Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes


"Those for whom the belief in immortality is most vivid are the most likely to practice the virtues which have a survival value and the least likely to deviate into either those virtues or those vices which are exclusively human." - Joseph Wood Krutch

"[Peter’s Survival Principle] Lead, follow, or get out of the way." - Laurence J. Peter, fully Laurence Johnston Peter

"We need science, more and better science, not for its technology, not for leisure, not even for health and longevity, but for the hope of wisdom which our kind of culture must acquire for its survival." - Lewis Thomas

"I no longer cared about survival - I merely loved." - Loren Eiseley

"The greatest threats to human survival will not be natural ones, but originate from inside ourselves.. For our ancestors, understanding themselves better was a pleasant luxury. But nowadays learning to control the mind may have become a greater priority for survival than seeking any further advantages the hard sciences could bring." - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, native form is Csíkszentmihályi Mihály

"Of all the virtues we can learn no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge." - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, native form is Csíkszentmihályi Mihály

"Evolution is the result of competition between organisms for the energy required for survival... If there is any meaning to the past, it is to be found in the increase in the complexity of material structures and information over time" - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, native form is Csíkszentmihályi Mihály

"In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than just ideals to be valued - they may be essential to survival." - Noam Chomsky, fully Avram Noam Chomsky

"Fortunately or otherwise we live at a time when the average individual has to know several times as much in order to keep informed as he did only thirty or forty years ago. Being "educated" today requires not only more than a superficial knowledge of the arts and sciences, but a sense of interrelationship such as is taught in few schools. Finally, being "educated" today, in terms of the larger needs, means preparation for world citizenship; in short, education for survival." - Norman Cousins

"There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning." - Thornton Wilder, fully Thornton Niven Wilder

"Learning is not compulsory. Neither is survival." - W. Edwards Deming, fully William Edwards Deming

"To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival. But when nothing is valued for what it is, everything is destined to be wasted. Once the values of things refer only to their future usefulness, then an infinite withdrawal of value from the living present has begun. Nothing (and nobody) can then exist that is not theoretically replaceable by something (or somebody) more valuable. The country that we (or some of us) had thought to make our home becomes instead 'a nation rich in natural resources'; the good bounty of the land begins its mechanical metamorphosis into junk, garbage, silt, poison, and other forms of 'waste.' "The inevitable result of such an economy is that no farm or any other usable property can safely be regarded by anyone as a home, no home is ultimately worthy of our loyalty, nothing is ultimately worth doing, and no place or task or person is worth a lifetime's devotion. 'Waste,' in such an economy, must eventually include several categories of humans--the unborn, the old, 'disinvested' farmers, the unemployed, the 'unemployable.' Indeed, once our homeland, our source, is regarded as a resource, we are all sliding downward toward the ash-heap or the dump." - Wendell Berry

"Simplicity deepens life. It magnifies the simple virtues on which man’s survival depends: humility, faith, courage, serenity, honesty, patience, justice, tolerance, thrift. Simplicity is the arrow of the spirit." - Wilferd Peterson, fully Wilferd Arlan Peterson

"Learning - learning - learning: that is the secret of Jewish survival." - Ahad HaAm, pen name, born Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg

"Brotherhood is the very price and condition of man's survival." - Carlos Peña Rómulo

"Universal responsibility is the real key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world peace, the equitable use of natural resources, and through concern for future generations, the proper care of the environment." -

"Selfishness can be a virtue. Selfishness is essential to survival, and without survival we cannot protect those whom we love more than ourselves." - Duke Ellington, fully Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington

"Optimism is an alienated form of faith, pessimism an alienated form of despair. If one truly responds to man and his future, ie, concernedly and "responsibly." one can respond only by faith or by despair. Rational faith as well as rational despair are based on the most thorough, critical knowledge of all the factors that are relevant for the survival of man." - Erich Fromm, fully Erich Seligmann Fromm

"For the first time in history the physical survival of the human race depends on a radical change of the human heart. " - Erich Fromm, fully Erich Seligmann Fromm

"Self-interest is but the survival of the animal in us. Humanity only begins for man with self-surrender. " - Henri Frédéric Amiel

"No peace among the nations without peace among the religions; No peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions; No dialogue between the religions without global ethical standards; and no survival of our globe without a global ethic." - Hans Küng

"It cannot but happen that those individuals whose functions are most out of equilibrium with the modified aggregate of external forces, will be those to die; and that those will survive whose functions happen to be most nearly in equilibrium with the modified aggregate of external forces. But this survival of the fittest, implies multiplication of the fittest. Out of the fittest thus multiplied, there will, as before, be an overthrowing of the moving equilibrium wherever it presents the least opposing force to the new incident force." - Herbert Spencer

"The road to the future leads us smack into the wall. We simply ricochet off the alternatives that destiny offers. Our survival is no more than a question of 25, 50 or perhaps 100 years. " - Jacques Cousteau, formally Hacques-Yves Cousteau, known as 'le Commandant Cousteau' or 'Captain Cousteau'

"Traditional autocrats leave in place existing allocations of wealth, power, status, and other re- sources which in most traditional societies favor an affluent few and maintain masses in poverty. But they worship traditional gods and observe traditional taboos. They do not disturb the habitual rhythms of work and leisure, habitual places of residence, habitual patterns of family and personal relations. Because the miseries of traditional life are familiar, they are bearable to ordinary people who, growing up in the society, learn to cope, as children born to untouchables in India acquire the skills and attitudes necessary for survival in the miserable roles they are destined to fill." - Jeane Kirkpatrick

"I consider that this shift [to an emphasis on our “capacity to identify with the larger collective of all beings” ] is essential to our survival at this point in history precisely because it can serve in lieu of morality and because moralising is ineffective. Sermons seldom hinder us from pursuing our self-interest, so we need to be a little more enlightened about what our self-interest is. It would not occur to me, for example, to exhort you to refrain from cutting off your leg. That wouldn’t occur to me or to you, because your leg is part of you. Well, so are the trees in the Amazon Basin; they are our external lungs. We are just beginning to wake up to that. We are gradually discovering that we are our world." - Joanna Macy, fully Joanna Rogers Macy

"Life is an error-making and an error-correcting process, and nature in marking man's papers will grade him for wisdom as measured both by survival and by the quality of life of those who survive." - Jonas Salk

"Death is not an event of life. Death is not lived through. If by eternity is understood not endless temporal duration but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present. Our life is endless in the way that our visual field is without limit. The temporal immortality of the human soul, that is to say, its eternal survival after death, is not only in no way guaranteed, but this assumption in the first place will not do so for us what we always tried to make it do. Is a riddle solved by the fact that I survive forever? Is this eternal life not as enigmatic as our present one? The solution of the riddle of life in space and time lies outside space and time." - Ludwig Wittgenstein, fully Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein

"One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

"But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. The large house in which we live demands that we transform this world-wide neighborhood into a world – wide brotherhood. Together we must learn to live as brothers or together we will be forced to perish as fools. We must work passionately and indefatigably to bridge the gulf between our scientific progress and our moral progress. One of the great problems of mankind is that we suffer from a poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Darwin broke with a fundamental dogma of Christianity–that God created man in his own image. At the same time he struck at metaphysical concepts of evolution, as they had prevailed from Aristotle to Hegel. He conceived of evolution as a blind sequence of events, in which survival depends upon adaptation to the conditions of life, rather than as the unfolding of organic entities in accordance with their entelechies. Thus his name has come to represent the idea of man’s domination of nature in terms of common sense. One may even go so far as to say that the concept of the survival of the fittest is merely the translation of the concepts of formalized reason into the vernacular of natural history. In popular Darwinism, reason is purely an organ; spirit or mind, a thing of nature. According to a current interpretation of Darwin, the struggle for life must necessarily, step by step, through natural selection, produce the reasonable out of the unreasonable. In other words, reason, while serving the function of dominating nature, is whittled down to being a part of nature; it is not an independent faculty but something organic, like tentacles or hands, developed through adaptation to natural conditions and surviving because it proves to be an adequate means of mastering them, especially in relation to acquiring food and averting danger. As a part of nature, reason is at the same time set against nature–the competitor and enemy of all life that is not its own." - Max Horkheimer

"It is evident, on the basis of our considerations, that this appearance of success cannot in the least be regarded as a sign of truth and correspondence with nature. Quite the contrary, suspicion arises that the absence of major difficulties is a result of the decrease of empirical content brought about by the elimination of alternatives, and of facts that can be discovered with their help. In other words, the suspicion arises that this alleged success is due to the fact that the theory, when extended beyond its starting point, was turned into rigid ideology. Such Ideology is "successful" not because it agrees so well with the facts; it is successful because no facts have been specified that could constitute a test, and because some such facts have been removed. Its "success" is entirely man-made. It was decided to stick to some ideas, come what may, and the result was, quite naturally, the survival of these ideas. If now the initial decision is forgotten, or made only implicitly, for example, if it becomes common law in physics, then the survival itself will seem to constitute independent support., it will reinforce the decision, or turn it into an explicate one, and in this way close the circle. This is how empirical "evidence" may be created by a procedure which quotes as its justification the very same evidence it has produced." - Paul Feyerabend, fully Paul Karl Feyerabend

"Our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family. Most of us would give our own life for the survival of a family member, yet we lead our daily life too often as if we take our family for granted." - Paul Pearsall

"During periods of discontinuous, abrupt change, the essence of adaptation involves a keen sensitivity to what should be abandoned - not what should be changed or introduced. A willingness to depart from the familiar has distinct survival value." - Peter F. Drucker, fully Peter Ferdinand Drucker

"The success and ultimately the survival of every business, large or small, depends in the last analysis on its ability to develop people. This ability is not measured by any of our conventional yardsticks of economic success; yet, is the final measurement." - Peter F. Drucker, fully Peter Ferdinand Drucker

"Through learning we re-perceive the world and our relationship to it... This then, is the basic meaning of a learning organization -an organization that is continuously expanding its capacity to create its future. Survival learning or what is more often called adaptive learning is important - indeed it is necessary. But for a learning organization, adaptive learning must be joined by generative learning, learning that enhances our capacity to create." - Peter Senge, fully Peter Michael Senge

"All the particular moral judgments we intuitively make are likely to derive from discarded religious systems, from warped views of sex and bodily functions, or from customs necessary for the survival of the group in social and economic circumstances that now lie in the distant past." - Peter Singer

"Then, in the 1980's, came the paroxysm of downsizing, and the very nature of the corporation was thrown into doubt. In what began almost as a fad and quickly matured into an unshakable habit, companies were 'restructuring,' 'reengineering,' and generally cutting as many jobs as possible, white collar as well as blue . . . The New York Times captured the new corporate order succinctly in 1987, reporting that it 'eschews loyalty to workers, products, corporate structures, businesses, factories, communities, even the nation. All such allegiances are viewed as expendable under the new rules. With survival at stake, only market leadership, strong profits and a high stock price can be allowed to matter'. " - Barbara Ehrenreich, born Barbara Alexander

"A new, self-employed architect scientist is the one in all the world who may accelerate realization of a high-standard survival for all, as now completely practical within the scope of available technology. " - Buckminster Fuller, fully Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller

"Every child has an enormous drive to demonstrate competence. If humans are not required to earn a living to be provided survival needs, many are going to want very much to be productive, but not at those tasks they did not choose to do but were forced to accept in order to earn money. Instead, humans will spontaneously take upon themselves those tasks that world society really needs to have done." - Buckminster Fuller, fully Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller

"I was convinced in 1927 that humanity's most fundamental survival problems could never be solved by politics." - Buckminster Fuller, fully Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller

"The youth of humanity all around our planet are intuitively revolting from all sovereignties and political ideologies. The youth of Earth are moving intuitively toward an utterly classless, raceless, omnicooperative, omniworld humanity. Children freed of the ignorantly founded educational traditions and exposed only to their spontaneously summoned, computer-stored and -distributed outflow of reliable-opinion-purged, experimentally verified data, shall indeed lead society to its happy egress from all misinformedly conceived, fearfully and legally imposed, and physically enforced customs of yesterday. They can lead all humanity into omnisuccessful survival as well as entrance into an utterly new era of human experience in an as-yet and ever-will-be fundamentally mysterious Universe" - Buckminster Fuller, fully Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." - Albert Einstein

"Here and there awareness is growing that man, far from being the overlord of all creation, is himself part of nature, subject to the same cosmic forces that control all other life. Man's future welfare and probably even his survival depend upon his learning to live in harmony, rather than in combat, with these forces." - Rachel Carson, fully Rachel Louise Carson

"The nihilist makes one mistake: he does not realise that other people are also nihilists, and that the nihilism of other people is now an active historical factor. He has no consciousness of the possibility of transcendence. The fact is, however, that the present reign of survival, in which all the talk about progress expresses nothing so much as the fear that progress may be impossible, is itself a product of history, is itself the outcome of all the renunciations of humanity that have been made over the centuries. Indeed, the history of survival is the historical movement which will eventually undo history itself. For clear awareness of just how nightmarish life has become is on the point of fusing with a consciousness of the successive renunciations of the past, and thus too with the real desire to pick up the movement of transcendence everywhere in space and time where it has been prematurely interrupted." - Raoul Vaneigem

"And what corresponds to inching up the kindly, grassy slopes on the other side of the mountain? It is the slow, cumulative, one-step-at-a-time, non-random survival of random variants that Darwin called natural selection. The metaphor of Mount Improbable dramatizes the mistake of the sceptics quoted at the beginning of this chapter. Where they went wrong was to keep their eyes fixed on the vertical precipice and its dramatic height. They assumed that the sheer cliff was the only way up to the summit on which they are perched eyes and protein molecules and other supremely improbable arrangements of parts. It was Darwin's great achievement to discover the gentle gradients winding up the other side of the mountain." - Richard Dawkins

"But there are other ways in which the interests of individuals from different species conflict very sharply. For instance a lion wants to eat an antelope's body, but the antelope has very different plans for its body. This is not normally regarded as competition for a resource, but logically it is hard to see why not. The resource in question is meat. The lion genes 'want' the meat as food for their survival machine. The antelope genes want the meat as working muscle and organs for their survival machine. These two uses for the meat are mutually incompatible; therefore there is conflict of interest." - Richard Dawkins

"Consider the idea of God. We do not know how it arose in the meme pool. Probably it originated many times by independent 'mutation.' In any case, it is very old indeed. How does it replicate itself? By the spoken and written word, aided by great music and great art. Why does it have such high survival value? Remember that 'survival value' here does not mean value for a gene in a gene pool, but value for a meme in a meme pool. The question really means: What is it about the idea of a god that gives it its stability and penetration in the cultural environment? The survival value of the god meme in the meme pool results from its great psychological appeal. It provides a superficially plausible answer to deep and troubling questions about existence. It suggests that injustices in this world may be rectified in the next. The 'everlasting arms' hold out a cushion against our own inadequacies which, like a doctor's placebo, is none the less effective for being imaginary. These are some of the reasons why the idea of God is copied so readily by successive generations of individual brains. God exists, if only in the form of a meme with high survival value, or infective power, in the environment provided by human culture." - Richard Dawkins

"Genes are competing directly with their alleles for survival, since their alleles in the gene pool are rivals for their slot on the chromosomes of future generations. Any gene that behaves in such a way as to increase its own survival chances in the gene pool at the expense of its alleles will, by definition, tautologously, tend to survive. The gene is the basic unit of selfishness." - Richard Dawkins

"God exists, if only in the form of a meme with high survival value, or infective power, in the environment provided by human culture." - Richard Dawkins

"I think it is not helpful to apply Darwinian language too widely. Conquest of nation by nation is too distant for Darwinian explanations to be helpful. Darwinism is the differential survival of self-replicating genes in a gene pool, usually as manifested by individual behavior, morphology, and phenotypes. Group selection of any kind is not Darwinism as Darwin understood it nor as I understand it. There is a very vague analogy between group selection and conquest of a nation by another nation, but I don't think it's a very helpful analogy. So I would prefer not to invoke Darwinian language for that kind of historical interpretation." - Richard Dawkins