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If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved. There are some premises that can’t be reached as conclusions.

C. S. Lewis

No argument can establish the truth of its premises, since if it tried to do so it would be circular; and therefore no argument can establish the truth of its conclusions.

Bryan Magee

To prove that anything is true you need some truth to start with.

You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.

G. K. Chesterton

You can be certain without being logically certain. As well as logical certainty there is the certainty of experience.

It is brilliantly silly to ask whether anything can be known for certain—for the simple reason that no amount of argument can ever get you an inch closer to an answer. Argument can only go on repeating the question forever. On the other hand, any conceivable answer to the question implies that at least one thing is known for certain. And if one thing is known for certain, why not many?

Everything that logic can tell us about the world is ultimately founded on something other than logic, and that something, call it instinct or intuition or insight, can only be accepted as a matter of faith or common sense.

Mathematics is the only science where one never knows what one is talking about nor whether what is said is true.

Bertrand Russell

There is no escape from belief since if you disbelieve something, then you believe the opposite thing, or some other thing. Scepticism is just a corollary of belief.

All of us must hold metaphysical beliefs about the world, whether we like it or not. An example of a metaphysical belief would be the belief that the laws of nature really are laws, and not just weird repetitions.

Metaphysical beliefs can never be arrived at through analysis alone, but require some kind of faith commitment.

Most of what we take for granted is exceedingly difficult to validate, and much of it impossible.

Bryan Magee

He who wishes to learn must believe.


Faith is the most important qualification for the pursuit of truth. Indeed, one soon discovers that faith is necessary to believe that something called ‘truth’ even exists.

Common sense is a form of insight.

Nothing is what it is except because it’s in a relationship with something else.

Proportion is the principle of reality.

G. K. Chesterton

The attempt to establish the truth of any particular philosophy through purely intellectual processes is absolutely hopeless—and for purely intellectual reasons.

Reason must be perfected by faith.

Karl Stern

The case for any world view cannot be based on a mathematical certainty—as in the proposition, ‘Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to one other.’

Arnold Lunn

Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise.

Bertrand Russell

Every philosophical position has its own difficulties. The question one must decide is not whether the answers to the difficulties of some particular philosophy are completely satisfying, but whether they are more satisfying than the answers to the difficulties inherent in alternative philosophies.

If we have better grounds for believing something to be true than for believing it not to be true, it is not irrational to invest a certain degree of faith in it. There is nothing unscientific about such an attitude because the question at issue, concerning as it does the untestable, is not a scientific question. It is not a matter of possible knowledge.

Bryan Magee

To many working scientists, science seems very obviously to suggest an ultimate explanation, namely a materialist one; but a materialist view of total reality is a metaphysical, not a scientific, theory.

Bryan Magee

[Bertrand] Russell understood clearly—what many people to this day fail to understand—that science of itself does not, and never can, establish a particular view of the ultimate nature of reality.

Bryan Magee

It is impossible to accept or reject a world view on the basis of purely rational arguments.

It’s next to impossible to do intellectual justice to something that your will fiercely resists.

We demand strict proof for opinions we dislike, but are satisfied with mere hints for what we’re inclined to accept.

John Henry Newman

It is as absurd to argue men, as to torture them, into believing.

John Henry Newman

It is not enough to use reason; reason must be used reasonably.

There such a thing as irrational scepticism just as there is such a thing as irrational faith. They are just opposite sides of the same logical coin.

There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.

Soren Kierkegaard

The irrational is not necessarily unreasonable.

G. K. Chesterton

Definitions of root words are very difficult, and always inadequate.

It is not every question that deserves an answer.

Publilius Syrus

Few maxims are true in every respect.

Marquis de Vauvenargues

Very few sentences can withstand analytical criticism because language is not a logical system.

All explanations are partial explanations.

Direct and simple language always has some force behind it.

Northrop Frye

Broadly speaking, the short words are best, and the old words best of all.

Winston Churchill

Words, like eyeglasses, blur everything that they do not make clearer.

Joseph Joubert

Feeling can’t be directly conveyed by words at all.

Northrop Frye

In ordinary life we almost never get a chance to use the intellect by itself. In practically everything we do we use the combination of emotion and intellect we call imagination.

Northrop Frye

In all communication there has to be a shared body of knowledge that is taken for granted. We have to agree on what you don’t have to define.

David Cayley

To see a truth is not the same thing as to grasp it.

A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.

C. S. Lewis

Murder, cruelty, theft and betrayal are regarded as evils in any culture, ancient or modern.

The moment truth is no longer absolute and transcendent it becomes a political and ideological weapon.

Philosophy is the search for truth in the reasonable expectation of finding some.

Hilaire Belloc

The approach which starts with a theory and then tries to find evidence to support it is contrary to the spirit of science. Science requires the theory to emerge from the evidence uninfluenced, as far as possible, by preconceived notions.

The laws of the universe must by definition describe a consistent reality.

Paul Davies

The perception of beauty is a moral test.

Henry David Thoreau

Religion in the broadest and most general terms possible...consists of the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto.

William James

Nothing is worse than a bogus religion, and nothing is more bogus than a vague emotionalism divorced from thought and philosophy.

Arnold Lunn

People cannot remain good unless good is expected of them.

Bertolt Brecht

Institutions make freedom possible in the same way that a routine does. Destroy them and some form of totalitarian autocracy becomes inevitable.

Malcolm Muggeridge

The way you save people from destruction is to give them a structure.

Farley Mowat

No man can put more virtue into his words than he practises in his life.

Hugh Kingsmill

People who haven’t received much emotionally usually can’t give much emotionally.

A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world: everyone you meet is your mirror.

An intense desire to please often displeases.

Obviously no one can afford to believe in the intrinsic superiority of one people over another.

Peter Ustinov

In the human psyche things rarely achieve the simplicity of rational categories.

Ignace Lepp

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.

John F. Kennedy

The good individual and the bad institution is the primary myth of our time, and it leads to a chronic and dangerous illusion about our own innocence.

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