Quotes Repository

by Dorikka1 min read10th Feb 201587 comments

1

Personal Blog

Quotes are a unique enough medium of expression that I'm interested in viewing quotes that people have found collectable, emotionally impactful, useful, memorable, or otherwise noteworthy - perhaps others are similarly interested. To clarify, these need not be even remotely related to rationality. I'm hijacking the mandates traditionally used for the Rationality Quotes thread, with a few modifications:

  • Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson.
  • Do not repeat quotes found in a Rationality Quotes thread.
  • If possible, try to post sufficient information (URL, title, date, page number, etc.) to enable a reader to find the place where you read the quote, or its original source if available. Note that this can be helpful, but is not mandatory - I would much prefer a quote with only a name to no quote at all.

Please post any meta discussion in the top-level comment named "Meta".

87 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 6:14 PM
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I've always loved the initial exchange between Gregory and Syme in "The Man Who Was Thursday".

Context: Gregory is an anarchist poet, Syme is claiming to be a poet of respectability, which Gregory maintains is impossible.

....The poet delights in disorder only. If it were not so, the most poetical thing in the world would be the Underground Railway."

"So it is," said Mr. Syme.

"Nonsense!" said Gregory, who was very rational when anyone else attempted paradox. "Why do all the clerks and navvies in the railway trains look so sad and tired, so very sad and tired? I will tell you. It is because they know that the train is going right. It is because they know that whatever place they have taken a ticket for that place they will reach. It is because after they have passed Sloane Square they know that the next station must be Victoria, and nothing but Victoria. Oh, their wild rapture! oh, their eyes like stars and their souls again in Eden, if the next station were unaccountably Baker Street!"

"It is you who are unpoetical," replied the poet Syme. "If what you say of clerks is true, they can only be as prosaic as your poetry. The rare... (read more)

3RichardKennaway6y[pollid:819]

As the ancient saying goes, "just because two of you are arguing, does not mean that one of you is right."

4Luke_A_Somers6yIf I were riding, say, the orange line in Boston and I suddenly found myself in Times Square - or even in Alewife (the terminus of the Red line), 'eyes like stars and soul again in Eden' isn't exactly how I'd put it. 'Pretty scary' is. If it happened to everyone in the train, it would be exceptionally scary. But, one might make good poetry about the event.
2AlanCrowe6yThe quote is easier to understand if you are familiar with Bradshaw [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradshaw%27s_Guide].
1Gondolinian6yI feel like they're using rather strained analogies to talk about subjective preferences in poetry as if they were objective truths. Am I missing/misunderstanding something?
0RichardKennaway6yIt's Chesterton. It's the way he writes, and as always, he is not writing about subjective preferences, but about the true and the good. Or, as he might put it, with a little anachronism, such rhetorical exaggeration is not a flight of fancy detached from reality; on the contrary, it is exactly because it is such a flight of fancy that it is exact. It is the dull empiric carrying out the sort of work that fills the pages of Psychological Science who (as Ioannidis has shown) is, whether he knows it or not, blown on the wind of subjective folly, and the writer of fantastic stories of sitting on a beam of light who has grasped an objective truth.
0Gondolinian6yI take it you're not a fan of Chesterton? Or am I really missing something?
6IlyaShpitser6yChesterson is the high verbal low math failure mode.
4Jayson_Virissimo6yYes, but his failure mode is low math precisely because it is high verbal!
127chaos6yThat's Žižuku!
0RichardKennaway6yI think the passage quoted here is magnificent (and my vote is on Syme's side). I can read Chesterton for entertainment, and it's good that he's writing about the true and the good, whereas LessWrong recites passwords of facile cynicism as badges of rationality the moment the subject comes up. On the other hand, his method is a set of templates that can be wound up and set walking in any direction. Despite his intentions, I do not learn from him anything that he persuades me is true, but he does provide entertaining ways of looking at things. And this [https://twitter.com/stevenkaas/status/144899078222921729]. And what IlyaShpitser said.
0[anonymous]6yYet is not the whole book about man and man's intent? Why should poetry be limited and measured by how it reflects intent (or man)? (Also, I just thought 'confirmation bias' about Syme:) it would be horrible to arrive at a different station, yet it would be a crucial piece of data, since 'the scientific method still stands'.)

This one should help you empathize with other people more.

"Everyone has a secret world inside of them. All the people in the whole world, no matter how dull they seem on the outside, inside them they've got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds."

-Neil Gaiman

6Jiro6yThis seems like typical mind fallacy. Especially since the quote comes from a writer, who is used to having lots of worlds in his head and may be especially prone to making unwarranted assumptions that his mind is thus typical.
4crazy886yI think this is an uncharitable reading of the purpose of Gaiman's quote. His quote isn't really meant to be a factual claim but an inspirational one. Now obviously some people will find more inspiration from quotes that express a truth as compared with those that don't. Perhaps you're such a person (I suspect that many people on LW are). At risk of irony, however, it's best not to assume that everyone else is the same as you in that regards. Evaluating something with an emotional purpose in accordance with its epistemic accuracy (instead of its psychological or poetic force) is likely to lead to an uncharitable reading of many quotes (and rather reinforces the straw vulcan stereotype of rationality).
027chaos6yI interpret his statement as contradicting the typical mind fallacy. He invites us to consider that others' conceptions of the world might be "unimaginable" to us.
0[anonymous]6yGiven that his meaning by "worlds" is ambiguous, it seems unfair to claim he is making a mistake; unless you're suggesting that people don't have private thoughts or that you know what Neil Gaiman would and wouldn't find interesting.
4Gondolinian6yI agree with Jiro that the typical mind fallacy is likely a large factor here, but I only see it as affecting the quantity/sophistication of worlds-inside-head, and not the quality that most people have them (I won't go as far as the quote's claim that all people have them, though.). I still agree with the sentiment that it's important to remember that people's inner lives are often much more complex and subjectively rational than we may see from the outside.

The usual touchstone, whether that which someone asserts is merely his persuasion -- or at least his subjective conviction, that is, his firm belief -- is betting. It often happens that someone propounds his views with such positive and uncompromising assurance that he seems to have entirely set aside all thought of possible error. A bet disconcerts him. Sometimes it turns out that he has a conviction which can be estimated at a value of one ducat, but not of ten. For he is very willing to venture one ducat, but when it is a question of ten he becomes awa

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It is easy to believe; doubting is more difficult. Experience and knowledge and thinking are necessary before we can doubt and question intelligently. Tell a child that Santa Claus comes down the chimney or a savage that thunder is the anger of the gods and the child and the savage will accept your statements until they acquire sufficient knowledge to cause them to demur. Millions in India passionately believe that the waters of the Ganges are holy, that snakes are deities in disguise, that it is as wrong to kill a cow as it is to kill a person - and, a

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427chaos6yI like Dale Carnegie in general and think his intentions are good, but disagree with this quote. A different user posted this link a couple weeks ago, I find it relevant: http://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1004&context=eng_faculty_pubs [http://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1004&context=eng_faculty_pubs] Naive believing is easy, but not sophisticated believing. This is similar to how naive doubt regularly fails.
-4Xerographica6yConsider this specific example... Does Elizabeth Warren Know What Keeps You Running? [http://pragmatarianism.blogspot.com/2015/02/does-elizabeth-warren-know-what-keeps.html] How would you characterize the belief/doubt as expressed in that exchange?
4JoshuaZ6yUsing a rationality quote discussion to jump off into an opportunity to plug your blog with your pet issue is at best mildly annoying. Please don't do it.
127chaos6yI am frustrated when reading that article because it tells me I should doubt a certain set of assumptions but doesn't describe in detail the assumptions it wants me to use to replace those assumptions. "Doubting" in a vacuum is pretty difficult to do well, it's better to create many different ideas and then compare and contrast their strengths and weaknesses.
-5Xerographica6y

The noble lord in this case, as in so many others, first destroys his opponent, and then destroys his own position afterwards. The noble lord is the Prince Rupert of parliamentary discussion: his charge is resistless, but when he returns from the pursuit he always finds his camp in the possession of the enemy.

Benjamin Disraeli, source, on the speeches of Lord Stanley. I often think of this quote regarding the effectiveness (or otherwise) of different kinds of rhetoric.

For context, Prince Rupert was a cavalry commander whose charges were extremely effect... (read more)

2habeuscuppus6yThis is of course, the same Prince Rupert for whom the Prince Rupert's Drop [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Rupert%27s_Drop] is named. Although this is ostensibly because he was the man who demonstrated it to the Crown, I always found some amount of schadenfreude in the fact that the man was known for cavalry charges that went too far and shattered his line as well as the enemy's.

Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest. Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity - it is very much like compound interest. I don't want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate. Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime.

-Richard Hamming, You and Your Research

1ShardPhoenix6yI doubt this is literally true.
0lmm6yI suspect it is in a research context. It feels literally true in a programming context.
[-][anonymous]6y 2

The same critical concept in two different disciplines:

"Of several responses made to the same situation, those which are accompanied or closely followed by satisfaction to the animal will, other things being equal, be more firmly connected with the situation, so that, when it recurs, they will be more likely to recur; those which are accompanied or closely followed by discomfort to the animal will, other things being equal, have their connections with that situation weakened, so that, when it recurs, they will be less likely to occur. The greater the ... (read more)

2roystgnr6yThe tersest phrasing I've seen was "You get more of what you reward, less of what you punish". Google finds a 1990 book calling it an "old adage" so I've no idea what the source is. From what I've read there is one important exception, though: if you apply an extrinsic reward or punishment to a behavior, people can see this as a replacement for rather than a supplement to whatever intrinsic rewards or punishments they had previously associated with that behavior, and this can actually reduce the desired behavior [http://p2pfoundation.net/Crowding_Out].

But have you ever asked yourselves sufficiently how much the erection of every ideal on earth has cost? How much reality has had to be misunderstood and slandered, how many lies have had to be sanctified, how many consciences disturbed, how much "God" sacrificed every time? If a temple is to be erected a temple must be destroyed: that is the law - let anyone who can show me a case in which it is not fulfilled! - Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals

Human laws aim to induce human beings to virtue little by little, not all at once. And so the laws do not immediately impose on the many imperfect citizens what already belongs to virtuous citizens, namely, that citizens abstain from everything evil. Otherwise, the imperfect citizens, unable to endure those commands, would erupt into worse evil things.

-Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

Perhaps any sufficiently advanced logic is indistinguishable from stupidity. - Alex Tabarrok, The Rise of Opaque Intelligence

[-][anonymous]6y 0

As readers, we remain in the nursery stage so long as we cannot distinguish between taste and judgment, so long, that is, as the only possible verdicts we can pass on a book are two: this I like; this I don't like.

For an adult reader, the possible verdicts are five: I can see this is good and I like it; I can see this is good but I don't like it; I can see this is good and, though at present I don't like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to like it; I can see that this is trash but I like it; I can see that this is trash and I don't like it.

~ W. H. Auden, A Certain World: A Commonplace Book

7RichardKennaway6yBut no option for "I can see that this is trash and, though at present I like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to discard it."?
0[anonymous]6yFor completeness we should also add "I can see that this is good and, though at present I like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to dislike it", along with a few others. Though I think it's obvious why that one was left out. As for your example; aside from unhealthy addictions, why would one want to discard something they currently like, even if it is trash? Some of my favorite movies are trash. I suppose one could make the argument that life is currently too short to waste on sub-par media, but that would depend on how much one's valuation of watchability depends on the artistic quality of the product. For me, at least, the entertainment value I get from a work of art is only partly related to the artistic merit.
2RichardKennaway6yFor the same reason that one might want to acquire a taste for something good but presently disliked. Elevating one's taste to spend more time with the good implies spending less time with the bad.
1[anonymous]6yHmm. I notice I am getting confused about the difference between liking something and judging it to be good. Is there even a difference? If there is, is the goal to consume a higher proportion of good media even if you dislike it, or more media that you like, even if it is not good? Maybe "good", if it is to mean something different than "liked", just means "liked by other people whose opinions we hold in esteem".
1ShardPhoenix6yGood/trash = High status/low status. High status is probably correlated with more-or-less-objectively good things (eg it somehow makes you smarter/more empathetic/better informed), but it's also correlated with being unnecessarily obtuse (so that being able to appreciate it has signalling value).
1Epictetus6yFor example, I can "like" junk food without having the slightest notion of it being "good". With media, my general rule of thumb is that "like" is something that happens in the moment, but judging something good requires that it had a positive impact that went beyond passing the time. I find that "good" things usually prompt some kind of reflection after the fact. I've also found that good media holds up on repeat viewings/readings and each time there seems to be something that I hadn't noticed before. I hate being vague about it, but such is the nature of the beast.
1ChristianKl6yAs far as I would use the words, judging is a more active process than liking. My system II might make an active decision that broccoli is good for me while my system one doesn't like broccoli.
2DanielLC6yHow about "I can see this is trash and, though at present I don't like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to like it"? Goodness is not an inherent property of the book. The closest you could get is talking about what people in general will like. Once you do that, you can get more specific, and talk about what certain demographics will like.
0Creutzer6yFor those who believe that there is something more objective about aesthetic quality than just likeability, it usually has nothing to do with what people in general like. It's more about such things as exercise of excellence and virtue on the creator's part, and these things are, to some degree, objective.
1DanielLC6yExercise of excellence and virtue doesn't seem objective either. I also don't see the value of a book that's not entertaining. Unless it's educational or something.
1Creutzer6yWell, whether the creator of the work exercised a particular virtue or excellent skill in the creation of the work can be reasonably objective. It is, in particular, objective in a way that the work's being liked is not: it is independent of the observer.
1DanielLC6yIf the virtue or skill is a given, yes. But what virtues and skills are important is subjective. Even the difference between a vice and a virtue is subjective.
0Creutzer6yYes, but that's subjectivity one level higher, as it were: is quality X important? That's relative to a subject who makes the value judgment. But when X is "being liked", then quality X in itself is observer-relative, in a way that other things like the skill exercised by the creator are not (and "being liked by most people" also isn't).
0DanielLC6yThe skill exercised by the creator is every bit as subjective as the quality of what he makes. Being skilled just means consistently making things of high quality.
0Creutzer6yJust... no. I am not talking about some vague thing such as "being skilled at writing", which you might be able to paraphrase as "consistently writing things of high quality". The kind of skill that I have in mind which might confer value on a work of art is basically the ability to do something very non-trivial which need not in any way involve a value judgment. A very simple example would be to paint something with realistic lighting.
1DanielLC6yHow is a painting exercising the creator's skill of painting something with realistic lighting (skill of the creator) any different from a painting having realistic lighting (quality of the creation)? A painting having realistic lighting is not observer-relative, but the importance of realistic lighting is. You can't objectively call the painting "good", you can only say it has realistic lighting. And given how many things there are that you can objectively grade a painting on, it's all too easy to only talk about the good qualities of paintings you like and the bad qualities of paintings you dislike.
0Toggle6yIn my experience, virtuosity is often roughly measured by the answer to questions like "what fraction of the population could have achieved this goal?" or "how many hours of practice were required to gain the necessary skills for this?", depending on the circumstances in which the word is used. I suppose that's fairly objective, although not precise. If painter A could paint both X and Y, and many painters B, C, D... could paint X but not Y, that is some evidence that painting Y is more 'excellent' than X in some way that goes beyond preference. It can also be used as a self-compliment on the part of an audience member; in this usage, it is implied that one must have a great deal of experience with the medium in order to appreciate the work.

Meta: How is this supposed to be different from the existing rationality quotes thread?

5spxtr6yThe idea is that it's not specifically for quotes related to rationality or other LessWrong topics.
3Salemicus6yThis quotes repository is linked from the sidebar on the right of the site as the "Latest Rationality Quote" space, and quotes in it are showing up as the "Latest Rationality Quote." This is misleading, and may be because you have "quotes" in the tags for this article. Is there any way to address this?
0Vaniver6yRemoving the "quotes" tag would have done it, or replacing it with quotes-repository. (The issue is 'fixed' now because I made the March quotes thread, but is an issue with these sorts of threads going forward.)
0ChristianKl6yI don't see a reason for that limit. Celebrating our in group is good. If you repeat this thread I would advocate to remove that line.
6IlyaShpitser6yEcho chambers are bad.
1ChristianKl6yCutting outside input is bad. Repeating important things usually isn't.
3IlyaShpitser6y"Lernen, lernen und nochmals lernen." -- plastered everywhere in Soviet schools. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This rule is a fence against the situation where Lenin quotes appear everywhere. You think we should move the fence, lots of folks seem to disagree. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- LW is not in a lot of danger of missing or forgetting some important thing Robin/EY/Scott/etc. said. LW is in danger of hero worship, and other related cultishness badness.
2ChristianKl6yI think that LW has enough contrarianism and "Why our kind can't cooperate" describes a real issue. Spaced repetition theory suggests that it's quite useful to repeat important things that people say. I also consider it to be quite useful to have a debate about what bits of what Robin/EY/Scott say are of particular importance and what bits aren't. Quotes help the quest of focusing on specific ideas instead of getting lost in complexity. The rule in this thread allows quotes from Scott.
4IlyaShpitser6yI am taking my reference class and going home.
1Vaniver6ySo, I think that having each LW page pull a quote from the Best Of Rationality Quotes and put it somewhere would be neat; also, we could have links to the featured articles from the Main Page on every page, so that more people will see them (and it will serve more like the Sequences Rerun). I don't think we really need to have the same thing in many places, instead of pointing to it many times; if I post Yvain's best quotes every month, that gets me a lot of karma I don't really deserve. If, every month, I find five external rationality quotes that haven't been posted here in the years and years of monthly rationality quotes, then that gets me a lot of karma that I do deserve. (And seeing things on an actual spaced repetition schedule is likely better than seeing them as frequently as people decide to repost them.) I believe this has come up and the consensus (or, at least, my position) was that quotes by Scott should not be allowed in the Rationality Quotes thread.
1ChristianKl6yIt's not about posting quotes of third parties that Yvain posted in the quotes thread but choosing quotes from his other writing. Making specific choices about what of his long articles is quote worthy is a decision that adds value. Quoting writing often means to make a choice to select certain passages of writing over other passages. It's not just repeating the same thing. This isn't directly the Rationality Quotes thread and as we are starting a new thread, it's worth to be clear about it's rules.
0Gondolinian6yPerhaps we could have an irregular thread for doing just that and trying to find the best passages from LW and peripheral rationality sites? ETA: Maybe we could also try a thread for summarizing long articles with or without direct quotes?
0ChristianKl6yI did a while ago open such a thread and the amount of contribution it got was relatively low. I don't see a reason to have the thread separate from this thread.
0Vaniver6yYou might be interested in this tag [http://lesswrong.com/tag/lwob_quotes/], and the two [http://lesswrong.com/lw/153/lwob_rationality_quotes_august_2009/] threads [http://lesswrong.com/lw/171/lwob_quotes_fall_2009/] made specifically for quoting from LW/OB. I believe there have been more recent ones--specifically, I think there was one in 2013--but I'm not finding it easily. (Every term I would search for shows up in a lot of other places!)
0ChristianKl6yI don't think either of those threads suggests that people want to cite LW/OB too much.

The truth can be of use when you can see where falsehoods lay.

Don't quit on hopes or dreams when you have simply got to -

Chin up! Don't bet on sinking ships because they'll only drag you down!

You've got to keep on sailing even when you want to frown!

The world will keep on turning without matter where you land.

You might as well be running when your feet should hit the sand!

-Rainbow Dash, lyrics to Sinking Ships, a song from Bittersweet, a fan-made episode of MLP:FiM.

So far as this is the case, it is evident that government, by excluding or even by superseding individual agency, either substitutes a less qualified instrumentality for one better qualified, or at any rate substitutes its own mode of accomplishing the work, for all the variety of modes which would be tried by a number of equally qualified persons aiming at the same end; a competition by many degrees more propitious to the progress of improvement than any uniformity of system. - J.S. Mill, Principles of Political Economy with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy

It is thus that the private interests and passions of individuals naturally dispose them to turn their stocks towards the employments which in ordinary cases are most advantageous to the society. But if from this natural preference they should turn too much of it towards those employments, the fall of profit in them and the rise of it in all others immediately dispose them to alter this faulty distribution. Without any intervention of law, therefore, the private interests and passions of men naturally lead them to divide and distribute the stock of every

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