Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Absurd

"The absurd man is he who never changes." - Auguste-Marseille Barthélemy

"After all, what is vanity? If it means only a certain wish to look one’s best, is it not another name for self-respect? If it means inordinate self-admiration (very rare among persons with some occupation), it is less wicked than absurd." - Mary Eliza Haweis, aka Mrs. Hugh R. Haweis, maiden name Mary E. Joy

"I think there cannot any one moral rule be proposed whereof a man may not justly demand a reason: which would be perfectly ridiculous and absurd if they were innate; or so much as self-evident, which every innate principle must needs be, and not need any proof to ascertain its truth, nor want any reason to gain its approbation." - John Locke

"Self-praise and self-depreciation are alike absurd." -

"He that waits for repentance waits for that which cannot be had as long as it is waited for. It is absurd for a man to wait for that which he himself has to do." - William Nevins

"Never teach false modesty. How exquisitely absurd to teach a girl that beauty is of no value, dress of no use! Beauty is of value; her whole prospects and happiness in life may often depend upon a new gown or a becoming bonnet: if she has five grains of common sense she will find this out. The great thing is to teach her their proper value." - Sydney Smith

"One of the favorite maxims of my father was the distinction between the two sorts of truths, profound truths recognized by the fact that the opposite is also a profound truth, in contrast to trivialities where opposites are obviously absurd." - Niels Bohr, fully Aage Niels Bohr

"Socrates taught that true felicity is not to be derived from external possessions, but from wisdom, which consists in the knowledge and practice of virtue; that the cultivation of virtuous manners is necessarily attended with pleasure as well as profit; that the honest man alone is happy; and that it is absurd to attempt to separate things which are in nature so closely united as virtue and interest." - William Enfield, aka "The Enquirer"

"If the animals suddenly got the gift of laughter, they would begin by laughing at themselves sick about man, that most ridiculous, most absurd, most foolish of all animals." - Egon Friedell, born Egon Friedmann

"He who wishes to exert a useful influence must be careful to insult nothing. Let him not be troubled by what seems absurd, but concentrate his energies to the creation of what is good. He must not demolish, but build. He must raise temples where mankind may come and partake of the purest pleasure." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Taken as a whole, the universe is absurd." - Walter Savage Landor

"Time is change - on all sorts of different scales; and the phenomenal world is made up of this continual changing, at different rates, of everything, like an enormous clock full of wheels. Outside, there is this stream of becoming; and within, a stream of ever-changing thoughts and feelings, a succession of different I’s, of fragmentary bits of ourselves - an inner world of becoming in which nothing is, in which we possess nothing and do not possess ourselves. We think of all this changing in time as progress; and not only do we have this extraordinary and absurd illusion, but we imagine that the stability that we all secretly crave can be sought for in all this machinery of change, in the turning wheels of this enormous clock. But we know that what is stable was always beyond time... The real distinction, therefore, between time and eternity is qualitative and so must lie in the realm of psychological experience." - Maurice Nicoll

"It is absurd to speak of right and wrong per se. Injury, violation, exploitation, annihilation, cannot be wrong in themselves, for life essentially presupposes injury, violation, exploitation, and annihilation." - Friedrich Nietzsche, fully Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

"The history of thought can be summarized in these words: It is absurd by what it seeks, great by what it finds." - Paul Valéry, fully Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valéry

"Action makes propaganda’s effect irreversible. He who acts in obedience to propaganda can never go back. He is not obliged to believe in that propaganda because of his past action. He is obliged to receive from it his justification and authority, without which his action will seem to him absurd or unjust, which would be intolerable." - Jacques Ellul

"Existence embraces both life and death, and in a way death is the test of the meaning of life. If death is devoid of meaning, then life is absurd. Life’s ultimate meaning remains obscure unless it is reflected upon the face of death." - Abraham Joshua Heschel

"What looks absurd within the limits of time may be luminous within the scope of eternity." - Abraham Joshua Heschel

"We have a duty to perform, to cultivate the human soul, to adore the incomprehensible and reject the absurd; to purify faith and obliterate superstition from the face of religion, to remove the vermin from the garden of God." - Victor Hugo

"All new doctrine goes through three stages. It is attacked and declared absurd; then it is admitted as true and obvious but insignificant. Finally, its true importance is recognized and its adversaries claim the honor of having discovered it." - William James

"It is absurd to seek peace while rejecting God. For where God is left out, justice is left out, and where justice is lacking there can be no hope of peace." - Pope Pius X, aka Saint Pope Pius X and Pope of the Eucharist, born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto NULL

"Man is simply here; he has to make what he can of a universe that is not even hostile but strange and uncertain. Man is never given a purpose or mission; he must devise them for himself, knowing that their fulfillment has no external justification or reward - altogether and absurd situation." - Jacques Barzun, fully Jacques Martin Barzun

"People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls." -

"It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style." -

"All systems of morality are based on the idea that an action has consequences that legitimize or cancel it. A mind imbued with the absurd merely judges that those consequences must be considered calmly." - Albert Camus

"The certainty of a God giving meaning to life far surpasses in attractiveness the ability to behave badly with impunity. The choice would not be hard to make. But there is no choice and that is where the bitterness comes in. The absurd does not liberate; it binds. It does not authorize all actions. Everything is permitted does not mean that nothing is forbidden. The absurd merely confers an equivalence on the consequences of those actions." - Albert Camus

"All systems of morality are based on the idea that an action has consequences that legitimize or cancel it. A mind imbued with the absurd merely judges that those consequences must be considered calmly." -

"The certainty of a God giving meaning to life far surpasses in attractiveness the ability to behave badly with impunity. The choice would not be hard to make. But there is no choice and that is where the bitterness comes in. The absurd does not liberate; it binds. It does not authorize all actions. Everything is permitted does not mean that nothing is forbidden. The absurd merely confers an equivalence on the consequences of those actions." -

"In politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution." - Alexander Hamilton

"The responsibility for change… lies with us. We must begin with ourselves, teaching ourselves not to close our minds prematurely to the novel, the surprising, the seemingly radical. This means fighting off the idea-assassins who rush forward to kill any new suggestion on grounds of its impracticality, while defending whatever now exists as practical, not matter how absurd, oppressive, or unworkable it may be. It means fighting for freedom of expression – the right of people to voice their ideas, even if heretical." - Alvin Toffler

"It is absurd to suppose that purpose is not present because we do not observe the agent deliberating. Art does not deliberate." - Aristotle NULL

"Mystery is in reality only a theological term for religious allegory. All religions have their mysteries. Properly speaking, a mystery is a dogma which is plainly absurd, but which, nevertheless conceals in itself a lofty truth." - Arthur Schopenhauer

"The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible." - Bertrand Russell, fully Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell

"The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible." - Bertrand Russell, fully Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell

"If we subject everything to reason, our religion will have nothing mysterious or supernatural. If we violate the principles of reason, our religion will be absurd and ridiculous." - Blaise Pascal

"If we submit everything to reason, our religion will have nothing in it mysterious or supernatural. If we violate the principles of reason, our religion will be absurd and ridiculous." - Blaise Pascal

"What I ask is absurd: that life shall have a meaning. What I strive for is impossible: that my life shall acquire a meaning." - Dag Hammarskjöld

"As it asketh some knowledge to demand a question not impertinent, so it requireth some sense to make a wish not absurd." - Francis Bacon

"The period of time covered by history is far too short to allow any perceptible progress in the popular sense of Evolution of the Human Species. The notion that there has been any such Progress since Caesar’s time (less than 20th centuries ago) is too absurd for discussion. All the savagery, barbarism, dark ages and the rest of it of which we have any record as existing in the past exists at the present moment." - George Bernard Shaw

"The more absurd life is, the more insupportable death is." - Jean-Paul Sartre

"If you have a finite point and it has no infinite reference point, then that finite point is absurd" - Jean-Paul Sartre

"What an absurd thing it is to pass over all the valuable parts of man, and fix our attention on his affirmaties." - Joseph Addison

"Avarice in old age is foolish; for what can be more absurd than to increase our provisions for the road, the nearer we approach to our journey’s end?" - Cicero, fully Marcus Tullius Cicero, anglicized as Tully NULL

"In order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd." -

"There is not a single idea, however absurd and repulsive, that has not a sensible aspect and there is not a single view, however plausible and humanitarian, that does not encourage and then conceal our stupidity and our criminal tendencies." - Paul Feyerabend, fully Paul Karl Feyerabend

"As the order of the parts of time is immutable, so also is the order of the parts of space... All things are placed in time as to order of succession; and in space as to order of situation. It is from their essence or nature that they are places; and that the primary places of things should be movable, is absurd. These are therefore the absolute places; and translations out of those places, are the only absolute motions." - Isaac Newton, fully Sir Isaac Newton

"When you cannot prove that people are wrong, but only that they are absurd, the best course is to let them alone." - Thomas Henry Huxley, aka T.H. Huxley and Darwin's Bulldog

"To believe in God is impossible - not to believe in Him is absurd." - Voltaire, pen name of François-Marie Arouet NULL

"People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls." - Carl Jung, fully Carl Gustav Jung

"It has become too easy to see that the luckless men of the past lived by mistakes, even absurd beliefs, so we may well fail in a decent respect for them, and forget that historians of the future will point out that we too lived by myths." - Herbert J. Muller

"You know what fear is? Each one has his own particular form of fear - not one, but multiple fears. A mind that has any form of fear cannot obviously have the quality of love, sympathy, tenderness. Fear is the destructive energy in man. It withers the mind, it distorts thought, it leads to all kinds of extraordinarily clever and subtle theories, absurd superstitions, dogmas, and beliefs. If you see that fear is destructive, then how do you proceed to wipe the mind clean? " - Jiddu Krishnamurti