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Helmuth von Moltke

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Strategy is a system of expedients; it is more than a mere scholarly discipline. It is the translation of knowledge to practical life, the improvement of the original leading thought in accordance with continually changing situations.
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"On Strategy" (1871), as translated in Moltke on the Art of War: Selected Writings (1993) by Daniel J. Hughes and Harry Bell, p. 124
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War is a matter of expedients.
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As quoted in "Nothing Went According To Plan" by Jim Lacey in TIME magazine (15 April 2003)

 
Helmuth von Moltke

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If in war, from the beginning of the operations, everything is uncertain except such will and energy as the commander carries in himself, there cannot possibly be practical value for strategy in general principles, rules derived from them and systems built up upon the rules. Strategy is a system of expedients. It is more than science, it is the translation of science into practical life, the development of an original leading thought in accordance with the ever-changing circumstances.

 
Helmuth von Moltke
 

This first non-evaluative insight into history does not inevitably lead to relativism, but rather to relationism. Knowledge, as seen in the light of the total conception of ideology, is by no means an illusory experience, for ideology in its relational concept is not at all identical with illusion. Knowledge arising out of our experience in actual life situations, though not absolute, is knowledge none the less. The norms arising out of such actual life situations do not exist in a social vacuum, but are effective as real sanctions for conduct. Relationism signifies merely that all of the elements of meaning in a given situation have reference to one another and derive their significance from this reciprocal interrelationship in a given frame of thought. Such a system of meanings is possible and valid only in a given type of historical existence, to which, for a time, it furnishes appropriate expression. When the social situation changes, the system of norms to which it had previously given birth ceases to be in harmony with it. The same estrangement goes on with reference to knowledge and to the historical perspective. All knowledge is oriented toward some object and is influenced in its approach by the nature of the object with which it is pre-occupied. But the mode of approach to the object to be known is dependent upon the nature of the knower.

 
Karl Mannheim
 

My guess is that well over eighty per cent of the human race goes through life without ever having a single original thought. That is to say, they never think anything that has not been thought before, and by thousands.
A society made up of individuals who were all capable of original thought would probably be unendurable. The pressure of ideas would simply drive it frantic. The normal human society is very little troubled by them. Whenever a new one appears the average man displays signs of dismay and resentment. The only way he can take in such a new idea is by translating it crudely into terms of more familiar ideas. That translation is one of the chief functions of politicians, not to mention journalists. They devote themselves largely to debasing the ideas launched by their betters. This debasement is intellectually reprehensible, but probably necessary to carry on the business of the world.

 
H. L. Mencken
 

World Encyclopaedia. -- Behind these lies another prospect of greater and more permanent importance; that of an attempt at a comprehensive and continually revised presentation of the whole of science in its social context, an idea most persuasively put forward by H. G. Wells in his appeal for a World Encyclopaedia of which he has already given us a foretaste in his celebrated outlines. The encyclopaedic movement was a great rallying point of the liberal revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The real encyclopaedia should not be what the Encyclopaedia Britannica has degenerated into, a mere mass of unrelated knowledge sold by high-pressure salesmanship, but a coherent expression of the living and changing body of thought; it should sum up what is for the moment the spirit of the age...
The original French Encyclopaedia which did attempt these things was, however, made in the period of relative quiet when the forces of liberation were gathering ready to break their bonds. We have already entered the second period of revolutionary struggle and the quiet thought necessary to make such an effort will not be easy to find, but some effort is worth making because the combined assault on science and humanity by the forces of barbarism has against it, as yet, no general and coherent statement on the part of those who believe in democracy and the need for the people of the world to take over the active control of production and administration for their own safety and welfare.

 
John Desmond Bernal
 

Where men then are free to consult experience they will correct their practice, and make changes for the better. It follows, therefore, that the more free men are, the more changes they will make. In the beginning, possibly, for the worse; but most certainly in time for the better; until their knowledge enlarging by observation, and their judgment strengthening by exercise, they will find themselves in the straight, broad, fair road of improvement. Out of change, therefore, springs improvement; and the people who shall have imagined a peaceable mode of changing their institutions, hold a surety for their melioration. This surety is worth all other excellences. Better were the prospects of a people under the influence of the worst government who should hold the power of changing it, that those of a people under the best who should hold no such power. Here, then is the great beauty of American government.

 
Frances Wright
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