This thread has an experimental format for posting rationality quotes. Here is the format:

For those posting quotes:

Post the quote as usual, but not the author, original language translated from, or other information. That information is to be input after the quote according to the following format:

[Source]( "hovertext goes here")

For example:

>When an idea is wanting, a word can always be found to take its place.

[Source]( "Goethe, translated.")

The source information will be available by hovering the mouse over "Source", without opening a new page. This format allows quotations to be evaluated with less context available, with all that entails. I hope this allays some of the uncertainty regarding why words of the Bible or authors such as Nietzsche are sometimes poorly received. People are encouraged to vote without considering the source information. If locally idolized people said genuinely silly things even considering the context, feel free to post those as well, but please use your best judgement as to whether or not taking it out of context is fair to the speaker.

Please use your own judgement in deciding which quotes thread to post material. This isn't intended to compete with the main thread, it's an experiment to see if people like a different format better. Some people thought this format, or something like it, should simply be tried on the next regular quotes thread to minimize any disruption caused by having multiple threads, while others thought disruption wold be minimized by having a separate thread and leaving the main thread as normal. This is what I decided to do.

The usual rules apply, except that there is no fixed limit to the number of quotes one may submit, because I'd like to populate this thread without taking too much from the usual thread.

  • Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be voted up/down 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  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote comments/posts on LW/OB.


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70 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 1:27 PM

"To know what question one should, reasonably, ask is already a great and necessary proof of one’s sagacity and insight. For if the question is in itself absurd and demands answers that are unnecessary, then it not only embarrasses the person raising it, but sometimes has the further disadvantage of misleading the incautious listener: it may prompt him to give absurd answers and to provide us with the ridiculous spectacle where (as the ancients said) one person milks the ram while the other holds a sieve underneath."



Is it bad that I called it once the second sentence started wearing on and on and on ...?

I don't think that this would be so highly rated were it in the regular quotes thread. I think this is the type of thing it is helpful to see without seeing the author first, even though it was guessable.
By way of comparison, here's a Kant quote that I posted in a normal quote thread. Actually, I'd say that my quote was pretty close to mjcurzi's along a lot of axes, including length, tone, vividness of imagery, and agreement with LW conventional wisdom. At the moment, mjcurzi's quote and mine have a similar number of votes: 15 for mjcurzi's and 16 for mine.

Let us begin by committing ourselves to the truth to see it like it is, and tell it like it is, to find the truth, to speak the truth, and to live the truth.


More authentic source (Edit as this is getting downvoted: a request was made for better sourced quote to confirm authenticity, but I didn't want to just overwrite the original source as that would have unfairly made RichardKennaway's perfectly valid suspicions given the evidence he had at the time look rather odd).
Thank you for the source. Nyy V xabj nobhg Avkba vf gung ur erfvtarq va qvftenpr gb nibvq vzcrnpuzrag sbe uvf ebyr va Jngretngr. Gung fcrrpu, sebz (cnhfr gb pbafhyg Jvxvcrqvn) sbhe lrnef orsber gubfr riragf vf n terng srfgbba bs nccynhfr yvtugf, juvpu bs pbhefr vg vf, orvat n cbyvgvpny ivpgbel fcrrpu. Naq va vgfrys gurer'f abguvat jebat jvgu gung. Gurer'f n gvzr sbe fubjvat nyy lbhe jbexvat naq n gvzr sbe vafcvevat qrpynzngvba bs lbhe pbapyhfvbaf. But I'm curious to know how the original context is regarded by those closer to the matter. N zbahzragny fyno bs ulcbpevfl sebz n gubebhtutbvat fpbhaqery, be n tenaq fgngrzrag bs vqrnyf sebz n terng yrnqre yngre oebhtug ybj ol gur wnpxnyf bs gur yrsg?
I can't believe you just straight out named the source! Please rot13 this (the entire paragraph, it's a blatant clue).
Ur'f bsgra creprvirq nf n pynffvp rknzcyr bs plavpny qvfubarfgl fb vg frrzrq n tbbq dhbgr sbe guvf cntr. Vg unf n pbzcyrgryl qvssrerag zrnavat & vzcnpg nsgre gnxvat fbhepr & pbagrkg vagb nppbhag.
I can't believe you just straight out named the source! Please this spoiler (the entire paragraph, it's a blatant clue).
Please rot13 this comment! It
Absent evidence that the author knows how to arrive at the truth, this is no more than an applause light. "Telling it like it is" is in public discourse usually used as a substitute for any real examination of how, in fact, it is. Mouseover... Well, there you are.
(Replying to myself to avoid the "this comment was edited" mark.) The link is to an unsourced quote, and Google just turns up repetitions of it. Given the striking relationship between the quote and the reputation of its purported utterer, I am inclined to doubt its authenticity; not because it sounds like something he wouldn't have said, or that he would have said, but because the idea that he said it is attractive enough to explain its repetition in quotes files everywhere.
I was writing a reply arguing about fully general counterarguments & motivated skepticism, then I realized that doesn't make you wrong plus my reply was clearly guilty on both those points, so I deleted it and instead I've had a closer Google & replied to the original with a more authentic source.

The dreams you see most clearly are most likely to come true.


What are people interpreting this to mean that they upvoted it to +13? Source aside, I don't see anything particularly rational about it.
I interpreted it as meaning that the goals you have are more likely to be accomplished if you have clear paths to those goals and a clear understanding of what those goals are.
I'll answer in rot13 so others can make their own interpretations first. (If you don't think people would be influenced, note the quote is now mostly getting down-voted (currently +11) since the last interpretation! Sbe zr vg uvagrq ng n ybg bs gur iveghrf (cnegvphyneyl #9), naq va n jnl gung nyfb nccyvrf gb vafgehzragny engvbanyvgl, naq zber fhppvapgyl V pna erzrzore frrvat orsber, naq tvirf tbbq nqivpr nobhg ubj gb fnir gur jbeyq. bs pbhefr vg pbhyq whfg or n genc.
I'm surprised. Does no-one think the quote is good advice for saving the world? That's the first thing that jumped out at me about it.
I'll answer in rot13 so others can make their own interpretations first. (If you don't think people would be influenced, note the quote is now mostly getting down-voted (currently +11) since the last interpretation. Sbe zr vg uvagrq ng n ybg bs gur iveghrf (cnegvphyneyl #9), naq va n jnl gung nyfb nccyvrf gb vafgehzragny engvbanyvgl, naq zber fhppvapgyl V pna erzrzore frrvat orsber, naq tvirf tbbq nqivpr nobhg ubj gb fnir gur jbeyq. bs pbhefr vg pbhyq

"I'm asking how you can compare the value of a great piece of art to that of a human being's life."

"Ohhhhh! You'll want to use what are called 'fractions'."


Your source has no mouseover text.
This time it's an actual link.

To presume that your 1 in 64 million chance is a miracle is to significantly underestimate the total number of things that there are.


I wanted to be sneaky and fool people into up-voting something they agreed with, but eventually I couldn't resist collecting together these amazing Dark Arts quotes. It's almost unbelievable that this guy, unlike most masters of the Dark Arts, told anybody who cared to read his work exactly what he was doing - and it didn't matter. Just as he probably would have said that it wouldn't matter.

I doubt that a political candidate could run for office in any country with internet if he/she had written things like this. Maybe the press really is doing a better job of being substantive.

Suggestion: Downvote this if you either A) think people should not be exposed to how the Dark Arts work, or B) believe most of these statements are false. Upvote it if you think most of these statements are true.

The broad masses of a nation are not made up of professors and diplomats. Since these masses have only a poor acquaintance with abstract ideas, their reactions lie more in the domain of the feelings, where the roots of their positive as well as their negative attitudes are implanted. They are susceptible only to a manifestation of strength which comes definitely either from the positive or nega

... (read more)
Very nicely done. I would be keen to see a parallel set for Leo Strauss.
Guessed the source by the second sentence of your intro. You should obscure it a bit.
"The big lie" is a dead giveaway too.
I thought it was equally likely to be this guy at that point.

Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within.


Be precise. A lack of precision is dangerous when the margin of error is small.


When an idea is wanting, a word can always be found to take its place.


Related to atucker's, but I had thought of posting it independently:

This sentiment [that evil is unreal and the universe is perfect], which as much as any other deserves the name of pantheism, is often expressed incoherently and with a false afflatus; but when rationally conceived, as it was by Spinoza, it amounts to this: that good and evil are relations which things bear to the living beings they affect. In itself nothing—much less this whole mixed universe —can be either good or bad; but the universe wears the aspect of a good in so far as it feeds, d

... (read more)

Nothing regarded in its own nature can be called perfect or imperfect; especially when we are aware that all things which come to pass, come to pass according to the eternal order and fixed laws of nature. However, human weakness cannot attain to this order in its own thoughts, but meanwhile man conceives a human character much more stable than his own, and sees that there is no reason why he should not himself acquire such a character....

This, then, is the end for which I strive, to attain to such a character myself, and to endeavor that many should atta

... (read more)
I've just realized, to my horror, that whenever I see the name Fcvabmn from now on I'm going to flash back to a certain post in the Open Thread. Feels bad man.
Oh no! Should not have clicked... I'm going to go burn his wikipedia image into my mind for a while until it goes away.

And finally the moment came when I pushed aside what I had done and started to begin again with the announcement that Jupiter himself had never existed; that man was alone in a world in which no voices were heard than his own, a world neither friendly nor unfriendly save he made it so…

How terrifying and glorious the role of man if, indeed, without guidance and without consolation he must create from his own vitals the meaning for his existence and write the rules whereby he lives.


"Truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness to the past, exemplar and adviser to the present, and the future's counselor."


I thknk that is an actual quote from Preinagrf (or if you prefer, from Cvreer Zraneq), not created by Obetrf.
Of course -- at least, although I have not searched for it where Obetrf claims to quote it from, I expect it is there. My posting this quote is a comment about this thread.
Oh, I see now. Nice!

Please be careful not to give away people's sources in your replies. rot13 is your friend.

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How do you indent quotes?

Precede each separate paragraph with a greater-than sign (>). /telemarketer
Oh... that used to create a vertical line on the left-hand side.
...It still does? If that's not what you were asking about I'm not sure what you mean by "indent".
Ah... enabling the Anti-Kibitzer messes up the website. It makes the vertical lines left of quotes disappear, and it also makes the text box that I type my comment into tiny (horizontally). This is with Firefox 7.0 on Windows XP and Firefox 6 on CentOS.


What is that? Google thinks it is X-men...

Fill in the blank with "tife"
A Google search for kook obfuscatory paraphernalia mind faq returns a relevant document as its first hit, at least for me. I don't know whether the censoring of his handle is done for fear that he googles himself. In case it is, I have avoided (1) saying his name explicitly and (2) using words that he'd be likely to be searching for to find discussion of his "work".

He does. Less Wrong has adopted a general policy of never mentioning his name, because we don't particularly want him to show up here.


It really seems like if you’re thinking quantitatively like a good utilitarian consequentialist (note: this is a codeword for “being sane”) then this shouldn’t be a difficult call.



Please be careful not to give away people's sources in your replies. is your friend.

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Please be careful not to give away people's sources in your replies. is your friend.

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Reading is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. Its chief purpose is to help towards filling in the framework which is made up of the talents and capabilities that each individual possesses... The material which one has acquired through reading must not be stored up in the memory on a plan that corresponds to the successive chapters of the book; but each little piece of knowledge thus gained must be treated as if it were a little stone to be inserted into a mosaic, so that it finds its proper place among all the other pieces and particles that hel... (read more)

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An argument is only as good as the job you accomplish with it.


My sense of the holy is bound up with the hope that some day my remote descendants will live in a global civilization in which love is pretty much the only law.


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Okay, I'm not playing this game anymore then. :)
Try to find Jaynes or Hanson or Eliezer or the like saying something equally silly, and post that with citation hidden. ;)
Maybe I'm extra stupid today; I didn't think that quote was silly, and still don't. My best guess is that with the source (and context) stripped away, people had a knee-jerk reflex to the word "holy".

I thought that the conclusion was an applause light, but didn't consciously mind "holy", at least, the end was sufficiently bad that I didn't feel the need to parse the beginning for problems.

I had the same reaction as lessdazed. "Love is pretty much the only law" isn't a coherent proposition, it's designed to sound nice, but it gives no indication that there's an idea for a sensible societal arrangement behind it.

Okay. I guess I need to take that as evidence that I was blinded by a halo effect around the source, when I first came across the quote. So, in that sense, the experiment is working so far. :)