A thirsty ambition for truth and virtue, and a frenzy to conquer all lies and vices which are not recognized as such nor desire to be; herein consists the heroic spirit of the philosopher. ~ Johann Georg Hamann
It is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards. ~ Søren Kierkegaard
Philosophy ... molds and constructs the soul; it orders our life, guides our conduct, shows us what we should do and what we should leave undone; it sits at the helm and directs our course as we waver amid uncertainties. ~ Seneca
As long as your love is true and the wisdom true which you love, you shall be a true philosopher. ~ Petrarch
Do not commence your exercises in philosophy in those regions where an error can deliver you over to the executioner. ~ Georg Lichtenberg

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument. The word "philosophy" comes from the Ancient Greek (philosophia), which literally means "love of wisdom".

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The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it. ~ Karl Marx
"Philosophy" is a word which has been used in many ways, some wider, some narrower. I propose to use it in a very wide sense, which I will now try to explain. ~ Bertrand Russell
A man becomes a philosopher by reason of a certain perplexity, from which he seeks to free himself. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer


  • Philosophy that satisfies its own intention, and does not childishly skip behind its own history and the real one, has its lifeblood in the resistance against the common practices of today and what they serve, against the justification of what happens to be the case.
    • Theodor Adorno, “Why still philosophy?” Critical Models (1998), p. 6.
  • If philosophy is still necessary, it is so only in the way it has been from time immemorial: as critique, as resistance to the expanding heteronomy, even if only as thought’s powerless attempt to remain its own master and to convict of untruth, by their own criteria, both a fabricated mythology and a conniving, resigned acquiescence.
    • Theodor Adorno, “Why still philosophy?” Critical Models (1998), p. 10.
  • Like every 'intellectual', a philosophy teacher is a petty bourgeois. When he opens his mouth, it is petty-bourgeois ideology that speaks: its resources and ruses are infinite.
  • Therefore, the seeker after the truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them, but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration, and not to the sayings of a human being whose nature is fraught with all kinds of imperfection and deficiency. Thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and, applying his mind to the core and margins of its content, attack it from every side. He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency.
    • Alhazen,“Muslim Journeys.” Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2013.
  • (Philosophy is)
  1. To give a speculative, systematic, complete view of reality;
  2. To describe the ultimate, real, nature of reality;
  3. To determine the limits, scope, source, nature, validity, and value, of knowledge;
  4. The critical inquiry regarding the presuppositions, and claims, made by the different fields of knowledge; and
  5. A discipline to get you to "see" what you say and say what you "see."
  • Peter A. Angeles (1981) Dictionary to Philosophy New York: Barnes & Noble Books, p. 211.
  • Angeles gave six distinct aspects of philosophy. First he notes that the meanings of philosophy are as diverse as philosophers are. Then he gave his subsequent list of five "basic definitions" of "attempts".
  • An art, which has an aim to achieve the beauty, is called a philosophy or in the absolute sense it is named wisdom.
    • Alpharabius, “Philosophy” Alpharabius. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2013.
  • Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned.
    • Anonymous; quoted in Dennett, Daniel C. (2006). Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (1st ed.). Viking Penguin. pp. p. 17. ISBN 0-670-03472-X. .
  • If ... the ability to tell right from wrong should turn out to have anything to do with the ability to think, then we must be able to "demand" its exercise from every sane person, no matter how erudite or ignorant, intelligent or stupid, he may happen to be. Kant—in this respect almost alone among the philosophers—was much bothered by the common opinion that philosophy is only for the few, precisely because of its moral implications.
  • Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today — but the core of science fiction, its essence, the concept around which it revolves, has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.
    • Isaac Asimov, in "My Own View" in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1978) edited by Robert Holdstock; later published in Asimov on Science Fiction (1981)
  • The philosopher is not someone who has thought instead of us but rather someone who makes us think.


  • A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.
    • Francis Bacon, Essays, Atheism. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • Philosophy only is the true one which reproduces most faithfully the statements of nature, and is written down, as it were, from nature's dictation, so that it is nothing but a copy and a reflection of nature, and adds nothing of its own, but is merely a repetition and echo.
  • Philosophy, being nothing but the study of wisdom and truth...
    • George Berkeley A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, Introduction, §1'
Philosophy, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.
  • The philosopher wants to know things as they are. He loves the truth. That is an intellectual virtue. He does not love to tell the truth. That is a moral virtue. Presumably he would prefer not to practice deception; but if it is a condition of his survival, he has no objection to it. The hopes of changing mankind almost always end up in changing not mankind but one’s thought.
    • Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: 1988), p. 279.
  • Art shows how it loves, philosophy what it loves; mysticism knows only that it loves.
    • Constantin Brunner, Our Christ.
  • Believe nothing, O monks, merely because you have been told it … or because it is traditional, or because you yourselves have imagined it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings—that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide.
  • Sublime Philosophy!
    Thou art the patriarch’s ladder, reaching heaven;
    And bright with beckoning angels—but alas!
    We see thee, like the patriarch, but in dreams,
    By the first step, dull slumbering on the earth.
    • Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Richelieu (1839), Act III, scene 1, line 4. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • Beside, he was a shrewd philosopher,
    And had read ev’ry text and gloss over
    Whate’er the crabbed’st author hath,
    He understood b’ implicit faith.
    • Samuel Butler, Hudibras, Part I (1663-64), Canto I, line 127. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.


  • Before Philosophy can teach by Experience, the Philosophy has to be in readiness, the Experience must be gathered and intelligibly recorded.
    • Thomas Carlyle, Essays, On History. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest — whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories — comes afterward. These are games; one must first answer.
  • Albert Camus The Myth of Sisyphus (1942).
  • O vitæ philosophia dux! O virtutis indagatrix, expultrixque vitiorum! Quid non modo nos, sed omnino vita hominum sine et esse potuisset? Tu urbes peperisti; tu dissipatos homines in societatum vitæ convocasti.
    • O philosophy, life’s guide! O searcher-out of virtue and expeller of vices! What could we and every age of men have been without thee? Thou hast produced cities; thou hast called men scattered about into the social enjoyment of life.
    • Cicero, Tusc. Quæst, Book V. 2. 5. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • The name philosopher, which meant originally 'lover of wisdom,' has come in some strange way to mean a man who thinks it is his business to explain everything in a certain number of large books. It will be found, I think, that in proportion to his colossal ignorance is the perfection and symmetry of the system which he sets up; because it is so much easier to put an empty room tidy than a full one.
  • In philosophy equally as in poetry it is the highest and most useful prerogative of genius to produce the strongest impressions of novelty, while it rescues admitted truths from the neglect caused by the very circumstance of their universal admission.


  • There exists a definite misunderstanding between scientists and philosophers; a misunderstanding which might easily have been avoided had philosophers possessed a proper realisation of their inevitable limitations when discussing scientific matters.
  • The history of philosophy has always been the agent of power in philosophy, and even in thought. It has played the represser’s role: how can you think without having read Plato, Descartes, Kant and Heidegger, and so-and-so’s book about them? A formidable school of intimidation which manufactures specialists in thought—but which also makes those who stay outside conform all the more to this specialism which they despise. An image of thought called philosophy has been formed historically and it effectively stops people from thinking.
    • Gilles Deleuze, Dialogues II, as translated by H. Tomlinson and B. Habberjam (2002), p. 13
  • The first step towards philosophy is incredulity.
    • Denis Diderot, Last Conversation. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.


  • The only justification for our concepts and system of concepts is that they serve to represent the complex of our experiences; beyond this they have no legitimacy. I am convinced that the philosophers have had a harmful effect upon the progress of scientific thinking in removing certain fundamental concepts from the domain of empiricism, where they are under our control, to the intangible heights of the a priori. For even if it should appear that the universe of ideas cannot be deduced from experience by logical means, but is, in a sense, a creation of the human mind, without which no science is possible, nevertheless this universe of ideas is just as little independent of the nature of our experiences as clothes are of the form of the human body. This is particularly true of our concepts of time and space, which physicists have been obliged by the facts to bring down from the Olympus of the a priori in order to adjust them and put them in a servicable condition.
  • Ask me if you choose if a Cynic shall engage in the administration of the State. O fool, seek you a nobler administration that that in which he is engaged? Ask you if a man shall come forward in the Athenian assembly and talk about revenue and supplies, when his business is to converse with all men, Athenians, Corinthians, and Romans alike, not about supplies, not about revenue, nor yet peace and war, but about Happiness and Misery, Prosperity and Adversity, Slavery and Freedom? Ask you whether a man shall engage in the administration of the State who has engaged in such an Administration as this? Ask me too if he shall govern; and again I will answer, Fool, what greater government shall he hold than he holds already?
  • The Beginning of Philosophy is a Consciousness of your own Weakness and inability in necessary things.
    • Epictetus, Discourses, Book II. Ch, XI. St. 1. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.


  • When I arrived at college, I immediately took philosophy... Nothing was ever answered. I decided that "Why" questions are simply too deep to be answered with a frontal attack, using the sloppy weapon of human language.
    • J. Doyne Farmer, The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution ed. John Brockman (1995).
  • To theology, … only what it holds sacred is true, whereas to philosophy, only what holds true is sacred.
    • Ludwig Feuerbach, Lectures on the Essence of Religion, R. Manheim, trans. (1967), Lecture 2, p. 11.
  • Philosophy goes no further than probabilities, and in every assertion keeps a doubt in reserve.
    • James Anthony Froude, Short Studies on Great Subjects, Calvinism. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • There is hardly a philosophy which has not invoked something like the will or desire to know, the love of truth, etcetera. But, in truth, very few philosophers—apart, perhaps, from Spinoza and Schopenhauer—have accorded it more than a marginal status; as if there was no need for philosophy to say first of all what the name that it bears actually refers to. As if placing at the head of its discourse the desire to know, which it repeats in its name, was enough to justify its own existence and show—at a stroke—that it is necessary and natural: All men desire to know. Who, then, is not a philosopher, and how could philosophy not be the most necessary thing in the world?


  • Many philosophers and many departments simply ignore arguments for greater diversity; others respond with arguments for Eurocentrism that we and many others have refuted elsewhere. The profession as a whole remains resolutely Eurocentric. It therefore seems futile to rehearse arguments for greater diversity one more time, however compelling we find them.

    Instead, we ask those who sincerely believe that it does make sense to organize our discipline entirely around European and American figures and texts to pursue this agenda with honesty and openness. We therefore suggest that any department that regularly offers courses only on Western philosophy should rename itself “Department of European and American Philosophy.”

    • Jay L. Garfield and Bryan W. Van Norden, "If Philosophy Won’t Diversify, Let’s Call It What It Really Is," New York Times editorial, May 11, 2016
  • A cleric who loses his faith abandons his calling; a philosopher who loses his redefines his subject.
  • Philosophy is explicitness, generality, orientation and assessment. That of which one would insinuate, thereof one must speak.
  • This same philosophy is a good horse in the stable, but an arrant jade on a journey.
    • Oliver Goldsmith, The Good-Natured Man, Act I. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • The true philosophy is rhetoric, and the true rhetoric is philosophy, a philosophy which does not need an “external” rhetoric to convince, and a rhetoric that does not need an “external” content of verity.


  • We may get some idea of the change in perspective that may occur in our reading and interpretation of the philosophical works of antiquity when we consider them from the point of view of the practice of spiritual exercises. Philosophy then appears in its original aspect: not as a theoretical construct, but as a method for training people to live and to look at the world in a new way. It is an attempt to transform mankind. Contemporary historians of philosophy are today scarcely inclined to pay attention to this aspect, although it is an essential one. The reason for this is that, in conformity with a tradition inherited from the Middle Ages … they consider philosophy to be purely abstract-theoretical activity.
    • Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, trans. Michael Chase (1995), p. 107.
  • With the advent of medieval Scholasticism, … we find a clear distinction between theologia and philosophia. Theology became conscious of its autonomy qua supreme science, which philosophy was emptied of its spiritual exercises, which, from now on, were relegated to Christian mysticism and ethics. Reduced to the rank of a “handmaid of theology,” philosophy’s role was henceforth to furnish theology with conceptual—and hence purely theoretical—material. When, in the modern age, philosophy regained its autonomy, it still retained many features inherited from this medieval conception. In particular, it maintained its purely theoretical character, which even evolved in the direction of a more and more thorough systemization. Not until Nietzsche, Bergson, and existentialism does philosophy consciously return to being a concrete attitude, a way of life and of seeing the world.
    • Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, trans. Michael Chase (1995), p. 107.
  • A thirsty ambition for truth and virtue, and a frenzy to conquer all lies and vices which are not recognized as such nor desire to be; herein consists the heroic spirit of the philosopher.
  • "'You only think you are barnpots,' shouted angry farmers from the meadows. 'Shut that row up! You're frightening the chickens, you lot and your bloody philosophy. You can't eat philosophy can you? Where would you be if us farmers went round spouting statements like that, eh? Dead, that's where you'd be! Because there'd be naff all to eat!"
  • Philosophy is not the owl of Minerva that takes flight after history has been realized in order to celebrate its happy ending; rather, philosophy is subjective proposition, desire, and praxis that are applied to the event.
  • Philosophy is that which grasps its own era in thought.
    • Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Rights; 1821.
  • Making itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy.
  • In many places, above all in the Anglo-Saxon countries, logistics is today considered the only possible form of strict philosophy, because its result and procedures yield an assured profit for the construction of the technological universe. In America and elsewhere, logistics as the only proper philosophy of the future is thus beginning today to seize power over the intellectual world.
    • Martin Heidegger, What is Called Thinking, J. Glenn Gray, trans. (New York: Harper, 1968), p. 21.
  • I found a certain Boldness of Temper, growing in me, which was not enclin'd to submit to any Authority in these Subjects, but led me to seek out some new Medium, by which Truth might be establisht. After much Study, & Reflection on this, at last, when I was about 18 Years of Age, there seem'd to be open'd up to me a new Scene of Thought, which transported me beyond Measure, & made me, with an Ardor natural to young men, throw up every other Pleasure or Business to apply entirely to it.
    • David Hume, “A kind of history of my life” (1734).


  • Pythagoras is said to have been the first to call himself a philosopher, a word which heretofore had not been an appellation, but a description. He likened the entrance of men into the present life to the progression of a crowd to some public spectacle. There assemble men of all descriptions and views. One hastens to sell his wares for money and gain; another exhibits his bodily strength for renown; but the most liberal assemble to observe the landscape, the beautiful works of art, the specimens of valor, and the customary literary productions. So also in the present life men of manifold pursuits are assembled. Some are incensed by the desire of riches and luxury; others by the love of power and dominion, or by insane ambition for glory. But the purest and most genuine character is that of the man who devotes himself to the contemplation of the most beautiful things; and he may properly be called a philosopher.


  • Pretend what we may, the whole man within us is at work when we form our philosophical opinions. Intellect, will, taste, and passion co-operate just as they do in practical affairs; and lucky it is if the passion be not something as petty as a love of personal conquest over the philosopher across the way.
  • The Greek word for philosopher (philosophos) connotes a distinction from sophos. It signifies the lover of wisdom (knowledge) as distinguished from him who considers himself wise in the possession of knowledge. This meaning of the word still endures: the essence of philosophy is not the possession of the truth but the search for truth. … Philosophy means to be on the way. Its questions are more essential than its answers, and every answer becomes a new question.
    • Karl Jaspers, Way to Wisdom, R. Mannheim, trans. (New Haven: 1951), p. 12.
  • To philosophise is to learn to die – philosophising is a soaring up to the Godhead – the knowledge of Being as Being.
    • Karl Jaspers, "Philosophy and Science", World Review Magazine (March 1950).
  • Physics and philosophy are at most a few thousand years old, but probably have lives of thousands of millions of years stretching away in front of them. They are only just beginning to get under way.
  • Born and nurtured when the human being first asked questions about the reason for things and their purpose, philosophy shows in different modes and forms that the desire for truth is part of human nature itself.
  • Too much philosophy makes men mad.


  • Philosophy is life's dry-nurse, who can take care of us -- but not suckle us.
  • It is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards.
  • The spheres with which philosophy properly has to deal, the spheres proper to thought, are logic, nature, and history. Here necessity rules and therefore mediation has its validity. That this is true of logic and nature, no one will deny, but with history there is a difficulty, for here, it is said, freedom prevails. But I think that history is incorrectly interpreted and that the difficulty arises from the following: History, namely, is more than a product of the free actions of free individuals. The individual acts, but his action enters into the order of things that maintains the whole of existence. What is going to come of his action, one who acts does not really know. But this higher order of things that digests, so to speak, the free actions and works them together in its eternal laws is necessity, and this necessity is the movement of world history; it is therefore quite proper for philosophy to use mediation-that is, relative mediation. If I am contemplating a world-historical individuality, I can then distinguish between the deeds of which Scripture says “they follow him” and the deeds by which he belongs to history. Philosophy has nothing to do with what could be called the inner deed, but the inner deed is the true life of freedom. Philosophy considers the external deed, yet in turn it does not see this as isolated but sees it as assimilated into and transformed in the world-historical process. This process is the proper subject for philosophy and it considers this under the category of necessity. Therefore it reject the reflection that wants to point out that everything could be otherwise; it views world-history in such a way that there is no question of an either/or.


  • Philosophy, like charity, begins at home ; but also, like charity, I should wish it to extend, and become the more beneficial the more it expands.
  • Do not commence your exercises in philosophy in those regions where an error can deliver you over to the executioner.


  • The philosopher … subjects experience to his critical judgment, and this contains a value judgment—namely, that freedom from toil is preferable to toil, and an intelligent life is preferable to a stupid life. It so happened that philosophy was born with these values. Scientific thought had to break this union of value judgment and analysis, for it became increasingly clear that the philosophic values did not guide the organisation of society.
  • Philosophy is the science by which the natural light of reason studies the first causes or highest principles of all things – is, in other words, the science of things in their first causes, in so far as these belong to the natural order.
  • Philosophy is an interpretation of the world in order to change it.
    • Karl Marx cited in: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry by Jonathan Wolff
  • The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.
  • Philosophy stands in the same relation to the study of the actual world as masturbation to sexual love.
    • Karl Marx, The German Ideology, International Publishers, ed. Chris Arthur, p. 103.
  • What makes a philosopher is the movement which leads back without ceasing from knowledge to ignorance, from ignorance to knowledge, and a kind of rest in this movement.
  • Theology recognizes the contingency of human existence only to derive it from a necessary being, that is, to remove it. Theology makes use of philosophical wonder only for the purpose of motivating an affirmation which ends it. Philosophy, on the other hand, arouses us to what is problematic in our own existence and in that of the world, to such a point that we shall never be cured of searching for a solution.
  • How charming is divine philosophy!
    Not harsh, and crabbed, as dull fools suppose,
    But musical as is Apollo’s lute,
    And a perpetual feast of nectar’d sweets,
    Where no crude surfeit reigns.
    • John Milton, Mask of Comus, line 476. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • That stone,
    Philosophers in vain so long have sought.
    • John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667; 1674), Book III, line 600. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • Learning philosophy is learning a particular kind of intuitive understanding.


  • The main concern of philosophy is to question and understand very common ideas that all of us use every day without thinking about them. A historian may ask what happened at some time in the past, but a philosopher will ask, "What is time?" A mathematician may investigate the relations among numbers, but a philosopher will ask, "What is a number?" A physicist will ask what atoms are made of or what explains gravity, but a philosopher will ask how we can know there is anything outside of our own minds. A psychologist may investigate how children learn a language, but a philosopher will ask, "What makes a word mean anything?" Anyone can ask whether it's wrong to sneak into a movie without paying, but a philosopher will ask, "What makes an action right or wrong?"
    • Thomas Nagel, What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy (1987), 1. Introduction
  • For the best and safest method of philosophizing seems to be, first diligently to investigate the properties of things and establish them by experiment, and then later seek hypotheses to explain them. For hypotheses ought to be fitted merely to explain the properties of things and not to predetermine them [the hypotheses] except so far as they can be an aid to experiments. If any one offers conjectures about the truth of things from the mere possibility of hypotheses, I do not see how anything certain can be determined in any science; for it is always possible to contrive hypotheses, one after another, which are found rich in new tribulations. Wherefore I judged that one should abstain from considering hypotheses as from a fallacious argument, and that the force of their argument must be removed, that one may arrive at a maturer and more general explanation.
    • Isaac Newton, Letter to Oldenburg (June 2, 1972) Isaaci Newtoni Opera (1782) vol. 4, pp. 314-315 as quoted in Appendix, Sir Isaac Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World (1934) Tr. Andrew Motte, Explanatory Appendix by Florian Cajori
  • Jetzt wage ich es, der Weisheit selber nachzugehen und selber Philosoph zu sein; früher verehrte ich die Philosophen.
    • Now I dare to pursue wisdom itself and to be myself a philosopher; formerly I worshipped the philosophers.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Letter to Karl Fuchs, June 1878, cited in Karl Jaspers, Nietzsche (Baltimore: 1997), p. 46.
  • Where there have been powerful governments, societies, religions, public opinions, in short wherever there has been tyranny, there the solitary philosopher has been hated; for philosophy offers an asylum to a man into which no tyranny can force it way, the inward cave, the labyrinth of the heart.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, trans. Hollingdale, “Schopenhauer as educator,” § 3.3, p. 139
  • [Philosophers] are not honest enough in their work, although they make a lot of virtuous noise when the problem of truthfulness is touched even remotely. They all pose as if they had discovered and reached their real opinions through the self-development of a cold, pure, divinely unconcerned dialectic...; while at bottom it is an assumption, a hunch, indeed a kind of “inspiration”—most often a desire of the heart that has been filtered and made abstract—that they defend with reasons they have sought after the fact.
  • To grasp the limits of reason – only this is truly philosophy.
  • What does a philosopher demand of himself, first and last? To overcome his time in himself, to become “timeless.”
  • Science rushes headlong, without selectivity, without “taste,” at whatever is knowable, in the blind desire to know all at any cost. Philosophical thinking, on the other hand, is ever on the scent of those things which are most worth knowing, the great and the important insights.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, Marianne Cowan trans., p. 43.
  • The possibility of all philosophy ... namely, that the intelligence, by affecting itself, gives itself a movement in accordance with its own law—that is, gives itself a form of activity all its own.
    • Novalis, Schriften, p. 63, as translated in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings: Volume 1, 1913-1926 (1996), p. 133.
  • Philosophy can bake no bread; but she can procure for us God, Freedom, Immortality. Which, then, is more practical, Philosophy or Economy?


  • Se moquer de la philosophie c’est vraiment philosophe.
    • To ridicule philosophy is truly philosophical.
    • Blaise Pascal, Pensées (1669), Article VII. 35. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • Philosophia non sapientiam, sed amorem sapientie pollicetur.
  • Modo verus amor sit et vera quam ames sapientia, philosophus verus eris.
    • As long as your love is true and the wisdom true which you love, you shall be a true philosopher.
  • Philosophy is the acquisition of knowledge.
    • Plato, Euthydemus, 288d.
  • ...for wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.
  • Those who belong to this small class have tasted how sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is, and have also seen and been satisfied of the madness of the multitude, and known that there is no one who ever acts honestly in the administration of States, nor any helper who will save any one who maintains the cause of the just. Such a saviour would be like a man who has fallen among wild beasts—unable to join in the wickedness of his fellows, neither would he be able alone to resist all their fierce natures, and therefore he would be of no use to the State or to his friends, and would have to throw away his life before he had done any good to himself or others. And he reflects upon all this, and holds his peace, and does his own business. He is like one who retires under the shelter of a wall in the storm of dust and sleet which the driving wind hurries along; and when he sees the rest of mankind full of wickedness, he is content if only he can live his own life and be pure from evil or unrighteousness, and depart in peace and good will, with bright hopes.
    • Plato, The Republic, 496d.
  • The permanent mental attitude which the sensitive intelligence derives from philosophy is an attitude that combines extreme reverence with limitless skepticism.


  • Most definitions of philosophy are fairly controversial, particularly if they aim to be at all interesting or profound. That is partly because what has been called philosophy has changed radically in scope in the course of history, with many inquiries that were originally part of it having detached themselves from it. The shortest definition, and it is quite a good one, is that philosophy is thinking about thinking. That brings out the generally second-order character of the subject, as reflective thought about particular kinds of thinking — formation of beliefs, claims to knowledge — about the world or large parts of it.
    A more detailed, but still uncontroversial comprehensive, definition is that philosophy is rationally critical thinking, of a more or less systematic kind about the general nature of the world (metaphysics or theory of existence), the justification of belief (epistemology or theory of knowledge), and and the conduct of life (ethics or theory of value). Each of these three elements...
    • Anthony Quinton (b. 1925-) published in: Ted Honderich ed (1995) The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press.


  • In order to live, man must act; in order to act, he must make choices; in order to make choices, he must define a code of values; in order to define a code of values, he must know what he is and where he is – i.e. he must know his own nature (including his means of knowledge) and the nature of the universe in which he acts – i.e. he needs metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, which means: philosophy. He cannot escape from this need; his only alternative is whether the philosophy guiding him is to be chosen by his mind or by chance.
  • Philosophy seems to me on the whole a rather hopeless business.
  • Philosophy, if it cannot answer so many questions as we could wish, has at least the power of asking questions which increase the interest of the world, and show the strangeness and wonder lying just below the surface even in the commonest things of daily life.
  • The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as to seem not worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.
  • Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions, since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation; but above all because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind is also rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good.
  • The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.
  • When people begin to philosophize they seem to think it necessary to make themselves artificially stupid.
  • Philosophy, as I shall understand the word, is something intermediate between theology and science. Like theology, it consists of speculations on matters as to which definite knowledge has, so far, been unascertainable; but like science, it appeals to human reason rather than to authority, whether that of tradition or that of revelation. All definite knowledge—so I should contend—belongs to science; all dogma as to what surpasses definite knowledge belongs to theology. But between theology and science there is a No Man's Land, exposed to attack from both sides; this No Man's Land is philosophy. Almost all the questions of most interest to speculative minds are such as science cannot answer, and the confident answers of theologians no longer seem so convincing as they did in former centuries.
  • Philosophers, for the most part, are constitutionally timid, and dislike the unexpected. Few of them would be genuinely happy as pirates or burglars.
  • Philosophy makes progress not by becoming more rigorous but by becoming more imaginative.
    • Richard Rorty, introduction to Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers, Volume 3 (1998).


  • The philosopher places himself at the summit of thought; from there he views what the world has been and what it must become. He is not just an observer, he is an actor; he is an actor of the highest kind in a moral world because it is his opinion of what the world must become that regulates society.
  • Professional philosophers are usually only apologists: that is, they are absorbed in defending some vested illusion or some eloquent idea. Like lawyers or detectives, they study the case for which they are retained.
    • George Santayana, The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy (1967), pp. 48-49. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • Expect nothing more from philosophy than a voice, language and grammar of the instinct for Godliness that lies at its origin, and, essentially, is philosophy itself.
    • Friedrich Schlegel, “On Philosophy: To Dorothea,” in Theory as Practice (1997), p. 421.
  • Über keinen Gegenstand philosophieren sie seltner als über die Philosophie.
    • About no subject is there less philosophizing than about philosophy.
      • Friedrich Schlegel, “Selected Aphorisms from the Athenaeum (1798)”, Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms, Ernst Behler and Roman Struc, trans. (Pennsylvania University Press:1968) #1.
  • Philosophy always begins in the middle, like an epic poem.
    • Friedrich Schlegel, “Selected Aphorisms from the Athenaeum (1798)”, Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms, Ernst Behler and Roman Struc, trans. (Pennsylvania University Press:1968) #84.
  • Whoever does not philosophize for the sake of philosophy, but rather uses philosophy as a means, is a sophist.
    • Friedrich Schlegel, “Selected Aphorisms from the Athenaeum (1798)”, Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms, Ernst Behler and Roman Struc, trans. (Pennsylvania University Press:1968) #96.
  • University professors, restricted in this way, are quite happy about the matter, for their real concern is to earn with credit an honest livelihood for themselves and also for their wives and children and moreover to enjoy a certain prestige in the eyes of the public. On the other hand, the deeply stirred mind of the real philosopher, whose whole concern in to look for the key to our existence, as mysterious as it is precarious, is regarded by them as something mythological, if indeed the man so affected does not even appear to them to be obsessed by a monomania, should he ever be met with among them. For that a man could really be in dead earnest about philosophy does not as a rule occur to anyone, least of all to a lecturer thereon.
    • Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Philosophy in the Universities,” Parerga and Paralipomena, E. Payne, trans. (1974) Vol. 1, p. 141.
  • To repeat abstractly, universally, and distinctly in concepts the whole inner nature of the world, and thus to deposit it as a reflected image in permanent concepts always ready for the faculty of reason, this and nothing else is philosophy.
  • Philosophy is nothing but Discretion.
    • John Selden, Table Talk, Philosophy. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • Philosophy is no trick to catch the public; it is not devised for show. It is a matter, not of words, but of facts. It is not pursued in order that the day may yield some amusement before it is spent, or that our leisure may be relieved of a tedium that irks us. It molds and constructs the soul; it orders our life, guides our conduct, shows us what we should do and what we should leave undone; it sits at the helm and directs our course as we waver amid uncertainties. Without it, no one can live fearlessly or in peace of mind. Countless things that happen every hour call for advice; and such advice is to be sought in philosophy.
  • There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    • William Shakespeare, Hamlet (1600-02), Act I, scene 5, line 166. (“Our philosophy” in some readings). Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • Adversity’s sweet milk, philosophy.
  • The philosopher is Nature’s pilot. And there you have our difference: to be in hell is to drift: to be in heaven is to steer.
    • Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903), Act III, line 509. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • It is as absurd to expect members of philosophy departments to be philosophers as it is to expect members of art departments to be artists.
    • Leo Strauss, “What is liberal education?” Liberalism, Ancient and Modern (1968), p. 7. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • Men are constantly attracted and deluded by two opposite charms: the charm of competence which is engendered by mathematics and everything akin to mathematics, and the charm of humble awe, which is engendered by meditation on the human soul and its experiences. Philosophy is characterized by the gentle, if firm, refusal to succumb to either charm.
    • Leo Strauss, What is Political Philosophy?, p. 40. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.


  • There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers. … To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.
    • Thoreau, Walden (1854), “Economy” ¶ A19. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.


  • La clarté est la bonne foi des philosophes.
    • Clearness marks the sincerity of philosophers.
    • Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues, Pensées Diverses, No. 372. Gilbert’s ed. (1857), Volume I, p. 475. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • Contemporary philosophy illustrates Hegel’s dictum that philosophy is its own time apprehended in thought, for in our age philosophy yields to the objectifying technical impulse and loses its ancient task of pursuing the Socratic ideal of the wisdom of the examined life.


  • Philosophy is an activity: it is a way of thinking about certain sorts of question. Its most distinctive feature is its use of logical argument. Philosophers typically deal in arguments: they either invent them, criticize other people’s, or do both. They also analyse and clarify concepts.
  • Shouldn't I join the ranks of philosophers and merely make unsubstantiated claims about the wonders of human consciousness? Shouldn't I stop trying to do some science and keep my head down? Indeed not.
  • I feel that we are all philosophers, and that those who describe themselves as a philosopher simply do not have a day job to go to.
  • When we affirm that philosophy begins with wonder, we are affirming in effect that sentiment is prior to reason.
  • Maelstrom: Ah! There's the difference between us, Carmen. You spend so much time with your precious little plans, trying to make tidy entrances and exits, that you forget why we are really thieves in the first place... to take what others have, period. End of career description.
Carmen: Wrong! I do it for the mental gymnastics, the challenge of...
Maelstrom: "Oh spare me the twisted philosophies Carmen. You've got a serious problem, you know that? And the sooner you realize you are no better than anyone else who steals, for fun or profit, the better off we'll all be.
  • Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? Retribution Part 3: Maelstrom's Revenge
  • Philosophy aims at the logical clarification of thoughts. Philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity. A philosophical work consists essentially of elucidations. Philosophy does not result in 'philosophical propositions', but rather in the clarification of propositions. Without philosophy thoughts are, as it were, cloudy and indistinct: its task is to make them clear and to give them sharp boundaries. (4.112)
  • Philosophical problems can be compared to locks on safes, which can be opened by dialing a certain word or number, so that no force can open the door until just this word has been hit upon, and once it is hit upon any child can open it. Ch. 9 : Philosophy, p. 175
  • People are deeply imbedded in philosophical, i.e., grammatical confusions. And to free them presupposes pulling them out of the immensely manifold connections they are caught up in. Ch. 9 : Philosophy, p. 185
  • The real discovery is the one which enables me to stop doing philosophy when I want to. The one that gives philosophy peace, so that it is no longer tormented by questions which bring itself into question.
  • In philosophy the race is to the one who can run slowest—the one who crosses the finish line last.
    • Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value (1998), p. 40. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • The bosom-weight, your stubborn gift,
    That no philosophy can lift.
    • William Wordsworth, Presentiments. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.
  • Why should not grave Philosophy be styled?
    Herself, a dreamer of a kindred stock,
    A dreamer, yet more spiritless and dull?
    • William Wordsworth, The Excursion, Book III. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 596-97.


  • When we see a woman bartering beauty for gold, we look upon such a one as no other than a common prostitute; but she who rewards the passion of some worthy youth with it, gains at the same time our approbation and esteem. It is the very same with philosophy: he who sets it forth for public sale, to be disposed of to the highest bidder, is a sophist, a public prostitute.
    • Xenophon, Memorabilia, 1.6.11, T. Stanley, trans., p. 535.
  • What characterizes philosophy is this "step back" from actuality into possibility — the attitude best rendered by Adorno's and Horkheimer's motto quoted by Fredric Jameson: "Not Italy itself is given here, but the proof that it exists."

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