August 4, 2020

“Don’t be afraid to ask the big questions. Treat science like art. In other words, don’t expect to make a living from it. Enjoy it.”
~ James Lovelock


July 28, 2020

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. First the body. No. First the place. No. First both. Now either. Now the other. Sick of the either try the other. Sick of it back sick of the either. So on. Somehow on. Till sick of both. Throw up and go. Where neither. Till sick of there. Throw up and back. The body again. Where none. The place again. Where none. Try again. Fail again. Better again. Or better worse. Fail worse again. Still worse again. Till sick for good. Throw up for good. Go for good. Where neither for good. Good and all.”

~ Samuel Beckett


July 28, 2020

“Some say the work of philosophy originated with the barbarians. For among the Persians are the Magi, among the Babylonians and Assyrians the Chaldeans, among the Indians the Gymnosophists (lit. naked philosophers), and among the Celts and Gauls, those called ‘Druids’ and holy people, according to what Aristotle says in the book on Magic and Sotion in the twenty-third book of the Succession of Philosophers.”

~ “Lives of the eminent philosophers”, Diogenes Laertius.


July 28, 2020

“Execestus, the Phocian tyrant, used to wear two enchanted rings, and he used to determine the appropriate time to act by the sound they made against one another. But, he still died, murdered by treachery despite being warned by the sound, as Aristotle says in the Phocian Constitution.”

~ “Stromateus”, Clement of Alexandria.


July 12, 2020

“My father has zero intellectual insecurities… It has never crossed his mind to be concerned that the world thinks he’s an idiot. He’s not in that game. So if he doesn’t understand something, he just asks you. He doesn’t care if he sounds foolish. He will ask the most obvious question without any sort of concern about it… So he asks lots and lots of dumb, in the best sense of that word, questions. He’ll say to someone, ‘I don’t understand. Explain that to me.’ He’ll just keep asking questions until he gets it right, and I grew up listening to him do this in every conceivable setting.”

~ Malcolm Gladwell


The will to think

July 12, 2020

“In these four words, Fermi distilled the essence of a very significant insight: a competent thinker will be reluctant to commit himself to the effort that tedious and precise thinking demands — he will lack ‘the will to think’ — unless he has the conviction that something worthwhile will be done with the results of his efforts.”

~ William Shockley


July 6, 2020

“Why do I call [Newton] a magician? Because he looked on the whole universe and all that is in it as a riddle, as a secret which could be read by applying pure thought to certain evidence, certain mystic clues which god had laid about the world to allow a sort of philosopher’s treasure hunt to the esoteric brotherhood. He believed that these clues were to be found partly in the evidence of the heavens and in the constitution of elements (and that is what gives the false suggestion of his being an experimental natural philosopher), but also partly in certain papers and traditions handed down by the brethren in an unbroken chain back to the original cryptic revelation in Babylonia. He regarded the universe as a cryptogram set by the almighty – just as he himself wrapt the discovery of the calculus in a cryptogram when he communicated with Leibniz. By pure thought, by concentration of mind, the riddle, he believed, would be revealed to the initiate.”

“All would be revealed to him if only he could persevere to the end, uninterrupted, by himself, no one coming into the room, reading, copying, testing — all by himself, no interruption for god’s sake, no disclosure, no discordant breakings in or criticism, with fear and shrinking as he assailed these half-ordained, half-forbidden things, creeping back into the bosom of the godhead as into his mother’s womb. ‘Voyaging through strange seas of thought alone’, not as Charles Lamb ‘a fellow who believed nothing unless it was as clear as the three sides of a triangle’.”

“There is an unusual number of manuscripts of the early English alchemists in the libraries of Cambridge. It may be that there was some continuous esoteric tradition within the University which sprang into activity again in the twenty years from 1650 to 1670. At any rate, Newton was clearly an unbridled addict. It is this with which he was occupied ‘about 6 weeks at spring and 6 at the fall when the fire in the elaboratory scarcely went out’ at the very years when he was composing the Principia – and about this he told Humphrey Newton not a word. Moreover, he was almost entirely concerned, not in serious experiment, but in trying to read the riddle of tradition, to find meaning in cryptic verses, to imitate the alleged but largely imaginary experiments of the initiates of past centuries. Newton has left behind him a vast mass of records of these studies. I believe that the greater part are translations and copies made by him of existing books and manuscripts. But there are also extensive records of experiments. I have glanced through a great quantity of this at least 100,000 words, I should say. It is utterly impossible to deny that it is wholly magical and wholly devoid of scientific value; and also impossible not to admit that Newton devoted years of work to it.”

~ “Newton, the Man”. John Maynard Keynes.


July 6, 2020

“[…] ‘He was so happy in his conjectures’, said De Morgan, ‘as to seem to know more than he could possibly have any means of proving’. The proofs, for what they are worth, were, as I have said, dressed up afterwards — they were not the instrument of discovery.”

“There is the story of how he informed Halley of one of his most fundamental discoveries of planetary motion. ‘Yes,’ replied Halley, ‘but how do you know that? Have you proved it?’ Newton was taken aback — ‘Why, I’ve known it for years’, he replied. ‘If you’ll give me a few days, I’ll certainly find you a proof of it’ — as in due course he did.”

“Again, there is some evidence that Newton in preparing the Principia was held up almost to the last moment by lack of proof that you could treat a solid sphere as though all its mass was concentrated at the centre, and only hit on the proof a year before publication. But this was a truth which he had known for certain and had always assumed for many years.”

“Certainly there can be no doubt that the peculiar geometrical form in which the exposition of the Principia is dressed up bears no resemblance at all to the mental processes by which Newton actually arrived at his conclusions.”

“His experiments were always, I suspect, a means, not of discovery, but always of verifying what he knew already.”

~ “Newton, the Man”. John Maynard Keynes.


L’uomo nuovo

June 28, 2020

“La funzione della nuova società è di incoraggiare il sorgere di un uomo nuovo, la cui struttura caratteriale abbia le seguenti qualità […] Sicurezza, sentimento di identità e fiducia fondati sulla fede in ciò che si è, nel proprio bisogno di rapporti, interessi, amore, solidarietà con il mondo circostante, anziché sul proprio desiderio di avere, di possedere, di controllare il mondo, divenendo così schiavo dei propri possessi. […] La gioia che proviene dal dare e condividere, non già dall’accumulare e sfruttare. […] Fare della piena crescita di se stessi e dei propri simili lo scopo supremo dell’esistenza. […] Sviluppare la propria fantasia, non come una fuga da circostanze intollerabili, bensì come anticipazione di possibilità concrete, come un mezzo per superare circostanze intollerabili. […] Avvertire la propria identità con ogni forma di vita, e quindi rinunciare al proposito di conquistare la natura, di sottometterla, sfruttarla, violentarla, distruggerla, tentando invece di capirla e di collaborare con essa. Far propria una libertà che non sia arbitrarietà, ma equivalga alla possibilità di essere se stessi, intendendo con questo non già un coacervo di desideri e brame di possesso, bensì una struttura dal delicato equilibrio che a ogni istante si trova di fronte alla scelta tra crescita o declino, vita o morte. Rendersi conto che il male e la distruttività sono conseguenze necessarie del fallimento del proposito di crescere. Rendersi conto che solo pochi individui hanno raggiunto la perfezione per quanto attiene a tutte queste qualità, rinunciando d’altro canto all’ambizione di riuscire a propria volta a ‘raggiungere l’obiettivo’, con la consapevolezza che un’ambizione del genere non è che un’altra forma di bramosia, un’altra versione dell’avere. Trovare la felicità nel processo di continua, vivente crescita, quale che sia il punto massimo che il destino permette a ciascuno di raggiungere, dal momento che vivere nella maniera più piena possibile al singolo è fonte di tale soddisfazione, che la preoccupazione per ciò che si potrebbe o non si può raggiungere ha scarse probabilità di rendersi avvertita.”

~ “Avere o essere?”, Eric Fromm.


June 28, 2020

“Nella sua autobiografia, Darwin scrive che, fino ai trent’anni, era stato un grande amatore della musica, della poesia e della pittura, ma che poi, per molti anni, perdette ogni gusto e ogni interesse per tali manifestazioni: “La mia mente sembra essere divenuta una sorta di macchina che macina le leggi generali da un’enorme raccolta di dati di fatto… La perdita di questi interessi costituisce una perdita di felicità, e non è escluso che possa risultare lesiva per l’intelletto, e più probabilmente ancora per il carattere morale, perché indebolisce il risvolto emozionale della nostra natura”.”

“La supremazia dell’attività mentale cerebrale, manipolatoria va di pari passo con un’atrofia della vita emozionale. Dal momento che questa non viene coltivata né se ne ha bisogno, ma costituisce piuttosto un ostacolo al funzionamento ottimale, essa è rimasta sottosviluppata, non è mai riuscita a raggiungere un livello di maturità superiore a quella infantile. Ne deriva che i caratteri mercantili sono particolarmente ingenui per quanto attiene ai problemi emozionali.”

~ “Avere o essere?”, Eric Fromm.