Food For Thought

A Collection of Heretical Notions and Wretched Adages
compiled by Jack Tourette

author index



[see also: HUMILITY]

I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and vexation of the spirit.

Bible, Ecclesiastes 1:14

There are no grades of vanity, there are only grades of ability in concealing it.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Notebook, Chapter 31, 1898 entry
Edited by Albert Bigelow Paine, 1935

To say that a man is vain means merely that he is pleased with the effect he produces on other people. A conceited man is satisfied with the effect he produces on himself.

Sir Max Beerbohm (1872-1956)
"Quia Imperfectum"
And Even Now, 1920


[see also: FOOD]

Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

Bible, Genesis 1:29

Their soul abhorred all manner of meat: and they were even hard at death's door.

Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 107, verse 18, 1662

You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
"Fate", The Conduct of Life, 1860

I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
"Higher Laws"
Walden, 1854


Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
An Essay on Man, 1733-1734
Epistle II, line 217

Vice, in its true light, is so deformed, that it shocks us at first sight; and would hardly ever seduce us, if it did not at first wear the mask of some virtue.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773)
Letter, 22 February 1748
Reprinted in The Letters of the Earl of Chesterfield to His Son
Volume 1, Number 142
Edited by Charles Strachey, 1901

Vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess!

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Dombey and Son, 1848
Chapter 58 "After a Lapse"

Alas, human vices, however horrible one might imagine them to be, contain the proof (were it only in their infinite expansion) of man's longing for the infinite; but it is a longing that often takes the wrong route.... It is my belief that the reason behind all culpable excesses lies in this depravation of the sense of the infinite.

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
"The Poem of Hashish"
Les Paradis Artificiels, 1860
Chapter 1

There are men so incorrigibly lazy that no inducement that you can offer will tempt them to work; so eaten up by vice that virtue is abhorrent to them, and so inveterably dishonest that theft is to them a master passion. When a human being has reached that stage, there is only one course that can be rationally pursued. Sorrowfully, but remorselessly, it must be recognised that he has become lunatic, morally demented, incapable of self-government, and that upon him, therefore, must be passed the sentence of permanent seclusion from a world in which he is not fit to be at large.

William Booth (1829-1912)
In Darkest England, and the Way Out, 1860
Part 2, Chapter 5, Section 10

People divide off vice and virtue as though they were two things, neither of which had with it anything of the other. This is not so. There is no useful virtue which has not some alloy of vice, and hardly any vice, if any, which carries not with it a little dash of virtue; virtue and vice are like life and death, or mind and matter -- things which cannot exist without being qualified by their opposite.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
The Way of All Flesh, 1903
Chapter XIX

It is the function of vice to keep virtue within reasonable bounds.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
Samuel Butler's Notebooks, 1951

No exile at the South Pole or on the summit of Mont Blanc separates us more effectively from others than the practice of a hidden vice.

Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
"The Captive"
Remembrance of Things Passed, 1921
Volume 10, Part 2, Chapter 2

As far as I'm concerned I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Quoted in Albert Einstein: A Documentary Biography, 1956
Chapter V "Associate Professor at Zurich University"
by Carl Seelig
Translated by Mervyn Savill

Never support two weaknesses at the same time. It's your combination sinners -- your lecherous liars and your miserly drunkards -- who dishonor the vices and bring them into bad repute.

Thornton Wilder (1897-1975)
The Matchmaker, 1954
Act 3


Beware the fury of a patient man.

John Dryden (1631-1700)
Absalom and Achitophel
Part I, 1680, line 1005

Man's destructive hand spares nothing that lives; he kills to feed himself, he kills to clothe himself, he kills to adorn himself, he kills to attack, he kills to defend himself, he kills to instruct himself, he kills to amuse himself, he kills for the sake of killing.

Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821)
Considerations sur la France, 1814

I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence. Thus when my eldest son asked me what he should have done had he been present when I was almost fatally assaulted in 1908, whether he should have run away and seen me killed or whether he should have used his physical force which he could and wanted to use, and defend me, I told him it was his duty to defend me even by using violence. Hence it was that I took part in the Boer War, the so-called Zulu Rebellion and the late war. Hence also do I advocate training in arms for those who believe in the method of violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honor than that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor.

But I believe nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment.... Forgiveness adorns a soldier. But abstinence is forgiveness only when there is the power to punish, it is meaningless when it pretends to proceed from a helpless creature. A mouse hardly forgives a cat when it allows itself to be torn to pieces by her. I therefore appreciate the sentiment of those who cry out for the condign punishment of General Dyer and his ilk. They would tear him to pieces if they could. But I do not believe India to be helpless. I do not believe myself to be a helpless creature. Only I want to use India's and my strength for a better purpose.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
Young India, 1919

Some people draw a comforting distinction between "force" and "violence." ...I refuse to cloud the issue by such word-play.... The power which establishes a state is violence; the power which maintains it is violence; the power which eventually overthrows it is violence.... Call an elephant a rabbit only if it gives you comfort to feel that you are about to be trampled to death by a rabbit.

Kenneth Kaunda (b.1924)
Kaunda on Violence, 1980
Part 1

If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us, and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.

Malcolm X (1925-1965)
Speech, Detroit
10 November 1963
Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements, 1965
Edited by George Breitman

If human beings are to survive in a nuclear age, committing acts of violence may eventually have to become as embarrassing as urinating or defecating in public are today.

Myriam Miedzian (b.1936?)
Boys Will Be Boys, 1991
Chapter 3

To use violence is to already be defeated.

Chinese Proverb


[see also: SEX]

C'est une des superstitions de l'esprit humain d'avoir imagine que la virginite pouvait etre une vertu.
(It is one of the superstitions of the human mind to have imagined that virginity could be a virtue.)

Voltaire (1694-1778)
The Leningrad Notebooks, c.1735-c.1750
In Notebooks (second edition, 1968)
Volume 2, p.455
Edited by Theodore Besterman


He who possesses virtue in abundance
May be compared to an infant.

Lao-tzu (c.604-c.531 BC)
The Way of Lao-tzu, 55

To flee vice is the beginning of virtue, and to have got rid of folly is the beginning of wisdom.

Horace (65-8 BC)
Book I, epistle i, line 41

The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as of the greatest virtues, and those who proceed very slowly may, provided they always follow the straight road, really advance much faster than those who, though they run, forsake it.

Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason
and Seeking for Truth in the Sciences
, Part I, 1637
Translated by Elizabeth S. Haldane and G.R.T. Ross in
The Philsophical Works of Descartes, 1911

Because impudence is a vice, it does not follow that modesty is a virtue; it is built upon shame, a passion in our nature, and may be either good or bad according to the actions performed from that motive.

Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733)
The Fable of the Bees, 1714
Remarks, Line 101

Virtue, according to Aristotle, consists in the habit of mediocrity according to right reason. Every particular virtue, according to him, lies in a kind of middle between two opposite vices, of which the one offends from being too much, the other from being too little affected by a particular species of objects.

Adam Smith (1723-1790)
The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759
Volume II, Part VII "Of Systems of Moral Philosophy",
Section II, Chapter I

Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.

Adam Smith (1723-1790)
Interpretation or paraphrase of previous quotation?

Why, you simple creatures, the weakest of all weak things is a virtue which has not been tested in the fire.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories and Essays, 1904
Chapter 3 "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg"

Virtue consists, not in abstaining from vice, but in not desiring it.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
"Maxims for Revolutionists: Virtues and Vices"
Man and Superman, 1903

Man seems capable of great virtues but not of small virtues; capable of defying his torturer but not of keeping his temper.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Autobiography, 1936
Chapter 11

The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of them which will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide. You might think love of humanity in general was safe, but it is not. If you leave out justice you will find yourself breaking agreements and faking evidence in trials "for the sake of humanity", and become in the end a cruel and treacherous man.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Mere Christianity, 1952
Book I "Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe"
Chapter 2 "Some Objections"


I never vote for anyone; I always vote against.

W.C. Fields (1880-1946)
Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion, 1984
by Leslie Halliwell

We, the people, are not free. Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. We elect expensive masters to do our work for us, and then blame them because they work for themselves and for their class. The enfranchisement of women is a part of the vast movement to enfranchise all mankind. You ask for votes for women. What good can votes do you when ten elevenths of the land of Great Britain belongs to two hundred thousand, and only one eleventh to the rest of the forty millions? Have your men with their millions of votes freed themselves from this injustice?

Helen Adams Keller (1880-1968)
Letter to an English Woman-Suffragist
Manchester Advertiser
03 March 1911

A mood of constructive criticism being upon me, I propose forthwith that the method of choosing legislators now prevailing in the United States be abandoned and that the method used in choosing juries be substituted. That is to say, I propose that the men who make our laws be chosen by chance and against will of all the rest of us, as now.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Prejudices: Sixth Series, 1927
II "From the Memoirs of a Subject of the United States"
2. "Constructive Proposal"

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.

George Jean Nathan (1882-1958)
The American Treasury, 1455-1955, 1955
Edited by Clifton Fadiman
Unverified in Nathan's works - See caveat

The political merchandisers appeal only to the weaknesses of voters, never to their potential strength. They make no attempt to educate the masses into becoming fit for self-government; they are content merely to manipulate and exploit them. For this purpose all the resources of psychology and the social sciences are mobilized and set to work. Carefully selected samples of the electorate are given "interviews in depth." These interviews in depth reveal the unsonscious fears and wishes most prevalent in a given society at the time of an election. Phrases and images aimed at allaying or, if necessary, enhancing these fears, at satisfying these wishes, at least symbolically, are then chosen by the experts, tried out on readers and audiences, changed or improved in the light of the information thus obtained. After which the political campaign is ready for the mass communicators. All that is now needed is money and a candidate who can be coached to look "sincere." Under the new dispensation, political principles and plans for specific action have come to lose most of their importance. The personality of the candidate and the way he is projected by the advertising experts are the things that really matter.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Brave New World Revisted, 1958
Chapter VI "The Arts of Selling"

The right to vote is a consequence, not a primary cause, of a free social system -- and its value depends on the constitutional structure implementing and strictly delimiting the voters' power; unlimited majority rule is an instance of the principle of tyranny. Outside the context of a free society, who would want to die for the right to vote? Yet that is what the American soldiers were asked to die for -- not even for their own vote, but to secure that privilege for the South Vietnamese, who had no other rights and no knowledge of rights or freedom.

Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought
The Ayn Rand Library, Volume V, 1989
Part 2 "Culture"
Chapter 14 "The Lessons of Vietnam"

When people put their ballots in the boxes, they are, by that act, inoculated against the feeling that the government is not theirs. They then accept, in some measure, that its errors are their errors, its aberrations their aberrations, that any revolt will be against them. It's a remarkably shrewd and rather conservative arrangement when one thinks of it.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)
The Age of Uncertainty, 1977
Chapter 12 "Democracy, Leadership, Commitment"

Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least.

Robert Byrne (b.1930)
The Third and Possibly the Best 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said, 1986
Number 448

Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.

Jerry Garcia (1942-1995)
Rolling Stone, New York
30 November 1989

© 1999 by MonkeyPants Press, an imprint of Bonobo Books, a division of Consolidated Trout, Ltd.
Last update: 03-July-2015
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