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Joseph Priestley

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It is the earnest wish of my heart, that your minds may be well established in the sound principles of religious knowledge, because I am fully persuaded, that nothing else can be a sufficient foundation of a virtuous and truly respectable conduct in life, or of good hope in death. A mind destitute of knowledge (and, comparatively speaking, no kind of knowledge, besides that of religion, deserves the name) is like a field on which no culture has been bestowed, which, the richer it is, the ranker weeds it will produce, If nothing good be sown in it, it will be dccupied by plants that are useless or noxious.
--
Vol. I : The Dedication (March 1772)

 
Joseph Priestley

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We know truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart, and it is in this last way that we know first principles; and reason, which has no part in it, tries in vain to impugn them. The sceptics, who have only this for their object, labour to no purpose. We know that we do not dream, and however impossible it is for us to prove it by reason, this inability demonstrates only the weakness of our reason, but not, as they affirm, the uncertainty of all our knowledge. For the knowledge of first principles, as space, time, motion, number, is as sure as any of those which we get from reasoning. And reason must trust these intuitions of the heart, and must base them on every argument. (We have intuitive knowledge of the tri-dimensional nature of space, and of the infinity of number, and reason then shows that there are no two square numbers one of which is double of the other. Principles are intuited, propositions are inferred, all with certainty, though in different ways.) And it is as useless and absurd for reason to demand from the heart proofs of her first principles, before admitting them, as it would be for the heart to demand from reason an intuition of all demonstrated propositions before accepting them.
This inability ought, then, to serve only to humble reason, which would judge all, but not to impugn our certainty, as if only reason were capable of instructing us. Would to God, on the contrary, that we had never need of it, and that we knew everything by instinct and intuition! But nature has refused us this boon. On the contrary, she has given us but very little knowledge of this kind; and all the rest can be acquired only by reasoning.
Therefore, those to whom God has imparted religion by intuition are very fortunate, and justly convinced. But to those who do not have it, we can give it only by reasoning, waiting for God to give them spiritual insight, without which faith is only human, and useless for salvation.

 
Blaise Pascal
 

Another evil, and one of the worst which arises from the separation of theoretical and practical knowledge, is the fact that a large number of persons, possessed of an inventive turn of mind and of considerable skill in the manual operations of practical mechanics, are destitute of that knowledge of scientific principles which is requisite to prevent their being misled by their own ingenuity. Such men too often spend their money, waste their lives, and it may be lose their reason in the vain pursuits of visionary inventions, of which a moderate amount of theoretical knowledge would be sufficient to demonstrate the fallacy ; and for want of such knowledge, many a man who might have been a useful and happy member of society, becomes a being than whom it would be hard to find anything more miserable. The number of those unhappy persons to judge from the patent-lists, and from some of the mechanical journals must be much greater than is generally believed.

 
William John Macquorn Rankine
 

I have far more confidence in the one man who works mentally and bodily at a matter than in the six who merely talk about it and I therefore hope and am fully persuaded that you are working. Nature is our kindest friend and best critic in experimental science if we only allow her intimations to fall unbiassed on our minds. Nothing is so good as an experiment which, whilst it sets an error right, gives us (as a reward for our humility in being reproved) an absolute advancement in knowledge.

 
Michael Faraday
 

There is (gentle reader) nothing (the works of God only set apart) which so much beautifies and adorns the soul and mind of man as does knowledge of the good arts and sciences. Many arts there are which beautify the mind of man; but of all none do more garnish and beautify it than those arts which are called mathematical, unto the knowledge of which no man can attain, without perfect knowledge and instruction of the principles, grounds, and Elements of Geometry.

 
John Dee
 

Neither acquiescence in skepticism nor acquiescence in dogma is what education should produce. What it should produce is a belief that knowledge is attainable in a measure, though with difficulty; that much of what passes for knowledge at any given time is likely to be more or less mistaken, but that the mistakes can be rectified by care and industry. In acting upon our beliefs, we should be very cautious where a small error would mean disaster; nevertheless it is upon our beliefs that we must act. This state of mind is rather difficult: it requires a high degree of intellectual culture without emotional atrophy. But though difficult, it is not impossible; it is in fact the scientific temper. Knowledge, like other good things, is difficult, but not impossible; the dogmatist forgets the difficulty, the skeptic denies the possibility. Both are mistaken, and their errors, when widespread, produce social disaster.

 
Bertrand Russell
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