Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Perspectives on Ideas. April 11, 2007

62 The foreign criminal, they say, rarely repents, for the very doctrines of today confirm him in the idea that his crime is not a crime, but only a reaction against an unjustly oppressive force. Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov.

621 “I am not mad…only a murderer,” Ivan began again. Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov.

699 You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory…but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education…and, if one has only one good memory left in one’s heart, even that may sometime be the means of saving us…perhaps, that one memory may keep him from great evil and he will reflect and say, ‘Yes, I was good and brave and honest then.’ Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov.

197 Jacobi, refusing all measure of right and wrong except the determinations of the private spirit, remarks that there is no crime but has sometimes been a virtue. Emerson, The Transcendentalist.

1028 Every crime destroys more Edens than our own. Hawthorne, The Marble Faun.

6 The late Judge Frederick Bausman of Seattle…proposed…that a sharp distinction be made between murderers whose crimes are of such a character that any normal persons, under the circumstances, might be imagined committing them, and murderers who kill strangers for gain. Mencken, Minority Report.

7 [In favor of sterilization of criminals]: Even if it is argued that their criminality is thus the product of environment rather than of heredity, it follows that the environment they themselves provide for children is very likely to produce more criminals. Mencken, Minority Report.

92 In case of murder I think it should be written into the law that no murderer, under any circumstances, whatever, shall ever be released until his victim's natural expectation of life has expired…no reason that I can imagine why he should enjoy liberty while that victim is deprived of life. Mencken, Minority Report.

219 …the middle class, whose fear of crisis made such a vital contribution to the victory of National Socialism…. Bracher, The German Dictatorship

119 Katherine Anne Porter: You cannot be a hostile critic of society and expect society to feed you regularly. Hull, ed. The Writer’s Book.

137 T.S. Eliot: He [Ezra Pound] was a marvelous critic because he didn’t try to turn you into an imitation of himself [but]...tried to see what you were trying to do. Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

Critical Thinking
392 “Space forbids” (The author [Durant] has often smiled at this cloak for laziness….) Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Herbert Spencer.

258 Angus Wilson: The natural habit of any good and critical reader is to disbelieve what you are telling him and try to escape out of the world you are picturing. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

779 For so long a time now in one crisis after another the President had seen the judgments of supposedly good minds, some rated among the “best minds,” so utterly wrong, so completely mistaken, so ready with advice that would have wrought wreck and ruin beyond retrieving, that he had a deeper and surer feeling about his own reasons and vision in the face of chaos. Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years.

279 JFK: ...salvation lay in man’s liberation from myth, stereotype and fanaticism. [Note: What are the unquestioned assumptions in education?] Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

463 All this made strategic analysis far less exact than the pseudo-precision of its terminology suggested. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

464 Kennedy faced no greater problem of public education than that of convincing both Capitol Hill and the Kremlin that his demands for strength and disarmament, far from being contradictory, were complementary. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

469 …the sense he [Kennedy] gave of freedom from preconception…. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

593 JFK: …every past generation had to disenthrall itself from an inheritance of truism and stereotype…must move on from the reassuring repetition of stale phrases to a new, difficult, but essential confrontation with reality. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

593 JFK: For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived and dishonest—but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

593 JFK: Too often, we hold fast to the clich├ęs of our forebears. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

593 JFK: We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

664 He [Kennedy] perceived himself…as a man who, unlike the Trumans and Robert Tafts of American politics, generally saw reason on both sides of complex issues. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

823 JFK: Too many Americans…regarded peace as impossible and therefore war was inevitable. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

240 He began for the first time in his life to have a strong distrust of all generalities and epigrams. Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise.

355 ...a study of Time [Magazine's] treatment of Eisenhower’s first year as compared with Kennedy’s...amassed considerable evidence to show that, by the use of loaded adjectives, clever picture captions and a careful selection of quotations out of context...the two administrations were put in very different lights [Eisenhower positive, Kennedy negative].... Schlesinger, A Thousand Days.

614 JFK: “The Soviets and ourselves give wholly different meanings to the same words—war, peace, democracy, and popular will.” Sorenson, Kennedy

112 Emma...amusing herself in the consideration of the blunders which often arise from a partial knowledge of circumstances, of the mistakes which people of high pretensions to judgment are for ever falling into.... Austen, Emma

17 This fundamental question—is light waves or is it particles?—has been answered only by asserting that it must be both. Barnett, The Universe and Dr. Einstein.

22 By itself neither concept [wave or particle] suffices to explain light, but together they do. Barnett, The Universe and Dr. Einstein.

48 …it is because of Einstein’s unwillingness ever to accept any unproven principle as self-evident that he was able to penetrate closer to the underlying realities of nature than any scientist before him. Barnett, The Universe and Dr. Einstein

766 Lincoln: Mr. Moorhead, haven’t you lived long enough to know that two men may honestly differ about a question and both be right? Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years.

199 Facts shall speak. Austen, Persuasion.

153 To make an enemy of the media is fatal for a public figure…not because the press will print lies…but because so much depends on where reporters want to put the emphasis, or on how they want to see events that are often subject to several interpretations. Bradley, Time Present, Time Past.

6 Plato: …uncovering assumptions and questioning certainties. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Plato.

13 ...every extreme was seen as a half-truth.... Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Plato.

59 “If you wish to converse with me,” said Voltaire, “define your terms.” Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Aristotle.

59 How many a debate would have been deflated into a paragraph if the disputants had dared to define their terms! Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Aristotle.

59 …once done, it [defining terms] is half of any task. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Aristotle.

108 F. Bacon: I possessed a passion for research, a power of suspending judgment with patience, of meditating with pleasure, of assenting with caution, of correcting false impressions with readiness, and of arranging my thoughts with scrupulous pains. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Francis Bacon.

131 ...fig-leaf phrases used to cover naked ignorance.... Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Francis Bacon.

132 F. Bacon: ...we find no new truth because we take some venerable but questionable proposition as an indubitable starting-point, and never think of putting this assumption itself to the test of observation or experiment. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Francis Bacon.

164 Spinoza: …the vivid and metaphorical forms of speech which the founders of religion by the nature of their mission and their own emotional intensity, are driven to adopt. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Spinoza.

446 Towards the end Nietzsche’s work grew in bitterness; he attacked persons as well as ideas. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Nietzsche.

478 Perhaps the source of most of the innovations in modern mathematics is the rejection of axioms; and Russell delights in men who challenge “self-evident truths” and insist upon the demonstration of the obvious. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Bertrand Russell.

199 People crave certainties in this world and are hostile to ifs and buts. Mencken, Minority Report.

615 Johnson: If my antagonist writes bad language, though that may not be essential to the question, I will attack him for his bad language. Boswell, Life of Johnson, Vol. 1.

630 Johnson on a doctor’s changing religion with consequent distrust in his medical skills: …when people see a man absurd in what they understand, they may conclude the same of him in what they do not understand. Boswell, Life of Johnson, Vol. 1.

694 Who shall forbid a wise skepticism, seeing that there is no practical question on which anything more than an approximate solution can be had? Emerson, Representative Men: Montaigne, or The Skeptic.

810 Into this English logic, however, an infusion of justice enters, not so apparent in other races,--a belief in the existence of two sides, and the resolution to see fair play. Emerson, English Traits.

45 ...the end is lost sight of in attention to the means. Emerson, Nature.

65 The world is his who can see through its pretension.... Emerson, The American Scholar.

261 He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Emerson, Self-Reliance.

234 His [McNamara’s] power was facts, no one had more, and no one used them better, firing them out, one after another, devastating his opponents (though sometimes his friends would feel that there was a missing piece, that sometimes this brilliant reasoning was based…on a false assumption). Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest.

328 Here was a man [Rusk] who believed…the democracies were ipso facto good and the totalitarians were ipso facto bad…the danger of his tenets [being]…he did not reckon with the whimsical quality of history, that the forces of history can just as easily make the democracies aggressive, that to some small states, large democracies look tyrannical, that justice and decency have various definitions in different parts of the world. Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest.

346 State simply did not pose deep and probing questions…instead…geared itself up on straight operational questions: how much fertilizer for this province, how much barbed wire for that. Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest.

363 About McNaughton: When he taught evidence at Harvard Law School, he specialized in defining the difference between reality and illusion…would walk into a law class, pull out a toy pistol, shoot a student and then take sixteen different versions of what had happened…would point out to his class the difference between what they thought they had seen and what they actually saw, carefully extracting the hearsay. Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest.

365 [A young sociologist to McNaughton]: “Mr. McNaughton, I’ve had enough [of]…all your facts, all your statistics, all your slide rules, all your decisions—you speak it all so well, and yet where is Man in all this, Mr. McNaughton?” Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest.

385 After only four years, the [experimental] school was closed, largely upon the protests of parents who objected to their children coming back and asking too many disturbing questions…. Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest.

335 …Goering tried to dismiss by ridicule, by placing the responsibility on others, by feigning ignorance, or by resorting…to the argument of tu quoque [If I am guilty, you are, too.]. Conot, Justice at Nuremberg.

206 Ralph Ellison: In any society there are many rituals...which, for the most part, go unquestioned. Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

420 …for it is always a tyrannical harshness not to be able to endure a way of thinking differing from your own. Montaigne, Selected Essays.

47 Huxley to Bishop Wilberforce: If there were an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling it would be a man of restless and versatile intellect who, not content with success in his own sphere of activity, plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them by aimless rhetoric and distract the attention of his hearers from the point at issue by digressions and appeals to religious prejudice. Caullery and Tetry. A Random Walk in Science.

90 Book: 100 Authors Against Einstein which sought to show that Einstein must be wrong because so many opinions were ranged against him. A Random Walk in Science.

xx …the courage of …doubts in a world of dangerously passionate certainties. Sevareid, Not So Wild a Dream.

212 Lincoln: To a boy fishing: “Well it’s good to be out here where there is so much fact and so little opinion.” Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years

26 Dicaeopolis: And yet I fear; for well I know the moods/ Of our good country people, how they love to hear the city and themselves be praised/ By some intriguing humbug, right or wrong,/ Nor ever dreamed they are being bought and sold. Aristophanes, Acharnians.

133 Strepsiades: You have the rogue’s trick of looking injured when you’re injuring. Aristophanes, Clouds.

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