important.
    ― Auden

  • When you go too far up, abstraction-wise, you run out of oxygen. Sometimes smart thinkers just don't know when to stop, and they create these absurd, all-encompassing, high-level pictures of the universe that are all good and fine, but don't actually mean anything at all.

    ...It's very hard to get them to write code or design programs, because they won't stop thinking about Architecture. They're astronauts because they are above the oxygen level, I don't know how they're breathing. They tend to work for really big companies that can afford to have lots of unproductive people with really advanced degrees that don't contribute to the bottom line.
    ― Joel Spolsky

  • Happy is the man who can recognise in the work of to-day a connected portion of the work of life and an embodiment of the work of Eternity. The foundations of his confidence are unchangeable, for he has been made a partaker of Infinity. He strenuously works out his daily enterprises because the present is given him for a possession.

    Thus ought Man to be an impersonation of the divine process of nature, and to show forth the union of the infinite with the finite, not slighting his temporal existence, remembering that in it only is individual action possible; nor yet shutting out from his view that which is eternal, knowing that Time is a mystery which man cannot endure to contemplate until eternal Truth enlighten it.
    ― James Clerk Maxwell

  1. le travail éloigne de nous trois grands maux, l'ennui, le vice, et le besoin.
  2. Ô Paresse, prends pitié de notre longue misère! Ô Paresse, mère des arts et des nobles vertus, sois le baume des angoisses humaines!
  3. Czy sie stoi czy sie lezy - tysiąc zlotych sie nalezy.


  • Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.
    ― Groucho Marx

  • Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.
    ― Oscar Ameringer

  • The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern.
    ― John Emerich Acton

  • One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.
    Bertrand Russell

  • Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time.
    ― E.B. White

  • Democracy is the theory that the common man knows what he wants and deserves to get it good and hard.
    ― HL Mencken

  • The man who wears the shoe knows best that it pinches and where it pinches, even if the expert shoemaker is the best judge of how the trouble is to be remedied.
    ― John Dewey

  • Don't you know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed? 201
    ― Axel Oxenstierna

  • The modern world has been built within monsters which crush individuals without remorse... We eke out freedom by setting one against another, deploying bureaucracy to limit market excesses, democracy vs bureaucrats, and markets & bureaucracies vs democracy’s monstrous tendencies
    ― Henry Farrell

  • It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.
    ― Thomas Sowell

  • Acton was wrong: it is not power which corrupts, it's the other way round. Power is neutral: it can be exercised beneficently. But power is more often than not corrupted, abused, by the people who are attracted to it. Power is attained by those who already harbour the germ of corruption, but who keep that germ hidden, even from themselves, behind a mask... its wearers give themselves away with their abasement of language, [jargon].
    ― Jonathan Meades

  • Is there any difference between killing a man with a knife and killing him with misrule? There is no difference.
    ― Mengzi

  • It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.
    ― James Madison

  • The main penalty for refusing to participate in politics is that you are governed by your inferiors. 207
    ― Plato

  • Ideology is a specious [thing]... It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, dignity, and morality, while making it easier for them to part with them. As the repository of something suprapersonal and objective, it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves.
    ― Vaclav Havel

  • Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made
    ― John Godfrey Saxe

  • Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law?
    More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
    Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
    More: Oh? And, when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast – man’s laws, not God’s – and, if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.
    ― Robert Bolt

  • they do not love liberty who fear license
    ― Hugh MacDiarmid

  • The market for something to believe in is infinite.
    ― Hugh MacLeod

  • The absent are wrong. 208
    ― Philippe Destouches (trolling)

  • Whether the mask is labeled fascism, democracy, or dictatorship of the proletariat, our great adversary remains the apparatus - the bureaucracy, the police, the military. Not the one facing us across the frontier of the battle lines, which is not so much our enemy as our brothers' enemy, but the one that calls itself our protector and makes us its slaves. No matter what the circumstances, the worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this apparatus and to trample underfoot, in its service, all human values in ourselves and in others.
    ― Simone Weil

  • People talk about “liberalism” as if it’s just another word for capitalism, or libertarianism, or vague center-left Clintonism. Liberalism is none of these things. Liberalism is a technology for preventing civil war. It was forged in the fires of Hell – the endless seventeenth century religious wars. For a hundred years, Europe tore itself apart in the most brutal ways – until finally, from the burning wreckage, we drew forth this amazing piece of alien machinery. A machine that, when tuned just right, let people live together peacefully without doing the “kill people for being Protestant” thing.

    Popular historical strategies for dealing with differences have included: brutally enforced conformity, brutally efficient genocide, and making sure to keep the alien machine tuned really really carefully.
    ― Scott Alexander

  • I do not hate in the plural.
    ― attrb. PG Wodehouse

  • Political causes want every spare minute and dollar. They want to choose your friends, words and thoughts. If given power, they seize state and nation for their purposes. Then they take those purposes further. One cannot simply give any political movement what it wants. That way lies ruin and madness. Yes, that means your cause, too.
    ― Zvi Mowshowitz, or

  • To make something out of nothing
    And much more out of less
    Is the function and prerogative
    Of writers for the press
    ― Cynicus

  • while mankind are imperfect, there should be different opinions; so is it that there should be different experiments of living... that the worth of different modes of life should be proved practically... Where, not the person's own character, but the traditions or customs of other people are the rule, there is wanting one of the principal ingredients of human happiness, and quite the chief ingredient of individual and social progress.
    ― Mill

  • The peace movement is a great force for peace. Some of the world's most quarrelsome people act out their aggressions through the peace movement.
    ― John McCarthy

  • When the people are being beaten with a stick, they will not be much happier if it is called 'the People's Stick.' 210
    ― Mikhail Bakunin

  • The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts.
    ― Paul Ehrlich, or

  • It took but a moment to take off that head, but a hundred years will not suffice to replicate it. 209
    ― Lagrange, of Lavoisier

  • To suppose, as we all suppose, that we could be rich and not behave as the rich behave, is like supposing that we could drink all day and keep absolutely sober.
    ― Logan Pearsall Smith

  • [Say] I have... a young white male student, politically-correct, who says: “I am only a bourgeois white male, I can’t speak.” ...
    I say to them: “Why not develop a certain degree of rage against the history that has written such an abject script for you that you are silenced?” ... if you make it your task not only to learn what is going on through language, but also at the same time through a historical critique of your position, then you will have earned the right to criticize, to be heard. When you take the position of not doing your homework - “I will not criticize because of my accident of birth, the historical accident” - that is the much more pernicious position.
    ― Gayatri Spivak

  • Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.
    ― Thoreau

  • If you are the sort of man whose stomach revolts against treating shams reverentially, you will be well advised to stay out of politics altogether and set up as a prophet; your prophecies may perhaps sow good seed for some future harvest. But as a politician you would be impotent.

    For at any given time the bulk of your countrymen believe firmly and devoutly, not only in various things that are worthy of belief, but also in illusions of one kind and another; and they will never submit to have their affairs managed for them by one who appears not to share in their credulity…
    ― Frederick Scott Oliver

  • Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness.
    ― George Santayana

  • Ethos, pathos and logos.. 108
    ― Aristotle

  • The goal of the future is full unemployment
    ― Arthur C Clarke

  • Evils which are patiently endured when they seem inevitable, become intolerable when once the idea of escape from them is suggested. 203
    Alexis de Tocqueville

  • Conservative (n.): One who admires radicals centuries after they're dead.
    ― Leo Rosten

  • You'll soon find a stick if you set out to beat a dog. 204
    ― Proverb

  • Even hatred of squalor makes the brow stern.
    Even anger at injustice makes the voice harsh.
    Alas we, wanting to lay the foundations of kindness
    Could not ourselves be kind. 205
    ― Brecht

  • The word 'revolution' is a word for which you kill, for which you die, for which you send the labouring masses to their death, but which does not possess any content. 206
    ― Simone Weil

  • nothing was ever yet done which someone was not the first to do... all good things which exist are the fruits of originality, let them be modest enough to believe that there is something still left for it to accomplish.
    ― Mill

  • Anonymous asked: 'you have the most hilariously naive politics i've ever seen, it's milquetoast pacifist liberalism meets autistic rationalism. grow a fucking backbone you fuck.'

    Unitofcaring: certain subbubbles of the Left have constructed this environment in which it is inherently pathetic, inherently contemptible, to say “mass murder is a really awful thing and if we can achieve our goals without it that’s worth striving for” or even “no matter what, I won’t endorse or participate in mass murder”.

    I can imagine how I’d be a Marxist. 30,000 kids die preventable deaths every day and that makes me angrier and sadder than you can possibly imagine and if I’d gotten ensnared in an ideology that claimed the only way for that to end was to kill all of the rich people, I’d probably also go around saying “kill all the rich people!” But I hope I’d never, ever equate “willingness to call for murder” with “moral strength” or “strength of character”.

    Valuing life is moral strength. Protecting people is strength of character. Calling for mass murder from your keyboard is cowardice. And the communities that deny those things, that circle the wagons around their conviction that willingness to kill people is equivalent to having a backbone, that claiming “the rich all deserve to die” is moral strength, that caring about human life is hilariously naive -

    - well, first of all, you’ll never get anything done. My friends and I will end those deaths, eradicate malaria, fix global inequality, hunt down every source of human suffering and watch it take its last breath while you’ll sit there going “milquetoast pacifists! hilariously naive! the rich are not innocent!”. But second of all, you’ll spend your not-accomplishing-anything time in a bubble where caring about all human life is a weakness, where not wanting to murder people is disgusting and contemptible, and I know people are different psychologically but I can’t imagine anything worse than that.

    ...come join us, we milquetoast autistic rationalist liberals, because you don’t have to rant on the internet about killing people to earn our esteem, you just have to fix stuff.

  1. An nescis, mi fili, quantilla prudentia mundus regatur?
  2. Le mal qu'on souffrait patiemment comme inévitable semble insupportable dès qu'on conçoit l'idée de s'y soustraire.
  3. Man findet bald einen Stecken, wenn man einen Hund schlagen will.
  4. Auch der Hass gegen die Niedrigkeit / Verzerrt die Züge.
    Auch der Zorn über das Unrecht / Macht die Stimme heiser. Ach, wir
    Die wir den Boden bereiten wollten für Freundlichkeit
    Konnten selber nicht freundlich sein.
  5. Le mot 'révolution' est un mot pour lequel on tue, pour lequel on meurt, pour lequel on envoie les masses populaires à la mort, mais qui n'a aucun contenu.
  6. He was actually a little more specific, encouraging decent political candidates despite the paradox that the best people for it are the ones who don't want it:
    if a man will not himself hold office and rule, the main penalty is to be governed by someone worse.
    τῆς δὲ ζημίας μεγίστη τὸ ὑπὸ πονηροτέρου ἄρχεσθαι, ἐὰν μὴ αὐτὸς ἐθέλῃ ἄρχειν...

    My apolitical colleague notes "Yes, but that will happen either way."
  7. Il ne leur a fallu qu’un moment pour faire tomber cette tête, et cent années peut-être ne suffiront pas pour en reproduire une semblable.
  8. Но народу отнюдь не будет легче, если палка, которою его будут бить, будет называться палкою народной.


  • Praise the humanities, my boy. That'll make them think you're broadminded!
    ― Churchill

  • It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.
    ― Thoreau

  • mankind has various ways, some of them too technical to register as art, of adding to the store of beautiful created things...
    ― Clive James, or

  • A machine is as distinctively and brilliantly and expressively human as a violin sonata or a theorem in Euclid.
    ― Gregory Vlastos

  • We adore chaos because we love to produce order.
    ― MC Escher

  • Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern.
    ― AN Whitehead

  • The artist talks to himself out loud.
    ― Edmund Snow Carpenter

  • Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is the ash.
    ― Leonard Cohen

  • Poesis meant making. And so every maker is a kind of poet; everyone who wants to subject ideas to the tempering of existence, and is willing to stay with the process as the ideas are changed by being realised, and cares enough to labour until the creation comes right.
    ― Francis Spufford

  • Once you're no longer in the day job, you don't know what's going on with people... Even if you're not a hermit, you're talking to people as an observer, and an observer can never know what a participant can know... I seemed to have less to say... If a writer disengages from people at large, his ability to describe the behaviour of people is going to suffer.
    John Darnielle

  • radio is kind of wild really, the first thing we did after discovering an ethereal field that permeates the universe is infuse it with music.
    ― argumate

  • "Transgression", "subversion", "deconstruction" are praise words bestowed as solemnly as "structure" and "order" once were, little gold stars awarded to rappers and television comics.
    ― Louis Menand

  • To those who do not know mathematics, it is difficult to get across a real feeling as to the beauty, the deepest beauty, of nature... If you want... to appreciate nature, it is necessary to understand the language that she speaks in.
    ― Richard Feynman

  • [recalling a student dropping his class to study literature]: He became a poet. He lacked the imagination of a mathematician.
    ― David Hilbert

  • Generative AI is going to destroy artists' careers. That is a direct route to fascism! matter how bad things get, no matter how big a cult of personality becomes, no matter how totalizing an evil empire grows, there will always be some artist somewhere screaming, 'Wait, shouldn't the world orient around me?'
    ― Zach Weiner

  • I begin to doubt beautiful words. How one longs sometimes to have done something in the world.
    ― Virginia Woolf

  • During the Vietnam War, every respectable artist in this country was against the war. It was like a laser beam. We were all aimed in the same direction. The power of this weapon turns out to be that of a custard pie dropped from a stepladder six feet high.
    ― Kurt Vonnegut

  • Colleagues of mine will tell you that people despise critics because they fear our power. But I know better. People despise critics because people despise weakness, and criticism is the weakest thing you can do in writing. It is the written equivalent of air guitar — flurries of silent, sympathetic gestures with nothing at their heart but the memory of the music. It produces no knowledge, states no facts, and never stands alone. It neither saves the things we love (as we would wish them saved) nor ruins the things we hate.
    ― Dave Hickey

  • I see the object. I translate that into vision. I encode that into language, and append whatever speculations and special pleadings I deem appropriate. At this point, what I have written departs. It enters the historical past, perpetually absent from the present, and only represented there in type, while the visible artifact remains in the present moment — regardless of its antiquity, perpetually re-created...

    The writing gets older with each passing moment while the artifact gets newer. They remain as fresh and devious as the first day I set my eyes upon them — while the words I wrote on that occasion, informed by that brightness, have yellowed into antiquity and seem to me now as weathered and grotesque as Dorian’s portrait tucked away in the attic. Thus, in the same sense that there is only historical writing, there is no historical art... the artifact itself, as we stand before it, is always newer and more extensive than any word ever written about it — newer and more extensive, even, than the visual codes incorporated into it, because whether we like it or not, we always confront works of art as part of that selfless, otherless, unwritable instant of ordinary experience.
    ― Dave Hickey

  • don’t people become movie or book fanatics because at some level they reject real life?
    ― Scott Sumner

  • while he is reading, every reader is the reader of his own self. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have perceived in himself.
    ― Marcel Proust

  • He rejected the bird’s nest of traditions, stories, and knowledge that cushioned most people, the cultural resting place woven from bits of religion, American history, English literature, Greek myth, Dutch painting, German music. He was starting fresh.
    ― of Feynman

  • ...far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?
    ― Richard Feynman

  • Physics becomes in those years [1897 - 1930] the greatest collective work of... art of the twentieth century.
    ― Jacob Bronowski

  • We don't always have to be this. There can be something else. We can stop doing the thing that we're doing. Moms Mabley had a great line in some movie or other -- she said, 'You keep on doing what you been doing and you're gonna keep on gettin' what you been gettin.' And we don't have to keep on doing what we've been doing. We can do something else if we don't like what we're gettin'. I think a lot of the purpose of fiction ought to be to tell people that.
    ― Gene Wolfe

  • In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite.
    ― Paul Dirac

  • When architects get prizes, the people suffer.
    ― John McCarthy

  • An artist can be diminished by his virtues, [for instance] clarity. However much the reader welcomes clarity, some of the most memorable moments in poetry occur when it isn't exactly clear what the poet is talking about... Betjeman never [has such moments] because he always is sure, and that's the penalty of being lucid.
    ― Alan Bennett

  • The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little.
    ― Banksy

  • mythology is psychology misread as biography
    ― Joseph Campbell

  • [Academic] literary criticism, I think, is not empiricism: it’s not trying to make predictions about what features stories will have or what characteristics will make readers like stories or whatever. It’s art. It’s a very unusual kind of art that takes other art as its raw material. It’s the task of the reader taken to its highest form. This kind is about making interpretations that are more interesting than most people’s, that make it more interesting than it previously was. Asking whether or not it’s ‘true’ is like asking whether or not a painting is ‘true’.
    ― Ozy Frantz

  • If opinion is always [purely] contingent, why should we subsidize professionals to produce it?
    ― Louis Menand

  • A copy of the universe is not what is required of art; one of the damned things is ample.
    ― Rebecca West

  • Music fueled me, although I was just dimly realizing that I was at core a verbal child. In the shower I wailed and whammed at imaginary keyboards, drums, later guitars, but most especially saxes, emulating my heroes with twenty-minute atonal ragas that soared to their stormiest climaxes when the hot water ended.
    ― Lester Bangs

  • Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which before their union were not perceived to have any relation.
    ― Mark Twain

  • My guess is that well over eighty per cent of the human race goes through life without ever having a single original thought. That is to say, they never think anything that has not been thought before, and by thousands. A society made up of individuals who were all capable of original thought would probably be unendurable. The pressure of ideas would simply drive it frantic.
    ― HL Mencken

  • Ways of writing: Narrative, epic, satiric, devotional, comic, meditative, didactic, elegiac, epigrammatic, erotic, lyric-confessional. Most recent writing uses just the latter, and badly.

  • Literature is news that stays news.
    ― Ezra Pound

  • Music, the knife without a hilt...
    ― Dorothy Dunnett

  • If at first you don't succeed, call it version 1.0

  • Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.
    ― Flannery O’Connor

  • ...the writer's life is a lonely life; you think it's just you; but as the years go by, if your stars are propitious, you discover you are at the center of a vast circle of invisible friends - friends you will never know but who love you and this is more than enough reward. 1200
    ― Jorge Luis Borges

  • When art critics get together they talk about Form and Structure and Meaning. When artists get together they talk about where you can buy cheap turpentine.
    ― Pablo Picasso

  • It isn't that the aesthete is too serious about the artistic: he isn't serious enough about what gives rise to it.
    ― Clive James

  • Reality's a kind of medium, maybe greater than paper.
    ― _why the lucky stiff

  1. « ... la vida del escritor es una vida solitaria, uno cree estar solo y al cabo de los años, si los astros son propicios, uno descubre que uno está al centro de una especie de vasto círculo de amigos invisibles, de amigos que uno no conocerá nunca físicamente pero que lo quieren a uno y eso es una recompensa más que suficiente.»

    in the flesh.


  • Doctors bury their mistakes, architects cover them with vines, teachers send theirs into politics.
    Frank Lloyd Wright plus

  • Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.
    ― G.K. Chesterton

  • A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education.
    ― George Bernard Shaw

  • ...from the time it learns to talk, every child makes a dreadful nuisance of itself by asking 'Why?'. To stop this nuisance, society has invented a marvellous system called 'education' which brings to an end their desire to ask that question. The few failures of this system are known as scientists.
    ― Hermann Bondi

  • Book learning certainly increases knowledge, but it does not broaden one's insight if not accompanied by reason. 11112
    ― Immanuel Kant

  • When working on a PhD, you must focus on a topic so narrow that you can understand it completely. It will seem at first that you're working on the proverbial needle, a tiny fragment of the world, a minute crystal, beautiful but in the scheme of things, microscopic. Work with it. And the more you work with it, the more you penetrate it, the more you will come to see that your work, your subject, encompasses the world. In time, you will come to see the world in your grain of sand.
    ― Manuel Blum

  • Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, but those who learn too much from history are doomed to make the exact opposite mistake and accuse anyone who urges restraint of "failing to learn from history" and "dogmatism".
    ― Scott Alexander

  • A college education [ideally] concerns realities. It is supposed to make people uncomfortable — not to offend them pointlessly or with evil intent or effect, but to make them uncomfortable with, say, the Bill Cosby level of moral and social discourse. It’s the uneducated who live in the ivory tower, a comfortable place with a good TV in which nothing important is discussed honestly, candidly, or thoroughly.
    ― Deirdre McCloskey

  • You think you know when you can learn, are more sure when you can write, even more when you can teach, but certain when you can program.
    ― Alan Perlis

  1. Büchergelehrsamkeit vermehrt zwar die Kenntnisse, aber erweitert nicht den Begriff und die Einsicht, wo nicht Vernunft dazukommt.


RIP Paul Meehl (1920–2003)

Meanwhile our eager-beaver researcher, undismayed by logic-of-science considerations and relying blissfully on the “exactitude” of modern statistical hypothesis-testing, has produced a long publication list and been promoted to a full professorship. In terms of his contribution to the enduring body of psychological knowledge, he has done hardly anything. His true position is that of a potent-but-sterile intellectual rake, who leaves in his merry path a long train of ravished maidens but no viable scientific offspring.

RIP Robert Quine (1942–2004)

By many peoples' standards, my playing is very primitive but by punk standards, I'm a virtuoso.

RIP Czesław Miłosz (1911–2004)

How it should be in heaven I know, for I was there.
By its river. I heard its birds.
In its season: in summer, shortly after sunrise...
But where is our dear mortality?
Where is time, that destroys and saves us?
This is too difficult for me. Peace eternal
Could have no mornings and no evenings.
This deficiency speaks against it.

RIP John Maynard Smith (1920–2004)

You can live some sort of life and die without ever hearing the name of Darwin. But if, before you die, you want to understand why you lived in the first place, Darwinism is the one subject that you must study.

RIP Francis Crick (1916–2004)

Nonlinear behaviour is common in real life, especially in love and war.

RIP John Peel (1939–2004)

Somebody was trying to tell me that CDs are better than vinyl because they don't have any surface noise. I said, 'Listen, mate, life has surface noise.'

At the heart of anything good there should be a kernel of something undefinable, and if you can define it, or claim to be able to define it, then, in a sense, you’ve missed the point.
There's always the possibility that you're going to come across a record that transforms your life. And it happens weekly. It's like a leaf on the stream. There are little currents and eddies and sticks lying in the water that nudge you in a slightly different direction. And then you break loose and carry on down the current. There's nothing that actually stops you and lifts you out of the water and puts you on the bank, but there are diversions and distractions and alarums and excursions, which is what makes life interesting, really.

Joseph Rotblat (1908–2005)

RIP Hans Bethe (1906–2005)

Finally I got to carbon, and as you all know, in the case of carbon the reaction works out beautifully. One goes through six reactions, and at the end one comes back to carbon. In the process one has made four hydrogen atoms into one of helium. The theory, of course, was not made on the railway train from Washington to Ithaca ... It didn't take very long, it took about six weeks, but not even the Trans-Siberian railroad [has] taken that long for its journey.

RIP Andrea Dworkin (1946–2005)

The death facing her now is the death of all her possibilities: the end of youth, already gone; no more hope and heart, both needed to pick up men... Carried by life and sex towards death, the human experience is one of being pushed until crushed.

RIP Maurice Hilleman (1919–2005)

This sketchy thing estimates about 100m people saved by his measles vaccine alone.

RIP Paul Halmos (1916–2006)

Don't just read it; fight it! Ask your own question, look for your own examples, discover your own proofs. Is the hypothesis necessary? Is the converse true? What happens in the classical special case? What about the degenerate cases? Where does the proof use the hypothesis?

What does it take to be [a mathematician]? I think I know the answer: you have to be born right, you must continually strive to become perfect, you must love mathematics more than anything else, you must work at it hard and without stop, and you must never give up.

Sputnik Monroe (1928–2006)

RIP Hugh Thompson Jnr (1943–2006)

One of the ladies that we had helped out that day came up to me and asked, ‘Why didn’t the people who committed these acts come back with you?’ And I was just devastated. And then she finished her sentence: she said, ‘So we could forgive them.’ I’m not man enough to do that. I’m sorry. I wish I was, but I won’t lie to anybody. I’m not that much of a man.”

RIP Stanisław Lem (1921–2006)

Each civilization may choose one of two roads to travel, that is, either fret itself to death, or pet itself to death. And in the course of doing one or the other, it eats its way into the Universe, turning cinders and flinders of stars into toilet seats, pegs, gears, cigarette holders and pillowcases - and it does this because, unable to fathom the Universe, it seeks to change that Fathomlessness into Something Fathomable... We don't want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend Earth's boundaries to the frontier of the cosmos.

RIP Muriel Spark (1918–2006)

Arriving late sometimes and never
Quite expected, still they come,
Bringing a folded meaning home
Between the lines, inside the letter.

As a scarecrow in the harvest
Turns an innocent field to grief
These tattered hints are dumb and deaf,
But bring the matter to a crisis.

They are the messengers who run
Onstage to us who try to doubt them,
Fetching our fate to hand; without them
What would Sophocles have done?

RIP Richard Rorty (1931–2007)

They are not trying to surmount time and chance, but to use them. They are quite aware that what counts as resolution, perfection, and autonomy will always be a function of when one happens to die or to go mad. But this relativity does not entail futility. For there is no big secret which the ironist hopes to discover, and which he might die or decay before discovering. There are only little mortal things to be rearranged by being redescribed.

RIP Stanislav Petrov (1939–2007)

All that happened didn't matter to me — it was my job. I was simply doing my job, and I was the right person at the right time, that's all. My late wife for 10 years knew nothing about it. 'So what did you do?' she asked me. 'Nothing. I did nothing.'

RIP Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007)

I love you sons of bitches [sci-fi writers]. You’re all I read any more. You're the only ones who’ll talk all about the really terrific changes going on, the only ones crazy enough to know that life is a space voyage, and not a short one, either, but one that’ll last for billions of years. You’re the only ones with guts enough to really care about the future, who really notice what machines do to us, what wars do to us, what cities do to us, what big, simple ideas do to us, what tremendous misunderstanding, mistakes, accidents, catastrophes do to us. You're the only ones zany enough to agonize over time and distance without limit, over mysteries that will never die, over the fact that we are right now determining whether the space voyage for the next billion years or so is going to be Heaven or Hell.

RIP David Foster Wallace (1962–2008)

I'm talking about the individual US citizen's deep fear, the same basic fear that you and I have and that everybody has except nobody ever talks about it except existentialists in convoluted French prose. Our smallness, our insignificance and mortality, yours and mine, the thing that we all spend all our time not thinking about directly, that we are tiny and at the mercy of large forces and that time is always passing and that every day we've lost one more day that will never come back... "pass away," the very sound of it makes me feel the way I feel at dusk on a wintry Sunday... That everything is on fire, slow fire, and we're all less than a million breaths away from an oblivion more total than we can even bring ourselves to even try to imagine, in fact, probably that's why the manic US obsession with production, produce, produce, impact the world, contribute, shape things, to help distract us from how little and totally insignificant and temporary we are...

RIP Irena Sendler (1910–2008)

What I did was not an extraordinary thing. It was normal. I continue to have pangs of conscience that I did so little.

RIP IJ Good (1916–2009)

The subjectivist states his judgements, whereas the objectivist sweeps them under the carpet by calling assumptions knowledge, and he basks in the glorious objectivity of science.

There may be occasions when it is best to behave irrationally, but whether there are should be decided rationally.

RIP Norman Borlaug (1914–2009)

Little did I imagine then, in the early 1950s, that the quiet revolution in wheat production in Mexico would become popularly known as the Green Revolution in famine-plagued India and Pakistan, and subsequently spread to many other countries... India's accomplishments are even more impressive, especially when recalling the widespread famine of 1965 and 1966 which led many authorities to state that India's population had outgrown its food supply and a disastrous "die-off" of the population was inevitable. India became self-sufficient in wheat in 1972, and remains so despite population having more than doubled.

RIP David Blackwell (1919–2010)

RIP Philippa Foot (1920–2010)

RIP Angus Maddison (1926–2010)

RIP Jack Kevorkian (1928–2011)

I gambled and I lost. I failed in securing my options for [euthanasia] for myself, but I succeeded in verifying the Dark Age is still with us.

RIP Leslie Collier (1921–2011)

This [Master's thesis] was undertaken to develop a smallpox vaccine suitable for use under tropical conditions...

I was given a laboratory, a junior technician (a young lady straight from school with no laboratory experience) and a little hut that housed an experimental freeze drier... [The apparatus needed for sealing large numbers of ampoules was made from a children’s construction set.] It was characteristic of the somewhat Heath Robinson approach used at the time.

RIP John McCarthy (1927–2011)

God did not design human beings in accordance with Christian principles, fascist principles, feminist principles, socialist principles, romantic principles, secular humanist principles, vegetarian principles, deep environmentalist principles, biocentric principles, or libertarian principles. Any of these groups could have told God a thing or two.

RIP Adrienne Rich (1929–2012)

It was an old theme even for me:
Language cannot do everything -
chalk it on the walls where the dead poets
lie in their mausoleums
If at the will of the poet the poem
could turn into a thing
a granite flank laid bare, a lifted head
alight with dew
If it could simply look you in the face
with naked eyeballs, not letting you turn
till you, and I who long to make this thing,
were finally clarified together in its stare.

RIP Dennis Lindley (1923–2013)

emotional considerations must be considered... just as we measure belief, so we need to measure our preferences. Emotion is included... because reason demands it. Your beliefs will be measured by probabilities; your preferences by the rather unemotional word, utility, so that my utility for Verdi exceeds that for [Elton] John... We shall not abandon that element of life that provides so much interest but incorporate it into our reason; indeed, incorporate it in a way that makes the two fit together like pieces in a good jigsaw — sometimes so well that they cannot easily be separated... Utility is emotion pleading to be let into the house of pure reason and thereby enriching it.

RIP Ronald Coase (1910–2013)

We must first note that economic factors are taken into account in a world in which ignorance, prejudice, and mental confusion, encouraged rather than dispelled by political organization, exert a strong influence on policy making.

RIP Iain Banks (1954–2013)

“But in the end, it’s still just cleaning a table.”
“And therefore does not really signify on the cosmic scale of events?” the man suggested.
He smiled in response to the man’s grin, “Well, yes.”
“But then, what does signify? My [academic] work? Is that really important, either? I could try composing wonderful musical works, or day-long entertainment epics, but what would that do? Give people pleasure? My wiping this table gives me pleasure. And people come to a clean table, which gives them pleasure.

And anyway” — the man laughed — “people die; stars die; universes die... Of course, if all I did was wipe tables, then of course it would seem a mean and despicable waste of my huge intellectual potential. But because I choose to do it, it gives me pleasure. And,” the man said with a smile, “it’s a good way of meeting people."

RIP Aaron Swartz (1986–2013)

A ticker at the bottom of the TV news gives people up-to-the-minute information about how well the stock market is doing. Nobody tells us how many people are dying right now (107 people every minute, 5 of them in the US). When a major stock drops, we hear which and how much and why and how it fits into the bigger market picture. Nobody does the same for deaths, either individual or in outbreaks. Nobody’s provided an overall look at why people are dying and how all our attempts to make the world a better place — from economic growth to clean water — are helping. Somebody should start.
Or his disquotation.

RIP Umberto Eco (1932–2013)

“Master, how can we best approach death?”
I replied that the only way to prepare for death is to convince yourself that everyone else is a complete idiot.

how can you approach death, even if you are a believer, if you think that, as you lay dying, desirable young people of both sexes are dancing in discos and having the time of their lives, enlightened scientists are revealing the last secrets of the universe, incorruptible politicians are creating a better society, newspapers and television are bent on giving only important news, responsible business people are ensuring that their products will not damage the environment and doing their utmost to restore a nature in which there are streams with drinkable water, wooded hillside, clear, serene skies protected by a providential ozone layer, and fluffy clouds from which sweet rain falls once more? The thought that you must leave while all these marvelous things are going on would be intolerable.

So try to think, when you sense the time has come for your departure from this vale, that the world (six billion beings) is full of idiots, that the dancers at the disco are all idiots, the scientists who think they have solved the mysteries of the universe are idiots, the politicians who propose panaceas for all our ills are idiots, the journalists who fill page after page with vacuous gossip are idiots, and the manufacturers who are destroying the planet are idiots. In that moment, would you not be happy, relieved, and satisfied to leave this vale of idiots?

...Wisdom consists in recognizing only at the right moment (and not before) that he too is an idiot. Only then can you die.

The great art lies in studying universal thought a bit at a time; scrutinizing changes in customs; monitoring the mass media day by day, the statements of self-assured artists, the apothegms of politicians who shoot their mouths off, the philosophemes of apocalyptic critics, the aphorisms of charismatic heroes; studying theories, propositions, appeals, images, and visions. Only then, in the end, will you experience the insight that everyone is an idiot. And at that point, you are ready for death.

Until the end, you must doggedly insist that some people say sensible things, that a certain book is better than others, that a certain leader really desires the common good. It’s natural, human, and proper to our species to resist the idea that all people are idiots, otherwise why go on living? But at the end, you will understand why it is worth the effort and how it can be a splendid thing to die.

Then Crito said to me: “Master, I wouldn’t like to make hasty decisions, but I suspect that you are an idiot.” See, I replied, you are already on the right track.

RIP Carl Djerassi (1923–2014)

Before learning about the postoperative prognosis, I was very depressed, and for the first time thought about mortality. Strangely enough I had not thought about death before... I realized that who knows how long I would live? In cancer they always talk about five years: if one can survive five years then presumably the cancer had been extirpated. And I thought: gee, had I known five years earlier that I would come down with cancer, would I have led a different life during these five last years? And my answer to myself was yes. I said, well, Carl Djerassi, now you know it... I decided I wanted to live another intellectual life: a very different one... So, by 1989, when I really started reducing the size of my research group on a substantial scale I wrote the first autobiography. I wrote my first novel...

But suicide is a death that has a purpose, and the person who commits suicide usually sends out a message... the survivors ought to be able to figure out what had prompted this irrevocable step... So, this was my answer in the context of my daughter’s death and why I founded an artist’s colony in her memory... I wanted to create again something living out of death.

RIP Stephanie Kwolek (1923–2014)

FERGUSON: Do you feel comfortable financially now? Has the "Kevlar" discovery made your day?
KWOLEK: The "Kevlar" discovery has not made my day. It takes a lifetime of saving to assure a fairly comfortable old age, particularly if you start out at a salary of $240 per month and you progress at the rate that women of my generation did.
FERGUSON: The usual stories go around that so-and-so invented "Kevlar" and they got huge bonuses.
KWOLEK: Well, I certainly did not receive a huge bonus, and any amount that was received was greatly diminished by federal and state income taxes...

FERGUSON: ... any further additions?
KWOLEK: On reflection, I realized that I gave some incorrect values for the first liquid crystalline polyamide fiber that I prepared and I would like to correct these now. These poly(1,4,-benzamide) fibers had a breaking tenacity of about 6 grams per denier, and a modulus or stiffness of about 430 grams per denier. For comparison, glass fibers have a modulus of about 300 grams per denier.
FERGUSON: Thank you again, Stephanie, for having given us the time for this interview.

RIP Alastair Reid (1926–2014)

It was a day peculiar to this piece of the planet,
when larks rose on long thin strings of singing
and the air shifted with the shimmer of actual angels.
Greenness entered the body. The grasses
shivered with presences, and sunlight
stayed like a halo on hair and heather and hills.
Walking into town, I saw, in a radiant raincoat,
the woman from the fish-shop. 'What a day it is!'
cried I, like a sunstruck madman.
And what did she have to say for it?
Her brow grew bleak, her ancestors raged in their graves
as she spoke with their ancient misery:
'We'll pay for it, we'll pay for it, we'll pay for it!'"

RIP Terry Pratchett (1948–2015)


"Oh, come on! I know what you're implying, and I've never believed in any of that Heaven and Hell nonsense!"

The room was growing darker. The blue gleam along the edge of the reaper's scythe was becoming more obvious.


Fighting for breath, the philosopher managed to say: "Don't be silly."


"We've certainly escaped from outmoded superstitions!"

He leaned forward.


"Oh, yes," said the philosopher.

GOOD, said Death. He got to his feet as the last of the light died, and smiled. I SEE YOU...'

RIP Nicholas Winton (1909–2015)

RIP Ornette Coleman (1930–2015)

RIP John Forbes Nash (1928–2015)

gradually I began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally influenced lines of thinking which had been characteristic of my orientation. This began, most recognizably, with the rejection of politically oriented thinking as essentially a hopeless waste of intellectual effort. So at the present time I seem to be thinking rationally again in the style that is characteristic of scientists. However this is not entirely a matter of joy as if someone returned from physical disability to good physical health. One aspect of this is that rationality of thought imposes a limit on a person’s concept of his relation to the cosmos.

RIP Donald Ainslie Henderson (1928–2016)

Q: Did you really send a jeep tyre to a WHO official who said he would eat one if the India smallpox eradication campaign were successful?

A: [laughs] I reminded him later on of his bet and said that we had a tyre waiting and where should we send it. He laughed and said “No, no, I really didn’t mean it.” So the tyre never got sent.

RIP Leonard Cohen (1934–2016)

If it be your will / that I speak no more
that my voice be still / as it was before
I will speak no more

RIP Hilary Putnam (1926–2016)

I propose that each philosopher ought to leave it more problematic what is left for philosophy to do - but philosophy should go on. If I agree with Derrida on anything, it is on this: that philosophy... must learn to be a writing whose authority is always to be won anew, not inherited or awarded because it is philosophy.

Philosophers inherit a field, not authority, and that is enough. It is, after all, a field which fascinates a great many people. If we have not entirely destroyed that fascination by our rigidities or by our posturings, that is something for which we should be truly grateful.

Temporary RIP Marvin Minsky (1927–?)

I was surprised to find that the idea of extending one's lifetime to thousands of years was often seen as a dismal suggestion. The response to my several informal polls included such objections as these: "Why would anyone want to live for a thousand hundred years? What if you outlived all your friends? What would you do with all that time? Wouldn't one's life become terribly boring?"

What can one conclude from this? Perhaps some of those persons lived with a sense that they did not deserve to live so long. Perhaps others did not regard themselves as having worthy long term goals. In any case, I find it worrisome that so many of our citizens are resigned to die. A planetful of people who feel that they do not have much to lose: surely this could be dangerous.

RIP David Mackay (1967–2016)

RIP Ken Arrow (1921–2017)

RIP Thomas Schelling (1927–2017)

Who loses if a death occurs? First, the person who dies. Exactly what he loses we do not know. But, before it happens, people do not want to die and will go to some expense to avoid it...

Death is a comparatively private event. Society may be concerned but is not much affected. There is a social interest in schools and delinquency, discrimination and unrest, infection and pollution, noise and beauty, obscenity and corruption, justice and fair practice, and the examples that men set; but death is a very local event...

Society's interest, moreover, may be in whether reasonable efforts were made to conserve life than in whether those efforts succeed. A missing man has to be searched for, but whether or not he is found is usually of interest to only a very few.

RIP Derek Parfit (1942–2017)

Is the truth depressing? Some may find it so. But I find it liberating, and consoling. When I believed that [nonreductionist personal identity was critical], I seemed imprisoned in myself. My life seemed like a glass tunnel, through which I was moving faster every year, and at the end of which there was darkness. When I changed my view, the walls of my glass tunnel disappeared. I now live in the open air. There is still a difference between my life and the lives of other people. But the difference is less. I am less concerned about the rest of my own life, and more concerned about the lives of others...

Instead of saying ‘I shall be dead’, I should say, ‘There will be no future experiences that will be related, in certain ways, to these present experiences’. Because it reminds me what this fact involves, this redescription makes this fact less depressing.

My death will break the more direct relations between my present experiences and future experiences, but it will not break various other relations. This is all there is to the fact that there will be no one living who will be me. Now that I have seen this, my death seems to me less bad.

RIP Hans Rosling (1948–2017)

'The Mozambican government assigned Rosling to a northern part of the country, where he would be the only doctor serving 300,000 people. Because of the scarcity of health care, patients were often in excruciating pain by the time he saw them. Rosling recalls performing emergency surgery to extract dead fetuses from women on the verge of death. He watched helplessly as children perished from diseases that should have been simple to prevent...

“Extreme poverty produces diseases. Evil forces hide there. It is where Ebola starts. It’s where Boko Haram hides girls. It’s where konzo disease occurs.” '

RIP Mark Fisher (1968–2017)

The great Cold Rationalist lesson is that everything in the so-called personal sphere is in fact the product of impersonal processes of cause and effect which could be delineated very precisely. And this act of delineation, this stepping outside the character armour that we have confused with ourselves, is what freedom is...

We can now see why becoming inhuman is in the best interests of humanity. The human organism is set up to produce misery. What we like may be damaging for us. What feels good may poison us...

We could say it is the human condition to be grotesque, since the human animal is the one that does not fit in, the freak of nature who has no place in the natural order and is capable of re-combining nature's products into hideous new forms...

the centre is missing, but we cannot stop searching for it or positing it. It is not that there is nothing there - it is that what is there is not capable of exercising responsibility...

RIP Tom Regan (1938–2017)

Harms viewed as deprivations need not cause or involve pain or suffering... [welfarists] assume that the only harm we can do to animals is to cause them to suffer; they completely overlook the other type of harm we may visit upon them - namely, the harm done by deprivation. And an untimely death is a deprivation of a fundamental and irreversible kind...

Death for them is a misfortune, a harm, when death for them is a deprivation, a loss, and it is the latter when their death is contrary to their welfare-interests, even assuming that they themselves have no preference-interest in remaining alive or in avoiding death...

RIP Herb Needleman (1927–2017)

I was working on the infant ward, and a child was bought up from the ER with severe acute lead toxicity. I did what I’d been trained to do. I gave her [chelation]. She was stuporous and very ill. Slowly she got better... I felt very smug. I told the mother that she had to move out of that house...

She looked at me and said, “Where am I going to move to? All the houses I can afford are the same age.”

RIP grognor (1993–2017)

I will be dead soon. if you want to honor my memory,
become vegan
don't pay attention to the news
think hard
create a posthuman eutopia

RIP Ursula le Guin (1926–2018)

S: "...close up, the world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. You need a distance. The way to see how beautiful the earth is, is to see it from the moon. The way to see how beautiful life is, is from the vantage of death."

T: "That's all right for the moon. Let it stay off there and be the moon - I don't want it! I’m not going to stand up on a gravestone and look down on life and say, ‘O lovely!’ I want to see it whole right in the middle of it. I don't give a hoot for eternity."

S: "It's nothing to do with eternity... The sun's going to burn out; what else keeps it shining?"

T: "Ach! your talk, your damned philosophy!"

RIP Doug Altman (1948–2018)

What should we think about a doctor who uses the wrong treatment, either wilfully or through ignorance, or who uses the right treatment wrongly (such as by giving the wrong dose of a drug)? Most people would agree that such behaviour was unprofessional, arguably unethical, certainly unacceptable.

What, then, should we think about researchers who use the wrong techniques (wilfully or in ignorance), use the right techniques wrongly, misinterpret their results, report their results selectively, cite the literature selectively, and draw unjustified conclusions? We should be appalled. Yet numerous studies of the medical literature, in both general and specialist journals, have shown that all of the above phenomena are common. This is surely a scandal.

RIP Mary Midgley (1919–2018)

Old age and death... make up a fixed cycle, a crescendo and diminuendo that frame human efforts everywhere, a rhythm that links us to the natural world in which we live. They mark us out as creatures akin to the rest of life, beings that are at home on the earth, not supernatural outsiders crashing in to conquer it. We have no idea how we would get on without that context. No doubt we would devise some other world-picture to replace it, but what would that picture be? Would the overcrowding be dealt with by colonizing space–a potent dream that has long ruled science-fiction?

...In fact, the question of how to view death isn’t a duel between black and white–saving it or losing it. It really is a choice of evils–one of those clashes where, as Aristotle saw, we have to navigate between equally unwelcome extremes. I have often been puzzled by the way philosophers, from Epicurus on, have argued abstractly about whether death is 'an evil’. It seems so obvious that the question about evils must always be 'is this one worse than the alternative?’

...However discontented we may be with our present mortality we might well find it still harder to adapt to the prospect of endless survival.

RIP Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza (1922–2018)

While correcting the translation of one of my books, I was terrified to see that all my conditionals had been changed to indicatives — my safeguards had been eliminated... Many studies have been invalidated because of an inadequate number of observations. When we study polymorphisms directly on DNA, there is no dearth of evidence: we can study millions.

RIP Judith Rich Harris (1938–2018)

They fuck you up, your mum and dad
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had.
And add some extra, just for you.
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth
To hear your child make such a fuss.
It isn’t fair — it’s not the truth —
He’s fucked up, yes, but not by us.

Louis Jenkins (1942–2019)

RIP Robert Provine (1943–2019)

The ultimate cause of death in such cases is unknown, but the sustained, uncontrollable laughter and struggling of the victim may cause cardiac arrest or cerebral haemor rhage.

RIP Clive James (1939–2019)

it is only when they go wrong that machines remind you how powerful they are, how much they can do... before long you are armed with all kinds of jargon and have persuaded yourself that you know what’s going on. But you don't know what's going on. Only about two people in the entire building can really understand how the toys are put together.
The childish urge to understand everything doesn't necessarily fade when the time approaches for you to do the most adult thing of all: vanish.
I never feared growing old, because I was always very conscious that I was bad at being young.
The storm blew out and this is the dead calm.
The pain is going where the passion went.
Few things will move you now to lose your head
And you can cause, or be caused, little harm.
Tonight you leave your audience content:
You were the ghost they wanted at the feast,
Though none of them recalls a word you said.

RIP Napoleon Chagnon (1938–2019)

RIP Mitch Feigenbaum (1944–2019)

When Feigenbaum talks, his passionate eyes opening like electronic shutters in sudden darkness, his hair sweeping stochastically back from his brow in the style of busts of German composers, he tends to start dropping certain articles and pronouns. "But the radio made music with nothing coming in, and it struck me to understand that was deepest thing in the world. It's not the stuff of wisdom, but maybe one can be struck by anything. In fact, even now, I don't know the answer."

RIP George Steiner (1929–2020)

The kinds of thing said about death offer a grammatical and ontological parallel. Language and death may be conceived of as the two areas of meaning or cognitive constants in which grammar and ontology are mutually determinant. The ways in which we try to speak of them, or rather to speak them, are not satisfactory statements of substance, but are the only ways in which we can question, i.e. experience their reality. According to the medieval Kabbalah...

there is in men and women a motivation stronger even than love or hatred or fear. It is that of being interested — in a body of knowledge, in a problem, in a hobby, in tomorrow’s newspaper.

RIP Catherine Hamlin (1924 – 2020)

My dream is to eradicate obstetric fistula forever. I won’t do this in my lifetime, but you can in yours.

RIP Freeman Dyson (1923–2020)

the principle of maximum diversity... says that the laws of nature and the initial conditions are such as to make the universe as interesting as possible. As a result, life is possible but not too easy. Always when things are dull, something turns up to challenge us and to stop us from settling into a rut. Examples of things which made life difficult are all around us: comet impacts, ice ages, weapons, plagues, nuclear fission, computers, sex, sin and death. Not all challenges can be overcome, and so we have tragedy... In the end we survive, but only by the skin of our teeth.

RIP Mario Molina (1943–2020)

We realized that the chlorine atoms produced by the decomposition of the CFCs would catalytically destroy ozone. We became fully aware of the seriousness of the problem when we compared the industrial amounts of CFCs to the amounts of nitrogen oxides which control ozone levels... We were alarmed at the possibility that the continued release of CFCs into the atmosphere would cause a significant depletion of the Earth’s stratospheric ozone layer.

COVID-19 Memorial (2020-2021)

John Horton Conway
John Prine
Adam Schlesinger
Gita Ramjee
Li Wenliang
Julian Perry Robinson
Dave Greenfield
Ann Katharine Mitchell
Paul Matewele
Maria de Sousa
Toots Hibbert
Ben Bova
Peter M Neumann (1940–2020)
Arianna Rosenbluth (1927–2020)
Lewis Wolpert
Edmund M Clarke
Leo Goodman

RIP John Horton Conway (1937–2020)

Schleicher: Some of your achievements have had a great influence on people, especially on young people, and many of them consider you a role model or a hero. How do you feel about this?
Conway: Let me say, I may have had a great influence on a lot of people, but quite often that influence has been to the bad.
Schleicher: Why is that?
Conway: I feel very guilty; I have one particular person in mind. He didn’t get a Ph.D. because he became too interested in the kinds of games I was teaching him. I suspect that sort of thing has happened quite a lot, not necessarily to the extent of damaging a person’s career as much as I fear I have in that case, but by making it harder for people to concentrate on the work they should be doing, because I am telling things that are more interesting. So I’m rather worried when I influence people...
Schleicher: I’m surprised that you have these worries.
Conway: I might do good... Incidentally, I was imprisoned in the same prison in which John Bunyan was imprisoned about three hundred years earlier. When I was a student I participated in a “ban the bomb” demonstration. There was a magistrate who asked everybody a few questions and then sent us to jail... So, in some sense, the book is alien to me, except that I recognize the “Slough of Despond”, a phrase he used to refer to being depressed.
Schleicher: For how long?
Conway: I was very depressed in 1993. I attempted suicide. And I very nearly succeeded. That was just personal problems — my marriage was breaking down.
Schleicher: I was asking about the prison term.
Conway: That was, I think, eleven days. That’s the number I remember.

The Vow: "Thou shalt stop worrying and feeling guilty; thou shalt do whatever thou pleasest.” He no longer worried that he was eroding his mathematical soul when he indulged his curiosity and followed wherever it went, whether towards recreation or research, or somewhere altogether nonmathematical, such as his longing to learn the etymology of words.

RIP Yuri Orlov (1924–2020)

... the authorities repeated: “Die! There are no political prisoners in the USSR!"...

Science... Start all over again from the very beginning. New life. New language. Okay, we'll handle this too. To the end, your head's still there.

RIP Robert May (1936–2020)

Interviewer: Bob, of all the “ologists”–physicist, chemical engineer, chemist and mathematician–what kind of “ologist” are you?

I would say that I am a scientist with a short attention span. To put it in more ecological terms, I think there are different kinds of people in science, not just theoreticians and experimentalists but people who like to pick on one problem and devote their life to it, and people who accidentally stumble across various things. There is a rough rather glib analogy with a distinction ecologists use between species that are weedy species, often called “R selected” and species that are “K selected”, “K” for carrying capacity. R selected means that rapid growth rate is all important: they find an empty space and swarm into it. As distinct from “K selected” organisms that are more skilled in competitive, crowded situations where they are one of the mob. I am an “early stage”, R-selected person. I like to get in early when you can do nice, simple things that are important. Then, as the field grows and it becomes more a matter of important and systematic elaboration, I find that less congenial. Perhaps that is over-interpreting it.

But my career is as much “accident” as anything else. It is not that I go around deliberately thinking of what is a different thing to do. It is just that my scientific career has been a sequence of accidents, from the fact that it even exists onwards.

Mathematics is ultimately no more but no less than thinking very clearly about something. I like puzzles, so I am a mathematician. I am not a pure mathematician’s mathematician because I don’t like abstract, formal problems. I like tricks and devices. I am essentially a mathematician but in the sense that I like thinking about complicated things, asking what are potential simplicities hidden in them and expressing that tentative thought in mathematical terms and seeing where it leads me in testable ways.


RIP Daniel Dumile (1971–2020)

Ever since the womb ‘til I'm back where my brother went
That's what my tomb will say, right above my government:
Dumile. Either unmarked or engraved, hey, who's to say?
I wrote this one in BCDC O-section
If you don't believe me, go get bagged and check then:
Cell number 17, up under the top bunk...

When I was led to you, I knew you were the one for me
I swear the whole world could feel you, MC

RIP Norton Juster (1929–2021)

In this box are all the words I know... Most of them you will never need, some you will use constantly, but with them you may ask all the questions which have never been answered and answer all the questions which have never been asked. All the great books of the past and all the ones yet to come are made with these words. With them there is no obstacle you cannot overcome. All you must learn to do is to use them well and in the right places.

"And, most important of all," added the Mathemagician, "here is your own magic staff. Use it well and there is nothing it cannot do for you." He placed in Milo's breast pocket a small gleaming pencil which, except for the size, was much like his own.

"I am the Terrible Trivium, demon of petty tasks and worthless jobs, ogre of wasted effort, and monster of habit."...
"But why do only unimportant things?" asked Milo, who suddenly remembered how much time he spent each day doing them.
"Think of all the trouble it saves," the man explained, and his face looked as if he'd be grinning an evil grin - if he could grin at all. "If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you'll never have to worry about the important ones which are so difficult. You just won't have the time. For there's always something to do to keep you from what you really should be doing, and if it weren't for that dreadful magic staff, you'd never know how much time you were wasting.”

RIP Yuan Longping (1930–2021)

Famished, you would eat whatever there was to eat, even grass roots and tree bark. At that time I became even more determined to solve the problem of how to increase food production so that ordinary people would not starve... I had learned some background of Mendel and Morgan's theory, and I knew from journal papers that it was proven by experiments and real agricultural applications, such as seedless watermelon. I desired to read and learn more, but I could only do so secretly.

RIP Steven Weinberg (1933–2021)

The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless. But if there is no solace in the fruits of our research, there is at least some consolation in the research itself. Men and women are not content to comfort themselves with tales of gods and giants, or to confine their thoughts to the daily affairs of life; they also build telescopes and satellites and accelerators, and sit at their desks for endless hours working out the meaning of the data they gather. The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.

If there is no point in the universe that we discover by the methods of science, there is a point that we can give the universe by the way we live, by loving each other, by discovering things about nature, by creating works of art...

although we are not the stars in a cosmic drama, if the only drama we're starring in is one that we are making up as we go along, it is not entirely ignoble that faced with this unloving, impersonal universe we make a little island of warmth and love and science and art for ourselves. That's not an entirely despicable role for us to play.

RIP Norm Macdonald (1959–2021)

NdGT: The Universe is blind to our sorrows and indifferent to our pains. Have a nice day!

Norm: Neil, there is a logic flaw in your little aphorism that seems quite telling. Since you and I are part of the Universe, then we would also be indifferent and uncaring. Perhaps you forgot, Neil, that we are not superior to the Universe but merely a fraction of it. Nice day, indeed

RIP János Kornai (1928–2021)

A typical American textbook on economic systems is not written with the same ambition about capitalism with which I wrote about socialism. It doesn’t give you a general model of capitalism, including the characterization of the political, ideological, and social spheres...

Now as I look back on my life there are times when I regret the way my career turned out, but times also when I look back contented. Here again is a personal example of what I said at the general theoretical level about the theory of preference ordering. I am not consistent in the retrospective judgment of my own behavior. That is because my preference ordering in the same decision space is significantly different on a day when I am in good mood and look back proudly to my past behavior from the ordering when I am in a bad mood and regret my earlier actions.

RIP Aaron T Beck (1921–2021)

If our thinking is bogged down by distorted symbolic meanings, illogical reasoning and erroneous interpretations, we become, in truth, blind and deaf

RIP Joan Didion (1934–2021)

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced... hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends... We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were. I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be...

You get the sense that it’s possible simply to go through life noticing things and writing them down and that this is OK, it’s worth doing. That the seemingly insignificant things that most of us spend our days noticing are really significant, have meaning, and tell us something.

RIP Richard Leakey (1944–2022)

Protecting elephants and conserving natural ecosystems remain my personal priorities. But I am not so sure this would be so were I ill, hungry, and living in dispair... We must somehow find a way to provide for our own species if we are also to preserve others...

A vital leap in the evolution of intellectual capacity would have been the ability to form concepts, to conceive of individual objects as belonging to distinct classes, and thus do away with the almost intolerable burden of relating one experience to another.

RIP David Cox (1924–2022)

Then the question was how to actually do the statistical analysis. I wrote down the full likelihood function and was horrified at it because it’s got exponentials of integrals of products of all sorts of things, unknown functions and so forth. I was stuck for quite a long time — I would think the best part of five years or maybe even longer.

(life as time to failure: burn-in or wear-out)

Ukraine War Memorial (2022–Present)

Yulia Zdanovska
Craig Mackintosh
Brent Renaud
Evgeny Osievskyi
Eduard Lobau
Volodomyr Yezhov
Victoria Amelina

RIP Drew McDermott (1949–2022)

In this paper I have criticized AI researchers very harshly. Let me express my faith that people in other fields would, on inspection, be found to suffer from equally bad faults. Most AI workers are responsible people who are aware of the pitfalls of a difficult field and produce good work in spite of them. However, to say anything good about anyone is beyond the scope of this paper.

RIP Juris Hartmanis (1928–2022)

That good life unfortunately changed when I was about 12 years old. The Soviets occupied Latvia, and in the winter of 1940 my father was arrested. We did not know for years what happened to him. Only after the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s and their archives were opened did we find out that my father has been taken to Moscow, tried, convicted, and executed.

After our arrival in Independence I worked for Gleaner Harvester Company, which built agricultural combines. When production was cut back and the new hires were let go, I went to work for Sheffield Steel in Kansas City as a steel worker. I even became a union member. It was interesting.

I was delighted to be accepted as a graduate student, but there was a problem: there was no graduate program in physics. There was a graduate program in mathematics, so they said, "You will be completely happy studying mathematics." And I was.

I did not keep a log, so I do not know exactly when I started working in this problem and when I solved it. My recollection is that it was a very intensive period of research. I gained real insights about the lattice of geometries and solved the embedding problem. I gave a seminar on my results that was very well received. Dilworth urged me to write up my results, and I was told that I had my thesis.

RIP Mimi Parker (1967–2022)

I think it's healthy to doubt... if you're not checking it, you're missing out... those are all things that make us who we are and allow us this very human experience

RIP Barbara Ehrenreich (1941–2022)

I have never admired the “natural” or believed in the “wisdom of the body.” Death is as “natural” as anything gets, and the body has always seemed to me like a Siamese twin dragging along behind me, an hysteric really, dangerously overreacting, in my case, to everyday allergens and minute ingestions of sugar...

Anyone who lives for a cause like “the revolution” is entitled to imagine that cause being carried on by fresh generations, so that one's own death becomes a temporary interruption in a great chain of endeavor.

RIP Pharoah Sanders (1940–2022)

RIP Paul Farmer (1959–2022)

RIP James Lovelock (1919–2022)

RIP Barkley Rosser Jr (1948–2023)

RIP Roger Shepard (1929–2022)

RIP Ryuichi Sakamoto (1952–2023)

I was born in Japan, but I don’t think I’m Japanese. I don’t like borders.

I have a longing for violin or organ. Is it too simple to say those sustaining sounds symbolise immortality?

Music is like nuclear plants. In a way, it's true! Music is totally artificial. Still using some material from nature, a piano is assembled with wood and iron. Nuclear power uses material from nature, but it's been manipulated by humans, and it produces something unnatural.

RIP Ian Hacking (1936–2023)

We now have many statistical software packages. Their power is incredible, but the pioneers of statistical inference would have mixed feelings, for they always insisted that people think before using a routine. In the old days routines took endless hours to apply, so one had to spend a lot of time thinking in order to justify using a routine. Now one enters data and presses a button. One result is that people seem to be cowed into not asking silly questions, such as: What hypothesis are you testing? What distribution is it that you say is not normal? What population are you talking about? Where did this base rate come from? Most important of all: Whose judgments do you use to calibrate scores on your questionnaires?

RIP Cormac McCarthy (1933–2023)

among men there was no such communion as among horses and the notion that men can be understood at all was probably an illusion... In the end we all come to be cured of our sentiments. Those whom life does not cure death will. The world is quite ruthless in selecting between the dream and reality, even where we will not. Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting.

RIP Daniel Ellsberg (1931–2023)

“Henry, there’s something I would like to tell you, for what it’s worth, something I wish I had been told years ago. You’ve been a consultant for a long time, and you’ve dealt a great deal with top secret information. But you’re about to receive a whole slew of special clearances, maybe fifteen or twenty of them, that are higher than top secret.
“I’ve had a number of these myself, and I’ve known other people who have just acquired them, and I have a pretty good sense of what the effects of receiving these clearances are on a person who didn’t previously know they even existed. And the effects of reading the information that they will make available to you.

“First, you’ll be exhilarated by some of this new information, and by having it all — so much! incredible! — suddenly available to you. But second, almost as fast, you will feel like a fool for having studied, written, talked about these subjects, criticized and analyzed decisions made by presidents for years without having known of the existence of all this information, which presidents and others had and you didn’t, and which must have influenced their decisions in ways you couldn’t even guess. In particular, you’ll feel foolish for having literally rubbed shoulders for over a decade with some officials and consultants who did have access to all this information you didn’t know about and didn’t know they had, and you’ll be stunned that they kept that secret from you so well.

“You will feel like a fool, and that will last for about two weeks. Then, after you’ve started reading all this daily intelligence input and become used to using what amounts to whole libraries of hidden information, which is much more closely held than mere top secret data, you will forget there ever was a time when you didn’t have it, and you’ll be aware only of the fact that you have it now and most others don’t….and that all those other people are fools.

“Over a longer period of time — not too long, but a matter of two or three years — you’ll eventually become aware of the limitations of this information. There is a great deal that it doesn’t tell you, it’s often inaccurate, and it can lead you astray just as much as the New York Times can. But that takes a while to learn.

“In the meantime it will have become very hard for you to learn from anybody who doesn’t have these clearances. Because you’ll be thinking as you listen to them: ‘What would this man be telling me if he knew what I know? Would he be giving me the same advice, or would it totally change his predictions and recommendations?’ And that mental exercise is so torturous that after a while you give it up and just stop listening. I’ve seen this with my superiors, my colleagues….and with myself.

“You will deal with a person who doesn’t have those clearances only from the point of view of what you want him to believe and what impression you want him to go away with, since you’ll have to lie carefully to him about what you know. In effect, you will have to manipulate him. You’ll give up trying to assess what he has to say. The danger is, you’ll become something like a moron. You’ll become incapable of learning from most people in the world, no matter how much experience they may have in their particular areas that may be much greater than yours.”

….Kissinger hadn’t interrupted this long warning. As I’ve said, he could be a good listener, and he listened soberly. He seemed to understand that it was heartfelt, and he didn’t take it as patronizing, as I’d feared. But I knew it was too soon for him to appreciate fully what I was saying. He didn’t have the clearances yet.

Paul Berg (1926–2023)

RIP Tina Turner (1939–2023)

RIP John Warnock (1940–2023)

RIP Chuck Feeney (1931–2023)

RIP Spot (1951–2023)

RIP Ed Fredkin (1934–2023)

The soul in every living thing is the informational part... engaged... to be conceived or germinate, grow... move, make use of sensory information, react reflexively, learn, behave instinctually, think intelligently, communicate with other beings, teach, reproduce, evolve and in general carry out informational interactions... Justice after death implies that a soul can continue in existence, more or less intact, even after death. Today, only fragments of a soul can survive the death of a person. This may change sometime in the future.

RIP John Goodenough (1922–2023)

[Four guiding ideas:] (1) the beauty of holiness; (2) the art of metaphor; (3) the sacredness of dialogue, and (4) the meaningfulness of service. Implicit in these ideas was the assumption that there is a moral law that governs human behavior just as there are laws of nature that govern the physical universe.

RIP CR Rao (1920–2023)

If chance is the antithesis of law, then we need to discover the laws of chance.

RIP Kane Macaniff (1983–2023)

The Diogenes of Tumblr
since I’m immune to terror now I can... directly contemplate my inevitable death, which had been like staring into the sun – I thought I had been okay with it, apparently I had been more defensively fixated on the (true!) fact that no one has an experience of dying or being dead, that’s defined as the point at which you don’t experience things.

That resolved, it is actively fucking enraging to be limited by a finite lifetime, what the fuck? I have so much more sympathy for Boomers refusing to relinquish their grip on the world.

“You lose all visceral aversion to the specter of death and it makes it much worse” is pretty unintuitive, but here we are.

RIP Carla Bley (1938–2023)

RIP John Tooby (1952–2023)

People often support moral projects not because they hold any intrinsic attraction but because of their downstream effects on rivals - for example, reducing the their status or weakening their social power.

RIP Sebastian Lodemann (1991–2023)

RIP Bob Solow (1924–2023)

RIP Nicholas Rescher (1928–2024)

RIP John Pilger (1939–2024)

Mostly just for his book Tell Me No Lies

RIP Niklaus Wirth (1924–2024)

RIP Neil Kulkarni (1974?–2024)

RIP Damo Suzuki (1950–2024)

RIP Alexey Navalny (1976–2024)

RIP Vernor Vinge (1944–2024)

Dreams die in every life... The promise fades when the years get short. But... Pham was dying, but not the dream. The dream had been bright as ever in his mind, consuming him... What do you do when your dream dies?

RIP Ross J. Anderson (1956–2024)

RIP Daniel Kahneman (1934–2024)

People who make a difference do not die alone. Something dies in everyone who was affected by them... when he died, life was dimmed and diminished for many of us. There is a large Amos-shaped gap in the mosaic, and it will not be filled. It cannot be filled because Amos shaped his own place in the world, he shaped his life, and even his dying. And in shaping his life and his world, he changed the world and the life of many around him. So many times in those years we shared the magical experience of one of us saying something which the other would understand more deeply than the speaker had done. Contrary to the old laws of information theory, it was common for us to find that more information was received than had been sent. I have almost never had that experience with anyone else.

RIP Daniel Dennett (1942–2024)

One of the little-known side effects of open-heart surgery is ministrokes caused by debris from the operation clogging up the capillaries in the brain, and my cardiologist explicitly warned the surgical team that since my mind was my life, they should strive to avoid turning me into a “pumphead”—the ugly term heart surgeons use in private for those whose brains are damaged by the heart-lung machine. After the operation, before they removed me from the machine, they reversed the flow of blood to my brain, sending it into the veins and out of the arteries, hoping to flush out any debris that was about to disable my res cogitans, my thinking thing (my brain, not, as Descartes would have it, a distinct and immaterial substance). So I’ve been brainwashed, quite literally. Did it work? As soon as I could sit up in my hospital bed after the operation I got out my trusty laptop and wrote a short piece to see if I still had my marbles.

RIP Steve Albini (1962–2024)

I hope when I die I go like John [Peel], embroiled in the middle of things, surrounded by people I love, doing the things that matter most. I hope I leave a mountain of shit unfinished, a pan on the stove, a phone call waiting and a pencil in my hand. I hope I'm man enough to be thinking about tomorrow.

RIP Alice Munro (1931–2024)



  • ...a curiosity of my type remains the most enjoyable of sins - Pardon! I ought to say: 'the love of truth has its reward in heaven and even on earth'. 1900

  • The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold those who think alike in higher esteem than those who think differently. 1901

  • Error has made man so deep, delicate, and inventive as to bring forth such blossoms as religion and art. Pure knowledge would never have been capable of it. 1902

  • We must think of men who are cruel today as stages of earlier cultures, which have been left over ... They show us what we all were, and frighten us. But they themselves are as little responsible as a piece of granite for being granite. 1903

  • An artist cannot endure reality; he turns away, back: his earnest opinion is that the worth of a thing consists in that nebulous residue of it which one derives from color, form, sound, and thought; he believes that the more subtle, at tenuated, and volatile, a thing or a man becomes, the more valuable he becomes: the less real, the greater the worth. This is Platonism... 1904

  • Most men are much too concerned with themselves to be malicious. 1913

  • 'I did that', says my memory. 'I cannot have done that' says my pride, and remains adamant. At last — memory yields. 1905

  • What we do in dreams we also do when we are awake: we invent and fabricate the person with whom we associate — and immediately forget we have done so. 1914

  • Our vanity would have just that which we do best count as that which is hardest for us. The origin of many a morality. 1906

  • With regard to what 'truthfulness' is, perhaps nobody has ever been sufficiently truthful. 1907

  • This immense framework of concepts which the needy man clings to his whole life, to preserve himself, is only a scaffold and toy to the most liberated intellect. And when he smashes this framework to pieces, throws it into confusion, and puts it back together in an ironic fashion, pairing the most alien things and separating the closest, he is demonstrating that he has no need of these indigent makeshifts, that he is guided not by concepts but by intuitions. There is no regular path which leads from these intutions into the land of ghostly schemata, the land of abstractions. There exists no word for these intuitions; when man sees them he grows dumb, or else he speaks only in forbidden metaphors and in unheard-of combinations of concepts. He does this so that, by shattering and mocking the old conceptual barriers, he may at least correspond creatively to the impression of present-day intuitions. 1921

  • Has it come to this: do you just want an idea of God, world and reconciliation, what makes you most comfortable? Isn't the true researcher indifferent to the result of his research? Do we look for silence, peace and happiness from our research? No: only truth, and that will be a most daunting and hateful thing. 1916

  • The philosopher believes that the value of his philosophy lies in the whole, in the building: posterity discovers it in the bricks with which he built and which are then often used again for better building.

  • What really fills one with indignation about suffering is not the suffering itself, but the pointlessness of suffering. 1920

  • We often contradict an opinion for no other reason than that we do not like the tone in which it is expressed. 1908

  • The mother of excess is not joy but joylessness. 1909

  • "I dislike him."— Why? — "I'm no match for him." — Has anyone ever answered so? 1921

  • Enemies of truth. Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. 1910

  • The first opinion that occurs to us when we are suddenly asked about a matter is usually not our own, but only the customary one, appropriate to our caste, position, or parentage; our own opinions seldom swim near the surface. 1911

  • Generally we strive to acquire one emotional stance, one viewpoint for all life situations and events: we usually call that being of a philosophical frame of mind. But rather than making oneself uniform, we may find greater value for the enrichment of knowledge by listening to the soft voice of different life situations; each brings its own views with it. Thus we acknowledge and share the life and nature of many by not treating ourselves like rigid, invariable, single individuals. 1912

  • Insects sting, not from malice, but because they want to live. It is the same with critics - they desire our blood, not our pain. 1915

  • first one has to learn to hear a figure and melody at all, to detect and distinguish it, to isolate it and delimit it as a separate life; then it requires some exertion and good will to tolerate it in spite of its strangeness, to be patient with its appearance and expression, and kindhearted about its oddity :— finally there comes a moment when we are used to it, when we wait for it, when we sense that we should miss it if it were missing: and now it continues to compel and enchant us relentlessly until we have become its humble and enraptured lovers who desire nothing better from the world than it and only it. —

    But that is what happens to us not only in music: that is how we have learned to love all things that we now love. In the end we are always rewarded for our good will, our patience, fairmindedness, and gentleness with what is strange; gradually, it sheds its veil and turns out to be a new and indescribable beauty :— that is its thanks for our hospitality. Even those who love themselves will have learned it in this way: for there is no other way. Love, too, has to be learned. 1917

  1. ...eine Neugierde meiner Art bleibt nun einmal das angenehmste aller Laster,—Verzeihung! ich wollte sagen: die Liebe zur Wahrheit hat ihren Lohn im Himmel und schon auf Erden.
  2. Man verdirbt einen Jüngling am sichersten, wenn man ihn anleitet, den Gleichdenkenden höher zu achten, als den Andersdenkenden.
  3. Der Irrthum hat den Menschen so tief, zart, erfinderisch gemacht, eine solche Bluethe, wie Religionen und Kuenste, herauszutreiben. Das reine Erkennen waere dazu ausser Stande gewesen.
  4. Die Menschen, welche jetzt grausam sind, muessen uns als Stufen frueherer Culturen gelten, welche uebrig geblieben sind: das Gebirge der Menschheit zeigt hier einmal die tieferen Formationen, welche sonst versteckt liegen, offen. ... Sie zeigen uns, was wir Alle waren, und machen uns erschrecken: aber sie selber sind so wenig verantwortlich, wie ein Stueck Granit dafuer, dass es Granit ist.
  5. Ein Künstler hält keine Wirklichkeit aus, er blickt weg, zurück, seine ernsthafte Meinung ist, daß was ein Ding werth ist, jener schattengleiche Rest ist, den man aus Farben, Gestalt, Klang, Gedanken gewinnt, er glaubt daran, daß, je mehr subtilisirt verdünnt verflüchtigt ein Ding, ein Mensch wird, um so mehr sein Werth zunimmt: je weniger real, um so mehr Werth. Dies ist Platonismus...
  6. "Das habe ich getan" sagt mein Gedächtnis. Das kann ich nicht getan haben — sagt mein Stolz und bleibt unerbittlich. Endlich — gibt das Gedächtnis nach.
  7. Was wir am besten thun, von dem möchte unsre Eitelkeit, dass es grade als Das gelte, was uns am schwersten werde. Zum Ursprung mancher Moral.
  8. Ober Das, was "Wahrhaftigkeit" ist, war vielleicht noch Niemand wahrhaftig genug.
  9. Man widerspricht oft einer Meinung, während uns eigentlich nur der Ton, mit dem sie vorgetragen wurde, unsympathisch ist.
  10. Die mutter der Ausschweifung ist nicht die Freude, sondern die Freudlosigkeit.
  11. Überzeugungen sind gefährlichere Feinde der Wahrheit, als Lügen.
  12. Die erste Meinung, welche uns einfällt, wenn wir plötzlich über eine Sache befragt werden, ist gewöhnlich nicht unsere eigene, sondern nur die landläufige, unserer Kaste, Stellung, Abkunft zugehörige; die eigenen Meinungen schwimmen selten oben auf.
  13. Gewöhnlich strebt man darnach, für alle Lebenslagen und Ereignisse eine Haltung des Gemüthes, eine Gattung von Ansichten zu erwerben, - das nennt man vornehmlich philosophisch gesinnt sein. Aber für die Bereicherung der Erkenntniss mag es höheren Werth haben, nicht in dieser Weise sich zu uniformiren, sondern auf die leise Stimme der verschiedenen Lebenslagen zu hören; diese bringen ihre eigenen Ansichten mit sich. So nimmt man erkennenden Antheil am Leben und Wesen Vieler, indem man sich selber nicht als starres, beständiges, Eines Individuum behandelt.
  14. Die meisten Menschen sind viel zu sehr mit sich beschaeftigt, um boshaft zu sein.
  15. Wir machen es auch im Wachen wie im Traume: wir erfinden und erdichten erst den Menschen, mit dem wir verkehren — und vergessen es sofort.
  16. Die Insekten stechen, nicht aus Bosheit, sondern weil sie auch leben wollen: Ebenso unsere Kritiker; sie wollen unser Blut, nicht unser Schmerz.
  17. Kommt es denn darauf an, die Anschauung über Gott, Welt und Versöhnung zu bekommen, bei der man sich am bequemsten befindet, ist nicht viel mehr für den wahren Forscher das Resultat seiner Forschung geradezu etwas Gleichgültiges? Suchen wir denn bei unserem Forschen Ruhe, Friede, Glück? Nein, nur die Wahrheit, und wäre sie höchst abschreckend und häßlich.
  18. Man muss lieben lernen. — So geht es uns in der Musik: erst muss man eine Figur und Weise überhaupt hören lernen, heraushören, unterscheiden, als ein Leben für sich isoliren und abgrenzen; dann braucht es Mühe und guten Willen, sie zu ertragen, trotz ihrer Fremdheit, Geduld gegen ihren Blick und Ausdruck, Mildherzigkeit gegen das Wunderliche an ihr zu üben: — endlich kommt ein Augenblick, wo wir ihrer gewohnt sind, wo wir sie erwarten, wo wir ahnen, dass sie uns fehlen würde, wenn sie fehlte; und nun wirkt sie ihren Zwang und Zauber fort und fort und endet nicht eher, als bis wir ihre demütigen und entzückten Liebhaber geworden sind, die nichts Besseres von der Welt mehr wollen, als sie und wieder sie. — So geht es uns aber nicht nur mit der Musik: gerade so haben wir alle Dinge, die wir jetzt lieben, lieben gelernt. Wir werden schließlich immer für unseren guten Willen, unsere Geduld, Billigkeit, Sanftmütigkeit gegen das Fremde belohnt, indem das Fremde langsam seinen Schleier abwirft und sich als neue unsägliche Schönheit darstellt: — es ist sein Dank für unsere Gastfreundschaft. Auch wer sich selber liebt, wird es auf diesem Wege gelernt haben: es gibt keinen anderen Weg. Auch die Liebe muss man lernen.
  19. Was eigentlich gegen das Leiden empört, ist nicht das Leiden an sich, sondern das Sinnlose des Leidens.
  20. Jenes ungeheure Gebälk und Bretterwerk der Begriffe, an das sich klammernd der bedürftige Mensch sich durch das Leben rettet, ist dem freigewordnen Intellekt nur ein Gerüst und ein Spielzeug für seine verwegensten Kunststücke: und wenn er es zerschlägt, durcheinanderwirft, ironisch wieder zusammensetzt, das Fremdeste paarend und das Nächste trennend, so offenbart er, daß er jene Notbehelfe der Bedürftigkeit nicht braucht und daß er jetzt nicht von Begriffen, sondern von Intuitionen geleitet wird. Von diesen Intuitionen aus führt kein regelmäßiger Weg in das Land der gespenstischen Schemata, der Abstraktionen: für sie ist das Wort nicht gemacht, der Mensch verstummt, wenn er sie sieht, oder redet in lauter verbotenen Metaphern und unerhörten Begriffsfügungen, um wenigstens durch das Zertrümmern und Verhöhnen der alten Begriffsschranken dem Eindrucke der mächtigen gegenwärtigen Intuition schöpferisch zu entsprechen.
  21. "Er missfällt mir." - Warum? - "Ich bin ihm nicht gewachsen." - Hat je ein Mensch so geantwortet?


  • My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddlestrings and harps, drums and tamboura I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony. 1301

  • Since we can't extract beauty from life, let's at least try to extract beauty from not being able to extract beauty from life. 1302

  • I often wonder what kind of person I would be if I had been protected from the cold wind of fate by the screen of wealth... to reach the tawdry heights of being a good assistant book-keeper in a job that is about as demanding as an afternoon nap and offers a salary that gives me just enough to live on.

    I know that, had that non-existent past existed, I would not now be capable of writing these pages, which, though few, I would have undoubtedly have only day-dreamed about given more comfortable circumstances. For banality is a form of intelligence, and reality, especially if it is brutish and rough, forms a natural complement to the soul. Much of what I feel and think I owe to my work as a book-keeper since the former exists as a negation of and flight from the latter.

  • Caesar gave the ultimate definition of ambition when he said: ‘Better to be the chief of a village than a subaltern in Rome!' 1312

  • In these random impressions, with no desire to be other than random, I indifferently narrate my factless autobiography, my lifeless history. These are my confessions, and if in them I say nothing, it's because I have nothing to say. 1303

  • And at this table in my absurd room, I, a pathetic and anonymous office clerk, write words as if they were the soul's salvation, and I gild myself with the impossible sunset of high and vast hills in the distance, with the statue I received in exchange for life's pleasures, and with the ring of renunciation on my evangelical finger, the stagnant jewel of my ecstatic disdain. 1313

  • Happy the creators of pessimistic systems! Besides taking refuge in the fact of having made something, they can exult in their explanation of universal suffering, and include themselves in it.

    I don't complain about the world. I don't protest in the name of the universe. I'm not a pessimist. I suffer and complain, but I don't know if suffering is the norm, nor do I know if it's human to suffer. Why should I care to know? I'm not a pessimist. I'm sad.

  • Civilisation consists in giving something a name that doesn't belong to it and then dreaming over the result. And the false name joined to the true dream does create a new reality. The object does change into something else, because we make it change. We manufacture realities. 1309

  • I belong to a generation that inherited disbelief in the Christian faith and created in itself a disbelief in all other faiths. Our fathers still had the believing impulse, which they transferred from Christianity to other forms of illusion. Some were champions of social equality, others were wholly enamoured of beauty, still others had faith in science and its achievements, and there were some who became even more Christian, resorting to various Easts and Wests in search of new religious forms to entertain their otherwise hollow consciousness of merely living. 1306

  • Every gesture, however simple, violates an inner secret. Every gesture is a revolutionary act; an exile, perhaps, from the true ... of our intentions. Action is a disease of thought, a cancer of imagination. Action is self-exile. Every action is incomplete and flawed.

  • To attain the satisfaction of the mystic state without having to endure its rigours; to be the ecstatic followers of no god, the mystic or epopt with no initiation; to pass the days meditating on a paradise you don't believe in - all of this tastes good to the soul that knows it knows nothing.

  • Life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily. It is a journey of the spirit through the material world and, since it is the spirit that travels, it is the spirit that is experienced. That is why there exist contemplative souls who have lived more intensely, more widely, more tumultuously than others who have lived their lives purely externally.

  • I asked for very little from life, and even this little was denied me. A nearby field, a ray of sunlight, a little bit of calm along with a bit of bread, not to feel oppressed by the knowledge that I exist, not to demand anything from others, and not to have others demand anything from me - this was denied me, like the spare change we might deny a beggar not because we're mean-hearted but because we don't feel like unbuttoning our coat.

  • There are ships sailing to many ports, but not a single one goes to where life is not painful; nor is there a port of call where it is possible to forget.

  • I read and am liberated. I acquire objectivity. I cease being myself and so scattered. And what I read, instead of being like a nearly invisible suit that sometimes oppresses me, is the external world’s tremendous and remarkable clarity, the sun that sees everyone, the moon that splotches the still earth with shadows, the wide expanses that end in the sea, the blackly solid trees whose tops greenly wave, the steady peace of ponds on farms, the terraced slopes with their paths overgrown by grape-vines.

  • Each of us is several, is many,is a profusion of selves. So that the self who disdains his surroundings is not the same as the self who suffers or takes joy in them. In the vast colony of our being there are many species of people who think and feel in different ways.

  • I never had anyone I could call “Master”. No Christ died for me. No Buddha showed me the right path. In the depths of my dreams no Apollo or Athena appeared to me to enlighten my soul. 1311

  • I imagined myself forever freed from Rua dos Douradores, Vasques, Guarda, Moreira, all the employees, the boy and the cat... but I would be sorry... I could not leave all this without crying, not understanding that, as bad as it seemed to me, it was part of me that was with them all, that to separate myself from them was halfway and a resemblance to death.

    In fact, if I were to leave them all tomorrow and take off from this address in the Rua dos Douradores, what would it give me? What would I wear? - why would I wear it?

    We all have a Boss Vasques - for some he is visible, for others invisible. For me, he is really called Vasques, and he is a healthy man, pleasant, occasionally brutish, selfish but at the very bottom, with a justice that many great geniuses lack and the many human wonders of civilization, right and left. For others it will be vanity, the yearning for greater wealth, glory, immortality ... I prefer Vasques, my master, more tractable at times than all the abstract bosses in the world.

    I love all of this, perhaps because I have nothing else to love... even though nothing truly merits the love of any soul, if, out of sentiment, we must give it, I might as well lavish it on the smallness of an inkwell as on the grand indifference of the stars. 1310

  • Let's buy books so as not to read them; let's go to concerts without caring to hear the music or see who's there; let's take long walks because we're sick of walking; and let's spend whole days in the country, just because it bores us.

  • When one of my Japanese teacups is broken, I imagine that the real cause was not the careless hand of a maid but the anxieties of the figures inhabiting the curves of that porcelain. Their grim decision to commit suicide doesn't shock me: they used the maid as one of us might use a gun. 1308

  • I go forward slowly, dead, and my vision is no longer mine, it’s nothing: it’s only the vision of the human animal who, without wanting, inherited Greek culture, Roman order, Christian morality, and all the other illusions that constitute the civilization in which I feel. Where can the living be? 1305

  • Freedom is the possibility of isolation. You are free if you can withdraw from people, not having to seek them out for the sake of money, company, love, glory or curiosity, none of which can thrive in silence and solitude. If you can't live alone, you were born a slave. You may have all the splendours of the mind and the soul, in which case you're a noble slave, or an intelligent servant, but you're not free. And you can't hold this up as your own tragedy, for your birth is a tragedy of Fate alone. Hapless you are, however, if life itself so oppresses you that you're forced to become a slave. Hapless you are if, having been born free, with the capacity to be isolated and self-sufficient, poverty should force you to live with others.

  • I rise from the chair where, absentminded at table, I tell myself these irregular impressions. I rise, I raise my body in myself, and go to the window high above the rooftops, where I can see the city fall asleep, a slow prelude to silence. The moon, large and white, white, sadly illuminates the differing differences of the houses. The moon seems too to illuminate the entire mystery of the world. It seems to show everything - everything is shadow with mixtures of evil light, false intervals, uneven absurdity, inconsistent visibility. There is no breeze, and it seems that the mystery is greater. I'm made nauseous by abstract thinking. I will never write a page that reveals or reveals anything to me. A very light cloud hangs vague above the moon, like a hideout. I am ignorant, like these roofs. I have failed, like all of nature. 1307

  • One of my constant preoccupations is trying to understand how it is that other people exist, how it is that there are souls other than mine and consciousnesses not my own, which, because it is a consciousness, seems to me unique. I understand perfectly that the man before me uttering words similar to mine and making the same gestures I make, or could make, is in some way my fellow creature. However, I feel just the same about the people in illustrations I dream up, about the characters I see in novels or the dramatis personae on the stage who speak through the actors representing them.

    I suppose no one truly admits the existence of another person. One might concede that the other person is alive and feels and thinks like oneself, but there will always be an element of difference, a perceptible discrepancy, that one cannot quite put one's finger on. There are figures from times past, fantasy-images in books that seem more real to us than these specimens of indifference-made-flesh who speak to us across the counters of bars, or catch our eye in trams, or brush past us in the empty randomness of the streets. The others are just part of the landscape for us, usually the invisible landscape of the familiar.

    I feel closer ties and more intimate bonds with certain characters in books, with certain images I've seen in engravings, that with many supposedly real people, with that metaphysical absurdity known as 'flesh and blood'. In fact 'flesh and blood' describes them very well: they resemble cuts of meat laid on the butcher's marble slab, dead creatures bleeding as though still alive, the sirloin steaks and cutlets of Fate.

    I'm not ashamed to feel this way because I know it's how everyone feels. The lack of respect between men, the indifference that allows them to kill others without compunction (as murderers do) or without thinking (as soldiers do), comes from the fact that no one pays due attention to the apparently abstruse idea that other people have souls too.

  • I have a very simple morality: not to do good or evil to anyone. Not to do evil, because it seems only fair that others enjoy the same right I demand for myself – not to be disturbed – and also because I think that the world doesn’t need more than the natural evils it already has. All of us in this world are living on board a ship that is sailing from one unknown port to another, and we should treat each other with a traveller’s cordiality.

    Not to do good, because I don’t know what good is, nor even if I do it when I think I do. How do I know what evils I generate if I give a beggar money? How do I know what evils I produce if I teach or instruct? Not knowing, I refrain. And besides, I think that to help or clarify is, in a certain way, to commit the evil of interfering in the lives of others. Kindness depends on a whim of our mood, and we have no right to make others the victims of our whims, however humane or kind-hearted they may be. Good deeds are impositions; that’s why I categorically abhor them.

  • Perhaps it's my destiny to remain a book-keeper for ever and for poetry and literature to remain simply butterflies that alight on my head and merely underline my own ridiculousness by their very beauty.

  • I feel as if I'm always on the verge of waking up.

  1. Minha alma é uma orquestra oculta; não sei que instrumentos tange e range, cordas e harpas, tímbales e tambores, dentro de mim. Só me conheço como sinfonia.
  2. Já que não podemos extrair beleza da vida, busquemos ao menos extrair beleza de não poder extrair beleza da vida.
  3. Invejo – mas não sei se invejo – aqueles de quem se pode escrever uma biografia, ou que podem escrever a própria. Nestas impressões sem nexo, nem desejo de nexo, narro indiferentemente a minha autobiografia sem fatos, a minha história sem vida. São as minhas Confissões, e, se nelas nada digo, é que nada tenho que dizer.
  4. Avanço lentamente, morto, e a minha visão já não é minha, já não é nada: é só a do animal humano que herdou, sem querer, a cultura grega, a ordem romana, a moral cristã e todas as mais ilusões que formam a civilização em que sinto.

    Onde estarão os vivos?
  5. Pertenço a uma geração que herdou a descrença na fé cristã e que criou em si uma descrença em todas as outras fés. Os nossos pais tinham ainda o impulso credor, que transferiam do cristianismo para outras formas de ilusão. Uns eram entusiastas da igualdade social, outros eram enamorados só da beleza, outros tinham a fé na ciência e nos seus proveitos, e havia outros que, mais cristãos ainda iam buscar a Orientes e Ocidentes outras formas religiosas, com que entretivessem a consciência, sem elas oca, de meramente viver.
  6. Ergo-me da cadeira de onde, fincado distraidamente contra a mesa, me entretive a narrar para mim estas impressões irregulares. Ergo-me, ergo o corpo nele mesmo, e vou até à janela, alta acima dos telhados, de onde posso ver a cidade ir a dormir num começo lento de silêncio. A lua, grande e de um branco branco, elucida tristemente as diferenças socalcadas da casaria. E o luar parece iluminar algidamente todo o mistério do mundo. Parece mostrar tudo, e tudo é sombras com misturas de luz má, intervalos falsos, desniveladamente absurdos, incoerências do visível. Não há brisa, e parece que o mistério é maior. Tenho náuseas no pensamento abstracto. Nunca escreverei uma página que me revele ou que revele alguma coisa. Uma nuvem muito leve paira vaga acima da lua, como um esconderijo. Ignoro como estes telhados. Falhei, como a natureza inteira.
  7. Quando se quebra uma chávena da minha colecção japonesa eu sonho que mais de que um descuido das mãos de uma criada tinha sido a causa, ou tinham estado os anseios das figuras que habitam as curvas daquela (...) de louça; a resolução tenebrosa de suicídio que as toma não me causa espanto: Serviu-se da criada, como eu me sirvo de um revólver. Saber isto é estar além […] e com que precisão eu sei isto!
  8. A civilização consiste em dar a qualquer coisa um nome que não lhe compete, e depois sonhar sobre o resultado. E realmente o nome falso e o sonho verdadeiro criam uma nova realidade. O objecto torna-se realmente outro, porque o tornámos outro. Manufacturamos realidades.
  9. imaginei-me liberto para sempre da Rua dos Douradores, do patrão Vasques, do guarda-livros Moreira, dos empregados todos, do moço, do garoto e do gato. Senti em sonho a minha libertação, como se mares do Sul me houvessem oferecido ilhas maravilhosas por descobrir. Seria então o repouso, a arte conseguida, o cumprimento intelectual do meu ser.

    Mas de repente, e no próprio imaginar, que fazia num café no feriado modesto do meio-dia, uma impressão de desagrado me assaltou o sonho: senti que teria pena. Sim, digo-o como se o dissesse, circunstaciadamente: teria pena. O patrão Vasques, o guarda-livros Moreira, o caixa Borges, os bons rapazes todos, o garoto alegre que leva as cartas ao correio, o moço de todos os fretes, o gato meigo — tudo isso se tornou parte da minha vida; não poderia deixar tudo isso sem chorar, sem compreender que, por mau que me parecesse, era parte de mim que ficava com eles todos, que o separar-me deles era uma metade e semelhança da morte.

    Aliás, se amanhã me apartasse deles todos, e despisse este trajo da Rua dos Douradores, a que outra coisa me chegaria — porque a outra me haveria de chegar?, de que outro trajo me vestiria — porque de outro me haveria de vestir?

    Todos temos o patrão Vasques, para uns visível, para outros invisível. Para mim chama-se realmente Vasques, e é um homem sadio, agradável, de vez em quando brusco mas sem lado de dentro, interesseiro mas no fundo justo, com uma justiça que falta a muitos grandes génios e a muitas maravilhas humanas da civilização, direita e esquerda. Para outros será a vaidade, a ânsia de maior riqueza, a glória, a imortalidade... Prefiro o Vasques homem meu patrão, que é mais tratável, nas horas difíceis, que todos os patrões abstractos do mundo.

    Considerando que eu ganhava pouco, disse-me o outro dia um amigo, sócio de uma firma que é próspera por negócios com todo o Estado: «você é explorado, Borges». Recordou-me isso de que o sou; mas como na vida temos todos que ser explorados, pergunto se valerá menos a pena ser explorado pelo Vasques das fazendas do que pela vaidade, pela glória, pelo despeito, pela inveja ou pelo impossível.

    Há os que Deus mesmo explora, e são profetas e santos na vacuidade do mundo.

    E recolho-me, como ao lar que os outros têm, à casa alheia, escritório amplo, da Rua dos Douradores. Achego-me à minha secretária como a um baluarte contra a vida. Tenho ternura, ternura até às lágrimas, pelos meus livros de outros em que escrituro, pelo tinteiro velho de que me sirvo, pelas costas dobradas do Sérgio, que faz guias de remessa um pouco para além de mim. Tenho amor a isto, talvez porque não tenha mais nada que amar — ou talvez, também, porque nada valha o amor de uma alma, e, se temos por sentimento que o dar, tanto vale dá-lo ao pequeno aspecto do meu tinteiro como a grande indiferença das estrelas.
  10. Nunca tive ninguém a quem pudesse chamar «Mestre». Não morreu por mim nenhum Cristo. Nenhum Buda me indicou um caminho. No alto dos meus sonhos nenhum Apoio ou Atena me apareceu, para que me iluminasse a alma.
  11. Definiu César toda a figura da ambição quando disse aquelas palavras: «Antes o primeiro na aldeia do que o segundo em Roma!»
  12. E na mesa do meu quarto sou menos reles, empregado e anónimo, escrevo palavras como a salvação da alma e douro-me do poente impossível de montes altos vastos e longínquos da […] estranha recebida por anel de renúncia em meu dedo evangélico, jóia parada do meu desdém estático.


  • Words are deeds. 2300

  • What makes a subject difficult to understand... is not that some special knowledge of abstruse things is necessary to understand it. Rather, it is the contrast between understanding of the subject and what most people want to see. Because of this, the very things that are most obvious can become the most difficult to understand. What has to be overcome is not difficulty of the intellect but of the will...

    A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push it. 2301

  • If someone does not believe in fairies, he does not need to teach his children 'There are no fairies'; he can omit to teach them the word 'fairy'. 2307

  • Don't try and shit higher than your arse

  • My difficulty is only an — enormous — difficulty of expression. 2302

  • Logic takes care of itself; all we have to do is to look and see how it does it.

  • I wanted to write that my work consists of two parts: of the one which is here, and of everything which I have not written. And precisely this second part is the important one.
    ― omitted from the Tractatus foreword

  • Our only task is to be just. That is, we must only point out and resolve the injustices of philosophy, and not posit new parties – and creeds... All that philosophy can do is destroy idols. And that means not making any new ones – say, out of the 'absence of idols'.

  • What is sayable at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent...

    The aim of the book is to set a limit to thought, or rather... to the expression of thoughts: for in order to be able to set a limit to thought, we should have to find both sides of the limit thinkable (i.e. we should have to be able to think what cannot be thought). It will thus only be in language that the limit can be set, and what lies on the other side of the limit will simply be nonsense. 2303

  • Don’t think, but look! 2304

  • Mathematical propositions express no thoughts. In life it is never a mathematical proposition which we need, but we use mathematical propositions only in order to infer from propositions which do not belong to mathematics to others which, equally, do not belong to mathematics.

  • We could present spatially an atomic fact which contradicted the laws of physics, but not one which contradicted the laws of geometry. 2306

  • [What is your aim in philosophy?]
    To shew the fly the way out of the fly-bottle.

  • What kind of investigation are we carrying out? Am I investigating the probability of cases that I give as examples, or am I investigating their actuality? No, I’m just citing what is possible and am therefore giving grammatical examples.

  • Is scientific progress useful for philosophy? Certainly. The realities that are discovered lighten the philosopher’s task: imagining possibilities.

  • What happens is not that this symbol cannot be further interpreted, but: I do no interpreting. I do not interpret, because I feel at home in the present picture. When I interpret, I step from one level of thought to another.

  • I think now that the right thing to do would be to begin my book with remarks about metaphysics as a kind of magic. But in doing this I must neither speak in defence of magic nor ridicule it. In this context, in fact, excluding magic has the character of magic.

  • The aim of [my] philosophy is to erect a wall at the point where language stops anyway.

  • The symbolism of Christianity is wonderful beyond words, but when people try to make a philosophical system out of it I find it disgusting.

  • There are indeed unspeakable things. This shows itself, that's the mystical thing. 2305

  • The idea that in order to get clear about the meaning of a general term one had to find the common element in all its applications has shackled philosophical investigation; for it has not only led to no result, but also made the philosopher dismiss as irrelevant the concrete cases, which alone could have helped him understand the usage of the general term.

    For remember that in general we don't use language according to strict rules — it hasn't been taught us by means of strict rules, either...

    What should we gain by a definition, as it can only lead us to other undefined terms?

  • The fact that I use the word 'hand' and all the other words in my sentence without a second thought, indeed that I should stand before the abyss if I wanted so much as to try doubting their meanings — shows that absence of doubt belongs to the essence of the language-game, that the question 'How do I know...' drags out the language-game, or else does away with it.

  • I believe it might interest a philosopher, one who can think himself, to read my notes. For even if I have hit the mark only rarely, he would recognize what targets I had been ceaselessly aiming at.

  • I am sitting with a philosopher in the garden; he says again and again 'I know that that's a tree', pointing to a tree that is near us. Someone else arrives and hears this, and I tell them: 'This fellow isn't insane. We are only doing philosophy.'

  • So in the end when one is doing philosophy one gets to the point where one would like just to emit an inarticulate sound.

  1. Worte sind Taten.
  2. Nicht eine Schwierigkeit des Verstandes, sondern des Willens ist zu überwinden...

    Ein Mann wird eingesperrt werden, in einem Raum mit einer Tür, die hat entriegelt und öffnet nach innen; solange es nicht, zu ihm Auftritt zu ziehen statt drücken

    (This was in English originally but I like the fictitious German more.)
  3. Meine Schwierigkeit ist nur eine - enorme - Schwierigkeit des Ausdrucks.
  4. Was sich überhaupt sagen lässt, lässt sich klar sagen; und wovon man nicht reden kann, darüber muss man schweigen... Die Grenze wird also nur in der Sprache gezogen werden koennen, und was jenseits der Grenze liegt, wird einfach Unsinn sein.
  5. ...denk nicht, sondern schau!
  6. Es gibt allerdings Unaussprechliches. Dies zeigt sich, es ist das Mystische.
  7. Wohl können wir einen Sachverhalt räumlich darstellen, welcher den Gesetzen der Physik, aber keinen, der den Gesetzen der Geometrie zuwiderliefe.
  8. Wenn einer an Feen nicht glaubt, so braucht er seine Kinder nicht lehren "Es gibt keine Feen", sondern er kann es unterlassen, sie das Wort "Fee" zu lehren


  • Throw away my book: you must understand that it represents only one of a thousand attitudes. You must find your own. Do not do what someone else could do as well as you. Do not say, do not write what someone else could say, could write as well as you. Care for nothing in yourself but what you feel exists nowhere else. And, out of yourself create, impatiently or patiently, the most irreplaceable of beings. 2301

  • Please do not understand me too quickly.

  • Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation.

  • We prefer to go deformed and distorted all our lives rather than not resemble the portrait of ourselves which we ourselves have first drawn. It’s absurd. We run the risk of warping what’s best in us.

  • There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.

  • I prefer granting with a good grace what I know I shan't be able to prevent.

  • Most people believe it is only by constraint they can get any good out of themselves, and so they live in a state of psychological distortion. It is his own self that each of them is most afraid of resembling. Each of them sets up a pattern and imitates it; he doesn't even choose the pattern he imitates: he accepts a pattern that has been chosen for him. And yet I verily believe there are other things to be read in man. But people don't dare to - they don't dare to turn the page. Laws of imitation! Laws of fear, I call them. The fear of finding oneself alone - that is what they suffer from - and so they don't find themselves at all.

  • When I was younger, I used to make resolutions which imagined were virtuous. I was less anxious to be what I was, than to become what I wished to be. Now, I am not far from thinking that in irresolution lies the secret of not growing old.

  • I have always thought that great artists were those who dared to confer the right of beauty on things so natural that people say on seeing them, 'Why did I never realize before that that was beautiful too?'


  • No longer ask me for my programme: isn't breathing one? 2000

  • We say of space, of time, and of suffering that they are infinite; but 'infinite' has no more bearing than 'beautiful', 'sublime', 'harmonious', 'ugly'... Suppose we force ourselves to see to the bottom of words? We see nothing — each of them, detached from the expansive and fertile soul, are null and void. The intelligence functions by projecting a certain lustre upon them, polishing them and making them glitter; this power, erected into a system, is called 'culture' — pyrotechnics against a night sky of nothingness.

  • Ideas should be neutral. But man animates them with his passions and folly. Impure and turned into beliefs, they take on the appearance of reality. The passage from logic is consummated. Thus are born ideologies, doctrines, and bloody farce.

  • To tell the truth, I couldn't care less about the relativity of knowledge; the world does not deserve to be known.

  • My mission is to see things as they are. Exactly the contrary of a mission.

  • Read day and night, devour books— these sleeping pills— not to know but to forget! Through books you can retrace your way back to the origins of spleen, discarding history and its illusions.

  • The poor, by thinking unceasingly of money, reach the point of losing the spiritual advantages of non-possession, thereby sinking as low as the rich.

  • Basis of society: anonymous sweat.

  • Each time I fail to think about death, I have the impression of cheating, of deceiving someone in me.

  • Lord, give me the capacity of never praying, spare me the insanity of all worship, let this temptation of love pass from me which would deliver me forever unto You. Let the void spread between my heart and heaven! I have no desire to people my deserts by Your presence, to tyrannize my nights by Your light, to dissolve my Siberias beneath Your sun.

  • In every man sleeps a prophet, and when he wakes there is a little more evil in the world. 2001

  • Losing love is so rich a philosophical ordeal that it makes a hairdresser into a rival of Socrates.

  • Is it possible that existence is our exile, and nothingness our home?

  • When we know what words are worth, the amazing thing is that we try to say anything at all, and that we manage to do so. This requires, it is true, a supernatural nerve.

  1. Ne me demandez plus mon programme: respirer, n'en est-ce pas un?
  2. Dans chaque homme dort un prophète, et quand il se réveille il y a un peu plus de mal dans le monde.


  • A picture is worth 10,000 words - but only those used to describe the picture. Hardly any sets of 10,000 words can be adequately described with pictures

  • Every program is a part of some other program and rarely fits.

  • Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it.

  • In programming, as in everything else, to be in error is to be reborn.

  • Giving up on assembly language was the apple in our Garden of Eden: Languages whose use squanders machine cycles are sinful. The LISP machine now permits LISP programmers to abandon bra and fig-leaf.

  • The best book on programming for the layman is 'Alice in Wonderland'; but that's because it's the best book on anything for the layman.

  • If you have a procedure with ten parameters, you probably missed some.

  • Every program has (at least) two purposes: the one for which it was written, and another for which it wasn't.

  • Wherever there is modularity there is the potential for misunderstanding: Hiding information implies a need to check communication.

  • To understand a program you must become both the machine and the program

  • One can only display complex information in the mind. Like seeing, movement or flow or alteration of view is more important than the static picture, no matter how lovely.

  • Once you understand how to write a program get someone else to write it.

  • Some cathedrals took a century to complete. Can you imagine the grandeur and scope of a program that would take as long?

  • The goal of computation is the emulation of our synthetic abilities, not the understanding of our analytic ones.

  • Because of its vitality, the computing field is always in desperate need of new cliches: Banality soothes our nerves.

  • In computing, turning the obvious into the useful is a living definition of the word 'frustration'.

  • Computation has made the tree flower.

  • One can't proceed from the informal to the formal by formal means.

  • Within a computer, natural language is unnatural.


  • Few things have happened to me, but I've read of many, or, better: few things have happened to me more worth remembering than Schopenhauer's thought or the verbal music of England. 11000

  • Heaven and hell seem out of proportion to me: the actions of men do not deserve so much. 11001

  • It is adventurous to think that a mere coordination of words (and philosophies are nothing but that) may resemble the universe very much. It is also adventurous to think that, of all these illustrious coordinations, one of them does not — at least infinitesimally — resemble the universe a bit more than the others. 11008

  • A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face. 11002

  • the night pleases us because it suppresses idle details, like memory does. 11003

  • There is a concept which corrupts and upsets all others. I refer not to Evil, whose limited realm is that of ethics; I refer to the infinite. 11009

  • They seek neither truth nor likelihood; they seek astonishment. They think metaphysics is a branch of the literature of fantasy. 11005

  • Famously, when Whistler was asked how long it took him to paint one of his nocturnes, he answered: 'All of my life'.

    With the same rigor he could have said that all the centuries preceding were necessary. From that correct application of the law of causality it follows that the slightest event presupposes all the inconceivable universe and, conversely, that the universe needs even the slightest of events. 11011

  • [God to the leopard]: 'a man I know will look at you at a certain number of times and will not forget and will put your figure and symbol in a poem, which poem has a precise place in the plot of the universe. You have been captive, but you thus have given a word to this poem.' God, in the leopard's dream, illuminated the animal's vulgarity, and so the leopard understood and accepted his fate; but when he awoke, there was only in him a dark resignation, a courageous ignorance; for the machinery of the world is too complex for the simplicity of a beast...

    In a dream, God declared to Dante the secret purpose of his life and work; Dante, in wonderment, knew at last who and what he was, and blessed all the bitterness of his life... upon waking, he felt that he had received and lost an infinite thing, something he would not recover or even glimpse, for the machinery of the world is too complex for the simplicity of a man. 11004

  • ...the writer's life is a solitary one; you think it's just you; but, as the years go by, if your stars are propitious, you discover you are at the center of a vast circle of invisible friends - friends you will never know, but who love you, and this is more than enough reward. 11006

  • The Dada movement corresponded to a nihilistic idea, to the desperation of literature. Later we were disappointed to find that they were not true skeptics, that they were all fighting to be recognized as the 'true' founder of the movement. In short, we learned that the Dadaists were just writers, as professional as any other: equally jealous, equally vain. 11012

  • we live out our lives putting off all that can be put off; perhaps we all know deep down that we are immortal and that sooner or later all men will do and know all things. 11010

  • There is a line in Verlaine I won't recall again,
    There's a street close by, forbidden to my feet,
    There's a mirror that's seen me for the last time,
    There's a door I have locked til the end of the world.
    Of the books in my library (all before me)
    There are some I'll never open.
    This summer I complete my fiftieth year;
    Death gnaws at me ceaselessly.

  1. Pocas cosas me han ocurrido y muchas he leído, mejor dicho, pocas cosas me han ocurrido más dignas de memoria que el pensamiento de Schopenhauer o la música verbal de Inglaterra.
  2. El infierno y el paraíso me parecen desproporcionados. Los actos de los hombres no merecen tanto.
  3. Un hombre se propone la tarea de dibujar el mundo. A lo largo de los años puebla un espacio con imágenes de provincias, de reinos, de montañas, de bahías, de naves, de islas, de peces, de habitaciones, de instrumentos, de astros, de caballos y de personas. Poco antes de morir, descubre que ese paciente laberinto de líneas traza la imagen de su cara.
  4. No puedo caminar por los arrabales en la soledad de la noche, sin pensar que ésta nos agrada porque suprime los ociosos detalles, como el recuerdo.
  5. un leopardo... que anhelaba amor y crueldad y el caliente placer de despedazar y el viento con olor a venado, pero algo en él se ahogaba y se rebelaba y Dios le habló en un sueño: “Vives y morirás en esta prisión, para que un hombre que yo sé te mire un número determinado de veces y no te olvide y ponga tu figura y tu símbolo en un poema, que tiene su preciso lugar en la trama del universo. Padeces cautiverio, pero habrás dado una palabra al poema.” Dios, en el sueño, iluminó la rudeza del animal y éste comprendió las razones y aceptó ese destino, pero sólo hubo en él, cuando despertó, una oscura resignación, una valerosa ignorancia, porque la máquina del mundo es harto compleja para la simplicidad de una fiera.

    Años después, Dante se moría en Ravena, tan injustificado y tan solo como cualquier otro hombre. En un sueño, Dios le declaró el secreto propósito de su vida y de su labor; Dante, maravillado, supo al fin quién era y qué era y bendijo sus amarguras. La tradición refiere que, al despertar, sintió que había recibido y perdido una cosa infinita, algo que no podría recuperar, ni vislumbrar siquiera, porque la máquina del mundo es harto compleja para la simplicidad de los hombres.
  6. no buscan la verdad ni siquiera la verosimilitud: buscan el asombro. Juzgan que la metafísica es una rama de la literatura fantástica.

    ("Likelihood" is a pathetic gloss on "verisimilitude": the former is relative probability, while the latter is absolute empirical adequacy.)
  7. La vida del escritor es una vida solitaria. Uno cree estar solo y al cabo de los años, si los astros son propicios, uno descubre que uno está al centro de una especie de vasto círculo de amigos invisibles, de amigos que uno no conocerá nunca físicamente pero que lo quieren a uno. Y eso es una recompensa más que suficiente.
  8. Hay una línea de Verlaine que no volveré a recordar.
    Hay una calle próxima que está vedada a mis pasos,
    hay un espejo que me ha visto por última vez,
    hay una puerta que he cerrado hasta el fin del mundo.
    Entre los libros de mi biblioteca (estoy viéndolos)
    hay alguno que ya nunca abriré.
    Este verano cumpliré cincuenta años;
    La muerte me desgasta, incesante.

  9. Es aventurado pensar que una coordinación de palabras (otra cosa no son las filosofías) pueda parecerse mucho al universo. También es aventurado pensar que de esas coordinaciones ilustres, alguna - siquiera de modo infinitesimal - no se parezca un poco más que otras
  10. Hay un concepto — que es el corruptor y el desatinador de los otros. No hablo del Mal cuyo limitado imperio es la ética; hablo del infinito.
  11. Vivimos postergando todo lo postergable; tal vez todos sabemos profundamente que somos inmortales.
  12. Es fama que le preguntaron a Whistler cuánto tiempo había requerido para pintar uno de sus nocturnos y que respondió: "Toda mi vida." Con igual rigor pudo haber dicho que había requerido todos los siglos que precedieron al momento en que lo pintó. De esa correcta aplicación de la ley de causalidad se sigue que el menor de los hechos presupone el inconcebible universo e, inversamente, que el universo necesita del menor de los hechos. Investigar las causas de un fenómeno... es proceder en infinito.
  13. El movimiento dadá correspondía a una idea de nihilismo, de desesperación de la literatura. Quedamos decepcionados cuando supimos, después, que no eran verdaderos escépticos, que se peleaban por ser reconocidos como los “verdaderos” fundadores del movimiento. En fin, supimos que los dadaístas eran escritores tan profesionales como los demás, igualmente celosos, igualmente vanidosos.


  • When you become frustrated with computers, please remember they are only cleverly-arranged sand. (When you become frustrated with people...)

  • An aphorism is an algorithm, of we know not what input, to we know not what output.

  • 'Often, I must calculate otherwise than I think. That is called diplomacy.'

  • Surprising linear models work at all, when they are the worst functional language ever: only operator *, n variables, n assignments, & output=sum.

  • When critiquing a paper, go for the jugular: any part with the words 'presumably', 'obviously', 'past research', or 'studies show'.

  • We can sleep soundly because rough men stand ready with blogs willing to do violence to papers on our behalf.

  • The use of confidence intervals rather than p-values is a clear improvement; it makes our difficulties vanish like smoke in a fog.

  • p-value testing is pretty weird, but with multiple correction, it gets even weirder: the more you measure & model, the less you know.

  • Every normal man must be tempted now & then to sharpen knives, hoist a black flag, and run amok, shouting 'No causation without randomization!'

  • If you consider them in terms of QALYs lost, school is at least as harmful to your health as smoking, and far more expensive.

  • Some ask if behavioral genetics has made me nihilistic and feeling all is futile. But I have to believe in free will - my whole family does.

  • Programmers’ chairs and keyboards cause RSIs of the body; but what RSIs of the mind?

  • Backups are confronting one’s fallibility & the transience of the world; we should not be surprised so few can do it.

  • A pause on my keyboard for thought - and how peaceful it must be in the CPU, as the nanoseconds slowly tick by…

  • 'Helping newbies requires an active memory - of all the times we ourselves failed to read the fucking manual.'

  • How can we fear machines will separate humans when even in their source code, we can read the stamp of personality & style?

  • 'Data, and the formats by which data are communicated, inevitably create a system permeated by illusions.'

  • 'Anyone satisfied by last year’s code is not learning enough.'

  • 'I do not like this algorithm/language/tool.' 'Why?' 'I am not up to it.' - anyone, ever?

  • To test whether a language despises its users, merely see whether if (a = 1) {...} is valid.

  • 'Haskellers knows the type of everything & the value of nothing.' Unless they’ve turned on extensions, then neither

  • If you find yourself surprised by man or market, remember you have learned as much about your own thinking as them: revelation comes in twos.

  • At times, tolerance can be the most radical of positions to take; just watch when a weak group gains power.

  • An aphorism is an algorithm, of we know not what input, we know not what output.

  • Voltaire’s Third Law: for every aphorism, there is an equal and opposite anti-aphorism

  • The epigram is a compressed, golfed, idea, with all the virtues - and sins - of golfed code.

  • Remember! Most strings are incompressible, most reals uncomputable, most theorems unprovable, most programs undecidable.

  • Fear not known but unknown propaganda; I have the utmost respect for _Pravda_s - how else will you know what to not believe?

  • What sort of writing could you create if you worked on it (be it ever so rarely) for the next 60 years? What could you do if you started now?

  • If those superstitions turn out to work, then it was serious and a vindication of tacit-knowledgers; if they were always bogus, then I was being sarcastic and mocking them.

(Tweet apotheosis.)


  • Mantra: One, what are they saying? Two, are they telling the truth? Three, does their reasoning follow? Four, what are they missing out? Five, or, zero: why are they writing about this at all?

  • To be right, be vague. To be productively wrong, be precise.

  • The quantitative excludes almost everything about the human world, using only one of its many dimensions, number. The qualitative is worse, because it includes all of our bullshit.

  • Cynicism is a remarkably good substitute for knowledge.

  • Efficiency is constructive laziness.

  • Everyone believes that tomorrow they'll truly start living.
    ― after Samuel Johnson

  • Economics: It is prohibitively hard to change people. It always depends. Things fall apart, but sometimes into place too. People aren't stupid. Most things fail. Sometimes there is no right answer. You are the system.

  • Treat fools differently to assholes – and almost everyone is more fool than asshole.

  • People call their favourite artworks 'perfect', not realising that there are far greater artistic virtues than mere flawlessness.

  • Trust criticism in proportion to the direct quotation in it.

  • I don't love economics; I hate bad economics.

  • To live, you have to ignore things. Inductive bias.

  • Pure logic cannot tell you how the world is. But it can say what it is impossible for the world to be.

  • Talk is cheap; that's what's good about it!

  • The distinctive virtues of computers are their patience, rationality, flow, speed, honesty and obedience. They possess each of these in degrees beyond the human. However, they compensate for these, to the point of cancellation, with a perfect absence of independence, charity, sympathy, and fun.

  • What is above us? Causality; the absurd; the lives of others.

  • Be Epicurus against Plato and Thrasymachus both; George Eliot against Church and nihilist; liberal against fascist and anarchist.

  • I hate a lot of liberal democratic things: journalism, trial by jury, party politics, direct democracy, credentialism. But unlike revolutionaries, I know how fucked we were without them.

  • Most writing, most thoughts, are a stale read of reality.

  • I'm against anything that says you're either for it or against it. Queering the with us/against us binary.

  • The thought is not the thing; the pointer's not the string; the name is not the nominee.
    ― after Alfred Korzybski

  • In multos libros libertas. (In many books, freedom.)

  • 'Publication is binary so inference needs a binary variable: p < 0.05'. But one man's modus ponens...

  • I read to forget the impotence of reason.

  • You can't expect much of people. You must demand more from people.

  • Let my gravestone be the stack trace of an IndexOutOfBoundsException.

  • Aphorisms talk as if they were final: molecular philosophy. Actually they are alchemical.

epigram for this page

Some might say I have only made a bouquet of other people's wilted flowers, supplying nothing of my own but the thread to bind them... 3

But, if you embrace the opinions of [others] through reason, they will no longer be just their opinions, but yours too... Truths are held in common by all, and no more belong to those that uttered them first than to him that repeats them later. It's no more 'according to Plato...' than 'according to me...', since he and I both understand it.

Bees plunder flowers, but they do so after honey, which is afterwards all theirs; it is no longer thyme or marjoram. So too with parts borrowed from others: you transform and mingle them, and so make a work entirely yours - namely, your judgment. 4
— Montaigne

  1. Se méfier des penseurs dont l'esprit ne fonctionne qu'à partir d'une citation
  2. Comme quelqu'un pourrait dire de moi que j'ai seulement fait gelé des amas de fleurs érodées, n'ayant plus de mien que le fichier à la lier.
  3. Car s'il embrasse les opinions de Xénophon et de Platon par son propre discours, ce ne seront plus les leurs, ce seront les siennes. Qui suit un autre, il ne suit rien. Il ne trouve rien, voire il ne cherche rien.

    Non sumus sub rege; sibi quisque se vindicet.

    Qu'il sache qu'il sait, au moins. Il faut qu'il emboive leurs humeurs, non qu'il apprenne leurs préceptes.

    Et qu'il oublie hardiment, s'il veut, d'où il les tient, mais qu'il se les sache approprier. La vérité et la raison sont communes à un chacun et ne sont non plus à qui les a dites premièrement, qu'à qui les dit après. Ce n'est non plus selon Platon que selon moi, puisque lui et moi l'entendons et voyons de même. Les abeilles pillottent deçà delà les fleurs, mais elles en font après le miel, qui est tout leur ; ce n'est plus thym ni marjolaine : ainsi les pièces empruntées d'autrui, il les transformera et confondra, pour en faire un ouvrage tout sien, à savoir son jugement.