Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Daniel Boorstin, fully Daniel Joseph Boorstin

American Historian, Professor, Attorney, Writer, Twelfth Librarian of the United States Congress

"The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance - it is the illusion of knowledge."

"Nothing is real unless it happens on television."

"Formerly, a public man needed a private secretary for a barrier between himself and the public. Nowadays he has a press secretary, to keep him properly in the public eye."

"Art obeys the opposite of Gresham’s law: Quality drives our quantity."

"Each living art object, taken out of its native habitat so we can conveniently gaze at it, is like an animal in a zoo. Something about it has died in the removal."

"We suffer primarily not from our vices or our weaknesses, but from our illusions. We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in place of reality."

"We have come from seeking meaning to finding meaning in the seeking."

"What is more natural in a democratic age than that we should begin to measure the stature of a work of art - especially of a painting - by how widely and how well it is reproduced?"

"I have observed that the world has suffered far less from ignorance than from pretensions to knowledge. It is not skeptics or explorers but fanatics and ideologues who menace decency and progress. No agnostic ever burned anyone at the stake or tortured a pagan, a heretic, or an unbeliever."

"A sign of celebrity is often that his name is worth more than his services."

"In competition for prestige it seems only sensible to try to perfect our image rather than ourselves. That seems the most economical, direct way to produce the desired result. Accustomed to live in a world of pseudo-events, celebrities, dissolving forms, and shadowy but overshadowing images, we mistake our shadows for ourselves. To us they seem more real than the reality."

"Two centuries ago when a great man appeared, people looked for God’s purpose in him. Today we look for his press agent."

"Human models are more vivid and more persuasive than explicit moral commands."

"Historically, risk-takers are people who shatter the illusion of knowledge. They are willing to try something that everyone thinks is outrageous or stupid."

"Freedom means the opportunity to be what we never thought we would be. "