Philosophy’s Most Beautiful Sentence or Paragraph

Philosophy’s Most Beautiful Sentence or Paragraph


A little while ago there was a discussion on Reddit about “the most beautiful paragraph or sentence you’ve ever read.” I don’t know about you, but I could really go for some reminders about the beauty of our craft right about now. Let’s do a philosophy version of this. What do you think would be a good candidate for philosophy’s most beautiful sentence or paragraph?

(image: detail of “Haggadah (P2)” by Gerhard Richter)

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Michael Bench-Capon
6 years ago

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.Report

John Kulvicki
John Kulvicki
6 years ago

Thus the distinct boundaries and offices of REASON and of TASTE are easily ascertained. The former conveys the knowledge of truth and falsehood: the latter gives the sentiment of beauty and deformity, vice and virtue. The one discovers objects as they really stand in nature, without addition and diminution: the other has a productive faculty, and gilding or staining all natural objects with the colours, borrowed from internal sentiment, raises in a manner a new creation. Reason being cool and disengaged, is no motive to action, and directs only the impulse received from appetite or inclination, by showing us the means of attaining happiness or avoiding misery: Taste, as it gives pleasure or pain, and thereby constitutes happiness or misery, becomes a motive to action, and is the first spring or impulse to desire and volition. From circumstances and relations, known or supposed, the former leads us to the discovery of the concealed and unknown: after all circumstances and relations are laid before us, the latter makes us feel from the whole a new sentiment of blame or approbation. The standard of the one, being founded on the nature of things, is eternal and inflexible, even by the will of the Supreme Being: the standard of the other arising from the eternal frame and constitution of animals, is ultimately derived from that Supreme Will, which bestowed on each being its peculiar nature, and arranged the several classes and orders of existence. – Hume’s second Enquiry, Appendix 1Report

Jeremiah Q Randolph IV
Jeremiah Q Randolph IV
6 years ago

At first I thought the most beautiful sentence in all of philosophy was

1: In truth there is beauty.

That’s not bad for a first pass. However, some truths aren’t that impressive. Real beauty in truth surely has to involve some deep understanding or insight, as one encounters when one discovers a semantic paradox, such as the liar sentence. Perhaps 1* could be a more beautiful if amended along liar-sentence lines as follows:

1*: ‘In truth there is beauty’ is beautiful only if this sentence is false.

But then things start to get irritating and confusing. Basically there are no beautiful truths in philosophy, it is all just a pedantic slog.Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
6 years ago

From the man who is often wrongly accused of being a bad writer (there are probably better translations out there, but this was one was easy to cut and paste):
“The light dove, in free flight cutting through the air the resistance of which it feels, could get the idea that it could do even better in airless space. Likewise, Plato abandoned the world of the senses because it posed so many hindrances for the understanding, and dared to go beyond it on the wings of the ideas, in the empty space of pure understanding”Report

AnonGrad
AnonGrad
6 years ago

I’ve always enjoyed Russell’s line, “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.” (That comes from ‘What I Believe’, published in 1925)Report

Dominic Lopes
6 years ago

Alcibiades was beautiful but unwise, whereas Socrates, though wise, was not beautiful. Socrates loved Alcibiades for his beauty and put up with his bad character in the hope (we are told) of improving it. Alcibiades loved Socrates for his virtue, his eloquence, and what he describes as an inward or spiritual beauty. Having tried and failed to seduce Socrates, he settled down for a while and became his disciple. So everything worked out for the best: each found in the other a source of pleasure and the promise of good. It might have been otherwise: Alcibiades might have been too impatient to listen; Socrates might have succumbed to flattery and become in earnest what he jokingly suggests, namely the disciple of Alcibiades. They might have gone their separate ways and each thereby have been the loser. There would have been that much less good the the world. — Mary Mothersill, Beauty RestoredReport

David Boonin
David Boonin
6 years ago

Final lines of the Apology:

“When my sons are grown up, I would ask you, O my friends, to punish them; and I would have you trouble them, as I have troubled you, if they seem to care about riches, or anything, more than about virtue; or if they pretend to be something when they are really nothing, – then reprove them, as I have reproved you, for not caring about that for which they ought to care, and thinking that they are something when they are really nothing. And if you do this, I and my sons will have received justice at your hands. The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways – I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.”Report

Groundskeeper
6 years ago

“I want to begin with Coca-cola. It’s no surprise that Coca-cola was first introduced as a medicine. Its strange taste seems to provide no particular satisfaction. It is not directly pleasing, however, it is as such, as transcending any use–value, like water, beer or wine, which definitely do quench our thirst, that Coke functions as the direct embodiment of “IT”, the pure surplue of enjoyment over standard satisfactions. It is the mysterious and elusive X we are all after in our compulsive consumption. The unexpected result of this is not that, since Coke doesn’t satisfy any concrete need we drink it only as supplement, after some other drink has satisfied our substantial need — it is rather this very superfluous character that makes our thirst for Coke all the more insatiable. Coke has the paradoxical quality that the more you drink it, the more you get thirsty. So, when the slogan for Coke was “Coke is it!”, we should see in it some ambuigity — it’s “it” precisely insofar as it’s never IT, precisely insofar as every consumption opens up the desire for more. The paradox is thus that Coke is not an ordinary commodity, but a commodity whose very peculiar use–value itself is already a direct embodiment of the auratic, ineffable surplus. This process is brought to its conclusion in the case of caffeine–free diet Coke. We drink a drink for two reasons: for its nutritional value and for its taste. In the case of caffeine–free diet Coke, its nutritional value is suspended and the caffeine as the key ingredient of its taste is also taken away. All that remains is pure semblance, an artificial promise of a substance which never materialized. Is it not that in the case of caffeine–free diet Coke that we almost literally drink nothing in the guise of something? What I am referring to, of course, is Nietzsche’s opposition between “wanting nothing”, in the sense of “I do not want anything”, and the nihilistic stance of actively wanting the Nothingness itself.”Report

Nada Gligorov
Nada Gligorov
6 years ago

“A curious thing about the ontological problem is its simplicity. It can be put in three Anglo-Saxon monosyllables: ‘What is there?’ It can be answered, moreover, in a word–‘Everything’–and everyone will accept this answer as true. However, this is merely to say that there is what there is. There remains room for disagreement over cases; and so the issue has stayed alive down the centuries.” W. V. O. QuineReport

Dept Chair
Dept Chair
6 years ago

“I am happy to inform you that your article has been accepted for publication.”Report

Paul Kelleher
Paul Kelleher
6 years ago

I don’t know about beauty, but this is a favorite of mine. From Henry Shue, “Mediating Duties”:

“Further, a reasonable assignment of duties will have to take into account that the duties of any one individual must be limited, ultimately because her total resources are limited and, before that limit is reached, because she has her own rights, which involve the perfectly proper expenditure of some resources on herself rather than on fulfilling duties toward others. To forget the last point would be reminiscent of the Victorian who had been taught that we have been put on earth to make others happy and, asked what the others had been put here for, could not imagine.”Report

Torin Doppelt
6 years ago

“Et sane arduum debet esse quod adeo raro reperitur. Qui enim posset fieri si salus in promptu esset et sine magno labore reperiri posset ut ab omnibus fere negligeretur? Sed omnia præclara tam difficilia quam rara sunt.” (Spinoza, Ethics, 5P42s)

” Atque adeo hæc mentis decreta eadem necessitate in mente oriuntur ac ideæ rerum actu existentium. Qui igitur credunt se ex libero mentis decreto loqui vel tacere vel quicquam agere, oculis apertis somniant.” (Spinoza, Ethics, 3P2s)Report

Max Murphey
Max Murphey
6 years ago

“Think like a man of action, and act like a man of thought.” –Bergson

‎”A single and same voice for the whole thousand-voiced multiple, a single and same Ocean for all the drops, a single clamor of Being for all beings: on condition that each being, each drop, and each voice has reached the state of excess — in other words, the different which displaces and disguises them and, in turning upon its mobile cusp, causes them to return.” –Deleuze

“Childlike innocence no doubt has in it something fascinating and attractive: but only because it reminds us of what the spirit must win for itself. The harmoniousness of childhood is a gift from the hand of nature: the second harmony must spring from the labor and culture of the spirit. And so the words of Christ, ‘Except ye become as little children’, are very far from telling us that we must always remain children.” –HegelReport

anon
anon
6 years ago

“Philosophy has often seen itself as a way of transcending the merely human, of giving the human being a new and more godlike set of activities and attachments. The alternative I explore here sees it as a way of being human and speaking humanly. That suggestion will appeal only to those who actually want to be human, who see in human life as it is, with its surprises and connections, its pains and sudden joys, a story worth embracing. This in no way means not wishing to make life better than it is. But…there are ways of transcending that are human and ‘internal,’ and other ways that involve flight and repudiation.”

“This seems to me a task that warrants the name of philosophy. It is also the description of something we might call education. In the face of the questions posed in Augustine, Luther, Rousseau, Thoreau . . . , we are children; we do not know how to go on with them, what grounds we may occupy. In this light, philosophy becomes the education of grownups. It is as though it must seek perspective upon a natural fact which is all but inevitably misinterpreted — that at an early point in a life the normal body reaches its full strength and height. Why do we take it that because we then must put away childish things, we must put away the prospect of growth and the memory of childhood? The anxiety in teaching, in serious communication, is that I myself require education. And for grownups this is not natural growth, but change. Conversion is a turning of our natural reactions; so it is symbolized as rebirth.”Report

Adrian Piper
6 years ago

It is much more honorable and much easier not to suppress others, but to make yourselves as good as you can.
– Plato, Apology XXXReport

anon
anon
6 years ago

From the end of Philippa Foot’s “Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives”:
If he is an amoral man he may deny that he has any reason to trouble his head over this or any other moral demand. Of course he may be mistaken, and his life as well as others’ lives may be most sadly spoiled by his selfishness. But this is not what is urged by those who think they can close the matter by an emphatic use of “ought.” My argument is that they are relying on an illusion, as if trying to give the moral “ought” a magic force. This conclusion may, as I said, appear dangerous and subver- sive of morality. We are apt to panic at the thought that we ourselves, or other people, might stop caring about the things we do care about, and we feel that the categorical imperative gives us some control over the situation. But it is interesting that the people of Leningrad were not similarly struck by the thought that only the contingent fact that other citizens shared their loyalty and devotion to the city stood between them and the Germans during the terrible years of the siege. Perhaps we should be less troubled than we are by fear of defection from the moral cause; perhaps we should even have less reason to fear it if people thought of themselves as volunteers banded together to fight for liberty and justice and against inhumanity and oppression. It is often felt, even if obscurely, that there is an element of deception in the official line about morality. And while some have been persuaded by talk about the authority of the moral law, others have turned away with a sense of distrust.Report

jambontoo
jambontoo
6 years ago

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigenReport

Jean
Jean
6 years ago

“Dear to me is Plato, dearer still is truth.” (Aristotle)Report

Martin Hahn
Martin Hahn
6 years ago

I’ve always loved the first line of Descartes’ Discourse:

“Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have”Report

Gene Witmer
Gene Witmer
6 years ago

Look round this universe. What an immense profusion of beings, animated and organized, sensible and active! You admire this prodigious variety and fecundity. But inspect a little more narrowly these living existences, the only beings worth regarding. How hostile and destructive to each other! How insufficient all of them for their own happiness! How contemptible or odious to the spectator! The whole presents nothing but the idea of a blind Nature, impregnated by a great vivifying principle, and pouring forth from her lap, without discernment or parental care, her maimed and abortive children!

Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part 11

“Maimed and abortive children”! Quite the apt phrase — with a lovely ring of truth.Report

Clifford Sosis
6 years ago

“In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of “world history” — yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die. One might invent such a fable and still not have illustrated sufficiently how wretched, how shadowy and flighty, how aimless and arbitrary, the human intellect appears in nature. There have been eternities when it did not exist; and when it is done for again, nothing will have happened.”Report

Jack Woods
6 years ago

From Quine’s “Carnap on Logical Truth”: The lore of our fathers is a fabric of sentences. In our hands it develops and changes, through more or less arbitrary and deliberate revisions and additions of our own, more or less directly occasioned by the continuing stimulation of our sense organs. It is a pale gray lore, black with fact and white with convention. But I have found no substantial reasons for concluding that there are any quite black threads in it, or any white ones.Report

Dan Weiskopf
Dan Weiskopf
6 years ago

“Some critic called me the Nothingness Himself and that didn’t help my sense of existence any. Then I realized that existence itself is nothing and I felt better. But I’m still obsessed with the idea of looking into the mirror and seeing no one, nothing.”

Or possibly: “Everybody winds up kissing the wrong person good-night.” Both by Andy Warhol, from “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again”.Report

Matty
Matty
6 years ago

My favorite paragraph (and a half), from the end of book I of Hume’s Treatise:

“The intense view of these manifold contradictions and imperfections in human reason has so wrought upon me, and heated my brain, that I am ready to reject all belief and reasoning, and can look upon no opinion even as more probable or likely than another. Where am I, or what? From what causes do I derive my existence, and to what condition shall I return? Whose favour shall I court, and whose anger must I dread? What beings surround me? and on whom have I any influence, or who have any influence on me? I am confounded with all these questions, and begin to fancy myself in the most deplorable condition imaginable, invironed with the deepest darkness, and utterly deprived of the use of every member and faculty.

“Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hours’ amusement, I would return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strained, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther.”Report

Kris McDaniel
Kris McDaniel
6 years ago

Here are a few of my favorites. Are they beautiful? Dunno. Like them a lot though.

You could attach prices to thoughts. Some cost a lot, some cost a little. And how does one pay for thoughts? The answer, I think, is: with courage. – Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.52e.

One reader will lament that he is overdone with metaphysics, while another will stand on his right to have far more. I would assure the first that I have stopped where I could, and as soon as I was able. And in answer to the second I can only plead that my metaphysics are really very limited. This does not mean that, like more gifted writers, I verify in my own shortcomings the necessary defects of the human reason. It means that on all questions, if you push me far enough, at present I end in doubt and perplexities. And on this account at least no lover of metaphysics will judge of me hardly. – F.H. Bradley, The Principles of Logic vol. I (2nd edition), pp. x-xi.)

To love one person above all the world for one’s life because her eyes are beautiful when she is young, is to be determined to a very great thing by a very small cause. But if what is caused is really love – and this is sometimes the case – it is not condemned on that ground. It is there, and that is enough. J.M.E. McTaggart, The Nature of Existence Vol. II, p. 153.

You who claim noble descent, hear who my ancestors were!
I am of Socrates’ seed through whom Plato came into being.
Plato begat the Stagirite whose strength has never abated,
Nor has faded the Bride whom he selected in love.
Two millennia have passed but the marriage still strengthens and blossoms.
Even today I can claim that I am of its issue.
– Franz Brentano, Aristotle and His World View, p. xii.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

“Among all human pursuits, the pursuit of wisdom is more perfect, more noble, more useful, and more full of joy,” Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles, I, 2.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

Nietzsche’s The Gay Science is one of the most beautifully written philosophical books ever written:

338: “I do not want to remain silent about my morality which says to me: Live in seclusion so you can live for yourself. Live in ignorance about what seems most important to your age. Between yourself and today lay the skin of at least three centureies. And the clamor of today, the noise of wars and revolutions should be a mere murmur for you. You will also wish to help–but only those whose distress you understand entirely because they share with you one suffering and one hope–your friends–and only in the mannr in which you help yourself. I want to make them bolder, more perservering, simpler, gayer. I want to teach them what is understood by so few today, least of all by these preachers of pity: to share not suffering but joy.”

276: “For the new year. — I still live, I still think: I still have to live, for I still have to think. Sum, ergo cogito: cogito, ergo sum. Today everybody permits himself the expression of his wish and his dearest thought; hence I, too shall say what it is that I wish from myself today, and what was the first thought to run across my heart this year–what thought shall be for me the reason, warranty, and sweetness of my life henceforth. I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation! And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.”Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

Dan Weiskopf @24,

Nice to see a quote from The Philosophy of Andy Warhol! Here’s my favorite, and I do think it’s beautiful, and both deeply false and deeply true in its way:

“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”Report

Ryan
Ryan
6 years ago

All the grand sources, in short, of human suffering are in a great degree, many of them almost entirely, conquerable by human care and effort; and though their removal is grievously slow- though a long succession of generations will perish in the breach before the conquest is completed, and this world becomes all that, if will and knowledge were not wanting, it might easily be made- yet every mind sufficiently intelligent and generous to bear a part, however small and unconspicuous, in the endeavour, will draw a noble enjoyment from the contest itself, which he would not for any bribe in the form of selfish indulgence consent to be without. –Mill, Utilitarianism, Book II.Report

Jonathan Westphal
Jonathan Westphal
6 years ago

‘Naive realism leads to physics, and physics, if true, shows that naive realism is false. Therefore naive realism, if true, is false; therefore it is false’ (Russell).Report

Matt McAdam
Matt McAdam
6 years ago

One of my favorite bits of philosophical writing has always been the last paragraph of Parfit’s Reasons and Persons. I think there’s something beautiful about it:

“There could clearly be higher achievements in the struggle for a wholly just world-wide community. And there could be higher achievements in all of the Arts and Sciences. But the progress could be greatest in what is now the least advanced of these Arts and Sciences. This, I have claimed, is Non-Religious Ethics. Belief in God, or in many gods, prevented the free development of moral reasoning. Disbelief in God, openly admitted by a majority, is a very recent event, not yet completed. Because this event is so recent, Non-Religious Ethics is at a very early stage. We cannot yet predict whether, as in Mathematics, we will all reach agreement. Since we cannot know how Ethics will develop, it is not irrational to have high hopes.”Report

Daniel Harris
6 years ago

A beautifully clever passage from Austin’s ‘The Meaning of a Word’:

“Suppose I ask ‘What is the point of doing so-and-so?’ For example, suppose that I ask Old Father William ‘What is the point of standing on one’s head?’ He replies in the way that we know. Then I follow this up with ‘What is the point of balancing an eel on the end of one’s nose?’ And he explains. Now suppose I ask my third question ‘What is the point of doing anything—not anything in particular, but just anything?’ Old Father William would no doubt kick me downstairs without the option. But lesser men, raising this same question and finding no answer, would very likely commit suicide or join the Church. (Luckily, in the case of ‘What is the meaning of a word?’ the effects are less serious, amounting only to the writing of books.)”

And an incredibly concise and timelessly wise passage from the Republic (335c, Grube/Reeve translation):

“Then won’t we say the same about human beings, too, that when they are harmed they become worse in human virtue?

Indeed.

But isn’t human virtue a justice?

Yes, certainly.

Then people who are harmed must become more unjust?

So it seems.”Report

Jerry dworkin
Jerry dworkin
6 years ago

The philosopher supposes that the value of his philosophy lies in the whole, in the structure; but posterity finds its value in the stone which he used for building, and which is used many more times after that for building better. Thus it finds the value in the fact that the structure can be destroyed and nevertheless retains value as building material.
Nietzsche
Too often, philosopher’s contributions to… questions seem designed only to reduce the number of thoughts that people can have by suggesting that they have no right to some conceptions that they have or think that they have. But equally philosophy should be able to liberate, by suggesting to people that they really have a right to some conception, which has been condemned by a simple or restricted notion of how we may reasonably think
Bernard Williams
One word more about giving instruction as to what the world ought to be. Philosophy in any case always comes on the scene too late to give it. As the thought of the world it appears only when actuality is already there cut and dried, after its process of formation has already been completed. The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk.
HegelReport

Margaret Atherton
Margaret Atherton
6 years ago

If the road I have pointed out as leading to this goal seems very difficult, yet it can be found. Indeed, what is so rarely discovered is bound to be hard. For if salvation were ready to hand and could be discovered without great toil, how could it be that it is almost universally neglected? All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.Report

Aaron Garrett
Aaron Garrett
6 years ago

As much as I love Spinoza and Hume, I feel Rochefoucauld takes the sentence award — “Virtues lose themselves in self-interest, as river do in the sea” “All of us have sufficient fortitude to bear the misfortunes of others” “Hypocrisy is the homage which vice pays to virtue” and so on.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

With Chinese philosophy, you get both the beauty the characters and the richness of their philosophical content. There is a tradition going back thousands of years of relating to the central texts by expressing them as calligraphy. A couple of famous examples (click on the links for many different calligraphy versions of each):

學而不思則罔,思而不學則殆。”Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.” –Confucius, Analects 2.15, hung on the walls of many philosophy departments in China

http://tinyurl.com/pw9kucu

道可道,非常道。名可名,非常名。”The way that can be traveled is not the constant way; the name that can be named is not the constant name.” Opening line of the Daodejing

http://tinyurl.com/om7dlkjReport

RK
RK
6 years ago

I’m partial to this one: ‘Those who call themselves philosophers – professors and university lecturers – are, despite their apparent free-thinking, more or less immersed in superstition and mysticism …and in relation to Social-Democracy constitute a single …reactionary mass .’ ‘Now, in order to follow the true path, without being led astray by an the religious and philosophical gibberish, it is necessary to study the falsest of all false paths (der Holzweg der Holzwege), philosophy’ (Materialism and Empirio-criticism, Collected Works, Moscow, 1962, Vol. 14, pp. 340-41).Report

Trevor
6 years ago

Among a certain class of thinkers, does a frantic exaggeration in sentiment, a crude fever-dream in opinion, anywhere break forth, it is directly labelled as Kantism; and the moon-struck speculator is, for the time, silenced and put to shame by this epithet. For often in such circles, Kant’s Philosophy is not only an absurdity, but a wickedness and a horror; the pious and peaceful sage of Königsberg passes for a sort of Necromancer and Blackartist in Metaphysics; his doctrine is a region of boundless baleful gloom, too cunningly broken here and there by splendours of unholy fire; specters and tempting demons people it; and hovering over fathomless abysses, hang gay and gorgeous air-castles, into which the hapless traveler is seduced to enter, and so sinks to rise no more” (Thomas Carlyle, “State of German Literature” [1827]).Report

Trevor
6 years ago

“The mind, in short, works on the data it receives very much as a sculptor works on his block of stone. In a sense the statue stood there from eternity. But there were a thousand different ones beside it, and the sculptor alone is to thank for having extricated this one from the rest. Just so the world of each of us, howsoever different our several views of it may be, all lay embedded in the primordial chaos of sensations, which gave the mere MATTER to the thought of all of us indifferently. We may, if we like, by our reasonings unwind things back to that black and jointless continuity of space and moving clouds of swarming atoms which science calls the only real world. But all the while the world WE feel and live in will be that which our ancestors and we, by slowly cumulative strokes of choice, have extricated out of this, like sculptors, by simply rejecting certain portions of the given stuff. Other sculptors, other statues from the same stone! Other minds, other worlds from the same monotonous and inexpressive chaos! My world is but one in a million alike embedded, alike real to those who may abstract them. How different must be the worlds in the consciousness of ant, cuttle-fish, or crab!” (William James, *Principles of Psychology* [1890])Report

Trevor
6 years ago

“Neither can I apprehend, that the Mind’s or Soul’s seat should be in the Glandula or kernel of the Brain, and there sit like a Spider in a Cobweb, to whom the least motion of the Cobweb gives intelligence of a Flye, which he is ready to assault, and that the Brain should get intelligence by the animal spirits as his servants, which run to and fro like Ants to inform it; or that the Mind should, according to others opinions, be a light, and imbroidered all with Ideas, like a Herauld’s Coat; and that the sensitive organs should have no knowledg in themselves, but serve onely like peeping-holes for the mind, or barn-dores to receive bundles of pressures, like sheaves of Corn” (Margaret Cavendish, *Philosophical Letters* [1664]).Report

Someone
Someone
6 years ago

“To the naive ear, the claims of Platonism sound fantastic; their appeal comes chiefly from a lack of anything to put in their place.” (A. Gibbard, *Wise Choices*, p. 154)Report

Skye
6 years ago

“My soul is so heavy that no longer can any thought sustain it, no wingbeat lift it up into the ether. If it moves, it only sweeps along the ground like the low flight of birds when a thunderstorm is brewing.” Kierkegaard, Either/Or
(Uplifting, no. Beautiful, yes.)Report

Alastair Norcross
6 years ago

Since no-one has done it yet, I’ll go with the obvious one: “Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense, nonsense on stilts.” (I presume no-one reading this needs to be told who first said it)Report

Tyler, the pre-undergrad
Tyler, the pre-undergrad
6 years ago

I don’t know if I’d describe it as beautiful, but I rather enjoy a fragment from the first sentence in Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory: “It is self-evident that nothing concerning art is self-evident anymore…”Report

Sean McAleer
Sean McAleer
6 years ago

Mill: “Capacity for the nobler feelings is in most natures a very tender plant, easily killed, not only by hostile influences, but by mere want of sustenance.”Report

Andrew D. Chapman
Andrew D. Chapman
6 years ago

Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above and the moral law within. I have not to search for them and conjecture them as though they were veiled in darkness or were in the transcendent region beyond my horizon; I see them before me and connect them directly with the consciousness of my existence. The former begins from the place I occupy in the external world of sense, and enlarges my connection therein to an unbounded extent with worlds upon worlds and systems of systems, and moreover into limitless times of their periodic motion, its beginning and continuance. The second begins from my invisible self, my personality, and exhibits me in a world which has true infinity, but which is traceable only by the understanding, and with which I discern that I am not in a merely contingent but in a universal and necessary connection, as I am also thereby with all those visible worlds. The former view of a countless multitude of worlds annihilates as it were my importance as an animal creature, which after it has been for a short time provided with vital power, one knows not how, must again give back the matter of which it was formed to the planet it inhabits (a mere speck in the universe). The second, on the contrary, infinitely elevates my worth as an intelligence by my personality, in which the moral law reveals to me a life independent of animality and even of the whole sensible world, at least so far as may be inferred from the destination assigned to my existence by this law, a destination not restricted to conditions and limits of this life, but reaching into the infinite. (Kant, Critique of Practical Reason)Report

Anonymuse
Anonymuse
6 years ago

I have always liked the quiet poignancy of this bit of Republic X: “There came also the soul of Odysseus having yet to make a choice, and his lot happened to be the last of them all. Now the recollection of former tolls had disenchanted him of ambition, and he went about for a considerable time in search of the life of a private man who had no cares; he had some difficulty in finding this, which was lying about and had been neglected by everybody else; and when he saw it, he said that he would have done the had his lot been first instead of last, and that he was delighted to have it.”Report

David Shope
David Shope
6 years ago

I’d like to submit far too much from Kierkegaard (especially from the angsty but poetic “Diapsalmata,” which Skye’s quote is from), but here is just one:

“Perhaps my voice does not have enough power and intensity; perhaps it cannot penetrate into your innermost thought–Oh, but ask yourself, ask yourself with the solemn uncertainty with which you would turn to someone who you knew could determine your life’s happiness with a single word, ask yourself even more earnestly–because in truth it is a matter of salvation. Do not interrupt the flight of your soul; do not distress what is best in you; do not enfeeble your spirit with half wishes and half thoughts. Ask yourself and keep on asking until you find the answer, for one may have known something many times, acknowledged it; one may have willed something many times, attempted it–and yet, only the deep inner motion, only the heart’s indescribable emotion, only that will convince you that what you have acknowledged belongs to you, that no power can take it from you–for only the truth that builds up is truth for you.” – An unnamed Jutland priest, “Ultimatum” in Either/Or.

Berkeley:

“Now you must call imagination to your aid. The feeble narrow sense cannot descry innumerable worlds revolving round the central fires, and in those worlds the energy of an all-perfect mind displayed in endless forms. But neither sense nor imagination are big enough to comprehend the boundless extent with all its glittering furniture. Though the laboring mind exert and strain each power to its utmost reach, there still stands out ungrasped a surplusage immeasurable. Yet all the vast bodies that compose this might frame, how distant and remote soever, are by some secret mechanism, some divine art and force, linked in a mutual dependence and intercourse with each other, even with this earth, which was almost slipped from my thoughts and lost in the crowd of worlds. Is not the whole system immense, beautiful, glorious beyond expression and beyond thought! What treatment then do those philosophers deserve, who would deprive these noble and delightful scenes of all reality? How should those principles be entertained, that lead us to think all the visible beauty of the creation a false imaginary glare?” Philonous, in Three Dialogues

Also, Derrida:

“As for the Confessions, we said that it is the book of tears. At each step, on each page, and not only at the death of his friend or his mother, Augustine describes his experience of tears, those that inundate him, those in which he takes a surprising joy, asking God why tears are sweet to those in misery (cur fletus dulcis sit miseris), those that he holds back, in himself or in his son. Now if tears come to the eyes, if they well up in them, and if they can also veil sight, perhaps they reveal, in the very course of this experience, in this coursing of water, an essence of the eye, of man’s eye, in any case, the eye understood in the anthropo-theological space of the sacred allegory. Deep down, deep down inside, the eye would be destined not to see but to weep. For at the very moment they veil sight, tears would unveil what is proper to the eye. And what they cause to surge up out of forgetfulness, there where the gaze or look looks after it, keeps it in reserve, would be nothing less than aletheia, the truth of the eyes, whose ultimate destination they would thereby reveal: to have imploration rather than vision in sight, to address prayer, love, joy, or sadness rather than a look or gaze. Even before it illuminates, revelation is the moment of tears of joy.” – Memoirs of the Blind.Report

David Sobel
David Sobel
6 years ago

Soc: But, friend Euthyphro, if that which is holy is the same with that which is dear to God, and is loved because it is holy, then that which is dear to God would have been loved as being dear to God; but if that which dear to God is dear to him because loved by him, then that which is holy would have been holy because loved by him. But now you see that the reverse is the case, and that they are quite different from one another. For one (theophiles) is of a kind to be loved cause it is loved, and the other (osion) is loved because it is of a kind to be loved. Thus you appear to me, Euthyphro, when I ask you what is the essence of holiness, to offer an attribute only, and not the essence-the attribute of being loved by all the gods. But you still refuse to explain to me the nature of holiness. And therefore, if you please, I will ask you not to hide your treasure, but to tell me once more what holiness or piety really is, whether dear to the gods or not (for that is a matter about which we will not quarrel) and what is impiety?Report

Aaron Garrett
Aaron Garrett
6 years ago

Pascal wasn’t bad either “Chances.—We must live differently in the world, according to these different assumptions: (1) that we could always remain in it; (2) that it is certain that we shall not remain here long, and uncertain if we shall remain here one hour. This last assumption is our condition.”

Bentham is a brilliant writer. There seems to be a persistent belief that he was a poor writer which I find mysterious. His writing is sometimes dry, but normally with a big dose of very dry caustic wit. Bentham’s polemics are as funny and raging as could be from the Nonsense on Stilts to Emancipate your Colonies to Jesus not Paul. There’s lots I haven’t read so maybe that’s the bad stuff.Report

Anony
Anony
6 years ago

I am surprised that this passage from The Gay Science has not been mentioned:

[Almost always the books of scholars are somehow oppressive, oppressed: the “specialist” emerges somewhere—his zeal, his seriousness, his fury, his overestimation of the nook in which he sits and spins, his hunched back; every specialist has his hunched back. Every scholarly book also mirrors a soul that has become crooked; every craft makes crooked.…Nothing can be done about that. Let nobody suppose that one could possibly avoid such crippling by some artifice of education. On this earth one pays dearly for every kind of mastery.…For having a specialty one pays by also being the victim of this specialty. But you would have it otherwise—cheaper and fairer and above all more comfortable—isn’t that right, my dear contemporaries. Well then, but in that case you also immediately get something else: instead of the craftsman and master, the “man of letters,” the dexterous, “polydexterous” man of letters who, to be sure, lacks the hunched back—not counting the posture he assumes before you, being the salesman of the spirit and the “carrier” of culture—the man of letters who really is nothing but “represents” almost everything, playing and “substituting” for the expert, and taking it upon himself in all modesty to get himself paid, honored, and celebrated in place of the expert.

No, my scholarly friends, I bless you even for your hunched back. And for despising, as I do, the “men of letters” and culture parasites. And for not knowing how to make a business of the spirit. And for having opinions that cannot be translated into financial values. And for not representing anything that you are not. And because your sole aim is to become masters of your craft, with reverence for every kind of mastery and competence, and with uncompromising opposition to everything that is semblance, half-genuine, dressed up, virtuosolike, demagogical, or histrionic in litteris et artibus—to everything that cannot prove to you its unconditional probity in discipline and prior training,]Report

Kirsten
Kirsten
6 years ago

“We define our identity always in dialogue with, sometimes in struggle against, the things our significant others want to see in us. Even after we outgrow some of these others—our parents, for instance—and they disappear from our lives, the conversation with them continues within us as long as we live.” — Charles TaylorReport

David Shope
David Shope
6 years ago

OK, I just can’t resist posting my favorite paragraph from the “Diapsalmata”:

“My grief is my castle, which like an eagle’s nest is built high up on the mountain peaks among the clouds; nothing can storm it. From it, I fly down into reality to seize my prey; but I do not remain down there, I bring it home with me, and this prey is a picture I weave into the tapestries of my palace. There I live as one dead. I immerse everything I have experienced in a baptism of forgetfulness unto an eternal remembrance. Everything finite and accidental is forgotten and erased. Then I sit like an old man, grey-haired and thoughtful, and explain the pictures in a voice as soft as a whisper; and at my side a child sits and listens, although he remembers everything before I tell it.” – A, “Diapsalmata” in Either/OrReport

Ligurio
Ligurio
6 years ago

Meaning is what essence becomes when it is divorced from the object of reference and wedded to the word.
—WVO QuineReport

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

Unbekümmert, spöttisch, gewaltthätig – so will uns die Weisheit: sie ist ein Weib, sie liebt immer nur einen Kriegsmann. -NietzscheReport

anon7.1
anon7.1
6 years ago

Yeah, yeah.Report

David Dick
6 years ago

I’m with Matty that the end of Book I of Hume’s _Treatise_ is where it’s at, but I prefer a different passage, just a bit earlier:

“Nothing is more dangerous to reason than the flights of the imagination, and nothing has been the occasion of more mistakes among philosophers. Men of bright fancies may in this respect be compar’d to those angels, whom the scripture represents as covering their eyes with their wings.”Report

Cassiano
Cassiano
6 years ago

No one who has not studied philosophy and who is not entirely pure at the time of his departure is allowed to enter the company of the Gods, but the lover of knowledge only. And this is the reason, Simmias and Cebes, why the true votaries of philosophy abstain from all fleshly lusts, and hold out against them and refuse to give themselves up to them,—not because they fear poverty or the ruin of their families, like the lovers of money, and the world in general; nor like the lovers of power and honour, because they dread the dishonour or disgrace of evil deeds.
No, Socrates, that would not become them, said Cebes.
No indeed, he replied; and therefore they who have any care of their own souls, and do not merely live moulding and fashioning the body, say farewell to all this; they will not walk in the ways of the blind: and when philosophy offers them purification and release from evil, they feel that they ought not to resist her influence, and whither she leads they turn and follow.
What do you mean, Socrates?
I will tell you, he said. The lovers of knowledge are conscious that the soul was simply fastened and glued to the body—until philosophy received her, she could only view real existence through the bars of a prison, not in and through herself; she was wallowing in the mire of every sort of ignorance; and by reason of lust had become the principal accomplice in her own captivity. This was her original state; and then, as I was saying, and as the lovers of knowledge are well aware, philosophy, seeing how terrible was her confinement, of which she was to herself the cause, received and gently comforted her and sought to release her, pointing out that the eye and the ear and the other senses are full of deception, and persuading her to retire from them, and abstain from all but the necessary use of them, and be gathered up and collected into herself, bidding her trust in herself and her own pure apprehension of pure existence, and to mistrust whatever comes to her through other channels and is subject to variation; for such things are visible and tangible, but what she sees in her own nature is intelligible and invisible. And the soul of the true philosopher thinks that she ought not to resist this deliverance, and therefore abstains from pleasures and desires and pains and fears, as far as she is able; reflecting that when a man has great joys or sorrows or fears or desires, he suffers from them, not merely the sort of evil which might be anticipated—as for example, the loss of his health or property which he has sacrificed to his lusts—but an evil greater far, which is the greatest and worst of all evils, and one of which he never thinks.
What is it, Socrates? said Cebes.
The evil is that when the feeling of pleasure or pain is most intense, every soul of man imagines the objects of this intense feeling to be then plainest and truest: but this is not so, they are really the things of sight.
Very true.
And is not this the state in which the soul is most enthralled by the body?
How so?
Why, because each pleasure and pain is a sort of nail which nails and rivets the soul to the body, until she becomes like the body, and believes that to be true which the body affirms to be true; and from agreeing with the body and having the same delights she is obliged to have the same habits and haunts, and is not likely ever to be pure at her departure to the world below, but is always infected by the body; and so she sinks into another body and there germinates and grows, and has therefore no part in the communion of the divine and pure and simple.
Most true, Socrates, answered Cebes.
And this, Cebes, is the reason why the true lovers of knowledge are temperate and brave; and not for the reason which the world gives.
Certainly not.
Certainly not! The soul of a philosopher will reason in quite another way; she will not ask philosophy to release her in order that when released she may deliver herself up again to the thraldom of pleasures and pains, doing a work only to be undone again, weaving instead of unweaving her Penelope’s web. But she will calm passion, and follow reason, and dwell in the contemplation of her, beholding the true and divine (which is not matter of opinion), and thence deriving nourishment. Thus she seeks to live while she lives, and after death she hopes to go to her own kindred and to that which is like her, and to be freed from human ills. Never fear, Simmias and Cebes, that a soul which has been thus nurtured and has had these pursuits, will at her departure from the body be scattered and blown away by the winds and be nowhere and nothing.
Plato, Phaedo.Report

AnonAdjunct
AnonAdjunct
6 years ago

Not sure if any of these are true but they move me.

‘The suggestion that a person may be in some sense liberated through acceding to a power which is not subject to his immediate voluntary control is among the most ancient and persistent themes of our moral and religious tradition. It must surely reflect some quite fundamental structural feature of our lives. This feature remains, however, relatively unexplored. As a consequence, we are unable to give satisfactorily thor- ough and perspicuous accounts of certain facts which are central to our culture and to our view of ourselves: in particular, that the two human capacities which we prize most highly are those for rationality and for love, and that these capacities are prized not only for their usefulness in enabling us to adapt to our natural and social environments but also because they are supposed to make available to us especially valuable experiences or states of fulfillment and of freedom. The idea that being rational and loving are ways of achieving freedom ought to puzzle us more than it does, given that both require a person to submit to something which is beyond his voluntary control and which may be indifferent to his desires.’
-Harry Frankfurt, ‘The Importance of What We Care About’

‘… The whole of the Oedipus Tyrannus, that dreadful machine, moves to the discovery of just one thing, *that he did it*. Do we understand the terror of that discovery only because we residually share magical beliefs in blood-guilt, or archaic notions of responsibility? Certainly not: we understand it because we know that in the story of one’s life there is an authority exercised by what one has done, and not merely by what one has intentionally done…This is not just a regret about what happened, such as a spectator might have. It is an agent’s regret, and it is in the nature of action that such regrets cannot be eliminated, that one’s life could not be partitioned into some things that one does intentionally and other things that merely happen to one” – Bernard Williams, Shame and Necessity

“The way to solve the problem you see in life, is to live in a way that will make what is problematic disappear. The fact that life is problematic shows that the shape of your life does not fit into life’s mold. So you must change the way you live and, once your life does fit into the mold, what is problematic will disappear” WittgensteinReport

ags
ags
6 years ago

These probably aren’t even the two loveliest passages in these two philosophers’ work, but they’ve stuck with me.

John Rawls: “We try to show that the well-ordered society of justice as fairness is indeed possible according to our nature and those requirements. This endeavor belongs to political philosophy as reconciliation; for seeing that the conditions of a social world at least allow for that possibility affects our view of the world itself and our attitude toward it. No longer need it seem hopelessly hostile, a world in which the will to dominate and oppressive cruelties, abetted by prejudice and folly, must inevitably prevail. None of this may ease our loss, situated as we may be in a corrupt society. But we may reflect that the world is not in itself inhospitable to political justice and its good. Our social world might have been different and there is hope for those at another time and place.”

G. A. Cohen: “I join the ranks of the complainers down the ages who say: ‘Things ain’t what they used to be.’ Do not suppose that, because that lamentation is perennial, it is misplaced. Anticonservatives say, ‘But people have always said that things are getting worse,’ and anticonservatives mean thereby to convey that the conservative lamentation expresses an illusion. But it is entirely possible that at any rate certain -kinds- of things have -always- been worse than they were before.”Report

Geoff Pynn
Geoff Pynn
6 years ago

“[T]he poets and philosophers themselves know as no one else knows that what their formulas express leaves unexpressed almost everything that they organically divine and feel. So I feel that there is a center in truth’s forest where I have never been: to track it out and get there is the secret spring of all my poor life’s philosophic efforts; at moments I almost strike into the final valley, there is a gleam of the end, a sense of certainty, but always there comes still another ridge, so my blazes merely circle toward the true direction; and although now, if ever, would be the fit occasion, yet I cannot take you to the wondrous hidden spot to-day. To-morrow it must be, or to-morrow, or to-morrow, and pretty surely death will overtake me ere the promise is fulfilled.” ~William James, ‘Philosophical conceptions and practical results’Report

Jake Jackson
Jake Jackson
6 years ago

My favorite cold-opening in all of philosophy:

“In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of “world history”—yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die.”

– Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense”Report

Timothy Stock
Timothy Stock
6 years ago

The opening paragraph to Kierkegaard’s “Repetition”:

“WHEN the Eleatics denied motion, Diogenes, as everyone knows, came forward in protest, actually came forward, because he did not say a word, but simply walked back and forth a few times, with which gesture he believed he had sufficiently refuted the Eleatic position. When I had been preoccupied for some time, at least when I had the opportunity, with the problem of whether repetition was possible and what it means, whether a thing wins or loses by being repeated, it suddenly occurred to me: you can go to Berlin, since you were there once before, you could in this way learn whether repetition was possible and what it meant. I had come to a standstill in my attempts to resolve this problem at home. Say what you will, this problem is going to play an important role in modern philosophy because repetition is a decisive expression for what ‘recollection’ was for the Greeks. Just as they taught that all knowledge is recollection, thus will modern philosophy teach that life itself is a repetition. The only modern philosopher who has had the least intimation of this is Leibniz. Repetition and recollection are the same movement, just in opposite directions, because what is recollected has already been and is thus repeated backwards, whereas genuine repetition is recollected forwards. Repetition, if it is possible, thus makes a person happy, while recollection makes him unhappy, assuming, of course, that he actually gives himself time to live and does not, immediately upon the hour of his birth hit upon an excuse, such as that he has forgotten something, to sneak back out of life again.”Report

Adam Omelianchuk
Adam Omelianchuk
6 years ago

From Bertrand Russell’s “A Free Man’s Worship” —

“That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins–all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”Report

Tim O'Keefe
6 years ago

“We are born only once, and we cannot be born twice; and one must for all eternity exist no more. You are not in control of tomorrow and yet you delay your opportunity to rejoice”
-Epicurus, Vatican Saying 14Report

Kenny
Kenny
6 years ago

It was once pointed out to me (by Gillian Russell?) that this line can be sung to the tune of “Good King Wenceslas”, and it’s the only way I can hear it any more. (“darüber” often gets its first syllable contracted.)Report

Alan Richardson
Alan Richardson
6 years ago

Bruce here teaches classical philosophy, Bruce there teaches Hegelian philosophy, and Bruce here teaches logical positivism. And is also in charge of the sheep dip.Report

Nathaniel Goldberg
Nathaniel Goldberg
6 years ago

“I am a physical object sitting in a physical world. Some of the forces of this physical world impinge on my surface. Light rays strike my retinas; molecules bombard my eardrums and fingertips. I strike back, emanating concentric air waves. These waves take the form of a torrent of discourse about tables, people, molecules, light rays, retinas, air waves, prime numbers, infinite classes, joy and sorrow, good and evil.” Quine, “The Scope and Language of Science”Report

Nathaniel Goldberg
Nathaniel Goldberg
6 years ago

And what’s a little Quine without a little Davidson? “In giving up dependence on the concept of an uninterpreted reality, something outside all schemes and science, we do not relinquish the notion of objective truth–quite the contrary. Given the dogma of a dualism of scheme and reality, we get conceptual relativity, and truth relative to a scheme. Without the
dogma, this kind of relativity goes by the board. Of course truth of sentences remains relative to language, but that is as objective as can be. In giving up the dualism of scheme and world, we do not give up the world, but reestablish unmediated touch with the familiar objects whose antics make our sentences and opinions true or false.” “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”Report

Phlip Kremer
Phlip Kremer
6 years ago

The following sentence is quite frequently used, which counts against it, but is very short, which counts in its favour:

QEDReport

Yuta
Yuta
6 years ago

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”Report

Scott Looney
Scott Looney
6 years ago

Health is on good terms with Death. It knows that when the Grim Reaper comes he will remove his stone mask and catch the flickering torch from the anxious and weary and disappointed hands of Brother Life; it knows that he will dash it on the ground and extinguish it, but it also knows that only then the full brilliance of the nocturnal sky will brightly glow. It knows that it will be accepted into the open arms of Death. Life’s eloquent lips are put to silence and the eternally Taciturn One will speak: “Do you finally recognize me? I am your brother.”
–Franz RosenzweigReport

Giang Le
Giang Le
6 years ago

“What is youth? A dream. What is love? The dream’s content.” – Soren Kierkegaard, Either/OrReport

Me
Me
6 years ago

Sorry, sharing an observation from out of left field here … prompted by revisiting Quine.
“The metaphysical impulse: Essence is what meaning becomes when it is divorced from the word and wedded to the object of reference.” —meReport

NA
NA
6 years ago

I’ve always loved this bit of Schopenhauer:

“As a comfort to those who devote their life and strength in any way at all to the noble but onerous struggle against error, I cannot refrain here from adding that as long as truth is absent, error can indeed play its games in the night just as owls or bats do; nevertheless, it is more likely that these owls and bats will chase the sun back into the east than that a truth, once recognised and clearly and completely expressed, could be driven back so that some past error could once again occupy its broad seat without disturbance. That is the power of truth: its victory is difficult and troublesome, but once it is achieved, it can never be reversed.” (From The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1.)Report

MA-Student
MA-Student
6 years ago

Unamuno: “Man is said to be a reasoning animal. I do not know why he has not been defined as an affective or feeling animal. Perhaps that which differentiates him from other animals is feeling rather than reason. More often I have seen a cat reason than laugh or weep. Perhaps it weeps or laughs inwardly — but then perhaps, also inwardly, the crab resolves equations of the second degree.”Report

Maeve
Maeve
6 years ago

This makes me cry when I read it: “To the beloved and deplored memory of her who was the inspirer, and in part the author, of all that is best in my writings — the friend and wife whose exalted sense of truth and right was my strongest incitement, and whose approbation was my chief reward — I dedicate this volume. Like all that I have written for many years, it belongs as much to her as to me; but the work as it stands has had, to a very insufficient degree, the inestimable advantage of her revision; some of the most important portions having been reserved for a more careful re-examination, which they are now never destined to receive. Were I but capable of interpreting to the world one half the great thoughts and noble feeling which are buried in her grave, I should be the medium of a greater benefit to it, than is ever likely to arise from anything that I can write, unprompted and unassisted by her all but unrivalled wisdom.” JSMill dedication to “On Liberty”Report

FK
FK
6 years ago

“In the world of exchange the one who gives more is in the wrong; but the one who loves is always the one who loves more. While the lover’s sacrifice is glorified, the making of that sacrifice is jealously enforced. It is precisely in love itself that the lover is incriminated and punished. The inability to master himself and others demonstrated by his love is reason enough to deny him fulfillment. With society, loneliness reproduces itself on a wider scale. The mechanism operates even within the tenderest ramifications of feeling, until love itself, in order to have contact with another person at all, is forced to assume such coldness that it shatters at the moment of its realization.” (Adorno/Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment)

The German original:

„In der Welt des Tausches hat der Unrecht, der mehr gibt; der Liebende aber ist allemal der mehr Liebende. Während das Opfer, das er bringt, glorifiziert wird, wacht man eifersüchtig darüber, daß dem Liebenden das Opfer nicht erspart bleibe. Gerade in der Liebe selber wird der Liebende ins Unrecht gesetzt und bestraft. Die Unfähigkeit zur Herrschaft über sich und andere, die seine Liebe bezeugt, ist Grund genug, ihm die Erfüllung zu verweigern. Mit der Gesellschaft reproduziert sich erweitert die Einsamkeit. Noch in den zartesten Verzweigungen des Gefühls setzt der Mechanismus sich durch, bis Liebe selber, um überhaupt noch zum andern finden zu können, so sehr zur Kälte getrieben wird, daß sie über der eigenen Verwirklichung zerfällt.“Report

FK
FK
6 years ago

“What is it to love another person, and is it ever a good idea? The ones who have told us the most or the most insightful things about love are poets and novelists. Philosophers, although they are supposed to be lovers of some sort, tend to be all thumbs when it comes to handling love, but since I am only a philosopher I will look at some of their attempts.” (Annette Baier, Unsafe Loves, first sentence)Report

Duncan Loasby
Duncan Loasby
6 years ago

‘Being-in is being-with others’ Martin Heidegger, Being and Time (1927, §26, p. 155), acknowledging the intrinsic intersubjectivity in human existence.Report

Gil Roth
6 years ago

Maybe not the most beautiful, but

‘A will which resolves on nothing is not an actual will; the characterless man can never resolve on anything. The reason for such indecision may also lie in an over-refined sensibility which knows that, in determining something, it enters the realm of finitude, imposing a limit on itself and relinquishing infinity; yet it does not wish to renounce the totality to which it intends. Such a disposition is dead, even if its aspiration is to be beautiful. “Whoever aspires to great things,” says Goethe, “must be able to limit himself.” Only by making resolutions can the human being enter actuality, however painful the process may be; for inertia would rather not emerge from that inward brooding in which it reserves a universal possibility for itself. But possibility is not yet actuality. The will which is sure of itself does not therefore lose itself in what it determines.’
–Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of RightReport

M
M
6 years ago

“The nerve of Mr Bennett’s argument is that if A results from your not doing B, then A results from whatever you do instead of doing B. While there may be much to be said for this view, still it does not seem right on the face of it.” (Anscombe, “A Note on Mr Bennett,” Analysis 26 (1966), p. 208.) Readers are urged to look at these lines in their argumentative context to get a fuller appreciation of their beauty.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

Some of these choices make me (in all seriousness) wonder what many philosophers think “beauty” means. Something like “witty,” maybe? Just “smart”?

Somehow I’m reminded of an old Kids in the Hall sketch about a business executive who goes on a mystical retreat. The shaman orders him, “Show me your soul. Dig deep and show me the pain of your past.” He responds, “Oh, you
mean like a juicy anecdote? Okay, here goes. I don’t recall much of my past, but I do remember my neighbors. They were Spaniards. They grew fine tomatoes!”Report

Yo!
Yo!
6 years ago

“Strange goings on! Jones did it slowly, deliberately, in the bathroom, with a knife, at midnight. What he did was butter a piece of toast.” —Donald Davidson, “The Logical Form of Action Sentences”. Well, perhaps it’s not beautiful. But it is certainly memorable.Report

Yo!
Yo!
6 years ago

What a cliche!Report

Kenneth Henley
Kenneth Henley
6 years ago

“Every drowsy nod shakes their doctrine, who teach, that the soul is always thinking.”
John Locke (1632–1704), An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, bk. 2, ch. 1, sect. 13, p. 111, ed. P. Nidditch, Oxford, Clarendon Press (1975).Report

Cynthia Freeland
6 years ago

Having already treated of the celestial world, as far as our conjectures could reach, we proceed to treat of animals, without omitting, to the best of our ability, any member of the kingdom, however ignoble. For if some have no graces to charm the sense, yet even these, by disclosing to intellectual perception the artistic spirit that designed them, give immense pleasure to all who can trace links of causation, and are inclined to philosophy. Indeed, it would be strange if mimic representations of them were attractive, because they disclose the mimetic skill of the painter or sculptor, and the original realities themselves were not more interesting, to all at any rate who have eyes to discern the reasons that determined their formation. We therefore must not recoil with childish aversion from the examination of the humbler animals. Every realm of nature is marvellous: and as Heraclitus, when the strangers who came to visit him found him warming himself at the furnace in the kitchen and hesitated to go in, reported to have bidden them not to be afraid to enter, as even in that kitchen divinities were present, so we should venture on the study of every kind of animal without distaste; for each and all will reveal to us something natural and something beautiful. Absence of haphazard and conduciveness of everything to an end are to be found in Nature’s works in the highest degree, and the resultant end of her generations and combinations is a form of the beautiful.
Aristotle, Parts of Animals I, 5 (trans. William Ogle)Report

Barbara
Barbara
6 years ago

No nous is good nousReport

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

Parfit on his views about personal identity in Reasons and Persons:

“My life seemed like a glass tunnel, through which I was moving faster every year, and at the end of which there was darkness. When I changed my view, the walls of my glass tunnel disappeared. I now live in the open air.”

Reasons and Persons, p. 281.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
6 years ago

“There is no way out of entanglement. The only responsible course is to deny oneself the ideological misuse of one’s own existence, and for the rest to conduct oneself in private as modestly, unobtrusively, and unpretentiously as is required, no longer by good upbringing, but by the shame of still having air to breathe, in hell.” Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia section 6.Report

Alastair Norcross
6 years ago

“Consider the following case:
On Twin Earth, a brain in a vat is at the wheel of a runaway trolley.” Michael Patton, “Can Bad Men Make Good Brains do Bad Things?”
This, and the rest of the short article, is beautiful. It is a beautiful indictment of the whole ridiculous industry of trolleyology. You would have thought that that beautiful article would have put an end to the whole industry, which would then have drowned in a sea of derisive laughter. But the article was published (In the APA Proceedings and Addresses) in 1988, well before the worst excesses of trolleyology were to occur. Michael Patton is, therefore, the John the Baptist of modern moral philosophy–a voice crying in the wilderness (which is the most complimentary description of Alabama that I can think of).Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
6 years ago

“The floating of other men’s opinions in our brains, makes us not one jot the more knowing, though they happen to be true. What in them was science, is in us but opiniatrety; whilst we give up our assent only to reverend names, and do not, as they did, employ our own reason to understand those truths which gave them reputation. Aristotle was certainly a knowing man, but nobody ever thought him so because he blindly embraced, and confidently vented the opinions of another. And if the taking up of another’s principles, without examining them, made not him a philosopher, I suppose it will hardly make anybody else so. In the sciences, every one has so much as he really knows and comprehends. What he believes only, and takes upon trust, are but shreds; which, however well in the whole piece, make no considerable addition to his stock who gathers them. Such borrowed wealth, like fairy money, though it were gold in the hand from which he received it, will be but leaves and dust when it comes to use.”

Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book I.III.XXIV.Report

J.T.
J.T.
6 years ago

From the beginning of Cohen’s “Karl Marx’s Theory of History,”

Here, then, is a man, moving about the world. As he acts, observes, and suffers, the world reveals itself to him, and he reveals himself to it, imposing his demands on it and pursuing his purposes through it. He spiritualizes nature and impresses a nature on his spirit. He discovers what stones and flowers and water are like, and how to look up at the stars and down canyons. He learns to change the shapes of nature, to mix and separate its elements. He learns how to live, how to make live, how to let let, and how to kill. He gains understanding of the world’s glories, charms, deformities, and dangers. He intervenes in it to secure survival, power, and pleasure.

But he also experiences a substance of a different order. He is in contact and in dialogue with himself. There is a contrast between his confrontation with the world outside and his encounter with the part of the world he is. In the first exercise he is distinct from what he examines; in the second he is not, and his study must be a part of what he studies. He may learn about his surroundings without changing them, but his self-exploration is always also a transformation. It leaves him no longer as he was, investing him with a new self, one more self-aware. And if he would keep hold of his nature he must inspect it afresh: a new nature has supervened on the one he penetrated, because that one was penetrated. His project of self-consciousness is a continual effort which yields continual achievement, a race whose tape is advanced when the finish is reached. It is possessed by being constantly acquired and only acquired by being constantly developed.

Nor is what a man knows about himself unaffected by what he believes about himself, by the conjectures attending his endeavour to see. If he thinks himself confident he is half way to being so. If he thinks himself contemptible, he elicits contempt. Supposing himself fragile, he is shaken by minor adversity. He makes himself, guided by an image of what he is, and what he believes he is thus contributes to what he is in fact.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

Marx and Engels: “All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”

Adorno and Horkheimer: “The triumph over beauty is celebrated by humour – the Schadenfreude that every successful deprivation calls forth. There is laughter because there is nothing to laugh at. Laughter, whether conciliatory or terrible, always occurs when some fear passes. It indicates liberation either from physical danger or from the grip of logic. Conciliatory laughter is heard as the echo of an escape from power; the wrong kind overcomes fear by capitulating to the forces which are to be feared. It is the echo of power as something inescapable. Fun is a medicinal bath. The pleasure industry never fails to prescribe it. It makes laughter the instrument of the fraud practised on happiness.”Report

Mike Otsuka
6 years ago

I’m surprised that nobody else has yet offered this:

“Thus to see our place in society from the perspective of this position is to see it sub specie aeternitatis: it is to regard the human situation not only from all social but also from all temporal points of view. The perspective of eternity is not a perspective from a certain place beyond the world, nor the point of view of a transcendent being; rather it is a certain form of thought and feeling that rational persons can adopt within the world. And having done so, they can, whatever their generation, bring together into one scheme all individual perspectives and arrive together at regulative principles that can be affirmed by everyone as he lives by them, each from his own standpoint. Purity of heart, if one could attain it, would be to see clearly and to act with grace and self-command from this point of view.”

(The closing lines of A Theory of Justice.)Report

W.J. Walter
W.J. Walter
6 years ago

John McCumber: “The future is unknown, while the present does not stay long enough to be even pointed at; all that we have is the ongoing past.”Report

David Kretz
David Kretz
6 years ago

You find the same idea expressed, with similar formulations, in Leviathan, ch. 13, 2nd or so para – and before that in Montaigne’s Essais, II.17, On Presumption.Report

Matt McAdam
Matt McAdam
6 years ago

Since nobody’s done it yet, I’ll be the one to say to Anon (of course!) at #84: lighten up.Report

anon
anon
6 years ago

Matt (of course!), lighten up yourself, sunshine!Report

Michael Hannon
6 years ago

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness – that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that the saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and thought it might seem too good for human life, this is what – at last – I have found.

Bertrand Russell, ‘What I have Lived For,’ in The Autobiography Of Bertrand RussellReport

Eric Winsberg
Eric Winsberg
6 years ago

Et ses mains ourdiraient les entrailles du prêtre, Au défaut d’un cordon pour étrangler les rois.Report

Matt McAdam
Matt McAdam
6 years ago

Touché, anon at #100. That said, the fact that there are some, perhaps many, discussions on DN in which choosing anonymity makes sense and enables honest and needed expression, does not make it the case that anonymity is appropriate in all discussions. Your and others’ unwillingness to identify yourselves within the context of such an innocuous and, in fact, rather joyful context evinces and fosters an irrational and unwarranted paranoia. It’s also enormously self important. Like your pointing out that it’s a stretch to say a lot of these quotes are “beautiful” is such a bombshell that you could be imperiled for making it. Finally, it just makes you a bad sport. For your insistence on anonymity expresses a complete disinterest in having any kind of genuine, even if attenuated, community here on DN. So my little dig “(of course!)” is meant to express this. Your doing it to me is just lashing out.Report

Alan White
6 years ago

“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”

“It is more important that a proposition be interesting than that it be true. . . But of course a true proposition is more apt to be interesting than a false one.”

“Systems, scientific and philosophic, come and go. Each method of limited understanding is at length exhausted. In its prime each system is a triumphant success: in its decay it is an obstructive nuisance.”

Whitehead, the first Process and Reality and the others Adventures in Ideas.Report

knuckles
knuckles
6 years ago

“Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.” -ConfessionsReport

MA-Student
MA-Student
6 years ago

“Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted of object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” ~Chuckie DarwinReport

Jan
Jan
6 years ago

‘If you do not really believe in the existence of truth, what is the passion of truth a passion for? Or – as
we might put it – in pursuing truthfulness, what are you supposedly being true to? This is not an abstract
difficulty or just a paradox. It has consequences for real politics, and it signals a danger that our intellectual
activities, particularly in the humanities, may tear themselves to pieces.’

Bernard Williams from Truth and TruthfulnessReport

Jan
Jan
6 years ago

“One can [say] that the atomic system behaves “in a certain relation, ‘As If …” and “in a certain relation, ‘ As If …,” but that is, so to speak, only a legalistic contivance which cannot be turned into clear thinking ”

(letter from E. Schrödinger to N. Bohr, October 23, 1926)Report

Cathy Legg
Cathy Legg
6 years ago

“Symbols grow”. Charles PeirceReport

Josh Parsons
6 years ago

“That would not be an argument, but a magic spell.” – David Lewis on refuting the skeptic.Report

Marcus
Marcus
6 years ago

“Are purely theoretic riddles worth the wrinkles in our brows? Is it over matters such as these that philosophers have grown long beards? Are such concerns worthy of teaching our children with faces grave and pale? …Why do our philosophers abandon the magnificent promises made? After assuring me in solemn turns that my eyes shall no longer be overwhelmed by the glitter of gold or the sparkle of a sword, that I shall spurn with magnificent purpose the trifles that others pray, fight, and fear for, why, why do we spend on all of our time on mere theoretical squabbles. Philosophy began as a way to the heavens; it promised nothing less than that she will make us God’s equal. That is the invitation that was sent, and it is for that and that alone that I have come. Be as good as your word.” – Seneca Letter XLVIIIReport

Daniel M
Daniel M
6 years ago

From the first of Seneca’s Moral letters to Lucilius:

1. Continue to act thus, my dear Lucilius – set yourself free for your own sake; gather and save your time, which till lately has been forced from you, or filched away, or has merely slipped from your hands. Make yourself believe the truth of my words, – that certain moments are torn from us, that some are gently removed, and that others glide beyond our reach. The most disgraceful kind of loss, however, is that due to carelessness. Furthermore, if you will pay close heed to the problem, you will find that the largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose.

2. What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years be behind us are in death’s hands.
Therefore, Lucilius, do as you write me that you are doing: hold every hour in your grasp. Lay hold of to-day’s task, and you will not need to depend so much upon to-morrow’s. While we are postponing, life speeds by.

3. Nothing, Lucilius, is ours, except time. We were entrusted by nature with the ownership of this single thing, so fleeting and slippery that anyone who will can oust us from possession. What fools these mortals be! They allow the cheapest and most useless things, which can easily be replaced, to be charged in the reckoning, after they have acquired them; but they never regard themselves as in debt when they have received some of that precious commodity, – time! And yet time is the one loan which even a grateful recipient cannot repay.Report

Peter Momtchiloff
Peter Momtchiloff
6 years ago

Wenn die Philosophie ihr Grau in Grau malt, dann ist eine Gestalt des Lebens alt geworden, und mit Grau in Grau läßt sie sich nicht verjüngen, sondern nur erkennen; die Eule der Minerva beginnt erst mit der einbrechenden Dämmerung ihren Flug.Report

Andrew Hunter
Andrew Hunter
6 years ago

‘Ouch’ is a one-word sentence which a man may volunteer from time to time by way of laconic comment on the passing show. (Quine, Word and Object)Report

Charles Young
Charles Young
6 years ago

When I see a tomato, there is much that I can doubt. – PritchardReport

MH
MH
6 years ago

(In response to a question concerning metalogic)

“It’s not false, it’s just … no.” -Bas van Fraassen.Report

Merilyn Jackson
6 years ago

The human being is this night, this empty nothing, that contains everything in is simplicity—an unending wealth of presentations, images, none of which occurs to him or is present. This night, the inner one of nature that exists here—this pure self—in phantasmagorical presentations… here shoots out a bloody head, there a white shape… One catches sight of this night when one looks human beings in the eye—this night that becomes awful suspends the night of the world in an opposition.
-Hegel (Realphilosophie manuscripts)Report

soup
soup
6 years ago

Es ist überall nichts in der Welt, ja überhaupt auch außer derselben zu denken möglich, was ohne Einschränkung für gut könnte gehalten werden, als allein ein GUTER WILLE.Report

Alex
Alex
6 years ago

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given, and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionizing themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle-cries and costumes in order to present the new scene of world history in this time-honoured disguise and this borrowed language.” – Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis BonaparteReport

A. Turner
6 years ago

A girl, in order to escape a conclusion, may utter what appears to be an outrageously irrelevant remark, but what in fact she is doing is turning an argument she finds tiresome into a conversation she is more at home in. In conversations, ‘facts’ appear only to resolve once more into the possibilities from which they were made; ‘certainties’ are shown to be combustible, not by being brought into contact with other certainties or with doubt, but by being kindled by the presence of ideas of another order…Thoughts of different species take wing and play round one another, responding to each other’s movements and provoking one another of fresh exertions. Nobody asks where they have come from or on what authority they are present; nobody cares what will become of them when they have played their part. There is no symposiarch or arbiter; not even a doorkeeper to examine credentials. Every entrant is taken at face-value and everything is permitted which can get itself accepted into the flow of speculation. And voices which speak in conversation do not compose a hierarchy. Conversation is not an enterprise designed to yield an extrinsic profit, a contest where a winner gets a prize, nor is it an activity of exegesis; it is an unrehearsed intellectual adventure. It is with conversation as it is with gambling, its significance lies neither with winning nor in losing, but in wagering. Properly speaking, it is impossible in the absence of a diversity of voices: in it different universes of discourse meet, acknowledge each other, and enjoy an oblique relationship which neither requires nor forecasts their being assimilated to one another. This, I believe, is the appropriate image of human intercourse. –OakeshottReport

Skye
6 years ago

“Star friendship.— We were friends and have become estranged. But this was right, and we do not want to conceal and obscure it from ourselves as if we had reason to feel ashamed. We are two ships each of which has its goal and course; our paths may cross and we may celebrate a feast together, as we did—and then the good ships rested so quietly in one harbor and one sunshine that it may have looked as if they had reached their goal and as if they had one goal. But then the almighty force of our tasks drove us apart again into different seas and sunny zones, and perhaps we shall never see one another again,—perhaps we shall meet again but fail to recognize each other: our exposure to different seas and suns has changed us! That we have to become estranged is the law above us: by the same token we should also become more venerable for each other! And thus the memory of our former friendship should become more sacred! There is probably a tremendous but invisible stellar orbit in which our very different ways and goals may be included as small parts of this path,—let us rise up to this thought! But our life is too short and our power of vision too small for us to be more than friends in the sense of this sublime possibility.— Let us then believe in our star friendship even if we should be compelled to be earth enemies.” (Nietzsche)Report

Mark
Mark
6 years ago

“But we must not follow those who advise us, being men, to think of human things and being mortal, of mortal things, but must so far as we can, make ourselves immortal, and strain every nerve to live in accordance with the best thing in us; for even if it be small in bulk, much more does it in power and worth surpass everything.” Aristotle, NE (1178a)Report

A. P. Taylor
A. P. Taylor
6 years ago

I am surprised no one has mentioned the opening of Book II of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, I have always found it wise, and beautiful:

“Begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away.

Whatever this is that I am, it is a little flesh and breath, and the ruling part. Throw away your books; no longer distract yourself: it is not allowed; but as if you were now dying, despise the flesh; it is blood and bones and a network, a contexture of nerves, veins, and arteries. See the breath also, what kind of a thing it is, air, and not always the same, but every moment sent out and again sucked in. The third then is the ruling part: consider thus: You are an old man; no longer let this be a slave, no longer be pulled by the strings like a puppet to unsocial movements, no longer either be dissatisfied with your present lot, or shrink from the future.

All that is from the gods is full of Providence. That which is from fortune is not separated from nature or without an interweaving and involution with the things which are ordered by Providence. From there all things flow; and there is besides necessity, and that which is for the advantage of the whole universe, of which you art a part. But that is good for every part of nature which the nature of the whole brings, and what serves to maintain this nature. Now the universe is preserved, as by the changes of the elements so by the changes of things compounded of the elements. Let these principles be enough for you, let them always be fixed opinions. But cast away the thirst after books, that you may not die murmuring, but cheerfully, truly, and from your heart thankful to the gods.Report

Marc Lange
Marc Lange
6 years ago

The world of universals, therefore, may also be described as the world of being. The world of being is unchangeable, rigid, exact, delightful to the mathematician, the logician, the builder of metaphysical systems, and all who love perfection more than life. The world of existence is fleeting, vague, without sharp boundaries, without any clear plan of arrangement, but it contains all thoughts and feelings, all the data of sense, and all physical objects, everything that can do either good or harm, everything that makes any difference to the value of life and the world. According to our temperaments, we shall prefer the contemplation of the one or the other. The one we do not prefer will probably seem to us a pale shadow of the one we prefer, and hardly worthy to be regarded as in any sense real. But the truth is that both have the same claim in our impartial attention, both are real, and both are important to the metaphysician. Indeed no sooner have we distinguished the two worlds than it becomes necessary to consider their relations. (B. Russell, The Problems of Philosophy (1912), end of chapter 9).Report

Benjamin Gregg
Benjamin Gregg
6 years ago

Hegel, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (1820): „Wenn die Philosophie ihr Grau in Grau malt, dann ist eine Gestalt des Lebens alt geworden, und mit Grau in Grau lässt sie sich nicht verjüngen, sondern nur erkennen; die Eule der Minerva beginnt erst mit der einbrechenden Dämmerung ihren Flug.“Report

sh
sh
6 years ago

“colour shines and wants only to shine” M. Heidegger, trans. Julian YoungReport

Nick C. Sagos
Nick C. Sagos
6 years ago

ὁ ἄνθρωπος φύσει πολιτικὸν ζῷονReport

Linda
Linda
6 years ago

“It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.” – JS MillReport

Peter West-Oram
Peter West-Oram
6 years ago

My personal favourite, from Henry Shue’s “Basic Rights”:

“Basic rights are the morality of the depths. They specify the line beneath which no one is to be allowed to sink.”Report

David Slutsky
6 years ago

If we are, as most of us seem to be, inclined to accept the objectivity of the shameful and the concepts that fall under it, and if we are also inclined to embrace a neo-Humean conception of practical rationality and the good life, then it will be hard for us to retain a certain form of self-respect as it applies to our reasons and lives. I think many of us will want to have it both ways. But perhaps we cannot. – Warren Quinn, Rationality and the Human Good 1992Report

william cooney
william cooney
5 years ago

Arthur C. Clarke’s philosophical musings on the visual representation of the Mandlebrot set. He said it reminded him of the line from John Keats–in that they were like “Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam, of seas from faery lands forlorn.”Report