Thursday, December 31, 2015

It is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not fancy.

 Thucydides (Book Four), The History of the Peloponnesian War

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ordinary men usually manage public affairs better than their more gifted fellows. The latter are always wanting to appear wiser than the laws, and to overrule every proposition brought forward, thinking that they cannot show their wit in more important matters.

 Thucydides (Book Three), The History of the Peloponnesian War

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

There can never be any solid friendship between individuals, or union between communities that is worth the name , unless the parties be persuaded of each other's honesty, and be generally congenial the one to the other; since from difference in feeling springs also difference in conduct.

 Thucydides (Chapter IV), The History of the Peloponnesian War

Monday, October 26, 2015

[Pericles] told them to wait quietly, to pay attention to their marine, to attempt no new conquests, and to expose the city to no hazards during the war, and doing this, promised them a favourable result. What they did was the very contrary, allowing private ambitions and private interests, in matters apparently quite foreign to the war, to lead them into projects unjust both to themselves and to their allies— projects whose success would only conduce to the honour and advantage of private persons, and whose failure entailed certain disaster on the country in the war.... each grasping at supremacy, they ended by committing even the conduct of state affairs to the whims of the multitude.

Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"Or as [John Gray] put it in Straw Dogs:  The destruction of the natural world is not the result of global capitalism, industralisation, 'Western civilization' or any flaw in human institutions.  It is a consequence of the evolutionary success of an exceptionally rapacious primate."

David Bromwich, "Are We ‘Exceptionally Rapacious Primates’?", The New York Review of Books (November 5, 2015)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Human beings ... may be divided simply into those who know they are acting and those who do not. True philosophers belong to the first group. The second encompasses, among others, utopian capitalists and Communists, the fanatics of the religious wars of the seventeenth century and the jihadists of the twenty-first.

David Bromwich, "Are We ‘Exceptionally Rapacious Primates’?", The New York Review of Books (November 5, 2015)

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Why are we so often awake? What is the purpose of being awake? I mean, besides for ten minutes of eating, a little bit of romance. Once that’s over, why are we not immediately again asleep?”

Rivka Galchen, Usl at the Stadium (The New Yorker, October 12, 2015)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Your country has a right to your services in sustaining the glories of her position. These are a common source of pride to you all, and you cannot decline the burdens of empire and still expect to share its honors. You should remember also that what you are fighting against is not merely slavery as an exchange for independence, but also loss of empire and danger from the animosities incurred in its exercise. Besides, to recede is no longer possible.... For what you hold is, to speak somewhat plainly, a tyranny; to take it perhaps was wrong, but to let it go is unsafe.

Pericles, as quoted by Thucydides in  The History of the Peloponnesian War

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The Athenians are addicted to innovation, and their designs are characterized by swiftness alike in conception and execution.... they are adventurous beyond their power, and daring beyond their judgment, and in danger they are sanguine.... they are never at home.... they were born into the world to take no rest themselves and to give none to others.

Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War  (Translated by Richard Crawley; Book 1, Chapter 3)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

[The Greeks] never pretended that their gods were always benevolent or omnipotent in human affairs... What was important was the maintenance of dignity and self-respect in the face of what the gods or fate decreed.

Charles Freeman, Egypt, Greece and Rome.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The early [Greek] philosophers were concerned with understanding the nature of the cosmos.... They appear to have shared a belief that the world system, the kosmos, was subject to a divine force which gave it an underlying and orderly background. Where they got this idea, which is a far cry from the Homeric world of gods, is unknown – possibly from eastern mythology. It proved fundamental to the speculations which followed.

Charles Freeman, Egypt, Greece and Rome.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Do not bring down the men of the magistrates' court or incite the just men to rebel.  Do not pay too much attention to him clad in shining garments, and have regard for him who is shabbily dressed.  Do not accept the reward of the powerful man or persecute the weal for him.

Advice from fathers to sons in Middle Kingdom Egypt as quoted by Charles Freeman in Egypt, Greece and Rome

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Everything likes to live where it will age the most slowly, and gravity pulls it there.  The greater the slowing of time, the stronger gravity's pull....  At the surface of a black hole, time is slowed to a halt.

Kip Thorne, The Science of Interstellar

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

If I calculate the average annual quota required to limit global warming to two degrees this century I find that simply maintaining a typical American single-family home exceeds it in two weeks. Absent any indication of direct harm, what makes intuitive moral sense is to live the life I was given, be a good citizen, be kind to the people near me, and conserve as well as I reasonably can.... [Climate change] deeply confuses the human brain, which evolved to focus on the present, not the far future, and on readily perceivable movements, not slow and probabilistic developments.

Jonathan Franzen, "Carbon Capture: Has climate change made it harder for people to care about conservation?" in the New Yorker of April 6, 2015

Monday, March 16, 2015

Personal happiness is profoundly conditioned by the social and political surroundings.

Tim Parks, "Revolutionary Italy: The Masterwork," New York Review (April 2, 2015)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

[T]wo centuries ago ... Europeans made a wager on history: that the more they extended human freedom, the happier they would be. ... [T]hat wager has been lost.

Mark Lilla, "Slouching Toward Mecca,"  New York Review (April 2, 2015)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

[R]elying on the Internet for facts and figures is making us mindless sloths.... a study in Science ...  demonstrates that the wealth of information readily available on the Internet disinclines users from remembering what they’ve found out.

Sue Halpern, "How Robots & Algorithms Are Taking Over," New York Review (April 2, 2015)

Friday, March 06, 2015

Most journeys...begin and all end with a sense of unreality.

Evelyn Waugh, When The Going Was Good

Friday, February 27, 2015

A life is like a garden.  Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.
Live long and prosper.

Leonard Nimoy, last Tweet

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fortune is the least capricious of deities, and arranges things on the just and rigid system that no one shall be very happy for very long.

Evelyn Waugh, When The Going Was Good

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Often, the surest way to convey misinformation is to tell the strict truth.

Mark Twain, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist but you have ceased to live.

Mark Twain, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World 

Friday, February 06, 2015

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been. 

Mark Twain, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World 

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

All human rules are more or less idiotic, I suppose.  It is best so, no doubt.  The way it is now, the asylums can hold the sane people, but if we tried to shut up the insane we should run out of building materials.

Mark Twain, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World

Monday, January 19, 2015

The totality of animals, the crushing majority of men, live without ever finding the least need for justification.

Michel Houellebecq, from his novel Submission as quoted by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

We know the meaning of nothing but the words we use to describe it.

Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena