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."
        - Anonymous

"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 understanding it.
        - 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 else’s opinion.
        - 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.

- Matthew Arnold "You know, we really do agree. It's just that you say it wrong!"
        - Closing line from an argument between two distinguished scientists

"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.

~ Winston Churchill "I am sorry to have made such a long speech, but I did not have time to write a shorter one."
        - Winston Churchill

"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 it.
        - 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.

- F. Scott Fitzgerald When you can prove me wrong, then call me blind. There's nothing so passionate as a vested interest disguised as an intellectual conviction. - Sean O'Casey There's nothing I like less than bad arguments for a view that I hold dear. - Daniel Dennett No matter what side of the argument you are on, you always find people on your side that you wish were on the other. - Jascha Heifetz Understanding is a three-edged sword : your side, my side, and the truth in between - Ambassador Kosh, "Babylon 5" There are, as always, three types of folk - Normal, Mad, and Genius. The normal bow before awkward facts, the mad deny them, while the heaven-sent Genius creates new ones! - Michael Martin-Smith They looked at one another in incomprehension, two minds driving opposite ways up a narrow street and waiting for the other man to reverse first. - Terry Pratchett, "Soul Music" It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in an argument. - Indian Proverb A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it. Asking someone to repeat a phrase you'd not only heard very clearly but were also exceedingly angry about was around Defcon II in the lexicon of squabble. I don't believe it. Prove it to me and I still won't believe it. - Douglas Adams, "Life, the Universe and Everything," To strive with an equal is dangerous; with a superior, mad; with an inferior, degrading. - Seneca "When you have the law on your side, pound the law.  When you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. When you have neither the law nor the facts going for you, pound the table."

        - 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.

James Harvey Robinson, The Mind in the Making I have one request: may I never use my reason against the truth. - Hasidic rabbi's prayer I make no apologies for any inconsistencies or contradictions in my essays. Those who do not change their minds in the course of a decade have probably stopped thinking all together. - Michael Howard, "The Causes Of War" No one who cannot rejoice in the discovery of his own mistakes deserves to be called a scholar.

        - 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.

- Leo Tolstoy My opinions may have changed, but not the fact that I am right. - Ashleigh Brilliant Now therefore, that my mind is free from all cares, and that I have obtained for myself assured leisure in peaceful solitude, I shall apply myself seriously and freely to the general destruction of all my former opinions. - Rene Descartes, First Meditation In political discussion heat is in inverse proportion to knowledge. - J.G.C. Minchin Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everybody gets busy on the proof. - Galbraith's Law of Human Nature The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it. - George Bernard Shaw A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. - Alexander Pope, Thoughts on Various Subjects "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."

        - Walt Whitman


Use soft words and hard arguments.

-Unknown I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong. -Bertrand Russell Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right. - Laurens Van der Post, The Lost World of the Kalahari (1958) The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way. - Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays We may convince others by our arguments; but we can only persuade them by their own. - Joseph Joubert #

To those who think that the law of gravity interferes with their freedom, there is nothing to say.

- Lionel Tiger, "The Imperial Animal" When I read passages like this, I want to look for the nearest wall to bang my head against. - S.T. Joshi Never argue with a fool. Someone watching may not be able to tell the difference.

This I surely know, if I wrestle with dirt, win or lose, I am always defiled.

- Anonymous #

“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.

- Mark Twain When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule the majority are wrong. - Eugene V. Debs It is only because the majority opinion will always be opposed by some that our knowledge and understanding progress... it is always from a minority acting in ways different from what the majority would prescribe that the majority in the end learns to do better.

        - 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.

- Mahatma Gandhi Students of popular science... are always insisting that Christianity and Buddhism are very much alike, especially Buddhism. This is generally believed, and I believed it myself until I read a book giving the reasons for it. - G. K. Chesterton, "Orthodoxy" The clinching proof of my reasoning is that I will cut anyone who argues further into dogmeat. - Sir Geoffery de Tourneville If you can not answer a man's argument, all it not lost; you can still call him vile names. - Elbert Hubbard "Are you sure?"
"Well, are you sure your father's your father? I think it's a reasonable assumption."
        - Napoleon Chagnon, responding to an insulting question

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.

- Michael Zarlenga (zarlenga@world.std.com) "Ah! Don't say that you agree with me. When people agree with me I always feel that I must be wrong." - Oscar Wilde. *

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