lack or failure of wisdom
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Foolishness is the lack of wisdom. In this sense it differs from stupidity, which is the lack of intelligence. An act of foolishness is sometimes referred to as a folly, and people who do it a lot may be called Fools.

Rarely do we arrive at the summit of truth without running into extremes; we have frequently to exhaust the part of error, and even of folly, before we work our way up to the noble goal of tranquil wisdom. ~ Friedrich Schiller
If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise. ~ William Blake

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  • FOLLY, n. That "gift and faculty divine" whose creative and controlling energy inspires Man's mind, guides his actions and adorns his life.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
  • To swallow gudgeons ere they're catch'd,
    And count their chickens ere they're hatch'd.
  • Fools are my theme, let satire be my song.
    • Lord Byron, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809), line 6.
  • A fool who knows his foolishness is wise at least to that extent, but a fool who thinks himself wise is a fool indeed.
  • Though all his life a fool associates with a wise man, he no more comprehends the Truth than a spoon tastes the flavor of the soup.
  • Don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying yes begins things. Saying yes is how things grow. Saying yes leads to knowledge. "Yes" is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say yes.
  • A fool must now and then be right by chance.
  • The solemn fog; significant and budge;
    A fool with judges, amongst fools a judge.
  • Defend me, therefore, common sense, say
    From reveries so airy, from the toil
    Of dropping buckets into empty wells,
    And growing old in drawing nothing up.
  • The right to be a cussed fool
    Is safe from all devices human,
    It's common (ez a gin'l rule)
    To every critter born of woman.
  • The philosophies of one age have become the absurdities of the next, and the foolishness of yesterday has become the wisdom of tomorrow.
    • William Osler, address to the Canadian Medical Association, Montreal (17 September 1902); published in The Montreal Medical Journal, Vol. XXXI (1902).
  • The rest on outside merit but presume,
    Or serve (like other fools) to fill a room.
  • So by false learning is good sense defac'd;
    Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools,
    And some made coxcombs Nature meant but fools.
  • The fool is happy that he knows no more.
  • Whether the charmer sinner it, or saint it,
    If folly grow romantic, I must paint it.
  • Die and endow a college or a cat.
    • Alexander Pope, Moral Essays (1731-35), Epistle III. To Bathurst, line 96.
  • A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.
    • Proverbs 17:25, King James Version
  • And when it is said to them, "Believe as the people have believed," they say, "Should we believe as the foolish have believed?" Unquestionably, it is they who are the foolish, but they know (it) not.
  • Rarely do we arrive at the summit of truth without running into extremes; we have frequently to exhaust the part of error, and even of folly, before we work our way up to the noble goal of tranquil wisdom.
  • A fool, a fool! I met a fool i' the forest,
    A motley fool; a miserable world!
    As I do live by food, I met a fool;
    Who laid him down and bask'd him in the sun.
  • I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad: and to travel for it too!
  • Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool nowhere but in 's own house.
  • Well, thus we play the fools with the time, and the spirits of the wise sit in the clouds and mock us.
  • The fool hath planted in his memory
    An army of good words; and I do know
    A many fools, that stand in better place,
    Garnish'd like him, that for a tricksy word
    Defy the matter.
  • This fellow is wise enough to play the fool;
    And to do that well craves a kind of wit.
  • Marry, sir, they praise me and make an ass of me; now my foes tell me plainly I am an ass; so that by my foes, sir, I profit in the knowledge of myself.
  • For take thy ballaunce if thou be so wise,
    And weigh the winde that under heaven doth blow;
    Or weigh the light that in the east doth rise;
    Or weigh the thought that from man's mind doth flow.
    • Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene (1589-96), Book V, Canto II, Stanza 43.
  • Be wise with speed;
    A fool at forty is a fool indeed.
  • At thirty man suspects himself a fool;
    Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night I, line 417.
  • To climb life's worn, heavy wheel
    Which draws up nothing new.
  • Men may live fools, but fools they cannot die.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night IV. Last line.
  • We bleed, we tremble; we forget, we smile—
    The mind turns fool, before the cheek is dry.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night V, line 511.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 283-85.
  • The folly of one man is the fortune of another.
  • Un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui l'admire.
  • Folly loves the martyrdom of Fame.
    • Lord Byron, Monody on the Death of the Right Hon. R. B. Sheridan, line 68.
  • Mas acompañados y paniguados debe di tener la locura que la discrecion.
  • Young men think old men are fools; but old men know young men are fools.
  • Les plus courtes folies sont les meilleures.
    • The shortest follies are the best.
    • Pierre Charron, Las Sagesse, Book I, Chapter 3.
  • Stultorum plena sunt omnia.
    • All places are filled with fools.
    • Cicero, Epistles, IX. 22.
  • Culpa enim illa, bis ad eundem, vulgari reprehensa proverbio est.
    • To stumble twice against the same stone, is a proverbial disgrace.
    • Cicero, Epistles, X. 20.
  • Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain't that a big enough majority in any town?
  • L'exactitude est le sublime des sots.
    • Exactness is the sublimity of fools.
    • Attributed to Fontenelle, who disclaimed it.
  • A rational reaction against irrational excesses and vagaries of skepticism may * * * readily degenerate into the rival folly of credulity.
  • He is a fool
    Who only sees the mischiefs that are past.
    • Homer, The Iliad, Book XVII, line 39. Bryant's translation.
  • Stultorum incurata malus pudor ulcera celat.
    • The shame of fools conceals their open wounds.
    • Horace, Epistles, I. 16. 24.
  • Adde cruorem
    Stultitiæ, atque ignem gladio scrutare.
    • To your folly add bloodshed, and stir the fire with the sword.
    • Horace, Satires, II. 3. 275.
  • A man may be as much a fool from the want of sensibility as the want of sense.
  • Fears of the brave and follies of the wise.
  • Un fat celui que les sots croient un homme de mérite.
    • A fool is one whom simpletons believe to be a man of merit.
    • Jean de La Bruyère, Les Caractères, XII.
  • Hélas! on voit que de tout temps
    Les Petits ont pâti des sottises des grands.
    • Alas! we see that the small have always suffered for the follies of the great.
    • Jean de La Fontaine, Fables, II. 4.
  • Ce livre n'est pas long, on le voit en une heure;
    La plus courte folie est toujours la meilleure.
    • This book is not long, one may run over it in an hour; the shortest folly is always the best.
    • La Girandière, Le Recueil des Voyeux Epigrammes.
  • Qui vit sans folie n'est pas si sage qu'il croit.
  • A fool! a fool! my coxcomb for a fool!
  • I have play'd the fool, the gross fool, to believe
    The bosom of a friend will hold a secret
    Mine own could not contain.
  • Young men think old men fools, and old men know young men to be so.
    • Quoted by Camden as a saying of Dr. Metcalf.
  • Quantum est in rebus inane!
    How much folly there is in human affairs.
  • An old doting fool, with one foot already in the grave.
    • Plutarch, Morals, On the Training of Children.
  • No creature smarts so little as a fool.
  • Leave such to trifle with more grace and ease,
    Whom Folly pleases, and whose Follies please.
  • Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise.
    • Proverbs, XVII. 28.
  • Every fool will be meddling.
    • Proverbs, XX. 3.
  • Answer a fool according to his folly.
    • Proverbs, XXVI. 5.
  • Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.
    • Proverbs, XXVII. 22.
  • The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
    • Psalms, XIV. 1; LIII. 1.
  • Qui stultis videri eruditi volunt, stulti eruditis videntur.
    • Those who wish to appear wise among fools, among the wise seem foolish.
    • Quintilian, X. 7. 22.
  • After a man has sown his wild oats in the years of his youth, he has still every year to get over a few weeks and days of folly.
  • Stultus est qui fructus magnarum arborum spectat, altitudinem non metitur.
    • He is a fool who looks at the fruit of lofty trees, but does not measure their height.
    • Quintus Curtius Rufus, De Rebus Gestis Alexandri Magni, VII, 8.
  • Insipientis est dicere, Non putaram.
    • It is the part of a fool to say, I should not have thought.
    • Scipio Africanus. See Cicero, De Off, XXIII. 81. Valerius, Book VII. 2. 2.
  • Where lives the man that has not tried,
    How mirth can into folly glide,
    And folly into sin!
  • Inter cætera mala hoc quoque habet
    Stultitia semper incipit vivere.
    • Among other evils folly has also this, that it is always beginning to live.
    • Seneca the Younger, Epistolæ Ad Lucilium, 13.
  • 'Tis not by guilt the onward sweep
    Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
    'Tis by our follies that so long
    We hold the earth from heaven away.
  • He has spent all his life in letting down empty buckets into empty wells, and he is frittering away his age in trying to draw them up again.
  • He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw, inclement summers.
    • Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, Part III, Chapter V. Voyage to Laputa.
  • Chi conta i colpi e la dovuta offesa,
    Mentr' arde la tenzon, misura e pesa?
    • A fool is he that comes to preach or prate,
      When men with swords their right and wrong debate.
    • Torquato Tasso, Gerusalemme, V. 57.
  • Qui se croit sage, ô ciel! est un grand fou.
    • He who thinks himself wise, O heavens! is a great fool.
    • Voltaire, Le Droit du Seigneur, IV. 1.
  • The greatest men
    May ask a foolish question, now and then.

See also

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