25 December 2006

Christmas Quote Frenzy

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Paul of Tarsus, Letter to the Philippians (4:8)

18 December 2006

Monday Quote Frenzy – Louis Brandeis on Freedom of Speech

From his dissenting opinion in Gilbert v. Minnesota, 254 U.S. 325 (1920):
Full and free exercise of this right by the citizen is ordinarily also his duty; for its exercise is more important to the nation than it is to himself. Like the course of the heavenly bodies, harmony in national life is a resultant of the struggle between contending forces. In frank expression of conflicting opinion lies the greatest promise of wisdom in governmental action; and in suppression lies ordinarily the greatest peril.

From his concurring opinion in Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927):
Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the state was to make men free to develop their faculties, and that in its government the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile; that with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government.

(Cross posted from 16th Street Forum)

11 December 2006

Monday Quote Extra - 'conspiracy theory'

John Flower, in today's Guardian Unlimited, points out that the first user of the term 'conspiracy theory', in the sense of "a belief that some covert but influential agency is responsible for an unexplained event", appears to have been Karl Popper. The Oxford English Dictionary, which tries hard to cite the earliest usages for its entries, posted the term in 1997, with the citation
I call it the 'conspiracy theory of society' - the view that an explanation of a social phenomenon consists in the discovery of the men or groups who are interested in the occurrence of this phenomenon.
from Karl Popper's work, The Open Society and its Enemies (the second edition, published in 1952 by Princeton University Press).

I never knew that.

Monday Quote Frenzy - Everyone's a Critic

Samuel Johnson, in "The Life of Pope", conveys this story told by Alexander Pope about his patron, Lord Halifax:
The famous Lord Halifax was rather a pretender to taste than really possessed of it. – When I had finished the two or three first books of my translation of the Iliad, that Lord desired to have the pleasure of hearing them read at his house. – Addison, Congreve, and Garth, were there at the reading. In four or five places, Lord Halifax stopt me very civilly, and with a speech each time, much of the same kind, 'I beg your pardon, Mr. Pope; but there is something in that passage that does not quite please me. – Be so good as to mark the place, and consider it a little [more] at your leisure. – I'm sure you can give it a little [better] turn.' I returned from Lord Halifax's with Dr. Garth, in his chariot; and, as we were going along, was saying to the Doctor, that my Lord had laid me under a good deal of difficulty by such loose and general observations; that I had been thinking over the passages almost ever since, and could not guess at what it was that offended his Lordship in either of them. Garth laughed heartily at my embarrassment; said, I had not been long enough acquainted with Lord Halifax to know his way yet; that I need not puzzle myself about looking those places over and over, when I got home. 'All you need do (says he) is to leave them just as they are; call on Lord Halifax two or three months hence, thank him for his kind observations on those passages, and then read them to him as altered. I have known him much longer than you have, and will be answerable for the event.' I followed his advice; waited on Lord Halifax some time after; said, I hoped he would find his objections to those passages removed; read them to him exactly as they were at first: and his Lordship was extremely pleased with them, and cried out, 'Ay, now [Mr. Pope] they are perfectly right: nothing can be better.'
This version comes from The Lives of the Poets, ed. G. B. Hill, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), as edited and reproduced by Jack Lynch, Rutgers University.