“It is strange that so many people should believe that there is no answer to Pilate’s question ‘What is truth?’ For, after all, in thousands of courts of justice thousands of witnesses are admonished every day to speak the truth. And most of them seem to know very well what is expected from them.”—Karl Popper
I just overheard a student in the library explaining that he likes [some author’s] books, but they were written “way back in the 90s, so the vernacular is completely different than what we have today.”
“Suppose [a historian] is reading the Theodosian Code, and has before him a certain edict of an emperor. Merely reading the words and being able to translate them does not amount to knowing their historical significance. In order to do that he must envisage the situation with which the emperor was trying to deal, and he must envisage it as that emperor envisaged it. Then he must see for himself, just as if the emperor’s situation were his own, how such a situation might be dealt with; he must see the possible alternatives, and the reasons for choosing one rather than another; and thus he must go through the process which the emperor went through in deciding on this particular course. Thus he is re-enacting in his own mind the experience of the emperor; and only in so far as he does this has he any historical knowledge, as distinct from a merely philological knowledge, of the meaning of the edict.”—R.G. Collingwood (1946)
“'In order to promote a flourishing artistic climate, we must use our resources to ensure that those individuals with the least talent stay away from the arts,' NEA acting chairperson Joan Shigekawa told reporters at a press conference, flanked by existing pieces of insufferably trite art, including various examples of black-and-white photography and scrap-metal sculpture. 'Providing the nation’s inept amateurs with the funding they need to pursue hobbies and professions unrelated to fine arts will revitalize this country’s creative output, furthering our goal of promoting works that aren’t a complete embarrassment.'”—Might as well apply.
An ancient virus found beneath the Siberian permafrost cannot infect and control humans, according to scientists with odd monotone voices.
Researchers at a remote research base said the virus, which had been dormant in the ice for thousands of years, is not a threat and definitely nothing like the shape-shifting evil in John Carpenter’s horror film The Thing.
Ice station scientist Stephen Malley said: “Do not be concerned. All is well here and will remain well. The virus will not harm you or make you a helpless, puppet host organism. We are having fun here and doing normal human things. We look forward to seeing our families and learning more about their technology.”
“Since they drift where the currents carry them, with no power or will to oppose that of the sea, this strange community of creatures and the marine plants that sustain them are called ‘plankton,’ a word derived from the Greek, meaning ‘wandering.’”—
Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us
Coined in 1887 by German physiologist Viktor Hensen.
“[The lexicographer] knows very well that the true relationship between the senses [of a word] is too complex to be represented by less than a three-dimensional model. The figure of a tree, with a root sending up a trunk which branches in all directions, and each branch sending out boughs and finally twigs, would be hard enough to represent in a linear sequence. But the senses of a complex word can sometimes be shown to have undergone mutual influence, as if the branches have not simply diverged, but at a later stage merged again.”— Chadwick (1996:12)
“We do not, however, have to accept as true the theories that are incorporated in our language, even though this fact may make it difficult to criticize them. If we decide that they are seriously misleading, we may be led to change the aspect of our language in question; otherwise, we may continue to use it, and simply bear in mind the fact that it should not be taken too literally (for example the ‘new’ moon). All this, however, should not prevent us from always trying to use the plainest language we can.”—Popper (1977)
“The other story [about Aristophanes of Byzantium] may have grown out of one of the jokes made by the fellows of the Museum of which we have already had several examples, though none so absurd. The respectable scholar, so it runs, fell in love with a flower girl in Alexandria and his rival was an elephant. There were various tales of elephants being attracted by the scent of flowers and making love to girls binding and selling wreaths.”—Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship (1:172). See Plin. NH 8.13; Plut. De soll. an. 972D; Aelian NA 1.38, 7.43, 13.8; FGrHist 275.
“The belief that language, with its inherent creative aspect, is a unique human possession did not go unchallenged, of course. One expositor of Cartesian philosophy, Antoine Le Grand, refers to the opinion “of some people of the East Indies, who think that Apes and Baboons, which are with them in great numbers, are imbued with understanding, and that they can speak but will not for fear they should be employed, and set to work.””—Noam Chomsky, Form and Meaning in Language
“The Chatterbox is the sort of person who sits next to a complete stranger and first sings his own wife’s praises, then recounts the dream he had last night, then describes in every detail what he had for dinner. Then, as things are going well, he continues with talk like this: people nowadays are far less well-behaved than in the old days; wheat is selling in the market at a bargain price; the city is full of foreigners; the festival of Dionysus heralds the start of the sailing season; more rain would be good for the crops; what land he will cultivate next year; life is hard; Damippos set up a very large torch at the mysteries; how many pillars there are in the Odeion; ‘I threw up yesterday’; what day of the month it is; the Mysteries are in September, the Apatouria in October, the Rural Dionysia in December. If you let him go on he will never stop.”—Theophrastus, Characters 3
“In Greek, whose color lexicon did not stabilize for many centuries, the words most commonly used for blue are glaukos and kyaneos. The latter probably referred originally to a mineral or a metal; it has a foreign root and its meaning often shifted. During the Homeric period it denoted both the bright blue of the iris and the black of funeral garments, but never the blue of the sky or sea. An analysis of Homer’s poetry shows that out of sixty adjectives describing elements and landscapes in the Iliad and Odyssey, only three are color terms, while those evoking light effects are quite numerous. During the classical era, kyaneos meant a dark color: deep blue, violet, brown, and black. In fact, it evokes more the “feeling” of the color than its actual hue. The term glaukos, which existed in the Archaic period and was much used by Homer, can refer to gray, blue, and sometimes even yellow or brown. Rather than denoting a particular color, it expresses the idea of a color’s feebleness or weak concentration. For this reason it is used to describe the color of water, eyes, leaves, or honey.”—Michel Pastoureau, Blue: The History of a Color (via emmaylor)
“A carpenter and a geometrician approach the right-angle in different ways: the carpenter in so far as it is useful for his work, while the geometrician seeks to know what it is, or what sort of thing it is, in that he aims to contemplate the truth.”—Aristotle NE 1098a: καὶ γὰρ τέκτων καὶ γεωμέτρης διαφερόντως ἐπιζητοῦσι τὴν ὀρθήν· ὃ μὲν γὰρ ἐφ᾽ ὅσον χρησίμη πρὸς τὸ ἔργον, ὃ δὲ τί ἐστιν ἢ ποῖόν τι· θεατὴς γὰρ τἀληθοῦς. τὸν αὐτὸν δὴ τρόπον καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἄλλοις ποιητέον, ὅπως μὴ τὰ πάρεργα τῶν ἔργων πλείω γίνηται.
“All the facts harmonize with the truth, but they soon discord with misconception.”—Aristotle NE 1098b: τῷ μὲν γὰρ ἀληθεῖ πάντα συνᾴδει τὰ ὑπάρχοντα, τῷ δὲ ψευδεῖ ταχὺ διαφωνεῖ τἀληθές. (The verbs συνᾴδω and διαφωνέω are singing metaphors in Greek too.)
My mother asked me if I had heard about Philip Seymour Hoffman. Yes, I said, it’s very sad. She agreed: he had three young children. I was thinking that we would never see his Lear. That simple anecdote reveals a great deal about us and our relationship. I used to regularly predict to my friends that the depth of his talent would only reveal itself in the rich roles of old age. He was not merely one of our great actors, but one of our great artists. It’s no mean feat to make high art that is also very popular.
“The reason why we are conﬁdent that the machines we call calculators do indeed compute the arithmetic functions they claim to compute is not that we can ‘check’ their answers, for this is ultimately a futile process of comparing one machine with another: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? The real reason is that we believe the detailed physical theory that was used in their design. That theory, including its assertion that the abstract functions of arithmetic are realized in Nature, is empirical.”—David Deutsch (1985)
“The object of this Essay is to explain, as clearly as I am able, the ground of an opinion which I have held from the very earliest period when I had formed any opinions at all on social or political maters, and which, instead of being weakened or modified, has been constantly growing stronger by the progress of reflection and the experience of life: That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes—the legal subordination of one sex to the other—is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.”—John Stuart Mill certainly knew Plato’s ideas on the subjugation of women (Republic 451b-457b) and both men stressed that it was one of the chief hindrances to human improvement.
I heard something about this, but I thought there was confusion with a Sappho fragment published in 2005. This article is by James Romm of Bard, but it will be published in ZPE by Dirk Obbink. You can read a draft of his article here, which has the Greek text but no translation.
“The life of making money is one of compulsion, and wealth is clearly not the good we are seeking, since it is merely useful for getting something else.”—Aristotle NE 1096a: ὁ δὲ χρηματιστὴς βίαιός τις ἐστίν, καὶ ὁ πλοῦτος δῆλον ὅτι οὐ τὸ ζητούμενον ἀγαθόν· χρήσιμον γὰρ καὶ ἄλλου χάριν.
“It will presumably be thought better, indeed one’s duty, to do away with even what is close to one’s heart in order to pursue the truth, especially when one is a philosopher. For one might love both, but it is nevertheless a sacred duty to prefer the truth to one’s friends.”—