Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Literature

"One man finds in religion his literature and his science, another finds in it his joy and his duty." - Joseph Joubert

"Acquire good physique and mental robustness which comes from fresh air, sound and plain food, constant and compelling attention to waste matter, proper and peaceful sleep, and concentration on true religion, ethics, art and literature." - Lord Fisher, aka Lord John Arbutnoth Fisher, fully Admiral of the Fleet John Arbuthnot "Jacky" Fisher, 1st Baron Fisher of Kilverstone

"Our civilization has been founded on the notion of criticism: there is nothing sacred or untouchable except the freedom to think. Without criticism, that is to say, without rigor and experimentation, there is no science; without criticism there is no art or literature. I would also say that without criticism there is no healthy society." - Octavio Paz, born Octavio Paz Lozano

"Proverbs are the literature of reason, or the statements of absolute truth, without qualification. Like the sacred books of each nation, they are the sanctuary of its intuitions." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"What we do get in life and miss so often in literature is the sentence sounds that underlie the words. Words in themselves do not convey meaning." - Robert Frost

"There is first the literature of knowledge, and secondly, the literature of power. The function of the first is to teach; the function of the second is to move; the first is a rudder, the second an oar or sail. The first speaks to the ere discursive understanding; the second speaks ultimately, it may happen, to the higher understanding or reason, but always through affections of pleasure and sympathy." - Thomas De Quincey, fully Thomas Penson De Quincey

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

"But there is no doubt that to attempt a novel of ideas is to give oneself a handicap: the parochialism of our culture is intense. For instance, decade after decade bright young men and women emerge from their universities able to say proudly: 'Of course I know nothing about German literature.' It is the mode. The Victorians knew everything about German literature, but were able with a clear conscience not to know much about the French." - Doris Lessing, fully Doris May Lessing, born Doris May Tayler

"We have a literacy rate above 90 percent of the population. We have radio, television, movies, a newspaper a day for everybody. But instead of giving us the best of past and present literature and music, these media of communication, supplemented by advertising, fill the minds of men with the cheapest trash, lacking in any sense of reality, with sadistic phantasies which a halfway cultured person would be embarrassed to entertain even once in a while. But while the mind of everybody, young and old, is thus poisoned, we go on blissfully to see to it that no "immorality" occurs on the screen. " - Erich Fromm, fully Erich Seligmann Fromm

"The two World Wars came in part, like much modern literature and art, because men, whose nature is to tire of everything in turn... tired of common sense and civilization. " - F. L. Lucas, fully Frank Laurence "F. L." Lucas

"It is unlikely that many of us will be famous, or even remembered. But not less important than the brilliant few that lead a nation or a literature to fresh achievements, are the unknown many whose patient efforts keep the world from running backward; who guard and maintain the ancient values, even if they do not conquer new; whose inconspicuous triumph it is to pass on what they inherited from their fathers, unimpaired and undiminished, to their sons. Enough, for almost all of us, if we can hand on the torch, and not let it down; content to win the affection, if it may be, of a few who know us and to be forgotten when they in their turn have vanished. The destiny of mankind is not governed wholly by its “stars." " - F. L. Lucas, fully Frank Laurence "F. L." Lucas

"Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates in all future periods of this commonwealth to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them, especially the university at Cambridge, public schools, and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings, sincerity, good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people. " - John Adams

"Woe be unto him who tries to isolate one department of knowledge from the rest. All science is one. Language, literature and history, physics, math and philosophy - subjects which seem the most remote from one another - are in reality connected, or rather they all form a single system. " - Jules Michelet

"Malaise is a consequence of the depersonalization and permanent insecurity of modern life. Yet it has never been felt among people so strongly as in the past few decades. The inchoate protest, the sense of disenchantment, and the vague complaints and forebodings that are already perceptible in late nineteenth century art and literature have been diffused into general consciousness. There they function as a kind of vulgarized romanticism, a Weltschmerz in perpetuum, a sickly sense of disturbance that is subterranean but explosive. The intermittent and unexpected acts of violence on the part of the individual and the similar acts of violence to which whole nations can be brought are indices of this underground torment. Vaguely sensing that something has gone astray in modern life but also strongly convinced that he lacks the power to right whatever is wrong (even if it were possible to discover what is wrong), the individual lives in a sort of eternal adolescent uneasiness." - Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman

"At one time, a freethinker was a man who had been brought up in the conceptions of religion, law and morality, who reached freethought only after conflict and difficulty. But now a new type of born freethinkers has appeared, who grow up without so much as hearing that there used to be laws of morality, or religion, that authorities existed... In the old days, you see, if a man - a Frenchman, for instance- wished to get an education, he would have set to work to study the classics, the theologians, the tragedians, historians and philosophers- and you can realize all the intellectual labour involved. But nowadays he goes straight for the literature of negation, rapidly assimilates the essence of the science of negation, and thinks he's finished." - Leo Tolstoy, aka Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy or Tolstoi

"While in the West the insane are so many that they are put in an asylum, in China the insane are so unusual that we worship them, as anybody who has a knowledge of Chinese literature will testify." - Lin Yutang

"Any historian of the literature of the modern age will take virtually for granted the adversary intention, the actually subversive intention, that characterizes modern writing -- he will perceive its clear purpose of detaching the reader from the habits of thought and feeling that the larger culture imposes, of giving him a ground and a vantage point from which to judge and condemn, and perhaps revise, the culture that produces him." - Lionel Trilling

"The world's literature and folklore are full of stories that point out how futile it can be to seek happiness. Rather, happiness is a blessing that comes to you as you go along; a treasure that you incidentally find." - Louis Binstock

"The writer’s job is to write with rigor, with commitment, to defend what they believe with all the talent they have. I think that’s part of the moral obligation of a writer, which cannot be only purely artistic. I think a writer has some kind of responsibility at least to participate in the civic debate. I think literature is impoverished, if it becomes cut from the main agenda of people, of society, of life." - Mario Vargas Llosa, fully Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa, 1st Marquis of Vargas Llosa

"From the cave to the skyscraper, from the club to weapons of mass destruction, from the tautological life of the tribe to the era of globalization, the fictions of literature have multiplied human experiences, preventing us from succumbing to lethargy, self-absorption, resignation. Nothing has sown so much disquiet, so disturbed our imagination and our desires as the life of lies we add, thanks to literature, to the one we have, so we can be protagonists in the great adventures, the great passions real life will never give us. The lies of literature become truths through us, the readers transformed, infected with longings and, through the fault of fiction, permanently questioning a mediocre reality. Sorcery, when literature offers us the hope of having what we do not have, being what we are not, acceding to that impossible existence where like pagan gods we feel mortal and eternal at the same time, that introduces into our spirits non-conformity and rebellion, which are behind all the heroic deeds that have contributed to the reduction of violence in human relationships. Reducing violence, not ending it. Because ours will always be, fortunately, an unfinished story. That is why we have to continue dreaming, reading, and writing, the most effective way we have found to alleviate our mortal condition, to defeat the corrosion of time, and to transform the impossible into possibility." - Mario Vargas Llosa, fully Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa, 1st Marquis of Vargas Llosa

"The literature of the world has exerted its power by being translated." - Mark Van Doren

"The appearance in nineteenth-century psychiatry, jurisprudence, and literature of a whole series of discourses on the species and subspecies of homosexuality, inversion, pederasty, and "psychic hermaphroditism" made possible a strong advance of social controls into this area of "perversity"; but it also made possible the formation of a "reverse" discourse: homosexuality began to speak in its own behalf, to demand that its legitimacy or "naturality" be acknowledged, often in the same vocabulary, using the same categories by which it was medically disqualified." - Michel Foucault

"It is beyond my power to induce in you a belief in God. There are certain things which are self proved and certain which are not proved at all. The existence of God is like a geometrical axiom. It may be beyond our heart grasp. I shall not talk of an intellectual grasp. Intellectual attempts are more or less failures, as a rational explanation cannot give you the faith in a living God. For it is a thing beyond the grasp of reason. It transcends reason. There are numerous phenomena from which you can reason out the existence of God, but I shall not insult your intelligence by offering you a rational explanation of that type. I would have you brush aside all rational explanations and begin with a simple childlike faith in God. If I exist, God exists. With me it is a necessity of my being as it is with millions. They may not be able to talk about it, but from their life you can see that it is a part of their life. I am only asking you to restore the belief that has been undermined. In order to do so, you have to unlearn a lot of literature that dazzles your intelligence and throws you off your feet. Start with the faith which is also a token of humility and an admission that we know nothing, that we are less than atoms in this universe. We are less than atoms, I say, because the atom obeys the law of its being, whereas we in the insolence of our ignorance deny the law of nature. But I have no argument to address to those who have no faith." - Mahatma Gandhi, fully Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, aka Bapu

"In thus pointing out certain respects in which philosophy resembles literature more than science, I do not mean, of course, to imply that it would be well for philosophy if it ceased to aim at scientific rigor." - Morris Raphael Cohen

"Imaginative literature primarily pleases rather than teaches. It is much easier to be pleased than taught, but much harder to know why one is pleased. Beauty is harder to analyze than truth." - Mortimer J. Adler, fully Mortimer Jerome Adler

"Hinduism – not only in philosophy and literature but also in art – has the capacity for immense conceptions, profound an subtle apprehensions, that can entice the imagination and stun the mind with their depth, range and boldness. The many masks of the many gods, their various appearances and incarnations, have been employed to suggest the infinitely possible variations of one supreme essence. In seeking to give expression to that almost inexpressible idea of a unity which admits also of polarities, a “union beyond the opposites,” Hinduism created such arresting icons as the divine two-in-one embrace of Shiva and Shakti; or Shiva alone, half male, half female, or the two-sided figure of Hari-Hara, an expression of the seemingly “opposite” creative-destructive forces of Vishnu and Shiva embodied in one being. " - Nancy Wilson Ross

"Creationists sometimes claim that scientists have a vested interest in the concept of biological evolution and are unwilling to consider other possibilities. But this claim, too, misrepresents science. Scientists continually test their ideas against observations and submit their work to their colleagues for critical peer review of ideas, evidence, and conclusions before a scientific paper is published in any respected scientific journal. Unexplained observations are eagerly pursued because they can be signs of important new science or problems with an existing hypothesis or theory. History is replete with scientists challenging accepted theory by offering new evidence and more comprehensive explanations to account for natural phenomena. Also, science has a competitive element as well as a cooperative one. If one scientist clings to particular ideas despite evidence to the contrary, another scientist will attempt to replicate relevant experiments and will not hesitate to publish conflicting evidence. If there were serious problems in evolutionary science, many scientists would be eager to win fame by being the first to provide a better testable alternative. That there are no viable alternatives to evolution in the scientific literature is not because of vested interests or censorship but because evolution has been and continues to be solidly supported by evidence." - National Academy of Sciences NULL

"In the art of literature there are two contending parties. Those who aim to tell stories that are more or less well thought out, and those who aim at beautiful language, beauty of form. This contest may last a very long time; each side has a fifty-fifty chance. Only the poet can rightfully demand that verse be beautiful and nothing but." - Paul Gaugin, fully Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin

"It is vain to try to sacrifice once for all one's youthful ideals. When a man has loved literature as I loved it at twenty, he cannot be satisfied at twenty-six to give up his early passion, even at the bidding of implacable necessity." - Paul Bourget, fully Paul Charles Joseph Bourget

"Ideas are to literature what light is to painting." - Paul Bourget, fully Paul Charles Joseph Bourget

"Deductivism in mathematical literature and inductivism in scientific papers are simply the postures we choose to be seen in when the curtain goes up and the public sees us. The theatrical illusion is shattered if we ask what goes on behind the scenes. In real life discovery and justification are almost always different processes. " - Peter Medawar, fully Sir Peter Brian Medawar

"Whatever the reason, for most of the present century, the literature and publicity of the old established [animal welfare] groups made a significant contribution to the prevailing attitude that dogs and cats and wild animals need protection, but other animals do not. Thus people came to think of "animal welfare" as something for kindly ladies who are dotty about cats, and not as a cause founded on basic principles of justice and morality. " - Peter Singer

"People who think they can control their negative emotions and manifest them when they want to, simply deceive themselves. Negative emotions depend on identification; if identification is destroyed in some particular case, they disappear. The strangest and most fantastic fact about negative emotions is that people actually worship them. I think that, for an ordinary mechanical man, the most difficult thing to realize is that his own and other people's negative emotions, have no value whatever and do not contain anything noble, anything beautiful or anything strong. In reality negative emotions contain nothing but weakness and very often the beginning of hysteria, insanity or crime. The only good thing about them is that, being quite useless and artificially created by imagination and identification, they can be destroyed without any loss. And this is the only chance of escape that man has. Philosophy is based on speculation, on logic, on thought, on the synthesis of what we know and on the analysis of what we do not know. Philosophy must include within its confines the whole content of science, religion and art. But where can such a philosophy be found? All that we know in our times by the name of philosophy is not philosophy, but merely critical literature or the expression of personal opinions, mainly with the aim of overthrowing and destroying other personal opinions. Or, which is still worse, philosophy is nothing but self-satisfied dialectic surrounding itself with an impenetrable barrier of terminology unintelligible to the uninitiated and solving for itself all the problems of the universe without any possibility of proving these explanations or making them intelligible to ordinary mortals. " - P.D. Ouspensky, fully Peter Demianovich Ouspensky, also Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii, also Uspenskii or Uspensky

"To be a Jew is to belong to an old harmless race that has lived in every country in the world; and that has enriched every country it has lived in. It is to be strong with a strength that has outlived persecutions. It is to be wise against ignorance, honest against piracy, harmless against evil, industrious against idleness, kind against cruelty! It is to belong to a race that has given Europe its religion; its moral law; and much of its science-perhaps even more of its genius-in art, literature and music. This is to be a Jew; and you know now what is required of you! You have no country but the world; and you inherit nothing but wisdom and brotherhood. " - Phyllis Bottome, aka Phyllis Forbes Dennis (married name)

"For we soon reap the fruits of literature in life, and prolonged indulgence in any form of literature in life leaves its mark on the moral nature of man, affecting not only the mind but physical poise and intonation. " - Plato NULL

"The word generalization in literature usually means covering too much territory too thinly to be persuasive, let alone convincing. In science, however, a generalization means a principle that has been found to hold true in every special case... The principle of leverage is a scientific generalization." - Buckminster Fuller, fully Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller

"The aim of science is to discover and illuminate truth. And that, I take it, is the aim of literature, whether biography or history or fiction. It seems to me, then, that there can be no separate literature of science." - Rachel Carson, fully Rachel Louise Carson

"I am a novelist, not an activist... But I think that no one who reads what I write or who listens to my lectures can doubt that I am enlisted in the freedom movement. As an individual, I am primarily responsible for the health of American literature and culture. When I write, I am trying to make sense out of chaos. To think that a writer must think about his Negroness is to fall into a trap." - Ralph Ellison, fully Ralph Waldo Ellison

"Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it's the history of ideas, the history of our civilization birthing itself. ...Science fiction is central to everything we've ever done, and people who make fun of science fiction writers don't know what they're talking about." - Ray Bradbury, fully Ray Douglas Bradbury

"An age which is incapable of poetry is incapable of any kind of literature except the cleverness of a decadence." - Raymond Chandler, fully Raymond Thornton Chandler

"It's an absurd error to put modern English literature in the curriculum. You should read contemporary literature for pleasure or not at all. You shouldn't be taught to monkey with it." - Rebecca West, pen name of Mrs. Cicily Maxwell Andrews, born Fairfield, aka Dame Rebecca West

"Theories are more common than achievements in the history of education." - Richard Livingstone, fully Sir RIchard Winn Livingstone

"I doubt that religion can survive deep understanding. The shallows are its natural habitat. Cranks and fundamentalists are too often victimized as scapegoats for religion in general. It is only quite recently that Christianity reinvented itself in non-fundamentalist guise, and Islam has yet to do so (see Ibn Warraq's excellent book, Why I am not a Muslim). Moonies and scientologists get a bad press, but they just haven't been around as long as the accepted religions. Theology is a respectable discipline when it studies such subjects as moral philosophy, the psychology of religious belief and, above all, biblical history and literature. Like Bertie Wooster, my knowledge of the Bible is above average. I seem to know Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon almost by heart. I think that the Bible as literature should be a compulsory part of the national curriculum - you can't understand English literature and culture without it. But insofar as theology studies the nature of the divine, it will earn the right to be taken seriously when it provides the slightest, smallest smidgen of a reason for believing in the existence of the divine. Meanwhile, we should devote as much time to studying serious theology as we devote to studying serious fairies and serious unicorns." - Richard Dawkins

"Don't ask to live in tranquil times. Literature doesn't grow there." - Rita Mae Brown

"Never measure literature by accounting statistics. A quarter of working authors earn less than $1,000." - Rita Mae Brown

"Great literature must spring from an upheaval in the author's soul. If that upheaval is not present then it must come from the works of any other author which happens to be handy and easily adapted." - Robert Benchley, fully Robert Charles Benchley

"The naturalistic literature of this country has reached such a state that no family of characters is considered true to life which does not include at least two hypochondriacs, one sadist, and one old man who spills food down the front of his vest." - Robert Benchley, fully Robert Charles Benchley

"God created one human being, who was male and female. That means ultimately all of us are interconnected. That there is one God means we are all connected. Individual well-being depends on the greater well-being of everyone. There is no separation. This is a call for inclusion. Jews see it as including the weaker, the marginal, the orphans, the stranger. We were slaves in Egypt. Our task is not to replicate Egyptian power. We are free so we can operate differently, and not replicate slavery. Judaism is a complex, ongoing civilization, in which there is more than one view. Judaism is a religion of interpretation. We believe interpretation is part of the unfolding of creation and Divine creativity. Our interpretive tradition draws a connection between spirituality and social justice." - Sheila Peltz Weinberg

"In the age of television, image becomes more important than substance." - S. I. Hayakawa, fully Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa