Philosophy: Musings From This Mortal Coil


Through the years, I have collected several quotations and short extracts from several philosophical texts I've encountered.   I have gathered here some of my favorite prose, from Aristotle to Bertrand Russell, spanning most of Western civilization.   Unfortunately, I have not read much Eastern philosophy, but I am trying to remedy this.


Aristotle Quotations (384-322 BC)

All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, desire.

Wicked men obey from fear; good men, from love.

I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies, for the hardest victory is over self.

Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them.

We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.

In the arena of human life the honours and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities in action.

It concerns us to know the purposes we seek in life, for then, like archers aiming at a definate mark, we shall be more likely to attain what we want.



George Santayana Quotations (1863-1952)
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren't there.

Chaos is a name for any order that produces confusion in our minds.

Skepticism, like chastity, should not be relinquished too readily.

Fun is a good thing but only when it spoils nothing better.



Friedrich Nietzsche Quotations (1844-1900)
What does not kill me makes me stronger.

Madness is rare in individuals- but in groups, parties, nations and ages it is the rule.

The most common lie is that which one lies to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception.

There are no moral phenomena at all, but only moral interpretation of phenomena.

Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.

For what purpose humanity is here should not even concern us: Why you are there, that you should ask yourself.  If you have no ready answer, then set for yourself goals, high and noble goals, and perish in pursuit of them!  I know of no better life purpose than to perish in attempting the great and the impossible.

To forget one's purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.

Not infrequently, one encounters copies of important people; and, as with paintings, most people prefer the copy to the orginal.

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.  If you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

At times one remains faithful to a cause only because its opponents do not cease to be insipid.

We have art in order not to die of the truth.



Bertrand Russell and Vanity (1872-1970)
"One of the troubles about vanity is that it grows with what it feeds on.  The more you are talked about, the more you will wish to be talked about. The condemned murderer, I am told- I have had no personal experience- who is allowed to see the account of his trial in the Press is indignant if he finds a newspaper which has reported it inadequately.  The more he finds about himself in other newspapers, the more indignant he will be with the one whose reports are meager.  Politicians and literary men are in the same case.   The more famous they become, the more, difficult the press cutting agency finds it to satisfy them.  It is scarcely possible to exaggerate the influence of vanity throughout the range of human life from the child of three to the potentate at whose frown the world trembles.  Mankind have even committed the impiety of attributing similar desires to the Deity, whom they imagine avid for continual praise."


Bertrand Russell on Optimism
"Neither misery nor folly seems to me any part of the inevitable lot of man.   I am convinced that intelligence, patience, and eloquence can, sooner or later, lead the human race out of its self-imposed tortures provided it does not exterminate itself meanwhile.  On the basis of this belief, I have had always a certain degree of optimism, although, as I have grown older, the optimism has grown more sober and the happy issue more distant.  But I remain completely incapable of agreeing with those who accept fatalistically the view that man is born to trouble.  The causes of unhappiness in the past and in the present are not difficult to ascertain.  There have been poverty, pestilence, and famine, which were due to man's inadequate mastery of nature.  There have been wars, oppressions and tortures which have been due to men's hostility to their fellow men.  There have been morbid miseries fostered by gloomy creeds, which have led men into profound inner discords that made all outward prosperity of no avail.  All these are unnecessary.  In regard to all of them, means are known by which they can be overcome.  In the modern world, if communities are unhappy, it is because they choose to be so.  To speak more precisely, because they have ignorances, habits, beliefs, and passions, which are dearer to them than happiness or even life.  I find many men in our dangerous age who seem to be in love with misery and death, and who grow angry when hopes are suggested to them."

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