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Top 100 Quotes About Philosophy

Updated on January 20, 2017
Colleen Swan profile image

A lover of the written word Colleen has a Master's degree in English literature and enjoys finding unique and poignant quotes

Head of a Thinker, by Wilhelm Lehmbruck 1918
Head of a Thinker, by Wilhelm Lehmbruck 1918 | Source

♠ And no philosophy, sadly, has all the answers. No matter how assured we may be about certain aspects of our belief, there are always painful inconsistencies, exceptions, and contradictions. Steve Allen

♠ No man can establish title to an idea; at the most he can only claim possession. The stream of thought that irrigates the mind of each of us is a confluent of the intellectual river that drains the whole of the living universe. Maurice Valency

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

♠ It is not materialism that is the chief curse of the world, as pastors teach, but idealism. Men get into trouble by taking their victims and hallucinations too seriously. H. L. Mencken

♠ The most important part of our lives, our sensations, emotions, desires and aspirations takes place in a universe of illusions which science can attenuate or destroy, but which it is powerless to enrich. Joseph Wood Krutch

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♣ Most people grow old within a small circle of ideas, which they have not discovered for themselves. There are perhaps less wrong-minded people than thoughtless. Vauvenargues

♣ Every theory in philosophy, which is built on pure conjecture, is an elephant; and every theory that is supported partly by fact, and partly by conjecture, is like Nebuchadnezzar’s image, whose feet were partly of iron, and partly of clay. Thomas Reid

♣ We are less justified in saying that the thinking life of humanity is a miraculous perfectionism of animal and physical life than that it is an imperfection in the organization of spiritual life as rudimentary as the communal existence of protozoa in colonies. Marcel Proust

♣ When I was in school, I cheated on my metaphysics exam: I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me. Woody Allen

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♥ Sanity, soundness, and sincerity, of which gleams and strains can still be found in the human brain under powerful microscopes, flourish only in a culture of clarification, which is now becoming harder and harder to detect with the naked eye. James Thurber

♥ When the speaker and he to whom he is speaks do not understand, that is metaphysics. Voltaire

♥ Rights is a fictional abstraction. No one has rights, neither machines nor flesh and blood. Persons… have opportunities, not rights, which they use or do not use. Lazarus Long

♥ There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesome returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. Mark Twain

♥ Opinion is like a pendulum and obeys the same law. If it goes past the centre of gravity on one side, it must go a like distance on the other; and it is only after a certain time that it finds the sure point at which it can remain at rest. Schopenhauer

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♦ When you are young, you enjoy a sustained illusion that sooner or later something marvelous is going to happen, that you are going to transcend your parents’ limitations. Brian Aldiss

♦ It is not usually our ideas that make us optimists or pessimists, but it is our optimism or our pessimism, of psychological or perhaps pathological origin, as much the one as the other, that makes our ideas. Miguel DE Unamuno

♦ If the aim of physical theories is to explain experimental laws, theoretical physics is not an autonomous science; it is subordinate to metaphysics. Pierre Duhem

♦ Existentialism does not offer to the reader the consolations of an abstract evasion: existentialism proposes no evasion. On the contrary, its ethics is experienced in the truth of life, and it then appears as the only proposition of salvation which one can address to men. Simone de Beauvoir

All the mind's activity is easy if it is not subjected to reality.

— Marcel Proust

♠ The basic impulse behind existentialism is optimistic, very much like the impulse behind all science. Existentialism is romanticism, and romanticism is the feeling that man is not the mere he has always taken himself for. Colin Wilson

♠ Before the age of adulteration it was held that behind each work there stood some conception of its perfect execution. It was this that gave zest to labor and served to measure the degree of success. Richard Weaver,

♠ Until everyone is fed, clothed, housed and taught, until human beings have equal leisure to contemplate the overwhelming fact of mortality, we should not indulge in the luxury of "privileged despair". Kenneth Tynan

♠ I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. Isaac Asimov

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♣ Applied science is a conjurer, whose bottomless hat yields impartially the softest of Angora rabbits and the most petrifying of Medusa's. Aldous Huxley

♣ To be a poet is to have an appetite for a certain anxiety which, when tasted among the swirling sum of things existent or forfeit, causes, as the taste dies, joy. Rene Char

♣ At no time are people so sedulously careful to keep their trifling appointments, attend to their ordinary occupations, and thus put a commonplace aspect on life, as when conscious of some secret that if suspected would make them look monstrous in the general eye. Nathaniel Hawthorne

♣ Though the wisdom or virtue of one can very rarely make many happy, the folly or vice of one man often make many miserable. Samuel Johnson

Time and space are fragments of the infinite for the use of finite creatures.

— Henri Frederic Amiel

♥ In moments of despair, we look on ourselves leadenly as objects; we see ourselves, our lives, as someone else might see them and may even be driven to kill ourselves if the separation, the knowledge, seems sufficiently final. Mary Mc Carthy

♥ Of all mankind the great poet is the equable man. Not in him but off from him things are grotesque or eccentric or fail of their sanity. Walt Whitman

♥ Taking sides is the beginning of sincerity, and earnestness follows shortly afterwards, and the human being becomes a bore. Oscar Wilde

♥ Real sorrow is incompatible with hope. No matter how great the sorrow may be, hope raises it one hundred cubits higher. Comte De Lautreamont

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♦ The overwhelming pressure of mediocrity, sluggish and indomitable as a glacier, will mitigate the most violent, and depress the most exalted revolution. T. S. Eliot

♦ Affectation is an awkward and forced imitation of what should be genuine and easy, wanting the beauty that accompanies what is natural. John Locke

♦ We love to chew the cud of a foregone vision; to collect the scattered rays of a brighter phantasm, or act over again, with firmer nerves, the sadder nocturnal tragedies. Charles Lamb

♦ Man has such a predilection for systems and abstract deductions that he is ready to distort the truth intentionally, he is ready to deny the evidence of his senses only to justify his logic. Dostoevsky

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♠ A human being sheds its leaves like a tree. Sickness prunes it down; and it no longer offers the same silhouette to the eyes which loved it, to the people to whom it afforded shade and comfort. Edmond & Jules DE Concourt

♠ One's belief that one is sincere is not so dangerous as one's conviction that one is right. We all feel we are right; but we felt the same way twenty years ago and today we know we weren't always right. Igor Stravinsky

♠ Doubt is an element of criticism, and the tendency of criticism is necessarily skeptical. Benjamin Disraeli

♠ We accept every person in the world as that for which he gives himself out, only he must give himself out for something. We can put up with the unpleasant more easily than we can endure the insignificant. Goethe

♠ In sleep we lie all naked and alone, in sleep we are united at the heart of night and darkness, and we are strange and beautiful asleep; for we are dying in the darkness, and we know no death. Thomas Woolfe

There are times when sense may be unreasonable, as well as truth.

— William Congreve

♦ There is far too much talk of love and grief benumbing the faculties, turning the hair gray, and destroying a man's interest in his work. Grief has made many a man look younger. William McFee

♦ The criterion of mental health is not one of individual adjustment to a given social order, but a universal one, valid for all men, of giving a satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence. Erich Fromm

♦ There are days when solitude is a heady wine that intoxicates you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a poison that makes you beat your head against the wall. Colette

♦ The very act of sacrifice magnifies the one who sacrifices himself to the point where it is much more costly to humanity than would have been the loss of those for whom he is sacrificing himself. But in his abnegation lies the secret of his grandeur. Andre Gide

♦ Physical suffering apart, not a single sorrow exists that can touch us except through our thoughts. Maurice Maeterlinck

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♠ It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose, should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist; the threat is rather to life itself. Rachel Carson

♠ Reverence is a good thing, and part of its value is that the more we revere a man, the more sharply are we struck by anything in him (and there is always much) that is incongruous with his greatness. Max Beerbohm

♠ The finer the nature, and the higher the level at which it seeks to live, the lower in grief it not only sinks, but dives; it goes to weep with beggars and mountebanks, for these make the shame of being unhappy less. Elizabeth Bowen

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♣ Spring, the cruelest and fairest of the seasons, will come again. And the strange and buried men will come again, in flower and leaf the strange and buried men will come again, and death and the dust will never come again, for death and the dust will die. Thomas Woolfe

♣ One who speaks a right never speaks it in an unsuitable time or place, nor before one of immature faculties or without excellence. This is why his words are not spoken in vain. Panchatantra

♣ Q: How many existentialists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Two. One to screw it in and one to observe how the light bulb itself symbolizes a single incandescent beacon of subjective reality in a netherworld of endless absurdity reaching out toward a maudlin cosmos of nothingness.

♣ Time lost is time when we have not lived a full human life, time non-enriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment and suffering. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

♣ We have forgotten the beast and the flower not in order to remember either ourselves or God, but in order to forget everything except the machine. Joseph Wood Krutch

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♥ We are all tolerant enough of those who do not agree with us, provided only they are sufficiently miserable. David Grayson

♥ It is familiarity with life that makes time speed quickly. When every day is a step in the unknown, as for children, the days are long with gathering of experience. George Gissing

♥ Everywhere in the world the industrial regime tends to make the unorganized or unorganizable individual, the pauper, into the victim of a kind of human sacrifice offered to the gods of civilization. Jacques Maritain

♥ Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others. John F. Kennedy

♥ Most of the methods for measuring the lapse of time have, I believe, been the contrivance of monks and religious recluses, who, finding time hang heavy on their hands, were at some pains to see how they got rid of it. William Hazlitt

A stone thrown at the right time is better than gold given at the wrong time.

— Proverb

♠ The essence of dramatic tragedy is not unhappiness. It resides in the solemnity of the remorseless working of things. Alfred North Whitehead

♠ The importance of an individual thinker owes something to chance. For it depends upon the fate of his ideas in the minds of his successors. Alfred Lord Whitehead

♠ The most intractable of our experiences is the experience of time; the intuition of duration, combined with the thought of perpetual perishing. Aldous Huxley

♠ The "happening" operates by creating an asymmetrical network of surprises, without climax or consummation, this is the alogism of dreams rather than the logic of most art. Susan Sontag

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♣ Man is the only one that knows nothing, that can learn nothing without being taught. He can neither speak nor walk nor eat, and in short he can do nothing at the prompting of nature only, but weep. Pliny The Elder

♣ For tribal man space was the uncontrollable mystery. For technological man it is time that occupies the same roll. Marshall MCLuhan

♣ Some mystery should be left in the revelation of character in a play, just as a great deal of mystery is always left in the revelation of character in life, even in one's own character to himself. Tennessee Williams

♣ There is one disadvantage which the man of philosophical habits of mind suffers, as compared with the man of action. while he is taking an enlarged and rational view of the matter before him, he lets his chance slip through his fingers. Oliver Wendell Holmes

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♦ No reliance can be placed on the friendship of Kings, nor vain hope put in the melodious voice of boys; for that passes away like a vision, and this vanishes like a dream. Sa'Di

♦ All deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea, while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore. Herman Melville

♦ To think is to meander from highway to byway, and from byway to alleyway, till we come to a dead end. Stopped dead in our alley, we think what a feat it would be to get out. that is when we look for the gate to meadows beyond. Antonio Machado

♦ They that endeavor to abolish vice, destroy also virtue; for contraries, though they destroy one another, are yet the life of one another. Sir Thomas Browne

♦ In early youth, as we contemplate our coming life, we are like children in a theatre before the curtain is raised, sitting there in high spirits and eagerly waiting for the play to begin. Schopenhauer

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♠ The traveler must be somebody and come from somewhere, so that his definite character and moral traditions may supply an organ and a point of comparison for his observations. George Santayana

♠ Truth is a river that is always splitting up into arms that reunite. Islanded between the arms the inhabitants argue for a lifetime as to which is the main river. Cyril Connolly

♠ As for an authentic villain, the real thing, the absolute, the artist, one rarely meets him even once in a lifetime. The ordinary bad hat is always in part a decent fellow. Colette

♠ Old hands soil, it seems, what they caress, but they too have their beauty when they are joined in prayer. Young hands are made for caresses and the sheathing of love; it is a pity to make them join too soon. Andre Gide

♠ Since our persons are not of our own making, when they are such as appear defective or uncomely, it is, methinks, an honest and laudable fortitude to dare to be ugly. Richard Steele

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♣ Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others. Oscar Wilde

♣ It is only a good, sound, truthful person who can lie to any good purpose; if a man is not habitually truthful his very lies will be false to him and betray him. Samuel Butler

♣ How should men know what is coming to pass within them, when there are no words to grasp it? How could the drops of water know themselves to be a river? Yet the river flows on. Saint-Exupery

♣ Many get the repute of being witty, but thereby lose the credit of being sensible. Jest has its little hour, seriousness should have all the rest. Baltasar Gracian

♣ The truth of these days is not that which really is, but what every man persuades another man to believe. Montaigne

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♥ The anxiety we have for the figure we cut, for our personage, is constantly cropping out. We are showing off and are often more concerned with making a display than with living. Whoever feels observed observes himself. Andre Gide

♥ Utility is the great idol of the age, to which all powers must do service and all talents swear allegiance. Schiller

♥ Astronomy was born of superstition; eloquence of ambition, hatred, falsehood, and flattery; geometry of avarice; physics of an idle curiosity; and even moral philosophy of human pride. Thus the arts and sciences owe their birth to our vices. Rousseau

♥ To me the truth is something which cannot be told in a few words, and those who simplify the universe only reduce the expansion of its meaning. Anais Nin

♥ To be free is not necessarily to be wise. Wisdom comes with counsel, with the frank and free conference of untrammeled men united in the common interest. Woodrow Wilson

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♦ The measure of any man's virtue is what he would do, if he had neither the laws nor public opinion, nor even his own prejudices, to control him. William Hazlitt

♦ In youth, it is common to measure right and wrong by the opinion of the world, and in age, to act without any measure but interest, and to lose shame without substituting virtue. Samuel Johnson

♦ Wisdom requires no form; her beauty must vary, as varies the beauty of flame. She is no motionless goddess, for ever couched on her throne. Maurice Maeterlinck

♦ Woman dwell always in the palace of unpalatable truth and never by any chance is there a magic talisman to save them from their destiny. Speech is their ultimate need. We men exist for them only in so far as we can be described. William McFee

♦ When one is young, one venerates and despises without that art of nuances which constitutes the best gain of life. Nietzsche

Truth is a flower in whose neighborhood others must wither.

— E. M. Forster

♠ Man is apt to be more moved by the art of his own period, not because it is more perfect, but because it is organically related to him. Ilya Ehrenburg

♠ Our credulity is greatest concerning the things we know least about. And we know least about ourselves, we are ready to believe all that is said about us. Hence the mysterious power of both flattery and calumny. Eric Hoffer

♠ Life is as the sea, art a ship in which man conquers life's crushing formlessness, reducing it to a course, a series of swells, tides and wind currents inscribed on a chart. Ralph Ellison

♠ It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them. The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

♠ The man who says to one, go, and he goeth, and to another, come, and he cometh, has, in most cases, more sense of restraint and difficulty than the man who obeys him. John Ruskin

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♥ How true it is that our destinies are decided by nothings and that a small imprudence helped by some insignificant accident, as an acorn is fertilized by a drop of rain, may raise the trees on which perhaps we and others shall be crucified. Henri Frederic Amiel

♥ I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. Barry Goldwater

♥ The background reveals the true being and state of being of the man or thing. If I do not possess the background, I make the man transparent, the thing transparent. Juan Ramon Jimenez

♥ Men of genius are far more abundant than is supposed. in fact, to appreciate thoroughly the work of what we call genius, is to possess all the genius by which the work was produced. Edgar Allan Poe

The aged love what is practical, while impetuous youth longs only for what is dazzling.

— Petrarch

♠ First there is a time when we believe everything without reasons, then for a little while we believe with discrimination, then we believe nothing whatever, and then we believe everything again; and, moreover, give reasons why we believe everything. Georg Christopher Lichtenberg

♠ Each day the worst of our faults, our deficiencies, our crimes, the truth of our lives, is stifled under a triple layer of forgetfulness, death and the ordinary course of justice. Jean Giraudoux

♠ The importance of the bohemians is twofold: first, they act out a critique of the organized system that everybody in some sense agrees with. But second; and more important in the long run, they are a kind of major-pilot-study of the use of leisure in an economy of abundance. Paul Goodman

♠ Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is again made clean. Dag Hammarskjold

Wit is the salt of conversation, not the food.

— William Hazlitt

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    • Colleen Swan profile image
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      Colleen Swan 2 years ago from County Durham

      Thank you Larry, I am already working on some more categories. Happy you enjoyed these. Colleen

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Always enjoy your quote lists, Colleen. Great hub!

    • Colleen Swan profile image
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      Colleen Swan 2 years ago from County Durham

      Hi Ann, I always enjoy your genuine, in depth perceptions. I do take a long time to find quotes because it means a lot to know they have meaning for others. Colleen

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Your research is outstanding; it must have taken hours to put this together and you always do such a good job. The best thing about this 'quotes' series is that you put them forward to make us think, to amuse us, to educate us and I find all of that satisfying.

      I especially like Lazarus Long on 'Rights', Mark Twain on 'science' and Schopenhauer on 'opinion'.

      Thanks for the inspirational read this afternoon, Colleen.

      Ann

    • Colleen Swan profile image
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      Colleen Swan 2 years ago from County Durham

      Hi Gilbert, good to hear from you; it is heartening to know others find our ideas of good quotes worthwhile. Colleen

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 2 years ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      You always compile great quotes from famous people in world history, Colleen.

    • Colleen Swan profile image
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      Colleen Swan 2 years ago from County Durham

      Thank you Devika, I am happy that you found these quotes of interest. I try to present some complimentary images that enhance the presentation and appreciate that you noted this. Colleen

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A beautifully presented hub. Interesting and unique.

    • Colleen Swan profile image
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      Colleen Swan 2 years ago from County Durham

      Thank you Vagabond Laborer. It's great to find a great quote over breakfast that can be used at some time that day. Happy you enjoyed these. Colleen

    • Colleen Swan profile image
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      Colleen Swan 2 years ago from County Durham

      Thank you Tom, Goethe gave us so many gems. Glad you enjoyed these. Colleen

    • Vagabond Laborer profile image

      Vagabond Laborer 2 years ago

      Hi Colleen--what a great idea for a hub. I enjoyed some of these quotes with breakfast.

    • Thomas Swan profile image

      Thomas Swan 2 years ago from New Zealand

      Lots of good quotes, and another gem from Goethe: "We can put up with the unpleasant more easily than we can endure the insignificant."

    • Colleen Swan profile image
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      Colleen Swan 2 years ago from County Durham

      Thank you Surabhi, I am so pleased you enjoyed these quotes. Peace be with you. Colleen

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      Surabhi Kaura 2 years ago

      Thanks, Colleen for sharing this. Bookmarked. Peace.