Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes


"The human mind feels restless and dissatisfied under the anxieties of ignorance. It longs for the repose of conviction; and to gain this repose it will often rather precipitate its conclusions than wait for the tardy lights of observation and experiment. There is such a thing, too, as the love of simplicity and system, a prejudice of the understanding which disposes it to include al the phenomena of nature under a few sweeping generalities, and indolence which loves to repose on the beauties of a theory rather than encounter the fatiguing detail of its evidences." - Thomas Chalmers

"A modern commentator made the observation that there re those who seek knowledge about everything and understand nothing. It is wonder - not mere curiosity - a sense of enchantment, of respect for the mysteries of love for the other, that is essential to the difference between a knowing that is simply a gathering of information and techniques and a knowing that seeks insight and understanding. It is wonder that reveals how intimate is the relationship between knowledge of the other and knowledge of the self, between inwardness and outwardness." - Seymour Cohen, fully Seymour Jay Cohen

"The essence of all education is self-discovery and self-control. When education helps an individual to discover his own powers and limitations and, shows him how to get out of his heredity its largest and best possibilities, it will fulfill its real function, when children are taught not merely to know things but particularly to know themselves, not merely how to do things but especially how to compel themselves to do things, they may be said to be really educated. For this sort of education there is demanded rigorous discipline of the powers of observation, of the reason, and especially of the will." - William Congreve

"Why you are born and why you are living depend entirely on what you are getting out of this world and what you are giving to it. I cannot prove that this is a balance of mathematical perfection, but my own observation of life leads me to the conclusion that there is a very real relationship, both quantitatively and qualitatively, between what you contribute and what you get out of this world." - Oscar Hammerstein II, fully Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hamerstein II

"Great things cannot have escaped former observation." -

"Everything was possessed of personality, only different from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature ever learns, and that was to feel beauty... Observation was certain to have its rewards. Interest, wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestation; it was expressed in a multitude of forms. This appreciation enriched Lakota existence. Life was vivid and pulsating; nothing was casual and commonplace. The Indian lived - lived in every sense of the word - from his first to his last breath." - Chief Luther Standing Bear

"It is a true observation of ancient writers, that as men are apt to be cast down by adversity, so they are easily satiated with prosperity, and that joy and grief produce the same effects. For whenever men are not obliged by necessity to fight they fight from ambition, which is so powerful a passion in the human breast that however high we reach we are never satisfied." - Niccolò Machiavelli, formally Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

"The all-round liberally educated man, from Paleolithic times to the time when the earth shall become a cold cinder, will always be the same, namely, the man who follows his standards, of truth and beauty, who employs his learning and observation, his reason, his expression, for purposes of production, that is, to add something of his own to the stock of the world's ideas." -

"Observation, not old age, brings wisdom." - Publius Syrus

"The imagination acquires by custom a certain involuntary, unconscious power of observation and comparison, correcting its own mistakes and arriving at precision of judgment, just as the outward eye is disciplined to compare, adjust, estimate, measure, the objects reflected on the back of its retina. The imagination is but the faculty of glassing images; and it is with exceeding difficulty, and by the imperative will of the reasoning faculty resolved to mislead it, that it glasses images which have no prototype in truth and nature." - Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, fully Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, Lord Lytton

"The man who succeeds above his fellows is the one who, early in life, clearly discerns his object, and towards that object habitually directs his powers. Even genius itself is but fine observation strengthened by fixity of purpose. Every man who observes vigilantly and resolves steadfastly grows unconsciously into genius." - Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, fully Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, Lord Lytton

"The observation is that, generally speaking, poverty of speech is the outward evidence of poverty of mind" - Bruce Burton

"If the aim of the military action is an equivalent for the political object, that action will in general diminish as the political object diminishes. The more this object comes to the front, the more will this be so. This explains how, without self-contradiction, there can be wars of all degrees of importance and energy, from a war of extermination down to a mere state of armed observation." - Carl von Clausewitz, fully Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz, also Karl von Clausewitz

"We shall find in the experience of the past, in the observation of the progress that the sciences and civilization have already made, in the analysis of the progress of the human mind and of the development of its faculties, the strongest reasons for believing that nature has set no limit to the realization of our hopes." -

"The fundamental defect in the present state of democracy is the assumption that political and economic freedom can be achieved without first freeing the mind. Freedom of mind is not something that spontaneously happens. It is not achieved by mere absence of obvious restraints. It is a product of constant unremitting nurture of right habits of observation and reflection." - John Dewey

"It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste." - Henry Ford

"Primary causes are unknown to us, but are subject to simple and constant laws, which may be discovered by observation, the study of them being the object of natural philosophy." - Joseph Fourier, fully Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier

"Sickness sensitizes man for observation, like a photographic plate." - Edmund (Louis Antoine Huot) de Goncourt (1822-1896) and Jules (Alfred Huot) de Goncourt

"If I were to prescribe one process in the training of men which is fundamental to success in any direction, it would be thoroughgoing training in the habit of observation. It is a habit which every one of us should be seeking ever more to perfect." - Eugene Gifford Grace

"We are not only made in God’s image, but that we are made to image God - to reflect His freedom, joy, compassion and peace in our lives... When religion becomes reduced to an outward observation of rules and ceremonies and an intolerance toward the beliefs of others, we are mistaking the oyster for the pearl. The oyster is certainly valuable, but it is of infinitely greater value when it promotes the growth of the pearl... We cannot reason our way back to the roots of religion. We cannot trap God in stale dogmas or narrow creeds. Our purpose is to make religion a continuous living experience, to lead us toward a resurrection not of the dead but of the living who are dead to their own truth. Then religion becomes a thread that can both link us to the past and guide us to our future." - Arianna Huffington, born Arianna Stassinopoulos

"To behold is not necessarily to observe, and the power of comparing and combining is only to be obtained by education. It is much to be regretted that habits of exact observation are not cultivated in our schools; to this deficiency may be traced much of the fallacious reasoning and the false philosophy which prevails." -

"Redundancy of language is never found with deep reflection. Verbiage may indicate observation, but not thinking. He who thinks much, says but little in proportion to his thoughts. He selects that language which will convey his ideas in the most explicit and direct manner. He tries to compress as much thought as possible into a few words. On the contrary, the man who talks everlastingly and promiscuously, who seems to have an exhaustless magazine of sound, crowds so many words into his thoughts that he always obscures, and very frequently conceals them." - Washington Irving

"I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in the punishment of rebellions as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government." - Thomas Jefferson

"Novelty is indeed necessary to preserve eagerness and alacrity; but art and nature have sores inexhaustible by human intellects; and every moment produces something new to him who has quickened his faculties by diligent observation." -

"Experience: in that all our knowledge is founded; and from that it ultimately derives itself. Our observation employed either about external or sensible objects or about the internal operations of our minds, perceived and reflected on by ourselves, is that which supplies our understandings with all the materials of thinking." - John Locke

"Knowledge is acquired by study and observation, but wisdom cometh by opportunity of leisure; the ripest thought comes from the mind which is not always on the stretch, but fed, at times, by a wise passiveness." - William Matthews

"The pedagogical method of observation has for its base the liberty of the child, and liberty is activity... Discipline must come through liberty." - Maria Montessori

"Excellence is never granted to man, but as the reward of labor. It argues, indeed, no small strength of mind to persevere in the habits of industry, without the pleasure of perceiving those advantages which, like the hands of a clock, whilst they make hourly approaches to their point, yet proceed so slowly as to escape observation." - Joshua Reynolds, fully Sir Joshua Reynolds

"Presence of mind, penetration, fine observation, are the sciences of women; ability to avail themselves of these is their talent." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

"It is the close observation of little things which is the secret of success in business, in art, in science, and in every pursuit in life. Human knowledge is but an accumulation of small facts, made by successive generations of men, the little bits of knowledge and experience carefully treasured up and growing at length into a mighty pyramid." - Samuel Smiles

"The theory that can absorb the greatest number of facts, and persist in doing so, generation after generation, through all changes of opinion and of detail, is the one that must rule all observation." - John Weiss

"Perhaps there is no property in which men are more distinguished from each other, than in the various degrees in which they possess the faculty of observation. The great herd of mankind pass their lives in listless inattention and indifference as to what is going on around them, being perfectly content to satisfy the mere cravings of nature, while those who are destined to distinction have lynx-eyed vigilance that nothing can escape." - William Wirt

"The kingdom of God cometh not with outward observation, neither shall they say lo, here, or lo, there it is; for behold, the kingdom of God is within you." -

"An independent reality in the ordinary physical sense can neither be ascribed to the phenomenon nor to the agencies of observation." -

"The Kingdom of Heaven cometh not by observation. It comes by the appreciation of the signs of the presence and power of God in our inner experience." - Edgar Sheffield Brightman

"Materialism assumes a line of `continuity’ running through the whole scheme of nature, despite its obvious gaps; on the contrary, he underlines the significance of `discontinuity’ as positive evidence of the intervention of a higher source of influence which escapes man’s limited `scale of observation.’ A giant or a microbe would, with similar intelligence, observe the same phenomenon differently; they might be guided by their scales of observation to different, or at least, to modified conclusions. There is no scientific truth in an absolute sense. The phrase Ad veritatem per scientiam is an absurdity." - L. Francis Edmunds

"Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good… Either we have hope or we don't; it is a dimension of the soul, and it's not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, and orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons… Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather and ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more propitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper the hope is. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out." - Václav Havel

"Reading, reflection and time have convinced me that the interests of society require the observation of those moral precepts only in which all religions agree (for all forbid us to murder, steal, plunder, or bear false witness) and that we should not intermeddle with the particular dogmas in which all religions differ, which are totally unconnected with morality." - Thomas Jefferson

"To be fruitful in invention, it is indispensable to have a habit of observation and reflection." - Abraham Lincoln

"Where observation is concerned, chance favors only the prepared mind." - Patañjali NULL

"Scientists look for four qualities in theory generally… parsimony: the fewer the units and process used to account for the phenomenon, the better… second, generality: the greater the range of phenomena covered by the model, the more likely it is to be true… Consilence: units and process of a discipline that conform with solidly verified knowledge in other disciplines have proven consistently superior in theory and practice to units and processes that do not conform… Predictiveness: those theories endure that are precise in the predictions they make across phenomena and whose predictions are easiest to test by observation and experiment." -

"An independent reality in the ordinary physical sense can neither be ascribed to the phenomenon nor to the agencies of observation." - Niels Bohr, fully Neils Henrik David Bohr

"It is a just observation that the people commonly intend the public good. This often applies to their very errors. But their good sense would despise the adulator who should pretend that they always reason right about the means of promoting it. They known from experience that they sometimes err; and the wonder is that they so seldom err as they do, beset, as they continually are, by the wiles of parasites and sycophants, by the snares of the ambitious, the avaricious, the desperate, by the artifices of men who possess their confidence more then they deserve it, and of those who seek to possess rather than to deserve it." - Alexander Hamilton

"Observation more than books, experience rather than persons, are the prime educators." - Amos Bronson Alcott

"The soul is present with us as much while we are asleep as while we are awake; and, while waking resembles active observation, sleep resembles the implicit though not exercised possession of knowledge." - Aristotle NULL

"He that studies only men, will get the body of knowledge without the soul; and he that studies only books, the soul without the body. He that to what he sees, adds observation, and to what he reads, reflection, is on the right road to knowledge, provided that in scrutinizing the hearts of others, he neglects not his own." - Charles Caleb Colton

"Truth is strengthened by observation and time, pretenses by haste and uncertainty." - Tacitus, fully Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus NULL

"He is a truly virtuous man who wishes always to be open to the observation of honest men." - François de La Rochefoucauld, François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac, Francois A. F. Rochefoucauld-Liancourt

"Nothing is so capable of diminishing self-love as the observation that we disapprove at one time what we approve at another." - François de La Rochefoucauld, François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac, Francois A. F. Rochefoucauld-Liancourt

"It is for the most part in our skill in manners, and in the observation of time and place and of decency in general that what is called taste consists; and which is in reality no other that a more refined judgment. The cause of a wrong taste is a defect of judgment." - Edmund Burke