Queries, comments or suggestions to: Timm Triplett (email@example.com)
Reality is an illusion that occurs due to lack of caffeine.
Johann Sebastian Bach:
As [Bach] understood the basic materials of music to be directly related to the physical design of the universe, he also grasped the metaphysical dimension of music, as we can deduce from another marginal comment in his Calov Bible. A section of 2 Chronicles 5, titled by Calov "As the glory of the Lord appeared upon the beautiful music," deals with the presence of the invisible God at the divine service in the Temple. Verse 13 ends with the words "when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and praised the Lord, then the house was filled with a cloud." At this very point, Bach added his own comment: "NB. With devotional music, God is always present in his grace." Music prompted the appearance of the glory of God in the cloud, and the cloud demonstrated God's presence. For the Lutheran theologian Bach, the metaphysical presence of God's grace replaced the visible proof of the physical cloud. Yet the presence of God's grace was to him no less manifest than the actual sound of music that would bring it about, if it were only devotional and attentive, directed toward one subject.
Bach's concentrated approach to his work, to reach what was possible in art, pertained to all aspects of music, from theory to composition and from performance to physiology and the technology of instruments. In the final analysis, this approach provides the key to understanding his never-ending musical empiricism, which deliberately tied theoretical knowledge to practical experience. Most notably, Bach's compositions, as the exceedingly careful musical elaborations that they are, may epitomize nothing less than the difficult task of finding for himself an argument for the existence of God - perhaps the ultimate goal of his musical science.
-- from Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician, by Christoph Wolff
John Stuart Mill, as described by L. T. Hobhouse:
Like most philosophers, he made mistakes; but, unlike most philosophers, he wrote clearly enough to be found out.
Our Place in the Universe, Two Views:
Philip Pullman: The world is the most precious place, and we shouldn't hurry to get out of it. We should cherish every moment we have here. We should write stories as if they make a difference. We should act as if the universe were listening to us and responding. We should act as if life were going to win.
John L. Wood: Re "Gauging a Collider's Odds of Creating a Black Hole" (Essay, April 15): If the Large Hadron Collider were to destroy the earth nearly instantly, whether by black hole or by strangelets, or by something else, so what? It would not be a catastrophe unless someone survived to realize it was. As the Danish scientist Piet Hein wrote, "The universe may be as large as they say, but it wouldn't be missed if it didn't exist."
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
John Locke (1632-1704):
It would, I think, be enough to destroy any positive idea of the infinite to ask him that has it, whether he could add to it or no.
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1921):
What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.
Frank Ramsey (1903-1930):
What can't be said, can't be said. And it can't be whistled, either.
Otto Neurath (1882-1945):
We must indeed be silent. But not about anything.
Simplicius (6th century AD):
Archytas, according to Euthydemus, put the question in this way: if I came to be at the edge, for example at the heaven of the fixed stars, could I stretch my hand or my stick outside, or not? That I should not stretch it out would be absurd, but if I do stretch it out, what is outside will be either body or place - (it will make no difference as we shall discover). Thus, Archytas will always go on in the same way to the fresh chosen limit, and will ask the same question. If it is always something different into which the stick is stretched, it will clearly be something infinite.
Sheila Heti (2012):
The cheater breaks her own heart.
Elizabeth Peabody (1804-1894), Mary Peabody (1806-1887), Sophia Peabody (1809-1871):
Once I mastered [the Peabody sisters'] handwriting, I began to feel that I was reading an entirely new language that spoke of an almost alien sensibility. I noticed, for example, that "disinterested," a word virtually always misused today when it is used at all, appeared again and again in the sisters' letters and journals as a term of highest approbation. This nearly archaic word opened up the Peabody sisters' world to me: one in which acting without self-interest was a supreme goal, where a premium was placed on friendship, on benevolent acts large and small, and where the sisters truly did have standing. As Horace Mann wrote admiringly of Mary, after noting her lack of wealth and property: "whenever within her circle, there as been good to do or evil to remove," she was there to do it, with an unwavering sense of "the true dignity & the true objects of life." This was foreign territory to me. Imagine a time when teenage girls described their best friends not as "cool" or "awesome," but as "disinterested." I felt privileged to inhabit this world, even vicariously - and I wanted today's readers to know about it too.
- Megan Marshal, Preface to The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism
Emerson M. Pugh:
If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn't.
Battle with unconditioned breath the unconditioned air. Shun electric wire. Communicate slowly. Live a three-dimensional life; stay away from screens.
I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.
Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011):
[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction. And she was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti (whose rule she praised in return) and from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Where did that money, and all the other donations, go? The primitive hospice in Calcutta was as run down when she died as it always had been--she preferred California clinics when she got sick herself--and her order always refused to publish any audit. But we have her own claim that she opened 500 convents in more than a hundred countries, all bearing the name of her own order. Excuse me, but this is modesty and humility?
Primo Levi (1919-1987):
Whoever writes, writes in his own code, which others do not know.
Julian Baggini (2011):
If life seems too short, don't to try to stretch it. Get closer - that'll make it look bigger.
John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873):
A doctrine is not judged at all until it is judged in its best form.
Simon Critchley (2011):
Philosophy is a shared activity, it is dialogue. And dialogue is not the simple exchange of opinions, where I have my faith, my politics and my God and you have yours. That is parallel monologue. One of the goals of dialogue is to have our opinions rationally challenged in such a way that we might change our minds. True dialogue is changing one's mind.
David Hill (2011):
Philosophy is the ungainly attempt to tackle questions that come naturally to children, using methods that come naturally to lawyers.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662):
Man is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he emerges and the infinity in which he is engulfed.
Freeman Dyson (1985):
Nature's laws make the universe as interesting as possible.
Seneca (circa 1 AD - 65 AD):
In the present we have only one day at a time, each offering a minute at a time. But all the days of the past will come to your call: you can detain and inspect them at your will-something which the preoccupied have no time to do. It is the mind which is tranquil and free from care which can roam through all the stages of its life: the minds of the preoccupied, as if harnessed in a yoke, cannot turn round and look behind them. So their lives vanish into an abyss, and just as it is no use pouring any amount of liquid into a container without a bottom to catch and hold it, so it does not matter how much time we are given if there is nowhere for it to settle; it escapes through the cracks and holes of the mind.
Charles Darwin (1809-82):
I verily believe free will & chance are synonymous. - Shake ten thousand grains of sand together & one will be uppermost, - so in thoughts, one will rise according to law.
David Kline and Carl Matheson, "The Impossibility of Collision" (1987):
(1) If two bodies are touching, then they either occupy adjacent points in space or they overlap spatially.
(2) Space is continuous.
(3) No two bodies can ever occupy adjacent points in space. (Since space is continuous, no spatial point is ever adjacent to another spatial point.)
(4) It is impossible for two material bodies to overlap spatially.
(5) Therefore, no two bodies ever touch.
T.H. White (1906-1964):
The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder in your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then - to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust and never dream of regretting.
St. Augustine (354-430 AD):
When it is said to the mind: "Know thyself," it knows itself at the very instant in which it understands the word "thyself"; and it knows itself for no other reason than that it is present to itself.
Marvin Minsky, from "Why Intelligent Aliens Will Be Intelligible" (1984):
Once, when still a child in school, I heard that "minus times minus is plus." How strange it seemed that negatives could "cancel out" - as though two wrongs might make a right. I wondered if there could be something else, still like arithmetic, except for having yet another "sign." Why not make up some number-things, I thought, which go not just two ways, but three? I searched for days, making up new little multiplication tables. Alas, each system ended either with impossible arithmetic (e.g. with One and Two the same), or something with no signs at all, or something with an extra sign. I gave up, eventually. No one ever finds a three-signed imitation of arithmetic because, it seems, they simply do not exist.
I conclude that any entity who searches through the simplest processes will soon find fragments which do not merely resemble arithmetic, but are arithmetic. It is not a matter of inventiveness, or imagination, only a fact about the geography of the universe of computation, a world far more constrained than that of real things.
Thesis: All processes or formalisms which resemble arithmetic are either identical to it, or else unthinkably complicated. This is why we can communicate perfectly about numbers.
What has this to do with extraterrestrials? Only that they too must have evolved by searching through some universe of possible processes - and any evolutionary process must first consider relatively simple systems, and thus discover the same, isolated, islands of efficiency.
Horace Mann (1796-1859):
When any being less than omniscient binds himself to verbal article or dogma, he thereby turns language, which should be his instrument, into an iron incasement for imprisoning his soul.
Dorothy Parker (1893-1967):
Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song, A medley of extemporanea; And love is a thing that can never go wrong, And I am Marie of Roumania.