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Philosophical Quotations

All is nothing that is everything... ~Cave A. Outlaw (1900–1996), "Cult of the Phoenix"

One epitaph is sufficiently comprehensive for most persons:—Here lies A MORTAL. In that word is comprised a brief space of trivial joys, and trivial sorrows. The rest is a phantom. ~William Benton Clulow, Horæ Otiosæ, 1833

Begin at the beginning... and go on till you come to the end: then stop. ~Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it. ~André Gide

Gazing at the stars will not save you from the abyss at your feet. ~Dr. Idel Dreimer,

Just as the old, looking back, idealize the past, so the young, looking forward, idealize the future. Illusion is the stuff of memory — and is at the heart of hope. ~Dr. Idel Dreimer,

Before enlightenment — chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment — chop wood, carry water. ~Zen Buddhist proverb

Wars and elections are both too big and too small to matter in the long run. The daily work — that goes on, it adds up. ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams, 1990

Edith. Is there no rest?
Lyulph. Harmonious motion is divine repose. ~Henry James Slack (1818–1896), The Ministry of the Beautiful, "Conversation I: The Cavern," 1850

I cling to the mortal, and yet long for immortality. ~Henry James Slack (1818–1896), The Ministry of the Beautiful, "Conversation I: The Cavern," 1850  [Edith speaking —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Symbols have a trick of stealing the show away from the thing they stand for. ~Henry Stanley Haskins, "Symbols," Meditations in Wall Street, 1940

On the one hand, don't take everything seriously. On the other hand, don't expect anything to change until you do. ~Robert Brault,

Language was invented to ask questions. Answers may be given by grunts and gestures, but questions must be spoken. Humanness came of age when man asked the first question. Social stagnation results not from a lack of answers but from the absence of the impulse to ask questions. ~Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition, 1973

Would there be this eternal seeking if the found existed? ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), c.1968

...You're searching, Joe,
For things that don't exist; I mean beginnings.
Ends and beginnings — there are no such things.
There are only middles.
~Robert Frost, "In the Home Stretch"

I was once a skeptic but was converted by the two missionaries on either side of my nose. ~Robert Brault,

The world is stronger than the night; and the bindings of sense are ten-fold stronger than the most exquisite delirium of soul. This makes you feel, or will one day make you feel, that life, — strong life and sound life, — that life which lends approaches to the Infinite, and takes hold on Heaven, is not so much a PROGRESS, as it is a RESISTANCE. ~Ik Marvel (Donald Grant Mitchell, 1822–1908), Dream Life: A Fable of the Seasons

Hell, life itself can be absurd. But you have to embrace that. If you can't smile now, how can you possibly laugh in the face of death? ~R. Scott Gemmill, NCIS: Los Angeles, "Imposters" [S2, E23, 2011, Hetty Lange]

When two do the same thing, it is not the same thing after all. ~Publilius Syrus, 1st century BCE, from the Latin by D. Lyman, 1856

While ladies draw their stockings on
The ladies they were are up and gone.
I pen my lines, I finish, I scan them,
I'm not the poet who began them.
Each moment Time, the lord of changers,
Stuffs our skins with ephemeral strangers.
Good heavens, how remote from me
The billion people I used to be!...
~Ogden Nash (1902–1971), "Time Marches On"

You are fastened to them and cannot understand how, because they are not fastened to you. ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), c.1968

The world we live in is not really a single circle, as they draw it for you in the maps. It is a whole tangle of circles which only intersect at intervals; and the circumference of each is a brick wall which pens in the lives of the inmates. ~Ronald A. Knox, Other Eyes Than Ours, 1926

[M]an can accept pleasure only to the extent that he is willing to accept pain... the rejection of either eliminates both. ~Thea Alexander, 2150 A.D., 1976

Echo.— The shadow of a sound. ~"Specimens of a Patent Pocket Dictionary, For the use of those who wish to understand the meaning of things as well as words," The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, 1824

Only in the early morning light of day, and of life, can we see the world without its shadows. Truth requires new beginnings. ~Jeb Dickerson, @JebDickerson

It would be a very big book that contained all the maybes uttered in a day. ~French proverb

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice...
No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with exactly the same kisses.
~Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012), "Nothing Twice," Calling Out to Yeti (1957), translated from the Polish by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh

It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. ~Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet,” Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 1892

Joan Watson:  And someone once said, "Once you've eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, is the truth."
Sherlock Holmes:  Sounds like a windbag.
~Elementary, The Leviathan, 2012, written by Corinne Brinkerhoff and Craig Sweeny  [S1, E10]

Among creatures born into chaos, a majority will imagine an order, a minority will question the order, and the rest will be pronounced insane. ~Robert Brault,

Seeking is not always the way to find. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

Most of us reserve our amazement for phenomena rather than for general truths. ~Robert Lynd, "The Old Game," Solomon in All His Glory, 1923

"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get somewhere else—if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing." "A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place..." ~Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, And What Alice Found There

We waste a lot of time running after people we could have caught by just standing still. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1963

There is no tomorrow. There is only a planet turning on its axis, and a creature given to optimistic fancies. ~Robert Brault,

Tomorrow always comes, and today is never yesterday. ~S. A. Sachs

Reason and faith are both banks of the same river. ~Doménico Cieri Estrada

He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee. ~Friedrich Nietzsche, “Apophthegms and Interludes,” № 146, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, 1886, translated by Helen Zimmern, 1907

You can owe nothing, if you give back its light to the sun. ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), c.1968

But man is a frivolous and incongruous creature, and perhaps, like a chessplayer, loves only the process of the game, not the end of it. And who knows (one cannot swear to it), perhaps the only goal on earth to which mankind is striving lies in this incessant process of attaining, or in other words, in life itself, and not particularly in the goal which of course must always be two times two makes four, that is a formula, and after all, two times two makes four is no longer life, gentlemen, but is the beginning of death. Anyway, man has always been somehow afraid of this two times two makes four, and I am afraid of it even now. Granted that man does nothing but seek that two times two makes four, that he sails the oceans, sacrifices his life in the quest, but to succeed, really to find it — he is somehow afraid, I assure you. He feels that as soon as he has found it there will be nothing for him to look for... Anyway, one can observe a certain awkwardness about him every time he attains such goals. He likes the process of attaining, but does not quite like to have attained, and that, of course, is terribly funny. In short, man is a comical creature; there seems to be a kind of pun in it all. But two times two makes four is, after all, something insufferable. Two times two makes four seems to me simply a piece of insolence. Two times two makes four is a fop standing with arms akimbo barring your path and spitting. I admit that two times two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are going to praise everything, two times two makes five is sometimes also a very charming little thing. ~Fyodor Dostoyevsky, "Notes from Underground," 1864, translated by Ralph E. Matlaw, 1959

And why are you so firmly, so triumphantly convinced that only the normal and the positive — in short, only prosperity — is to the advantage of man?... After all, perhaps man likes something besides prosperity? Perhaps he likes suffering just as much? Perhaps suffering is just as great an advantage to him as prosperity? Man is sometimes fearfully, passionately in love with suffering and that is a fact. There is no need to appeal to universal history to prove that; only ask yourself, if only you are a man and have lived at all. As far as my own personal opinion is concerned, to care only for prosperity seems to me somehow even ill-bred. Whether it's good or bad, it is sometimes very pleasant to smash things, too. After all, I do not really insist on suffering or on prosperity either. I insist on my caprice, and its being guaranteed to me when necessary. Suffering would be out of place in vaudevilles, for instance; I know that. In the crystal palace it is even unthinkable; suffering means doubt, means negation, and what would be the good of a crystal palace if there could be any doubt about it? And yet I am sure man will never renounce real suffering, that is, destruction and chaos. Why, after all, suffering is the sole origin of consciousness. Though I stated at the beginning that consciousness, in my opinion, is the greatest misfortune for man, yet I know man loves it and would not give it up for any satisfaction. Consciousness, for instance, is infinitely superior to two times two makes four. Once you have two times two makes four, there is nothing left to do or to understand. There will be nothing left but to bottle up your five senses and plunge into contemplation. ~Fyodor Dostoyevsky, "Notes from Underground," 1864, translated by Ralph E. Matlaw, 1959

But I have always found that the only kind of statement worth making is an overstatement. A half truth, like half a brick, is always more forcible as an argument than a whole one. It carries further. ~Stephen Leacock, The Garden of Folly, 1924

You don't want a million answers as much as you want a few forever questions. The questions are diamonds you hold in the light. Study a lifetime and you see different colors from the same jewel. ~Richard Bach, Running from Safety: An Adventure of the Spirit, 1994

A very good epitaph... I couldn't wish a better. We are all servants of some sort, and if the fact that we are faithful can be truthfully inscribed on our tombstones nothing more need be added. ~L. M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island, 1915

I have seen a book, entitled Quidlibet ex Quolibet, or the art of making any thing out of any thing; which is not so difficult as it would seem, if once one quits certain plain truths, obvious in gross to every understanding, in order to run after the ingenious refinements of warm imaginations and speculative reasonings. Doctor Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, a very worthy, ingenious, and learned man, has written a book to prove that there is no such thing as Matter, and that nothing exists but in idea: that you and I only fancy ourselves eating, drinking, and sleeping; you at Leipsig, and I at London: that we think we have flesh and blood, legs, arms, &c. but that we are only spirit. His arguments are, strictly speaking, unanswerable; but yet I am so far from being convinced by them, that I am determined to go on to eat and drink, and walk and ride, in order to keep that matter, which I so mistakenly imagine my body at present to consist of, in as good plight as possible. ~Lord Chesterfield

Man is the only animal who enjoys the consolation of believing in a next life; all other animals enjoy the consolation of not worrying about it. ~Robert Brault,

The winds of earth are old and sane
But tell me, tell me when you know —
What happens to a hurricane
That hasn't any place to go?
~David Hertz (screenplay) from 1947 movie Daisy Kenyon, based on 1945 novel by Elizabeth Janeway [The quote is a poem written by character Peter Lapham (verse form and punctuation are my interpretation). Screenplay was also contributed to by Margaret Buell Wilder, Ted Sills, and Ring Lardner, Jr. –tg]

There was never a wise saying that couldn't be made wiser by adding the words, "and vice-versa." ~Robert Brault,

It’s a perfect day to slip into something more comfortable. Like the abyss. ~Keith Wynn, tweet, 2020

We all have private ails. The troublemakers are they who need public cures for their private ales. ~Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition, 1973

All the thoughts of a turtle are turtle. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal, 1854

All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income. ~Samuel Butler (1835–1902), Note-Books, selections arranged and edited by Henry Festing Jones (1851–1928)

When the pain is great enough, we will let anyone be doctor. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1963

Yes, if I could believe in the immortality business, the world would indeed be too good to be true; but we were put here to do what service we can, for honour and not for hire; the sods cover us, and the worm that never dies, the conscience, sleeps well at last; these are the wages, besides what we receive so lavishly day by day; and they are enough for a man who knows his own frailty and sees all things in the proportion of reality. The soul of piety was killed long ago by that idea of reward.... [M]an's cherished belief is that he loves that happiness which he continually spurns and passes by; and this belief in some ulterior happiness exactly fits him. He does not require to stop and taste it; he can be about the rugged and bitter business where his heart lies; and yet he can tell himself this fairy tale of an eternal tea-party, and enjoy the notion that he is both himself and something else; and that his friends will yet meet him, all ironed out and emasculate, and still be lovable—as if love did not live in the faults of the beloved only, and draw its breath in an unbroken round of forgiveness! ~Robert Louis Stevenson, letter to Edmund Gosse, 1886 January 2nd

"And the conclusion—" Valda at last ventured.
"There isn't any. Humanly, to conclude things is to drop them behind us..."
~Mary Hunter Austin, Love and the Soul Maker, 1914

Which is it brings the Archer Fame—
His Bow, his Arrows, or his Aim?
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Human Phenomena," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

I know this much about racing in the rain. I know it is about balance. It is about anticipation and patience. I know all of the driving skills that are necessary for one to be successful in the rain. But racing in the rain is also about the mind! It is about owning one's own body. About believing that one's car is merely an extension of one's body. About believing that the track is an extension of the car, and the rain is an extension of the track, and the sky is an extension of the rain. It is about believing that you are not you; you are everything. And everything is you. ~Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain, 2008

May your passion be the kernel of corn stuck between your molars, always reminding you there's something to tend to. ~Jeb Dickerson, @JebDickerson

I stop wanting what I am looking for, looking for it. ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), c.1968

There's no fun in playing safe or by the rules, but it's not fun being hit by a semi-truck either. ~Daniel, @Blindedpoet, tweet, 2010

He who does not fill his world with phantoms remains alone. ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), c.1968

Conscience and cowardice are really the same things, Basil. Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all. ~Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1890

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also. ~Oscar Wilde

Do you really think... that it is weakness that yields to temptation? I tell you that there are terrible temptations that it requires strength, strength and courage, to yield to. To stake all one's life on a single moment... there is no weakness in that. ~Oscar Wilde

A hundred years die in a moment, just as a moment dies in a moment. ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), c.1968

It's very strange when the life you never had flashes before your eyes. ~Terri Minsky, Sex and the City, "The Baby Shower"

We come to this work because the alternative, being consumed by the effort to ignore the mystery of being, is no longer acceptable. ~Ken McLeod, Wake Up To Your Life: Discovering the Buddhist Path of Attention

We become aware of the void as we fill it. ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), c.1968

If you understand compound interest, you basically understand the universe. ~Robert Brault,

My heaviness comes from the heights. ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), c.1968

      ...Besides he wished to hear Jesus talk rather than to talk about himself, so he compared his residence with the Essenes to a clue out of which a long thread had unravelled: a thread, he said, that led me into the desert in search of thee.
      Jesus had known Banu, in the desert, and listened attentively while Joseph told him how Banu was interrupted while speaking of the resurrection by a vision of John baptizing Jesus, and had bidden him go to Jordan and get baptism from John. But it was not John's baptism I sought, but thee, and I arrived breathless, to hear that thou hadst gone away with him, John not being able to bear the cold of the water any longer. Afterwards I sought thee hither and thither, till hearing of thee in Egypt I went there and sought thee from synagogue to synagogue.
      A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it, Jesus answered gently, and in a tenderer voice than his scrannel peacock throat would have led one to expect. And as if foreseeing an ardent disciple he began to speak to Joseph of God, his speech moving on with a gentle motion like that of clouds wreathing and unwreathing, finding new shapes for every period, and always beautiful shapes. He often stopped speaking and his eyes became fixed, as if he saw beyond the things we all see; and after an interval he would begin to speak again... It seemed as if Jesus were on the point of some tremendous avowal, but if so it passed away like a cloud... He did not seek to conceal his ignorance of this world from Joseph, and almost made parade of it, as if he was aware that one must discard a great deal to gain a little... ~George Moore, The Brook Kerith: A Syrian Story, 1916

How often one sees people looking far and wide for what they are holding in their hands? Why! I am doing it myself at this very moment. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

Sometimes an answer not yet blowin' in the wind is stirring in the breeze. ~Robert Brault,

The silkworm spins out his life, and, wrapping himself in his labor, dies. ~Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866), "Religion in Disease," 1865

Yearning for sun and starlight, roses and winter, together. ~Dr. SunWolf,

You have to do it by yourself,
And you can't do it alone.
~Martin Rutte

That is my uncle Bob. My sister's uncle Bob was different. ~Barry Fox Stevens (1902–1985), Burst Out Laughing, 1985

Because they know the name of what I am looking for, they think they know what I am looking for! ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), c.1968

There are things I have wanted so long that I would only consent to have them if I could keep wanting them. ~Robert Brault,

The only victories that have ever stuck were spiritual. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

The first great lesson is obedience; the second great lesson is to keep obedience from becoming slavery. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, as reprinted in Poor Richard Jr's Almanack, George Horace Lorimer, editor, 1906

Our sweetest hopes rise blooming.
      And then again are gone,
      They bloom and fade alternate,
      And so it goes rolling on.
I know it, and it troubles
      My life, my love, my rest,
      My heart is wise and witty,
      And it bleeds within my breast.
~Heinrich Heine, "A New Spring," 1826, Pictures of Travel, translated from German by Charles Godfrey Leland  [Interestingly, if you are indeed interested in such things, the translator C.G. Leland was the chief introducer of Heine to the English-speaking audience, especially America. Heine has had many other translators, including Christopher Pearse Cranch, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Snodgrass, and Edgar Alfred Bowring. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

I wonder sometimes — if every individual in this world were perfectly objective, would there actually be such a thing as an individual? ~Robert Brault,

A thing, until it is everything, is noise, and once it is everything it is silence. ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), Voices, 1988

The road was new to me, as roads always are, going back. ~Sarah Orne Jewett, The Country of the Pointed Firs, 1896

I am not certain of the hereafter. Frankly, I'm not all that certain of the here. ~Robert Brault,

Ask not the grass to give you green, and later walk all over it. ~Anthony Liccione

To submit to necessity involves no disgrace. ~Publilius Syrus, 1st century BCE, from the Latin by D. Lyman, 1856

You can have your cake and eat it. But my God, it will go rotten inside you. ~D. H. Lawrence, "Hawthorne's 'Blithedale Romance,'" Studies in Classic American Literature, 1923

To know the height of a mountain, one must climb it. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

The awful shadow of some unseen Power
Floats tho' unseen among us; visiting
This various world with as inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower;
Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower...
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty," 1816

No, it is too sad. A cry in the night from a man buried alive.... No poet ever had such a lucky change before... to survive his own death, though many a one has survived his own immortality.... The wrecks in the Morgue, what tales they could tell! But dead men tell no tales. While there's life there's hope; and so the worst cynicisms have never been spoken. But I—I alone—have dodged the Fates. I am the dead-alive, the living dead. I hover over my racked body like a ghost, and exist in an interregnum. And so I am the first mortal in a position to demand an explanation. Don't tell me I have sinned, and am in hell. Most sins are sins of classification by bigots and poor thinkers. Who can live without sinning, or sin without living? All very well for Kant to say: "Act so that your conduct may be a law for all men under similar conditions." But Kant overlooked that you are part of the conditions.... It is easy enough to be virtuous when you are a professor of pure reason, a regular, punctual mechanism, a thing for the citizens of Königsberg to set their watches by. But if you happen to be one of those fellows to whom all the roses nod and all the stars wink... ~Israel Zangwill, Dreamers of the Ghetto, "From a Mattress Grave," 1897  [spoken by the character Heinrich Heine —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

We have the ability to survive anything except ourselves. ~Mike Dolan, @HawaiianLife, tweet, 2015

We are each a dozen people who were all the same child. ~Robert Brault,

I've observed that there are more lines formed than things worth waiting for. ~Robert Brault,

In the circle of life there is no top, no corner, and no straight lines. ~Mike Dolan, @HawaiianLife, tweet, 2015

Before I travelled my road I was my road. ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), c.1968

Why, all delights are vain; but that most vain,
Which with pain purchased doth inherit pain:
As, painfully to pore upon a book
To seek the light of truth; while truth the while
Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look:
Light seeking light doth light of light beguile:
So, ere you find where light in darkness lies,
Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes.
~William Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost, c.1594  [I, 1, Biron]

Don't seek Honey with a Bear
And hope to get the Lion's Share.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Caution," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

In this, the late afternoon of my life, I wonder: am I casting a longer shadow or is my shadow casting a shorter me? ~Robert Brault,

In a mist the heights can for the most part see each other; but the valleys cannot. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

In general people experience their present naively, as it were, without being able to form an estimate of its contents; they have first to put themselves at a distance from it — the present, that is to say, must have become the past — before it can yield points of vantage from which to judge the future. ~Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion

I have come one step away from everything. And here I stay, far from everything, one step away. ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), c.1968

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

~T. S. Eliot, final lines of "The Hollow Men," 1925

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