Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Sensibility

"Excessive sensibility is only another name for morbid self-consciousness." - Christian Nestell Bovee

"Laughter and tears are meant to turn the wheels of the same machinery of sensibility; one is wind-power, and the other water-power, that is all." - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

"Nothing is little to him that feels it with great sensibility." -

"The man who has lived the longest is not he who has spent the greatest number of years, but he who has had the greatest sensibility of life." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

"The exercise of criticism always destroys for a time our sensibility to beauty by leading us to regard the work in relation to certain laws of construction. The eye turns from the charms of nature to fix itself upon the servile dexterity of art." - Archibald Alison

"Atheism can benefit no class of people; neither the unfortunate, whom it bereaves of hope, nor the prosperous, whose joys it renders insipid, nor the soldier, of whom it makes a coward, nor the woman whose beauty and sensibility it mars, nor the mother, who has a son to lose, nor the rulers of men, who have no surer pledge of the fidelity of their subjects than religion." - François-René de Chateaubriand, fully François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand

"The man who can really, in living union of the mind and heart, converse with God through nature, finds in the material forms around him, a source of power and happiness inexhaustible, and like the life of angels. The highest life and glory of man is to be alive unto God; and when this grandeur of sensibility to him, and this power of communion with him is carried, as the habit of the soul, into the forms of nature, then the walls of our world are as the gates of heaven." - George Barrell Cheever

"It is this unquiet self-love that renders us so sensitive. The sick man, who sleeps ill, thinks the night long. We exaggerate, from cowardice, all the evils which we encounter; they are great, but our sensibility increases them. The true way to bear them is to yield ourselves up with confidence to God." - François Fénelon, fully Francois de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon

"When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of men's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his experience. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstones of our judgment. The artist... faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an offensive state." - John F. Kennedy, fully John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy

"For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts." -

"As a social and as a personal force, religion has become a dependent variable. It does not originate; it reacts. It does not denounce; it adapts. It does not set forth new models of conduct and sensibility; it imitates. Its rhetoric is without deep appeal; the worship it organizes is without piety. It has become less a revitalization of the spirit in permanent tension with the world than a respectable distraction from the sourness of life." - C. Wright Mills, fully Charles Wright Mills

"Too much sensibility creates unhappiness; too much insensibility leads to crime." - Talleyrand, fully Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, 1st Prince de Bénévent NULL

"Axial sensibility: the sense that we find ourselves caught up largely in appearances and are trapped in and subject to various forms of bondage, such as political, psychological, and possibly spiritual ones. Coupled with this sense is the further sense that there must be an elsewhere, or another and better way of being here in the world as it is not, one that better engages reality and gives us a sense of liberation rather than confinement. This axial sense may prove to be but an inchoate [just begun, lacking order, origin] and unrealistic longing, but it has been and continues to be experienced by many as genuine and inescapable. It has often been described as a longing for a belonging, driven in part by a sense of not belonging to the world as it is, of being displaced in it." - Stephen A. Erickson

"The more closely we identify ourselves with the rest of life, the more quickly we will be able to discover the sources of human sensibility and acquire the knowledge on which an enduring ethic, a preferred direction, can be built." -

"Nor do we accept as genuine the person not characterized by this blushing bashfulness, this youthfulness of heart, this sensibility to the sentiment of suavity, and self-respect. Modesty is bred of self-reverence. Fine manners are the mantle of fair minds. None are truly great without his ornament." - Amos Bronson Alcott

"The sensibility of man to trifles, and his insensibility to great things, are the marks of a strange inversion." - Blaise Pascal

"The sensibility of man to trifles, and his insensibility to great things indicates a strange inversion." - Blaise Pascal

"Never expect to find perfection in men, in my commerce with my contemporaries I have found much human virtue. I have seen not a little public spirit; a real subordination of interest to duty; and a decent and regulated sensibility to honest fame and reputation. The age unquestionably produces daring profligates and insidious hypocrites. What then? Am I not to avail myself of whatever good is to be found in the world because of the mixture of evil that will always be in it? The smallness of the quantity in currency only heightens the value. They who raise suspicions on the good, on account of the behavior of ill men, are of the party of the latter." - Edmund Burke

"Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue." - Henry James

"What objects may be in themselves, apart from all this receptivity of our sensibility, remains completely unknown to us." - Immanuel Kant

"Without sensibility no object would be given to us, without understanding no object would be thought. Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind... The understanding can intuit nothing, the senses can think nothing. Only through their union can knowledge arise." - Immanuel Kant

"How are space, time and that which fills both, the object of sensation, possible in general? The answer is: by means of the quality of our sensibility, according to which it is affected, in its peculiar way, by objects which are in themselves unknown and quite different from those appearances." - Immanuel Kant

"If the subjective constitution of the senses in general were removed, the whole constitution and all the relation of objects in space and time, nay, space and time themselves, would vanish... As appearances they cannot exist in themselves but only in us. What objects are in themselves, apart from all the receptivity of our sensibility, remains completely unknown to us. We know nothing but our mode of perceiving them - a mode which is peculiar to us, and not necessarily shared in by every being." - Immanuel Kant

"When vitality runs high, death takes men by surprise. But if they close their eyes to this possibility, what they gain in peace they lose in sensibility and significance." - Lewis Mumford

"A kind of mysterious instinct is supposed to reside in the soul, that instantaneously discerns truth, without the tedious labour of ratiocination. This instinct, for I know not what other name to give it, has been termed common sense, and more frequently, sensibility; and, by a kind of indefeasible right, it has been supposed, for rights of this kind are not easily proved, to reign paramount over the other faculties of the mind, and to be an authority from which there is no appeal." - Mary Wollstonecraft

"The profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader. The profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until an equal mind and heart finds and publishes it." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"‘Tis the good reader that makes the good book in every book he finds passages which seem confidences or asides hidden from all else and unmistakably meant for his ear; the profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader. The profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until an equal mind and heart finds and publishes it." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The essence of humor is sensibility; warm, tender fellow-feeling with all forms of existence." - Thomas Carlyle

"If we could loosen our grip on the functionality of life and let ourselves be arrested by the imaginal richness that surrounds all objects, natural and human-made, we might ground our secular attitudes in a religious sensibility and give ordinary life soul." - Thomas Moore

"It is not possible to care for the soul while violating or disregarding one's own moral sensibility" - Thomas Moore

"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

"For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts." - C. S. Lewis, fully Clive Staples "C.S." Lewis, called "Jack" by his family

"The more closely we identify ourselves with the rest of life, the more quickly we will be able to discover the sources of human sensibility and acquire the knowledge on which an enduring ethic, a preferred direction, can be built. " -

"A spiritual sensibility encourages us to see ourselves as part of the fundamental unity of all being. If the thrust of the market ethos has been to foster a competitive individualism, a major thrust of many traditional religious and spiritual sensibilities has been to help us see our connection with all other human beings." - Michael Lerner

"Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static "snapshots." It is a set of general principles -- distilled over the course of the twentieth century, spanning fields as diverse as the physical and social sciences, engineering, and management... During the last thirty years, these tools have been applied to understand a wide range of corporate, urban, regional, economic, political, ecological, and even psychological systems. And systems thinking is a sensibility -- for the subtle interconnectedness that gives living systems their unique character." - Peter Senge, fully Peter Michael Senge

"Science is the only truth and it is the great lie. It knows nothing, and people think it knows everything. It is misrepresented. People think that science is electricity, automobilism, and dirigible balloons. It is something very different. It is life devouring itself. It is the sensibility transformed into intelligence. It is the need to know stifling the need to live. It is the genius of knowledge vivisecting the vital genius." - Remy de Gourmont

"We all have slumbering realms of sensibility which can be coaxed into wakefulness by books." - Robertson Davies

"What I was trying to show was the creation of extremely violent individuals from people like you and I... Shalimar was a happy, admired performer whose world was smashed, both inside and out. That double fracture provided the fissure for him to slip through." - Salman Rushdie, fully Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie

"In this country my Lords... the individual subject... 'has nothing to do with the laws but to obey them'" - Samuel Horsley

"When once a certain class of people has been placed by the temporal and spiritual authorities outside the ranks of those whose life has value, then nothing comes more naturally to men than murder." - Simone Weil

"Some men make their ignorance the measure of excellence: these are, of course, very fastidious critics; for, knowing little, they can find but little to like." -

"Every high C accurately struck demolishes the theory that we are the irresponsible puppets of fate or chance." - W. H. Auden, fully Wystan Hugh Auden

"The train slows and lengthens, as we approach London, the centre, and my heart draws out too, in fear, in exaltation. I am about to meet--what? What extraordinary adventure awaits me, among these mail vans, these porters, these swarms of people calling taxis? I feel insignificant, lost, but exultant. With a soft shock we stop. I will let the others get before me. I will sit still one moment before I emerge into that chaos, that tumult. I will not anticipate what is to come. The huge uproar is in my ears. It sounds and resounds under this glass roof like the surge of a sea. We are cast down on the platform with our handbags. We are whirled asunder. My sense of self almost perishes; my contempt. I become drawn in, tossed down, thrown sky-high. I step on to the platform, grasping tightly all that I possess--one bag." - Virginia Woolf, nee Stephen, fully Adeline Virginia Woolf

"I have had direct experience of this myself. Often, what the press wrote, or did not write, about a remark I made somewhere proved to be of a far greater consequence than the remark itself. Democratic choice in such cases ceases to be a choice between alternatives people are familiar with, and have personally tried, and becomes a choice between alternatives offered by those who run the media." - Václav Havel

"There are no exact guidelines. There are probably no guidelines at all. The only thing I can recommend at this stage is a sense of humor, an ability to see things in their ridiculous and absurd dimensions, to laugh at others and at ourselves, a sense of irony regarding everything that calls out for parody in this world. In other words, I can only recommend perspective and distance. Awareness of all the most dangerous kinds of vanity, both in others and in ourselves. A good mind. A modest certainty about the meaning of things. Gratitude for the gift of life and the courage to take responsibility for it. Vigilance of spirit." - Václav Havel

"What makes the Anthropic Principle and the Gaia Hypothesis so inspiring? One simple thing: Both remind us, in modern language, of what we have long suspected, of what we have long projected into our forgotten myths and perhaps what has always lain dormant within us as archetypes. That is, the awareness of our being anchored in the earth and the universe, the awareness that we are not here alone nor for ourselves alone, but that we are an integral part of higher, mysterious entities against whom it is not advisable to blaspheme. This forgotten awareness is encoded in all religions. All cultures anticipate it in various forms. It is one of the things that form the basis of man's understanding of himself, of his place in the world, and ultimately of the world as such." - Václav Havel

"When a person tries to act in accordance with his conscience, when he tries to speak the truth, when he tries to behave like a citizen, even in conditions where citizenship is degraded, it won't necessarily lead anywhere, but it might. There's one thing, however, that will never lead anywhere, and that is speculating that such behavior will lead somewhere." - Václav Havel

"The discipline which corrects the baseness of worldly passions, fortifies the heart with virtuous principles, enlightens the mind with useful knowledge, and furnishes it with enjoyment from within itself, is of more consequence to real felicity, than all the provisions we can make of the goods of fortune." - Hugh Blair

"Though Milton is most distinguished for his sublimity, yet there is also much of the beautiful, the tender, and the pleasing in many parts of his work." - Hugh Blair