FragLit

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Philosophical Notebooks

Fall 2008 :: Current Issue

2008 :: Issue 3/Fall :: Philosophical Notebooks

Philosophical Quotes

Truth is a clumsy servant that breaks the dishes while washing them. —KARL KRAUS

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What am I? What shall I do? What can I believe and hope for? Everything in philosophy can be reduced to this… —LICHTENBERG

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The best way to hold on to something is to pay no attention to it. The things you love too much perish. You have to treat everything with irony, especially the things you hold dear. There’s more of a chance then that they’ll survive. —DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH

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The world only goes round by misunderstanding. It is by universal misunderstanding that all agree. For if, by ill luck, people understood each other, they would never agree. —CHARLES BAUDELAIRE

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A microscopic phantom of the universe; this is all that we are able to be. —HENRI FREDERIC AMIEL

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For only when I err do I get away from what I know and what I understand. If “truth” were what I can understand, it would end up being but a small truth, my-sized. Truth must reside precisely in what I shall never understand. —CLARICE LISPECTOR

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When silence confronts us, the question to which there is no answer rings out in the silence. That ultimate “why,” that great “why” is like a light that blots out everything, but a blinding light; nothing more can be made out… —EUGENE IONESCO

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It is the distance between us that creates language. —ROBIN SKELTON

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The life we live is a flexible, fluid misunderstanding, a happy mean between the greatness that doesn’t exist and the happiness that can’t exist… In the masked ball which is our life, we’re satisfied by the agreeable sensation of the costumes… We’re servants of the lights and colours, moving in the dance as if in truth, and we’re not even aware—unless, remaining alone, we don’t dance—of the so cold and lofty night outside, of the mortal body under the tatters that will outlive it, of all that we privately imagine is essentially us but that is actually just an inner parody of that supposedly true self. —FERNANDO PESSOA

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The child and the poet know that Reality is what does not need to be realistic. —LEWIS THOMPSON

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The entire universe is nothing but a great metaphor. —SIMONE WEIL

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The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. —NIELS BOHR

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All thought is immoral. Its very essence is destruction. If you think of anything, you kill it. Nothing survives being thought of. —OSCAR WILDE

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We turn from the light to see. —DON PATERSON

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It is sad that the air is the only thing we share. No matter how close we get to each other, there is always air between us. —YOKO ONO

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When we are children, people show us so many things that we lose the profound sense of seeing… And just how could adults show us the world they have lost! They know; they think they know; they say they know… —GASTON BACHELARD

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Only the impossible lasts forever. —DJUNA BARNES

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Mistakes are joyful, truth infernal. —CAMUS

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Nothing lasts, and yet nothing passes, either. And nothing passes just because nothing lasts. —PHILIP ROTH

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Those who deny the existence of the truth postulate the truth of their denial and plainly contradict themselves. —ANTONIO MACHADO

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The mere passage of time makes us all exiles. —JOYCE CAROL OATES

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The happy and the suffering probably understand life equally well, but the sufferers may see a little more clearly how little it is that they understand. —JAMES RICHARDSON

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To live is so startling, it leaves but little room for other occupations. —EMILY DICKINSON

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As soon as one knows one is going to die, childhood is over…. So one can be grown up at seven. Then, I believe most human beings forget what they have understood, recover another sort of childhood that can last all their lives. It is not a true childhood but a kind of forgetting. Desires and anxieties are there, preventing you from having access to the essential truth. —EUGENE IONESCO

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We are like snails, each stuck to his own leaf. —STANISLAW LEM

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The partition separating life from death is so tenuous. The unbelievable fragility of our organism suggests a vision on a screen: a kind of mist condenses itself into a human shape, lasts a moment and scatters. —CZESLAW MILOSZ

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What I have learned, I no longer know. The little that I still know, I have guessed. —CHAMFORT

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Every spoken word double-crosses us. The only tolerable form of communication is the written word, since it isn’t a stone in a bridge between souls but a ray of light between stars. —FERNANDO PESSOA

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Humility is the daughter of truth. —ANNE TRUITT

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It’s only when I say that everything is incomprehensible that I come as close as possible to understanding the only thing it is given to us to understand. —EUGENE IONESCO

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I always know a lie when I hear it, and the effect it has on me is no good at all. I go berserk just forcing myself not to go berserk, just trying to see truth in the lie, to see it in full context, and in a dimension in which it has got to be more than just a lie, possibly the profoundest kind of truth. —WILLIAM SAROYAN

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This is my way, where is yours?… The way—that does not exist. —NIETZSCHE

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A myth is far truer than a history, for a history only gives a story of the shadows, whereas a myth gives a story of the substances that cast the shadows. —ANNIE BESANT

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Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us. —OSCAR WILDE

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If a person sings quietly to himself on the street people smile with approval; but if he talks it’s not alright; they think he’s crazy. The singer is presumed to be happy and the talker unhappy… —EDWARD HOAGLAND

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Are we not all shipwrecked,…condemned to death?… However impatient our neighbours make us, however much indignation our race arouses, we are all bound together, and the companions of a chain-gang have everything to lose by mutual insults… —HENRI FREDERIC AMIEL

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Every artist is an unhappy lover. —IRIS MURDOCH

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On the road halfway between faith and criticism stands the inn of reason. Reason is faith in what can be understood without faith, but it’s still a faith, since to understand presupposes that there’s something understandable. —FERNANDO PESSOA

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It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing. —GERTRUDE STEIN

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There was a time in our past when one could walk down any street and be surrounded by harmonious buildings. Such a street wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t necessarily even pretty, but it was alive. The old buildings smiled, while our new buildings are faceless. The old buildings sang, while the buildings of our age have no music in them. —JONATHAN HALE

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The more I go into I, the more I fall out of I. —KEN WILBER

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There’s something in life that’s a curtain, and I keep trying to raise it. —MAXINE HONG KINGSTON

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It’s when I am fully conscious that I ask questions. —EUGENE IONESCO

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The desire to be loved is the last illusion. Give it up and you will be free. —MARGARET ATWOOD

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We do not content ourselves with the life we have in ourselves and in our own being; we desire to live an imaginary life in the minds of others, and for this purpose we endeavor to shine. —PASCAL

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If life has given us no more than a prison cell, let’s at least decorate it as best we can—with the shadows of our dreams, their colourful patterns engraving our oblivion on the static surface of the walls. —FERNANDO PESSOA

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Doubt everything at least once, even the proposition that two times two equals four. —LICHTENBERG

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The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. —THOREAU

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A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know. —DIANE ARBUS

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Death is the sound of distant thunder at a picnic. —W.H. AUDEN

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To understand is nothing, but to be understood—that is the problem and the source of anguish. The soul throbs and would have the other know—but can not and feels isolated. Then come gestures, words, awkward explanations and material symbols for imponderable outbursts of feeling—and the soul despairs. —ANDRE GIDE

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The art we need is the art of bearing the unbearable. —THOMAS BERNHARD

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Those who know too much find it hard not to lie. —WITTGENSTEIN

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There may never be anything new to say, but there is always a new way to say it, and since, in art, the way of saying a thing becomes a part of what is said, every work of art is unique and requires fresh attention. —FLANNERY O’CONNOR

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Truth is a torch but a tremendous one. That is why we hurry past it, shielding our eyes, indeed, in fear of getting burned. —GOETHE

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No one knows enough to be a pessimist. —NORMAN COUSINS

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In the presence of extraordinary reality, consciousness takes the place of imagination. —WALLACE STEVENS

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One or another man, liberated or cursed, suddenly sees—but even this man sees rarely—that all we are is what we aren’t, that we fool ourselves about what’s true and are wrong about what we conclude is right. And this man, who in a flash sees the universe naked, creates a philosophy or dreams up a religion; and the philosophy spreads and the religion propagates, and those who believe in the philosophy begin to wear it as a suit they don’t see, and those who believe in the religion put it on as a mask they soon forget. —FERNANDO PESSOA

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Without music life would be a mistake. —NIETZSCHE

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Everything one records contains a grain of hope, no matter how deeply it may come from despair. —ELIAS CANETTI



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