Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities

Thoughts on Thinking

 

If you have a favorite quote about thinking, send it to us at arendt@bard.edu.

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11/5/14

“The test of real and vigorous thinking, the thinking which ascertains truths instead of dreaming dreams, is successful application to practice.”

-- John Stuart Mill

john stuart mill

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10/29/14

"The habit of thinking prevents us at times from experiencing reality, immunises us against it, makes it seem no more than any other thought."

-- Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust

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10/22/14

“If you think along the lines of Nature, then you think properly."

-- C. G. Jung

Jung

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10/15/14

“When people will not weed their own minds, they are apt to be overrun by nettles.”

-- Horace Walpole

Horace Walpole

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10/8/14

“For this feeling of wonder shows that you are a philosopher, since wonder is the only beginning of philosophy.”

-- Plato, Theaetetus

plato

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10/1/14

“Life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily. It is a journey of the spirit through the material world and, since it is the spirit that travels, it is the spirit that is experienced. That is why there exist contemplative souls who have lived more intensely, more widely, more tumultuously than others who have lived their lives purely externally.”

-- Fernando Pessoa

fernando_pessoa

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9/24/14

“The nation that will insist on drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking done by cowards.”

-- Thucydides

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9/17/14

“Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel.”

-- Jean Racine

Jean Racine

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9/10/14

"People don't like to think; if one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant."

-- Helen Keller

Helen Keller

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9/3/14

"The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend."

-- Henri Bergson

henri_bergson

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8/27/14

"How frail the human heart must be - a mirrored pool of thought."

-- Sylvia Plath

plath

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8/20/14

"A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes."

-- Mahatma Gandhi

gandhi

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8/13/14

"The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature."

--Marcus Aurelius

marcus_aurelius

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8/6/14

"Great thoughts always come from the heart."

-- Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues

marquis de vauvenargues

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7/30/14

"A man's thinking goes on within his consciousness in a seclusion in comparison with which any physical seclusion is an exhibition to public view."

--Ludwig Wittgenstein

wittgenstein

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7/23/14

"To reflect is to disturb one's thoughts."

--Jean Rostand

jean_rostand

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7/16/14

"Thought is an infection. In the case of certain thoughts, it becomes an epidemic."

--Wallace Stevens

Wallace_Stevens

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7/9/14

"We do not live to think, but, on the contrary, we think in order that we may succeed in surviving."

--José Ortega y Gasset

gasset

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7/2/14

The game of life is a game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later with astounding accuracy.

--Florence Scovel Shinn

1

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6/25/14

"Thought is a process of exaggeration. The refusal to exaggerate is not infrequently an alibi for the disinclination to think or praise"

--Eric Hoffer

ehoffer

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6/18/14

"For in itself a thought, a slumbering thought, is capable of years, and curdles a long life into one hour."

--Lord Byron

1

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6/11/14

"Thought is a kind of opium; it can intoxicate us, while still broad awake; it can make transparent the mountains and everything that exists."

--Henri-Frédéric Amiel

1

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6/5/14

"He who thinks and thinks for himself, will always have a claim to thanks; it is no matter whether it be right or wrong, so as it be explicit. If it is right, it will serve as a guide to direct; if wrong, as a beacon to warn."

--Jeremy Bentham

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5/28/14

"Thought is the parent of the deed."

--Thomas Carlyle

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5/21/13

"You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you."

--James Allen

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4/29/14

"There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

-William Shakespeare

William_Shakespeare_1609
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4/22/14

"No one knows what the fate of thinking will look like. In a lecture in Paris in 1964 I spoke under the title: 'The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking.' I thus make a distinction between philosophy, that is metaphysics, and thinking as I understand it. The thinking that I contrast with philosophy in this lecture—which is principally done by an attempt to clarify the essence of the Greek 'aletheia' (unhiddenness) — this thinking is, compared to metaphysical thinking, much simpler than philosophy, but precisely because of its simplicity it is much more difficult to carry out. And it calls for new care with language, not the invention of new terms, as I once thought, but a return to the primordial content of our own language, which is, however, constantly in the process of dying off."

-Martin Heidegger

martin-heidegger

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“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”

-Henry Ford

ford

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'Never think that you're not good enough. A man should never think that. People will take you very much at your own reckoning.'

-Anthony Trollope

trollope

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"When people agree with me I always feel that I must be wrong."

-Oscar Wilde

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"Gonna change my way of thinking, make myself a different set of rules. Gonna put my good foot forward and stop being influenced by fools."

-Bob Dylan

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'The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.'

-Friedrich Nietzsche

nietzsche

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“To find yourself, think for yourself.”

-Socrates

socrates

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“Being prepared to receive what thought is not prepared to think is what deserves the name of thinking.”

- Jean-Francois Lyotard

lyotard

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Thanks for Josetxu V for sending us this thought on thinking.

"Beginning to think is beginning to be undermined. Society has but little connection with such beginnings. The worm is in man´s heart. That is where it must be sought. One must follow and understand this fatal game that leads from lucidity in the face of existence to flight from light."

-Albert Camus

camus

 

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“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.”

-Thomas Paine

paine

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“Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

-John F. Kennedy

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“A man who as a physical being is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him.”

-Søren Kierkegaard

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“Thought takes man out of servitude, into freedom.”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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“Either you think -- or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

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"I try to encourage people to think for themselves, to question standard assumptions… Don’t take assumptions for granted. Begin by taking a skeptical attitude toward anything that is conventional wisdom. Make it justify itself. It usually can’t. Be willing to ask questions about what is taken for granted. Try to think things through for yourself.”

-Noam Chomsky

chomsky

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“That pleasure which is at once the most pure, the most elevating and the most intense, is derived, I maintain, from the contemplation of the beautiful.”

-Edgar Allan Poe

poe

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“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.”

-Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

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“Man is obviously made for thinking. Therein lies all his dignity and his merit; and his whole duty is to think as he ought.”

-Blaise Pascal

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“The thoughts that come often unsought, and, as it were, drop into the mind, are commonly the most valuable of any we have.”

-John Locke

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“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

-Steve Jobs

jobs

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"Thought is the sculptor that can create the person you want to be."

-Henry David Thoreau

thoreau

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"Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think."

-Albert Einstein

einstein

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"To get others to come into our ways of thinking, we must go over to theirs; and it is necessary to follow, in order to lead."

-William Hazlitt

william

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“Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you're thinking in order to make your thinking better.”

-Richard Paul

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"Thinking is skilled work. It is not true that we are naturally endowed with the ability to think clearly and logically - without learning how and without practicing.

-Alfred Mander

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"Wisdom is nothing but a preparation of the soul, a capacity, a secret art of thinking, feeling and breathing thoughts of unity at every moment of life."

-Herman Hesse

hesse

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"The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts."

-Marcus Aurelius

marcus

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“Readers are plentiful; thinkers are rare.”

-Harriet Martineau

harriet

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"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see."

-John Burroughs

john burroughs

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“There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen to write.”
-William Makepeace Thackeray

thack

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“Sometimes I think it is a great mistake to have matter that can think and feel. It complains so."

-Kurt Vonnegut

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"Stand upright, speak thy thoughts, declare the truth thou hast, that all may share; Be bold, proclaim it everywhere: They only live who dare."

-Voltaire

volt

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Nurture your minds with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes heroes.

-Benjamin Disraeli

ben

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The only means of strengthening one's intellect is to make up one's mind about nothing, to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.

-John Keats

keats

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"I would wish not to be hasty in censuring any one; but I always speak what I think.”

-Jane Austen

jane

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"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking."

-John Maynard Keynes

john

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"Eloquence is a painting of the thoughts."

-Blaise Pascal

pascal

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"How wonderful that we have met with a paradox.  Now we have some hope of making progress. "

-Niels Bohr

niels

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"Thinking begins only when we have come to know that reason, glorified for centuries,
is the stiff-necked adversary of thought.”

— Martin Heidegger

heidegger

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"A sect or party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

ralph

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“Reading is equivalent to thinking with someone else’s head instead of with one’s own.”

— Arthur Schopenhauer

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“Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international
reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.”

— George Bernard Shaw

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“I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me – shapes
and ideas so near to me – so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn’t
occurred to me to put them down.”

-Georgia O'Keeffe

georgia

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“Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution.
It forces us to change our thinking in order to find it.”

— Niels Bohr

niels

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“Thinking is like loving and dying.  Each of us must do it for himself.”

— Josiah Royce

royce

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"We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake."

-Christopher Hitchens

ch

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"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

— Alice Walker

alice

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My thought is me: that is why I cannot stop thinking. I exist because I think I cannot keep from thinking.”

— Jean-Paul Sartre

satre

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No amount of energy will take the place of thought. A strenuous life with its
eyes shut is a kind of wild insanity.

-Henry Van Dyke

van

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Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking
that makes what we read ours.

- John Locke

locke2

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"Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid.  Thought is great and swift and
free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man."

-Bertrand Russell

bertrand

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"At a certain age some people's minds close up; they live on their intellectual fat."

-William Lyon Phelps

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"Ours is the age which is proud of machines that think and suspicious of men who try to."

-Howard Mumford Jones

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“For the first time she could see a man's head naked of its skull. Saw the cunning
thoughts race in and out through the caves and promontories of his mind long
before they darted through the tunnel of his mouth.”

-Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

"Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten but they may start a winning game."

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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"...thinking consists in knowing that the objective world is in reality, a subjective world, that it is the objectifcation of the subject."

-Herbert Marcuse

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"At learning's fountain it is sweet to drink.
But, 'tis a nobler privilege to think."

-John Godfrey Saxe

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"Truly successful decision making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking."

-Malcolm Gladwell

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"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. "

-Albert Szent-Györgyi

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"Learning  how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think."

-David Foster Wallace

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 "The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking."

 -A. A. Milne

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"The man with a new idea is a crank - until the idea succeeds."

-Mark Twain

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Those who don't like thinking should at least rearrange their prejudices from time to time.

- Luther Burbank

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"Thoughts, like fleas, jump from man to man.  But they don't bite everybody."

-Stanislaw Lec

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“Thinking is learning all over again how to see, directing one's consciousness, making of every image a privileged place.”

― Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays

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 “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”

― Voltaire

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"Thinking isn't agreeing or disagreeing. That's voting."

-Robert Frost

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"Knowledge is no guarantee of good behavior,but ignorance is a virtual guarantee of
bad behavior."

-Martha Nussbaum

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"The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.”

― Horace Walpole

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 “Thinking is itself, however, an adventure.”

― James V. Schall

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“Thinking is, indeed, essentially the negation of that which is immediately before us.”

-Georg Hegel

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“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”

-Terry Pratchett

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"He who thinks little, errs much."
-Leonardo Da Vinci

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“To paraphrase several sages: Nobody can think and hit someone at the same time.”

― Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

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“Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.”

-Confucius

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“Let us reflect, if we wish to be brilliant. Too much improvisation empties the mind in a stupid way. Running beer gathers no froth. No haste, gentlemen.”

― Victor Hugo

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“No brain at all, some of them [people], only grey fluff that's blown into their heads by mistake, and they don't Think.”

― A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

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"The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think.”

― Harper Lee

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"No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”

-Voltaire

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"Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next."

-Jonas Salk

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 “Upon the cunning loom of thought we weave our fancies, so and so.”

-Thomas Bailey Aldrich

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"The worst day in a man's life is when he sits down and begins thinking about how he can get something for nothing."

-Thomas Jefferson

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"Everyone is a genius at least once a year. The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together."

-Georg Christophe Lichtenberg

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"Think like a man of action, and act like a man of thought."

-Henri Bergson

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"Men who borrow their opinions can never repay their debts."

-George Savile, Marquess de Halifax

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“To him whose elastic and vigorous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning.”

-Henry David Thoreau

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"Great thoughts, like great deeds, need no trumpet."

-Philip James Bailey

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"But if thought is to become the possession of many, not the privilege of the few, we must have done with fear. It is fear that holds men back — fear lest their cherished beliefs should prove delusions, fear lest the institutions by which they live should prove harmful, fear lest they themselves should prove less worthy of respect than they have supposed themselves to be."

 -Bertrand Russell

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“If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but if you really make them think, they'll hate you.”

― Harlan Ellison

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"My assumption is that thought itself arises out of incidents of living experience and must remain bound to them as the only guide posts by which to take its bearings."

-Hannah Arendt

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“A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labour and an invisible labour.”

-Victor Hugo

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"One thought fills immensity."

-William Blake

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“A library is thought in cold storage.”

-Henry Samuel

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The aim of education should be to teach us how to think, rather than what to think.

-James Beattie

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“Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”

-Thomas Edison

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"Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one's thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world."

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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"When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon."

-Thomas Paine

 

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"Think before you speak. Read before you think."

-Fran Lebowitz

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"If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."

-George Patton

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“Poirot," I said. "I have been thinking."
"An admirable exercise my friend. Continue it.”
― Agatha Christie, Peril at End House

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"I am neither bitter nor cynical but I do wish there was less immaturity in political thinking."

-Franklin Roosevelt

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"People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use. "

-Søren Kierkegaard

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" We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."

-Albert Einstein

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“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”

-Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian

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"One must think with the body and the soul or not think at all."

-Hannah Arendt

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"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

-Aristotle

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“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.”

-George Eliot, Middlemarch

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'Your business as thinkers is to make plainer the way from something to the whole of things; to show the rational connection between your fact and the frame of the universe."

-Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

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"Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too."

-Voltaire

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"Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think."

-Martin Luther King

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"The most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that

we are still not thinking."

-Martin Heidegger

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"Thinking men cannot be ruled."

-Ayn Rand

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"Many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices."

-William James

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"Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself."

-Plato

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"A man who does not think for himself, does not think at all."

-Oscar Wilde

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"...you don't have to be Al Capone to transgress-you just have to think."

- Phillip Roth, from I Married a Communist

 


Comments (5) Trackbacks (3)
  1. Hello,
    I heard Arendt’s lectures on thinking at the New School. He claims that thinking did not lead to truth was a bit of a shock, and caused more or less endless controversy among the students.

    • Yep! Could be but when you consider the millions and billions of decisions made daily nearly 95 percent or better a performed through emotional reasons and emotion is not a reliable process for decision making whether you are philosopher, doctor of janitor. If we imagine we are thinking then we imagine what we thought is thought, so what truth is revealed. Truth is ever present and unchanging. Truth is no matter what you think!

  2. H, here is something like a poem which Arendt wrote in the Denktagebuch in 1956:
    My heart, throbbing, once took a path through the strange wildness of the world
    And, complaining, my own pain once cultivated the parthway against the pure denseness of the world
    Still throbbing, my heart goes along the usual pathways, and I pluck from the edges, what life has to offer to me…..
    I think her philosophical writings are best read as “fruits” picked along the edge of the field, i.e. what she encountered in life.
    Michael Kraft

  3. Does anyone know the exact wording of the quote about the foolishness of received nottions?

  4. the picture you have up of Florence Shinn is of of the writer Anais Nin.


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