Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Metaphysics

"In the end physics will replace ethics just as metaphysics displaced theology. The modern statistical view of ethics contributes towards that." - Søren Kierkegaard, fully Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

"One learns more metaphysics from a single temptation than from all the philosophers." - James Russell Lowell

"Ethical metaphysics is fundamentally an attempt, however disguised, to give legislative force to our own wishes." -

"We can make truth ours by actively modulating its inter-relations. This is the work of art; for reality is not based in the substance of things but in the principle of relationship. Truth is the infinite pursued by metaphysics; fact is the infinite pursued by science, while reality is the definition of the infinite which relates truth to the person. Reality is human; it is what we are conscious of, by which we are affected, that which we express." -

"Metaphysics means nothing but an unusually obstinate effort to think clearly." - William James

"This divination of the spiritual in the things of sense, and which expresses itself I the things of sense, is precisely what we call Poetry. Metaphysics too pursues a spiritual prey, but in a very different formal object. Whereas metaphysics stands in the line of knowledge and of the contemplation of truth, poetry stands in the line of making and of the delight procured by beauty. The difference is an all-important one, and one that it would be harmful to disregard. Metaphysics snatches at the spiritual in an idea, by the most abstract intellection; poetry reaches it in the flesh, by the very point of the sense sharpened through intelligence... Metaphysics gives chase to essences and definitions, poetry to any flash of existence glittering by the way, and any reflection of an invisible order. Metaphysics isolates mystery in order to know it; poetry, thanks to the balances it constructs, handles and utilizes mystery as an unknown force." - Jacques Maritain

"Things are distinct not in their essence but in their appearance; in other words, in their relation to one to whom they appear. This is art, the truth of which is not in substance or logic, but in expression. Abstract truth may belong to science and metaphysics, but the world of reality belongs to art." -

"The culmination and fruit of literary artistic expression, and its final fields of pleasure for the human soul, are in metaphysics, including the mysteries of the spiritual world, the soul itself, and the question of immortal continuation of our identify." -

"Time and again, the passion for understanding has led to the illusion that man is able to comprehend the objective world rationally, by pure thought, without any empirical foundations - in short, by metaphysics." - Albert Einstein

"Religion is the metaphysics of the masses." - Arthur Schopenhauer

"Metaphysics, or the attempt to conceive the world as a whole by means of thought, has been developed, from the first, by the union and conflict of two very different human impulses, the one urging men towards mysticism, the other urging them towards science... But the greatest men who have been philosophers have felt the need both of science and mysticism: the attempt to harmonize the two was what made their life, and what always must, for all its arduous uncertainty, make philosophy, to some minds, a greater thing than either science or religion." - Bertrand Russell, fully Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell

"Religion should be disentangled as much as possible from history and authority and metaphysics, and made to rest honestly on one's feelings, on one's indomitable optimism and trust in life." - George Santayana

"Metaphysics has for the real object of its investigation three ideas only: God, Freedom and Immortality." - Immanuel Kant

"Metaphysics begins and ends with God." - Johannes Scotus Erigena

"The test of real and vigorous thinking, the thinking which ascertains truths instead of dreaming dreams, is successful application to practice. Where that purpose does not exist, to give definiteness, precision, and an intelligible meaning to thought, it generates nothing better than the mystical metaphysics of the Pythagoreans or the Vedas." - John Stuart Mill

"The metaphysician looks at truth from within to without. That is why they clash. But realized souls who understand science as well as metaphysics find no difference at all. They see the parallelism between science and truth because they see the whole picture." - Paramahansa Yogananda, born Mukunda Lal Ghosh

"In the later nineteenth century the idea of progress became almost an article of faith. This conception was a piece of sheer metaphysics derived from evolutionary naturalism and foisted upon history by the temper of the age." - R. G. Collingwood, fully Robert George Collingwood

"All parts of knowledge have their origin in metaphysics, and finally, perhaps, revolve into it." - Thomas De Quincey, fully Thomas Penson De Quincey

"Metaphysics consists of two parts, first, that which all men of sense already know, and second, that which they can never know." -

"When he to whom one speaks does not understand, and he who speaks himself does not understand, this is metaphysics." - Voltaire, pen name of François-Marie Arouet NULL

"The unrest which keeps the never-stopping clock of metaphysics going is the thought that the non-existence of this world is just as possible as its existence." - William Faulkner, fully William Cuthbert Faulkner

"Ethical metaphysics is fundamentally an attempt, however disguised, to give legislative force to our own wishes. " - Bertrand Russell, fully Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell

"A careful analysis of the process of observation in atomic physics has shown that the subatomic particles have no meaning as isolated entities, but can only be understood as interconnections between the preparation of an experiment and the subsequent measurement. Quantum physics thus reveals a basic oneness of the universe. The mathematical framework of quantum theory has passed countless successful tests and is now universally accepted as a consistent and accurate description of all atomic phenomena. The verbal interpretation, on the other hand, i.e. the metaphysics of quantum physics, is on far less solid ground. In fact, in more than forty years physicists have not been able to provide a clear metaphysical model. " - Erwin Schrödinger, fully Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger

"There would be no history as we know it, no religion, no metaphysics or aesthetics as we have lived them, without an initial act of trust, of confiding, more fundamental, more axiomatic by far than any “social contract” or covenant with the postulate of the divine. This instauration of trust, this entrance of man into the city of man, is that between word and world" - George Steiner, fully Francis George Steiner

"There would be no history as we know it, no religion, no metaphysics or aesthetics as we have lived them, without an initial act of trust, of confiding, more fundamental, more axiomatic by far than any “social contract” or covenant with the postulate of the divine. This instauration of trust, this entrance of man into the city of man, is that between word and world." - George Steiner, fully Francis George Steiner

"Liberty, according to my metaphysics is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent. It implies thought and choice and power." - John Adams

"Idealism and metaphysics are the easiest things in the world, because people can talk as much nonsense as they like without basing it on objective reality or having it tested against reality. Materialism and dialectics, on the other hand, need effort. They must be based on and tested by objective reality. Unless one makes the effort one is liable to slip into idealism and metaphysics." - Mao Tse-tung, alternatively Zedong, Ze dong, aka Chairman Mao

"It was lunar symbolism that enabled man to relate and connect such heterogeneous things as: birth, becoming, death, and ressurection; the waters, plants, woman, fecundity, and immortality; the cosmic darkness, prenatal existence, and life after death, followed by the rebirth of the lunar type ("light coming out of darkness"); weaving, the symbol of the "thread of life," fate, temporality, and death; and yet others. In general most of the ideas of cycle, dualism, polarity, opposition, conflict, but also of reconciliation of contraries, of coincidentia oppositorum, were either discovered or clarified by virtue of lunar symbolism. We may even speak of a metaphysics of the moon, in the sense of a consistent system of "truths" relating to the mode of being peculiar to living creatures, to everything in the cosmos that shares in life, that is, in becoming, growth and waning, death and ressurrection." - Mircea Eliade

"Neither is there figurative and non-figurative art. All things appear to us in the shape of forms. Even in metaphysics ideas are expressed by forms, well them think how absurd it would be to think of painting without the imagery of forms. A figure, an object, a circle, are forms; they affect us more or less intensely." - Pablo Picasso, fully Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso

"All our language is composed of brief little dreams; and the wonderful thing is that we sometimes make of them strangely accurate and marvelously reasonable thoughts. What should we be without the help of that which does not exist? Very little. And our unoccupied minds would languish if fables, mistaken notions, abstractions, beliefs, and monsters, hypotheses, and the so-called problems of metaphysics did not people with beings and objectless images our natural depths and darkness. Myths are the souls of our actions and our loves. We cannot act without moving towards a phantom. We can love only what we create. " - Paul Valéry, fully Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valéry

"It is undeniable that when a mind enlightened and enriched with modern scientific knowledge weighs this problem calmly, it feels drawn to break through the circle of completely independent or autochthonous matter, whether uncreated or self-created, and to ascend to a creating Spirit. With the same clear and critical look with which it examines and passes judgment on facts, it perceives and recognizes the work of creative omnipotence, whose power, set in motion by the mighty "Fiat" pronounced billions of years ago by the Creating Spirit, spread out over the universe, calling into existence with a gesture of generous love matter bursting with energy. In fact, it would seem that present-day science, with one sweeping step back across millions of centuries, has succeeded in bearing witness to that primordial "Fiat lux" uttered at the moment when, along with matter, there burst forth from nothing a sea of light and radiation, while the particles of chemical elements split and formed into millions of galaxies. It is quite true that the facts established up to the present time are not an absolute proof of creation in time, as are the proofs drawn from metaphysics and Revelation in what concerns simple creation or those founded on Revelation if there be question of creation in time. The pertinent facts of the natural sciences, to which We have referred, are awaiting still further research and confirmation, and the theories founded on them are in need of further development and proof before they can provide a sure foundation for arguments which, of themselves, are outside the proper sphere of the natural sciences. This notwithstanding, it is worthy of note that modern scholars in these fields regard the idea of the creation of the universe as entirely compatible with their scientific conceptions and that they are even led spontaneously to this conclusion by their scientific research. Just a few decades ago, any such "hypothesis" was rejected as entirely irreconcilable with the present state of science. As late as 1911, the celebrated physicist Svante Arhenius declared that "the opinion that something can come from nothing is at variance with the present-day state of science, according to which matter is immutable." In this same vein we find the statement of Plato: "Matter exists. Nothing can come from nothing, hence matter is eternal. We cannot admit the creation of matter." " - Pope Pius XII, born Eugenio Marìa Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli NULL

"The principal act of courage is to endure and withstand dangers doggedly rather than to attack them." - Saint Thomas Aquinas, aka Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis or Doctor Universalis

"I contend that the continued racial classification of Homo sapiens represents an outmoded approach to the general problem of differentiation within a species. In other words, I reject a racial classification of humans for the same reasons that I prefer not to divide into subspecies the prodigiously variable West Indian land snails that form the subject of my own research." - Stephan Jay Gould

"Maybe that is our mistake: maybe there are no particle positions and velocities, but only waves. It is just that we try to fit the waves to our preconceived ideas of positions and velocities.The resulting mismatch is the cause of the apparent unpredictability." - Stephen Hawking

"A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing, upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse flight, She hers, he his, pursuing." - Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman

"The new recruits, even boys—the old men show them how to wear their accoutrements—they buckle the straps carefully; outdoors arming—indoors arming—the flash of the musket-barrels; the white tents cluster in camps—the arm'd sentries around—the sunrise cannon, and again at sunset; arm'd regiments arrive every day, pass through the city, and embark from the wharves; (How good they look, as they tramp down to the river, sweaty, with their guns on their shoulders! How I love them! how I could hug them, with their brown faces, and their clothes and knapsacks cover'd with dust!) The blood of the city up—arm'd! arm'd! the cry everywhere; the flags flung out from the steeples of churches, and from all the public buildings and stores; the tearful parting—the mother kisses her son—the son kisses his mother; (Loth is the mother to part—yet not a word does she speak to detain him.)" - Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman

"Let us live gladly! Quite certainly we are free to do it. Perhaps it is our only freedom, but ours it is, and it is only phenomenally a freedom. "Living free" is being "as one is." Can we not do it now? Indeed can we not-do-it? It is not even a "doing": It is beyond doing and not-doing. It is being as-we-are." - Wei Wu Wei, pen name for Terence James Stannus Gray

"To say more than human things with human voice that cannot be; to say human things with more than human voice, that, also, cannot be; to speak humanly from the height or from the depth of human things, that is acutest speech." - Wallace Stevens

"The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm." - Victor Hugo

"On earth there is nothing great but man; in man there is nothing great but mind." - William Hamilton, fully Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet

"The stream of thought flows on; but most of its segments fall into the bottomless abyss of oblivion. Of some, no memory survives the instant of their passage. Of others, it is confined to a few moments, hours or days. Others, again, leave vestiges which are indestructible, and by means of which they may be recalled as long as life endures." - William James

"The voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our spontaneous cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully. And act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there. To feel brave, act as if we were brave, use all our will to that end, and courage will very likely replace fear. If we act as if from some better feeling, the bad feeling soon fold its tent like an Arab and silently steals away." - William James

"It has become a conviction with me that psychology may in the long run do much to change the conception of the fundamental nature of the religious life, which, on the whole, is now too generally made a matter of doctrine. It is too intellectual At the doors of most churches one is met by required beliefs in a particular conception of God, in a speculative theory about the divinity of Christ, definite ideas concerning sin and salvation, the efficacy of ordinances, and the claims of supernatural revelation. What people are really seeking is access to refreshing fountains of life, sources of strength and guidance. They crave association with people and institutions which may convey to them a sense of what is most worthwhile in life and what may furnish impulsion toward real and enduring values. They know pretty well what those values are when allowed to let their own deepest desires express themselves." - Edward Scribner Ames

"Stop thinking about your difficulties, whatever they are, and start thinking about God instead." - Emmet Fox

"The moment you catch yourself thinking a negative thought, you should reject it instantly. Immediately switch your attention to the Presence of God. Do not stop to say "good-bye" to the error thought, but break the connection instantly and occupy your mind with good; you will be surprised how many difficulties will begin to melt away out of your life. Indeed, we may say that when error presents itself to consciousness, the first five seconds are Golden. In the text quoted above, Jesus teaches this lesson in his own graphic way. The immediate application of these words was, of course, to the coming siege of Jerusalem, but the idea involved is eternal. The holy place is your consciousness, and the abomination of desolation is any negative thought, because a negative thought means belief in the absence of God at the point concerned. Those who are in Judea are those who believe that prayer does change things; to flee to the mountains means to pray, especially that quick switching of the thought to the Presence of God, which I have mentioned." - Emmet Fox

"What we have today, in modern industrial society, is not romantic and certainly not utopianÂ…But it is in very deep trouble and holds no promise of survival. We jolly well have to have the courage to dream if we want to survive and give our children a chance of survival." - E. F. Schumacher, fully Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher

"There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." - Erwin Schrödinger, fully Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger

"Language was a long time without having any other words than the names which had been given to sensible objects, such as these, tree, fruit, water, fire, and others, which they had more frequent occasion to mention." - Étienne Bonnot de Condillac