Where there is much
desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing,
many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making.
- John Milton
"Truth fears no questions."
"It is not who is right,
but what is right, that is of importance."
- Thomas Huxley
The child who dwells
inside us trusts that there are wise men somewhere who know the truth.
- Czeslaw Milosz, Polish poet
First they ignore you.
Then they ridicule you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win.
- Mahatma Ghandi
"If I were wrong, wouldn't
one be enough?"
- Albert Einstein, upon hearing about a book called "100 Authors Against Einstein"
It is difficult to
get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not
- Sinclair Upton
It is bad enough that
so many people believe things without any evidence. What is worse is that
some people have no conception of evidence and regard facts as just someone
- Thomas Sowell
Our whole educational
system, from the elementary schools to the universities, is increasingly
turning out people who have never heard enough conflicting arguments to
develop the skills and discipline required to produce a coherent analysis,
based on logic and evidence. The implications of having so many people
so incapable of confronting opposing arguments with anything besides ad
hominem responses reach far...
- Thomas Sowell
There is an-all-too-common
syndrome among policy experts in Washington, and especially among the ones
who became famous while still very young: They often speak with exactly
the same seriousness and authority the 80 percent of the time they know
what they’re talking about as in the 20 percent of the time when they manifestly
do not and would have been much wiser to remain silent.
- Mario Loyola
I simply cannot accept
that there are, on every story, two equal and logical sides to an argument.
- Edward R. Murrow
Logic is like the sword
— those who appeal to it shall perish by it.
- Samuel Butler
He uses statistics
as a drunken man uses lamp posts — for support rather than illumination.
- Andrew Lang
Do they believe their
cause so just that they are above and beyond the truth?
- Walter Hickel
Lord, grant that I
may always be right, for thou knowest I am hard to turn.
- An old Backcountry saying
Words are weapons,
and it is dangerous... to borrow them from the arsenal of the enemy.
- George Santayana
When I disagree with
a rational man, I let reality be our final arbiter; if I am right, he will
learn; if I am wrong, I will; one of us will win, but both will profit.
- Ayn Rand
To find agreements
in one's minority opinions is one of the great pleasures of reading.
- Hugh Trevor Roper, historian
A man must be both
stupid and uncharitable who believes there is no virtue or truth but on
his own side.
- Joseph Addison
Aspiration sees only
one side of every question; possession many.
- James Russell Lowell
Logic is invincible
because in order to combat logic it is necessary to use logic.
- Pierre Boutroux
Culture has one great passion - the passion for sweetness and light. It has one even yet greater, the passion for making them prevail.
"Use the word 'cybernetics',
Norbert, because nobody knows what it means. This will always
put you at an advantage in arguments."
- Claude Shannon in a 1940s letter to Norbert Weiner of MIT
The well bred contradict
other people. The wise contradict themselves.
- Oscar Wilde
If you can't convince
them, confuse them.
- Harry Truman
"That which would not
be considered wrong if done by Theodorus would also not be considered wrong
if done by Hipparchia. Now if Theodorus strikes himself, he does no wrong.
Therefore if Hipparchia strikes Theodorus, she does no wrong."
- Hipparchia, debate quoted in "Lives and Doctrines of Famous Philosophers" by Laertius
Bertrand Russell used
to employ the method of "evidence against interest"; in other words of
deciding that a critique of capital punishment, say, carried more weight
if it came from a prison governor. (My friend John O'Sullivan puts it like
this: If the pope says he believes in God, he's only doing his job; if
he says he doesn't believe in God, he may be on to something.)
- Christopher Hitchens
If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time - a tremendous whack.
"Little minds try to
defend everything at once, but sensible people look at the main point only;
they parry the worst blows and stand a little hurt if thereby they avoid
a greater one. If you try to hold everything, you hold nothing."
- Frederick the Great
The ego is a self-justifying
historian which seeks only that information that agrees with it, rewrites
history when it needs to, and does not even see the evidence that threatens
- Anthony G. Greenwald
"The worst offence...
which can be committed by a polemic is to stigmatise those who hold the
contrary opinion as bad and immoral men. To calumny of this sort,
those who hold any unpopular opinion are peculiarly exposed, because they
are in general few and uninfluential, and nobody but themselves feels much
interested in seeing justice done them; but this weapon is, from the nature
of the case, denied to those who attack a prevailing opinion:
they can neither use it with safety to themselves, nor, if they could,
would it do anything but recoil on their own cause.
In general, opinions contrary to those commonly received can only obtain a hearing by studied moderation of language, and the most cautious avoidance of unnecessary offence, which they hardly ever deviate even in a slight degreee without losing ground: while unmeasured vituperation employed on the side of the prevailing opinion really does deter people from professing contrary opinions, and from listening to those who profess them."
- John Stuart Mill, "On Liberty"
"I have argued with
him on almost every subject in the world, and we have always been on opposite
sides, without affectation or animosity... It is necessary to disagree
with him as much as I do, in order to admire him as I do; and I am proud
of him as a foe even more than as a friend."
- G.K. Chesterton on his relationship with George Bernard Shaw
It is astonishing how
articulate one can become when alone and raving at a radio. Arguments and
counter arguments, rhetoric and bombast flow from one's lips like scurf
from the hair of a bank manager.
- Stephen Fry, "Paperweight" (1992)
People often find it
easier to refute a fake extreme opponent than a more cautious real one,
so they knock down the straw man instead. It is actually worth the trouble
to identify the invalid forms of argument, and to learn their names. Not
only can you then avoid them yourself; you can also identify them in opponents.
If you call your opponent’s errors by their Latin names, you can make it
look as though he or she is suffering from a rare tropical disease.
- Madsen Pirie, "A short guide to winning arguments", "The Spectator"
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
- An old lawyer's saying
All of us need our deeply held views challenged from time to time, even if only to remind us why we've got them.
Most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do.
- Professor Donald Foster
I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.
- Walt Whitman
Use soft words and hard arguments.
To those who think that the law of gravity interferes with their freedom, there is nothing to say.
This I surely know, if I wrestle with dirt, win or lose, I am always defiled.
“I cannot give any scientist of any age better advice than this: the intensity of a conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing over whether it is true or not.”
- Sir Peter Medawar, Nobel Laureate Zoologist
Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.
- Giordano Bruno, burned to death by Inquisition
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
- Friedrich Hayek
"There can be no assumption that today’s majority is 'right' and the Amish and others like them are 'wrong'. A way of life that is odd or even erratic but interferes with no rights or interests of others is not to be condemned because it is different."
- Warren E Burger, US Supreme Court Chief Justice (1972)
I'm not sure I want popular opinion on my side - I've noticed those with the most opinions often have the fewest facts.
- Bethania McKenstry
In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place.
When I buy pistachio nuts, I never waste my time prying open those nuts which are completely closed. It's more productive to spend my time with those that are partially open and willing to be opened further. And so it is with people's minds.
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