Quotes of quotes.

Difficult and Easy

August 12th, 2007


Act without doing;
work without effort.
Think of the small as large
and the few as many.
Confront the difficult
while it is still easy;
accomplish the great task
by a series of small acts.

The Master never reaches for the great;
thus she achieves greatness.
When she runs into a difficulty,
she stops and gives herself to it.
She doesn’t cling to her own comfort;
thus problems are no problem for her.

— Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching. Translation by Stephen Mitchell.

Translations of the Tao Te Ching are widely debated, see the Wikipedia’s article. The Xenophon Library offers line by line comparisons of several translations, including chapter 63. The title of this entry is taken from Lin Yutang’s translation.

No truth for science

July 29th, 2007

Ich glaube, daß Ideen wie absolute Richtigkeit, absolute Genauigkeit, endgültige Wahrheit usw. Hirngespinste sind, die in keiner Wissenschaft zugelassen werden sollten.
Max Born (German physicist, 1882-1970)

This is a wonderful quote. And, considering how often it can be applied it is an important one, too. Here is my humble attempt of a translation:

I believe that ideas of absolute correctness, absolute precision, ultimate truth etc. are figments of imagination which should not be tolerated in science.
— Max Born (English translation by author)

I tried to track down this quote. The best reference I found on-line is from page 57 of Sattler M: Das Sokratische Gespräch (2003):

Heckmann beruft sich bei seiner Auffassung über die Wahrheit an dieser Stelle u. a. auf eine Überlegung von Max Born, in der es heißt: “Ich glaube, daß Ideen wie absolute Richtigkeit, absolute Genauigkeit, endgültige Wahrheit usw. Hirngespinste sind, die in keiner Wissenschaft zugelassen werden sollten. (…) Diese Lockerung des Denkens scheint mir als der größte Segen, den die heutige Wissenschaft uns gebracht hat. Ist doch der Glaube an eine einzige Wahrheit und deren Besitzer zu sein, die tiefste Wurzel allen Übels auf der Welt” (Born 1965 zit. nach Heckmann 1993, S. 88).

“Born 1965” probably means Born M: Von der Verantwortung des Naturwissenschaftlers (1965).

Wise men’s answers

July 13th, 2007

The wise man doesn’t give the right answers — he poses the right questions.
— Claude Lévi-Strauss

Never make this an answer.
Unless you are a liar :-)

The necessity of reflection

July 2nd, 2007

To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.

Henri Poincaré: Science and Hypotheses. 1905.

Simplify simplification

May 18th, 2007

A few days ago, I was skimming through thousands of pictures looking for eyes, preferably eyes of a strong tree out of a dream come true, but that’s another story. Siona von Dijk In my breaks, I did some day-to-day work like hopping over, actually scurrying over, to Dave Pollard (who we had already referred to) reading his daily blog on why we have not yet saved the world. So much for the history. Recently, Dave was asking for advice in seven words or less. His list, whether I like it or not, made me add our blogs starting credo Stop making sense to the list of comments and further advice. But only when I checked back I found the one advice (to love, to remember, to be and trust)


Added by Siona van Dijk. Or in my mother’s words: Schnaufn nid vagessn (Austrian dialect for “Don’t forget to breathe”). Thus, in a daring attempt to get the feel of an eyes’ glimpse of the air she is breathing, I scurried over to Siona’s profile where she writes

I trust uncertainty, don’t care for irony, and believe that paradox is a profound measure of truth.
Siona van Dijk

Paradoxes only! Can you see the tree? On the path from trust to truth and back, the very grounds for liars to let trees flourish (trees with leaves of words) what more could we ask for? — Coffee! Of course, yes, but that’s again another story (though the same as above). — Simplification? — This is going to be complicated.

However, in the list of Siona’s bookmarks I found a link leading us to a list of Ten Commandments for a Simpler Way of Life (maybe we should make a list of lists, Juliet, please) where one can find (further) advices such as

II. You shall laugh on a daily basis.
VII. You shall turn off your technology.
VIII. You shall be spontaneous.
X. You shall learn what is ‘enough’.
Ririan, 2007-04-05

An interesting list of commandments as only no liars could ever compile. A liar, though, cannot resist to add: For to lead a simple life You shall simplify simplification!

Sure, we “believe that all this could very well be wrong” (Siona van Dijk).

Having found the eyes, I’ll now go and look for roots.

But before I gonna move on, one more advice from yours truly rattus rattus: Answer for yourself what advice means to you.

Dreamers don’t lie

May 11th, 2007
Mercutio: Why, may one ask?
Romeo: I dreamt a dream to-night.
Mercutio: And so did I.
Romeo: Well, what was yours?
Mercutio: That dreamers often lie.
Romeo: In bed asleep, while they do dream things true.

William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

We liars dream of dreams.
And we dream of no dreams.
We dream of the dreamless state of mind.
We dream of pursuing our dreams.
We dream of dreams to come true.

We dreamers often lie.

Ignorance of nonsense

May 9th, 2007

Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance is the death of knowledge.
Alfred North Whitehead

If only nonsense would not make so much sense.

No fuss over ignorance

April 24th, 2007

Samuel Butler is often said to have said

Science, after all, is only an expression for our ignorance of our own ignorance.

which he might have never said. Anyway, I think that it might be hard to accurately cite this quote for anyone who actually read Samuel Butler’s note-books. But then, maybe he never wanted us to be that precise at all.

Knowledge (…) is based ultimately upon ignorance. To get knowledge out of ignorance seems almost as hopeless a task as to get something out of any number of nothings, but this in practice is what we have to do and the less fuss we make over it the better.
Samuel Butler, Note-Books