Philosophy Quotes

Why is it that you physicists always require so much expensive equipment? Now the Department of Mathematics requires nothing but money for paper, pencils, and erasers...and the Department of Philosophy is better still. It doesn't even ask for erasers

Isaac Asimov

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain

John Adams

A religion so cheerless, a philosophy so sorrowful, could never have succeeded with the masses of mankind if presented only as a system of metaphysics. Buddhism owed its success to its catholic spirit and its beautiful morality.

W. Winwood Reade

Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous

David Hume

I do not know how to teach philosophy without becoming a disturber of established religion

Baruch Spinoza

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.

Dalai Lama

A college education is not a quantitative body of memorized knowledge salted away in a card file. It is a taste for knowledge, a taste for philosophy, if you will; a capacity to explore, to question to perceive relationships, between fields of knowledge and experience.

A. Whitney Griswold

History, we can confidently assert, is useful in the sense that art and music, poetry and flowers, religion and philosophy are useful. Without it -- as with these -- life would be poorer and meaner; without it we should be denied some of those intellectual and moral experiences which give meaning and richness to life. Surely it is no accident that the study of history has been the solace of many of the noblest minds of every generation.

Henry Steele Commager

What else can history teach us? Only the vanity of believing we can impose our theories on history. Any philosophy which asserts that human experience repeats itself is ineffectual.

Jacques Ellul

If a philosophy is to bring happiness it should be inspired by kindly feelings. Marx pretended that he wanted the happiness of the proletariat; what he really wanted was the unhappiness of the bourgeois.

Bertrand Russell

History is not a work of philosophy, it is a painting; it is necessary to combine narration with the representation of the subject, that is, it is necessary simultaneously to design and to paint; it is necessary to give to men the language and the sentiments of their times, not to regard the past in the light of our own opinion.


We should remember that there was once a discipline called natural philosophy. Unfortunately, this discipline seems not to exist today. It has been renamed science, but science of today is in danger of losing much of the natural philosophy aspect.

Hannes Olof Gsta Alfvn

Those who have handled sciences have been either men of experiment or men of dogmas. The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes a middle course: it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own. Not unlike this is the true business of philosophy; for it neither relies solely or chiefly on the powers of the mind, nor does it take the matter which it gathers from natural history and mechanical experiments and lay it up in the memory whole, as it finds it, but lays it up in the understanding altered and digested. Therefore from a closer and purer league between these two faculties, the experimental and the rational (such as has never yet been made), much may be hoped.

Francis Bacon

Those who have taken upon them to lay down the law of nature as a thing already searched out and understood, whether they have spoken in simple assurance or professional affectation, have therein done philosophy and the sciences great injury. For as they have been successful in inducing belief, so they have been effective in quenching and stopping inquiry; and have done more harm by spoiling and putting an end to other men's efforts than good by their own. Those on the other hand who have taken a contrary course, and asserted that absolutely nothing can be known whether it were from hatred of the ancient sophists, or from uncertainty and fluctuation of mind, or even from a kind of fullness of learning, that they fell upon this opinion have certainly advanced reasons for it that are not to be despised; but yet they have neither started from true principles nor rested in the just conclusion, zeal and affectation having carried them much too far.... Now my method, though hard to practice, is easy to explain; and it is this. I propose to establish progressive stages of certainty. The evidence of the sense, helped and guarded by a certain process of correction, I retain. But the mental operation which follows the act of sense I for the most part reject; and instead of it I open and lay out a new and certain path for the mind to proceed in, starting directly from the simple sensuous perception.

Francis Bacon

The traditional disputes of philosophers are, for the most part, as unwarranted as they are unfruitful. The surest way to end them is to establish beyond question what should be the purpose and method of a philosophical enquiry. And this is by no means so difficult a task as the history of philosophy would lead one to suppose. For if there are any questions which science leaves it to philosophy to answer, a straightforward process of elimination must lead to their discovery.

Sir Alfred Jules Ayer

I see philosophy as a fairly abstract activity, as concerned mainly with the analysis of criticism and concepts, and of course most usefully of scientific concepts.

Sir Alfred Jules Ayer

The greatest enjoyment possible to man was that which this philosophy promises its votariesthe pleasure of being always right, and always reasoningwithout ever being bound to look at anything.

Walter Bagehot

The use of the divine gift of common sense would teach the opponents of the philosophy that what was shown to be fraud was not spiritualism and that a doctrine that thrives in the midst of the bitterest oppression and grows in the fire of persecution has some measure of truth in its keeping to give it vitality.

Benjamin Fish Austin

In my view, only those who have had the courage to work through Lacan's anti-philosophy without faltering deserve to be called 'contemporary philosophers'.

Alain Badiou

The price of freedomof individualityis attention to politics, careful planning, careful organization; philosophy is no more a barrier against political disaster than it is against plague.

Gregory Dale Bear

Constantine declared his own will equivalent to a canon of the Church. According to Justinian, the Roman people had formally transferred to the emperors the entire plenitude of its authority, and, therefore, the emperors pleasure, expressed by edict or by letter, had force of law. Even in the fervent age of its conversion the empire employed its refined civilization, the accumulated wisdom of ancient sages, the reasonableness and subtlety of Roman law, and the entire inheritance of the Jewish, the pagan, and the Christian world, to make the Church serve as a gilded crutch of absolutism. Neither an enlightened philosophy, nor all the political wisdom of Rome, nor even the faith and virtue of the Christians availed against the incorrigible tradition of antiquity. Something was wanted, beyond all the gifts of reflection and experience a faculty of self government and self control, developed like its language in the fibre of a nation, and growing with its growth. This vital element, which many centuries of warfare, of anarchy, of oppression, had extinguished in the countries that were still draped in the pomp of ancient civilization, was deposited on the soil of Christendom by the fertilising stream of migration that overthrew the empire of the West.

John Dalberg-Acton, Lord Acton

I have gained this by philosophy: that I do without being commanded what others do only from fear of the law.


Of these two literatures, as of the intellect of Europe in general, the main effort, for now many years, has been a critical effort; the endeavour, in all branches of knowledge theology, philosophy, history, art, science to see the object as in itself it really is.

Matthew Arnold

Like Nietzsche, he rails at romanticism, but it is evident that what they both mean by the word is the clichs of second-hand romance. Historic romanticism is in fact the ground-work of their philosophy.

Jacques Barzun
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