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quotations selected at www.abelard.org

New translation, the Magna Carta

abelard often finds useful phrases quoted by others, sometimes including them in documents at this site.
This the first of several pages collecting together these quotations.
Where relevant, links are given to the document at abelard.org that includes the quote.

To find a word, click on its first letter in the list below

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Pierre (Peter) Abelard
• Logic has made me hated by the world.
• Language is generated by the intellect and generates the intellect.
Abelard of Le Pallet, introduction

John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton (1834 - 1902)
• That passion for equality makes vain the hope of freedom [1877]
• The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern. [1881]

Alexander Aleksandrovich Alekhine, Russian-French chess player (1892 – 1946)
World Chess Champion: 1927–1935 and 1937–1946
I never beat a wholely fit opponent.
[See also from the chess world : Botvinnik, Capablanca, Fischer]

Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274)
"[...] and insofar as it [human law] deviates from right reason it is called unjust law; in such cases it is no law at all but rather a species of violence.
Summa theologiae, Ia-Ilae, q. xciii, art. 3, ad 2m.

Ends and means and the individual

• There is nothing in the intellect that was not before in the senses
nihil in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensu
The Turing test and intelligence [5]

• We make war that we may live in peace.

James M. Barrie (1860–1937)
The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another.

Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832)
“The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.”
Fascism is socialism [2]

Benedict of Nursia [Lat.], or Norcia [It.] (1090 – 20 August 1153)
“Let him [the abbot] so temper all things that the strong may have something to strive for and the weak have nothing to dismay them.”

If it happens that orders are given to a brother which are too heavy or impossible, let him receive the order of his superior with perfect gentleness and obedience. But if he finds that the weight of the burden is altogether beyond his strength to fulfil, then let him explain to his superior the reasons why he cannot do it, patiently at a suitable time, without showing any pride or resistance or contradiction. Then, after his representations, if the superior remains firm in requiring what he has ordered, let the subject realise that it is better so, and out of charity, trusting in the help of God, let him obey.”
[The rule of Saint Benedict for monasteries]

Bernard of Clairvaux, to Abelard
You will find something more in the woods than in books. Woods and stones will teach you what you cannot hear from the ‘masters’
“Logic has made me hated among men”: Abelard of Le Pallet on theology [8]

Bernard of Chartres [d. circa 1130]
We are like dwarfs on  the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more  than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any  sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but  because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.
The Turing test and intelligence [1]

Clint Black (1962 - )
You can wave your signs in protest
against America taking stands.
The stands America’s taken
are the reason that you can.
[From Iraq and roll]

Robert Bolt, Man for All Seasons [play first performed in 1954]
When a man takes an oath, Meg, he’s holding his ownself in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then – he needn’t hope to find himself again.

Margaret: “Father, the man is bad.”
More: “There’s no law against that.”
Roper: “There is a law against it. God’s law.”
More: “Then God can arrest him.”
Roper: “Sophistication upon sophistication!”
More: “No. Sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what’s legal, but I don't always know what’s right. And I'm sticking with what’s legal.
Roper: “Then you set man’s law against God’s?”
More: “No. Far below. But let me draw your attention to a fact. I am not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, there I am a forester. I doubt if there’s a man alive who could follow me there, thank God.”
Alice: “While you talk, he is gone.”
More: “And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law.”
Roper: “So now you'd give the Devil the benefit of law!”
More: “Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get to the Devil?”
Roper: “I'd cut down every law in England to do that!”
More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you -- where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat. This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast -- man’s laws, not God’s -- and if you cut them down -- and you're just the man to do it -- do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of the law, for my own safety’s sake.”

Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik
I only think well when my mind is calm
why Aristotelian logic does not work [6]
[See also from the chess world : Alekhine, Capablanca, Fischer]

Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797) [attributed]
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing

D. Buss
the romantic fallacy: "I don't want people to be like that, therefore they are not like that.
quote from Limbic

José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera, Cuban chess player (1888 – 1942)
World Chess Champion  1921 – 1927
The good player is always lucky.
[See also from the chess world : Alekhine, Botvinnik, Fischer]

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) 1832–98
English writer and logician
“There’s glory for you!”
“ I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory’,” Alice said.
“I meant, ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
“ ‘But‘glory’ doesn’t mean‘there’s a nice knock-down argument’”, Alice objected.
“ When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
Through the Looking-Glass (1872), chapter 6

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
In The laughing prophet: the seven virtues and G. K. Chesterton [Methuen, 1937], Emile Cammaerts [1878-1953] merged the following two quotes:
“It’s drowning all your old rationalism and scepticism, it’s coming in like a sea; and the name of it is superstition. … It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense.” [The Oracle of the Dog, 1923, in The Incredulity of Father Brown] [1]
“You all swore you were hard-shelled materialists; and as a matter of fact you were all balanced on the very edge of belief - of belief in almost anything.” [The Miracle of Moon Crescent, 1924, in The Incredulity of Father Brown] [2]
into the paraphrase of the G.K. Chesterton quotes above:
“The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.”

Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)
The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation
of any country. [1910]

M.T. Clanchy’s book opens:
Peter Abelard, now forgotten, was once the most famous man in the world.

Jean Baptiste Colvert [finance minister of Louis XIV, 16th - 17th century; on taxation]
The objective is to pluck the geese in such a manner as to obtain the greatest number of feathers with the least amount of hissing
see Why governments so love inflation in The mechanics of inflation: the great government swindle and how it works

John Philpot Curran [Irish lawyer and statesman, 1750-1817]
The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.".
[Speech upon the Right of Election for Lord Mayor of Dublin, 1790]

Thomas Alva Edison (1847 – 1931)
Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration’
 Said  circa 1903, in Harper’s Monthly Magazine, September 1932 (Source: Oxford Dictionary of Quotations). However, I think Nesbitt, a popular Victorian writer on self improvement, pre-dates this.

Abba Eban, 1970
History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.
From Conduct of Life: A Philosophical Reading 

Dorothy Fields, lyricist (1905 – 1974)
Pick yourself up, dust yourself down and start all over again
[From a song with music by Jerome Kern, 1936]
Drugs, smoking and addiction [3]

Bobby Fischer [Robert James Fischer], American chess player (1943–2008)
World Chess Champion 1972-1975
I don't believe in psychology, I believe in good moves.
[See also from the chess world : Alekhine, Botvinnik, Capablanca]

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790 )
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
See http://www.futureofthebook.com/stories/storyReader$605
[Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, Tue, Nov 11, 1755]

Fridugisus, 9th century
This nothing is a very important something, since it is that out of which god created everything’.
why Aristotelian logic does not work [18]

Milton Friedman
Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.

Inflation is the one form of taxation that can be imposed without

Etienne Gilson [1884 - 1978], Being and Some Philosophers, p. 52
Religion has its own work, which is to educate people who are too dull to understand philosophy, or too untutored to be amenable to its teaching. This is why religion is necessary, for what it preaches is fundamentally the same as what philosophy teaches, and, unless common men believed what it preaches, they would behave like beasts. But theologians should preach, not teach, just as philosophers should teach, not preach. Theologians should not attempt to demonstrate, because they cannot do it, and philosophers must be careful not to get belief mixed up with what they prove, because then they can no longer prove anything. Now, to preach creation is just a handy way to make people feel that God is their Master, which is true even though, as is well known by those who truly philosophize, nothing of the sort ever happened.

Garrett James Hardin (1915 - 2003)
Ecology is the overall science of which economics is a minor speciality
Source: Hardin obituary on this page.
Hardin website

• The name of mistress instead of wife would be dearer and more honourable for me, only love given freely, rather than the constriction of the marriage tie, is of significance to an ideal relationship.

• God is my witness that if Augustus, emperor of the whole world, thought fit to honour me with marriage and conferred all the earth upon me to possess for ever, it would be dearer and more honourable to me to be called not his empress but your whore.
Abelard of Le Pallet, introduction

You cannot step into the same river twice
why Aristotelian logic does not work

Adolph Hitler
• What luck for the rulers that men do not think
The psychology and development of Adolph Hitler Schicklgruber

There are many more quotations taken from Hitler’s writing and speeches collected together at Did Hitler know about the holocaust? A psychological assessment.

Thomas Hobbes
During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man.”
Power, ownership and freedom [8]

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
• All men are created equal” Why Aristotelian logic does not work

• The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.[1787]

Science begins when you can measure what you are talking about and express it in numbers
why Aristotelian logic does not work [21]
John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes (1883–1946) English economist
The important thing for Government is not to do things which individuals are doing already, and to do them a little better or a little worse; but to do those things which at present are not done at all.
The End of Laissez-Faire, 1926, part 4

• Marxian Socialism must always remain a portent to the historians of Opinion - how a doctrine so illogical and so dull can have exercised so powerful and enduring an influence over the minds of men, and, through them, the events of history.
The End of Laissez-Faire

• “Lenin was right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”
The Economic Consequences of the Peace, ch. 6.

• I work for a Government I despise for ends I think criminal.
Letter to Duncan Grant, 15 December 1917

• Just as the Conservative Party will always have its diehard wing, so the Labour Party will always be flanked by the party of catastrophe - Jacobins, Communists, Bolshevists, whatever you choose to call them. This is the party which hates or despises existing institutions and believes that great good will result merely from overthrowing them - or at least that to overthrow them is the necessary preliminary to any great good. This party can only flourish in an atmosphere of social oppression or as a reaction against the rule of die-hard. In Great Britain it is, in its extreme form, numerically very weak. Nevertheless its philosophy in a diluted form permeated, in my opinion, the whole Labour Party. However moderate its leaders may be at heart, the Labour Party will always depend for electoral success on making some slight appeal to the widespread passions and jealousies which find their full development in the party of catastrophe. I believe that this secret sympathy with the policy of catastrophe is the worm which gnaws at the seaworthiness of any constructive vessel which the Labour Party may launch.the passions of malignity, jealousy, hatred of those who have wealth and power (even in their own body), ill consort with the ideals to build up a true social republic. Yet it is necessary for a successful Labour leader to be, or at least to appear, a little savage. It is not enough that he should love his fellow-men; he must hate them too. [1925 p.299-300]

more quotations from J.M. Keynes are included in
The mechanics of inflation: the great government swindle and how it works

Alfred Korzybski [derived by Wendell Johnson] 1879 – 1950
‘Always’ and ‘never’ are two words you should always remember never to use.

Buddhist Lankavatara
Truth is beyond words and books
“Logic has made me hated among men”: Abelard of Le Pallet on theology [7]

Robert E. Lee (1807-1870)
It is well that war is so terrible – otherwise we would grow too fond of it.

Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)
If I were two-faced, do you think I would be wearing this one?

Niccolò Machiavelli, 1469 – 1527
Trust actions not words.

Francois Mauriac
No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.

H. L. Mencken, 1880 – 1956
For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.
More of Mencken’s quotes selected by abelard.

The Moonies
no concepts, no concepts
“Logic has made me hated among men”: Abelard of Le Pallet on theology [9]

Isaac Newton, 1642 - 1727
I don’t know what I may seem to the world, but as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

David Oderberg
A state may launch a pre-emptive strike if it has very good reason for thinking that another state is preparing for war
The just war [3]

Thomas Paine
He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

The great mass of the poor in all countries are become an hereditary race
[1791, XXVIII.: AGRARIAN JUSTICE. - The Writings of Thomas Paine, Vol. III (1791-1804)]

Logan Pearson Smith(1865 – 1946)
How it infuriates a bigot when he is forced to drag out his dark convictions.

Max Planck
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
[A Scientific Autobiography, 1949, p. 33 (translated by F. Gaynor) ]

Mathematics is the art of giving the same name to different things
why Aristotelian logic does not work [15]

Bertrand Russelll
The civilized man is distinguished from the savage mainly by prudence, or, to use a slightly wider term, forethought.
franchise by examination, education and intelligence [20]

Rafael Sabatini (1875-1950)
He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.
[The first words of Scaramouche, a romance of the French Revolution, 1921] 

Doutreval of Dijon: Think of the sword like a bird. Clutch it too tightly and you choke it. Too lightly and it flies away.
[From Scaramouche, 1952 MGM film with Stewart Granger, Janet Leigh, Mel Ferrar]

George Bernard Shaw
It’s not that I’m so clever, it is that others are so stupid.
“Logic has made me hated among men”: Abelard of Le Pallet on theology [5a]

The use of the equal sign in what follows is always to be understood in the sense that two names or expressions mean or designate the same thing
why Aristotelian logic does not work [16]

Adam Smith
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but their self love.
Wealth of Nations, 1776, bk. 1, ch. 2

Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin
many quotations collected together here.

Albert Szent-György
Science consists of seeing what everyone else has seen but thinking what no one else has thought.

The Tao
The good man does not prove by argument and he who proves by argument is not good.
“Logic has made me hated among men”: Abelard of Le Pallet on theology [10]

Tertullian (155 –222 AD)
• “What most frequently meets our view (and occasions complaint), is our teeming population: our numbers are burdensome to the world, which can hardly supply us from its natural elements; our wants grow more and more keen, and our complaints more bitter in all mouths, whilst Nature fails in affording us her usual sustenance. In very deed, pestilence, and famine, and wars, and earthquakes have to be regarded as a remedy for nations, as the means of pruning the luxuriance of the human race [...]”
[writing in De Anima, chapter XXX]

• “It must be true because it is ridiculous” / “It is certain because it is impossible.”
[Certum est quia impossibile est.]

Margaret Thatcher, 3 October 1987
I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it's the government's job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.

Lao Tzu
To know when you have enough is to be rich

If you want peace, prepare for war.

Voltaire, 1694 – 1778
Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.
The best is the enemy of the good.

Ludwig Wittgenstein
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
why Aristotelian logic does not work [19]

end notes

  1. The rule of Saint Benedict for monasteries, a translation by Dom Bernard Basil Bolton OSB, monk of Ealing Abbey, 1968.

  2. Father Brown Stories by G.K. Chesterton, Cassell, 11th edition, 1966, pp.367-368.

  3. Father Brown Stories by G.K. Chesterton, Cassell, 11th edition, 1966, p.385

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