Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes


"All our first movements are good, generous, heroical; reflection weakens and kills them." - Louis-Aimé Martin

"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

"The highest level of compassion is without any purpose or intent. It seeks neither the good of others nor its own good. It lies in being good not ‘doing good.’ There is simply living without design or conscious reflection. It embodies the fostering of love." - David A. Brandon

"Whatever amuses, serves to kill time, to lull the faculties, and to banish reflection. Whatever entertains, usually awakens the understanding or gratifies the fancy. Whatever diverts, is lively in its nature, and sometimes tumultuous in its effects." - George Crabbe

"We believe at once in evil; we only believe in good upon reflection. Is not this sad?" - Madame Deluzy, Luzy Dorothee

"How shall we learn to know ourselves? By reflection? Never; but only through action. Strive to do thy duty; then shalt thou know what is in thee." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Corrupt as men are, they are yet so much the creatures of reflection, and so strongly addicted to sentiments of right and wrong, that their attachment to a public cause can rarely be secured, or their animosity be kept alive, unless their understandings are engaged by some appearance of truth and rectitude." - Robert Hall

"Feeling comes before reflection." - Hugh Reginald Haweis

"For... what liberty is; there can no other proof be offered but every man’s own experience, by reflection on himself, and remembering what he useth in his mind, that is, what he himself meaneth when he saith an action... is free. Now he that reflecteth so on himself, cannot but be satisfied... that a free agent is he that can do if he will, and forbear if he will; and that liberty is the absence of external impediments. But to those that out of custom speak not what they conceive, but what they heard, and are not able, or will not take the pains to consider what they think when they hear such words, no argument can be sufficient, because experience and matter of fact are not verified by other men’s arguments, but by every man’s own sense and memory." - Thomas Hobbes

"It is a most mortifying reflection for a man to consider what he has done, compared to what he might have done." -

"The reflection that strikes the heart is not that the evils before us are real evils but that they are evils to which we ourselves may be exposed... The delight of tragedy proceeds from our consciousness of fiction; if we thought murders and treasons real, they would please no more." -

"But it is the knowledge of necessary and eternal truths that distinguishes us from the mere animals and gives us Reason and the sciences, raising us to the knowledge of ourselves and of God. And it is this in us that is called the rational soul or mind. It is also through the knowledge of necessary truths, and through their abstract expression, that we rise to acts of reflection, which make us think of what is called I, and observe that this or that is within us: and thus, thinking of ourselves, we think of being, of substance, of the simple and the compound, of the immaterial, and of God Himself, conceiving that what is limited in us is in Him without limits." -

"Perception, thinking, doubting, believing, reasoning, knowing, willing, and all the different actings of our own minds; which we being conscious of, and observing in ourselves, do from these receive into our understanding as do from these receive into our understanding as distinct ideas as we do from bodies affecting our senses. This source of ideas every man has wholly in himself; and though it be not sense, as having nothing to do with external objects, yet it is very like it, and might properly enough be called internal sense. But as I call the other sensation, so I call this reflection, the ideas it affords being such only as the mind gets by reflecting on its own operation within self... These two, I say, vis. external material things, as the objects of sensation, and the operations of our own minds within, as the objects of reflection, are to me the only originals from whence all our ideas take their beginnings." - John Locke

"We must consider what person stands for; - which, I think, is a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places; which it does only by that consciousness which is inseparable from thinking, and, as it seems to me, essential to it: it being impossible for any one to perceive without perceiving that he does perceive. When we see, hear, smell, taste, feel, meditate, or will anything, we know that we do so. Thus it is always as to our present sensations and perceptions: and by this every one is to himself that which he calls self." - John Locke

"One of the most serious thoughts that life provokes is the reflection that we can never tell, at the time, whether a word, a look, a touch, an occurrence of any kind, is trivial or important." - E. V. Lucas, fully Edward Verrall Lucas

"Our first impulses are good, generous, heroical; reflection weakens and kills them." - Louis Aimé Martin

"In vain we fondly strive to trace the soul’s reflection in the face." - Henry Spencer Moore

"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death." - Thomas Paine

"So the thing to do when working on a motorcycle, as in any other task, is to cultivate the peace of mind which does not separate one’s self from one’s surroundings. When that is done successfully, then everything else follows naturally. Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce work which will be a material reflection for others to see of the serenity at the center of it all." - Robert M. Pirsig

"We learn our virtues from the friends who love us; our faults from the enemy who hates us. We cannot easily discover our real character from a friend. He is a mirror, on which the warmth of our breath impedes the clearness of the reflection." -

"No act is ever, in virtue of falling under some general description, necessarily actually right... moral acts often (as every one knows) and indeed always (on reflection we must admit) have different characteristics that tend to make them a the same time prima facie right and prima facie wrong; there is probably no act, for instance, which does good to anyone without doing harm to someone else, and vice versa." - W. D. Ross, fully Sir William David Ross

"The technical progress of industry has been a reflection of our ability to apply increasingly accurate methods of measurement to material things. The art of measuring psychological human dimensions is relatively undeveloped. To all of the complexities of management we must bring to bear infinite patience and persistence, consistency and complete sincerity." - Louis Ruthenburg

"They only babble who practice not reflection." - Richard Brinsley Sheridan

"Every man, like narcissus, becomes enamored of the reflection of himself, only choosing a substance instead of a shadow. This love for any particular woman is self-love at second hand, vanity reflected, compound egotism." - Horace Smith

"The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face." - William Makepeace Thackeray

"We may be pretty certain that persons whom all the treats ill deserve the treatment they get. The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly, kind companion; and so let all young persons take their choice." - William Makepeace Thackeray

"There are five tests of the evidence of education - correctness and precision in the use of the mother tongue; refined and gentle manners, the result of fixed habits of thought and action; sound standards of appreciation of beauty and of worth, and a character based on those standards; power and habit of reflection, efficiency or the power to do." - Nicholas Murray Butler

"It requires as much reflection and wisdom to know what is not to be put into a sermon as what is." - Richard Cecil

"I must think forever: would an eternal train of my usual thoughts be either worthy of me or useful to me? I must feel forever: would an eternal reign of my present spirit and desires please or satisfy me? I must act forever: would an eternal course of my habitual conduct bring happiness, or even bear reflection?... Habits are soon assumed; but when we endeavor to strip them off, it is being flayed alive." - William Cowper

"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

"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

"Time and reflection cure all ills." - George Lillo

"Reverie is when ideas float in our mind without reflection or regard of the understanding." - John Locke

"The custom of frequent reflection will keep their minds from running adrift, and call their thoughts home from useless unattentive roving." - John Locke

"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

"In solitude the mind gains strength, and learns to lean upon herself; in the world it seeks or accepts of a few treacherous supports - the feigned compassion of one, the flattery of a second, the civilities of a third, the friendship of a fourth - they all deceive and bring the mind back to retirement, reflection, and books." - Lawrence Sterne, alternatively Laurence Sterne

"The advice of a scholar, whose piles of learning were set on fire by imagination, is never to be forgotten. Proportion an hour's reflection to an hour's reading, and so dispirit the book into the student." - Robert Aris Willmott

"A soul without reflection, like a pile without inhabitant, to ruin runs." - Edward Young

"A soul without reflection like a pile without inhabitant, to ruin runs." -

"Good art is nothing but a replica of the perfection of God and a reflection of His art." -

"Your experiences matter only because of how you perceive them, and become the master of your own thoughts, you can control what filters into your subconscious. It becomes a better reflection of what you actually desire and “broadcasts” to the infinite realm clear messages of those desires." - Tom Butler-Bowdon

"Religion has its origin and its support in dissatisfaction with life, resulting from reflection on the failure of life to satisfy the primary desires of man." - K. Dunlap

"Moral ambiguity creates mental cramps of various sorts, which lead to reflection, discussion, and argument… Morality resists theoretical unification under either a set of special-purpose rules or single general-purpose rule or principle, such as the categorical imperative or the principle of unity. If this is right, and if it is right because the ends of moral life are plural and heterogeneous in kind and because our practices of moral education rightly reflect this, then we have some greater purchase on why the project of finding a single theoretically satisfying moral theory has failed." - Owen Flanagan

"Even while we mourn the death of a loved one, there is room in our hearts for thankfulness for that life… Sober reflection can also lead us to a more sympathetic appreciation of the vital role death plays in the economy of life. Life’s significant and zest issue from our awareness of its transiency, its “fragile contingency.” The urge to create, the passion to perfect, the will to heal and cure – all the noblest of human enterprises grow in the soil of human mortality." - Sidney Greenberg

"Prayer in action; it requires complete mobilization of heart, mind, and soul… For the soul, home is where the prayer is... Prayer calls for self-reflection, for contrition and repentance, examining and readjusting deeds and motivations, for recanting the ugly compulsions we follow, the tyranny of acquisitiveness, hatred, envy, resentment." - Abraham Joshua Heschel

"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

"It is a most mortifying reflection for a man to consider what he has done, compared to what he might have done." - Samuel Johnson, aka Doctor Johnson

"Why should we not believe that which is highest in ourselves is a reflection of that which is deepest in the universe – that we are children of a Power who makes possible the growing achievement of relatedness, fulfillment, goodness?" -

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

"Reflection is easy and commitment is easy; but the two together - that is an educational task demanding the highest powers." - Howard Lowry