„And thus, the actions of life often not allowing any delay, it is a truth very certain that, when it is not in our power to determine the most true opinions we ought to follow the most probable.“

Source: Discourse on Method

Last update June 3, 2021. History
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René Descartes45
French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist 1596 - 1650

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„In practical life we are compelled to follow what is most probable ; in speculative thought we are compelled to follow truth.“

—  Baruch Spinoza Dutch philosopher 1632 - 1677

Letter 56 (60), to Hugo Boxel (1674) http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1711&chapter=144218&layout=html&Itemid=27
Source: The Letters
Context: When you say that if I deny, that the operations of seeing, hearing, attending, wishing, &c., can be ascribed to God, or that they exist in him in any eminent fashion, you do not know what sort of God mine is; I suspect that you believe there is no greater perfection than such as can be explained by the aforesaid attributes. I am not astonished; for I believe that, if a triangle could speak, it would say, in like manner, that God is eminently triangular, while a circle would say that the divine nature is eminently circular. Thus each would ascribe to God its own attributes, would assume itself to be like God, and look on everything else as ill-shaped.
The briefness of a letter and want of time do not allow me to enter into my opinion on the divine nature, or the questions you have propounded. Besides, suggesting difficulties is not the same as producing reasons. That we do many things in the world from conjecture is true, but that our redactions are based on conjecture is false. In practical life we are compelled to follow what is most probable; in speculative thought we are compelled to follow truth. A man would perish of hunger and thirst, if he refused to eat or drink, till he had obtained positive proof that food and drink would be good for him. But in philosophic reflection this is not so. On the contrary, we must take care not to admit as true anything, which is only probable. For when one falsity has been let in, infinite others follow.
Again, we cannot infer that because sciences of things divine and human are full of controversies and quarrels, therefore their whole subject-matter is uncertain; for there have been many persons so enamoured of contradiction, as to turn into ridicule geometrical axioms.

Carl Bernstein photo

„The reality is that the media are probably the most powerful of all our institutions today and they, or rather we [journalists], too often are squandering our power and ignoring our obligations. The consequence of our abdication of responsibility is the ugly spectacle of idiot culture!“

—  Carl Bernstein American journalist 1944

The best obtainable version of the truth http://www.riasberlin.de/rcom-pubs/rcus-pubs-news4-98.html, Carl Bernstein's talk at the annual convention of the Radio and Television News Directors Association, 1998-09-26.

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James Madison photo

„To reconcile the gentleman with himself, it must be imagined that he determined the human character by the points of the compass. The truth was, that all men having power ought to be distrusted, to a certain degree.“

—  James Madison 4th president of the United States (1809 to 1817) 1751 - 1836

Madison's notes (11 July 1787) http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_711.asp<!-- Reports of Debates in the Federal Convention (11 July 1787), in The Papers of James Madison (1842), Vol. II, p. 1073 -->
Variants:
1780s, The Debates in the Federal Convention (1787)
Context: Two objections had been raised against leaving the adjustment of the representation, from time to time, to the discretion of the Legislature. The first was, they would be unwilling to revise it at all. The second, that, by referring to wealth, they would be bound by a rule which, if willing, they would be unable to execute. The first objection distrusts their fidelity. But if their duty, their honor, and their oaths, will not bind them, let us not put into their hands our liberty, and all our other great interests; let us have no government at all. In the second place, if these ties will bind them we need not distrust the practicability of the rule. It was followed in part by the Committee in the apportionment of Representatives yesterday reported to the House. The best course that could be taken would be to leave the interests of the people to the representatives of the people.
Mr. Madison was not a little surprised to hear this implicit confidence urged by a member who, on all occasions, had inculcated so strongly the political depravity of men, and the necessity of checking one vice and interest by opposing to them another vice and interest. If the representatives of the people would be bound by the ties he had mentioned, what need was there of a Senate? What of a revisionary power? But his reasoning was not only inconsistent with his former reasoning, but with itself. At the same time that he recommended this implicit confidence to the Southern States in the Northern majority, he was still more zealous in exhorting all to a jealousy of a western majority. To reconcile the gentleman with himself, it must be imagined that he determined the human character by the points of the compass. The truth was, that all men having power ought to be distrusted, to a certain degree. The case of Pennsylvania had been mentioned, where it was admitted that those who were possessed of the power in the original settlement never admitted the new settlements to a due share of it. England was a still more striking example.

James Mill photo

„This habit of forming opinions, and acting upon them without evidence, is one of the most immoral habits of the mind. … As our opinions are the fathers of our actions, to be indifferent about the evidence of our opinions is to be indifferent about the consequences of our actions.“

—  James Mill Scottish historian, economist, political theorist and philosopher 1773 - 1836

The Westminster Review, vol. 6 (1826), p. 13
Context: This habit of forming opinions, and acting upon them without evidence, is one of the most immoral habits of the mind.... As our opinions are the fathers of our actions, to be indifferent about the evidence of our opinions is to be indifferent about the consequences of our actions. But the consequences of our actions are the good and evil of our fellow-creatures. The habit of the neglect of evidence, therefore, is the habit of disregarding the good and evil of our fellow-creatures.

William Stanley Jevons photo
Jacob Bernoulli photo
John P. Kotter photo

„One of the most powerful forms of information is feedback on our own actions.“

—  John P. Kotter author of The heart of Change 1947

Step 5, p. 116
The Heart of Change, (2002)

Samuel Butler photo
Samuel Taylor Coleridge photo
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Sadhguru photo

„Our life energies are the most basic and the most powerful aspect of human beings.“

—  Sadhguru Yogi, mystic, visionary and humanitarian 1957

Though most people are unaware of it, whichever way our energies play, that’s the way our bodies and our minds and our emotions play. So, once we get the energies—the fundamentals—moving in one direction, we can make sure that our bodies, emotions, and minds are also moving in that direction. -Sadhguru
Isha Insights Magazine, Spring Edition 2009
Sourced from newspapers and magazines

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Albert Einstein photo

„The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life.“

—  Albert Einstein German-born physicist and founder of the theory of relativity 1879 - 1955

Letter to the minister of a church in Brooklyn (20 November 1950), p. 95. The minister had earlier written Einstein asking if he would send him a signed version of a quote about the Catholic church attributed to Einstein in Time magazine (see the "Misattributed" section below), and Einstein had written back to say the quote was not correct, but that he was "gladly willing to write something else which would suit your purpose". According to the book, the minister replied "saying he was glad the statement had not been correct since he too had reservations about the historical role of the Church at large", and said that "he would leave the decision to Einstein as to the topic of the statement", to which Einstein replied with the statement above.
Attributed in posthumous publications
Context: The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life. To make this a living force and bring it to clear consciousness is perhaps the foremost task of education. The foundation of morality should not be made dependent on myth nor tied to any authority lest doubt about the myth or about the legitimacy of the authority imperil the foundation of sound judgment and action.

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H.L. Mencken photo
André Gide photo

„Most often people seek in life occasions for persisting in their opinions rather than for educating themselves.“

—  André Gide French novelist and essayist 1869 - 1951

“An Unprejudiced Mind,” p. 311
Pretexts: Reflections on Literature and Morality (1964)

Robert McKee photo

„Most of life's actions are within our reach, but decisions take willpower.“

—  Robert McKee American academic specialised in seminars for screenwriters 1941

Source: Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

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