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Quotations about Thinking

THOUGHT.—The telescopic searching of a mind not content with viewing the phases of life only in outline and from a distance. ~"A Chapter of Definitions," Daily Crescent, 1848 June 23rd

Think any way you please, but know why. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

Thought is the unconscious and unceasing language of the mind. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

The thoughts that come often unsought, and, as it were, drop into the mind, are commonly the most valuable of any we have, and therefore should be secured, because they seldom return again. ~John Locke

The trouble with brains is — they are so easily washed. ~Dr. Idel Dreimer,

[B]elief is the antithesis to thinking. A refusal to come to an unjustified conclusion is an element of an honest man's religion. To him the call to blind faith is really a call to barbarism and slavery. In being asked to believe without evidence, he is being asked to abdicate his integrity. Freedom of speech and freedom of action are meaningless without freedom to think. And there is no freedom of thought without doubt. The civilized man has a moral obligation to be skeptical, to demand the credentials of all statements that claim to be facts. An honorable man will not be bullied by a hypothesis. For in the last analysis, all tyranny rests on fraud, on getting someone to accept false assumptions, and any man who for one moment abandons or suspends the questioning spirit has for that moment betrayed humanity. ~Bergen Evans, The Natural History of Nonsense, 1946  ["This book.... is a study in the paleontology of delusion. It is an antibody for all who are allergic to Stardust. It is a manual of chiropody for feet of clay." B.E. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Never be afraid to sit awhile and think. ~Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun worn by the unequal irritations of too much thinking... ~Thomas De Quincey (1785–1859), "Temperance Movement"

We Americans... think too much, and too morbidly, — brood, meditate, become sickly with our own pallid fancies, allowing them to swarm upon us by night and by day. It will, of course, sound strange in the ears of many to say so, but we are fain to proclaim over and over again, in our loudest and most emphatic tones, We are too intellectual a race. To the brain parts of our structure we draw off much that should be devoted to the body, the muscles — neglecting what all men first require, to be fine animals. We suppose we shall excite some disdain by such remarks, but they include undoubted truths necessary to be told. ~Mose Velsor (Walt Whitman), "Manly Health and Training" (Too Much Brain Action and Fretting), New York Atlas, 1858 December 19th

Maybe I think too much for my own good
Some people say so
Other people say, "No no
That fact is
You don't think as much as you could"
~Paul Simon, "Think Too Much (a)," 1982 ♫

You and I are not what we eat; we are what we think. ~Walter Anderson, The Confidence Course, 1997

When I observe my thinking, I see how separated it is from reality. ~Barry Stevens, "Voids, voids, voids — noddings!," in gestalt is, edited by John O. Stevens, 1975

Great thinkers move slowly. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

Read all the Books on every Shelf,
But do your Thinking for yourself.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Books," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

You cannot escape the results of your thoughts. Thus, what young students think about when they do not have to think becomes most important. Far too many of them, I believe, stop to think and forget to start again. ~Author unknown, c.1970  [could be Milo Baughman but I'm not certain —tg]

Think wisely, weighing Word and Fact,
But never Think too much to Act.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Timidity," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

It is easy to see why the conventional wisdom resists so stoutly such change. It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled seas of thought. ~John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society, 1958

Man is a thought-being, and his life and character are determined by the thoughts in which he habitually dwells. ~James Allen, "Practice of Meditation," The Mastery of Destiny, 1909

Thought is the result of spiritual and not of mere mechanical action — else a watch or a steam-engine might be made to think; and thought or spirit, though it exist in the body, is not the result of body, nor confined to the body. ~Charles Mackay, The Twin Soul, 1887

When my body is tight, my thinking is tight too, and very limited. ~Barry Stevens, "Body Work," in gestalt is, edited by John O. Stevens, 1975

I remember, there was a day
      During which I did not write a line of verse;
      Nor did I speak a word to any woman,
      Nor did I meet with death.
Yet all that day I was fully occupied:
      My eyes saw trees, clouds, streets, houses, people;
      My lungs breathed air;
      My mouth swallowed food and drink;
      My hands seized things, my feet touched earth,
      Or spurned it at my desire.
On that day I know I would have been sufficiently happy,
      If I could have kept my brain from bothering at all
      About my next trite poem;
      About the tedious necessities of sex;
      And about the day on which I would at last meet death.
~John Gould Fletcher

FORETHOUGHT  Afterthought ahead of time. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, by Gideon Wurdz, 1914

Reasons and Rules, Reasons and Rules;
The First for the Wise and the Second for Fools!
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Counsel," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

Greek thought impresses me as being over-much obsessed by an objective treatment of certain necessary preliminary conditions of human thought — number and definition and class and abstract form! But these things, — number, definition, class and abstract form, — I hold, are merely unavoidable conditions of mental activity — regrettable conditions rather than essential facts. The forceps of our minds are clumsy forceps and crush the truth a little in taking hold of it… ~H. G. Wells

Our minds are lazier than our bodies. ~François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld

Invest a few moments in thinking. It will pay good interest. ~Author unknown

      I am, I realize, muddy-minded. My mind is not comprehensive enough and it is too congested by minor issues and impulsions, to take a clear view of existence. It is encumbered like a crystal trying to form in a magma loaded with irrelevant matter. But nevertheless it has a considerable apprehension of potentialities. The shape of the crystal, the form of this world is perceptible to me. It is the common lot to be muddy-minded; I am muddy-minded, you are muddy-minded, he is muddy-minded; past, present and future indicative you can conjugate it; nevertheless I believe, that by getting numbers of people to think as hard as they can and state as clearly as they can, and then by bringing their results together, gradually, steadily, a clearing-up is possible. That clearing-up is going on even now but it might go on much faster. Philosophers, teachers, editors and publishers — for I rank all these servers-up of ideas together — should be the ushers of the crowd. That is what a publisher should be; that is all a sane philosopher pretends to be...
      I believe that a just general idea of a new life for mankind is existent — latent — amidst the confusions of our time, and that as it emerges to lucidity, it will have compelling power in the measure of its lucidity... As the Right Thing to Do becomes patent, we shall fall into our rôles. ~H. G. Wells, Apropos of Dolores, 1938

A good deal of our so-called thinking is incoherent, and breaks down when we criticize it. ~H. W. B. Joseph, An Introduction to Logic, 1906

Not all day long can I contemplate, for time is passing, and I, too, must live. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), My Little Book of Prayer, 1904

As tall trees of the forest are the first to be smitten by the storm and shattered by the thunderbolt, so men of advanced thought are the first assailed by the tempests of popular indignation. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

There are thoughts which appear not to have come from the senses, but rather to have been forced through the skull. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

Physiological response to thinking and to pain is the same; and man is not given to hurting himself. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

Deep thinkers often lose two good thoughts by coming to the surface to record one. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

We spend our days in deliberating, and we end them without coming to any resolve. ~L'Estrange, as quoted in Edge-Tools of Speech by Maturin M. Ballou, 1886

Our conceptions, our conventional signs, have a fictive function to perform; thinking in its lower grades is comparable to paper money, and in its higher forms it is a kind of poetry. Imagination is thus a constitutive part of all thinking. ~Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life, 1923

Reason ripens not in the torrid zone of passion, or amidst the frosts of bigotry. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

Indeed, it may be said with some confidence that the average man never really thinks from end to end of his life. There are moments when his cogitations are relatively more respectable than usual, but even at their climaxes they never reach anything properly describable as the level of serious thought. The mental activity of such people is only a mounting of clichés. ~H.L. Mencken

I suppose that you seldom think. Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week. ~Bernard Shaw, as quoted by The Reader's Digest, 1933  [The magazine wrote that he "once addressed a company as follows." —tg]

...the thoughtful excitement of lonely rambles, of gardening, and of other like occupations, where the mind has leisure to must during the healthful activity of the body, with the fresh and wakeful breezes blowing round it... ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

A Sect or Party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thoughts, like fleas, jump from man to man. But they don't bite everybody. ~Stanisław Jerzy Lec, Unkempt Thoughts, translated from the Polish by Jacek Gałązka, 1962

      One morning, when it must be acknowledged that Helen had been sitting too long in the same position with her head leaning on her hand, Miss Clarendon, in her abrupt voice, asked, "How much longer, Helen, do you intend to sit there, doing only what is the worst thing in the world for you—thinking?"
      Helen started, and said she feared she had been sitting too long idle. ~Maria Edgeworth (1768–1849), Helen, 1834

As prosperity is promoted, thinking is demoted. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

BRAIN, n.  An apparatus with which we think that we think. ~Ambrose Bierce

At a certain age some people's minds close up. Then they live on their intellectual fat. ~W. L. Phelps

All sorts of reflections of this nature passed through my mind—for as I grow older I regret to say that a detestable habit of thinking seems to be getting a hold of me... ~H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon's Mines

Thoughts are like an open ocean, they can either move you forward within its waves, or sink you under deep into its abyss. ~Anthony Liccione

[H]is habit of thought had been formed in the days of the epic struggle between physics and metaphysics. ~Edith Wharton, "The Eyes," Tales of Men and Ghosts, 1910

One cannot think crooked and walk straight. ~Author unknown

But you're examining and describing the cart, and from it postulating the horse. ~D. H. Lawrence, 1923

Thought is the wind, knowledge the sail, and mankind the vessel. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

In us these thoughts
Like worms stir vilely.
~Anne Knish (Arthur Davison Ficke), "Opus 96," Spectra: A Book of Poetic Experiments, 1916  [farce —tg]

Deliberation is necessary, unless we wish to play a fool's part. No amount of energy will take the place of thought. A strenuous life, with its eyes shut, is a kind of wild insanity. A drifting life, with its eyes open, is a kind of mild idiocy. ~Henry Van Dyke

A superficial thinker deals in the news of the day; a deep one in the news of ages. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

Tell your friends not to think aloud
Until they swallow...
~Chad Kroeger & Ryan Peake, "Leader of Men," 2000, performed by Nickelback ♫

A faith is a necessity to man. Woe to him who believes nothing. A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor, and there is an invisible labor. To meditate is to labor; to think is to act. Folded arms work, closed hands perform, a gaze fixed on heaven is a toil. Thales remained motionless for four years. He founded philosophy. In our eyes, cenobites are not idlers, nor is the recluse a do-nothing. To think of shadows is a serious thing. ~Victor Hugo

Practical gentlemen hate uncertainty, balancing of probabilities, skepticism or approximation. They have a number of bitterly satirical comments on persons whose minds are so open that their brains fall out. They are bent on getting to a conclusion. ~Max Radin, 1937  []

Someone has said: "A conclusion is the place where you get tired of thinking." ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962), quoted from a physiology lecture by his University of Cincinnati student Howard D. Fabing in Fischerisms, 1930

Few minds wear out; more rust out. ~C. N. Bovee

From restless thoughts, that, like a deadly swarm
Of hornets arm'd, no sooner found alone,
But rush upon me thronging...
~John Milton

What a blessing it is to be alone with your thoughts when so many are alone with their inability to think. ~Robert Brault,

We use 10% of our brains. Imagine how much we could accomplish if we used the other 60%. ~Ellen DeGeneres

A just thinker will allow full swing to his scepticism. I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I am not afraid of falling into my inkpot.... We are of different opinions at different hours, but we always may be said to be at heart on the side of truth. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Worship," The Conduct of Life, 1860

When God created man, He gave him two ends — one to sit on and one to think with. Ever since then, man's success or failure has been dependent on the one he used most. ~Author unknown, c.1939

A man's spirit is like the boundless space around him, and his thoughts are the stars within it. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897

There are times in human experience when the machinery of thought runs so quietly that only the results indicate its motion. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

A lawyer's brief will be brief, before a freethinker thinks freely. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

A profound thinker is seldom a good social companion. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897

The joy of mental adventure is far commoner in the young than in grown men and women. Among children it is very common, and grows naturally out of the period of make-believe and fancy. It is rare in later life because everything is done to kill it during education. Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subservient and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. It sees man, a feeble speck, surrounded by unfathomable depths of silence; yet it bears itself proudly, as unmoved as if it were lord of the universe. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man. But if thought is to become the possession of many, not the privilege of the few, we must have done with fear. It is fear that holds men back... Hope, not fear, is the creative principle in human affairs. ~Bertrand Russell, "Education," Why Men Fight: A Method of Abolishing the International Duel, 1917

You cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind. ~Author unknown, 1920s

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