Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Jonathan Schell, fully Jonathan Edward Schell

American Author, Journalist, Anti-Nuclear Advocate and Visiting Fellow at Yale University

"If death is one mystery, life is another, greater one… We can only fee awe before a mystery that both is what we are and surpasses our understanding."

"If choice is real, if there really are alternatives, it follows that in choosing between them we are exhibiting our power as real agents, real causes and initiators of new departures in the flow of cosmic change, we thereby prove the existence of free causes."

"The world's history is constant, like the laws of nature, and simple, like the souls of men. The same conditions continually produce the same results."

"Nature is perfect, wherever we look, but man always deforms it."

"The universe is one of God’s thoughts."

"One thing is certain, that the poet is the only true an, and the best of philosophers is a mere caricature in comparison to him."

"Revenge is barren. It feeds on its own dreadful sin."

"Deterence is only a stay of execution, not a reprieve."

"Force, always a tragedy for both user and the one upon which it is used, has become less and less effective in deciding political matters."

"Living in truth—directly doing in your immediate surroundings what you think needs doing, saying what you think is true and needs saying, acting the way you think people should act—is a form a protest."

"The use of a mere dozen nuclear weapons ... would be a human catastrophe without parallel. ... Because so few weapons can kill so many people, even far-reaching disarmament proposals would leave us implicated in plans for unprecedented slaughter of innocent people. The sole measure that can free us from this burden is abolition."

"Now, in a widening sphere of decisions, the costs of error are so exorbitant that we need to act on theory alone, which is to say on prediction alone. It follows that the reputation of scientific prediction needs to be enhanced. But that can happen, paradoxically, only if scientists disavow the certainty and precision that they normally insist on. Above all, we need to learn to act decisively to forestall predicted perils, even while knowing that they may never materialize. We must take action, in a manner of speaking, to preserve our ignorance. There are perils that we can be certain of avoiding only at the cost of never knowing with certainty that they were real."

"It is a key fact about American policy in Vietnam that the withdrawel of American troops was built into it from the start. None of the presidents who waged war in Vietnam contemplated an open-ended campaign; all promised the public that American troops would be able to leave in the not-too-remote future. The promise of withdrawel precluded a policy of occupation of the traditional colonial sort, in which a great power simply imposes its will on a small one indefinitely."

"Two paths lie before us. One leads to death, the other to life. If we choose the first path--if we numbly refuse to acknowledge the nearness of extinction, all the while increasing our preparations to bring it about--then we in effect become the allies of death….On the other hand, if we reject our doom, and bend our efforts toward survival--if we arouse ourselves to the peril and act to forestall it, making ourselves the allies of life--hen the anesthetic fog will lift…and we will take full and clear possession of life again…and rise up to cleanse the earth of nuclear weapons."