Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My favorite quotes from a year of blogging

The following are my favorite quotes by other people that I've blogged in my first year of blogging (April 12, 2008 to April 11, 2009).

For the sake of readability, I've removed all formatting (italics, etc.) and alterations (ellipses and brackets). If you happen to need a more exact quote, just click the attribution link and look for it in the original post.


LIFE

"My friends tell me that I have a tendency to point out problems without offering solutions, but they never tell me what I should do about it." -- Daniel Gilbert

"Don't confuse simple, reasonable honesty with radical silliness. There is no reason to try to articulate blurry feelings or over-explain every detail. The point is to be honest instead of internalizing, not to try to extract juicy confessionals out of everyday life." -- Summer Anne Burton


WORK

"Very few men can be genuinely happy in a life involving continual self-assertion against the skepticism of the mass of mankind, unless they can shut themselves up in a coterie and forget the cold outer world. The man of science has no need of a coterie, since he is thought well of by everybody except his colleagues. The artist, on the contrary, is in the painful situation of having to choose between being despised and being despicable." -- Bertrand Russell

"One of the worst pieces of career advice that I bet each of you has not only gotten but given is to 'do what you love.' If you tell yourself that your job has to be something you'd do even if you didn't get paid, you'll be looking for a long time. Maybe forever. So why set that standard? The reward for doing a job is contributing to something larger than you are, participating in society, and being valued in the form of money. -- Penelope Trunk

"I labored long and hard to try to tell these college students -- some kid would get shot down by the police in New York City, or chased to his death on a highway by a racist mob in Howard Beach. And they would say, 'We're a racist America!' They'd be at Vassar College talking about a 'racist America.' And I would say, 'You're at Vassar College! The world is your oyster! There's nothing you can't do! Learn Chinese, you idiot!'" -- Glenn Loury


ENVIRONMENT

"You might declare that global warming and energy insecurity, not to mention urban sprawl and pollution, have intensified the sin of indulging one's motoring desires. And I would not argue with that point. You're right. I am a bad man. But over the long term, if you want to develop a new transportation and energy policy, you'd probably want to err on the side of assuming that people won't change much. And it is human nature to like to be empowered." -- Joel Achenbach

"If you're a progressive, if you're driving a Prius, or you're shopping green or you're looking for organic, you should probably be a semi-vegetarian." -- Mark Bittman

"On the one hand, we are told that our overconsumption is polluting and cluttering up the earth with garbage, using up resources and showing insensitivity to all the needy people in the world. On the other hand, we are told that until we start buying more goods and services, the economy will be in the dumps and we will leave many of our fellow citizens jobless, homeless and hungry. Something is wrong with that picture." -- Ina Aronow


THOUGHT

"We have grown terribly -- if somewhat hypocritically -- weary of larger truths. The smarter and more intellectual we count ourselves, the more adamantly we insist that there is no such thing as truth, no such thing as general human experience, that everything is plural and relative and therefore undiscussable. Today’s essayists need to be emboldened, and to embolden one another, to move away from timid autobiographical anecdote and to embrace -- as their predecessors did -- big theories, useful verities, daring pronouncements. We must rehabilitate the notion of truth -- however provisional it might be." -- Cristina Nehring

"Is Mount Everest more 'real' than New York? I mean, isn't New York 'real'? I think if you could become fully aware of what existed in the cigar store next door to this restaurant, I think it would just blow your brains out! I mean, isn't there just as much reality to be perceived in the cigar store as there is on Mount Everest? You see, I think that not only is there nothing more real about Mount Everest, I think there's nothing that different." -- Wallace Shawn

"Complexity and obscurity have professional value -- they are the academic equivalents of apprenticeship rules in the building trades. They exclude the outsiders, keep down the competition, preserve the image of a privileged or priestly class. The man who makes things clear is a scab. He is criticized less for his clarity than for his treachery." -- John Kenneth Galbraith


DOUBT

"It is an odd fact of evolution that we are the only species on Earth capable of creating science and philosophy. There easily could have been another species with some scientific talent, say that of the average human ten-year-old, but not as much as adult humans have; or one that is better than us at physics but worse at biology; or one that is better than us at everything. If there were such creatures all around us, I think we would be more willing to concede that human scientific intelligence might be limited in certain respects." -- Colin McGinn

“Instead of explaining why this recession (or depression) is just like the others, we should attend to what is new and especially problematic about the current downturn and why it may not respond to policies modeled on avoiding the errors of the past. To speak of a crisis of financial epistemology may sound abstract, but it has had very concrete and disastrous consequences.” -- Jeffrey Z. Muller

"And this is the point in which I think I am superior to men in general, and in which I might perhaps fancy myself wiser than other men -- that whereas I know but little of the world below, I do not suppose that I know." -- Socrates


RELIGION

-- "Is life in general more rewarding if you are spiritual, and a real believer? Does someone who truly believes that God is watching my every step, God is taking care of me, whatever happens to me is somehow approved by or helped by God, does that person live a richer, fuller life than someone who thinks: we're on our own here?"
-- "It depends on your specific conception of God, because belief can equally well leave you with this constant sense that you're coming up short and you're being judged and you're not doing quite the perfect thing. You know, I was brought up very religiously, and I never totally lost that sense, you know, that I'm screwing up." -- Joel Achenbach and Robert Wright

"Our general repression of matters disgusting prevents us facing up to a serious health problem. If we are the 'god that shits,' then we are in full flight from ourselves. I even wonder whether religion itself and the whole idea of a god is produced by our self-disgust." -- Colin McGinn

"Every religion I know of has changed its views with respect to concrete controversies over long periods of time. People's views about the morality of homosexuality are likely to undergo some change, even though they're making judgments based on their religious beliefs. Because in fact, religion is an extremely durable, and yet flexible, way of trying to apprehend what's good and what's bad in the world. In fact, its durability comes from its flexibility. Now, speaking from inside a religion, it's hard to talk that way." -- Jack Balkin


SCIENCE

"It is this claim to a monopoly of meaning, rather than any special scientific doctrine, that makes science and religion look like competitors today. Scientism emerged not as the conclusion of scientific argument but as a chosen element in a worldview -- a vision that attracted people by its contrast with what went before -- which is, of course, how people very often do make such decisions, even ones that they afterwards call scientific." -- Mary Midgley

"If a psychological Maxwell devises a general theory of mind, he may make it possible for a psychological Einstein to follow with a theory that the mental and the physical are really the same. But this could happen only at the end of a process which began with the recognition that the mental is something completely different from the physical world as we have come to know it through a certain highly successful form of detached objective understanding. Only if the uniqueness of the mental is recognized will concepts and theories be devised especially for the purpose of understanding it." -- Thomas Nagel

"We're all puppets, and our best hope for even partial liberation is to try to decipher the logic of the puppeteer. Just because natural selection created us doesn't mean we have to slavishly follow its peculiar agenda. (If anything, we might be tempted to spite it for all the ridiculous baggage it's saddled us with.)" -- Robert Wright


GOVERNMENT

“Something that’s unsustainable, like a dysfunctional relationship, can go on longer than you expect, and then end faster and messier than you think.” -- President Obama's budget director Peter Orszag, as quoted by David Leonhardt

"The confidentiality of the judicial process would not matter greatly to an understanding and evaluation of the legal system if the consequences of judicial behavior could be readily determined. If you can determine the ripeness of a cantaloupe by squeezing or smelling it, you don't have to worry about the produce clerk's mental processes." -- Richard Posner

"And that was an unedited interview with the secretary of state taped earlier this morning from Jordan. We appreciate Secretary Powell's willingness to overrule his press aide's attempt to abruptly cut off our discussion as I began to ask my final question." -- Tim Russert


ANIMALS

"It's very important that we have a president who is mindful of the cruelty that is perpetrated on animals." -- Barack Obama

"I'm not a vegetarian. Now, don't get me wrong -- I like animals. And I don't think it's just fine to industrialize their production and to churn them out like they were wrenches. But there's no way to treat animals well when you're killing 10 billion of them a year. Kindness might just be a bit of a red herring. Let's get the numbers of animals we're killing for eating down, and then we'll worry about being nice to the ones that are left." -- Mark Bittman

"If you eat meat, something like that is going on in the background for you too." -- Ann Althouse


GENDER

"Back then, it was better to be a man because before a woman and an animal were considered the same thing. Now, Albanian women have equal rights with men, and are even more powerful." -- Pashe Keqi, as reported by Dan Bilefsky

"No matter how bad things get for boys/men, well, they're men, so they can look after themselves. Women, on the other hand, need a Presidential Council to make sure they're doing all right, even if by many metrics they are outperforming men." -- "Sofa King"

"[quoting this New York Times article:] 'Women's desire is dominated by yearnings of self-love, by the wish to be the object of erotic admiration and sexual need.' A lot of feminist writing would say that the culture has oppressed women by presenting them as the object of male desire. What if that originates in the woman? Well that would shake the foundations of feminism!" -- Ann Althouse

"From the moment of conception on, men are less likely to survive than women. It's not just that men take on greater risks and pursue more hazardous vocations than women. There are poorly understood -- and underappreciated -- vulnerabilities inherent in men's genetic and hormonal makeup." -- Marianne J. Legato


RIGHT and WRONG

"We are vulnerable, but we don't want to be reminded of that. We want to believe that the world is understandable and controllable and unthreatening, that if we follow the rules, we'll be okay. So, when this kind of thing happens to other people, we need to put them in a different category from us. We don't want to resemble them, and the fact that we might is too terrifying to deal with. So, they have to be monsters." -- Ed Hickling, as reported by Gene Weingarten

"Those subject to capital punishment are real human beings, with their own backgrounds and narratives. By contrast, those whose lives are or might be saved by virtue of capital punishment are mere 'statistical people.' They are both nameless and faceless, and their deaths are far less likely to be considered in moral deliberations." -- Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule

"Zimbabwean authorities confiscated a truck loaded with 20 tons of American food aid for poor schoolchildren and ordered that the wheat and pinto beans aboard be handed out to supporters of President Robert Mugabe at a political rally instead." -- Celia W. Dugger

"Each act of cruelty is eternally a part of the universe; nothing that happens later can make that act good rather than bad, or can confer perfection on the whole of which it is a part." -- Bertrand Russell


ART and LIFE

"The devaluing of the visual goes along with the theory that there is no such thing as quality, i.e., good versus bad, a theory that inevitably comes to parody itself as a prejudice against the beautiful." -- Richard Lawrence Cohen

"'He was in pain all the time,' recalled his father. 'He cried. I bought him a toy piano.' The keyboard looked like a mouth to Michel, and he thought it was laughing at him, so he smashed it with a toy hammer, and his father got him an old full-size upright abandoned by British soldiers at a military base. -- David Hadju, quoting Tony Petrucciani

"And if I told myself that I would have something interesting to blog about, that I had something to look forward to, and that I still had something to write, then there was absolutely no reason to die." -- Zachary Paul Sire

3 comments:

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Thanks for the quote and all the other quotes!

Zachary Paul Sire said...

Flattered and honored. Thanks!

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