In lieu of a biography, a selection of aphorisms from people who have influenced my thinking:


Should a traveller give an account of men who were entirely divested  of avarice, ambition, or revenge; who knew no pleasure but friendship, generosity, and public spirit, we should immediately detect the falsehood and prove him a liar with the same certitude as if he had stuffed his narration with centaurs and dragons.
-David Hume

To see tragic natures sinking into destruction and to be able to laugh at it, despite the deep comprehension, emotion and sympathy one feels, that is divine. 

Against those who praise--A:  "One is praised only by one's peers."  B:  "Yes, and whoever praises you says:  I am your peer." 

One has to get rid of the bad taste of wanting to be in agreement with many.

One has no right to existence or to work, to say nothing of a right to "happiness":  the individual human being is in precisely the same case as the lowest worm.

'I do not like it.' - Why? - 'I am not up to it.' - Has anyone ever answered like that? 

Without music life would be a mistake. 

The most suffering animal on Earth invented for itself--laughter 

It requires a great deal of strength to be able to live and to forget the extent to which to live and to be unjust is one and the same thing
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Agreement is an altogether tiresome constituent of conversation. 

Nothing annoys me so much in the stupid as that they are better pleased with themselves than any reasonable person has a right to be.

I do not think we can ever be despised as much as we deserve.

We are not so full of evil as of inanity, nor so wretched as we are base.
-Michel de Montaigne

A hydrogen bomb is an example of mankind's enormous capacity for friendly cooperation.  Its construction requires an intricate network of human teams, all working with single-minded devotion toward a common goal.  Let us pause and savor the glow of self-congratulation we deserve for belonging to such an intelligent and sociable species.
-Robert Bigelow

The world's richest man, Bill Gates, is so incredibly wealthy that it would take the U.S. federal government about 5 days to squander his entire fortune.

It is scarcely the same thing to put a man on the moon as to put a bone in your nose.

The idea that you benefit the insulted and injured by reading someone of their own origins rather than reading Shakespeare is one of the oddest illusions ever promoted in our schools.
-Harold Bloom

If a man has learned to think, no matter what he may think about, he is always thinking of his own death.
-Leo Tolstoy

True patriotism is not love of one's native soil, it is love of the past,  respect for the generations who have gone before us.
-Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges

One ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness a whole life long, and a long life if possible, and then, quite at the end, one might perhaps be able to write ten lines that were good.
-Rainer Maria Rilke

One day a man of the people said to Zen Master Ikkyu:  "Master, will you please write for me some maxism of the highest wisdom?" Ikkyu immediately took his brush and wrote the word "Attention."    "Is that all?" asked the man.  "Will  you not add something more?"    Ikkyu then wrote twice running:  "Attention.  Attention."   "Well," remarked the man rather irritably, "I really don't see much depth or subtlety in what you have just  written."    Then Ikkyu wrote the same word three times running: "Attention.  Attention.  Attention."   Half-angered, the man demanded:  "What does that word 'Attention' mean anyway?"    And Ikkyu answered gently:  "Attention means attention."

Arrange your library in fair order, so to avoid wearying yourself in searching for the book you need.

Never refuse to lend books to anyone who has not means to  purchase books for himself, but only act thus to those who can be trusted to return the volumes.
-Judah ibn Tibbon

The ineptitude of sociology, filling people's heads with confused  ideas, has finally become one of the plagues of our times. 

I shall never forget the surprise mingled with shame and shock which I felt when, many years ago, conscious of my ignorance on this subject, I hurried, full of illusion, all the sails of hope spread wide, to books on sociology...and found something incredible--namely, that books on sociology have nothing clear to say about
what the social is, about what society is.
-Jose Ortega y Gasset

In order that everything should be reduced to the same level, it  is first of all necessary to procure a phantom, its spirit, a monstrous abstraction, an all-embracing something which is nothing, a mirage--and that phantom is the public.
-Soren Kierkegaard

There is no fate which cannot be surmounted by scorn.
-Albert Camus

These things which most engage the attention of men, as politics and the daily routine, are, it is true, vital functions of human society, but should be unconsciously performed, like the corresponding
functions of the physical body.  They are infra-human, a kind of vegetation. I sometimes awake to a half-consciousness of them going on about me, as a man may become conscious of some of the processes of digestion in a morbid state, and so have the dyspepsia, as it is called.

What is called politics is comparatively something so superficial and inhuman, that practically I have never fairly recognized that it concerns me at all. 

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.
-Henry David Thoreau

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.  This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness.
     
It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.
     
Do not tell me, as a good man did to-day, of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations.  Are they my poor?  I tell thee, thou foolish philanthropist, that I grudge the dollar, the dime, the cent I give to such men as do not belong to me and to whom I do not belong. There is a class of persons to whom by all spiritual affinity I am bought and sold; for them I will go to prison if need be; but your miscellaneous popular charities; the education at college of fools; the building of meeting-houses to the vain end to which many now stand; alms to sots, and the thousand-fold Relief Societies--though I confess with shame I sometimes succumb and give the dollar, it is a wicked dollar, which by and by I shall have the manhood to withhold.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Weber established once and for all that one cannot be a successful scholar in the field of social and political science unless one knows what one is talking about.  And that means acquiring the comparative
civilizational knowledge not only of modern civilization but also of medieval and ancient civilization, and not only of Western civilization but also of Near Eastern and Far Eastern civilizations...Anybody who does not do that has no claim to call himself an empiricist and certainly is defective in his competence as a scholar in this field. 

That a large sector of American intellectuals is anti-American must be acknowledged, even if they would deny it; it is the same anti-Americanism that is to be found among European intellectuals.  This anti-Americanism,
setting aside certain hard-core fringe movements, however, is definitely not a serious Communism--if for no other reason than because, so far as I know, the most ardent "liberal" intellectuals, short of a few scholars,
are not literate enough to read thinkers of the stature of Hegel or Marx.
-Eric Voegelin

Le mot de sociologie est un mot magique, qui a deja fait trop de magiciens.  Il vole de bouche en bouche et a chaque coup se vide de sens.  C'est une sorte de "Sesame, ouvre-toi" qui sert a mille fins aussi diverses qu'obscures.
-Henri Hubert

My fiftieth year had come and gone
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.
While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.
-W.B. Yeats

The pleasure in this world, it has been said, outweighs the pain; or, at any rate, there is an even balance between the two.  If the reader wishes to see shortly whether this statement is true, let him compare the respective feelings of two animals, one of which is engaged in eating the other.
  
Most men of learning are very superficial.
  
All branches of learning have thus been so much enlarged that he who would "do something" has to pursue no more than one subject and disregard all others.  In his own subject he will then, it is true, be superior to the vulgar; but in all else he will belong to it.  If we add to this that neglect of the ancient languages, which is
nowadays on the increase and is doing away with all general education in the humanities...we shall come to have men of learning who outside their own subject display an ignorance truly bovine.  An
exclusive specialist of this kind stands on a par with a workman in a factory, whose whole life is spent in making one particular kind of screw, or catch, or handle, for some particular instrument or machine. 

If Nature had meant man to think, she would not have given him ears; or at any rate she would have furnished him with air-tight flaps, such as are the enviable possession of the bat

It may be said that there are three kinds of authors.  First come those who write without thinking...This class is the most numerous. Then come those who do their thinking whilst they are writing...there is no lack of them.  Last of all come those authors who think before they begin to write.  They are rare

We may come to look upon the death of our enemies and adversaries, even long after it has occured, with just as much regret as we feel for that of our friends, viz., when we miss them as witnesses of our
brilliant success

Do not speak in order that I may see you

Hatred and contempt are diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive...For if a man shows that he despises you, he signifies at least this much regard for you, that he wants to let you know how little he appreciates you; and his wish is dictated by hatred, which cannot exist with real contempt.  On the contrary, contempt, if it is genuine, is simply the conviction that the object of it is a man of no value at all.
-Arthur Schopenhauer

In the last analysis, we can scarcely talk about what is most important.
-Pierre Hadot

I am not interested in the academic status of what I am doing because my problem is my own transformation...when people say, 'Well, you thought this a few years ago and now you say something else," my answer is, [laughter] "Well, do you think I have worked like that all those years to say the same thing and not be changed?
-Michel Foucault

Music appears in the world despite the music industry, not becauseof it.
-Robert Fripp

If I am now a sociologist (according to my employment documents), I am so essentially to put an end to the use of collective concepts, a use which still haunts us. 
-Max Weber

There are many ways to victimize people.  Perhaps the most effective way is to convince them that they are nothing more than victims.

N'essaie pas de peter plus haut que ton cul.

That elementary rectitude of human response, at which we are so ready to fling the unkind epithets of "stock," "crude," "bourgeois," and "conventional," so far from being "given" is a delicate balance
of trained habits, laboriously acquired and easily lost, on the maintenance of which depend both our virtues and our pleasures and even, perhaps, the survival of the species...When poisons become
fashionable, they do not cease to kill.

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
-C.S. Lewis

Why attack God?  He may be as unhappy as we are.
-Erik Satie

C'est sans doute aux femmes que j'ai le plus pensť dans ma vie...Meme quand je pense a des sujets qui n'ont pas de rapport direct avec elles, j'y pense quand meme
-Jean-Paul Sartre

One can be against the market or against bureaucracy.  But if one is against both of them, one is in real intellectual trouble.
-Barrington Moore

Very few academics have any ideas of their own.
-Rodney Needham

I occasionally play works by contemporary composers for two reasons: first, to discourage the composer from writing any more, and second, to remind myself how much I appreciate Beethoven.
-Jascha Heifetz

Sometimes Kien would meet, either in the street or in a bookshop, a barbarous fellow who amazed him by uttering a reasonable sentiment. In order to obliterate any impression which contradicted his contempt for the mass of mankind he would in such cases perform a small arithmetical calculation.  How many words does this fellow speak in a single day?  At a conservative reckoning ten thousand. Three of them are not without sense.  By chance I overheard those three. 
-Elias Canetti             

I want to go past working in sociology.  I don't want to stay there.  But it is not a declared hostility.  It's just that it is one of those disciplines which may be precious, but it's necessary to pass through all disciplines.
-Jean Baudrillard

At the time all may be friendly and jolly, and one may be enjoying oneself immensely, but afterwards there are always things one regrets having said or done

It is wrong to speak ill of others.  It is equally unbecoming to give them praise

If you must fail, fail splendidly

Defy the gods if they block your path

When the water rises, so does the boat
-Jocho Yamamoto


     A person who writes books is either all (a single universe for himself and everyone else) or nothing.  And since all will never be given to anyone, every one of us who writes books is nothing.  Ignored, jealous, deeply wounded, we wish the death of our fellow man...The proliferation of mass graphomania among politicians, cab
drivers, women on the delivery table, mistresses, murderers, criminals, prostitutes, police chiefs, doctors, and patients proves to me that every individual without exception bears the potential writer within himself and that all mankind has every right to rush out into the streets with a cry of "We are all writers!" The reason is that everyone has trouble accepting the fact that he will disappear unheard of and unnoticed in an indifferent universe, and everyone wants to make himself into a universe of words before it's too late. Once the writer in every individual comes to life (and that time is not far off), we are in for an age of universal deafness and lack of understanding.

After the war, Paul Eluard abandoned surrealism and became the greatest exponent of what I might call the "poesy of totalitarianism." He sang for brotherhood, peace, justice, better tomorrows; he sang for
comradeship and against isolation, for joy and against gloom, for innocence and against cynicism.  When in 1950 the rulers of paradise sentenced Eluard's Prague friend, the surrealist Zavis Kalandra, to death by hanging, Eluard suppressed his personal feelings of friendship for the sake of supra-personal ideals, and publicly declared his approval of his comrade's execution.  The hangman killed while the poet sang...People like to say:  Revolution is beautiful, it is only the terror arising from it which is evil.  But this is not true.  The evil is already present in the beautiful, hell is already contained in the dream of paradise and if we wish to understand the essence of hell we must examine the essence of the paradise from which it originated.  It is extremely easy to condemn gulags, but to reject the totalitarian poesy which leads to the gulag by way of paradise is as difficult as ever.  Nowadays, people all over the world unequivocally reject the idea of gulags, yet they are still willing to let themselves be hypnotized by totalitarian poesy and to march to new gulags to the tune of the same lyrical song piped by Eluard when he soared over Prague like the great archangel of the lyre, while the smoke of Kalandra's body rose to the sky from the crematory chimney. 

I don't know which of my characters is right.  I invent stories, confront one with another, and by this means I ask questions.  The stupidity of people comes from having an answer for everything.  The wisdom of the novel comes from having a question for everything...The totalitarian world, whether founded on Marx, Islam, or anything else, is a world of answers rather than questions.  There, the novel has no place.
-Milan Kundera

If you can't annoy somebody with what you write, I think there's little point in writing.
-Kingsley Amis

Human society is founded on mutual deceit; few friendships would endure if each knew what his friend said of him in his absence.
-Blaise Pascal

Il n'y a pas de solution parce qu'il n'y a pas de probleme. 
-Marcel Duchamp