What does it matter to me that, during the appalling tyranny that has fallen on France, the philosophers, frightened for their heads, have withdrawn into prudent seclusion? Once they put forward maxims capable of spawning every crime, these crimes are their work, since the criminals are their disciples…
The tiger that rips men open is following his nature; the real criminal is the man who unmuzzles him and launches him on society…
(Joseph de Maistre, The Works of Joseph de Maistre. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1965, pp. 111–112).
The true barbarian is he who thinks every thing barbarous but his own tastes and prejudices.
(William Hazlitt, Characteristics. London: J. Templeman, 1837, p. 119).
If the devil tells you something is too fearful to look at, look at it. If he says something is too terrible to hear, hear it. If you think some truth unbearable, bear it.
(G.K. Chesterton, The Wisdom of Father Brown. New York: The Macaulay Company, 1914, p. 190).
I never remember reading an utterance by any famous philosopher which seems to me fit to be compared with words my friend John Colet, a man of equal scholarship and integrity, used to repeat: ‘We are, what we are made by our daily conversation: we are shaped by what we hear round us every day.’ And what he said about conversation is also to be understood of what we read. Those who spend their whole lives on gentile literature end up as pagans; those who read nothing but filthy books must needs develop in their own characters a streak of filth. For reading surely is a kind of conversation.
(Erasmus of Rotterdam, Adages. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989, p. 268).
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome; if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require to have their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of common sense.
(Lord Salisbury; quoted in Charles G. Dawes, Journal as Ambassador to Great Britain. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1939, p. 132).
There is no tyranny so hateful as a vulgar and anonymous tyranny. It is all-permeating, all-thwarting; it blasts every budding novelty and sprig of genius with its omnipresent and fierce stupidity. Such a headless people has the mind of a worm and the claws of a dragon. Anyone would be a hero who should quell the monster.
(George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Vol. 2. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1930, pp. 127–128).
10 year old books feel very aged, out of place, out of sync. 200 year old books feel contemporary. 2000 year old books feel fresh.
(Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Twitter, September 23, 2016).