Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Rationality

"All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality... only means that for certain dead levels of our life we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget." - G. K. Chesterton, fully Gilbert Keith Chesterton

"We are not immortal, but our acts are... The question is not why we exist but whether we deserve to exist as supposedly rational beings if we act like conquerors rather than caring beings willing to share the planet with all those who are less powerful, and to act with restraint in respecting the needs of others and all life to come. As a species, we are on trial to see whether rationality was an advance or a tragic mistake." - Michael McCloskey

"Reason itself... demands that we recognize the limited place of the virtues of cognition, inquiry, and the cerebral side of life. An adequate account of rationality must rightly stress its importance and primacy while recognizing that the intellectual virtues are only limited components of the good life." - Nicholas Rescher

"When intuition is developed, it should lead the way into the unknown, with slower-moving reason following behind, evaluating the appropriateness of intuitive insights and inspirations along the way. Thus intuition might inspire us to embark on a new path through life, but rationality can help us with everyday decision-making as we struggle to manifest our vision." - Frances E. Vaughan

"A conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality or intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order. This firm belief, a belief bound up with deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God." - Albert Einstein

"Immortality is but a way of saying that the determination of expectancy is the essential factor of rationality." - William James

"Religion, according to the Hindu, is not compounded of dogmas and creeds. Religion is a way of life in consonance with rationality and Truth. Truth is not and cannot be revealed once and for all - it must ever be a progressive revelation." - Harold F. Mazumdar

"The preservation of peace and the improvement of the lot of all people require us to have faith in the rationality of humans. If we have this faith and if we pursue understanding, we have not the promise but at least the possibility of success. We should not be misled by promises. Humanity in all its history has repeatedly escaped disaster by a hair’s breadth. Total security has never been available to anyone. To expect it is unrealistic; to imagine that it can exist is to invite disaster." - Edward Teller

"The man who would emancipate art from discipline and reason is trying to elude rationality, not merely in art, but in all existence." - George Santayana

"Art teaches us to respect imagination as something far beyond human creation and intention. To live our ordinary life artfully is to have this sensibility about the things of daily life, to live more intuitively and to be willing to surrender a measure of our rationality and control in return for the gifts of soul... Leonardo da Vinci asks an interesting question in one of his notebooks: "Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake?" One answer is that the eye of the soul perceives the eternal realities so important to the heart. In waking life, most of us see only with our physical eyes, even though we could, with some effort of imagination, glimpse fragments of eternity in the most ordinary passing events. Dream teaches us to look with that other eye, the eye that in waking life belongs to the artist, to each of us as artist... Without art we live under the illusion that there is only time, and not eternity." - Thomas Moore

"Likewise, looking deep within the mind, in the very most interior part of the self, when the mind becomes very, very quite, and one listens very carefully, in that infinite silence, the soul begins to whisper, and its feather-soft voice takes one far beyond what the mind could ever imagine, beyond anything rationality could possibly tolerate, beyond anything logic can endure. In its gentle whisperings, there are the faintest hints of infinite love, glimmers of a life that time forgot, flashes of a bliss that must not be mentioned, an infinite intersection where the mysteries of eternity breathe life into mortal time, where suffering and pain have forgotten how to pronounce their own names, this secret quiet intersection of time and the very timeless, an intersection called the soul. " - Ken Wilber, fully Kenneth Earl Wilber II

"All human behavior is scheduled and programmed through rationality. There is a logic of institutions and in behavior and in political relations. In even the most violent ones there is a rationality. What is most dangerous in violence is its rationality. Of course violence itself is terrible. But the deepest root of violence and its permanence come out of the form of the rationality we use. The idea had been that if we live in the world of reason, we can get rid of violence. This is quite wrong. Between violence and rationality there is no incompatibility." - Michel Foucault

"A scientist, an artist, a citizen is not like a child who needs papa methodology and mama rationality to give him security and direction, he can take care of himself, for he is the inventor not only of laws, theories, pictures, plays, forms of music, ways of dealing with his fellow man, institutions, but also entire world view, he is the inventor of entire forms of like." - Paul Feyerabend, fully Paul Karl Feyerabend

"Traditions are neither good nor bad, they simply are... Rationality is not an arbiter of traditions; it is itself a tradition or an aspect of a tradition." - Paul Feyerabend, fully Paul Karl Feyerabend

"If a being suffers there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering - insofar as rough comparisons can be made - of any other being. So the limit of sentience is the only defensible boundary of concern for the interests of others. To mark this boundary by some other characteristic like intelligence or rationality would be to mark it in an arbitrary manner. Why not choose some other characteristic, like skin color? " - Peter Singer

"If theology is an effort to construct a rational and systematic view of life out of the various and sometimes contradictory myths which are associated with a single religious tradition, philosophy carries the process one step further by seeking to dispense with the mythical basis altogether and resting its world-view entirely upon the ground of rational consistency. Thus for Hegel, religion is no more than primitive philosophy in terms of crude picture-thinking, which a more advanced rationality refines. This rationalization of myth is indeed inevitable and necessary, lest religion be destroyed by undisciplined and fantastic imagery or primitive and inconsistent myth. Faith must feed on reason. (Unamuno.) But reason must also feed on faith. Every authentic religious myth contains paradoxes of the relation between the finite and the eternal which cannot be completely rationalized without destroying the genius of true religion." - Reinhold Niebuhr, fully Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr

"The measure of our rationality determines the degree of vividness with which we appreciate the needs of other life, the extent to which we become conscious of the real character of our own motives and impulses, the ability to harmonize conflicting impulses in our own life and in society, and the capacity to choose adequate means for approved ends." - Reinhold Niebuhr, fully Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr

"As we have seen, an adaptive challenge consists of a gap between the shared values people hold and the reality of their lives, or of a conflict among people in a community over values or strategy. 1. What’s causing the distress? 2. What internal contradictions does the distress represent? 3. What are the histories of these contradictions? 4. What perspectives and interests have I and others come to represent to various segments of the community that are now in conflict? 5. In what ways are we in the organization or working group mirroring the problem dynamics in the community?" - Ronald A. Heifetz

"Skepticism's bad rap arises from the impression that, however necessary the activity, it can only be regarded as a negative removal of false claims. Not so... Proper debunking is done in the interest of an alternate model of explanation, not as a nihilistic exercise. The alternate model is rationality itself, tied to moral decency--the most powerful joint instrument for good that our planet has ever known." - Stephan Jay Gould

"So why fret and care that the actual version of the destined deed was done by an upper class English gentleman who had circumnavigated the globe as a vigorous youth, lost his dearest daughter and his waning faith at the same time, wrote the greatest treatise ever composed on the taxonomy of barnacles, and eventually grew a white beard, lived as a country squire just south of London, and never again traveled far enough even to cross the English Channel? We care for the same reason that we love okapis, delight in the fossil evidence of trilobites, and mourn the passage of the dodo. We care because the broad events that had to happen, happened to happen in a certain particular way. And something unspeakably holy—I don't know how else to say this—underlies our discovery and confirmation of the actual details that made our world and also, in realms of contingency, assured the minutiae of its construction in the manner we know, and not in any one of a trillion other ways, nearly all of which would not have included the evolution of a scribe to record the beauty, the cruelty, the fascination, and the mystery." - Stephan Jay Gould

"Words change their meanings, just as organisms evolve. We would impose an enormous burden on our economy if we insisted on payment in cattle every time we identified a bonus as a pecuniary advantage (from the Latin pecus, or cattle, a verbal fossil from a former commercial reality)." - Stephan Jay Gould

"Revolutionary practice in any field of human existence develops by itself if one comprehends the contradictions in every new process; it consists in siding with those forces which act in the direction of progressive development. To be radical, according to Marx, means “going to the root of things.” If one goes to the root of things, if one understands their contradictory character, the means of mastering the reaction become plain." - Wilhelm Reich

"Now it's $200 billion. If we don't change the course, the rest of the world could own $15 trillion of us. That's pretty substantial. That's equal to the value of all American stock." - Warren Buffett, fully Warren Edward Buffett, aka Oracle of Omaha

"The major asset in this category is gold, currently a huge favorite of investors who fear almost all other assets, especially paper money (of whose value, as noted, they are right to be fearful). Gold, however, has two significant shortcomings, being neither of much use nor procreative. True, gold has some industrial and decorative utility, but the demand for these purposes is both limited and incapable of soaking up new production. Meanwhile, if you own one ounce of gold for an eternity, you will still own one ounce at its end." - Warren Buffett, fully Warren Edward Buffett, aka Oracle of Omaha

"Can we actually suppose that we are wasting, polluting, and making ugly this beautiful land for the sake of patriotism and the love of God? Perhaps some of us would like to think so, but in fact this destruction is taking place because we have allowed ourselves to believe, and to live, a mated pair of economic lies: that nothing has a value that is not assigned to it by the market; and that the economic life of our communities can safely be handed over to the great corporations." - Wendell Berry

"The monkeys solved the puzzle simply because they found it gratifying to solve puzzles. They enjoyed it. The joy of the task was its own reward." - Dan Pink, fully Daniel H. Pink

"Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn and not get found out. I will do at least two things I don't want to do." - William James

"There are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil." - Eugen Drewermann