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Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Times

Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Times

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Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Times

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832 pages
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Aug 6, 2013


From the author of the multimillion-selling The Peter Principle, and The Peter Prescription, here is a timeless collection of some of history's greatest and best-expressed thoughts. Organized alphabetically by subject -- from Ability to Zoos -- and completely cross-refernced by related categories, Peter's Quotations is a joy to use. Packed with many unusual and little-known quotations of great wit, Dr. Peter's reference book is not only fun to read -- an idea mine for writers, students, and public speakers -- but it is also relevant to the sometimes overwhelming problems of today. Peter's Quotations is priceless.

Aug 6, 2013

Despre autor

Laurence J. Peter was born in Canada and received an EdD from Washington State University. An experienced teacher, counselor, school psychologist, prison instructor, consultant, and university professor, he wrote articles for many journals and magazines as well as several books. He died in 1990.

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Peter's Quotations - Dr. Laurence J. Peter





It is all one to me if a man comes from Sing Sing or Harvard. We hire a man, not his history.

—Henry Ford

Ability is the art of getting credit for all the home runs somebody else hits.

—Casey Stengel

There is something that is much more scarce, something rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognize ability.

—Robert Half

The Carpenter is not the Best/Who makes More Chips than all the Rest.

—Arthur Guiterman

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

—Theodore Roosevelt

When people find a man of the most distinguished abilities as a writer their inferior while he is with them, it must be highly gratifying to them.

—Samuel Johnson (1709–1784)

People are always ready to admit a man’s ability after he gets there.

—Bob Edwards

It may be those who do most, dream most.

—Stephen Leacock

My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.

—H. Fred Ale

The thing is to be able to outlast the trends.

—Paul Anka

If they try to rush me, I always say, I’ve only got one other speed—and it’s slower.

—Glenn Ford

My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.

—Peter Drucker

I’m better about things than about people. I’m more interested in people, but I’m better at ideas.

—Peter Drucker

Natural abilities are like natural plants that need pruning by study.

—Francis Bacon (1561–1626) (On second thought, I inherited my ability from both parents; my mother’s ability for spending money, and my father’s ability for not making it.)

Natural ability without education has more often raised a man to glory and virtue than education without natural ability.

—Cicero (106–43 B.C.)

Native ability without education is like a tree without fruit.

—Aristippus (435?–356? B.C.)

A man may be so much of everything that he is nothing of anything.

—Samuel Johnson (1709–1784)

Since we cannot know all that is to be known of everything, we ought to know a little about everything.

—Blaise Pascal (1623–1662)

From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.

—Karl Marx (1818–1883)

Men take only their needs into consideration—never their abilities.

—Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821)


Absence extinguishes small passions and increases great ones, as the wind will blow out a candle, and blow in a fire.

—Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680)

Failing to be there when a man wants her is a woman’s greatest sin, except to be there when he doesn’t want her.

—Helen Rowland

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

—Thomas Haynes Bayly (1797–1839) (Of someone else?)


Why should we honour those that die upon the field of battle? A man may show as reckless a courage in entering into the abyss of himself.

—William Butler Yeats

How did I get here? Somebody pushed me. Somebody must have set me off in this direction and clusters of other hands must have touched themselves to the controls at various times, for I would not have picked this way for the world.

—Joseph Heller

Rabbi Zusya said that on the Day of Judgment, God would ask him, not why he had not been Moses, but why he had not been Zusya.

—Walter Kaufmann

O wad some power the giftie gie us/To see oursel’s as others see us.

—Robert Burns (1759–1796) (Or is it the giftie we’d be least likely to choose?)

I think somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.

—Eleanor Roosevelt

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

—Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

None of us can help the things life has done to us. They’re done before you realize it, and once they’re done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you’d like to be, and you have lost your true self forever.

—Eugene O’Neill

In his private heart no man much respects himself.

—Mark Twain

Seeing ourselves as others see us would probably confirm our worst suspicions about them.

—Franklin P. Jones

I know well what I am fleeing from but not what I am in search of.

—Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592)

At the bottom of the modern man there is always a great thirst for self-forgetfulness, self-distraction…and therefore he turns away from all those problems and abysses which might recall to him his own nothingness.

—Henri Frédéric Amiel (1821–1881)

Poor, dismal, ugly, sterile, shabby little man…with your scrabble of harsh oaths…Joy, glory, and magnificence were here for you…but you scrabbled along…rattling a few stale words…and would have none of them.

—Thomas Clayton Wolfe

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!

—Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

How many people eat, drink, and get married; buy, sell, and build; make contracts and attend to their fortune; have friends and enemies, pleasures and pains, are born, grow up, live and die—but asleep!

—Joseph Joubert (1754–1824)

There are many people who have the gift, or failing, of never understanding themselves. I have been unlucky enough, or perhaps fortunate enough to have received the opposite gift.

—Charles de Talleyrand (1754–1838)

Only the shallow know themselves.

—Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)


Act well at the moment, and you have performed a good action to all eternity.

—Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741–1801) (And do it now! There may be a law against it tomorrow.)

In the country of the blind the one-eyed king can still goof up.

—Laurence J. Peter (On second thought, nothing ventured nothing goofed.)

Leadership is action, not position.

—Donald H. McGannon

Miss Stein was a past master in making nothing happen very slowly.

—Clifton Fadiman

That action alone is just that does not harm either party to a dispute.

—Mohandas Gandhi

By annihilating desires you annihilate the mind. Every man without passions has within him no principle of action, nor motive to act.

—Claude Adrien Helvétius (1715–1771) (The man who believes he can do it is probably right, and so is the man who believes he can’t.)

As life is action and passion, it is required of man that he should share the passion and action of his time, at peril of being judged not to have lived.

—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Action and faith enslave thought, both of them in order not to be troubled or inconvenienced by reflection, criticism and doubt.

—Henri Frédéric Amiel

For purposes of action nothing is more useful than narrowness of thought combined with energy of will.

—Henri Frédéric Amiel

And thou wilt give thyself relief, if thou doest every act of thy life as if it were the last.

—Marcus Aurelius (121–180) (On second thought, and if thou doest, it may very well be thy last.)

I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment, it takes place every day.

—Albert Camus

Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought.

—Henri Bergson

When you see a snake, never mind where he came from.

—W. G. Benham

[Action] is the last resource of those who know not how to dream.

—Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)

Mistrust first impulses, they are always good.

—Charles de Talleyrand (1754–1838)

The great end of life is not knowledge but action.

—Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895)

To do nothing is in every man’s power.

—Samuel Johnson (1709–1784) (On second thought, the young tell you what they are doing, the old what they have done, and everyone else what they are going to do.)


Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.

—Stephen Leacock

I don’t care what is written about me so long as it isn’t true.

—Katharine Hepburn

Unmentionables—those articles of ladies’ apparel that are never discussed in public, except in full-page, illustrated ads.

Changing Times

The purpose of public relations in its best sense is to inform and to keep minds open; the purpose of propaganda in the bad sense is to misinform and to keep minds closed.

—John W. Hill

Advertising is what you do when you can’t go see somebody.

—Fairfax Cone

Advertising, in its spirit and purpose, is germinal fascism. Hitler was the first European politician who saw the significance of the techniques of commercial advertising for politics.

—J. B. Matthews and R. E. Shallcross

Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.

—George Orwell

Few people at the beginning of the nineteenth century needed an adman to tell them what they wanted.

—John Kenneth Galbraith

Planned public relations is usually a stepchild of conflict.

—Kinsey M. Robinson

Let advertisers spend the same amount of money improving their product that they do on advertising and they wouldn’t have to advertise it.

—Will Rogers

If advertising encourages people to live beyond their means, so does matrimony.

—Bruce Barton

The advertising industry is one of our most basic forms of communication and, allegedly, of information. Yet, obviously, much of this ostensible information is not purveyed to inform but to manipulate and to achieve a result—to make somebody think he needs something that very possibly he doesn’t need, or to make him think one version of something is better than another version when the grounds for such a belief really don’t exist.

—Marvin E. Frankel

Nothing’s so apt to undermine your confidence in a product as knowing that the commercial selling it has been approved by the company that makes it.

—Franklin P. Jones

Freedom! to spit in the eye and in the soul of the passerby and the passenger with advertising.

—Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn

The advertising quack who wearies/With tales of countless cures,/His teeth, I’ve enacted,/Shall all be extracted/By terrified amateurs.

—W. S. Gilbert

I do not read advertisements—I would spend all my time wanting things.

—Archbishop of Canterbury

Invention is the mother of necessity.

—Thorstein Veblen

It used to be that people needed products to survive. Now products need people to survive.

—Nicholas Johnson

Advertising has done more to cause the social unrest of the twentieth century than any other single factor.

—Clare Barnes, Jr.

Advertising is the art of making whole lies out of half truths.

—Edgar A. Shoaff

…the routine hypocrisy in…advertising, [and] publicity…It is doubtful whether dishonesty has ever before been so pervasive, systematic, dynamic, and respectable as it is in America today.

—Herbert J. Muller

The art of publicity is a black art.

—Judge Learned Hand

Advertising is a valuable economic factor because it is the cheapest way of selling goods, particularly if the goods are worthless.

—Sinclair Lewis

No one can deny that much of our modern advertising is essentially dishonest; and it can hardly be maintained that to lie freely and all the time for private profit is not to abuse the right of free speech, whether it be a violation of the law or not. But again the practical question is, how much lying for private profit is to be permitted by law?

—Carl Becker

Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.

—Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)

Advertising is legalized lying.

—H. G. Wells

You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.

—Norman Douglas

The laws of a nation form the most instructive portion of its history.

—Edward Biggon


Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat in a place called Mom’s. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.

—Nelson Algren

Old people love to give good advice; it compensates them for their inability to set a bad example.

—Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680). (On second thought, we hate to have some people give us advice because we know how badly they need it themselves.)

In those days he was wiser than he is now—he used frequently to take my advice.

—Winston Churchill

If someone gives you so-called good advice, do the opposite; you can be sure it will be the right thing nine out of ten times.

—Anselm Feuerbach (1829–1880)

He who can take advice is sometimes superior to him who can give it.

—Karl von Knebel (1744–1834) (On the other hand, if you can tell the difference between good advice and bad advice, you don’t need advice.)

When a man comes to me for advice, I find out the kind of advice he wants, and I give it to him.

—Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw) (1818–1885)

I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.

—Harry S Truman


An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support.

—John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir

An atheist is a man who believes himself an accident.

—Francis Thompson (On second thought, maybe the atheist cannot find God for the same reason a thief cannot find a policeman.)

An atheist is a guy who watches a Notre Dame-SMU football game and doesn’t care who wins.

—Dwight D. Eisenhower

The agnostic’s prayer: O God, if there is a god, save my soul, if I have a soul.

—Ernest Renan (1823–1890)

I don’t know if God exists, but it would be better for His reputation if He didn’t.

—Jules Renard

The equal toleration of all religions…is the same thing as atheism.

—Pope Leo XIII

The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.

—Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882) (In other words, an atheist is someone who believes that what you see is all you get.)

I was a freethinker before I knew how to think.

—George Bernard Shaw

Most people have some sort of religion—at least they know what church they’re staying away from.

—John Erskine

Fervid atheism is usually a screen for repressed religion.

—Wilhelm Stekel (On second thought, atheism is a fervid belief in disbelief.)

The writers against religion, whilst they oppose every system, are wisely careful never to set up any of their own.

—Edmund Burke (1729–1797)

Agnosticism simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that for which he has no grounds for professing to believe.

—Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895)

The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.

—Charles Darwin (1809–1882)

Don’t be agnostic—be something.

—Robert Frost


America is the country where you buy a lifetime supply of aspirin for one dollar, and use it up in two weeks.

—John Barrymore

How prophetic L’Enfant was when he laid out Washington as a city that goes around in circles!

—John Mason Brown

America is a country that doesn’t know where it is going but is determined to set a speed record getting there.

—Laurence J. Peter

This will never be a civilized country until we spend more money for books than we do for chewing gum.

—Elbert Hubbard

Don’t get the idea that I’m one of those goddamn radicals. Don’t get the idea that I’m knocking the American system.

—Al Capone

Americans are like a rich father who wishes he knew how to give his sons the hardships that made him rich.

—Robert Frost

America is a land where a citizen will cross the ocean to fight for democracy—and won’t cross the street to vote in a national election.

—Bill Vaughan

Americans: People who laugh at…African witch doctors and spend 100 million dollars on fake reducing systems.

—Leonard Louis Levinson (How is it that George Washington slept so many places and yet never told a lie?)

Ours is the only country deliberately founded on a good idea.

—John Gunther

America is much more than a geographical fact. It is a political and moral fact—the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality.

—Adlai Stevenson (On second thought, America is a land of taxation that was founded to avoid taxation.)

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.

—Thomas Jefferson (1734–1826)

Who was the first around the moon? An atheist Russian or God-fearing Americans?

—Don Carpenter

You hear about constitutional rights, free speech and the free press. Every time I hear these words I say to myself, That man is a Red, that man is a Communist! You never hear a real American talk like that.

—Frank Hague (Including Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Wilson?)

If we let idiots like the Black Panthers survive under our form of government, maybe we’ll have to change it.

—Frank Rizzo

I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.

—John Wayne

We are now at the point where we must decide whether we are to honor the concept of a plural society which gains strength through diversity or whether we are to have bitter fragmentation that will result in perpetual tension and strife.

—Justice Earl Warren

The mission of the United States is one of benevolent assimilation.

—William McKinley

What’s right about America is that although we have a mess of problems, we have great capacity—intellect and resources—to do something about them.

—Henry Ford II (On second thought, America is the land of opportunity if you are a businessman in Japan.)

A thousand years hence, perhaps in less, America may be what Europe is now…the noblest work of human wisdom, the grand scene of human glory, the fair cause of freedom that rose and fell.

—Thomas Paine (1737–1809)

The American experiment is the most tremendous and far reaching engine of social change which has ever either blessed or cursed mankind.

—Charles Francis Adams (1807–1886)

The tendency everywhere in America to concentrate power and responsibility in one man is unmistakable.

—James Bryce

This is still a very wealthy country. The failure is of spirit and insight.

—Governor Jerry Brown

Double—no triple—our troubles and we’d still be better off than any other people on earth.

—Ronald Reagan

Because systems of mass communication can communicate only officially acceptable levels of reality, no one can know the extent of the secret unconscious life. No one in America can know what will happen. No one is in real control.

—Allen Ginsberg

In America immediately after World War II, anti-Semitism reached peaks never before attained, despite all Nazi contributions to our universal conscience; and the literature of the period will bear me out.

—Robert Ardrey

I don’t see much future for the Americans…Everything about the behavior of American society reveals that it’s half judaized, and the other half negrified. How can one expect a state like that to hold together?

—Adolf Hitler

I confess that I cannot understand how we can plot, lie, cheat and commit murder abroad and remain humane, honorable, trustworthy and trusted at home.

—Archibald Cox

There must have been something so very right about Americanism, for in the days it was practiced it brought us from thirteen undeveloped colonies to the world’s greatest-ever nation and brought Americans to new highs in life, liberty and well-being.

—J. Kesner Kahn

What the country needs are a few labor-making inventions.

—Arnold Glasow

The terrible newly-imported American doctrine that everyone ought to do something.

—Sir Osbert Sitwell

We don’t know what we want, but we are ready to bite somebody to get it.

—Will Rogers

Some people want to impeach Earl Warren. Hanging would be more deserved.

—Colonel Mitchell Paige

…the day will come when men like Judges Carswell and Haynsworth can and will sit on the high court.

—Richard M. Nixon

America is the only nation in history which miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilization.

—Georges Clemenceau

The old platitude must be repeated once again: the United States is the society with the least history prior to the age of progress.

—George P. Grant

This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.

—Theodore Roosevelt

This land of ours cannot be a good place for any of us to live in unless it is a good place for all of us to live in.

—Richard M. Nixon

At the moment the United States is the most powerful, the most prosperous, and the most dangerous country in the world.

—Robert Maynard Hutchins

The U. S. is the most dangerous and destructive power in the world.

—Anthony Lewis

Behold a republic gradually but surely becoming the supreme moral factor in disputes.

—William Jennings Bryan

I think we must save America from the missionary idea that you must get the whole world on to the American way of life. This is really a big world danger.

—Gunnar Myrdal

There is a malaise that exists in your land—what appears to many as the sudden and tragic disappearance of the American dream which, in some ways, has turned to nightmare.

—J. J. Greene

We must stop talking about the American dream and start listening to the dreams of Americans.

—Reubin Askew

The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and these are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence.

—Elbert Hubbard

True, there is government harassment, but there still is that relative freedom to fight. I can attack my government, try to organize to change it. That’s more than I can do in Moscow, Peking, or Havana.

—Saul Alinsky

America is a mistake, a giant mistake!

—Sigmund Freud

I feel that I am a citizen of the American dream and that the revolutionary struggle of which I am a part is a struggle against the American nightmare.

—Eldridge Cleaver

We talk about the American Dream, and want to tell the world about the American Dream, but what is that Dream, in most cases, but the dream of material things? I sometimes think that the United States for this reason is the greatest failure the world has ever seen.

—Eugene O’Neill

We need some great statements about what America is about and what we can do about it.

—Theodore M. Hesburgh

No foreign policy will stick unless the American people are behind it. And unless Congress understands it. And unless Congress understands it, the American people aren’t going to understand it.

—W. Averell Harriman

The American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation.

—Woodrow Wilson

I believe that the heaviest blow ever dealt at liberty’s head will be dealt by this nation [the United States] in the ultimate failure of its example to the earth.

—Charles Dickens (1812–1870)

[America is] still the best country for the common man—white or black…if he can’t make it here he won’t make it anywhere else.

—Eric Hoffer

Americanism is a question of principle, of idealism, of character: it is not a matter of birthplace or creed or line of descent.

—Theodore Roosevelt

I don’t know much about Americanism, but it’s a damned good word with which to carry an election.

—Warren G. Harding


Gentility is what is left over from rich ancestors after the money is gone.

—John Ciardi

It’s kinder funny, but no matter how common our blood is, we hate to lose any of it.

—Will Rogers

Genealogy: Tracing yourself back to people better than you are.

—John Garland Pollard

Whoever serves his country well has no need of ancestors.

—Voltaire (François Marie Arouet) (1694–1778)

We pay for the mistakes of our ancestors, and it seems only fair that they should leave us the money to pay with.

—Don Marquis

A nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and by common hatred of its neighbours.

—Dean William R. Inge

The best blood will sometimes get into a fool or a mosquito.

—Austin O’Malley

I don’t have to look up my family tree, because I know that I’m the sap.

—Fred Allen (On second thought, every man serves a useful purpose: a miser, for example, makes a wonderful ancestor.)

A man’s destiny stands not in the future but in the past. That, rightly considered, is the most vital of all vital facts. Every child thus has a right to choose his own ancestors.

—Havelock Ellis

The family you come from isn’t as important as the family you’re going to have.

—Ring Lardner

There were human beings aboard the Mayflower, not merely ancestors.

—Stephen Vincent Benét

My folks didn’t come over on the Mayflower, but they were there to meet the boat.

—Will Rogers


This makes me so sore it gets my dandruff up.

—Samuel Goldwyn (On second thought, it usually takes two people to make one of them angry.)

Never forget what a man says to you when he is angry.

—Henry Ward Beecher (1813–1887) (Speak when you’re angry—and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.)


We declare henceforth that all animals shall enjoy these inalienable rights: The right to freedom from fear, pain and suffering—whether in the name of science or sport, fashion or food, exhibition or service. The right, if they are wild, to roam free, unharried by hunters, trappers or slaughterers. If they are domestic, not to be abandoned in the city streets, by a country road, or in a cruel and inhumane pound. And finally the right, at the end, to a decent death—not (whether they are endangered or not) by a club, by a trap, by harpoon, cruel poison or mass extermination chamber. We have only one creed—to speak for those who can’t.

—The Fund for Animals, Inc.

I have always thought of a dog lover as a dog that was in love with another dog.

—James Thurber

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

—George Orwell

It is in the nature of cats to do certain amounts of unescorted roaming…the state of Illinois…already has enough to do without trying to control feline delinquency.

—Adlai Stevenson

No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.

—Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)

We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics.

—Bill Vaughan

The hen is an egg’s way of producing another egg.

—Samuel Butler

The caribou seems to have no idea whatever of personal comfort.

—William Parker Greenough

Behind each beautiful wild fur there is an ugly story. It is a brutal, bloody and barbaric story. The animal is not killed—it is tortured. I don’t think a fur coat is worth it.

—Mary Tyler Moore

Heaven goes by favour. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.

—Mark Twain

The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself, too.

—Samuel Butler (So it’s nice for children to have pets—until the pets start having children.)

Pigs and cows and chickens and people are all competing for grain.

—Margaret Mead

If modern civilized man had to kill the animals he eats, the number of vegetarians would rise astronomically.

—Christian Morgenstern

That’s my private ant. You’re liable to break its legs.

—Albert Schweitzer, to a ten-year-old boy

I believe all animals were provided by God to help keep man alive.

—Iwao Fujita

Young gorillas are friendly but they soon learn.

—Will Cuppy

Money will buy a pretty good dog but it won’t buy the wag of his tail.

—Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw) (1818–1885)

They [the animals] do not make me sick discussing their duty to God.

—Walt Whitman (1819–1892)

All animals except man know that the ultimate of life is to enjoy it.

—Samuel Butler

We Germans, who are the only people in the world who have a decent attitude toward animals, will also assume a decent attitude towards these human animals.

—Heinrich Himmler

…when one loves animals and children too much, one loves them against human beings.

—Jean-Paul Sartre

I tend to be suspicious of people whose love of animals is exaggerated; they are often frustrated in their relationships with humans.

—Ylla (Camilla Koffler)

[Being] good to animals…the bad man’s invariable characteristic.

—Robert W. Chambers (1802–1871) (On second thought, the noblest of all dogs is the hot dog; it feeds the hand that bites it.)


The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity.

—George Bernard Shaw (Apathy is worse than antipathy.)

The great secret, the deeply buried mystery of the apparent apathy to crime and to proposals for better controlling crime, lies in the persistent, intrusive wish for vengeance.

—Dr. Karl Menninger

The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.

—Baron de Montesquieu (1689–1755)

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.

—George Jean Nathan

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

—Edmund Burke (1729–1797)

The death of a democracy is not likely to be an assassination by ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment.

—Robert Maynard Hutchins

In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.

—Martin Niemoeller

The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.

—Dante Alighieri (1265–1321)

Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all—the apathy of human beings.

—Helen Keller


No matter what side of an argument you’re on, you always find some people on your side that you wish were on the other side.

—Jascha Heifetz (On the other hand, there are two sides to every argument, until you take one.)

I dislike arguments of any kind. They are always vulgar, and often convincing.

—Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)

How come nobody wants to argue with me? Is it because I’m always so right?

—Jim Bouton

He always had a chip on his shoulder that he was ready to use to kindle an argument.

—Fred Allen

The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading.

—Bertrand Russell

The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.

—Bertrand Russell

There is no arguing with him, for if his pistol misses fire, he knocks you down with the butt end of it.

—Oliver Goldsmith (1728–1774) (On second thought, the surest sign that you haven’t any sense is to argue with one who hasn’t.)

It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them.

—Pierre Augustin de Beaumarchais (1732–1799) (An argument always leaves each party convinced that the other has a closed mind.)

I never make the mistake of arguing with people for whose opinions I have no respect.

—Edward Gibbon (1737–1794) (There’s only one thing worse than the man who will argue over anything, and that’s the man who will argue over nothing.)

People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others.

—Blaise Pascal (1623–1662)

Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; argument an exchange of ignorance.

—Robert Quillen

Change means movement, movement means friction, friction means heat, and heat means controversy. The only place where there is no friction is in outer space or a seminar on political action.

—Saul Alinsky

Silence is one of the hardest things to refute.

—Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw) (1818–1885)

How many a dispute could have been deflated into a single paragraph if the disputants had dared to define their terms.

—Aristotle (384–322 B.C.)

The man who strikes first admits that his ideas have given out.

—Chinese Proverb

Argument is the worst sort of conversation.

—Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)

Protagoras it was who first left facts out of consideration and fastened his arguments on words. He it was who first invented the sort of argument which is called Socratic.

—Diogenes Laertius (c. 150 B.C.)

The Socratic manner is not a game at which two can play.

—Max Beerbohm

When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff.

—Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 B.C.)

If you can’t answer a man’s argument, all is not lost; you can still call him vile names.

—Elbert Hubbard


Art is not a thing; it is a way.

—Elbert Hubbard

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.

—Pablo Picasso

There are three forms of visual art: Painting is art to look at, sculpture is art you can walk around, and architecture is art you can walk through.

—Dan Rice

Any work of art that can be understood is the product of journalism.

—Tristan Tzara

Abstract Art: A product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered.

—Al Capp

If that’s art, I’m a Hottentot!

—Harry S Truman

Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgment difficult.

—Hippocrates (460?–370? B.C.)

All art is a revolt against man’s fate.

—André Malraux

Art is like a border of flowers along the course of civilization.

—Lincoln Steffens

Buy Old Masters. They fetch a much better price than old mistresses.

—Lord Beaverbrook

Every time an artist dies, part of the vision of mankind passes with him.

—Franklin Delano Roosevelt

A painting in a museum hears more ridiculous opinions than anything else in the world.

—Edmond de Goncourt (1822–1896) (Except, perhaps, a corpse in a coffin.)

Art for art’s sake makes no more sense than gin for gin’s sake.

—Somerset Maugham

Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.

—G. K. Chesterton

He knows all about art, but he doesn’t know what he likes.

—James Thurber

My tutor does watercolors; they are like the work of a girl of fourteen—when she was twelve.

—Ben Nicholson

For every artist with something to say but the inability to say it well, there are two who could say something well if they had something to say.

—Paul C. Mills

An artist may visit a museum but only a pedant can live there.

—George Santayana

Bad artists always admire each other’s work.

—Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)

A subject that is beautiful in itself gives no suggestion to the artist. It lacks imperfection.

—Oscar Wilde

It is only an auctioneer who can equally and impartially admire all schools of Art.

—Oscar Wilde (On the other hand, he may sell a painting he doesn’t like, to another man who doesn’t want it, for twice its value.)

It does not matter how badly you paint so long as you don’t paint badly like other people.

—George Moore

Occasional vulgarity is a by-product of the vitality and passion without which there can be no great art.

—Francis Toye

An artist never really finishes his work; he merely abandons it.

—Paul Valéry

A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines.

—Frank Lloyd Wright

Art flourishes where there is a sense of adventure.

—Alfred North Whitehead

Art is the difference between seeing and just identifying.

—Jean Mary Norman

Everything is art if it is chosen by the artist to be art.

—Samuel Adams Green

One reassuring thing about modern art is that things can’t be as bad as they are painted.

—M. Walthall Jackson

Modern art is what happens when painters stop looking at girls and persuade themselves they have a better idea.

—John Ciardi

For the mystic what is how. For the craftsman how is what. For the artist what and how are one.

—William McElcheran

A great artist is always before his time or behind it.

—George Moore

He paints as a bird sings.

—Paul Signac, of Monet

Don’t talk to me of Gauguin. I’d like to wring the fellow’s neck!

—Paul Cézanne

He bores me. He ought to have stuck to his flying machines.

—Auguste Renoir, of Leonardo da Vinci

You are the first in the decadence of your art.

—Charles Baudelaire, to Manet

The connoisseur of art must be able to appreciate what is simply beautiful, but the common run of people are satisfied with ornament.

—Johann W. von Goethe (1749–1832)

The rule in the art world is: you cater to the masses or you kowtow to the elite; you can’t have both.

—Ben Hecht

There is nothing new in art except talent.

—Anton Chekhov

The great artist is the simplifier.

—Henri Frédéric Amiel (1821–1881)

Art happens—no hovel is safe from it, no Prince may depend upon it, the vastest intelligence cannot bring it about.

—James McNeill Whistler

Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks.

—Simonides (6th–5th century, B.C.)

A nation in which a congressman can seriously ask, Do you think the artist is a special person? is a nation living in cultural jeopardy.

—James Thurber

They leaned toward the honest and explicit in art, a picture, for instance, that told its own story, with generous assistance from its title.

—H. H. Munro (Saki)

All day long I add up columns of figures and make everything balance. I come home. I sit down. I look at a Kandinsky and it’s wonderful! It doesn’t mean a damn thing!

—Solomon Guggenheim

There is no must in art because art is free.

—Vasily Kandinsky

Number seven…What’s it meant to be, dear?…A Study?…It doesn’t say what of?…Well, that’s an easy way out for an artist.

—Ruth Draper

Art is either a revolutionist or a plagiarist.

—Paul Gauguin

[Art is] the reasoned derangement of the senses.

—Kenneth Rexroth

With an apple I will astonish Paris.

—Paul Cézanne

I shut my eyes in order to see.

—Paul Gauguin

It is better to paint from memory, for thus your work will be your own; your sensation, your intelligence, and your soul will triumph over the eye of the amateur…Do not finish your work too much.

—Paul Gauguin

[The object of painting is] not to reflect the visible but to make visible.

—Paul Klee

All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.

—Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)

I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.

—Claes Oldenburg

A primitive artist is an amateur whose work sells.

—Grandma Moses

While I recognize the necessity for a basis of observed reality…true art lies in a reality that is felt.

—Odilon Redon

A painter who has the feel of breasts and buttocks is saved.

—Auguste Renoir

For the most part theories serve only to mask the shortcomings of the artist…Theories are worked out afterwards.

—Auguste Renoir

Because a work of art does not aim at reproducing natural appearances, it is not, therefore, an escape from life…but an expression of the significance of life, a stimulation to greater effort in living.

—Henry Moore

Less is more.

—Mies van der Rohe

We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.

—Winston Churchill

Variety of uniformities makes complete beauty.

—Sir Christopher Wren (1632–1723)

All profoundly original art looks ugly at first.

—Clement Greenberg

There is no abstract art. You must always start with something.

—Pablo Picasso

Nothing in the world requires more courage than to applaud the destruction of values which we still cherish. If a work of art or a new style disturbs you, then it is probably good work. If you hate it, it is probably great.

—Leo Steinberg

Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.

—Pablo Picasso

Art-speech is the only truth. An artist is usually a damned liar, but his art, if it be art, will tell you the truth of his day.

—D. H. Lawrence

All great art is by its very essence in conflict with the society with which it coexists. It expresses the truth about existence regardless of whether this truth serves or hinders the survival purpose of a given society. All great art is revolutionary because it touches upon the reality of man and questions the reality of the various transitory forms of human society.

—Erich Fromm

The artist is the seismograph of his age.

—Robert W. Corrigan

Only work which is the product of inner compulsion can have spiritual meaning.

—Walter Gropius

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

—Aristotle (384–322 B.C.)

The artist has a special task and duty: the task of reminding men of their humanity and the promise of their creativity.

—Lewis Mumford

I have always believed and still believe that artists who live and work with spiritual values cannot and should not remain indifferent to a conflict in which the highest values of humanity and civilization are at stake.

—Pablo Picasso

Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.

—George Bernard Shaw

To be deprived of art and left alone with philosophy is to be close to Hell.

—Igor Stravinsky

Art is much less important than life, but what a poor life without it.

—Robert Motherwell

To have read the greatest works of any great poet, to have beheld or heard the greatest works of any great painter or musician, is a possession added to the best things of life.

—Algernon Charles Swinburne

All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.

—Grant Wood

What has reason to do with the art of painting?

—William Blake (1757–1827)

No art was ever less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and study; of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament, I know nothing.

—Edgar Degas

Art is the most frenzied orgy man is capable of.

—Jean Dubuffet

A picture is not a window…an abstract refers to no reality but its own.

—Jean Cocteau

The artist is a perceptual window.

—Jack Chambers

Art is idea. It is not enough to draw, paint, and sculpt. An artist should be able to think.

—Gurdon Woods

Art hath an enemy called Ignorance.

—Ben Jonson (1572?–1637)

When one is painting one does not think.

—Raphael Sanzio (1483–1520)

A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.

—Michelangelo (1475–1564)

To paint a fine picture is far more important than to sell it.

—Edward Alden Jewell

Once Degas witnessed one of his paintings sold at auction for $100,000. Asked how he felt, he said, I feel as a horse must feel when the beautiful cup is given to the jockey.

Anyone who sees and paints a sky green and pastures blue ought to be sterilized.

—Adolf Hitler

Artists can color the sky red because they know it’s blue. Those of us who aren’t artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we’re stupid.

—Jules Feiffer


Since I do not foresee that atomic energy is to be a great boon for a long time, I have to say that for the present it is a menace. Perhaps it is well that it should be. It may intimidate the human race into bringing order into its international affairs, which, without the pressure of fear, it would not do.

—Albert Einstein

You’re an old-timer if you can remember when setting the world on fire was a figure of speech.

—Franklin P. Jones

If we wish to make a new world we have the material ready. The first one, too, was made out of chaos.

—Robert Quillen

We hold these truths to be self-evident: All men could be cremated equal.

—Vern Partlow

The Atomic Age is here to stay—but are we?

—Bennett Cerf

Babies Satisfactorily Born—U. S. Army code message on the successful test of the atomic bomb at Alamogordo, New Mexico

Aside from being tremendous, it was one of the most aesthetically beautiful things I have ever seen.

—Donald Horning, of the first atomic test

A reciprocal insanity [involving nuclear armaments] is at work in the world.

—Norman Cousins

The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one…I do not believe that civilization will be wiped out in a war fought with the atomic bomb. Perhaps two-thirds of the people of the earth will be killed.

—Albert Einstein

Hitherto man had to live with the idea of death as an individual; from now onward mankind will have to live with the idea of its death as a species.

—Arthur Koestler

Some day science may have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race can commit suicide by

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  • (3/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I prefer Bartlett's for one major reason: You know where what you're looking for came from. There's plenty of good material in here, don't get me wrong, but if it's a Shakespeare quotation, I like to know *exactly* where it came from in MacBeth, so I can find it and cite it!It does have an interesting organizating-- by theme-- which is different from Bartlett's and can make flipping through it amusing. In that way, you can actually pick this up and just browse instead of reading 16 pages of lines from Paradise Lost, all together. However, if you're looking for something practical, something you can use to give people an answer if they ask you, "Hey, that was interesting, where did it come from, exactly?," you're not going to be able to answer the "exactly" part. Just be aware of that.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (3/5)
    Useful and compact book of quotations.