What are the best Alfred North Whitehead quotes?

Accurate and famous quotes by Alfred North Whitehead about civilization, ideas, progress, seldom, life. Alfred North Whitehead is well-known English mathematician with many wise quotes. You can read the best of all time and enjoy Top 10 lists. Share the best Alfred North Whitehead sayings with your friends and family.


  1. True courage is not the brutal force of vulgar heroes, but the firm resolve of virtue and reason.


  2. The deepest definition of youth is life as yet untouched by tragedy.


  3. Seek simplicity but distrust it.


  4. Without adventure civilization is in full decay.




  5. Ideas won't keep, something must be done about them.


  6. We think in generalities, but we live in detail.


  7. An enormous part of our mature experience cannot not be expressed in words.


  8. True courage is not the brutal force of vulgar heroes. Rather the firm resolve of virtue and reason.


  9. Wisdom alone is true ambition's aim, wisdom is the source of virtue and of fame; obtained with labour, for mankind employed, and then, when most you share it, best enjoyed.


  10. Human life is driven forward by its dim apprehension of notions too general for its existing language.


  11. Common sense is genius in homespun.


  12. Everything of importance has been said before by somebody who did not discover it.


  13. In formal logic, a contradiction is the signal of defeat, but in the evolution of real knowledge it marks the first step in progress toward a victory.


  14. Speech is human nature itself, with none of the artificiality of written language.


  15. Life is an offensive, directed against the repetitious mechanism of the Universe.


  16. Periods of tranquillity are seldom prolific of creative achievement. Mankind has to be stirred up.

    • actions

  17. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking.

    • thought

  18. Philosophy is the product of wonder.


  19. The worth of men consists in their liability to persuasion. . . . Civilisation is the maintenance of social order, by its own inherent persuasiveness as embodying the nobler alternative. The recourse to force, however unavoidable, is a disclosure of the failure of civilisation, either in the general society or in a remnant of individuals. Thus in a live civilisation there is always an element of unrest. For sensitiveness to ideas means curiosity, adventure, change. Civilised order survives on its merits, and is transformed by its power of Recognizing its imperfections.


  20. Necessity is the mother of invention is a silly proverb. Necessity is the mother of futile dodges is much closer to the truth. The basis of growth of modern invention is science, and science is almost wholly the outgrowth of pleasurable intellectual curiosity.


  21. It is the business of the future to be dangerous; and it is among the merits of science that it equips the future for its duties.


  22. No period of history has ever been great or ever can be that does not act on some sort of high, idealistic motives, and idealism in our time has been shoved aside, and we are paying the penalty for it.


  23. In every age of well-marked transition, there is the pattern of habitual dumb practice and emotion which is passing and there is oncoming a new complex of habit.


  24. If a dog jumps into your lap, it is because he is fond of you; but if a cat does the same thing, it is because your lap is warmer.


  25. I have suffered a great deal from writers who have quoted this or that sentence of mine either out of its context or in juxtaposition to some incongruous matter which quite distorted my meaning, or destroyed it altogether.


  26. Intelligence is quickness to apprehend as distinct form ability, which is capacity to act wisely on the thing apprehended.


  27. Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern.


  28. I would be a billionaire if I was looking to be a selfish boss. That's not me.


  29. The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order. Life refuses to be embalmed alive. The more prolonged the halt in some unrelieved system of order, the greater the crash of the dead society.


  30. Familiar things happen, and mankind does not bother about them. It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.


  31. The vitality of thought is in adventure. Ideas won't keep. Something must be done about them. When the idea is new, its custodians have fervor, live for it, and if need be, die for it.

    • ideas

  32. Simple solutions seldom are. It takes a very unusual mind to undertake analysis of the obvious.

    • analysis

  33. Every philosophy is tinged with the coloring of some secret imaginative background, which never emerges explicitly into its train of reasoning.

    • philosophy

  34. Our minds are finite, and yet even in these circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of life is to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude.


  35. What is morality in any given time or place? It is what the majority then and there happen to like, and immorality is what they dislike.


  36. Other nations of different habits are not enemies: they are godsends. Men require of their neighbours something sufficiently akin to be understood, something sufficiently different to provoke attention, and something great enough to command admiration. We must not expect, however, all the virtues.


  37. Nature gets credit which should in truth be reserved for ourselves: the rose for its scent, the nightingale for its song; and the sun for its radiance. The poets are entirely mistaken. They should address their lyrics to themselves and should turn them into odes of self congratulation on the excellence of the human mind.


  38. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them.


  39. There are two principles inherent in the very nature of things, recurring in some particular embodiments whatever field we explore - the spirit of change, and the spirit of conservation. There can be nothing real without both. Mere change without conservation is a passage from nothing to nothing. . . . Mere conservation without change cannot conserve. For after all, there is a flux of circumstance, and the freshness of being evaporates under mere repetition.


  40. Ideas won't keep; something must be done about them.


  41. Civilizations can only be understood by those who are civilized.


  42. But you can catch yourself entertaining habitually certain ideas and setting others aside; and that, I think, is where our personal destinies are largely decided.


  43. Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, is the death of knowledge.


  44. The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order.


  45. In the conditions of modern life the rule is absolute, the race which does not value trained intelligence is doomed. Not all your heroism, not all your social charm, not all your wit, not all your victories on land or at sea, can move back the finger of fate. To-day we maintain ourselves. To-morrow science will have moved forward yet one more step, and there will be no appeal from the judgment which will then be pronounced on the uneducated.


  46. What is morality in any given time or place? It is what the majority then and there happen to like and immorality is what they dislike.


  47. I have suffered a great deal from writers who have quoted this or that sentence of mine either out of its context or in juxtaposition to some incongruous matter which quite distorted my meaning , or destroyed it altogether.

    • quotations

  48. The vigour of civilised societies is preserved by the widespread sense that high aims are worth while. Vigorous societies harbour a certain extravagance of objectives, so that men wander beyond the safe provision of personal gratifications. All strong interests easily become impersonal, the love of a good job well done. There is a sense of harmony about such an accomplishment, the Peace brought by something worth while. Such personal gratification arises from aim beyond personality.

    • civilization

  49. It is the first step in sociological wisdom, to recognize that the major advances in civilisation are processes which all but wreck the societies in which they occur: like unto an arrow in the hand of a child. The art of free society consists first in the maintenance of the symbolic code; and secondly in fearlessness of revision, to secure that the code serves those purposes which satisfy an enlightened reason. Those societies which cannot combine reverence to their symbols with freedom of revision, must ultimately decay either from anarchy, or from the slow atrophy of a life stifled by useless shadows.


  50. Periods of tranquility are seldom prolific of creative achievement. Mankind has to be stirred up.



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