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Quotations: General Semantics, Supporting Quotes


Heraclitus (c.500 B.C.):

πάντα ρεΐ, ούδέν μένει" (All is flux, nothing is stationary).

Alluded to by Aristotle in De Caelo.


"One cannot step into the 'same' river twice".


Jonathan Swift (1667-1745):

"There is nothing in this world constant, but inconstancy".


Harry L. Weinberg (1959), "Levels Of Knowing And Existence: Studies In General Semantics". Institute Of General Semantics:

"No two events are identical and there can never be any repetition of a given state of affairs because all measurements take place at a given time and, by definition, time moves on".


George Bernhard Shaw (1856-1950):

"The man who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measure anew each time he sees me, whilst all the rest go on with their old measurements and expect them to fit me".


William Wordsworth (1770-1850),"Yes, it was the Mountains Echo":

"Like, - but oh how different!".


John Wilmot, Eral of Rochester (1647-80),"Works (1926), A Dialogue between Strephon and Daphne":

"Since ‘tis Nature’s law to change,

Constancy alone is strange".


Cahier, Quelques six mille proverbs:

"Tout passé, tout casse, tout lasse" (Everything passes, everything perishes, everything palls).


Harrison (1577)"Description of Britain":

"Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis" (Times change, and we change with them).


Francis Bacon (1561-1626)"Cogitationes De Natura Rerum":

"Omnia mutari, et nil vere interire, ac summam materiae prorsus eandem manere, satis constant"(That all things are changed, and that nothing really perishes, and that the sum of matter remains exactly the same, is sufficiently certain).


Virgil (70-19 B.C.)"Georgics":

"Sed fugit interea, fugit inreparabile tempus" (Meanwhile, Time is flying – flying, never to return).


Charles Caleb Colton (1780?-1832):

"Eternity was in that moment".




Hesiod (c.735 B.C.)"Works And Days":

"The half is greater than the whole".


Robert Burton (1577-1640):

"The miller sees not all the water that goes by his mill".


Alexander Pope (1688-1744):

“Like following life through creatures you dissect,

You lose it in the moment you detect”.


Bertrand Arthur William Russell (1872-1970):

"A proposition about all propositions cannot include itself" (Russells' Paradox - also known as Russell-Zermelo, Frege-Russell, Cantor, Ponicaré, paradoxes, Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem


James Gleick (2012) "The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood":

"There must be truths, that is, that cannot be proved - an Gödel could prove it".

"Incompleteness was real. It meant that mathematics could never be proved free of self-contradiction".



Lao-Tse (c. 500 B.C.) "Tao Te Ching":

Wing-Tsit Chan (1963), Trans., in "A Source Book In Chinese Philosophy". Princeton University Press).

"The sum of the parts is not the whole".


"Therefore enumerate all the parts of a Chariot as you may and you still have no Chariot".


Sanford I. Berman (1924-2015):

“There are two more general semantics principles related to this non-elementalism. These are non-identity and non-additivity. For example, we might visualize solid matter as a highly concentrated and compact form of this mass-energy entity; while heat energy, electrical energy, or radiant energy are precisely the same mass-energy entity in an extremely diffuse and insubstantial form. Chemistry is a good example of this. A certain chemical will change under certain contions (non-identity); or, mix two different chemicals together and you get a dynamic view emergent (non-additivity)”.


Alexander Pope (1688-1744):

"All are but parts of one stupendous whole,

Whose body nature is, God the soul".


Werner Heisenberg (1958) "Physics And Philosophy: The Revolution In Modern Science":

"Whoever dedicates his life to searching out particular connections of nature will spontaneously be confronted with the question how they harmoniously fit into the whole".


Korzybski (1933) “Science And Sanity”:

"However, when a mathematician lays down a definition, such as 1 + 1 = 2, this has nothing to do with the application we make of it when...we add one gallon (of water) to one gallon (of alcohol) and do not obtain two gallons (of the alcohol-water mixture), but slightly less. This last is a profound experimental fact, intimately connected with the structure of 'matter' and therefore, of the world around us. The mathematician has nothing to do with the fact that his additive definitions, important as they are, do not cover the facts of the world around us which happens not to be additive in its more fundamental aspects".


"...the issues are not additive, one atom of oxygen 'plus' two atoms of hydrogen, under proper conditions will produce water, of which the characteristics are not the sum of the characteristics of oxygen and hydrogen 'added' together, but entirely new characteristics emerge".


Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961):

“Hence this life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of the entire existence, but is in a certain sense the whole; only this whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in one single glance.  This, as we know, is what the Brahmins express in that sacred, mystic formula which is yet really so simple and so clear: Tat tvam asi, this is you.  Or, again, in such words as 'I am in the east and in the west, I am below and above, I am this whole world'”.

“The reason why our sentient, percipient and thinking ego is met nowhere within our scientific world picture can easily be indicated in seven words: because it is itself that world picture. It is identical with the whole and therefore cannot be contained in it as a part of it”.




Josiah Royce (1855-1916):

“That the language we use provides us a way to make maps, hence we use language to speak about language.  So our language can become used to make a map of the map, a map of the map, thus so on”.


Werner Heisenberg (1958) "Physics And Philosophy: The Revolution In Modern Science":

"In classical physics, science started from the belief - or should one say, from the illusion? - that we could describe the world, or least parts of the world, without any reference to ourselves".



“A physicist is an atom’s way of thinking about another atom”.




Lao-Tse (c.500 B.C.) "Tao Te Ching":

Wing-Tsit Chan (1963), Trans., in "A Source Book In Chinese Philosophy". Princeton University Press).

"...the road you talk about is not the road you walk on".


Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (1889–1951):

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1922), "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus". Routledge.

"What can be shown cannot be said".


Siddhārtha Gautama (c.533 B.C., known as Buddha):

"...for when asked 'what reality was', he simply raised a rose over his head then while smiling, said that the rose is forever beyond words".


Robert Burton (1577-1640):

"Every thing, saith Epictetus, hath two handles, the one to be held by, the other not".


Jonathan Swift (1667-1745),"A Voyage To The Houyhnhnms":

"I said the thing which was not".


Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson; 1832-98) "Alice In Wonderland" :

"“Then you should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on. “I do,” Alice hastily replied; “at least- at least I mean what I say – that’s the same thing you know.”

“Not the same thing a bit!” said the Hatter. “Why you might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’”".


Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82):

"We are symbols, and inhabit symbols".

"Language is fossil poetry".



Jonathan Swift (1667-1745),"A Voyage To The Houyhnhnms":

"I said the thing which was not".


Werner Heisenberg (1958) "Physics And Philosophy: The Revlution In Modern Science":

“The reality we can put into words is never reality itself”.

“Quantum theory provides us with a striking illustration of the fact that we can fully understand a connection though we can only speak of it in images and parables”.


Arnold Sommerfield (1868-1951); as given in epigraph, without citation (trans) Eberhard Zeidler, Juergen Quandt  (2013) “Nonlinear Functional Analysis And Its Applications: IV: Applications To Mathematical Physics ”, 9:

“The same applies to the concept of force as does to any other physical concept: Verbal definitions are meaningless; real definitions are given through a measuring process”.


James Gleick (1994) "Genius: The Life And Science Of Richard Feynman":

"...the recognition that human language has its limits, that people choose concepts that correspond only faintly to things in the real world, like the shadows of ghosts".



Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-95), “Science And Culture. On The Hypothesis That Animals Are Automata”:

"Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men".


John Milton (1608-74):

"Necessity and chance

Approach not me, and what I will is fate".




Irving J. Lee (1958), "On Language And General Semantics", General Semantics, No: 22-3:

"Language plays a tremendous role in human affairs. It serves as a means of cooperation and as a weapon of conflict. With it, men can solve problems, erect the towering structures of science and poetry – and talk themselves into insanity and social confusion".


Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa (1906–1992):

"If you see in any given situation only what everybody else can see, you can be said to be so much a representative of your culture that you are a victim of it".


Laura Lee (1958), "Two Kinds Of Disturbed Communication", General Semantics Bulletin, No: 22-3:

"The same word stands for a person or thing or activity day after day, although the thing it stands for may change, grow, transform. We do not name the process, the originality, the development, the flux. We speak in static terms and learn to perceive and think that way".

"In English we have no grammatical constructions, verb tenses, or moods to distinguish what we have experienced from what we have assumed. It is easy to say and think we know when we are only guessing; the same words may describe or infer, depending on the context. We learn to perceive and think with this confusion".


 Catherine Minteer (1953): "Language affects thought" affects thought"


Catherine Minteer (1953) "Words And What They Do to You: Beginning Lessons In General Semantics For Junior And Senior High School".

Note that Minteer has not just used 1 distributed "Affect", but 2, making the point that both Affect(s) are not the 'same'.


Anatol Rapoport (1950), "Science And The Goals Of Man". Harper:

"Words are abstractions made of things; reports are abstractions made of experience; inferences are abstractions made of descriptions. When people react to words as if they were things, to inferences as if they were descriptions, etc., they are confusing levels of abstraction".


Anatol Rapoport (1956), "Saying What You Mean", "Etc"., 13, No. 4:

"Any communication is a problem of translation. Translation...involves in its broadest sense not so much finding words to match other words as finding experiences to match other experiences".




James Gleick (1987) "Chaos: Making A New Science":

"I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to pthres, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives".

"Shallow ideas can be assimilated; ideas that require people to reorganize their picture of the world provoke hostility".



James Gleick (2012) "The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood":

"At the end of 2006, people concerned with the "Cat" article could not agree on whether a human with a cat is its "owner," "caregiver," or "human companion". Over a three-week period, the argument extended to the length of a small book. There were edit wars over commas and edit wars over gods, futile wars over spelling and pronunciation and geopolitical disputes. Other edit wars exposed the malleability of words. Was the Conch Republic (Key West, Florida) a "micronation"? Was a particular photograph of a young polar bear "cute"? Experts differed, and everyone was an expert".

"...the subject is increased by the fact that while we have to deal with novel and strange facts, we have also to use old words in novel and inconsistent senses".



James Gleick (2012) "The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood":

"Writing comes into being to retain information across time and across space. Before writing, communication is evanescent and local; sounds carry a few yards and fade to oblivion. The evanescence of the spoken word went without saying. So fleeting was speech that the rare phenomenon of the echo, a sound heard once and then again, seemed a sort of magic".

"The writing system at the opposite extreme took the longest to emerge: the alphabet, one symbol for one minimal sound. The alphabet is the most reductive, the most subversive of all scripts. In all the languages of earth there is only one word for alphabet (alfabet, alfabeto). The alphabet was invented only once".

Category: Quotations | Added by: Paul_Sidle (2017-11-21) | Author: Paul S. Sidle W
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