Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes


"A guilty conscience is the mother of invention. " - Carolyn Wells

"His eloquent tongue so well seconds his fertile invention that no one speaks better when suddenly called forth. His attention never languishes; his mind is always before his words; his memory has all its stock so turned into ready money that, without hesitation or delay, it supplies whatever the occasion may require." - Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, sometimes known as Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam

" Nothing, in truth, has such a tendency to weaken not only the powers of invention, but the intellectual powers in general, as a habit of extensive and various reading without reflection. The activity and force of mind are gradually impaired in consequence of disuse; and, not infrequently, all our principles and opinions come to be lost in the infinite multiplicity and discordancy of our acquired ideas." - Dugald Stewart

"An invention that is quickly accepted will turn out to be a rather trivial alteration of something that has already existed. " - Edwin Herbert Land

"Probably no invention came more easily to man than when he thought up heaven. " - Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

"The march of invention has clothed mankind with powers of which a century ago the boldest imagination could not have dreamt. " - Henry George

"It is often said that the invention of terrible weapons of destruction will put an end to war. That is an error. As the means of extermination are improved, the means of reducing men who hold the state conception of life to submission can be improved to correspond. They may slaughter them by thousands, by millions, they may tear them to pieces, still they will march to war like senseless cattle. Some will want beating to make them move, others will be proud to go if they are allowed to wear a scrap of ribbon or gold lace." - Leo Tolstoy, aka Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy or Tolstoi

"No feats of heroism are needed to achieve the greatest and most important changes in the existence of humanity; neither the armament of millions of soldiers, nor the construction of new roads and machines, nor the arrangement of exhibitions, nor the organization of workmen's unions, nor revolutions, nor barricades, nor explosions, nor the perfection of aerial navigation; but a change in public opinion. And to accomplish this change no exertions of the mind are needed, nor the refutation of anything in existence, nor the invention of any extraordinary novelty; it is only needful that we should not succumb to the erroneous, already defunct, public opinion of the past, which governments have induced artificially; it is only needful that each individual should say what he really feels or thinks, or at least that he should not say what he does not think." - Leo Tolstoy, aka Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy or Tolstoi

"The eye, which is called the window of the soul, is the principal means by which the central sense can most completely and abundantly appreciate the infinite works of nature; and the ear is the second, which acquires dignity by hearing of the things the eye has seen. If you, historians, or poets, or mathematicians had not seen things with your eyes you could not report of them in writing. And if you, O poet, tell a story with your pen, the painter with his brush can tell it more easily, with simpler completeness and less tedious to be understood. And if you call painting dumb poetry, the painter may call poetry blind painting. Now which is the worse defect? to be blind or dumb? Though the poet is as free as the painter in the invention of his fictions they are not so satisfactory to men as paintings; for, though poetry is able to describe forms, actions and places in words, the painter deals with the actual similitude of the forms, in order to represent them. Now tell me which is the nearer to the actual man: the name of man or the image of the man. The name of man differs in different countries, but his form is never changed but by death." - Leonardo da Vinci, fully Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci

" No religion ever appeared in the world whose natural tendency was so much directed to promote the peace and happiness of mankind. It makes right reason a law in every possible definition of the word. And therefore, even supposing it to have been purely a human invention, it had been the most amiable and the most useful invention that was ever imposed on mankind for their good." - Henry St John, Lord Bolingbroke, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke

"Nothing has changed the nature of man so much as the loss of silence. The invention of printing techniques, compulsory education - nothing has changed man so much as this lack of relationship with silence; this fact that silence is no longer taken for granted, as something as natural as the sky above or the air we breathe. Man who has lost silence has not merely lost human quality, but his whole structure has been changed thereby." - Max Picard

"But if it so happens ... a work ... under pain of otherwise becoming shameful or false, requires fantasy ... [and that] certain limbs or elements of a figure are altered by borrowing from other species, for example transforming into a dolphin the hinder end of a griffon or a stag ... these alterations will be excellent and the substitution, however unreal it may seem, deserves to be declared a fine invention in the genre of the monstrous. When a painter introduces into this kind of work of art chimerae and other imaginary beings in order to divert and entertain the senses and also to captivate the eyes of mortals who long to see unclassified and impossible things, he shows himself more respectful of reason than if he produced the usual figures of men or of animals." - Michelangelo, aka Michaelangelo Buonarroti, fully Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni NULL

"The market came with the dawn of civilization and it is not an invention of capitalism. If it leads to improving the well-being of the people there is no contradiction with socialism." - Mikhail Gorbachev, fully Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev

"Anachronistic as this labyrinthine mythology may appear to the foreign mind, many of India’s ancient theories about the universe are startlingly modern in scope and worthy of a people who are credited with the invention of the zero, as well as algebra and its application of astronomy and geometry; a people who so carefully observed the heavens that, in the opinion of Monier-Williams, they determined the moon’s synodical revolution much more correctly than the Greeks." - Nancy Wilson Ross

"One of the hardest conditions of boyhood is the almost continuous strain put upon the powers of invention by the constant and harassing necessity for explanations of every natural act." - Booth Tarkington, born Newton Booth Tarkington

"Within a few years a simple and inexpensive device, readily carried about, will enable one to receive on land or sea the principal news, to hear a speech, a lecture, a song or play of a musical instrument, conveyed from any other region of the globe. The invention will also meet the crying need for cheap transmission to great distances, more especially over the oceans. The small working capacity of the cables and the excessive cost of messages are now fatal impediments in the dissemination of intelligence which can only be removed by transmission without wires." - Nikola Tesla

"If the genius of invention were to reveal to-morrow the secret of immortality, of eternal beauty and youth, for which all humanity is aching, the same inexorable agents which prevent a mass from changing suddenly its velocity would likewise resist the force of the new knowledge until time gradually modifies human thought." - Nikola Tesla

"Technical invention is akin to architecture and the experts must in time come to the same conclusions I have reached long ago. Sooner or later my power system will have to be adopted in its entirety and so far as I am concerned it is as good as done." - Nikola Tesla

"The greatest value of my invention will result from its effect upon warfare and armaments, for by reason of its certain and unlimited destructiveness it will tend to bring about and maintain permanent peace among nations." - Nikola Tesla

"It is not a dream, it is a simple feat of scientific electrical engineering, only expensive — blind, faint-hearted, doubting world! [...] Humanity is not yet sufficiently advanced to be willingly led by the discoverer's keen searching sense. But who knows? Perhaps it is better in this present world of ours that a revolutionary idea or invention instead of being helped and patted, be hampered and ill-treated in its adolescence — by want of means, by selfish interest, pedantry, stupidity and ignorance; that it be attacked and stifled; that it pass through bitter trials and tribulations, through the strife of commercial existence. So do we get our light. So all that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combatted, suppressed — only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle. (Tesla at the end of his dream for Wardenclyffe)" - Nikola Tesla

"For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other. " - Paulo Freire

"The information revolution. Almost everybody is sure ...that it is proceeding with unprecedented speed; and ...that its effects will be more radical than anything that has gone before. Wrong, and wrong again. Both in its speed and its impact, the information revolution uncannily resembles its two predecessors ...The first industrial revolution, triggered by James Watt's improved steam engine in the mid-1770s...did not produce many social and economic changes until the invention of the railroad in 1829 ...Similarly, the invention of the computer in the mid-1940s, was not until 40 years later, with the spread of the Internet in the 1990s, that the information revolution began to bring about big economic and social changes. ...the same emergence of the “super-rich” of their day, characterized both the first and the second industrial revolutions. ...These parallels are close and striking enough to make it almost certain that, as in the earlier industrial revolutions, the main effects of the information revolution on the next society still lie ahead." - Peter F. Drucker, fully Peter Ferdinand Drucker

"Development of Western science is based on two great achievements: the invention of the formal logical system (in Euclidean geometry) by the Greek philosophers, and the discovery of the possibility to find out causal relationships by systematic experiment (during the Renaissance). In my opinion, one has not to be astonished that the Chinese sages have not made these steps. The astonishing thing is that these discoveries were made at all." - Albert Einstein

"Industry has operated against the artisan in favor of the idler, and also in favor of capital and against labor. Any mechanical invention whatsoever has been more harmful to humanity than a century of war." - Remy de Gourmont

"Reverence the highest; have patience with the lowest. Let this day’s performance of the meanest duty be thy religion." - Margaret Fuller, fully Sara Margaret Fuller, Marchese Ossoli

"The exactest vigilance and caution can never maintain a single day of unmingled innocence, much less can the utmost efforts of incorporated mind reach the summits of speculative virtue." - Samuel Johnson, aka Doctor Johnson

"He who does not realize to what extent shifting fortune and necessity hold in subjection every human spirit, cannot regard as fellow-creatures nor love as he loves himself those whom chance separated from him by an abyss. The variety of constraints pressing upon man give rise to the illusion of several distinct species that cannot communicate. Only he who has measured the dominion of force, and knows how not to respect it, is capable of love and justice." - Simone Weil

"If anyone has put his trust in him as a man without a human mind, he is wholly bereft of mind, and quite unworthy of salvation. For that which he has not assumed he has not healed; but that which is united to his Godhead is also saved." - Gregory Nazianzen, aka Saint Gregory of Nazianzus or Gregory the Theologian

"I am not unmindful of the journalist's quip that yesterday's paper wraps today's garbage. I am also not unmindful of the outrages visited upon our forests to publish redundant and incoherent collections of essays; for, like Dr. Seuss' Lorax, I like to think that I speak for the trees. Beyond vanity, my only excuses for a collection of these essays lie in the observation that many people like (and as many people despise) them, and that they seem to cohere about a common theme—Darwin's evolutionary perspective as an antidote to our cosmic arrogance." - Stephan Jay Gould

"Independent derivation meshed beautifully with the triumph, from the 1930's on, of a strict version of Darwinism based on the near ubiquity of adaptive design built by natural selection... Arthropods and vertebrates do share several features of functional design. But those similarities only reflect the power of natural selection to craft optimal structures independently in a world of limited biomechanical solutions to common functional problems - an evolutionary phenomenon called convergence." - Stephan Jay Gould

"The dialectic cannot stop short before the concepts of health and sickness, nor indeed before their siblings reason and unreason." - Theodor W. Adorno, born Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund

"Ask the poetry of sentimentalism ... this is not it. Radiant words, words of light ... with a rhythm and music, that's what it is poetry." - Théophile Gautier, fully Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier, aka Le Bon Theo

"The most part are too busy in getting food, and the rest too negligent to understand." - Thomas Hobbes

"Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short." - Thomas Hobbes

"When a body is once in motion, it moveth, unless something else hinder it, eternally; and whatsoever hindereth it cannot in an instant, but in time and by degrees, quite extinguish it; and, as we see in the water though the wind cease the waves give not over rolling for a long time after: so also it happeneth in that motion which is made in the internal parts of a man, then, when he sees, dreams, etc. For, after the object is removed, or the eye shut, we still retain an image of the thing seen, though more obscure than when we see it. And this is it the Latins call ‘imagination,’ from the image made in seeing; and apply the same, though improperly, to all the other senses. But the Greeks call it ‘fancy,’ which signifies ‘appearance,’ and is as proper to one sense as to another. ‘Imagination,’ therefore, is nothing but ‘decaying sense,’ and is found in men, and many other living creatures, as well sleeping as waking." - Thomas Hobbes

"Where every man is a sharer in the direction of his ward-republic, or of some of the higher ones, and feels that he is a participator in the government of affairs, not merely at an election one day in the year, but every day; when there shall not be a man in the State who will not be a member of some one of its councils, great or small, he will let the heart be torn out of his body sooner than his power be wrested from him by a Caesar or a Bonaparte." - Thomas Jefferson

"The Ladies Buddenbrook from Breite Strasse did not weep, however - it was not their custom. Their faces, a little less caustic than usual at least, expressed a gentle satisfaction at death's impartiality." - Thomas Mann, fully Paul Thomas Mann

"But when the country, into which I had just set my foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir." - Thomas Paine

"Government ought to be as much open to improvement as anything which appertains to man, instead of which it has been monopolized from age to age, by the most ignorant and vicious of the human race. Need we any other proof of their wretched management, than the excess of debts and taxes with which every nation groans, and the quarrels into which they have precipitated the world?" - Thomas Paine

"One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings is, that Nature disapproves it; otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass in place of a lion." - Thomas Paine

"There are a set of men who go about making purchases upon credit, and buying estates they have not wherewithal to pay for; and having done this, their next step is to fill the newspapers with paragraphs of the scarcity of money and the necessity of a paper emission, then to have a legal tender under the pretense of supporting its credit, and when out, to depreciate it as fast as they can, get a deal of it for a little price, and cheat their creditors; and this is the concise history of paper money schemes." - Thomas Paine

"What are the present governments of Europe, but a scene of iniquity and oppression? What is that of England? Do not its own inhabitants say, It is a market where every man has his price, and where corruption is common traffic, at the expense of a deluded people? No wonder, then, that the French Revolution is traduced." - Thomas Paine

"The essential character of Neo-Platonism comes out in its theory of the mystical exaltation of the subject to God. It is the extremity of subjectivism, the forcing of the individual subject to the centre of the universe, to the position of the Absolute Being. And it follows naturally upon the heels of Scepticism. In the Sceptics all faith in the power of thought and reason had finally died out. They {377} took as their watchword the utter impotence of reason to reach the truth. From this it was but a step to the position that, if we cannot attain truth by the natural means of thought, we will do so by a miracle. If ordinary consciousness will not suffice, we will pass beyond ordinary consciousness altogether. Neo-Platonism is founded upon despair, the despair of reason. It is the last frantic struggle of the Greek spirit to reach, by desperate means, by force, the point which it felt it had failed to reach by reason. It seeks to take the Absolute by storm. It feels that where sobriety has failed, the violence of spiritual intoxication may succeed. It was natural that philosophy should end here. For philosophy is founded upon reason. It is the effort to comprehend, to understand, to grasp the reality of things intellectually. Therefore it cannot admit anything higher than reason. To exalt intuition, ecstasy, or rapture, above thought--this is death to philosophy. Philosophy in making such an admission, lets out its own life-blood, which is thought. In Neo-Platonism, therefore, ancient philosophy commits suicide. This is the end. The place of philosophy is taken henceforth by religion. Christianity triumphs, and sweeps away all independent thought from its path. There is no more philosophy now till a new spirit of enquiry and wonder is breathed into man at the Renaissance and the Reformation. Then the new era begins, and gives birth to a new philosophic impulse, under the influence of which we are still living. But to reach that new era of philosophy, the human spirit had first to pass through the arid wastes of Scholasticism." - W. T. Stace, fully Walter Terence Stace

"Just as life begins at any moment, through an act of realization, so the work. But each beginning, whether of book page, paragraph, sentence or phrase, marks a vital connection, and it is in the vitality, the durability, the timelessness and changelessness of the thoughts and events that I plunge anew each time. Every line and word is vitally connected with my life, my life only, be it in the form of deed, event, fact, thought, emotion, desire, evasion, frustration, dream, revery, vagary, even the unfinished nothings which float listlessly in the brain like the snapped filaments of a spider’s web. There is nothing really vague or tenuous — even the nothingnessses are sharp, tough, definite, durable. Like the spider I return again and again to the task, conscious that the web I am spinning is made of my own substance, that it will never fail me, never run dry." - Henry Miller, aka Henry Valentine Miller

"Is this a holy thing to see in a rich and fruitful land, babes reduced to misery, fed with cold and usurious hand?" - William Blake

"Behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face." - William Cowper

"When the British warrior queen, bleeding from the Roman rods, sought, with an indignant mien, counsel of her country's gods." - William Cowper

"Fantasy and reality often overlap." - Walt Disney, fully Walter Elias "Walt" Disney

"Maybe it is yourself now really ushering me to the true songs, (who knows?), maybe it is you the mortal knob really undoing, turning—so now finally, good-bye—and hail! my Fancy." - Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman

"Writing and print and the computer are all ways of technologizing the word. Once the word is technologized, there is no effective way to criticize what technology has done with it without the aid of the highest technology available. Moreover, the new technology is not merely used to convey the critique: in fact, it brought the critique into existence." - Walter J. Ong, fully Walter Jackson Ong