Quotes

On Truth:

  • “That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.” – P.C. Hodgell
  • “What is true is already so. Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse. Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away. And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with. Anything untrue isn’t there to be lived. People can stand what is true, for they are already enduring it.” – Eugene T. Gendlin, Focusing
  • “And then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32
  • “The world’s greatest fool may say the Sun is shining, but that doesn’t make it dark out.” – Robert Pirsig
  • “Our vision is inevitably contracted, and the whole horizon may contain much which will compose a very different picture.” – Cheney Bros v. Doris Silk Corporation, New York Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit
  • “Nothing can be soundly understood if daylight itself needs proof.” – Imām al-Ḥaddād
  • “More wrong? Wrong is an absolute state and not subject to gradation.” “Of course it is. It’s a little wrong to say a tomato is a vegetable; it’s very wrong to say it’s a suspension bridge.” – Sheldon Cooper and Stuart Bloom in The Big Bang Theory, “The Hofstadter Isotope”, written by David Goetsch, created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady
  •  “It is just too dangerous for there to be any target in the world, whether it be the Jews or Adolf Hitler, about whom saying negative things trumps saying accurate things.” – Eliezer Yudkowsky, “When None Dare Urge Restraint”
  • “The power of accurate observation is frequently called cynicism by those who don’t have it.” – George Bernard Shaw
  • “There always comes a time in history when the man who dares to say that two plus two equals four is punished with death … And the issue is not a matter of what reward or what punishment will be the outcome of that reasoning. The issue is simply whether or not two plus two equals four.” – Raymond Rambert in The Plague, by Albert Camus
  • “If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between “for” and “against” is the mind’s worst disease.” – Sent-ts’an

On Science:

  • “If you want to live in a nicer world, you need good, unbiased science to tell you about the actual wellsprings of human behavior. You do not need a viewpoint that sounds comforting but is wrong, because that could lead you to create ineffective interventions. The question is not what sounds good to us but what actually causes humans to do the things they do.” – Douglas Kenrick
  • “Scientific theories are judged by the coherence they lend to our natural experience and the simplicity with which they do so.” – Commissioner Pravin Lal in Alpha Centauri
  • “At the end of the day, reproducibility is what separates science from superstition.” – S Fomel
  • “When you put on the robes of a scientist you must forget all your politics and arguments and factions and sides, silence the desperate clingings of your mind, and wish only to hear the answer of Nature.” – Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky
  • “Those who assert that the mathematical sciences say nothing of the beautiful or the good are in error. … The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness, which the mathematical sciences demonstrate in a special degree.” – Aristotle

On Reason:

  • “The point of all this discussion of rationality is to actually achieve truer beliefs and more effective actions. … It is for this reason that … rationalists should win. If some particular ritual of cognition—even one that you have long cherished as “rational”—systematically gives poorer results relative to some alternative, it is not rational to cling to it. The rational algorithm is to do what works, to get the actual answer—in short, to win, whatever the method, whatever the means. If you can detect a systematic mistake in your thinking, then fix it; if you can see a better method, then adopt it.” – “Rationality is systematized winning”, on the LessWrong Wiki
  • “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.” – Richard P. Feynman
  • “Man’s unfailing capacity to believe what he prefers to be true rather than what the evidence shows to be likely and possible has always astounded me. We long for a caring Universe which will save us from our childish mistakes, and in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary we will pin all our hopes on the slimmest of doubts.” – Academician Prokhor Zakharov in Alpha Centauri
  • “Your beliefs clash with reality? Change your beliefs. This is what beliefs are for. Can’t do this? May as well not bother having beliefs.” – Michael Blume
  • “Any time you say something is ‘more likely’ than something else, that an explanation is ‘improbable,’ or ‘almost certainly true,’ or ‘implausible,’ and so on, you are making mathematical statements. Any time something is ‘more’ than something else, that’s math.” – Richard Carrier
  • “He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.” – John McCarthy, “Progress and its Sustainability”
  • “I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.” – Isaac Asimov
  • “Your strength as a rationalist is your ability to be more confused by fiction than by reality. If you are equally good at explaining any outcome, you have zero knowledge.” – Eliezer Yudkowsky, “Your Strength as a Rationalist”
  • “The test of all knowledge is experiment.” – Richard P. Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on Physics
  • “It is indeed true that [Hume] claims that ‘reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.’ But a slave, it should not be forgotten, does virtually all the work.” – Alan Carter, Pluralism and Projectivism
  • “Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
  • “To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.” – Benjamin Disraeli
  • “The trouble, I think, is when ostracizing a viewpoint as “beyond the pale” becomes not an end but a means to an end; that by declaring something unsayable, we make it so. It makes me uncomfortable, even as I see the value of it. I for one would love homophobia to fully make it on that list, to get to the point where being against gay marriage is as vulgar and shameful as being against interracial marriage. But it isn’t. Maybe it will be. But it isn’t. And kicking a reality-show star off his reality show doesn’t make that less true. Win the argument; don’t declare the argument too offensive to be won.” – Jon Lovett, “The Culture of Shut Up”

On Morality:

  • “I begin with the assumption that suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care are bad. I think most people will agree about this, although one may reach the same view by different routes. I shall not argue for this view. People can hold all sorts of eccentric positions, and perhaps from some of them it would not follow that death by starvation is in itself bad. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to refute such positions, and so for brevity I will henceforth take this assumption as accepted. Those who disagree need read no further.” – Peter Singer
  • “Your morals conflict with reality? Change reality. This is what morals are for. Can’t do this? May as well not bother having morals.” – Michael Blume
  • “You know what? This isn’t about your feelings. A human life, with all its joys and all its pains, adding up over the course of decades, is worth far more than your brain’s feelings of comfort or discomfort with a plan. Does computing the expected utility feel too cold-blooded for your taste? Well, that feeling isn’t even a feather in the scales, when a life is at stake. Just shut up and multiply.” – Eliezer Yudkowsky, “Circular Altruism”
  • “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind” – Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
  • “So where do you stand, then? Where do you see yourself in terms of the sliding scale of good and evil, heroes and villains?” “All of the above?  None of the above?  Does it matter?  Some of us wear the villain label with pride, because they want to rebel against the norms, because it’s a harder, more rewarding road to travel, or because being a ‘hero’ often means so very little.  But few people really want to see themselves as being bad or evil, whatever label they wear.  I’ve done things I regret, I’ve done things I’m proud of, and I’ve walked the roads in between.  The sliding scale is a fantasy.  There’s no simple answers.” – Legend and Skitter in Worm by Wildbow
  • “How many lives do you suppose you’ve saved in your medical career? … Hundreds? Thousands? Do you suppose those people give a damn that you lied to get into Starfleet Medical? I doubt it. We deal with threats to the Federation that jeopardize its very survival. If you knew how many lives we’ve saved, I think you’d agree that the ends do justify the means.” – Luther Sloan to Juilian Bashir in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, “Inquisition”, written by Bradley Thompson and David Weddle, created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller
  • “Batman is a murderer no less than the Joker, for all the lives the Joker took that Batman could’ve saved by killing him.” – Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky
  • “So this is a huge victory for the good guys! This may even be the turning point of the entire war. There is even a ‘Welcome to the Fight’ party tonight in the ward room. So… I lied; I cheated; I bribed men to cover the crimes of other men; I am an accessory to murder. But the most damning thing of all is… I think I can live with it. And if I’d have to do it all over again… I would. Garak was right about one thing: a guilty conscience is a small price to pay for the safety of the Alpha Quadrant.” – Captain Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, “In the Pale Moonlight”,  written by Michael Taylor and Peter Allan Fields, created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller

On Emotion:

  • “I know now that man is capable of great deeds.  But if he isn’t capable of great emotion, well, he leaves me cold.” – Raymond Rambert in The Plague, by Albert Camus
  • “If your body wants to cry, then you should listen to it.  It doesn’t make you any weaker if you let it happen.  You think I’ve never cried?  Looking like I do, facing the disappointments and frustrations I have?  Maybe it’s self-serving to think so, but I think it takes a kind of strength to let yourself face your emotions like that.” – Weld in Worm, by Wildbow
  • “It shouldn’t be disrespectful to the complexity of the human condition to say that despair is also, often, just low blood sugar.” – Alain de Botton
  • “The real take-home lesson here … is that when you feel bad and you don’t know quite why, it’s all in your head. And your head is very real and the most important part of you.  Take care of your head!  A feeling doesn’t have to be somehow proven “real” before you’re allowed to acknowledge it.  Feelings are real. That’s not a warmfuzzy affirmation.  That’s neurophysiology.” – Cliff Pervocracy, “All in the Mind”
  • “You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings.” – Pearl S. Buck, To My Daughters, With Love
  • “But this and his pleasure in it, his glory in the phrases he made, in the ardour of youth, in his wife’s beauty, in the tributes that reached him … all had to be deprecated and concealed under the phrase “talking nonsense,” because, in effect, he had not done the thing he might have done. It was a disguise; it was the refuge of a man afraid to own his own feelings, who could not say, This is what I like – this is what I am.” – Narrator in To the Lighthouse, by Virgina Woolfe
  • “When you really know who you are and what you like about yourself, changing for other people isn’t such a big deal.” – Abed Nadir in Community, “Physical Education”, written by Jessie Miller, created by Dan Harmon
  • “If I could tear my heart / And keep it miles apart / From love of beast or man / And never give a damn / If I could learn to lie / And never show my pride / I’d be just like the rest / Be someone I detest” – The Gentle Waves, “Falling From Grace”
  • “Love is the expression of one’s values, the greatest reward you can earn for the moral qualities you have achieved in your character and person, the emotional price paid by one man for the joy he receives from the virtues of another.” – John Galt in Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

On Happiness:

  • “I went to school and they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the question, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” – John Lennon
  • “[It’s] unnatural to expect that learning to be happy should be any easier than, say, learning to play the violin or require any less practice.” – Alain de Botton
  • “Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.” – Noam Chomsky
  • “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” – Matthew 6:27
  • “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” – Proverbs 17:22

On Language:

  • “Everyday words are inherently imprecise. They work well enough in everyday life that you don’t notice. Words seem to work, just as Newtonian physics seems to. But you can always make them break if you push them far enough.” – Paul Graham, “How to Do Philosophy”
  • “Words are only words; that’s why humanity invented mathematics.” – Eliezer Yudkowsky, “Inductive Bias”
  • “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.” – Juliet, Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare
  • “The sky is cold and the floor water is too hard to drink. But I have my handcoats and the spacelight is warm. Listen – the flappy planes are beeping in the stick towers.” “Those are all the wrong words for those things.” “Maybe. But the things themselves are all right. So who cares?” – Randall Munroe, “Winter”
  • “So if you’re going to have an Aristotelian proverb at all, the proverb should be, not ‘I can define a word any way I like,’ nor even, ‘Defining a word never has any consequences,’ but rather, ‘Definitions don’t need words.’” – Eliezer Yudkowsky, “Empty Labels”
  • “If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself.” – George Orwell
  • “There are some that only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts.” – Voltaire
  • “…Anyway, I could care less.” “I think you mean you couldn’t care less. Saying you could care less implies you care at least some amount.” “I dunno. We’re these unbelievably complicated brains drifting through a void, trying in vain to connect with one another by blindly flinging words out into the darkness. Every choice of phrasing and spelling and tone and timing carries countless signals and contexts and subtexts and more, and every listener interprets those signals in their own way. Language isn’t a formal system. Language is glorious chaos. You can never know for sure what any words will mean to anyone. All you can do is try to get better at guessing how your words affect people, so you can have a chance of finding the ones that will make them feel something like what you want them to feel. Everything else is pointless. I assume you’re giving me tips on how you interpret words because you want me to feel less alone. If so, then than you. That means a lot. But if you’re just running my sentences past some mental checklist so you can show off how well you know it, then I could care less.” – Randal Munroe, “I Could Care Less”

On Life:

  • “Every time you spend money in order to save a life with some probability, you establish a lower bound on the monetary value of a life. Every time you refuse to spend money to save a life with some probability, you establish an upper bound on the monetary value of life. If your upper bounds and lower bounds are inconsistent, it means you could move money from one place to another, and save more lives at the same cost. So if you want to use a bounded amount of money to save as many lives as possible, your choices must be consistent with some monetary value assigned to a human life; if not then you could reshuffle the same money and do better. How very sad, how very hollow the indignation, of those who refuse to say that money and life can ever be compared, when all they’re doing is forbidding the strategy that saves the most people, for the sake of pretentious moral grandstanding…” – Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky
  • “We hold life to be sacred, but we also know the foundation of life consists in a stream of codes not so different from the successive frames of a watchvid. Why then cannot we cut one code short here, and start another there? Is life so fragile that it can withstand no tampering? Does the sacred brook no improvement?” – Chairman Sheng-Ji Yang in Alpha Centauri
  • “Why do you insist that the human genetic code is “sacred” or “taboo”? It is a chemical process and nothing more. For that matter—we—are chemical processes and nothing more. If you deny yourself a useful tool simply because it reminds you uncomfortably of your mortality, you have uselessly and pointlessly crippled yourself.” – Chairman Shengji Yang in Alpha Centauri
  • “You’re born, you live and you die. There are no do-overs, no second chances to make things right if you frak ’em up the first time. Not in this life anyway. … Like I said, you make your choices and you live with them. And in the end you are those choices.” – Major Kendra Shaw in Battlestar Galactica: Razor, written by Michael Taylor, created by Ronald D. Moore
  • “If there’s no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters… then all that matters is what we do. ‘Cause that’s all there is. What we do. Now. Today. I fought for so long, for redemption, for a reward, and finally just to beat the other guy, but I never got it. … All I wanna do is help. I wanna help because, I don’t think people should suffer as they do. Because, if there’s no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.” – Angel in Angel, “Epiphany”, written by Tim Minear, created by Joss Whedon
  • “If our society seems more nihilistic than that of previous eras, perhaps this is simply a sign of our maturity as a sentient species. As our collective consciousness expands beyond a crucial point, we are at last ready to accept life’s fundamental truth: that life’s only purpose is life itself.” – Chairman Sheng-Ji Yang in Alpha Centauri
  • “There are many parts of my youth that I’m not proud of. There were… loose threads – untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads – it unraveled the tapestry of my life.” – Captain Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Tapestry”, written by Ronald D. Moore, created by Gene Roddenberry

On Death:

  • “How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.” – Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • “So I won’t ask you to say the Dark Lord was wrong to kill my mother, just say that it was… sad. We won’t talk about whether or not it was necessary, whether it was justified. I’ll just ask you to say that it was sad that it happened. … If we start out by saying that every life is precious, that it’s sad when anyone dies, then I know we’ll meet someday.” – Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky
  • “You can say, unconditionally and flatly, that killing anyone is a huge dose of negative terminal utility.  Yes, even Hitler.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shoot Hitler. It means that the net instrumental utility of shooting Hitler carries a giant dose of negative utility from Hitler’s death, and [a] hugely larger dose of positive utility from all the other lives that would be saved as a consequence.” – Eliezer Yudkowsky, “Leaky Generalizations”
  • “Transhumanists are not fond of death. We would stop it if we could. To this end we support research that holds out hope of a future in which humanity has defeated death. … I do not tell a tale of the land called Future, nor state as a fact that humanity will someday be free of death – I have no magical ability to see through time. But death is a great evil, and I will oppose it whenever I can.” – Eliezer Yudkowsky, “Yehuda Yudkowsky, 1985-2004”
  • “Live forever or die trying.” – Groucho Marx
  • “There is only one god, and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: ‘Not today.’” – Syrio Forel in A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin
  • “Do not go gentle into that good night. / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” – Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”
  • “So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?” “Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.” – Theoden and Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Stephen Sinclair

On Individualism:

  • “I think it’s a mistake to ever look for hope outside of one’s self.” – Holga in After the Fall, by Arthur Miller
  • “To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.” – e e cummings
  • “The moment when someone attaches to a philosophy or a movement, then they assign all the baggage and all the rest of the philosophy that goes with it to you, and when you want to have a conversation they will assert that they already know everything important there is to know about you because of that association.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson, “Atheist or Agnostic?”
  • “I think what religion and politics have in common is that they become part of people’s identity, and people can never have a fruitful argument about something that’s part of their identity. By definition they’re partisan. … [Y]ou can have a fruitful discussion about a topic only if it doesn’t engage the identities of any of the participants.” – Paul Graham, “Keep Your Identity Small”
  • “[W]hen I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn’t even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.” ― Chris Knight, the “Last True Hermit”
  • “[T]here is a step beyond thinking of yourself as x but tolerating y: not even to consider yourself an x. The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you.” – Paul Graham, “Keep Your Identity Small”
  • “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy
  • “There’s nothing cooler than being proud of what you love.” – Sean “Day[9]” Plott, “My Life of Starcraft”
  • “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
  • “I always thought, ‘What could be better than to love someone and be loved back?’ I finally found what it is to love yourself and not need anyone to love you back.” – Taylor Swift
  • “She had blue skin, / And so did he. / He kept it hid / And so did she. / They searched for blue / Their whole life through. / Then passed right by – / And never knew.” – Shel Silverstein, “Masks”

On Society:

  • “Which means that it’s not a coincidence that the worst possible flagship case for fighting police brutality and racism is the flagship case that we in fact got. It’s not a coincidence that the worst possible flagship cases for believing rape victims are the ones that end up going viral. It’s not a coincidence that the only time we ever hear about factory farming is when somebody’s doing something that makes us almost sympathetic to it. It’s not coincidence, it’s not even happenstance, it’s enemy action. Under Moloch, activists are irresistably incentivized to dig their own graves. And the media is irresistably incentivized to help them. Lost is the ability to agree on simple things like fighting factory farming or rape. Lost is the ability to even talk about the things we all want. Ending corporate welfare. Ungerrymandering political districts. Defrocking pedophile priests. Stopping prison rape. Punishing government corruption and waste. Feeding starving children. Simplifying the tax code. But also lost is our ability to treat each other with solidarity and respect.” – Scott Alexander, “The Toxoplasma of Rage”
  • “Normally, if you can think of a lot of examples of something, you think it is more likely to happen. This is pretty reasonable; if many of your friends have been harassed by someone on the train, you might think that harassment on the train happens a lot, even if you have never been harassed yourself. Unfortunately, the news enjoys taking examples of things that legitimately don’t happen that often and blowing them up so everyone thinks they happen all the time. The world has been getting less dangerous, but people perceive it as more dangerous, in part because the 24-hour news cycle is continually covering how often people get attacked or murdered. Terrorism is relatively rare, but every time someone commits a terrorist action, we have to hear about it constantly for the next two weeks. Even my beautiful newsless bubble won’t protect me from having to learn about whatever mass murder just happened! … [If] you’re reading it to be an informed citizen, it is probably making you less well-informed. Read a book instead.” – Ozy Frantz, “Why I Don’t Read the News Anymore”
  • “The system is not your friend. The system is not your enemy. The system is a retarded giant throwing wads of $100 bills and books of rules in random directions while shouting “LOOK AT ME! I’M HELPING! I’M HELPING!” Sometimes by luck you catch a wad of cash, and you think the system loves you. Other times by misfortune you get hit in the gut with a rulebook, and you think the system hates you. But either one is giving the system too much credit.” – Scott Alexander, “SSC Gives a Graduation Speech”
  • “Holy crap, what happened to your apartment?” “I filled it with playpen balls!” “What? Why?” “Because we’re grown-ups now, and it’s our turn to decide what that means.” – Randall Munroe, “Grownups”
  • “The mantra of geek, to me, is ‘Your judgement is not my problem.’” – Felicia Day, “State of the Sundry”
  • “What good fortune for those in power that people do not think.” – Adolph Hitler
  • “Do you know, my son, with what little understanding the world is ruled?” – Pope Julius III
  • “Anti-social behaviour is a trait of intelligence in a world full of conformists.” – Nikola Tesla
  • “It’s frightening to think that you might not know something, but more frightening to think that, by and large, the world is run by people who have faith that they know exactly what is going on.” – Amos Tversky
  • “‘Think for yourself’ sounds vaguely reasonable only because of the abominable incompetence of those tasked with thinking for us.” – Steven Kaas
  • “I am, as I’ve said, merely competent. But in an age of incompetence, that makes me extraordinary.” – Billy Joel
  • “Virtually no idea is too ridiculous to be accepted, even by very intelligent and highly educated people, if it provides a way for them to feel special and important.” – Thomas Sowell
  • “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” – Malcolm X
  • “If you “criticize” society by telling it to keep doing exactly what it’s doing only much much more so, society recognizes you as an ally and rewards you for being a “bold iconoclast” or “having brave and revolutionary new ideas” or whatever. It’s only when you tell them something they actually don’t want to hear that you get in trouble.” – Scott Alexander, “Reactionary Philosophy in an Enormous, Planet-sized Nutshell”
  • “It is a failure of human psychology that, faced with a mysterious phenomenon, we more readily postulate mysterious inherent substances than complex underlying processes.” – Eliezer Yudkowsky, “Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions”
  • “Humanity does not ask us to be happy. It merely asks us to be brilliant on its behalf.” – Orson Scott Card
  • “[C]hildren do little harms to each other with schoolyard fights, because they don’t have the power to do great harm. And some adults do great harm. But the adults who don’t, aren’t they more innocent than children, not less?” – Harry Potter, in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky
  • “Human behavior is economic behavior. The particulars may vary, but competition for limited resources remains a constant.” – CEO Nwabudike Morgan in Alpha Centauri
  • “[T]he first and foremost thing which any ordinary person does is nothing.” – Quirinus Quirrell in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky
  • “Almost no one is evil; almost everything is broken.” – Jai Dhyani
  • “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” ― Friedrich August Hayek, “The Fatal Conceit”
  • “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’“ – Isaac Asimov
  • “All I want to know is a god damned thing / Not what’s in my medicine / All I want to do is I want to breathe / Batteries are not included / What’s the latest way that a man can die? / Screaming hallelujah / Singing out “the dawn’s early light” / The silence of the rotten, forgotten / Screaming at you / I can’t see a thing in the video / I can’t hear a sound on the radio / in stereo in the static age” – Green Day, “The Static Age”
  • “[P]eople form close friendships by knowing private things about each other, and the reason most people don’t make close friends is because they’re too embarrassed to share anything really important about themselves.” – Draco Malfoy, in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky
  • “I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d, / I stand and look at them long and long. / They do not sweat and whine about their condition, / They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins, / They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God, / Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things, / Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago, / Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.” – Song of Myself, by Walt Whitman
  • “While I’ve always thought that there was something particularly crass about our habits of erecting edifices of grief to strangers whom we perceive as similar to us even as we note and let pass without comment the deaths of so many more distant, more different people in our country’s wars and misadventures, and while I likewise find our habit of reacting with dismay to items like the prosecution-unto-death of Aaron Swartz even as we’re dimly aware that poorer, less connected, less important people are hounded to their lives’ ends by the dirty machinery of our penal system, which is powered by punishment wholly out of scale to any wrong, punishment which is itself quite often the only wrong ever committed, the sheer, tawdry, grotesquely ill-proportioned persecution of the young man for acts whose criminal taxonomy is something out of a Lewis Carroll poem is the sort of spectacle that really does make you wonder how long, actually, a society intent on destroying its genius in order to preserve the inbred rights of its rentier class to extract filthy lucre from the margins of genuine intellect can endure.” – Jacob Bacharach, “The Days When We Had Rest, O Soul, for They Were Long”

On Feminism:

  • “The role of gender in society is the most complicated thing I’ve ever spent a lot of time learning about, and I’ve spent a lot of time learning about quantum mechanics.” – Randall Munroe, “Sex and Gender”
  • “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
  • “If this feminism business means girls aren’t allowed to pursue boys in whichever way they please, then feminism can stay in the Muggle lands where it belongs.” – Daphne Greengrass in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky
  • “So, why do you write these strong female characters?” “Because you’re still asking me that question.” – Joss Whedon
  • “Patriarchy is not a system that prefers men to women, it’s a system designed to meet the needs of specific men at the expense of the needs of all other men, women, boys, and girls.” – @balehman [Part 2]
  • “In the game of patriarchy, women are not the opposing team. They’re the ball.” – Anita Sarkeesian, “Women as Background Decoration: Part 2 – Tropes vs Women in Video Games”

On Politics:

  • “And here, according to Trout, was the reason human beings could not reject ideas because they were bad: Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity. Their content did not matter. Friends agreed with friends, in order to express friendliness. Enemies disagreed with enemies, in order to express enmity. The ideas Earthlings held didn’t matter for hundreds of thousands of years, since they couldn’t do much about them anyway. Ideas might as well be badges as anything.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions
  • “Warning: Beware of things that are fun to argue.” – Eliezer Yudkwosky, Coherent Extrapolated Volition
  • “People go funny in the head when talking about politics. … In the ancestral environment, politics was a matter of life and death. And sex, and wealth, and allies, and reputation… When, today, you get into an argument about whether “we” ought to raise the minimum wage, you’re executing adaptations for an ancestral environment where being on the wrong side of the argument could get you killed.” – Eliezer Yudkowsky, “Politics Is The Mind-Killer”
  • “It starts to seem, as Albert Camus once put it, that we’ve made the mind into an armed camp—in which not only politicians and legislative proposals, but moral philosophies, artworks, even scientific theories, have to wear the insignia of one or the other army.” – Julian Sanchez, “Political Metastasis”
  • “[I]n the interests of survival, they trained themselves to be agreeing machines instead of thinking machines. All their minds had to do was to discover what other people were thinking, and then they thought that, too.” –Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions
  • “A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.” – Unknown, largely attributed to Lord Alexander Tytler
  • “Only fools fight over who owns a cottage while it burns down around them.” – Ser Bryant in Dragon Age: Origins
  • “I see little hope for democracy as an effective form of government, but I admire the poetry of how it makes its victims complicit in their own destruction.” – Quirinus Quirrell in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky
  • “Tell me something. What does a government have to do, what do the voters have to do with their democracy, what do the people of a country have to do, before I ought to decide that I’m not on their side any more?” – Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky

On Freedom:

  • ‎“Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.” – Commissioner Pravin Lal in Alpha Centauri
  • “For why should my freedom be determined by someone else’s conscience?” – I Corinthians 10:29
  • “Free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves.” – Herbert Marcuse
  • “With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.” – Captain Jean Luc Picard, quoting Judge Aaron Satie in Star Trek: The Next Generation, “The Drumhead”, written by Jeri Taylor, created by Gene Roddenberry

On The Rule of Law:

  • “I swore an oath. To defend the articles. The articles say there’s an election in seven months. Now, if you’re telling me we’re throwing out the law, then I’m not a Captain, you’re not a Commander and you are not the President. And I don’t owe either of you a damned explanation for anything.” – Captain Lee Adama in Battlestar Galactica, “Bastille Day”, written by Toni Graphia, created by Ronald D. Moore
  • “Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” – James Bovard
  • “A government is the most dangerous threat to man’s rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims.” – Ayn Rand
  • “You’ve lost sight of the purpose of the law: to protect its citizens, not persecute them. Whatever we are, whatever’s left of us – we’re better than that.” – Commander William Adama in Battlestar Galactica, “Litmus”, written by Jeff Vlaming, created by Ronald D. Moore

On Religion:

  • “Question with boldness the very existence of God, for if there be a God, He must surely rather honest questioning over blindfolded fear.” – Thomas Jefferson
  • “If there is a god he will have to beg my forgiveness.” – Inscription carved into a concentration camp cell wall
  • “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • “In the best case, religion gives people bad reasons to be good where good reasons are actually available and in the worst case, it separates moral thinking from the actual details of human and animal suffering.” – Sam Harris, on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”
  • “Ironically, guys like Jerry Falwell insist on interpreting the Good Book very literally. But put them in front of Teletubbies, and suddenly they become masters of subtext, cultural analysis, and innuendo. Go figure.” – Susan Jane Gilman
  • “I may have some very conservative personal feelings but I feel everyone has the right to live their life differently. I might think what you do will put you in hell but I’m going to defend your right to get there.” – Rev. Al Sharpton
  • “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do.” – Anne Lamott

On Motivation:

  • “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – Calvin Coolidge
  • “Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.” – Alexis Carrel
  • “[I]f you punish yourself for trying and failing, you stop wanting to try in the first place, as it becomes associated with the negative emotions. Also, accepting and being okay with the occasional failure makes you treat it as a genuine choice where you have agency, not something that you’re forced to do against your will.” – Kaj Sotala
  • “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “Harry – Harry, you have to believe that this isn’t your fault!” “Of course it’s my fault. There’s no one else here who could be responsible for anything.” – Minerva McGonagall and Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky
  • “Sometimes, you have to be your own white knight.” – Fiona Glenanne in Burn Notice, “Where There’s Smoke”, written by Lisa Joy, created by Matt Nix
  • “I’ve never seen the Icarus story as a lesson about the limitations of humans. I see it as a lesson about the limitations of wax as an adhesive.” – Randall Munroe, “Interplanetary Cessna”
  • “The most important role models are dreams: they come from within ourselves.  To dream of anything less than what you conceive to be perfection, is to draw on less than the full power of the part of yourself that dreams.” – Eliezer Yudkowsky, “My Childhood Role Model”

On Education:

  • “I try not to make fun of people for admitting they don’t know things. Because for each thing ‘everyone knows’ by the time they’re adults, every day there are, on average, 10,000 people in the US hearing about it for the first time. If I make fun of people, I train them not to tell me when they have those moments. And I miss out on the fun.” – Randall Munroe, “Ten Thousand”
  • “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you will help them become what they are capable of becoming.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
  • “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.” – Galielo Galilei
  • “Teaching is creating situations in which students can escape only by thinking.” – Anonymous

 Miscellaneous:

  • “There is no justice in the laws of nature, … no term for fairness in the equations of motion. The universe is neither evil, nor good, it simply does not care. The stars don’t care, or the Sun, or the sky. But they don’t have to. We care. There is light in the world, and it is us.” – Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky
  • “Reality provides us with facts so romantic that imagination itself could add nothing to them.” – Jules Verne
  • “I ain’t so afraid of losing something that I ain’t gonna try to have it.” – Zoe Alleyne Washburne in Firefly, “Heart of Gold”, written by Brett Matthews, created by Joss Whedon
  • “Maybe someday we’ll be able to record dreams, and we’ll have so much trust for one another that everyone will publish a dream RSS feed.” – John Maxwell
  • “Faced with the choice of changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” – John Kenneth Galbraith
  • “Remember … when physics seems counterintuitive, you’ve got to accept that it’s not physics that’s weird, it’s you.” – Eliezer Yudkowsky, “Bind Yourself to Reality”
  • “Look at any photograph or work of art. If you could duplicate exactly the first tiny dot of color, and then the next and the next, you would end with a perfect copy of the whole, indistinguishable from the original in every way, including the so-called “moral value” of the art itself. Nothing can transcend its smallest elements. – CEO Nwabudike Morgan in Alpha Centauri
  • “It is better to destroy one’s own errors than those of others.” – Democritus
  • “[A] known good is not lightly to be surrendered for an unknown better.” Michael Oakeshott
  • “If I am ignorant about a phenomenon, that is a fact about my own state of mind, not a fact about the phenomenon itself. … To worship a phenomenon because it seems so wonderfully mysterious, is to worship your own ignorance.” – Eliezer Yudkowsky, “Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions”
  • “I hear you say ‘Why?’ Always ‘Why?’ You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’“ – The Serpent, in Back to Methuselah, by George Bernard Shaw
  • “We are all aware that the senses can be deceived, the eyes fooled. But how can we be sure our senses are not being deceived at any particular time, or even all the time? Might I just be a brain in a tank somewhere, tricked all my life into believing in the events of this world by some insane computer? And does my life gain or lose meaning based on my reaction to such solipsism? – Project PYRRHO, Specimen 46, Vat 7 in Alpha Centauri

One response to “Quotes

  1. Pingback: Crimes Against Language: Missing the Trees for the Forest | Remotely Blurred

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