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Daniel Webster

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Inconsistencies of opinion, arising from changes of circumstances, are often justifiable.
--
Speech (July 25 and 27, 1846); reported in Edward Everett, ed., The Works of Daniel Webster (1851), volume v, page 187.

 
Daniel Webster

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Moved by a generous eagerness to turn men's attention to the power which dwelt in circumstances, Mr. Owen devised the instructive phrase, that "man's character was formed for him and not by him." He used the unforgettable inference that "man is the creature of circumstances." The school of material improvers believed they could put in permanent force right circumstances. The great dogma was their charter of encouragement. To those who hated without thought It seemed a restrictive doctrine to be asked to admit that there were extenuating circumstances in the career of every rascal. To the clergy with whom censure was a profession, and who held that all sin was wilful, man being represented as the "creature of circumstances," appeared a denial of moral responsibility. When they were asked to direct hatred against error, and pity the erring — who had inherited so base a fortune of incapacity and condition — they were wroth exceedingly, and said it would be making a compromise with sin. The idea of the philosopher of circumstances was that the very murderer in his last cell had been born with a staple in his soul, to which the villainous conditions of his life had attached an unseen chain, which had drawn him to the gallows, and that the rope which was to hang him was but the visible part. Legislators since that day have come to admit that punishment is justifiable only as far as it has preventive influence. To use the great words of Hobbes, "Punishment regardeth not the past, only the future."

 
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If it is to be effective as a tool of thought, a notation must allow convenient expression not only of notions arising directly from a problem, but also of those arising in subsequent analysis, generalization, and specialization.

 
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A new species is arising on the planet. It is arising now, and you are it!

 
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Art’s means of representing a thing – style, technique and the object represented – are circumstances of art, just as the artist’s individual qualities (way of life, abilities, environment and so on) are circumstances of art. Art can just as well be made in harmony with the circumstances of its making as in defiance of them. In itself art is neither visible nor definable: all that is visible and imitable is its circumstances, which are easily mistaken for the art itself.

 
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A Buddhist saying, which I think captures perfectly the idea that life is a series of opportunities arising out of unforeseen circumstances: Unceasing change turns the wheel of life, and so reality is shown in all its many forms.
Now for those of you who have stayed up all night in advance of today’s activities, it may take a while for the deep wisdom of that idea to fully resonate, but once it creeps into your consciousness, and, as you continue your life’s journey from this day forth, I think the remarkable truth of this statement will surprise and amaze you and possibly even serve as a source of comfort at some point.

 
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