Great Throughts Treasury

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


"Life has neither material nor idealistic secrecy or mystery about it. Life is equal to itself only, hence perceiving its meaning is out of the question... The exaggeration of our mental abilities has given rise to what we perceive as “the problem” of discerning life’s purpose... If it is beyond our powers to disembowel love and beauty - we can only ravish them - it means that they are given to us not for cognition but for reflection. Similarly, the freedom of choice granted to man, a freedom denied the rest of the living species, is man’s task, a duty to exercise and fulfill, not merely an opportune option." - Andrei Bitov, fully Andrei Georgiyevich Bitov

"A simple heart will love all that is most precious on earth, husband or wife, parent or child, brother or friend, without marring its singleness; external things will have no attraction save inasmuch as they lead souls to Him; all exaggeration or unreality, affection and falsehood must pass away from such a one, as the dews dry up before the sunshine. The single motive is to please God, and hence arises total indifference as to what others say and think, so that words and actions are perfectly simple and natural, as in his sight." - N. Grou

"Envy pierces more in the restriction of praises than in the exaggeration of its criticisms." - Achilles Poincelot

"Never speak by superlatives; for in so doing you will be likely to wound either truth or prudence. Exaggeration is neither thoughtful, wise, nor safe. It is a proof of the weakness of the understanding, or the want of discernment of him that utters it, so that even when he speaks the truth, he soon finds it is received with partial, or even utter disbelief." - David Hume

"There are virtues which become crimes by exaggeration." -

"When we consider what religion is for mankind, and what science is, it is no exaggeration to say that the future course of history depends upon the decision of this generation as to the relations between them." - Alfred North Whitehead

"The work of art is the exaggeration of an idea." - André Gide, fully André Paul Guillaume Gide

"Exaggeration is a branch of lying." - Baltasar Gracián

"Exaggeration is a prodigality of the judgment which shows the narrowness of one's knowledge or one's taste." - Baltasar Gracián

"Love is a gross exaggeration of the difference between one person and everyone else." - George Bernard Shaw

"By speaking, by thinking, we undertake to clarify things, and that forces us to exacerbate them, dislocate them, schematize them. Every concept is in itself an exaggeration." - José Ortega y Gasset

"We can say without exaggeration that the present national ambition of the United States is unemployment. People live for quitting time, for weekends, for vacations, and for retirement; moreover, this ambition seems to be classless, as true in the executive suites as on the assembly lines. One works not because the work is necessary, valuable, useful to a desirable end, or because one loves to do it, but only to be able to quit - a condition that a saner time would regard as infernal, a condemnation." - Wendell Berry

"False eloquence is exaggeration, true eloquence is emphasis." - William Rounseville Alger

"What we call good sense in the conduct of life consists chiefly in that temper of mind which enables its possessor to view at all times, with perfect coolness and accuracy, all the various circumstances of his situation: so that each of them may produce its due impression on him, without any exaggeration arising from his own peculiar habits. But to a man of an ill-regulated imagination, external circumstances only serve as hints to excite his own thoughts, and the conduct he pursues has in general far less reference to his real situation than to some imaginary one in which he conceives himself to be placed: in consequence of which, while he appears to himself to be acting with the most perfect wisdom and consistency, he may frequently exhibit to others all the appearances of folly." - Dugald Stewart

"I do not think it is an exaggeration to say history is largely a history of inflation, usually inflations engineered by governments for the gain of governments. " - F. A. Hayek, fully Friedrich August Hayek or von Hayek

"But there is only one avenue of access to that higher life. It is through a radical purging of inner unreality and the full and final surrender of one's whole self, all that one is and all that one possesses, to the imperious command of the Living God. From that surrender, when complete and unreserved, will follow release from defeat or ennui and the gift of utterly new joy and strength. The old life will be cast away; the old harrowing problems will dissolve; one will stand free from the shackles of temptation, self-consciousness, selfishness; for the first time in one's life, one will know the meaning of spiritual freedom. All that one has heard with the hearing of the ears about the life of religion, all that one has dismissed as the familiar exaggeration of religious propagandists or naïve faith no longer possible for intelligent moderns — all this will come vividly alive within one's own soul. One now knows, with a certainty for which there is no parallel, the truth of religion's claims — the absolutely unique character of the dedicated life, the vivid and continuous awareness of God's presence, the priceless worth of complete fellowship with Him, the service which is perfect freedom." - Henry P. Van Dusen

"Only exaggeration is true. The essential character of prehistory is the appearance of utmost horror in the individual detail. A statistical compilation of those slaughtered in a progrom, which also includes mercy killings, conceals its essence, which emerges only in an exact description of the exception, the most hideous torture. A happy life in a world of horror is in-ominously refuted by the mere existence of that word. The latter therefore becomes essential, the former negligible." - Max Horkheimer

"It is no exaggeration to say that every human being is hypnotized to some extent either by ideas he has uncritically accepted from others or ideas he has repeated to himself or convinced himself are true. These negative ideas have exactly the same effect upon our behavior as the negative ideas implanted into the mind of a hypnotized subject by a professional hypnotist." - Maxwell Maltz

"Mysticism and exaggeration go together. A mystic must not fear ridicule if he is to push all the way to the limits of humility or the limits of delight." - Milan Kundera

"Supplication, worship, prayer are no superstition; they are acts more real than the acts of eating, drinking, sitting or walking. It is no exaggeration to say that they alone are real, all else is unreal." - Mahatma Gandhi, fully Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, aka Bapu

"Outside much has changed. I don't know how. But inside and before you, O my God, inside before you, spectator, are we not without action? We discover, indeed, that we do not know our part, we look for a mirror, we want to rub off the make-up and remove the counterfeit and be real. But somewhere a bit of mummery still sticks to us that we forget. A trace of exaggeration remains in our eyebrows, we do not notice that the corners of our lips are twisted. And thus we go about, a laughing-stock, a mere half-thing: neither existing, not actors." - Rainer Maria Rilke, full name René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke

"We discover that we do not know our role; we look for a mirror; we want to remove our make-up and take off what is false and real. But somewhere a piece of disguise that we forgot still sticks to us. A trace of exaggeration remains in our eyebrows; we do not notice that the corners of our mouth are bent. And so we walk around, a mockery and a mere half: neither having achieved being nor actors." - Rainer Maria Rilke, full name René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke

"Gentlemen of the jury, let me ask you what has been the state and condition of this unhappy and distracted country? I have mentioned two opposing creeds, and consequently two opposing parties, and I have also mentioned persecution; but let me also ask you again on which side has the persecution existed? Look at your Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, and ask yourselves to what terrible outburst of political and religious vengeance have they not been subjected? But it is said they are not faithful and loyal subjects, and that they detest the laws. Well, let us consider this - let us take a cursory view of all that the spirit and operation of the laws have left them to be thankful for - have brought to bear upon them for the purpose, we must suppose, of securing their attachment and their loyalty. Let us, gentlemen, calmly and solemnly, and in a Christian temper, take a brief glance at the adventures which the free and glorious spirit of the British Constitution has held out to them, in order to secure their allegiance. In the first place, their nobles and their gentry have been deprived of their property, and the right of tenure has been denied even to the people. Ah, my lord, and gentlemen of the jury, what ungrateful and disloyal miscreant could avoid loving a Constitution, and hugging to his grateful heart laws which showered down such blessings upon him, and upon all those who belong to a creed so favored? But it would seem to have been felt that these laws had still a stronger claim upon their affections. They would protect their religion as they did their property; and in order to attach them still more strongly, they shut up their places of worship - they proscribed and banished and hung their clergy - they hung or shot the unfortunate people who tied to worship God in the desert - in mountain fastnesses and in caves, and threw their dead bodies to find a tomb in the entrails of the birds of the air, or the dogs which even persecution had made mad with hunger. But again - for this pleasing panorama is not yet closed, the happy Catholics, who must have danced with delight, under the privileges of such a Constitution, were deprived of the right to occupy and possess all civil offices - their enterprise was crushed - their industry made subservient to the rapacity of their enemies, and not to their own prosperity. But this is far from being all. The sources of knowledge - of knowledge which only can enlighten and civilize the mind, prevent crime, and promote the progress of human society - these sources of knowledge, I say, were sealed against them; they were consequently left to ignorance, and its inseparable associate - vice. All those noble principles which result from education, and which lead youth into those moral footsteps in which they should tread, were made criminal in the Catholic to pursue, and impossible to attain; and having thus been reduced by ignorance to the perpetration of those crimes which it uniformly produces - the people were punished for that which oppressive laws had generated, and the ignorance which was forced upon them was turned into a penalty and a persecution. They were first made ignorant by one Act of Parliament, and then punished by another for those crimes which ignorance produces." - William Carleton

"It is part of the failure of the West to understand that it is at grips with an enemy having no moral viewpoint in common with itself, that two irreconcilable viewpoints and standards of judgment, two irreconcilable moralities, proceeding from two irreconcilable readings of man’s fate and future are involved, and, hence, their conflict is irrepressible." - Whittaker Chambers, born Jay Vivian Chambers, aka Jay David Whittaker Chambers

"An influential member of parliament has not only to pay much money to become such, and to give time and labour, he has also to sacrifice his mind too - at least all the characteristics part of it that which is original and most his own." - Walter Bagehot

"The eye was in the tomb and stared at Cain." - Victor Hugo

"This soul is full of darkness, sin committed there. The culprit is not the one who has committed the sin, but the fact is that the shade." - Victor Hugo

"I have often before now been convinced that a democracy is incapable of empire." - Thucydides NULL

"Our constitution is named a democracy, because it is in the hands not of the few but of the many. But our laws secure equal justice for all in their private disputes, and our public opinion welcomes and honors talent in every branch of achievement, not for any sectional reason but on grounds of excellence alone. And as we give free play to all in our public life, so we carry the same spirit into our daily relations with one another. . . . Open and friendly in our private intercourse, in our public acts we keep strictly within the control of law. We acknowledge the restraint of reverence; we are obedient to whomsoever is set in authority, and to the laws, more sepecially to those which offer protection to the oppressed and those unwritten ordinances whose transgression brings admitted shame." - Thucydides NULL