Great Throughts Treasury

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


"What is all wisdom save a collection of platitudes? But the man who orders his life according to their teachings cannot go far wrong." - Norman Douglas, aka George Norman Douglas

"Those who misrepresent the normal experiences of life, who decry being controversial, who shun risk, are the enemies of the American way of life, whatever the piety of the vocal professions and the patriotic flavor of their platitudes." - Henry Merritt Wriston

"Speculating will not do. It takes the forward movement of deliberate, dynamic living to make this journey – especially the longest and most important journey of all, the journey from our heads to our hearts and from our hearts to our wills. If the journey is life, then only through living will truths gain force that are otherwise barren platitudes." - Os Guiness

"The whole drift of our law is toward the absolute prohibition of all ideas that diverge in the slightest from the accepted platitudes, and behind that drift or law there is far more potent force of growing custom, and under that custom there is a national philosophy which erects conformity into the noblest of virtues and the free functioning of personality into a capital crime against society." -

"Free speech is intended to protect the controversial and even outrageous word; and not just comforting platitudes too mundane to need protection." -

"Although to be driven back upon oneself is an uneasy affair at best, rather like trying to cross a border with borrowed credentials, it seems to me now the one condition necessary to the beginnings of real self-respect. Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception." - Joan Didion

"To be surprised, to wonder, is to begin to understand. This is the sport, the luxury, special to the intellectual man... If anyone in a discussion with us is not concerned with adjusting himself to truth, if he has no wish to find the truth, he is intellectually a barbarian. That, in fact, is the position of the mass-man when he speaks, lectures or writes... The man who discovers a new scientific truth has previously had to smash to atoms almost everything he had learnt, and arrives at the new truth with hands bloodstained from the slaughter of a thousand platitudes." - José Ortega y Gasset

"Literature is the orchestration of platitudes." - Thornton Wilder, fully Thornton Niven Wilder

"Free speech is intended to protect the controversial and even outrageous word; and not just comforting platitudes too mundane to need protection." - Colin Powell, fully Colin Luther Powell

"It is becoming clear that the old platitudes can no longer be maintained, and that if we wish to improve our morals we must first improve our knowledge. " - Havelock Ellis, fully Henry Havelock Ellis

"Be subtle, various, ornamental, clever, and do not listen to those critics ever whose crude provincial gullets crave in books plain cooking made still plainer by plain cooks." - W. H. Auden, fully Wystan Hugh Auden

"Dostoevski's The Double is his best work though an obvious and shameless imitation of Gogol's Nose." - Vladimir Nabokov, fully Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

"As against having beautiful workshops, studios, etc., one writes best in a cellar on a rainy day." - Van Wyck Brooks

"Those of our writers who have possessed a vivid personal talent have been paralyzed by a want of social background." - Van Wyck Brooks

"There is no reason why the same man should like the same book at eighteen and at forty-eight." - Ezra Pound, fully Ezra Weston Loomis Pound