Salvator Rosa

“Aut Tace Aut Loquere Meliora Silentio.”


Self-portrait, Salvator Rosa

“Be silent, unless what you have to say is better then silence.”

Frans de Waal

“The enemy of science is not religion… . The true enemy is the substitution of thought, reflection, and curiosity with dogma.”

David Dunning and Justin Kruger

“The miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.”

Craig Ferguson

“Evil never questions itself” (‘Between the Bridge and the River’)

André Gide

“One cannot both be sincere and seem so.” (‘The Immoralist’)

“You have to let other people be right… It consoles them for not being anything else.” (‘The Immoralist’)

“The color of truth is grey.”

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

“If God were to hold all Truth concealed in his right hand, and in his left only the steady and diligent drive for Truth, albeit with the proviso that I would always and forever err in the process, and to offer me the choice, I would with all humility take the left hand.”

Robert M. Pirsig

“To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.”

(‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’)

Jacques Rancière

“Disagreement is not the conflict between one who says white and another who says black. Rather, it is the conflict between one who says white and another who also says white but does not understand the same thing by it.” (Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy’)

Bertrand Russell

“I do not pretend to start  with precise questions. I do not think you can start with anything precise. You have to achieve such precision as you can, as you go along.”

The Brain

“If the brain were so simple we could understand it,
we would be so simple we couldn’t.” (fortune cookie)


“Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds” (Richard Feynman)

“Creationism is to science what storks are to obstetrics.”


1: A favourite quote of mine, about the consequences of events having long time frame is the well-known:

Interviewer: “What do you think is the impact of the French Revolution?”

Mao Zedong: “It is too early to say.”

Alas, it is wrong in two ways:

  1. It was Zhou Enlai, not Mao.
  2. He was referring to the 1968 Paris student uprising.

There was a misunderstanding conflating 1968 with 1789. But never let truth get in the way of a good story.

(This is not quite as bad as the ‘wondrous fable’:

  1. Alexander Fleming’s father saved a young Winston Churchill from drowning.
  2. In gratitude, Winston Churchill’s father then paid for Alexander Fleming’s education.
  3. Alexander Fleming went on to discover penicillin.
  4. In 1942, Winston Churchill was ill and penicillin saved him.

But all four points above are false! Yes:  even the one about Alexander Fleming discovering penicillin!)

2: Probably not Eleanor Roosevelt:

“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”

3. On the economics of automation

Henry Ford II: “Walther, how are you going to get these robots to pay union dues?”

Walter Reuther: “Henry, how are you going to get these robots to buy your cars?”

…but it probably wasn’t Henry Ford II who asked the initial question.

Political / economic quotes

“Perhaps the most democratic achievement over the whole century was the building of council houses to let at rents the workers could afford. Councils, encouraged by labour governments, built more than 14 million council houses. The endeavour was the essence of social democrary. It was socialist because it favoured the workers and the poor. It was democratic because the landlord was the elected authority responsible to the tenants.” (Paul Foot, ‘The Vote’)

Mrs Thatcher didn’t so much as cure the UK economy as swap one disease for another. The tuberculosis of militant trades unions was exchanged for the syphilis of grasping financial deregulation. The first stops you working, the second makes you blind, mad and ugly.” (‘Stooriefit’)

“The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.” (Joan Robinson)

Tech quotes

“We do not exist to make a profit. We exist to create useful products and services and it is opportunity to operate at a profit that is the incentive to create, make and market these useful products and services for our society.” (Pat Haggerty)

Funny quotes

“I don’t know if I’m the right person to be doing jokes about religion; in the past few months, I’ve become religious, I’ve started to believe in God, creationism and intelligent design, and the reason that I now believe in God and creationism and intelligent design is because of Professor Richard Dawkins. Because when I look at something as complex and intricate and beautiful as Professor Richard Dawkins, I don’t think that just could’ve evolved by chance! Professor Richard Dawkins was put there by god to test us, like fossils. And facts.” (Stewart Lee )


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